When I was a boy, I used to visit a goldsmith in the sleepy village below my father's castle. Patrolius always insisted that he'd been trained by Hephaestus himself, and I believed him. His work was incredible: the figures he carved breathed, ate, laughed, died. Those lively gold figures decorating plates, bracelets and buckles were more real to me than my own family, for whom I was a joke.
No object fascinated me as much as the God-Cup. Patrolius kept it locked in a heavy iron chest, the key dangling from a chain around his neck. The cup was his masterpiece, the work he exhibited to impress wealthy clients. But on those days when I would show up trying to hide my tear-stained cheeks, the old man would shuffle into the back room, emerging minutes later with the goblet clutched in his still-supple fingers. Wordlessly, he'd hand it to me, and I'd sit on the straw-covered floor in a corner of the shop, beneath a window, lost in the detailed scenes so carefully engraved onto the shining surface.
The God-Cup was divided into four sections, each depicting an event in the lives of the Olympians. Holding it carefully, I would study the figures. There was Zeus appearing as a blinding shower of gold to the doomed Semele. On her knees before him, she raises her chin raised expectantly. Her beautiful face is forever caught between desire and horror as she begins to burn. There was Artemis rising naked from the cool spring, while Acteon spies at her through the trees. Several low-hanging branches suggest the horns about to spring from his head, and just behind him we can see the baying hounds who will rip out his heart. The third scene showed unhappy Persephone wrapped in Hades' hard arms. She looks longingly toward an open door that leads from the Underworld back to the field where he found her. A pomegranate, ripe and ready to burst, rests on a table to her left. Unknowingly, her delicate hand extends toward the fruit that will seal her dark destiny.
As I lost myself in this world of passion, my sadness over Father's anger over my failure at target practice, or javelin-tossing, or wrestling would disappear.
But it's the fourth scene that most fascinated me. I didn't know the myth Patrolius depicted, and he refused to tell me. His mysterious silence fed my interest, and I would stare in awe at the figures. One I recognized: Ares, god of war. He was shirtless, but the two-headed whip hung at his side. His body was perfection: broad shoulders, wide chest, long thighs. The god faced a man, his hand resting on the other's curved hip in an intimate, erotic gesture. While Ares seemed aware that they were being watched by an unseen eye, the mortal was oblivious, conscious only of his own awed desire. His hair was thrown back, lips parted in expectation of Ares' kiss.
When Patrolius passed me the goblet, I would save this scene for last. I refused to look at it for long, as though somehow my sight could corrupt not the encounter, but the man's pure lust. While it didn't make sense, I was scared that he'd discover I watched, and that seeing me would spoil the perfect moment for him. The man bore an uncanny resemblance to the god. He was Ares, only with the anger, violence and hatred toned down, mixed with an odd vulnerability that was conveyed in his extended neck, his closed eyes. Sacrificial, almost.
He made me uncomfortable, so I would focus instead on the beautiful god. No fragility here: only strength, the strength that I lacked but wanted more than anything. I decided then and there in the bright goldsmith's shop that I would devote my life to Ares, that I would become a warrior and honor him.
When I was twenty-five, I went for the first time to the great temple of Ares in Tegea. I needed help because my plans to be a great warrior weren't panning out. As my brothers constantly reminded me, I lacked coordination, the key ingredient to swordsmanship. I wanted the war god to give it to me. My armor jangling loudly in the silent room, I marched up to the heavy basalt altar, placing my offering on its polished surface, then fell to my knees.
"My name is Joxer. I need a favor." I'd intended to boom the words impressively. To my shame, they came out plaintive. I cursed myself. This was supposed to be a key moment in my life, when Ares helped me fulfil my father's wishes. Instead, I could hear the dismissive snicker of a temple priestess lighting candles in a sconce. No sign of Ares. I could feel my cheeks turn red with embarrassment: it was time to go. I left the gold cup on the altar, and turned to leave, my head drooping. I collided with a hard chest.
The studs on the man's vest were sharp, and one pierced the thin skin just above my eye. As I pulled back, blood trickled down, half-blinding me. "Sorry," I mumbled, intending to scoot around the looming figure. A huge hand fell onto my shoulder, stopping me. I wiped the salty liquid that blurred my vision, and saw Ares standing before me.
"Nice," he said, jerking his head at the gift I'd left for him.
"A friend gave it to me. It was the most valuable thing I had." I was surprised that I could speak. Ares in the flesh, not frozen in a pose of desire, but vitally alive. I could feel the heat pouring in waves from his body, probably from the energy it took to give his muscles their curved shape, his skin its smoothness. The burden of perfection. Tthe physical effort of beauty. "Are you here to grant my wish?"
Bored, he was already looking over my shoulder, eyes raking the priestess' lithe body. "Your wish?"
I couldn't keep his interest. The side-effect of homeliness. Not attractive or ugly enough to merit attention. "I want to be a warrior but I have no coordination. I need it, please." The words spilled out, barely comprehensible.
His dark eyes flicked briefly back to me. "Practice," he said dismissively, already walking away.
I watched him stride up to the dark-haired woman, pulling her into his arms, saw their tongues meet. No one else was around: I'd come to the temple just before it closed. Fading sunlight filtered through a window high on the wall, covering the couple in a golden haze. The lovers ignored me; I suppose I meant nothing to them. It was my cue to leave, but I couldn't, so I moved close to the wall, the shadows swallowing me. From my vantage point in the darkness, I could see everything.
Even I realize that hiding in the shadows, spying on a god, is odd behavior. Let me explain.
It's not that I'm a virgin. By seventeen, I'd already discovered the brothels, had sunk into the unresponsive bodies of bored whores. I soon realized that I was most comfortable watching others; I was safe from the disappointed looks, from my own debilitating anxieties. I could finally relax as a spectator, stroking my cock and losing myself in the soon-familiar elixir of melancholic pleasure.
Watching somehow seemed natural to me. My earliest sexual experiences involved spying on my brothers as they rode peasant girls in the orchard behind Father's castle. Their bestial actions excited me, as did the groans and grunts as they thrust to orgasm. I'd get an erection although, embarrassed at first, I'd try to ignore it. But soon my hand would surreptitiously rub my cock through the leather, and I'd come that way. Eventually, confident that I wouldn't be spotted (perhaps because I was invisible?), I'd clutch the rough bark of the lemon tree with one hand, and caress my exposed cock with the other, pouring my seed like clotted cream onto the fragrant black earth as I watched the act of love.
I was caught only once. My brother Aolius had again snuck Lyceus, a new lover, into his bedroom. I was already there, waiting for them, hiding inside the large oak wardrobe. Peering through the doors, pressing my cheek against the smooth wood while I rubbed the head of my cock, I watched.
Lyceus was facing me, leaning against the foot of the bed while my brother knelt between his thighs. He was uncommonly handsome: high cheekbones, darkly curling hair. He reminded me of the golden Ares, not only in his looks, but in his manner. He was arrogant, had already convinced my besotted brother to suck him, a privilege Aolius usually reserved for himself.
As my sibling's tongue lovingly slid over the thick cock, his arms clasped around the other man's slim hips, Lyceus licked one index finger, then rubbed the wetness over his nipple until the brown flesh hardened. With his free hand, he grabbed my brother's head, shoving himself into his eager mouth. I could hear the wet sounds as Aolius took the cock deep in his throat.
My own cock throbbed painfully, and I stroked it more quickly. I imagined my mouth on Lyceus, his on me, and in my enthusiasm, I accidentally knocked the heavy door protecting me. The sound was almost imperceptible, but he glanced toward it, just as the doors swung partly open. I froze, sure that he could see me, and waited for the violence.
At first, Lyceus didn't move. Then he raised both hands to his lips, and ran his tongue over his fingertips. He teased each nipple, tugging the flesh until each grew rosy. I began to realize that he was performing for me, that he was getting off on my excitement, which he could plainly see in my huge erection.
"Harder," he said.
I knew he was speaking to both of us, and my hand obligingly gripped my cock tighter, and speeded up. I could feel my face flushing, as the pleasure coursed through me. I'd never been so excited. It was like I was fucking this beautiful man, like he wanted me. I knew it was an illusion, of course: he was only enjoying the illicitness of it, the wrongness. He'd never let me touch him; he only wanted my admiration, my desire, from a distance. I made him feel like a god.
When Lyceus was about to come, he pulled his cock from Aolius' mouth. I knew he did this so that I could see the thick white fluid spill from his cock, run down his thighs. With a muffled groan, I came also, barely remembering to catch my semen in a piece of red cloth.
I must've come five or six times that night, as Lyceus acted out his lust for my attractive brother. It was nearly dawn when they stopped fucking, collapsing back on the canopied bed, covered in sticky fluid, with flesh raw, bruised, red.
After that, I wondered how many others had seen me. I wondered who'd been aroused by the sight of me, who'd been flattered by the idea of my almost-reverent desire. Ares was. Here in the temple, I thought he'd forgotten about me, about this pale mortal lurking in the dark as he fondled his willing priestess, until I saw him deliberately turn the woman toward me so I could observe exactly what he was doing to her. I understood that he was giving me permission to watch, and so I hurriedly undid my pants to grasp my cock.
He ripped off her white robes almost casually, until she stood, naked and gleaming, like a statue in the golden light. Ares pushed her back against the altar, so that she lay on the cool stone, then pushed her knees up, spreading her cunt. I was close enough to notice the wetness oozing from her pink lips, as she waited for the god's cock. Ares reached forward, and slid three fingers into her mouth. When they were wet, he took them away, and slowly, very slowly, he eased them into her pussy. The tips of his fingers disappeared, then the next joint, until they were buried far inside the woman. Holding her down with a hand on her left breast, he began to fuck her with his fingers, moving them in and out until she moaned.
The sight of his fingers parting the lips of her cunt, stretching her open, was exciting, but he was the one I really wanted to see. Silently, I begged him to strip, so that I could see his body. When he did, almost at once, I came into my hand. The orgasm wasn't enough to satisfy me. I needed more, so I rubbed the warm semen onto my cock until it was hard again, never taking my eyes from Ares' hard flesh.
