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"What do you have in mind?" Zeus asked curiously.
"What drives Hera? Now that she's not married to you anymore, what defines her?" Jett asked in a leading tone.
"Her vengeance toward me. That's all she's got left." Zeus said in thought.
"Right. So let's take it away from her." Jett said with a dark smile.
"How?" Zeus asked curiously.
"You know how these things work better than I do... if we were to get married, I mean with the blessing of Aphrodite and the sanction of Hephaistos, then we would be protected from any act of vengeance by Olympian law." Jett said unsurely.
"Yes... and that would really chap her ass, to see me getting married." Zeus said in thought.
"But we'll need to get past Aphrodite's godhood... otherwise she'll know we aren't in love and will refuse to marry us." Jett said in his scheming tone.
"One of Cupid's arrows should take care of that. The effect will only last a week." Zeus said absently.
"Hera couldn't touch us or she'd bring down the wrath of all the houses of Olympus on her." Jett said with increasing excitement.
"And we could keep this marriage thing going until one of us finds someone else that we want to marry." Zeus said in thought.
"Okay, but how are we going to get anyone to believe that we're in love? They're all gonna think we're up to something." Jett said seriously.
"What would we do if we were really in love?" Zeus asked and looked into Jett's eyes.
"I guess we'd spend time together... have lots of sex... do pretty much what we've been doing!" Jett finished with surprise.
"Right. So first thing we need to do is get Cupid's help." Zeus said in speculation.
"I've been working with him all day. I can go talk to him and ask right now if you want." Jett said frankly.
"Yes, we musn't hesitate. The old harridan is likely to attack at any moment. The sooner we get this done, the better." Zeus said seriously.
Jett nodded and flashed out in a green flourish of sparkles.
* * * * *
//We're here.// Jace thought apprehensively.
//What are you going to show me in the mortal realm?// Thanatos asked curiously.
//Not what, who. I want to introduce you to the closest thing I have to a parent.// Jace said timidly.
Shock could be seen in Thanatos' eyes as Jace knocked on the door.
After a silent moment, the door opened to reveal the Widow Twanky in a flowing green dress.
"Muffin, oh my dear. I've been so worried about you. Come in, come in and tell Twanky how you're doing now." She said hurriedly as she ushered him into her house.
"I've brought someone to meet you." Jace said quietly, looking at Thanatos who remained invisible to mortal eyes.
"Who would that be my little muffin?" Twanky asked, looking around.
//Please?// Jace thought with an imploring look to Thanatos.
After a brief moment of thought, Thanatos revealed himself to the Widow Twanky's sight.
"Goodness!" Twanky exclaimed as his corpse-like form resolved into being.
"Widow Twanky, this is Thanatos... Death Incarnate. Than, this is the Widow Twanky." Jace said as formally as he could manage under the circumstances.
After a moment to collect herself, Twanky said, "Come in, come in and sit. And Thanatos, you are welcomed here."
Jace beamed with pride for the Widow Twanky as he followed her into the house.
* * * * *
"I feel like a whore." Ganymede said out of nowhere.
Asclepius remained silent as he held Ganymede close.
"It's like I've been dirty for so long, I don't think I can ever feel clean again. I don't remember being clean." Ganymede said, his voice losing all emotion.
Asclepius stretched himself up to give Ganymede a kiss on the cheek.
"Ace, I may never be able to do... certain things. You deserve someone who can bring you pleasure and I don't know if I can ever..." Ganymede trailed off with a voice of weak desperation.
"Shhh. I'll never ask more of you than you're willing to give." Asclepius said in a whisper.
"I can't ask you to deny yourself. It's not fair to you." Ganymede said as tears crept into his voice.
"Gan, before you work yourself into a fit, let's just clarify what we're talking about. Tell me exactly which acts bother you... it might be something that we can work around." Asclepius said calmly.
"I can't stand the thought of having anything put inside me." Ganymede said quietly with shame.
"Does that mean oral and anal?" Asclepius asked clinically.
"No, I'm okay with the oral stuff. It's just... the other." Ganymede trailed off.
"Gan. How would you feel about making love to me? I mean later on, when the time is right. Would you have any problem with that?" Asclepius asked curiously.
"I"d be a little scared. I know how much it can hurt." Ganymede said honestly.
"We'll be careful so there won't be any pain, I promise. Gan, this isn't going to be a problem for me. So far I count one thing that you don't like to do, and honestly, I don't think I'd like doing that." Asclepius said gently.
