Author: Athea (
Series: War god I, part 16
Battle Stations

Joxer snuggled closer to the furnace that was his lover. He loved it when he awoke first so he could watch Ares sleep. All the worry lines smoothed out and his long dark lashes fanned out on his cheeks. Those mobile eyebrows were brushed the wrong way, one side up and the other side down. He ached to smooth them out but he knew that would wake him up. A lock of hair had fallen over the broad forehead and gently, Joxer brushed it back.

They'd both finally caught up on their sleep but every hour past the minimum just made them stronger so he was content for now. Their encounter with Iolaus the day before had left a bad taste in his mouth. Joxer sighed soundlessly. Are all my meetings with former friends going to go that badly? On the whole, he guessed gods and mortals both saw what they wanted to see.

Mortals saw him as a joke, the gods he met at parties saw him as an aberration on Ares' part and the dark god's family accepted him as someone that Ares had fallen in love with, however odd that might seem. That wasn't fair, completely, he told himself. Hestia and Harmonia were comfortable enough to tease him. Hera was still trying to feed him up and Zeus had listened approvingly to his last suggestion.

As for the mortals, they all seemed to be horribly afraid of Ares. It didn't help that the gods were an extremely secretive bunch. Without explanations as to why something was happening, humans tended to make up their own reasons, most often wrong. He thought, probably very few of them knew about the four elements or the possibility of controlling them. He sighed again. It was going to make dealing with them very difficult. What if he slipped and said the wrong thing? Let the cat out of the bag about energy and how it was created and used by the gods.

//No problem, love. If something comes up, you just tell the truth and let them make up a story to deal with it.// Ares' amused whisper echoed inside his head.

Joxer realized with a start that he'd been so lost in thought, he'd been thinking 'loudly' at his lover. Touch seemed to be the catalyst for their ability to exchange thoughts and his hand was busily stroking one of Ares' nipples to sensitive awareness.

//Oops, sorry. I meant for you to sleep.//

//With a sexy warrior in my bed? You must be joking.// Ares reached up and pulled him down into their first kiss of the day. Joxer felt the caress continued in his mind while his body responded to the heated touch of lips and hands. //No matter what they think or say, they can never know what we're feeling. Or understand why we love. We just are.//

Joxer pressed closer in wordless apology for letting his insecurities out but Ares just shook his head and nuzzled a kiss under Joxer's ear. //Don't keep that sort of thing inside, Joxer. It eats away at you and your confidence. Sure there are going to be problems. I don't even want to think about what happens when Xena and Gabrielle find out. They're going to want to tar and feather me.//

Joxer slid on top of the dark god and thrust their groins together. //I know. But then they never took the time to really get to know me. They bought the doofus persona whole and never bothered to look further. So, it's their loss.// A sudden thought crossed his mind when he remembered a story that involved Ares, the Furies and Xena.

Now it was Ares' turn to sigh. //Yes, I'm pretty sure she is my daughter. I couldn't figure any other way to let her know about her birth.// He shrugged and gazed up with rueful eyes. //Besides, I kind of enjoyed the whole intricate scam with the Furies. She caught on really quickly. She gets her problem solving from my side of the family.//

Joxer thought about it for a moment, unsure what he was feeling. Then a stray thought rose to the fore and the laughter welled up inside of him, burying his face in Ares' shoulder he laughed until the tears came.

"What? Joxer! Are you all right?" The dark god sounded worried. He rolled them over so they were side by side and he brushed away the tears from Joxer's face.

The young warrior got a hold of himself and spoke out loud as well. "So, since we're together, does that make her my step-daughter?"

Ares looked shocked for a brief moment then a grin split his face and it was his turn to laugh. Joxer loved it when he let go like this and allowed himself to just enjoy the moment. The god of war didn't allow himself to laugh very often so Joxer felt great pride in being the one to make him lose control.

//Speaking of losing control, lover. How about we wash up in the hot springs?// He slid a hand down Ares' back and over the taut swell of his buttock. Ares caught his breath and hugged him close before rolling out of bed and offering him a hand up. His dark eyes glowed with promise and Joxer shivered with anticipation before sliding out from under the blankets and joining his lover for the quick trip to the springs.