Ares now crouched between the woman's thighs, and I watched his tongue flicker over her swollen clit. But his back held my attention, as his muscles rippled, and a bead of sweat rolled down his spine, disappearing in the crack of his ass. When those smooth cheeks clenched in response to the woman's hand on his cock, I nearly came again.
The priestess was scrambling off the altar, falling to her knees before Ares. He now lounged against the dark stone. His cock was enormous, thicker than any I'd ever seen. Ares held it at the base, stroking lightly, while the woman nibbled his thick head. Then he was shoving her back onto the marble floor, kneeling above her. With one hand, he guided his cock into her until she gasped. He wasn't looking, however, at the now-writhing woman; instead, his eyes were trained on me, as I rhythmically jerked off.
"Do it feel good?" he asked softly. Like Lyceus before him, I knew that Ares spoke to both of us, that he was getting off, like the other man did, on my peculiar form of worship. I knew, too, that he wasn't aroused by me, but by the situation. That hurt, of course. It always did. But not enough to stop the orgasm as my cock danced in my hand.
Ares didn't miss this, and with a grunt, tore his cock from the wet cunt, and spurted his juices across the woman's breasts and hard nipples. As he licked his come from her body, I thought of his tongue on me. I knew it would never happen. If I couldn't please mortals, there was no way I could please a god.
I'd like to say that Ares proved me wrong, that this stunning god fell in love with a homely man, and taught me to love myself for who I am. That's not what happened. Are is a glutton for beauty and likes it almost as much as he likes power. And that's why our relationship started: because he liked me to watch him fuck beautiful men and women. He liked my admiration, my desire. I also think he liked my pain. That's why he began to invite me to join him, to be an audience of one.
In the beginning, that was enough. Then something happened. Then I saw him.
And so I became Ares personal voyeur.
It sounds weird. I'm half-laughing as I write this. Some men have valets; Ares has a voyeur. But you have to understand: he was bored with sex. Over the centuries, he'd experienced the tongues, lips, fingers, cocks and cunts of thousands upon thousands of willing disciples. Every inch of his skin had been sucked, licked, nibbled, stroked, often by multiple mouths working simultaneously to please him. (Not that he told me this, of course. He rarely did more than grunt in my direction).
He was intrigued by the novelty of a man who wanted only to watch. I wasn't the first to get off in this way with Ares, but I was the only one who expected nothing in return. And he liked that. While two women tongued his nipples, and a man lapped at his cock, Ares would look over at me to gage the pain I couldn't hide even as my expert fingers tugged at my erection.
Ares also liked the way my presence excited his partners. Initially, of course, they'd complain. "He's not going to join us?"they'd ask with barely-concealed disgust. Like I wasn't there. My plain appearance was an affront, an insult to them, until they realized that I'd remain safely on the sidelines, offering only one-handed worship. Then, invariably, the attitude would change. Women would spread their thighs farther apart, teasing me with the sight of the pink, sweet flesh I couldn't have because I wasn't beautiful like Ares. Men would smile at me while Ares fucked them because his cock wasn't in my ass. All I had was my hand.
Why did I do it? Why did I allow myself to be humiliated by these superficial morons? I wasn't a monster, no matter what they thought of me. I wasn't an idiot either, although sometimes I hid that. I could find someone, fall in love, become normal. And I wanted that. I really did. But I'd spent more than half of my life in love with Ares. I know you're squirming as I say that. How can I love someone I'd never met? How could I fall in love with an image? (Hey, I'm not the first one. Just ask Pygmalion). And how could I keep loving Ares when I discovered that he was an overgrown child driven by need? When you live in a world where no one loves you, you start to crave pain. You use that intense emotion to fill the emptiness... I'm laughing again. Not just because that sounds so pretentious, but because, ironically, this was logic that Caesar used on Ares to make him a pain-junkie.
The god of war, of course, loved pain, loved inflicting it. He did it on the battlefield, when he shoved his sword through pumping hearts, when he hacked off limbs and gouged out eyes. And he certainly wasn't tender in bed: most of his mortal lovers came away bruised, scratched, sometimes bleeding. It was less that he deliberately tried to hurt them--although sometimes he did, I think--than simple callousness on his part. He wanted pleasure, and took it, often viciously. But he wasn't refined about pain, not sophisticated. He didn't understand the connection between the two. So when Caesar stepped in, and derisively pointed out what the god was missing, Ares at last discovered a cure for his boredom.
Caesar arrived in Ares' life just as the god's boredom was peaking. He'd taken a new lover, the beautiful king of Corinth, a man to die for, one even a god could love, but that wasn't enough for Ares. Most pathetic about the affair between these two was that Iphicles was as obsessed with Ares as Ares was bored with him.
God and king first met during a battle on the plain outside Mycenae. Ares, after charging through the throng, hewing off heads with quick sword-strokes, cock getting harder and harder under gore-stained leather, invoked me. Had it been possible, he would've whistled. (And I would've come running).
So there I was on the field, trying not to trip over mutilated bodies, as Ares strode forward. I followed at a respectful distance, wondering who, this time, had caught the god's increasingly particular eye. I soon realized that we were heading toward a big man bent over a soldier, slitting his throat. I knew the fallen man was a Mycenaean from the golden chariot emblazoned on his shield (in memory of the one driven by the founder Pelops to win Hippodamia). The blue stones spread in a "C" on the other's shield, topped with a gold crown, proclaimed him the Corinthian king.
Although wavy copper hair obscured the victor's face, somehow he seemed achingly familiar. Even before he raised his head, I knew what I would see: the high cheekbones, full lips, and hooded dark eyes of Ares. Bored, Ares had decided to fuck himself in the ultimate narcissistic act. But as I watched the man rise to his feet, facing us, I was struck most not by the similarities between them, but the differences: humility replaced arrogance; fragility replaced cruelty.
When Iphicles saw Ares, he fell to his knees, placing his head on the god's booted foot. Performed by anyone else, the action would've seemed flamboyant or theatrical, but somehow the king managed to make it sincere. And when he raised his head a second time, the look of naked longing on his face disturbed me.
Most people hide their emotions, ashamed of feeling anything at all. This man, however, didn't have that fear. It made him vulnerable, despite his size and beauty. It made him special. I looked at Ares to see if he recognized this man's uniqueness, if he understood how different he was from the others. But Ares wasn't even paying attention. He didn't give a shit about vulnerability. He only wanted to come.
Watching the king eagerly accept into his mouth the hard cock Ares shoved there, I understood that, despite our vastly dissimilar exteriors, Iphicles was like me: he'd do whatever Ares desired and never ask anything in return. For some unfathomable reason he didn't think he had anything to give. This sense of his own unworthiness translated to passivity. Unfortunately, that quality brought out the worst in Ares, especially once Caesar entered the picture.
Innocence, however, marked this first encounter between god and king on the field of war. Well, relative innocence. This was Ares, after all, and he grabbed Iphicles' hair, forcing his cock down his throat. The brutality was unnecessary, but Iphicles seemed grateful: he stared up unblinkingly at Ares, who guided the compliant mouth back and forth over his cock, reveling, as I imagined, in the warmth.
As I stood to the left of the couple, I watched Iphicles' thumbs stroke the flesh just beneath the god's hips, and I imagined them on my cock. It took me a minute to realize that, for once, someone other than Ares held my attention. Th glimpses of wet cock as it slid between the king's lips didn't rivet me in the usual way, nor the tightening muscles in Ares' smooth ass as he prepared to come. I saw them, of course, and my cock hardened under my flying fingers. But Iphicles' upturned, supplicating gaze commanded my attention. I masturbated to his desire. And when Ares' semen started spurting and the king began to swallow, I came to his reverence.
Seconds later, barely sated, Ares disappeared. He'd forgotten about me, which he did sometimes. I hurriedly adjusted myself, but Iphicles, so focused on Ares, hadn't noticed the god's private voyeur in action. Before leaving the field, I studied him for a moment. He remained on his knees in the mud, fingers caressing his lips as though he couldn't believe that the god's cock had been between them. Transfixed by Ares' memory, Iphicles didn't hear the Mycenaean foot soldier charging toward him. The man's bloody sword was extended and aimed at the king's heart, his mouth twisted with hate. I'd like to say I stepped in, and performed a fantastic feat of heroism, saving the king's life, proving my inner worth, with Iphicles so impressed that he couldn't help falling in love me. I wish. Instead, frozen with inadequacy, I merely shouted, "Hey! Watch out!" and pointed.
Fortunately, my cowardly squawk jolted Iphicles from his daze, and he dodged the blow, rolling quickly out of reach to land on his feet a short distance away. When the man attacked a second time, Iphicles, sword in hand, was ready. His thrust, steady and sure, found the vulnerable spot unprotected by the armor: the juncture between thigh and hip. The Mycenaean fell, dark blood pouring like wine from his wound. With another fluid movement, the king sat on the man's chest, and cut his throat.
Fascinated by the king's smooth actions, I stood gawking. A shout to my left forced me to realize my own danger, and with a backward glance, I headed for safety.
I was lucky: the gates to Mycenae stood only a few miles away. I managed to escape without incident. Invisibility haunted me even on the battlefield. I booked a room at The God's Favorite (yes, I chose it for the name) from a surprisingly friendly innkeeper, and requested a hot bath. The old man promised one at once, a smile on his wrinkled, cherubic face.
"Nothing like a warm bath to wash away trouble," he said kindly, winking at me. "Works every time. And you look like you could use it, stranger. I'll add a bottle of wine to your order. How's that? Make you into a new man!"
Surprised by his perception, a little confused by it, I could only nod.
Later, as I lay in the tub, warmed by the blazing fire the thoughtful Simonides had provided, I reached for the knife I'd placed on the floor beside me. The Romans preferred this method of suicide: the hot water absorbed the pain, and you died without suffering. A noble exit. For an ignoble life, in my case.
I held the sharp blade against my wrist and made one deep cut here, then another. It would be over. I'd never have to face my pathetic life anymore, my loneliness, cowardice and pain would end. Just two quick slices in my white skin. Taking a deep breath, I opened the vein. It hurt more than I expected, and I submerged my wrist, watching the water turn the color of defeat.
As I wallowed in self-pity and self-loathing, an idea occurred to me. One of those ideas that sticks like glue, that you can't shake even if you start humming a tune for distraction. I thought of the little old innkeeper walking into my room in a day or two and finding my dead body in a pool of congealing blood. He'd been so nice to me. This would devastate him.