"Really?" Ganymede asked with hope.
"Well, I've never done it. but it's not featured in any of my fantasies." Asclepius said carefully.
"Thank's Ace. I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to give you what you wanted." Ganymede said with a relieved smile.
"Just remember, this isn't just about what I want." Asclepius said firmly.
* * * * *
Joxer walked into the sitting room of the private rooms in the house of war to find Phobos and Deimos talking.
"Then they opened tha box 'o rats an tha woman screamed an tha old guy threw it out an they hugged an it was cool." Phobos said with excitement.
Deimos almost smiled at his brother's enthusiasm.
"How are you boys doing today?" Joxer asked carefully, never having spent any time with the twins.
"Where's dad?" Phobos asked quickly.
"I think he's with Cupid. Did you need something?" Joxer asked with concern.
"Naw. Jus don see you without im. That's all." Phobos said quickly.
"Okay. How are you doing?" Joxer asked, not knowing why he felt that they needed something.
Phobos looked at Deimos with a questioning look, then looked into Joxer's concerned gaze. Finally he said, "We did good things today. We never done nothin like that before... It felt wierd." Phobos said with frustration, obviously wanting to say more, but having difficulty knowing how.
Joxer thought for a moment, then asked, "Do you two ever use your godhoods to do good things?"
"I'm tha God of Fear an he's tha God of Pain. There ain't no good in our godhoods." Phobos said simply.
"I bet I could find some. Give me a minute, I'll ask your dad if I can take you somewhere." Joxer said, then went silent as he talked to Ares.
//Hey love, how are you?// Joxer asked quietly.
//After Cupid and I finished, I came to check on my armies. I have a few things to do here then I'll be home. I won't be long.// Ares replied.
//Love, do you mind if I take the twins to the mortal world to do a little shopping?// Joxer asked gently.
//You can create anything you need, why do you need to shop?// Ares asked curiously.
//I don't really. It's just an excuse for me to take the twins to the mortal world and see if we can use their god powers for good.// Joxer thought honestly.
//I'd never thought of that... good luck.// Ares thought weakly.
//Is there any particular city that you think Mischief, Pain and Fear should visit today?// Joxer asked with a smile under his question.
//Yes, actually there is. There is a blacksmith in Arcadia, Codgis, who would benefit from a visit. I don't know if the man's an idiot or just greedy but his substandard weapons are getting good men killed. If you checked him out you could decide what needs to be done about him... but you'd better talk to Heph before you mess with a smith.// Ares sent as an afterthought.
//Good idea. We shouldn't be gone too long. I miss you. I love you.// Joxer finished quietly.
//I miss you and love you too.// Ares sent in reply with desperate need flowing as an undercurrent.
"It's okay with your dad. Do you want to go to the mortal realm with me? We can have dinner, do some shopping and see if we can find a way to use your godhoods for good." Joxer said with excitement.
"Why?" Deimos asked suspiciously.
"Why what?" Joxer asked in return, not actually remembering hearing Deimos speak before.
"Why're you bein nice ta us?" Phobos asked, mirroring his brother's suspicion.
"It might not make much sense to you. From what Cupid said, gods don't look at family the same as mortals. But in mortal terms you're my step-sons. That makes us family, and you try to help family." Joxer said carefully.
"You tryin ta change us ta be good?" Phobos asked, still suspicious.
"No, I just want to try and find different ways you can use your godhood. After you've tried it out, you decide if you want to do it again or not." Joxer said seriously.
Phobos and Deimos shared a look then nodded in unison.
Joxer concentrated and the three of them were off to Hephaistos' temple.
* * * * *
"King Hephaistos, may I have an audience with you?" Joxer asked timidly.
"Joxie, come in. And you brought the boys! Pho, Demi, come and give your momma a hug." Aphrodite said as she bounced from beside Hephaistos at the desk.
"What did you need Joxer?" Hephaistos asked seriously.
"There is a blacksmith in Arcadia, Codgis, Ares wants me to see why he is providing substandard weapons for his warriors. But before I take any action against him, I would like your permission... since he is a blacksmith." Joxer said respectfully.
"Thank you for coming to me. Codgis has been lax in his prayers of late and his offerings have been sparse. But since he is one of my followers, he is entitled to some protection... he is not to be killed or permanently disabled. Beyond that, use your own judgment. If the situation is too bad, come to me and I will deal with him." Hephaistos said in a considering voice.
"Are you okay? You look really tired." Joxer asked with concern.