There was a touch of spring in the air although it felt good to slide beneath the surface of the hot water. The bubbles exploded between them, adding a zing to their normal reaction to each other. Joxer ducked Ares laughingly with a swift flexing of his muscles then gasped when the dark god deep throated him beneath the water. Holding onto Ares' ears but trying not to pull them off when he began to spasm, he groaned at the loss of the massaging throat and flickering tongue.

Ares surfaced with a splash and pulled him in for a breath-stealing kiss. When he released Joxer, the young warrior followed a bead of water across his cheek and down his throat to the sensitive hollow where he lapped the pooled water with short raspy licks. Pulling back just far enough to look at his lover, he gazed wonderingly at perfection.

"You look like a statue, all angles and curves." He ran a finger across the defined pecs and watched Ares flex at the touch. "But you're better than marble because you're warm and smooth." His other hand came up to feather a caress down to one pert nipple that nestled in the silky black curls that grew so profusely across his lover's chest. "A wonderful combination of hard and soft."

Ares growled deep in his throat and mirrored the same touches on Joxer's body. "Stone doesn't shiver, lover. Or cry out my name." Ares bit his ear and tongued down to the sensitive spot between his neck and shoulder.

Joxer arched up and felt their cocks collide. They both groaned at that friction and their tongues met beginning the sensuous dance that would lead to fulfillment. Ares pulled away with a moist suctioning sound, his eyes glowing with warmth.

"Inside me, Joxer. It's been two days since you last took me."

Joxer felt the water heat up at those words and he nodded shakily. It still felt like a very precious gift that Ares would allow him into his body.

//The feeling is mutual, lover. Every touch unique and rare.// Ares kissed him and turned, bracing himself against the edge of the pool.

Kissing his way down the supple back, Joxer began the stretching motions that would loosen Ares' tight muscles. His other hand snaked around the slim hips to stroke the hardened shaft with the short rough movements that excited his lover the most. Replacing his fingers with his cock, Joxer slid slowly past the tight ring of muscle and into the blood hot channel.

Ares' thoughts were a jumble of incoherent moans and disjointed words of encouragement, all coming down to just one word. //Please.//

Joxer found the water resistant to a fast hard taking so he angled his inward stroke to find and massage the pleasure spot inside his lover. Determined that Ares would come first, he kept up the rough stroking of the velvet cock. His own nerve endings began to fray into shreds and he knew it wouldn't take much more to bring them both over the edge. Leaning forward at his last thrust, he bit into the spot just between the neck and shoulder of his captive lover.

With a shout, Ares came in his hand, his inner muscles providing the milking that Joxer needed to climax. Slumping against his lover, he suddenly felt the cold air on his back and the sound of the waterfall in his ears. He could feel Ares' arms trembling with the strain of keeping them both upright. Little aftershocks shook him and Ares involuntarily clenched his muscles again around the softening invader.

Joxer kissed the skin where he'd bit Ares, a bruise already forming. //Sorry, love. I marked you.//

Ares straightened up, jarring Joxer loose from his comfortable haven. Turning, he gathered his lover into a close embrace. //I love it when you mark me. I'd flaunt it but it's too cold to go topless.//

Joxer chuckled and returned the kiss. This was the best time, after the energy had flowed back and forth between them and they were still connected. He wondered if it was possible that they were still connected when they weren't touching. These days it felt like it. As if he could still feel Ares, even when he wasn't there.

"It is possible, Joxer. I felt your fear yesterday when you heard the war band. And you knew before 'Dite and I winked in." Ares was scooping water up to cascade down the young warrior's back. "If we keep practicing, we should know where the other is at all times, even if we're not together. Distance and strength will come with time and patience."

"Good. I like having you inside of me. Even if it's just your thoughts." Joxer mimicked his motions with the effervescent mineral water. They scrubbed each other clean and Ares zapped them back to the cottage so they could dry off and get dressed.

"Zeus said something about a strategy meeting this afternoon. I think you should be there, Joxer. You don't think like we do and your suggestions have a fresh, new edge to them that may provide the surprise we'll need to catch Ate." Ares was dressing in black again and Joxer suppressed a sigh. "What?"

"You always wear black, love. Maybe a white shirt instead of that one?" Joxer tried his best puppy dog look and managed to keep a straight face when Ares laughed at him.