A second thought occurred to me. I tried to push it away, but it wouldn't go. If I killed myself, I'd never again see the man who'd sucked Ares so damn humbly on the battlefield. And I knew Ares would return to him. The resemblance was too intriguing for a restless immortal.
Holding the two pieces of open skin together, I stumbled from the bath and grabbed a towel, wrapping it tightly around my wrist. The deep wound, however, required more pressure. Glancing around in panic, I spotted my belt, using that to staunch the flow. It helped, but not enough. I needed to cauterize the wound.
I heated the tip of my sword in the fire, until it glowed red. Shoving the towel into my mouth, biting down hard, I pressed the heated metal to my bloody wrist. I'd seen my brothers and father do this numerous times. Only now did I appreciate the effort it took not to burst into tears from the pain. I didn't bother holding back. Not that I could've. The pain was unbelievable, and the smell of charred flesh nauseated me.
Only one thing would dull the pain. Walking to the table, I picked up the bottle, breaking its neck against the wall. I poured a glass, and drank it down. Then another. By the fifth glass, the pain had dulled to a steady throb, and I collapsed on the bed, feeling lightheaded and ill. The combination of shock and wine knocked me out within seconds.
I awoke with a terrible pounding headache, matched only by the pain in my blistered wrist. The room reeked like a slaughterhouse. I staggered to the window, and opened the shutters, letting in the cool air. Then I threw up. Fortunately, Simonides had placed me at the back of the inn, facing the stables. My stomach emptied, I turned back to the chamber. The bloody bath hadn't magically disappeared.
Seeing the pink water, my stomach heaved again. I was tempted to jump from the window and run away. It was only a two-story jump; I probably wouldn't do too much damage. But that wouldn't solve anything; Simonides would still have to face this mess. I decided to use the pewter mug I'd drunk from the previous night to dump the water, cup by cup, out the window.
When the little innkeeper showed up later with a servant to remove the tub, neither seemed especially surprised that it was empty. Maybe this happened all the time: people came to the inn to die, and were inadvertently saved by Simonides' quiet understanding.
I stayed at the inn for the next day, sleeping mostly, and thinking. Then, the second night, in the blink of an eye, I was transported to a strange room. I found myself with my back to a wall, facing a large bed covered with a dark blue silk spread, embroidered with a large gold "C." Ares and Iphicles stood naked before me, kissing.
Watching their identical hands slide over glowing skin, I could barely able to tell where king started and god stopped. Their identical cocks pressed together and dark curls entwined with copper ones, while their tongues wound together. The air left my body, as the sight cauterized my heart. Only the wall, hard at my back, kept me upright.
My greatest fantasy realized. The scene from the God-Cup, engraved in my brain, heart and cock, played out before me. I must've made a sound because both men turned. Their full lips were swollen from the kisses, their long cocks from the passion. I wanted to act, kneel and suck them both at once, tracing my tongue along the glossy skin until their semen mixed together in my mouth.
"I don't understand," Iphicles said. "Why did you bring him here?" No disgust tainted his words; instead, he seemed hurt and confused.
Ares, sensitive as always, grinned. "He's my watcher. He's going to watch us fuck. That's it. It gets me hot. If you don't like it, I'm outta here."
A series of emotions swam over Iphicles' expressive face . He wanted Ares to himself; he wanted to be everything to Ares, not just a fuck but something more meaningful. He thought my presence impeded that, unwilling to accept yet that Ares was incapable of more than sex. "I'm not sure that I can do this."
When Ares began to tap his foot impatiently, Iphicles' desire convinced him to overlook his disappointment, his discomfort. Studiously ignoring me, he tangled his fingers in Ares' hair, and kissed him deeply. Almost imperceptibly, he tried to shift, so that he would be concealed from my eyes by the god's broad back.
Ares refused to budge; Iphicles' unwillingness was turning him on. He pushed the man's head down, and Iphicles took a hard nipple in his mouth. While his tongue flicked across the brown flesh, he gently stroked the god's heavy balls with one hand, squeezing the tip of Ares' cock with the other.
I tried to resist this sight, to allow Iphicles his moment with Ares. But I couldn't. They were too beautiful together, and my fingers frantically found my cock. Ares could sense my unusual excitement.
"I'm going to fuck you now," he told Iphicles, looking over at me. A jar of oil appeared, and he spread it liberally over his cock, fingers lingering on the head. When he was ready, Ares pushed Iphicles to his knees so that he faced me, the god looming behind him.
Iphicles kept his eyes down. This wasn't the position he would've chosen; he'd like to fuck Ares from the front, so that he could ignore me and instead watch every nuance of passion on the god's face. Like me, however, he'd take what he could get. His lashes fluttered down as Ares' oiled cock pushed into his ass.
Ares was deliberately restraining himself. He wanted the king to lose control, to overcome his inhibitions, to betray himself, so he made his thrusts long, deep and deliberate, while reaching around to jerk off the king with quick, sharp strokes. Usually, Ares didn't bother. He did it now only to torment us. "Is it good?" he demanded.
The king moaned.
"Say it, or I'll stop."
"It's more than good."
The admission aroused me as much as it did Ares. I could feel the heat in my balls, the tightening there, as my orgasm neared. Iphicles' cheeks were flushed, and his teeth clamped down on his lower lip.
"Look at him," Ares ordered. "Look at him touching himself while he watches us." His hand stopped moving until the king's eyes opened, then it resumed the pumping motion, but faster.
Iphicles didn't want to look at me, but he didn't want Ares to stop.
Ares knew it. "Tell me when you're going to come."
"Now, Ares. Now."
When I saw the creamy semen begin to shoot from his engorged cock, I shuddered, my own orgasm so powerful it almost hurt.
Ares, feeling Iphicles' ass tighten around his cock and, I think, seeing my come spilling onto the floor in front of the king, lost control. With a shout, he rammed himself hard into the king, staring at me while he grunted out his orgasm.
The next day Ares met Caesar, who would tutor him in the art of cruelty. They would practice on Iphicles.
When I saw Ares kissing Iphicles, I lived a dream. I had to pay for that, I suppose. That's the only way I can make sense of the next day. And the next. And the next...
For once, Ares had remembered to send me away after he'd finished coming in the king. And for once, I wasn't grateful. I'd wanted to stay with Iphicles, talk to him. About what, I don't know. Maybe explain why I let my hand be my lover. If I told him, he might understand.
I rubbed the bandage protecting my raw wrist, holding my life in. I wondered if Iphicles had ever thought that only death's embrace would truly satisfy him.
Between the crisp sheets of my narrow bed in Simonides' inn, I fell in love.
The following morning I woke up with his name on my lips. I dressed quickly, and waited for Ares to take me to him. He had to. Ares' insatiability, his own emptiness, would force him to seek out the placebo of sex, and his mirror image provided a sweet, if temporary, panacea.
Impatiently, I paced the length of the small chamber. At every step my armor clanged noisily. Listening to the irritating sounds, I decided then and there that I'd get rid of this ridiculous outfit. My brothers had helped me design it when I was fourteen; the point was to protect my uncoordinated, bookish self by announcing my unworthiness as an opponent. I'd even have the advantage because of my attackers' overconfidence. And it had worked, but I'd had to endure a lot of teasing. While it'd saved my life on innumerable occasions, I was ready for a change.
I considered finding a merchant immediately, but I stayed instead, afraid to leave the inn. Although I could be anywhere when Ares decided transported me, I didn't want to tempt the Fates. Especially not this time. When I finally felt the familiar change in the atmosphere that presaged my departure, my heart contracted.
I opened my eyes to death. I stood under a portal, facing the fenced yard of a shrine. At first, squinting through the pouring rain, I thought the men were decorating the iron spikes of the gate with flower baskets for a pagan ceremony. I could make out the long, flowing vines trailing down. Then I realized that the men were Roman soldiers, and those weren't vines but hair. Caesar's troops were impaling the heads of slaughtered villagers on the fence around this church. Veni, vidi, vici. All hail Caesar.
Without realizing it, I'd backed up into the shrine. I hit an obstacle, and turned around. Two heavy oak doors blocked my entrance into the inner sanctum from the anteroom where I stood. Frescoes covered the walls to my right and left, depicting in bright colors the heroes and demons of this strange new religion. I studied them briefly, then, glancing up, I saw their chief god, barely a boy, with a strangely innocent face, and wavy hair spilling to his shoulders. He reminded me of Iphicles: oblivious to his power.
A sudden heat, and Ares appeared beside me. I'd never stood so close to him before. I was intimidated, and barely heard his quiet words.
"This one's special," he said softly, as if to himself.
At first I thought he meant the young god staring down at us. But as Ares threw open the doors, sending them crashing against the stone walls, I realized he meant the man scooping water with his hand from the white marble font. Gaius Julius Caesar.
I suspected that Caesar drank the sacred water not to sate his physical thirst, but purely to taste sacrilege. Her enjoyed the power of blasphemy. And here in the church of this new religion, he was going to show just how much. This was why he accepted me. He liked a witness to his desecrations. Otherwise, what was the point?
Staring at Ares, smiling slightly, Caesar said nothing. He continued to bring water to his lips, never spilling a drop.
The small, high windows kept the shrine dark, while the incense burning beside the fat white wax candles on the altar perfumed the room with their smoke. Ares, breathing deeply, watched Caesar in the dim light. A silent power struggle ensued, as each waited for the other to move. Beside me, Ares glowed, getting hotter than fire, with rage as much as lust. He didn't like to be ignored.
Just as the impatient god raised his hand to take us home, Caesar spoke. "Ares. I've been expecting you." He extended a dripping hand. "Come here and taste the holy water of their false god."
Ares walked over. I admired his swinging stride, even as I missed Iphicles. But something was happening between Ares and Caesar. It intrigued me, even though I felt on some level that I betrayed the king with my excitement.
The man kept his hand out, remaining still even when Ares grasped his wrist and took one wet index finger in his mouth. The gesture, with its undercurrent of submission, startled me into hardness. I could only stare in mindless desire as the usually aggressive god sucked off the liquid. It was impossible not to think of Ares with Caesar's cock in his mouth. I'd never seen Ares on his knees; he refused to abase himself. I hoped Caesar would change that. I prayed he would.