"I'll be fine. I need to get a good nights sleep. There's more to this job than you can imagine." Hephaistos said darkly.
"If there is anything I can do to ease your burden, let me know." Joxer said quietly.
"Thank you Joxer. If there is something you can do, I will call on you." Hephaistos said with a weak, tired smile.
"I guess I'd better get going then." Joxer said to Hephaistos, then turned to the boys who were being hugged by their mother.
"Are you guys ready to go to Arcadia?" Joxer asked with a smile..
Both boys nodded enthusiastically.
"I think we need to change our clothes a little... dress a little more mortal." Joxer said in thought.
Aphrodite took the cue and changed the three of them in an instant.
Phobos began to laugh in his manic, slightly psychotic way. Deimos looked at Phobos and himself without betraying a hint of emotion.
"Thanks Dite, this is perfect." Joxer said warmly.
"Thanks for taking an interest in the boys Joxie. You guys have fun today." Aphrodite said with a grand smile.
"We will, you have a good day too, you too Hephaistos." Joxer said before carefully picturing Arcadia in his mind.
* * * * *
Jett appeared in Cupid's temple to find Cupid playing in the floor with Anteros and Bliss. They had a collection of little dolls made up to look like various people on Olympus.
"Hey Cupid, I was wondering if you could do me a favor." Jett asked quietly as he smiled at the sight.
"Is this a personal favor or a business one?" Cupid asked without moving from Bliss.
"Business I guess. I was wondering if you could shoot me and Zeus with an arrow to make us more in love." Jett asked hesitantly.
"Why?" Cupid asked, devoting his full attention to Jett.
"Because we want to get married. If you shoot us, we'll know what love really feels like and know if we really want to go through with it or if we're making a mistake." Jett said carefully.
"Sorry Jett, I'm off duty right now. If you're serious about this, you two can come to me in the morning and I'll take care of you. My evenings are reserved for family and I won't interrupt that unless it's an emergency." Cupid said with a note of apology.
Jett looked at Bliss' expression of joy as his father played with him and smiled.
"It's okay Cupid. Tomorrow will be fine. Family is more important right now." Jett said warmly.
"Thanks Jett. I've just recently been reminded that I've had my priorities screwed up so I'm trying to get them set straight." Cupid said quietly.
"This is a good start." Jett said before disappearing.
"You know he was lying don't you?" Anteros asked carefully.
"Of course." Cupid said without emotion.
"What are you going to do?" Anteros asked as he moved a doll to chase after the doll Bliss was playing with.
"I'm going to do what he asked, I'll just need a little help to make it turn out for the best." Cupid said with a gentle smile.
"You've got a plan?" Anteros asked carefully.
Cupid looked at the mark on his forearm and said, "No, this plan isn't for me to make."
* * * * *
"So tell me why you've brought Death to visit... I hope it's not in a professional capacity." Widow Twanky said with a slight note of worry.
"No, nothing like that. I just wanted for Than to meet you. He's been a really good friend to me and I wanted him to know you." Jace said with a smile.
//I feel as if I know her already. I've met all fourteen of your husbands. They all speak highly of you.// Thanatos sent, still looking uneasy in the company of a mortal.
"Oh, how are they?" Widow Twanky asked with concern.
//All of them live in a large house in a corner of Allysium and spend their days remembering their happiness with you and their nights drinking fine wine and enjoying each others company. They are all enjoying an eternity of peace, joy and companionship.// Thanatos said with a peaceful look, which somehow looked wrong on his corpse-like face.
"Oh, it's good to know that they're happy. I loved each and every one of them." The Widow Twanky said as she relived some of the finer points of her marriages.
"Thanatos is a sculptor. He's given me a piece of his work and I was wondering if I could keep it here with you. As much as I would love to keep it on Olympus with me, hardly anyone would get to see it. If I leave it here with you I know people could see and appreciate it." Jace asked hopefully.
"Yes, yes of course my little muffin. Please show me, I love a good sculpture." The Widow said with a smile.
Jace carefully relocated the statue from Tartarus to the middle of the Widow Twanky's living room.
"Goodness!" Twanky said as she walked to the sculpture and looked carefully at it.
"Where would you like me to put it?" Jace asked, as she inspected the statue carefully.
"Just leave it right here. It is beautiful and here it will be the focal point of the room." Twanky said as she looked into the eyes of the bird.
Jace smiled at Thanatos who had a look of apprehension on his face.