"Just for you. You know it will spark a round of mad speculation with the other gods. It's been centuries since I wore anything else." Ares shook his head and pulled out a white shirt that laced up the front. Joxer watched entranced at the billowing sleeves that buttoned at both wrists. When it was tucked into the waist of the tight black leather pants, Ares looked like a pirate.

"Joxer, are you going like that?" Ares' eyes laughed at him.

Looking down at his pants and no shirt or boots, Joxer pretended to think about it. "We could say that you were keeping me barefoot and pregnant?"

Ares caught him up into a rib-cracking hug. "It would be fun to try. But I don't want you catching cold so I'm afraid you'll just have to find something to wear. You always look nice in that green shirt we got in Thessilonika."

Joxer finished dressing, his eyes gazing thoughtfully at the wardrobe where he and Ares kept their clothing. He'd never had so many clothes in his life nor had they ever been of this quality. He smoothed the linen shirt over his chest and tucked it into the top of the supple brown leather pants. Just one more thing that Ares took care of for him. Each was a gift for which Ares would accept no thanks. He said it gave him pleasure and now that they shared their minds so intimately, Joxer knew it was true.

Shaking his head ruefully at the odd thought, he shrugged on a matching leather vest and thought about their upcoming meeting. The gods were still divided on how to handle Ate. He had a sneaking suspicion that they had no idea what to do and were just going through the motions until Ares came up with something. Joxer knew that the solution would come from his lover because he was the one who was really concentrating on the problem. Except when they were making love, he felt a constant little buzz of thought from Ares.

He had confidence that before the week was out, Ares would have a working plan. Then, all they had to do was convince the others and take care of the rogue. Joxer felt a little chill shiver through him. He wondered just how strong Ate had gotten and how much progress she'd made with her elements.

"Nothing we can do about it, love. Worst case scenario, she has her fourth element and good control over all four. Best case, my grief did not trigger her fourth and she's really frustrated right now." Ares hugged him close in preparation for their trip to Olympus. "I'd rather be prepared for the worst. I'm good at that. I need you to point out the flaws in the plans we'll be making. You see clearly straight to the heart of the matter."

Joxer tried to protest but Ares laid a gentle hand over his lips and shook his head. "Be diplomatic or better yet sit very close to me and just think. I can be a lot ruder than you. And I'll enjoy it more!" They were both laughing when Ares whisked them up to Zeus' study.

The first god he saw was Zephyrus who greeted them boisterously while several of his children zipped around Joxer at dizzying speed.

"Joxer" "Sad" "Cry" "Glad" "Laugh" "Bad" "Joy" "Mad" "Happy"

Joxer spoke gently to them. "I'm sorry you were sad. But you can see the rogue didn't kill me. I'm all right now."

They clustered around him, humming joyfully while they whirled in multicolored swirls around his head and shoulders and showered him with butterfly kisses. Zephyrus smiled indulgently at the tiny zephyrs. "They were very upset, Joxer. They remembered you with joy and they were little breezes for several days before they began to perk up. Bax, especially."

Joxer looked down and saw a small silver whirling dervish on his shoulder, humming quietly. The swirling slowed and almost he could see Bax's true shape. "Ah, the adventurous one. He flew the highest when Hestia blew a thermal his way."

"Yes, he is. But he felt your death very keenly, so would you mind if he stayed with you for a little while?" Zephyrus asked. "They can be curious little imps but I think Bax may be ready for his next growth spurt. And being around you may accelerate his progress."

"No problem, Zephyrus. I'll enjoy his company." Joxer exchanged a quick look with Ares who nodded indulgently.

"Good, good, good. Joy, joy, joy. Joxer, Joxer, Joxer."

Joxer laughed quietly and settled with Ares at the side of the study where they could watch everyone but have a wall at their backs. Being careful was getting to be a habit. He noticed a silver haired goddess he'd never seen before talking with Zeus.

//Ares, who's the goddess dressed in blue standing with your father?// He admired her regal bearing and the silver trident that skewered her hair into an elaborate chignon.