Ares, thumb stroking the underside of the man's wrist, sucked each finger in turn: slowly, thoroughly. His eyes never left Caesar's. When he'd finished, Ares slid Caesar's hand inside his open vest, over his heart. I imagined that the pulse in my cock was the one Caesar felt, that it was my fingers stroking Ares' nipple, pinching it to hardness. Only Ares had no beard, and his hair was the color of the sun.
Caesar was pushing the black vest off the god's body. It fell to the grey stone floor with a soft thud. Ares, impatient as ever, went to wave his hand to divest them of their clothing, but the man caught it. Turning it over, he bit the fleshy part of Ares' palm. I could hear Ares' sharp hiss. The room grew warmer.
Every time Ares tried to initiate an action, Caesar stopped him with a kiss, a look, a touch. I don't think Ares even knew that the man, under the guise of subservience, dictated the scene. Caesar's actions were too subtle, so erotic they read like homage, not control.
Soon Ares was naked. Caesar remained fully clothed. He put his elegant hands on the god's shoulders, then bent down to flick his tongue against Ares' nipples. My view was perfect; Caesar had carefully maneuvered Ares so that I could see all, although at no time did he look at me. While he wasn't sure I understood the control he exerted over Ares, he still required an audience for his triumph. I liked it. I liked watching Caesar make Ares do what he wanted. I barely touched my cock; any pressure and I would explode, as I watched Ares and thought of Iphicles.
Caesar had pulled back from Ares' chest, and now rubbed the god's wet nipples with his thumbs. When the brown puckered skin dried, Caesar would dip his fingers in the font and trickle more of the sacred water onto Ares. The drops ran down the god's bronze body, dampening the dark hair that curled there, flattening it.
"Wait." Caesar walked quickly to the altar and returned with a gold chalice. He lowered it to the font, filling it, before spilling the water down Ares' chest.
Ares' nipples tightened even more and his cock jumped. Through the hazy air of the shrine, I swore I could see steam rising from Ares' flesh, as Caesar continued to pour holy water on the god, anointing him. It ran in rivulets along the stone floor toward me. I extended a booted toe and touched the water that had flowed over the god's body. Ares was dripping now, gleaming in the candlelight. His cock, huge and swollen, begged to be sucked. I wondered how Caesar could resist its invitation. I wondered, too, how long it would take before Ares tired of the foreplay, and forced his cock into the man's mouth or his ass. Judging from his panting breaths, not long.
Caesar knew, of course. That's why he pulled abruptly back from Ares, and returned to the altar. He stripped quickly, exposing a lean, hard body. Before Ares could react, Caesar sat on the sacrificial table, hands beside him, palms flat against the embroidered cloth that protected him from the cold stone. He spread his thighs and smiled.
I silently applauded him. He'd left Ares no choice but to follow him, no choice but to stand between Caesar's legs, letting that long, hard cock press against his belly. I realized that the man wanted the selfish god to blow him, and I watched eagerly, cock in hand, to see if he could do it.
"Your brother sucked my cock once."
Caesar laughed. "In a dream. It was incredible. So real. His tongue..." The man paused. "I've never felt anything like it before or since. Not in a dream, not in reality." His eyes closed briefly, as if overwhelmed by the memory.
I almost laughed. Clever. Ares couldn't resist competing with Hercules, even here. With a sweep of his huge hand, he pushed Caesar backward, so that the man's cock jutted up. Quickly, quietly, I moved forward for a better view.
Caesar faked a look of surprise. "What are you doing?"
"I'm showing you what it's like to have your cock sucked by a god." He lowered his head, and his tongue slowly circled the thick head of Caesar's cock.
"That's nice," Caesar said, thrusting his hips forward, "but Hercules sucked the head. Yes, like that, but harder."
Hearing Caesar issue those commands, watching Ares obey, was intense. With my fingers, I tried to duplicate the actions of Ares' tongue: I held my cock firmly at the base, pulling the head with my other hand until it almost stung.
"Now Hercules runs his tongue up and down the shaft," the man said, staring down at the dark head between his thighs. He gripped the edge of the altar for balance, as Ares lapped furiously at his cock. I'll never forget that scene: the war god unknowingly humbling himself before a mortal, licking Caesar's cock to prove that he was better than his brother. It was pathetic, almost sad, and powerfully erotic. But it wouldn't be complete until Ares drank Caesar's semen. I needed to see that as much as Caesar did.
"Hercules knows I'm ready to come at this point, so he takes the length of my cock in his mouth. All of it."
I watched as the man's hard cock, glistening with the god's saliva, slid between Ares' full lips. I thought of my cock in Iphicles' mouth or Ares' mouth. Not sure anymore. Just pleasure, just pleasure as Caesar came and I came, and Ares drank it all, swallowed the hot liquid like it was nectar. Maybe it was.
Intent on the god's throat as it contracted, I almost screamed when the church doors burst open. A Roman sentry tore in, sword dripping with villagers' blood. He stopped short at the scene, especially when Ares whirled around. Caesar, sprawled on the altar behind him, kept coming. Without the god's mouth to catch it, the creamy liquid landed on Caesar's chest. Caesar reached down, took it on his fingers, and licked it off, deliberately embarrassing the soldier, whose smooth young face beneath his helmet flushed a deep red.
"He attacked me," Caesar told the young man. "This man just raped me. Kill him."
The words stunned me.
Confusion flashed across the boy's face before his training took over. Not recognizing Ares, he advanced quickly, bloody sword extended. Ares faced him, cock still swollen, skin still wet from the holy water. Somehow his weapon was in his hand, and he smiled at the young soldier. He looked inhuman. "Don't you know who I am?" he asked softly.
I opened my mouth to shout the god's name, so the boy would give the right answer, and maybe save his life, but he was already shaking his head.
Ares' voice thundered through the shrine. "I am Ares, god of war!" With his left hand, he grabbed the sentry by the throat and effortlessly lifted him so that his legs dangled helplessly. Ares' arm shot back, then he plunged his sword forward, cutting through armor and leather and cloth, directly into the thudding heart.
Blood spurted from the wound, covering Ares. I could smell it: harsh, coppery, as it sprayed Ares' chest and splattered his face. The red river stopped flowing only when the boy's heart stopped beating. With a laugh, Ares tossed the now-still body into a corner, and threw his sword on top of it. Then he turned back to Caesar, and to me.
He looked like one of the demons carved on the column beside me, all teeth and blood and hatred. So quickly I barely saw him move, he pulled Caesar into his arms and plunged his tongue down the man's throat. He did it mostly, I think, to cover Caesar in the soldier's fresh, warm blood, because within seconds he pushed Caesar to the ground, and rammed his blood-covered cock into Caesar's ass.
I could only stand watching the scene in horror. I knew that Ares had killed that boy for Caesar; he was brutal, but not a monster. Even he understood that Caesar had asked for his death, that he'd wanted the blood to sanctify their sex.
I didn't know what to do. I was trapped in the church, watching as the blood-soaked god pounded into Caesar, listening as they shouted with pleasure. I should've stopped them. I should've done something. But I didn't know what to do. Who was I against a god? Against an emperor? Because that poor, dead soldier was only the beginning.
Caesar lived to debase Ares--his revenge against the fates for making him mortal. Normal desire played little or no role in the man's attraction to Ares, despite Ares' unearthly beauty. When the man dominated him, Caesar realized his ultimate goal: he was, however briefly, divine. The trick, of course, was to make Ares willingly confer control, to make him hot for his own abjection.
I couldn't stop watching. I know that sounds like I was fascinated by Caesar's manipulations. Maybe, despite my horror at his callousness, I was. But I wanted to get away, only I didn't know how. I'd become a requisite part of Ares' sexual ritual: not needed, but expected. He never spoke to me, only occasionally would cast a glance in my direction to ensure that I felt my exclusion. How do you tell a god that there are better things to do than watch him have sex? Especially a narcissistic psychopath with the patience of a five-year-old?
I'm protesting too much, aren't I? Damn. Ok. You want complete honesty. I never confronted Ares because I needed him to take me back to the king. I could hardly show up at the palace in Corinth and say to the guards: "Hi. Just tell the king it's the ghostly-pale voyeur who watched him fuck Ares even though he didn't want me there." I don't think an invitation would be forthcoming, somehow. So I was stuck watching him act out his fantasies of omnipotence.
But Caesar was clever. He postponed the god's humiliation. First, he let Ares join in his games of cruelty, his theater of pain.
Two nights after the murderous sex in the Gaullish shrine, I found myself in a dark palace corridor, Ares by my side. Caesar stood at a door directly before us, hand poised to knock. We weren't in Corinth. This building was all slim, elegant pilasters and rounded arches: Roman architecture.
At the light tapping, a young girl, about seventeen, peered out. Pretty, with long dark hair and wide, innocent eyes, she gave an excited gasp to see Caesar. Raising a hand, she laid it on his arm in an intimate, loving gesture.
Relief washed over me. No one was going to be hurt. The girl was obviously in love with Caesar. How bad could it be? And then she spoke.
"Lucius, I've missed you so much! But I thought your ship returned tomorrow. You shouldn't be here; if my brother finds you, he'll be so angry. You know how protective he is. " Standing on her toes, she kissed him sweetly on the cheek.
I knew then that Ares had worked a spell, disguising Caesar as her lover. My stomach churned. I should've known these two had something planned. Caesar liked his games and Ares was his disciple.
"I've missed you, too," Caesar whispered, pulling the girl against him.
About to return his embrace, she noticed Ares. Suddenly conscious of her thin shift, nearly translucent in the moonlight streaming through a window behind her, she stepped back into the room. "I didn't realize you weren't alone, Lucius. Let me change, and I'll meet you both downstairs." As she went to close the door, Caesar stuck out his foot.
"We can't. Your brother might see us. You know he doesn't want us meeting until after the wedding. Let us in. I think I hear someone coming."
There was no one, but the girl didn't know. Casting a frightened glance down the hall, she moved aside and let us pass into the candlelit room. When she didn't acknowledge me at all, I realized that for once Ares had made me invisible. My role as voyeur was for the men's amusement only.