//She loves it. Art is meant to be seen, not hidden.// Jace sent privately.
"You have an incredible talant Thanatos. So much emotion, so much feeling... it's like Jace's dancing caught in stone." Twanky said in thought.
Jace smiled warmly at the statement as Thanatos looked on in surprise.
"So tell me what's going on with you Jace. You were in such a state the last time I saw you, what's happened to turn you around so completely?" Widow Twanky asked as she took a seat.
"Thanatos happened. I was feeling lost and alone. Now I have a friend. Thanatos made all the difference." Jace said with a smile.
"Are you two thinking of becoming a couple?" Twanky asked with interest.
"I'm afraid it can't happen. Thanatos is forever denied the touch of another. His is the touch of death." Jace said sadly.
"If that weren't the case, do you think you'd be lovers?" Twanky asked nosily.
"We might." Jace said with an amused glance at Thanatos who was sitting in shock.
"If that's all that's holding you back, be lovers of a different kind. You can share your love without touching." Twanky said sagely.
"How?" Jace asked with interest.
"Through your words, your dance, your sculpture. The physical aspect of love is just one small part of a relationship. You can be lovers in your hearts and souls without involving your bodies." Twanky said with a dreamy look.
"I don't understand." Jace said with difficulty.
//Nor do I.// Thanatos said, slightly recovering from his shock.
"The act of sex can be performed without love, you know this muffin." Twanky said and looked to Jace to find comprehension.
"What was missing from that physical act was love. Likewise, you can have that love without physical contact. They can exist without each other. And that non-physical love is the love that poets and storytellers have been speaking of throughout the ages. Romantic, passionate love that transcends the body." Twanky said with a romantic twinkle in her eyes.
//But I'm a monster.// Thanatos said quickly.
"You're a person. A person with depth, feeling, caring and warmth." Jace said immediately.
//I don't know how...// Thanatos trailed off.
"We'll figure it out together. We may end up as friends, like we are now. And if that were to happen, I would be content. But if there is the chance for something more, something permanent, I want to try for it. Do you?" Jace asked carefully.
Thanatos thought and looked at the hopeful expressions on Jace and Twanky's faces.
//Yes.// Thanatos said quietly.
* * * * *
Ganymede pulled Asclepius into a deep passionate kiss.
Asclepius pulled out of the kiss and said, "Wait."
Ganymede got a look of fear and question in his eyes.
"You're emotional. You've been through a lot today; physical changes and emotional revelations. Let's not move on to another level of our relationship until you're more comfortable." Asclepius said with difficulty.
Ganymede thought about the statement and finally said, "Thanks Ace. I think I want to move to the next level, but I can wait till I'm sure. Thanks for thinking of what's best."
"Another kiss like that last one and I may not be able to think at all." Asclepius said honestly.
"I'll hold you to that." Ganymede said with a tender smile.
Asclepius and Ganymede just enjoyed the warmth and comfort of their embrace as Ganymede got a call from Cupid.
//Ganymede, I have a situation to discuss regarding Zeus. If you're interested, come over and we'll discuss it.// Cupid sent quietly, with respect.
"Cupid's calling... it sounds like something good." Ganymede said to Ace.
"Let's go." Asclepius said and straightened his robes.
Ganymede nodded and transported them to the Temple of Love.
* * * * *
Joxer, Phobos and Deimos appeared about fifteen minutes walk outside Arcadia.
"Why didn you jus take us to the town?" Phobos asked quickly.
"Because we need to get used to acting like mortals for a few minutes. Have you guys ever been around mortals before?" Joxer asked curiously.
Both boys shook their heads.
"Then just watch and listen at first. We're going to get something to eat, then we'll go to the blacksmith's shop and see what's going on with Codgis." Joxer said to the pair.
"Why didn't we eat before we left?" Phobos asked curiously.
"Because it's not about the eating, it's about the people around us. We're going to watch people, we'll just eat while we're doing it. Maybe we'll find a way to use your powers while we're there." Joxer finished in speculation.
Both boys shrugged and continued walking in silence as they approached the town.
* * * * *
Ganymede and Asclepius appeared in the Temple of Love and saw Cupid, Anteros and Bliss playing in the floor.
"What have you got for me Cupid?" Ganymede asked curiously.
"Jett wants me to shoot him and Zeus with a love arrow tomorrow. I thought that might interest you given your history with Zeus." Cupid said, keeping the majority of his attention on Bliss.
"Hmmm." Ganymede said in thought.