//Tethys, the mother goddess of the oceans. She's even older than Father. She and Gaia are contemporaries. Very powerful and very temperamental. If she comes over, just be your sweet self and we'll be all right.//

Joxer shot him a narrow eyed look of consternation and realized with a start that his lover wasn't joking. //Difficult, is she?//

//It may just be me. I get very seasick when I'm on the water even when it's calm. When I was a boy and Father made me travel with Uncle Poseidon, I threw up over the side ... a lot. Not the kind of offering for which she was looking. So, after a while, I tended to stay away from her.// Ares gave a mental shrug. //You'll probably be all right since one of your elements is water.//

Joxer gave a snort and had to cover it with a cough. The little zephyr on his right shoulder giggled as if he'd heard the mental comment. The dark warrior cast a quick look at Ares and he held out his hands in an 'I don't know' gesture. Joxer smiled at Bax who did a swooping dance down his back and up his arm, tickling all the way. A few more rotations and he and Ares were both laughing as silently as they could while Hera smiled indulgently at them and shook her finger in mock admonition.

Then, Joxer saw Zeus nod at them and the piercing blue gaze of the sea goddess met his in an appraising look that went deep into his soul and weighed his worth. For a moment, the two of them were alone in the room and all he could hear was the pounding of the ocean in her ceaseless rhythm. Then her eyes looked away and he leaned breathlessly against his lover.

//Are you all right?// Ares' anxious whisper replaced the sound of the surf in his mind.

//Did you feel that? The ocean and the waves.// Joxer took a deep breath and shook his head to clear it.

//She blocked me totally out of your mind. I'm not sure what it means ...// Ares gave the equivalent of a mental shrug. //I think she may have selected you as her next apprentice.//

//What! I'm just an immortal, not a god.// Joxer responded quickly.

//Relax, love. You could learn a lot from her. But we're talking sometime in the future when you've had a little more time to come to terms with immortality.// Ares slipped a hand under Joxer's vest and began a comforting caress to the nerves in his lower back. //Just because I'm no good with water doesn't mean that she couldn't teach you a lot about her element.//

//I was thinking more along the lines of someone a little farther down the chain. A naiad or a nereid.// Joxer sighed.

//Better to start at the top, love. You have a natural affinity for it, after all. I'll even come along and hold your hand. In between throwing up, of course.// Ares sighed to himself.

Bax giggled and flew over to tease the dark god.

"Ares, Ares, Ares. Water, water, water."

//Do you think he can hear our thoughts?// Joxer eyed the little whirlwind.

Ares tried not to cross his eyes while the little dare devil zipped across his face and dived under his hair, tugging at his dangling ear ring. //I don't think he can understand the words but the emotions are a different matter. He may be an emotional empath and pick up on our feelings.//

//Cool.// Joxer spotted Hestia coming their way and he straightened up from his comfortable slouch.

"I think I'm going to owe you money, young man. Tethys just brought reports of increased waterspouts near the Cycladic island chain in the southern Aegean. She'd like the two of you to head that way." Hestia patted his cheek and tugged him down to her so she could whisper in his ear. "She also thinks you're a tasty little morsel. Worth getting to know better."

Joxer looked at her in disbelief while Ares moaned. "Here we go again. What does that bring us up to ... seventeen goddesses ... that want you for the horizontal tango? I never got this lucky."

The dark warrior sent him an exasperated look. "It's not funny, Arry. What happened to your plan for me learning from the best?"

"Water, Joxer. Only water elemental training. And I stick to you like glue, even if it means getting seasick." Ares smiled at him.

"Are you still having that problem, Ares? I'll make you up some candied ginger. All you have to do is eat a small piece about twenty minutes before you get on board a ship and have some every couple of hours. Works like a charm." Hestia smiled at him.

Bax distracted them by zipping over to Hestia and spinning around her head in a giddy dance. She laughed and blew a warm breeze at him that sent him soaring. "Now, I've got the coordinates of an island about half way between us and the Cyclades. Zephyrus has offered to get you there. Some of the mortal warriors will be shipping out to do some investigating of their own. They may or may not join you but," she blew Bax almost to the ceiling, "even if we're wrong, it needs to be checked out. That whole area is extremely unstable."

"It's part of the Ring of Fire, isn't it, Aunt Hestia? There have been several disturbances of the ocean bed over the last few centuries." Ares was watching Bax but Joxer could tell his mind was far away. A picture of the sea floor rumbling and shifting to release turbulent gases filled his thoughts. Tongues of flame burned in the water, a possibility of which he'd never dreamed. He looked in consternation at Ares who shook his head in a 'not now' motion.