We had entered a small salon through an arched doorway to the left was the girl's bedroom. She made a move toward it. "I'll just change. I'll only be a moment. Then you can tell me all about your trip, and introduce me to your friend." Her embarrassment in any other circumstance would've been charming. Here, it filled me with dread.
"I can't bear to be apart now that I'm back," he said softly. "Please stay with me."
His words were cliches, but when you're in love, all sentiment moves you. Caesar depended on that. She hesitated, and pushing his advantage, he took her small hand and kissed it. "Please, beloved. Please." Keeping her hand, he lowered himself to the silk-covered divan beneath the window, pulling the girl down beside him. Caesar pointed to Ares before them. "This is my friend Amphitryon. He and I are very close." He permitted himself a small smile. "I want you to get to know him."
For a moment no one spoke, just stared at Ares. I noticed for the first time that Ares wasn't wearing his usual outfit. A plain white shirt and simple black vest replaced the studded vest and bracers. His hair, which he usually struggled so hard to control, fell in loose curls. He strove to look mortal, but the ordinary clothing only highlighted his unearthly beauty.
Bending down, Ares took the girl's hand in his. "Lucius has told me so much about you. I feel like I know you already." His voice, even barely above a whisper, echoed in the chamber. Every word carried heat, warming the air, sliding over us like myrrh.
Her eyes widened. The god's flagrant sensuality confused her, and she tried to pull her hand from his firm grasp.
Ares smiled. "I think I make your fiancee nervous."
"It's because she's a virgin," Caesar responded.
The girl gasped. "Lucius! Don't speak of such things."
"It's alright. Amphitryon knows. I've told him all about us."
Ares sank down beside the woman. He sat too close, but she was frozen by her upbringing, uncertain about the entire situation. Instead of acting, she sat stiffly between the two men, pretending that she found nothing odd about this midnight visit from her lover and his friend.
Caesar stretched languorously, extending an arm along the high back of the couch. He didn't touch the girl, but his fingers lightly stroked the god's shoulder. "Did you dream about me while I was gone?"
Another sharp intake of breath, then a small, embarrassed giggle. "I'll tell you when we're alone."
"I dreamed about you," he told her. "When I was in the ship's hull. I imagined you kissing me, stroking my chest. I couldn't wait to return and feel your lips on mine. You still haven't kissed me there since I've been back. Only on the cheek, like I'm your brother." His tone was slightly petulant.
She stole a glance at Ares. "Later," she whispered. "After the wedding. It's only a week away. Please wait, Lucius."
"I don't think I can wait. It's been too long. I need you."
Leaning forward, she gave him a quick, dry kiss on his lips.
Ares laughed. "I don't think your little betrothed is as fond of you as you said, Lucius. She won't even kiss you properly, although you've been gone for weeks. Maybe she's taken a lover in your absence."
They were cruel. I wanted to warn her about their trap. But I couldn't. I was invisible. A ghost. "Don't hurt her," I said pleadingly.
Ares' dark eyes glittered. "Why not?" He paused. "You know how fickle young women are."
"You're right, Amphitryon. She must have a lover. I was gone for too long." He sighed heavily. "That's why she's so cold to me now."
"Lucius, you know I'd never betray you! I love you--only you!" The poor girl pleased with Caesar. "Please believe me!"
Caesar covered his face with his hands in mock-dejection. "I should've known this would happen. You've destroyed me. I gave you my heart, and you abandon me for another."
Her eyes filled with tears. "Please, Lucius, believe me! I'm innocent. Isn't there anything I can do to prove my love for you?"
There it was: the opening Caesar awaited. But he didn't take it at once. First, he wanted to push her to the brink of despair, make her eager for her own ruin.
"Proof? How can you prove your love? It's impossible. If only there were some way...I feel like dying."
Ares picked up on his cue. "I know a way," he admitted slowly, as though the idea just occurred to him. Ares lacked Caesar's acting skills, but the girl was too upset to hear the undercurrent of excitement in his expressive voice.
Eagerly, she looked at him. "Please tell me, Amphitryon! I'll do anything!"
"Yes, Amphitryon," Caesar added, "please tell us your idea! I love her so much. I could die happy if only I knew she felt the same. But I'm so unsure now."
"You could ask her to do something for you. Something that betrayed everything she believed in."
The man assumed a look of horror. "I couldn't do that, my friend! Even if it meant saving our relationship--" He waited expectantly under the guise of overwhelming grief.
"I'll do it! Just tell me, Lucius! Tell me what you want me to do, and I'll do it!" Her voice rose, and she trembled. Cruel, cruel men.
"I'm too upset--I can't think of anything. Amphitryon, do you have any suggestions? Please help us."
"I can think of only one thing. If you're concerned that she's been with another man, then you need to compare her response to you and to someone else. That's the only way you could know for certain that it was your touch that inflamed her."
I felt a flash of admiration for the perverse logic of Ares' argument, which I knew could only come from Caesar's twisted mind.
The girl leapt at it. "Yes! That's it. If you saw me kiss another man, and then I kissed you, you'd know for certain that you're the one I love more than anything."
A kiss. She was so naive. I wondered how they'd found her, this girl they were going to degrade. I prayed she had a reserve of strength to help her survive this.
"A kiss! What a perfect idea," Caesar said. I wanted to slit his throat. "And since you're here, Amphitryon, you can stand in for the other man."
"I'll do what I can to help you, old friend." Ares rose. "Come here, my dear. Lucius will need to see us if he's to judge your response properly."
She took his extended hand and joined him before Caesar. "You'll see, beloved! He'll kiss me, and it will mean nothing. And then when I kiss you." The girl broke off modestly. "You'll see how I feel about you." Turning her face upward, she waited breathlessly.
Ares gently pulled her into his arms. He stared down at her, as though feeling some trepidation. "Are you sure you want me to do this?"
"Yes, Amphitryon! It's important!"
Ares lowered his dark head. Her innocently parted lips met his, and I saw his tongue slide into her mouth. She froze, then tried to push him away. Holding her firmly, disregarding her struggles, Ares probed her mouth with his tongue.
When you've kissed thousands upon thousands of men and women, you develop some skill. I'd watched Ares devastate people with a simple kiss. Iphicles had melted, knees nearly buckling. This girl was different. She wanted to resist him, to deny the pleasure he brought her, so while her struggles stopped, her response was only half-hearted. Ares let her go.
With flushed cheeks, she looked down at Caesar, trying to pretend she'd felt nothing. "See, Lucius?"
Rising to his feet, the man stepped in front of her. "You didn't seem all that reluctant. And," he added, touching a warm cheek, "I'm not sure you felt nothing. Maybe you should kiss me now."
She walked into his arms. Before he kissed her, Caesar stared over the top of her head at Ares, who smiled. Then the man placed his mouth against hers, his tongue darting out. Her eyes closed, but his stayed open, never leaving the god's.
The kiss lasted minutes. When Caesar finally pulled away from the clinging woman, he looked dissatisfied. "That kiss was wonderful, but I can't help but think of how you seemed to like Amphitryon's tongue. I think I need more proof of your love. You don't mind, do you, my darling? I need to know I'm the only man you love." His tone was beseeching.
What could she say? "If that's what you think is best, Lucius."
"Maybe we should both do something at the same time. That way I could compare your response more easily," Caesar said thoughtfully. "Come with me."
He took her hand in his, and led her into the bedroom. Ares and I followed.
"Lucius, I'm not sure this is the best place. What if someone finds out you've been in here? My brother would have you killed. He wouldn't understand that this is an experiment."
Caesar had to look away from her to keep in his laughter. "No, I doubt he'd understand. But it's important that I'm comfortable, and that I can see everything. Please. I need this confirmation. If you loved me."
"Oh, I do! Come in, then."
They approached the bed with its snowy draperies. Caesar asked the girl to lie down on her back. We could all see the effort it took her to control her anxiety and discomfort. I saw a hint of desire there, too, but maybe that was wishful thinking.
She sat gracefully on the bed, smoothing out her white shift. Then, almost fearfully, the girl lay back, crossing her arms over her chest. Caesar took a position on her left, Ares on her right, but neither man touched her. I remained at the foot of the bed, knowing I was as guilty as the two of them.
"What should we do?" she whispered.
"Why don't we unlace your shift a bit?" Caesar suggested.
"I don't think that--" A reproving look from Ares silenced her, and she lay quiet while Caesar carefully undid her nightdress.
When finished, Caesar pushed back the flaps of her garment, exposing small, round breasts with large pink nipples. Her hands went to cover them, but Caesar shook his head. "No, please. This is the best test. If we both touch you here, I'll be able to gage your reaction."
"No one has ever--" she began.
"I know. Your brother has been very protective. But we're to be married, and I'll be deciding what's best for you." He brushed stroked her hair. "Don't worry." He licked a finger, then brushed it against the exposed skin of her left nipple, which hardened at once. "That's good. Very good," he told her. "Now you try, Amphitryon."
Ares slid a finger into his mouth, and we all watched his tongue circle it before he drew it out, rubbing the moisture into her right nipple. The tender skin puckered. She wasn't sophisticated enough to laugh, and tell them it was her body that responded, not her heart. The girl didn't understand the difference, and her agitation was painful to witness.
"I guess you don't love me, after all," Caesar lamented.
"But I do, Lucius! Please try again!" Her plea for humiliation gratified them; I saw the rapid exchange of smiles, while she stared down at her treacherous flesh.
Ares made the next move. "Let's try our tongues together."
Even as the girl opened her mouth to protest, two tongues began lapping at her nipples. Unable to resist the new and tantalizing sensations, she moaned involuntarily, arching into the two wet mouths.
I'd like to say that I was too horrified and disgusted to respond when Ares and Caesar sucked the trusting young woman's hard pink nipples. I'd like to say I was better than them, more moral, less perverse. I can't. The further they pushed, the more aroused I became. I hated myself. I wished I'd died in that inn. Someone had to die for this.
While Ares' tongue continued to glide over her flesh, Caesar eased off her nightdress. She didn't seem to notice. You remember what it's like, don't you, when someone's hot, moist mouth closes on your nipple for the first time? The softness of the tongue as it flicks over your sensitive skin? How good it is? How you want it to go on forever? How you'll do anything if only that mouth doesn't stop?