"Why?" Asclepius asked curiously.
"I don't know. He gave me some reason about wanting to marry Zeus and testing it out first... but he was obviously lying. I don't think it matters." Cupid said seriously.
"Do you have anything that will work like, permanently, on a god?" Ganymede asked speculatively.
"No. Not really. To affect a god permanently would take a lot more power than I have, I'd need about... six or seven major gods to make it work. And even then the affect would be limited to the confines of the enchantment on the arrow. It could be broken." Cupid said as he continued to play.
"What if we put an enchantment other than the usual one on the arrow?" Asclepius asked carefully.
"What did you have in mind?" Cupid asked, looking up curiously.
"You're talking about shooting them with romantic love... and that's fine, but there need to be other things to sustain the romantic love. Things like infatuation, respect, dignity, common interests... things that serve as a foundation." Asclepius said in thought.
"So how do we get those things?" Anteros asked curiously.
"With help from some of the others. If we tell Hera that we're going to shoot Zeus with a love arrow to make him marry Jett, I know she'll go for it. She'll think she's causing him harm. Lust will go along, and we can use Lust's godhood to pour passion into the spell. Jace will want to help his brother to be happy so he'll throw a little debauchery into the mix... who else can we get?" Asclepius asked in thought.
"All of us, Bliss's arrow's of infatuation can be the basis of the spell. I can donate a romantic love potion into the arrow." Cupid said seriously.
"And I can add the passion of love avenged." Anteros said seriously.
"I know if we asked Dad and Jox they'd contribute." Cupid added.
"Mom and Heph would too, and mom's got some powerful marriage mojo that she can add." Anteros said with excitement.
"I count five major gods, we'd do good to have a few more on board for this." Asclepius said seriously.
"Your dad would probably help if you asked him." Ganymede said suddenly.
"Psyche." Cupid said without emotion.
"What?" Asclepius asked in question.
"If your dad thinks she's ready for it, Psyche could add her special touch to the spell and her power to the mix." Cupid said, turning his attention fully to Asclepius.
"I'll ask him. If she's up to it, her godhood could make the difference. It would be like the catalyst to bring all the other influences together." Asclepius said with increasing excitement.
"Jett and Zeus will be back in the morning to be shot with an arrow. We have till then to get this done. Who's going to do it?" Cupid asked everyone in attendance.
"I think we should do it." Ganymede said in thought.
"Everyone knows that you have reason to wish harm to Zeus... and that'll make them want to kick in. Good thinking." Cupid said with a nod of his head.
"Then all I need is an arrow." Ganymede said seriously.
"Bliss, can you make an arrow of infatuation for Ganymede?" Cupid asked his son quietly.
Bliss held out his hands and scrunched up his face. A moment later an arrow appeared and he handed it to Ganymede.
"Now you realize that if this works, Zeus won't even know that he's being manipulated. He'll just think he's in love." Cupid asked seriously.
"Yeah, but I'll know. That's enough. And thanks for calling me Cupid. I'm sorry I said all that before, I guess I was dealing with a lot of changes and blew off steam at you." Ganymede said with a note of shame.
"It's fine Ganymede. It helped me. I'm sorry about all that stuff in the past, but I really feel like it's behind us now, how about you?" Cupid asked hopefully.
"Yeah, all in the past. We're cool now." Ganymede said with a gentle smile.
"Good. Now you'd better start making the rounds. By the end of the night, that little arrow is going to be one of the most powerful forces on Olympus." Cupid said with a smile.
"Yeah, let's get going." Ganymede said and held out his hand to Asclepius.
They disappeared in a flash as Cupid, Bliss and Anteros watched.
"Are they as much in love as it looked?" Anteros asked.
"Oh yeah. They just had to get to know each other and it happened naturally, no spell required." Cupid said and turned his attention to Bliss again.
"So you set them up?" Anteros asked as he began to play with Bliss again.
"My godhood did, I didn't actually know about it till after the fact. I'm still getting used to the romantic love thing. It may be a few decades before I'm fully aware of when my godhood's pushing me toward an action." Cupid said absently as he marched his little Ares doll across the floor.
"As long as it works out. I think Zeus and Jett are both going to benefit from the supercharged arrow." Anteros said as his Hades doll followed the Ares doll.
"Yeah. What are you doing?" Cupid asked as he watched Anteros' doll following him all around.
"Collecting the dead in your wake." Anteros said seriously.
Cupid smiled and continued to play.