Hestia was watching them closely. "We're going to have to have a little chat one of these days about just how far Joxer's education has gone in immortality abilities. Something tells me that I'm about to win a little bet with Zeus." She smiled mysteriously. "Now, go home and pack. Zephyrus wants to leave in an hour."

"Will you watch Bax for us, Aunt Hestia?" Joxer was dodging the little whirlwind who'd decided that his collar would make a comfortable bed.

Hestia laughed out loud and blew Bax to the ceiling again, motioning them to leave. Ares took the hint and zapped them home. Joxer wondered why the goddess was laughing so hard but was too busy returning Ares' bone cracking hug to ponder for long.

Catching his tender look, Joxer cocked his head to one side. "What?"

"You called her Aunt Hestia." Ares smiled.

Thinking back in horror over his last request, Joxer turned stricken eyes on his lover. "Do you think she'll mind, very much?"

"We're together, right? And we're going to stay together forever." Ares feathered a calming kiss across Joxer's lips. "That means that she is your Aunt Hestia. She knew it and now . . . you know it too."

Joxer thought a moment and smiled, capturing Ares' lips in a spicy kiss. //So, your family is my family? Does this mean I get to be Harmonia's step-dad?//

His only answer was a mental laugh that joined his in the celebration of yet another tie to bind them together. Joxer sighed and leaned into the kiss, looking forward to yet another adventure with the god who'd stolen his heart.

//A deserted island. I always said you looked like a pirate.//


Ares sighed and stretched out onto the beach. Soaking up the sunshine from above and the energy from the heated sand below, he listened to the splashing sounds from the protected cove where Joxer played with Bax in the surf. He closed his eyes and smiled contentedly. For the first time in days, he felt safe and knew that Joxer was safe as well.

He felt a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders when they waved goodbye to Zephyrus and turned to survey their little kingdom. Alone at last. Well, except for Bax, they had simply stood with their arms around each other and savored the sound of the waves, the salty breeze and the sight of a white sand beach on three sides of a sheltered cove.

They had food, sheets and linen clothing for the heat. They'd left their packs near the fresh water spring in the olive tree grove. Cyprus grew almost down to the shoreline and they cast shadows over part of the beach in the late afternoon sun. Amazing what a difference a few hundred miles can make. He sighed contentedly and wiggled a little deeper into the warm sand.

They'd spent the day naked and squinting down at his body, Ares could already see a slight darkening. He'd always tanned easily but he was a little worried about Joxer. Raising his head, he gazed fondly on the well-oiled warrior who was helping Bax skim across the water without getting too waterlogged. He'd made quite sure that not an inch of skin went without a protective coat of skin oil that Asclepius had given them.

Ares sighed a rather lusty sigh this time. They were going to have to have a little chat with Bax. Soon. He'd already quelled the urge to take Joxer twice on the beach. He wasn't sure how much Bax knew about sex but he was damned if he was going to provide a live show for his education. Chloris would have his balls for fertilizer. He shuddered, not a pleasant thought.

"Whoa, Bax. Don't touch that. It could hurt you." Joxer's excited tones drifted up from the water.

Ares sat up with a start and shaded his eyes for a quick look at his lover, wondering what they'd found. Joxer and Bax had retreated out of the water and were looking down at something washing up in the surf. Shifting upright, he strolled down to see what it was.

Joxer smiled at him and touched his arm. "Did you have a nice nap? You looked so comfortable, I hated to disturb you."

"It would have been better if you'd joined me." Ares raised his eyebrow suggestively.

"Then it wouldn't have been a nap." Joxer said demurely and bumped his hip against Ares.

The dark god shot him an admonishing look and turned to look at what the surf had brought them. The shiny iridescent bubble of a jellyfish lay beached on the sand, the tough membrane glowing with a rainbow of colors, beautiful but deadly. Ares had seen men die from their sting and while it couldn't kill either of them, the venom would make them miserable for hours.

"It looks like this cove isn't as safe or protected as we thought. It wouldn't kill us but its sting would make us sick." Ares rested an arm around Joxer's shoulders. "I'm glad you saw it before it could hurt either of you. I think it's dead now."

Shuddering, Joxer leaned into the embrace. "I saw someone die of the sting once. He went into convulsions and couldn't breathe. He was pale and sweating and he just ... died before anyone could help him."