A whore in a small brothel outside Tenagra was the first to kiss me there. A young boy, barely older than me at the time, fastened his mouth on my taut skin. He never even got to my cock; the insistent sucking on my nipple brought me off.
Ares and Caesar were using this girl's uncontrolled response to bring themselves off. Oh, they'd make her come, too. It was better that way, more degrading.
My cock was so hard.
"You like Amphitryon, don't you?" Caesar murmured in her ear. They both watched Ares tug her nipple with his teeth, saw her hips thrust up.
"No! It's just--I don't know, Lucius. I don't understand." A tear trickled down her cheek.
Caesar licked it off. "I think I need to do something to make you like me better than him. I want you to like me better."
Caesar reached down between her thighs. When she started with surprise, he stroked her hair again. "Relax. We'll be married soon. I need to do this. I need to know that you want me." He'd found her tiny clit, and began to run his thumb in slow circles over it.
Her loud moan rewarded him. "What are you doing?" she asked.
Caesar smiled tenderly. "I'm making you love me."
Her breathing became ragged. "I do love you," she whimpered. "I love you so much."
"What about him?"
"I don't know."
"I have an idea."
In a second, both he and Ares had removed their pants. Caesar's thumb never left her swelling flesh, and Ares' fingers now pinched her nipple. The girl closed her eyes. Caesar raised her, placing her back against the full embroidered pillows. Her eyes remained shut tight.
Did she know on some level what they wanted?
They knelt on either side of her, each long cock hovering at her mouth. "Just lick them," Caesar commanded quietly. "Show me you love me."
The engorged heads pressed against her lips. Her hands rose, and she grasped each cock. Still, her eyes remained shut.
"That's good. Now use your mouth. Do him first."
Hesitantly, her tongue crept out and made contact with the tip of Ares' leaking cock. Above her, Caesar leaned over and kissed Ares deeply.
"Now lick mine."
She obeyed him, tongue gliding over his smooth skin, tasting him.
I think she kept her eyes closed to pretend that this wasn't happening, that the man she loved wasn't making her blow him and his friend. And, of course, he wasn't. Somewhere, on a ship, the real Lucius dreamed of his innocent lover.
Caesar now straddled her, while she took his heavy cock deep in her throat. Ares had moved down between her legs, and taken her clit into his mouth. The room was quiet, except for the wet, sucking sounds. And the slap-slap-slap of my hand against my cock.
"Lucius, what's happening to me?" she gasped when Caesar pulled out of her mouth.
"It's your love for me. That's why you feel so good. There's just one more step, just one more thing you need to do to prove that you love me. Do you know what that is?"
"I think so."
Ares moved back up, waiting beside her while Caesar took his place, poising his cock against her cunt's slick entrance. "This will only hurt for a second, then you'll be mine forever."
"I love you, Lucius," she said. The tears ran freely.
With a quick, sharp shove, Caesar thrust into her. She cried out against the pain, but he didn't stop. Gradually, her noises became grunts of pleasure, and the girl opened her mouth to receive Ares' cock. I watched Caesar rub her clit, watched her hips jerk as she came. Her wild movements excited him, or maybe it was the sight of her deep-throating the god's cock, but suddenly Caesar was coming too.
When he'd finished mixing his semen with her virginal blood, he withdrew, and Ares took over, thrusting his huge cock into her cunt. I'm not sure she even noticed the change or maybe at this point she didn't care. They'd made her a glutton for pleasure, a whore to sensation. She only wanted to come again and never stop. So did I.
When Ares had forced another orgasm from her with his pounding thrusts and stroking fingers, he finally came himself. The sight of the dark god panting over the girl was too much for me. I came, wracked with pleasure, pain, regret and guilt.
As the two men lay beside her, the girl spoke. "Do you believe me now, Lucius?"
"Yes, Cassia. I believe you."
The name. The warm semen in my hand felt like blood. My eyes closed. Like Cassia, I wanted to block out everything. I wanted to cry: "But I didn't know!" But I'd known enough. I'd known that these two bastards were using her for their own pleasure, that they were liars and manipulators. That only torment could make them come. And I'd stroked myself to that, getting off on their evil. So my ignorance really made no difference when I realized that this girl whose life they'd destroyed was Caesar's sister.
"I needed him. I couldn't stand to be without him."
I look at those words and realize that they don't belong to me alone. Those two sentences have motivated every character, stiffened every cock, parted Cassia's thighs, moved my hand throughout this story. Need fueled us all. Even Caesar. Even Ares. We acted because of some lack, some missing fragment of ourselves, and turning to each other, we begged for it, yet never quite sure what it was. And often--too often--we were wrong.
Then blood spilled.
After Cassia's rape, Ares brought Caesar and I back to the emperor's encampment in Gaul. In the tent, there was no hesitation: they'd been waiting for this since they'd began the girl's torture. They'd gotten off mentally, but the physical aspect of the slow, gentle violation had satisfied neither. They missed the harshness, the hardness, the pain each brought the other.
Filled with self-loathing, I delighted in the violence of their coupling. They liked that. Ares told Caesar of my plea to save the girl, and the man's eyes shone. He took my unwillingness as a gift: when he fucked Ares, shoving his long cock into the god's ass, Caesar did it for me. He was performing again, under the apparent viciousness of his desire, and maybe directing. I always had the best angle, the choicest view of his fingers, then his cock, as they entered Ares.
I was almost surprised that Ares let Caesar do this to him. Then I realized that Ares was obsessed, that he'd do anything to keep the man with him because if Caesar wanted to be divine, Ares wanted to be human. Ares knew that Zeus loved Hercules' humanity, and he knew that humanity was connected with emotion. Here his limited understanding failed him. He wanted to feel, only he didn't understand that the emotions Caesar forced from him were extreme, amplified to a pitch beyond the realm of normative experience. Caesar made Ares a sociopath, and Ares thought that his manic excitement made him a man. It was almost funny. But what made Caesar a madman? I'd always wondered. That night I glimpsed a clue to his furious drive.
The tent on the frozen field outside Poitiers was hot, so Ares left Caesar to push back the flap and let in the coon night air. I saw Caesar's hand go out as if to stop him. It dropped when Caesar noticed me watching. I thought nothing of it when Ares returned to the man back on the bed, mouth closing on the hard cock.
The wind whistled through the gap and the candles flickered, creating a wavering pattern of light and shadow on the coarse fabric of the tent. Ares, head buried between Caesar's thighs, tongue and teeth busy, didn't see the man's eyes roll back, and he thought that Caesar's body shook with pleasure.
When I was twelve, my mother's oldest friend Markella and her family visited us, on an expedition to find husbands for their three daughters, including Nicaea, a quiet girl about my age. I barely noticed her in favor of a luscious older sister whose firm breasts threatened to burst through her low- cut gown.
One evening, while we all sat down to an elaborate dinner, Nicaea began to convulse. She fell from her chair to the floor, limbs flailing. I thought she'd choked on a piece of lamb, but when my concerned mother went to help, Markella stopped her.
"The priest says it's a blessing from the gods," Markella announced stiffly. "She's supposed to have visions, to speak with Apollo. This fit won't last, and Nicaea will remember nothing."
I stared in horrified fascination as froth gathered on the girl's lips, as her white eyes stared unseeing at the smooth wooden beams above us. Her fawn-colored dress rose and I glimpsed the creamy skin of her inner thighs as her legs bucked. My father couldn't conceal his disgust, and shot my mother a warning look that said "No way will this girl marry into my family!" My youngest brother giggled nervously. Even my mother, normally so collected, looked distinctly uncomfortable.
When the thrashing stopped, Nicaea remained on the hard floor. She had a small cut over her right temple and bruises were already developing on her legs. Moving a hand to her mouth, she wiped away the spittle. "It happened again," she said in dismay.
At her mother's almost imperceptible nod, the girl scrambled to her feet and fled. She spent the remainder of the visit in her room. I was never sure whose shame kept her there.
Here, in Caesar's tent, watching him, I imagined what his proud Roman family must've done when he rolled, frenzied, on the floor. He must've hardened under the burning force of their disgust. It must've baked him like a clay pot.
I kept seeing Caesar as a young child after one of the fits, dark eyes catching every nuance on the faces of his parents while he tried to make sense of what happened. And then his sister was born: beautiful, flawless. Did he ever hear hushed conversations lamenting that the ugly illness had struck the wrong child? Did he ever wish--did he ever not wish--that he'd been born whole?
I'm sure other factors helped make Gaius Julius Caesar a monster. Nicaea had not become a deviant psychopath. She'd turned her illness into a gift. Now when she fell to the floor of the smoky temple at Delphi, she aroused awe and reverence: the chief priestess of Apollo possessed and inspired by the god. It was an act, of course, a con. She received no prophetic visions, although she told of many. But who doesn't live with lies? At least she'd avenged herself on those who'd brutalized her with their shame: Nicaea was one of the most powerful women in Greece. Kings consulted her, showered her with gifts. She was loved.
But Caesar, perhaps because he was a man and untrained to recuperate perceived weakness, hid his flaw until it abscessed. "You've got to be strong," his father surely ordered him, as mine did me. "Weakness is for women. Don't cry. Only babies cry. Go fight. It'll make you a man."
Now, looking at Caesar in the flickering light of the tent, his face contorted, limbs twisted in a grotesque parody of ecstacy, I pitied the man.
I masturbated to his writhing, focusing on the god's tongue as it wet the head of Caesar's cock, on the god's fingers bruising Caesar's hips as Ares held him down, always believing that he had caused this intense reaction. Ares' bronze back glowed damply, and I thought again of Iphicles. My orgasm came swiftly, and I felt relief as much as pleasure. I needed my semen as evidence that I hadn't seen Caesar's fit, so he wouldn't kill me.
Only after Caesar unknowingly shot his seed down Ares' throat, body responding to the tongue despite his seized mind, did the man's jerky movements finally cease. I waited anxiously. Despite my orgasm, I knew he might kill me anyway. No one likes a witness to his humiliation. I needed a distraction. Caesar himself gave it to me.
Pretending that nothing extraordinary had happened, that his thrashings only signified his lust, Caesar smiled down at Ares who still sucked the remaining trickles of come from his cock. "If only there were two of you," he said.
