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After the meeting with Hera, Ares was needed elsewhere to deal with a war and Joxer had decided to stay on Olympus. Joxer was walking the grounds enjoying the scenery and thinking. While sitting by a fountain, pondering the past few days, Cupid walked by him.
Cupid was a mess. He had obviously been crying and looked as if he were at the end of his emotional rope.
Joxer called, "Hey! Cupid!"
Cupid stopped in his tracks and turned with a dazed expression. Then it was like he came back to himself for a moment. "Hey Jox."
"Cupid, I need your help with something." Joxer said, considering how he was going to make this work.
"Sure Jox, what'd you need?"
"I haven't learned to transport myself yet, and I don't want to bother Ares while he's busy warring..."
Cupid had to interrupt, "Where'd you need to go?"
"To a clearing southeast of Corinth. I need to get some things."
"No prob, just think about where you need to go... yeah, hold on, here we go."
And there they were. Joxer looked around and found the bags that he wanted from a nearby cave. He handed one of the bags to Cupid and walked over to some bushes and started to pick some red berries.
Cupid watched him, stunned for a moment then went to the bush beside Joxer and started picking berries too. He was about to put one of the berries in his mouth when Joxer put a hand on his wrist to stop him.
"You probably don't want to eat those. I'm not sure what they'll do to a god but they'll make a mortal sick with vomiting and chills for a couple of days."
Cupid stood with the berry a few inches from his mouth and asked, "Then why are you picking them?"
Joxer put on his most innocent face, "I thought I'd make something special for some friends. Everyone likes pie, right?"
"You're evil Jox, who knew?"
Joxer just gave a smile and went back to his berry picking. After a few minutes he looked over at Cupid and asked. "So how are you doing?"
Cupid looked back at Joxer and recognized the honest concern in his eyes. If anyone else had asked him the same question, he would have said 'fine'. But Joxer knew better and expected an honest answer.
"Not so good Jox, there's all this stuff with Psyche, and I have to think about what's best to do for Bliss and... other things."
Joxer caught the hesitation and jumped in, "Other things, like your relationship with Strife?"
Completely stunned, Cupid asked, "Wha? How'd you know about that?"
Joxer thought about it for a second then said, "Cupid, I'm about to tell you something that I've never told anyone."
"Okay Jox, what is it?"
"Well, I've been friends with your father for a few years now. We never told anyone because if they knew he had a mortal friend... let's just say I wouldn't have survived the week. Ares and I talk about whatever bothers us, he was worried about you, how you distanced yourself from everyone after you married Psyche. That's when he told me about your history with Strife."
Cupid was stunned, "He knew?"
"Yeah, from almost the beginning. He knew it everytime you would sneak in or out of the halls of war to visit Strife." Joxer said with a little smile.
"But... why didn't he say anything?" Cupid asked, truly puzzled.
Joxer chuckled, "He said that you were having so much fun sneaking around and getting away with it, that he couldn't bring himself to stop it."
"So he wasn't mad? I mean that I was with Strife?"
"Nope, we didn't talk too much about that side of it but he didn't seem to have any problem at all." Joxer said.
Joxer sat his bag on the ground. He motioned for Cupid to follow him. Cupid did and they retreated to some conveniently placed rocks that made for a decent sitting place.
"Cupid, from what I've been told by Ares and by what my godhood tells me, I think I have a pretty good view of what's going on with you. Please talk to me, let me help you figure things out."
Cupid looked at the sincerity on Joxer's face and began to talk...
* * * * *
Their talk had started in the early afternoon and lasted into the early evening. Joxer was still stunned by some of the things Cupid had told him. He knew that Psyche had manipulated Cupid but she was one twisted bitch. Her idea of sex had nothing to do with pleasure for anyone but her. She didn't just enjoy causing physical pain, she enjoyed degradation and humiliation too.