Ares thought quickly over how to bring down the fast heartbeat and give Joxer back some of his confidence. //Love, let it go and help me make sure the cove is safe.//

Joxer looked at him in puzzled silence. //How do we do that?//

"Do you remember what I told you about when I become part of earth and search for someone or something? I'd like you to do that with the water."

"Me! I've never done that before. I wouldn't know how." Joxer pulled away and turned to the water.

Ares understood his fear but couldn't help feeling a twinge of pain at his withdrawal. Joxer's head whipped back to him and his hand came up but stopped before he touched him. For a long moment, they just looked at each other with Bax hovering between them like a tiny referee.

"Maybe ... you could show me?" Joxer asked tentatively.

"I was hoping you'd ask." Ares met the outstretched hand with his own. Their bond flared to life with a rapid exchange of feelings. Fear. Love. Determination. Belief. Wonder. Afterwards, Ares was never quite sure who felt what but the turmoil soon settled into curiosity on Joxer's part and determination on Ares'.

//Relax, Joxer. You can feel what I'm feeling. If you mesh your emotions with mine, I should be able to show you how I interact with earth. Then, you can try it with water. All right?//

Joxer nodded and they stood on the warm beach while Ares carefully began to sink himself into the shifting sands. The silicates were slightly different than his normal soil, but earth was earth no matter it's form and he reveled in the feeling of rooting himself in its warm embrace. Like a faint echo of his heart, he felt Joxer's amazement and awe.

Meticulously, Ares went through every aspect of his link to earth, including all five senses and how they interacted into a seamless whole. After an hour, he slowly withdrew his awareness and opened his eyes. Once again, he waited a moment to allow the earth to settle in his soul before looking at Joxer, for the first time in the hour wondering what the young immortal thought of the process.

He could feel Joxer's thoughts racing in a blur through his mind. Gradually, they began to slow and Joxer opened his eyes. They shared a long look and Ares could feel his lover's resolve to try.

"There's so much involved, Arry. It's kind of overwhelming. You make it look easy but I don't know if I can put it all together." Joxer sighed.

"Just try. You need to start somewhere and this will be a good first attempt. I really don't expect you to master a complete link with only one lesson. Even from me." Ares quirked an eyebrow and smiled.

"Some of it felt ... right. Like it was something I remembered rather than something you were showing me. But part of it was right over my head, like watching shadows. Even though it was you." Joxer raised their linked hands to his lips and feathered a caress over Ares' palms.

//Try, love. We've got plenty of time to work on it over the next century or so.// Ares smiled, returning the caress before letting go and turning the young warrior towards the surf. //I'll be right behind you.//

Joxer centered himself as Ares had taught him and knelt to immerse his hands in the salt water. The dark god settled at his side and put one hand on his back to help anchor him. Ares slipped into Joxer's mind but kept quiet, allowing the young warrior control over the link. He observed the gathering in of all five senses and his struggle to hold them focused on the water.

The struggle began to drain his energy and Ares fought a private battle over whether to help. Joxer lost the effort to concentrate and almost fell into the water headfirst. Ares caught him just in time and held him close, pouring energy into him from his own reserves.

//I'm sorry, Ares. I let you down.// The subdued whisper sounded defeated.

Ares brought Joxer's chin up while Bax whirled around them with a dismayed hum. "You did not let me down. You tried your very best. I didn't want to jinx you by telling you, you'd probably fail. I didn't succeed my first time either."

"Really?" Joxer looked up with a frown.

//Really, love. Until two things happen, you probably will fail many times over. Just as I did while I was learning.// Ares spoke mind to mind so Joxer would feel the truth as well as hear it. //You need to practice, practice, practice. Holding all five senses in sync is unbelievably difficult until it becomes natural. The second thing you need is the ability to absorb more energy and build up a strong reserve so you don't get so weak, so fast.//

Joxer's eyes went unfocused while he thought about it. Ares could see him going over the sequence of events in his mind and he felt the moment when Joxer understood. Then his arms were filled with a wriggling bundle of mischievous lover who knocked him on his back and smothered him with kisses. They lay half in the surf and half on the sand while they absorbed each other with languid strokings of tongue against tongue.

Ares could feel the power flowing back and forth between them, equalizing their energy levels until they both felt refilled. They rested a moment before noticing Bax peering curiously at them from under Joxer's hair. Ares blew him out from under and high into the air above them. The little zephyr giggled and danced over them while Joxer rolled off his lover to lie in the sand.