I admired the effort it cost to keep his voice steady.
Ares smiled. "There are."
Caesar raised an eyebrow. The surprise disadvantaged him, and he hated that. He'd learned to fear the unexpected.
Like an animal smelling blood--as Ares really was--he sensed the discomfort, and continued. "Oh, yes. Iphicles, king of Corinth. My brother's brother. I've been fucking him." The lupine smile. "Not bad. Not bad at all."
Caesar, against his will, responded to the implicit threat of displacement. His ego wouldn't tolerate the competition, especially after the recent reminder of his terrible secret defect. He tried, however, to appear casual. "Was this a recent diversion?" The question gave it all away. Caesar must've cringed to hear it.
"About the same time I started fucking you." Ares deliberately confused the timeline, so the man would think he was fucking them both. He too had a secret: he didn't want Caesar to know the extent of his obsession.
"Can I meet him? I'd like to see you together."
Ares shrugged. "Maybe." Like Caesar, he didn't want to share. And so each began to despise Iphicles, as the one who threatened his relationship with the other. That resentment would bear painful consequences.
"Tomorrow," Caesar said. "Unless you're scared that I might find him more appealing than you. Unless you're jealous."
Ares was no match for Caesar. "Tomorrow," he agreed, and disappeared.
I spent the night in the Roman camp. Caesar dismissed me with a simple "Out," and I went into the storm. Unsure where to go, eyed suspiciously by the centurions guarding their ruler, I wandered over to a rain-dampened fire, and curled up on the muddy ground beside it. No heat came from the saturated embers, and I had no blanket. The rain turned to snow. I'd never experienced it before. So beautiful, falling like tiny diamonds under a full moon. But each one cut me. Only the promise of Iphicles kept me from opening the healing wound on my wrist.
After a fitful sleep, I awoke with a raw throat and a fever under a watery sun. But at least the Roman soldiers left me alone. Caesar's guards must've reported that I'd been seen leaving the imperial tent. I knew what they thought, and I didn't care. I only wanted to move as close as possible to the now- roaring fire and stop my shaking. The mug of ale one man passed me helped, but it wasn't enough. Only one thing could help me. Iphicles.
I passed the day lying by the fire, huddled under a thick blanket someone had tossed over me. I drifted in and out of sleep, my dreams fragmented, undecipherable images covered with a golden haze. Whenever my eyes opened, I searched for the king. Instead, I'd see the snow-covered fields and barren trees of Western Gaul.
Finally, it happened. Iphicles stood before me. At first, I couldn't tell where we were. My fever- clouded brain intuited "death." A crypt: dull stone walls, dessicated flowers and dark recesses. Dampness coming from an uncovered well. A few lit sconces that did little to dispel the gloom. But it didn't matter. Only he mattered.
Words from some lost poet with a twisted sense of humor ran through my head: "Even the shortest separation is a kind of training for the Elysian Games." A joking metaphor to gloss over your lover's painful absence. And while Iphicles didn't know it, he was my lover, one confused by our sudden appearance while he practiced funereal oblation at the large dark altar now behind him. I felt like crying.
"Ares..." Iphicles began questioningly.
"Ares has offered to lend me your services," Caesar informed him. "To see which of you I like better."
Iphicles shook his head, putting down the candle he'd lit. "I don't think--"
Ares took a step toward him. "Do it. Do it or you'll never see me again. And do it nice and slow." A flick of his wrist, and the king's clothing disappeared.
"I see the resemblance," Caesar observed, appraising Iphicles. "So, mortal-who-looks-like-a-god: seduce me."
"I can't do this," Iphicles said slowly.
In a flash, Ares was before him. I cringed, thinking he would hit the king. Instead, Ares grabbed Iphicles by the shoulders, pulling the nude man against his leather-clad body. Then Ares gave him a deep, bruising kiss.
Iphicles' fingers wound into the god's hair, while Ares' hands slid down the king's spine, passing over every vertebrae until they finally cupped the man's smooth ass. Iphicles' head fell back as Ares ground his cock against Iphicles' naked one.
I thought of my God-Cup once again. As a boy, the image of the two nearly identical male lovers had seemed so romantic. I hadn't noticed the undercurrent of violence that informed the scene. I didn't know that Caesar watched Ares acting out his desire for him on Iphicles' responsive body. I'd thought the scene was about pure emotion, maybe even love. Not power.
"I want to see him tied up." Caesar's voice echoed in the stone chamber. "I want to see him helpless."
Immediately, Iphicles was spread-eagled on the altar, wrists and ankles restrained by manacles. The look on his face. He didn't know what to do, scared that if he objected, Ares would leave. All he wanted was a little pity. And a little sex. Substitutes for love. Or maybe that's what love was: pathos and eros.
Caesar saw. He had a plan. Caesar always had a plan. Turning to Ares, he said, "Lick him. Lick him all over. Make him burn for you."
Ares stared back at him. For an instant, I thought he'd refuse. Then Ares was naked, climbing between Iphicles' hard thighs.
"Start with his mouth."
Leaning forward, Ares placed his palms on the altar above the man's shoulders, and murmured something to Iphicles, too low for us to hear. The king responded with a moan of desire. Taking advantage of the man's open mouth, Ares ran his tongue along the inside of Iphicles' full lower lip, then back over the soft pink surface.
I'd never seen anything so erotic, as the king arched his back, trying to bring his cock into contact with Ares' own, aroused despite the restraints by the slow, languid movements of the god's tongue. There was something incredibly hot about seeing that big man helpless. He was so powerful--politically, martially, physically--and so desperate for Ares. The restraints seemed to focus all of this energy, transforming it into lust.
Ares now fucked Iphicles' mouth with his tongue. I watched him plunge it in, then draw it out, over and over, teasing the king, never allowing him the satisfaction of being filled with it, of sucking on it.
"His nipples." Caesar edged closer, until he stood beside the two. He caressed Ares' thigh as the god's head moved down Iphicles' body.
Already puckered, the king's tanned nipples seemed to tighten even more as Ares licked them. I knew he wanted to bite them, make them bleed. Caesar knew it, too.
"No teeth. Just your tongue. Wet his skin. Make him crazy."
The god's wet tongue stroking Iphicles' flesh, moistening it, while the king struggled to thrust into Ares, his full lips parted, hot breath nearly visible in the cool air of the crypt. It made me crazy. My cock seemed twice its normal size, huge with frustrated need. I wanted to taste Iphicles' lips, suck his nipples like Ares was doing. I wanted the king's cock pressed against my belly. I wanted him groaning my name in that syrupy voice.
"Now his cock. Lick it until he's ready to come."
Ares licked a path down the king's stomach, pausing to lap up the clear fluid that leaked there from Iphicles' overfull cock. "You're so beautiful," Ares whispered, more for Caesar's benefit, I think, than Iphicles'. But the king strained against the metal cuffs, trying to penetrate Ares' mouth. The god remained out of reach, breathing hot, sweet air on the engorged head, still without touching it. A blue vein beneath the smooth surface carried even more blood into Iphicles' golden cock. Ares slid his fingers into the dark hair that tangled between the man's thighs, stroking the pulsing vein with one finger before finally letting his pink tongue slip gently back and forth over that thick head. Iphicles, feeling that hot tongue on his cock for the first time, jerked upwards, a wordless cry bursting from his lips.
I nearly exploded at the sound. My cock throbbed under my hand. My whole body was on fire, partly from lust, and partly from the fever I caught in snowy Gaul. Thoughts became jumbled in my mind, more like images than language. Iphicles' cock in my mouth, my semen spilling onto his waiting tongue, his lips against mine in a deep, loving kiss.
"Watcher. It's your turn now. Suck his cock."
"Now," Caesar said impatiently. "You obviously want to."
What a bastard. Depriving Iphicles of Ares, giving him me, an unspeakably feeble substitute. "No."
Ares, who understood Caesar's intent, climbed off the altar. He kept one hand, however, tightly closed around the king's cock. His other hand shot out, connecting sharply with Iphicles' smooth cheek. His fingers never stopped stroking the man's swollen flesh, even when he slapped the king again. Iphicles' cheek reddened, and his eyes closed. I knew it wasn't the pain, but the betrayal that hurt most.
"Suck him. Or I'll hurt him even more."
I hesitated. I couldn't do it. Iphicles didn't want me. It would be...rape.
Ares hit him a third time, so hard that Iphicles' head cracked against the hard stone of the altar. "I'll kill him." His fingers were moving faster over the king's cock.
I knew he would, so I reluctantly took his place between Iphicles' firm thighs. What a liar I am. Reluctant, yes, but my reluctance was tempered with an awful excitement. To take that long, thick cock in my hands, so gently, so lovingly, and to taste him. Iphicles. He smelled like the sea. As his cock rubbed against the back of my throat, and my fingers found his heavy balls, I was happy for the first time ever. I participated in the rape of a man I loved, and I was happy.
I tried to convey my feelings in every flick of my tongue, in every stroke of his balls, every light stroke of his inner thighs, and I swear he responded. Not just to the tactile sensation. I think he knew somehow that my touch was different. I think that he sensed it. As always, so did Caesar, who had to break the bond.
While I sucked Iphicles in time with my heart, Caesar mounted the altar and, facing the king, shoved his cock in the other man's mouth. I couldn't see. Caesar's back was to me, but I could hear Iphicles' gasp.
"If you bite me, I'll kill the watcher sucking your cock," Caesar told him coldly. "And you know I'll do it."
The wet, sucking sounds began. I tried to convey only tenderness to compensate for Caesar's inevitable violence. I knew he'd be grabbing Iphicles' thick curls, pulling that mouth tight over his hard-on, forcing himself in too far.
His ass rose and lowered as he fucked the king's mouth. I closed my eyes, concentrating on the silky skin under my tongue, kissing it, especially when I heard Caesar's breathing grow rapid, felt Iphicles' body rock with the vicious thrusts. Then Caesar exhaled loudly, and I knew he was coming. The king tensed, and I tried to soothe the pain of that large cock stretching his throat with soft, quick flicks of my tongue. I love you, Iphicles.
I opened my eyes when, after a last, final shudder, Caesar gracefully jumped to the floor.
"Kiss him now, watcher."