There was something gnawing at Joxer's soul. He knew that Hera and Jett would come up with something spectacular to do to Psyche but he needed something of his own. Ares was his friend so that made Cupid his step-friend... er... friend-in-law... oh well, something like that anyway. She had hurt Cupid and Joxer needed to get his own back on her.
//Yes Joxer? What do you need?//
//I need to learn to transport myself, I hate being a burden.//
//I don't mind, where do you need to go?//
//To Hades', to visit with Strife.//
Ares appeared. When he locked eyes with Joxer, the hard look left his eyes and a small smile started to cross his lips. He just opened his arms and Joxer automatically stepped into the embrace.
And then they were in the hallway outside Strife's room. Ares stepped away and thought, //Just call me when you're ready to go back. I still have a few things I need to do, stupid warlords think they know what they're doing...//
Joxer just thought a quick, //Bye.// as he knocked on Strife's door.
Strife opened the door, he seemed only slightly surprised this time, "Joxer? What'cha need?"
When Strife extended his arm in invitation, Joxer walked into the room. Joxer sat and spoke, "I talked to Cupid today..."
Strife began to wiggle and fidget a little in his chair. Joxer decided to let him off the hook, even though it would be fun dancing him around the subject for a while. "...one of the things we talked about was your relationship before Psyche."
Strife was speechless.
Joxer continued, "I'm not here to talk to you about that, I just wanted you to know that I know and I'm okay with it."
Strife had recovered a little by now and said a quiet, "Thanks, Jox."
Joxer nodded his head and went on, "Psyche is an evil bitch and she must pay for hurting Cupid."
Strife was speechless again.
Joxer stood and began to pace, when he spoke again it was with determination in his voice, "I've got a plan, but I don't know if it's do-able, I need your expertise to tell me how to pull it off"
And they talked long into the night only pausing occasionally for a fit of giggles.
* * * * *
Hera and Jett entered the main hall of the house of Debauchery.
"Lord Jace, Lady Lust, the house of Retribution seeks the aid of the house of Debauchery." Hera said to the stunned pair.
"Of course Lady Hera, what can we do for you?" Lust answered on behalf of her pupil.
"Now that we've formally asked for your assistance, we could dispense with the titles, if you don't mind." Hera answered.
"I don't mind at all Hera, what can we do for you?" Lust asked again.
Hera proceeded to tell the highlights of Cupid's story and her plan for vengeance.
The four of them gathered closely around the scrying pool at the side of the main hall. While checking on the current whereabouts of Psyche and Zeus, Jett slipped his hand to the small of Hera's back and began to rub slowly.
This continued for a few moments until Hera noticed and stood straight. Jett flinched back at her glare and watched as she walked to the other side of the main hall. The others noticed and watched for a moment, then Lust said, "I'll go check on her, you two stay here."
Lust approached Hera and hesitantly asked, "Hera, is something the matter?"
"I don't know Lust, I just spent millennia of torture with one man, the last thing I need in my life right now is another. I mean, we're supposed to learn from our mistakes, aren't we?"
Lust took Hera's hand in her own and said, "I understand, and I think I know just what you need."
Hera's heart skipped a beat as she realized what was happening. She looked up from their joined hands and into the chocolaty brown eyes of Lust. Hera thought to herself, [Maybe she does know what I need.]
* * * * *
//Ares?// Joxer sent the mental call.
//Ready?// Ares responded.
//Yeah, we're done, so whenever you have time...//
Ares appeared in a flash and nodded a greeting to Strife, then said, "I've done all that I can do for today, let's go home."
"Sounds good to me." Joxer responded with a tired smile.
Ares slipped an arm around Joxer's waist and after a 'goodbye' to Strife, they appeared in the hall outside Ares' bedroom. Without a thought Joxer opened the double doors and walked in, shedding clothes along a direct path to the bathing chamber.
A few moments after Joxer eased into the water, Ares followed. Ares noticed the exhausted look on Joxer's face and asked, "Hard day?"
Joxer turned his tired gaze to Ares and answered his question with a question, "How do you do it?"