"All right. I'll practice until my brain goes numb. But how do I work on absorbing more energy if I can't focus on the element?" Joxer took his turn at blowing a thermal breeze for Bax.

"I'll share until you get the hang of it. You've noticed that when we make love, the energy flows back and forth between us." Ares blew a breeze haphazardly while he caught hold of a thought that had been hiding. "You know, we don't just share that energy but we seem to double it. I don't know if that's possible or not. We'll have to do some research when we get back to Olympus."

Joxer smiled and kissed his shoulder, grimacing at the sand that came away with his lips. "Yikes, I prefer you unfiltered."

Ares laughed and sprang to his feet, reaching down a hand to pull Joxer upright. They stood leaning against each other before Ares pulled him into a frontal hug that matched them perfectly. Biting back a moan, his cock sprang to immediate life. Pulling back a little, he found the swirling little whirlwind watching them curiously.

"Bax, would you like to go exploring? Joxer and I need some privacy for about an hour." Ares decided that honesty was the best policy. Joxer had a lot to answer for. Since they'd been together, the dark god had discovered that he just wasn't up to lying to anyone, let alone his nearest and dearest. Or a baby whirlwind.

"Ares, Ares, Ares. Joxer, Joxer, Joxer. Lone, lone, lone."

"That's right, Bax. We need to be alone for a while. Will you be all right on your own? Explore the other side of the island, but stay out of trouble?" Joxer asked him.

"Yes, yes, yes. Explore, explore, explore."

Bax zipped off happily, a silver streak of energy. Joxer watched him fly off while Ares smiled and leaned in for a long slow lick of a salty shoulder. His young lover shivered and turned back to return the favor.

"Ah-h-h, now that we're alone ... As much as I love a salty snack in the afternoon, this is a bit much. I prefer you unfiltered as well. How about we adjourn to the waterfall and clean off?" Ares tugged his naked lover towards the sound of the ten-foot tall waterfall.

"Do you think he ever sleeps?" Joxer asked before he broke free of Ares' grip and ran for the fresh water pond with the dark god in laughing pursuit. They'd already explored the series of pools and knew that bathing in this one wouldn't foul their drinking water. It was like their hot spring back home, slightly sulfurous and warmer than their own body heat.

The effervescent water bubbled around them while they scrubbed themselves clean of sand, salt and oil. The rough brushing motions slowed to softer strokes that inflamed rather than cleansed.

Ares breathed in the clean scent of Joxer's skin without any disguising oil. "I love the way you smell when you're just coming out of the bath. So purely ... Joxer."

Joxer licked his shoulder. "I love the way you taste when the water is beading on your skin. Uniquely ... Ares."

"Perhaps I'll just make a meal of you, lover." The dark god nibbled his way down the long throat on his way to the small nipple that hid among the dark curls. Some salt lingered here, adding a piquant taste to his ministrations.

"Oh, please." Joxer moaned and slowly stroked his roughened fingers over the hard planes of his lover's shoulders and upper back. His love flooded into Ares like the finest nectar from Olympus, making him euphoric with passion.

Ares switched to the other nipple, nipping it to a rock hard peak before lapping at it and blowing a stream of cool air over it. Joxer groaned and twitched closer. Ares buried his chuckle in the mat of dark curls and began to move his lover backwards to the waterfall. Joxer sputtered when the falling water splashed down on his upturned face.

"It's cold!"

Ares laughed out loud and raised his face for the splash. It wasn't that cool but after the steaming hot spring, there was a decided difference in temperature. Now, they were beneath the waterfall in the small space between water and rock. Joxer's hair was plastered against his skull and the beads of water on his face chased themselves down his cheeks.

Using both hands, Ares wiped the beloved face dry of moisture while backing him up against the rock. Letting his hands fall slowly down the slick body to the rising cock, he began the long strokes that would bring it to full hardness. Joxer's hands were busy as well, sliding down Ares' back to stroke his lower back and buttocks and making him shiver.

Ares lowered his mouth slowly to the parting lips beneath his. The spicy taste he'd come to expect met his searching tongue in a starburst of flavor. Brushing against the roof of Joxer's mouth, he felt his lover shiver and pull him closer. His hands gripped the full cheeks and began the light touches across the puckered opening that made Ares moan into the tangy mouth. Copying the gestures on his lover was no hardship what so ever.

The water acted as a natural lubricant that made the breaching of each other's body painless. Liquid heat simmered between them and Ares couldn't tell anymore whose body he was in. Light and flame flared, traveling through their bond to every part of their bodies. //Joxer.//

Joxer sighed into his mouth and answered him with his body, pulling free and turning to press back against him. Ares' cock leapt to snuggle between the firm white cheeks and he made sure the tight muscle was loosened before sliding into the heated depths. When he was fully sheathed, he paused and rested his head on Joxer's shoulder. Waves of contentment flowed from his young lover and Ares' hands dropped from his shoulders slowly down his chest and stomach to grip the rising cock.

They stayed that way for a long moment before the need to move overcame them both and Ares began the sliding strokes that would trigger their climaxes. Joxer settled his hands against the rock face and provided the steady resistance that Ares needed to reach that pleasure spot deep inside. The dark god kept the rhythm slow but steady, stroking the velvet cock with one hand while the other kept a firm grip on one of Joxer's hips.

Pleasure built in a steady crescendo while Ares' strokes got shorter and rougher. Then, he felt Joxer reach the peak and begin the fall. The sharp contractions of his inner muscles propelled Ares up and over as well. Pulsing, they panted in the suddenly too humid air. All of Ares' concentration was centered in their bond so he was the first to notice the strange glow in the water.

//Ares. I can feel the water. Not just around us but inside of us too. There's something else in the water.// Joxer didn't sound fearful just amazed.

Ares took a quick look and a faint echo of life pulsed on the edges of his conscious mind. //What is it? What does it look like?//

//The water is alive with all kinds of tiny creatures that glow. And there's a school of minnows hiding in the deepest end. We frightened them. I'm not sure what the others are but they're all hiding until we leave.//

Ares hugged him closer. //Congratulations, love. It sounds to me like you've got your first taste of elemental control. Glowing is just how I'd describe the life forms I find in the earth. Small sparks of energy for little beings. Bigger flames for larger ones. I'm catching the echoes of your inner sight.//

//It's fading!// Joxer exclaimed. //But ... I can still feel the water everywhere.//

Ares kissed his shoulder and slowly withdrew from his lover, drawing him upright and turning him into his embrace. Using his voice, he focused on bringing Joxer out of his semi-trance state. "Now, that you've done it once, you'll know what to look for. Water will be with you always. That perception needs to settle or it will make you crazy. Let it sink into your being and stop concentrating on it."

Joxer shivered once and rested his head on Ares' shoulder. The tremors that had started slowly began to fade and the dark god felt him settle into himself again. Risking a quick peek at the water, he saw the glow was gone. "How do you feel now?"

"All right. For a moment I was afraid I was going to be sick." His tones were faintly ashamed.

Ares hugged him tenderly and licked the closest ear. "It's happened. There's no disgrace involved. Your body is going through changes that sometimes leave it unsure of how to react. It's kind of like a mini-backlash of energy. Practice will help."

Joxer raised his head and grinned. "Actually, I think dinner would help. Suddenly, I'm starving."


The next two days went by quickly while they explored the island, played with Bax and practiced with the elements. Ares shook his head at the speed with which Joxer picked up the basics. His tenacity in mastering each step and building onto his knowledge was nothing short of phenomenal. He asked intelligent questions and really thought about the answers.

By the evening of the third day, he'd been able to stay in trance for half an hour. He'd cleared the cove of dangerous life forms and absorbed energy to replace what he'd expended in taking care of the predators. Ares was so proud of him, he couldn't wait to tell his father about his success.

They were playing in the cove, having a water fight when a whirling dervish descended on them with frantic whispers that got their attention in between one water splash and the next.

"Ares, Ares, Ares. Joxer, Joxer, Joxer. Visit, visit, visit."

"What is it, little one? Did something scare you?" Ares cupped the little zephyr in his hands with concern.

"Um, Ares. We've got visitors." Joxer did not sound happy.

Turning, the god of war saw the last four people on earth that he'd expected to see. Xena, Gabrielle, Iolaus and Hercules. All with varying expressions of dismay, distaste and moral outrage on their faces.

Their vacation was over.

End part fifteen