Puzzled, Ares asked yet another question, "Do what?"
"Everything that needs to be done. I've done about a hundred different things today, and there are about a thousand other things that I haven't gotten around to." Joxer said as he laid his head back against the edge of the sunken tub.
Ares considered for a moment and said, "If you think this is busy, wait until you've finished your training and take up your full duties as god of mischief and your duties for the house of war."
Joxer tilted his head slightly in Ares' direction then said, "I imagined that the gods sat up on Olympus all day, eating ambrosia, listening to music and laughing at the silly mortals."
Ares gave a tired laugh and said, "Apollo maybe, but the rest of us actually do have things that must be done. What do you have planned for tomorrow?"
"I need to visit Hecate for a while, then probably Pan. It depends on what Hecate says. Then in the afternoon, I need to meet with Cupid and see if he's come to any decisions. What about you?" Joxer asked tiredly but with interest.
"The war that I've been working on all day, it'll be ready to start in the morning. The good part will probably be done by the afternoon."
After some small talk about the days events the tired pair made their way to the bedchamber.
A few minutes after settling in bed Joxer realized that Strife had said that Joxer could have his room.
"Are you asleep yet?" Joxer asked quietly.
"Not yet, what do you need?" Ares answered sleepily.
"I just remembered that I'm supposed to be in Strife's room..."
" 'Sokay Joxer, I like you being here." Ares interrupted.
Now Joxer was fully awake as he realized that he liked being here too.
He looked over at the sleeping form of Ares next to him and his old desires were reborn. Hesitantly, he put his hand on Ares bare shoulder and said, "I like being here too."
Ares opened his sleepy eyes and saw the look of intent in Joxer's eyes. His brow furrowed for a second then relaxed. Ares brought his hand around Joxer's waist and pulled him close.
Joxer felt himself being pulled into Ares embrace and went along willingly. He ended up with his face nuzzled into Ares shoulder. Ares' strong arms held him firmly and he felt the ghost of a kiss on the top of his head.
Not another word was said, they lay silently, holding each other close until they drifted into sleep.
* * * * *
Ganymede decided to travel to some other locations around the mortal realm. He visited several cities, unseen, assessing the situations of those who were his responsibility. There were already two more alters dedicated to his name, apparently some of the workers at Meg's had spread the word about their new god. It was nearly morning, as he was thinking of going back to Olympus he felt a twinge. It didn't feel physical, but it was like a physical cramp. A twist in the essence of his godhood.
Summoning his concentration, he followed the tendril of power to the source of his pain. He found himself back at Meg's. He could feel the pull of the pain coming from one of the rooms. Making himself insubstantial as well as invisible, he passed through the door to see one of the working girls, Charise, emptying the money pouch of a sleeping customer who stank of alcohol.
Ganymede made himself visible to mortal eyes and said, "Charise, how are you this evening?"
Charise discretely dropped the money pouch by the trousers of the sleeping man. "Me, oh I'm doing fine... Lord Ganymede."
Ganymede took a step closer and asked, "And what was your business with this client?"
"Just the usual, nothing special." Charise answered shakily.
"It must have been a little special to warrant the 25 gold pieces in the hand behind your back." Ganymede said taking one last step into Charise's personal space.
"I... Uh... I mean... " Charise stammered.
"Enough, return the money to the pouch and meet me in the main room." He said before vanishing from the room.
Charise quickly returned the money and dressed, then walked into the main room where Ganymede was seated.
As she approached and made as if to sit by him he held up a hand to stop her, "You have chosen a life of service of your own free will. You provide the service and receive payment. By doing this thing, you sully the name of all those of your profession."
Charise began to look appropriately ashamed. Ganymede continued, "You are no longer under my protection, I will no longer hear your prayers. I will not involve Meg in this matter but I assure you that you will receive no favors that are granted to the others. You need to find another god and another line of work. May I suggest Hermes, as you have seen fit to steal and lie."
And with that Ganymede was gone, leaving Charise standing alone.