Eagerly I moved up Iphicles' battle-hardened body until I arrived at his swollen lips. His eyes, so close to mine, were shadowed, but his lips seemed to curve slightly upward as I bent down, and they opened with no resistance. His semen-coated tongue met mine, and I tried to lick away the taint of Caesar's anger. Soon the taste disappeared. Iphicles' wet cock met mine, and I rocked lightly against him, feeling him swell again as our tongues entwined.
Then I heard Caesar.
At first, I didn't know who he meant, until I felt Ares' weight on the altar, felt his huge cock pressing against my ass. Ares was going to fuck me.
Caesar had ordered it not to please me, of course, but to torment Iphicles, teasing him with what he couldn't have. He was willing to risk pleasing me to hurt the other man. But I wasn't pleased. I wanted the king's cock inside me, not the god's. There was nothing I could do. Ares was already pushing against me, hands grasping my hips.
This time it was Iphicles who consoled me, intuiting my pain as Ares rammed himself into my ass. But the burning sensation of being stretched too far soon vanished, replaced by an almost dizzying pleasure. I didn't want it. I was betraying the man beneath me every time I thrust back against that hard cock. But I couldn't help it. Ares was too experienced, and, more important, every movement brought Iphicles' sweet cock hard against my own. Unknowingly, Ares was helping the king and I fuck each other.
I slipped one hand under Iphicles' head, loving the feel of his warm skull under my fingers, his damp curls, as I kissed him heatedly. He returned the kiss, running his tongue along the center of mine, then along the edges of my teeth, my gums.
The tightness of my desire began to dissolve, as Ares fucked me and I rubbed against the king. Within seconds my semen was spurting onto Iphicles' cock. The sticky wetness of my come excited him, I think, and he grunted against my mouth while the orgasm shook his body.
Ares, feeling my trembling body clench around him, shouted Caesar's name in a deafening roar. After the impossibly hot seed flowed into me, Ares' cock disappeared, replaced by a warm, wet tongue. I wasn't sure whose it was, but I suspected Ares lapped up his own juices. Another act deliberately designed to goad Caesar by excluding him.
My cock continued to pulse as that wet tongue penetrated me. I felt weak, drained by the experience, and by my illness. I wanted only to sleep, and I waited for Ares to leave with Caesar, their work done. I wanted to be alone with Iphicles, so we could talk about what happened. I shut my eyes for a second, resting my cheek against the king's...
I must've passed out because when I opened my eyes, I was lying on the floor, shivering. Disoriented, it took me a few minutes to realize that I was still in the crypt. Abandoned by Ares once again. Alone.
Then a noised reached me. My stomach turned. It was the choked, halting sound of a man unused to tears. Iphicles.
Rising unsteadily to my feet, I lurched to the altar where the king still lay, his body oddly dark and shining in the dim light. I almost slipped on the wet floor. Confused, I knelt down, running my fingers over the wellworn stones, then raised them to my lips. I tasted a familiar saltiness. Blood.
I leapt up, and saw that the king's body was covered in the sticky red fluid. My stomach heaved. Quickly, I ran my hands over Iphicles' wet skin, trying to find the wounds so I could save him. He didn't respond, just made that terrible, ragged sound. He was unbound, at least, but kept his hands over his face while I searched his flesh. I could find no lacerations.
A flash of metal on the floor caught my eye. Leaving Iphicles for a moment, I bent down and picked up the blood-stained dagger. Then I understood. Caesar or Ares or both had cut him. Mutilated him. Purely for pleasure. And then Ares had healed the physical wounds before he vanished with his lover.
The bile rose, and I was sick in a dark corner. When I finished, I rinsed my mouth with the cool water I drew from the well behind the altar. Grabbing a sacrificial cup from the floor, I filled it, handing it to the king.
"Drink this," I told him. I don't know why, but it was important that he did it. Obediently, almost like a child, Iphicles sat up and took the cup from my hand. He downed the water in a single gulp. I tried to ignore the smell rising off him from the congealing blood. "You're going to be alright," I said awkwardly. A lie.
He said nothing. Realizing what he wanted, what he needed, I sat down beside him on the stone table, and pulled him into my arms.
I've never been a violent man. My father resented that, blamed my mother. He thought she'd weakened me with her teaching. Maybe she had. I'd always preferred reading a drama by Euripides, an ode by Homer, to fighting in one of the endless battles that consumed my father. And with my lack of grace, I'd always managed to avoid blood-shed. But right then, seated on the cold stone altar with Iphicles' bloody body pressed against mine, his shoulders shaking, I knew that the time had come for me to kill. Caesar and Ares would pay for what they'd done. To Iphicles. To Cassia. To me.
What do you say to someone you've raped?
I'd like to pretend, more than you can imagine, that I wasn't like Ares and Caesar. I pretended when I sucked Iphicles' cock as he lay chained to the altar. They forced me to do it, I told myself, so my desire was therefore forgivable. After all, I had no choice. And worse: I pretended that the king wanted the rape, that he liked it when a unknown man lay on his helpless body, running a stranger's tongue across his flesh.
My penance was to look into his eyes and know that I helped to destroy him. Because Iphicles told me what Ares and Caesar did to him. I made him tell me, after I'd cleaned him up, brought him to his room, and let him sleep for hours.
But perhaps most terrible is that I was right all along. Iphicles admitted it. His voice, throaty and powerful like Ares, confessed that the gentle feel of my tongue on his cock had aroused him, that our kiss had made him even harder, that my semen spilling onto him had prompted his orgasm. But, he also admitted, it was his unconditional response to my act of rape that forced him to realize why he got off on domination. Why, that is, he had fallen in love with Ares.
"I understand," I replied. "You created a fantasy, and projected it onto Ares, then expected Ares to embody not only your desire to be controlled, but your desire to be loved. We all did. I blamed the god's incredible beauty for luring us in. How could anyone who physically embodied our desire as he did not also embody our romanticism?"
Iphicles had shaken his head. "But it wasn't his fault. Ares, the aggressive lover with a tender side, was our fantasy. He never pretended to be anything other than what he was: beautiful, violent death. I had my own reasons for pursuing him, all tied to my family. I made a religion of my own unworthiness."
Ok, so maybe that wasn't quite how the king put it.
Maybe his language was coarser, less poetic. Maybe even now I'm trying to force Iphicles to fit another fantasy: the tortured, beautiful and eloquent lover. Maybe I don't love him as much as I love my image of him. But the real man had merit: he was stronger than I had imagined. Definitely less polished, but intelligent. And he made a few pointed comments about my own position as Ares' personal pervert that stung with their accuracy. A warrior with a vulnerable side--that part, at least was real.
You don't believe me, do you? How could I know Iphicles after one talk, especially under the circumstances? But remember, I did see him on the battlefield, before Ares had him on his knees busily sucking his cock. You can learn a lot from someone there, where normal rules don't apply, and I saw mercy when he killed that Mycenaean soldier. If nothing else, I am a trained observer.
The danger, of course, is that when looking at others you'll soften the edges, smearing them like charcoal lines under your thumb until they're transfigured, reworked, revisioned. I did this with Iphicles, and we both did it with Ares. Ares did it to himself, with Caesar's insidious help.
Only confrontation with the ugliness of ourselves could save us. It worked for Iphicles, I think. His willingness to explore his need for domination would let him move past this, albeit slowly, painfully. Only honesty could deliver us.
Now it was time to confront Ares with his true reflection.
I avoided Iphicles for the next week. I had to. If Ares or Caesar realized that something had developed between us, more blood would spill onto the smooth grey stones of the king's palace. So I acted like nothing happened when Ares brought me to his next meeting with Caesar.
"You love it, don't you?"
Caesar's cock was deep inside Ares' ass. Ares, a slave to his obsessive desire, was losing his authority. He now begged where he'd once commanded. "Don't stop. Keep fucking me!"
Caesar paused, undoubtedly appreciating the abjection, but wanting more.
Ares understood. Beg. Anger warred with need, but it was no contest. "Yes, I love it. Now fuck me!"
"Are you sure? You took a long time to answer."
"I've very sure! Now do it!"
"I'm not convinced." Caesar, his arousal now contingent on absolute submission, abruptly pulled out and walked to a chair beneath the window. He sat down in a deliberately provocative pose: long legs spread, oiled cock against his muscled stomach.
I watched the beautiful god remain crouched on the bed, before he flipped over, leaning against the headboard. He was pitiful, almost, trying to organize the tumult of emotions Caesar aroused in him. He couldn't, of course. I doubt he could even name them.
"What in Tartarus are you doing?" Ares finally demanded, when Caesar remained seated.
When in doubt, get aggressive.
Caesar yawned. "Relaxing. Why fuck you if you don't really want it? Too much work. Too much energy."
Death lit Ares' eyes. His hand rose, and I could feel the heat gathering as he prepared to incinerate the impudent mortal. A final chance to free himself. Instead, at the last minute, he grasped his huge erection, and rapidly stroked himself to orgasm, semen spurting onto his chest, wetting the dark hair covering the bronze flesh. "Why don't you lick it off?" he asked provocatively.
Ares never learned.
Caesar required greater incentive even than that undeniably erotic sight. "There's nothing in it for me. You know, the problem with you, Ares, is that you're ruled by your most base desires, whether for violence or sex. You have no control. That's why you're weak."
In one of those disconcertingly swift moves, Ares had Caesar by the throat, holding him off the ground. I remembered the boyish soldier in the Gallic church. "Who's weak?" Ares hissed. With his free hand, Ares ran a finger in the seed coating his belly, and spread it on the tip of Caesar's still- hard cock.
Caesar laughed. "You're only proving my point," he gasped. "You need to learn control. You're a barbarian."
Ares tossed him against the bedroom wall. Caesar, from the floor, refused to show pain, and kept taunting Ares, calling him an animal.
Then Ares raped him.
Stroking his cock, he strode over to Caesar, threw him onto his knees, and rammed himself into the man's ass, using only his still-oozing come as lubricant. Caesar tensed, grabbing up handfuls of the tapestry beneath him. He made no sound, however, other than an involuntary grunt, at the vicious penetration.
Then he spoke. "Is this going to take long?"
The question, posed in that familiar modulated tone, jarred me. Only Caesar could remain in control during this assault. I had to admire him through my horror, and I began to wonder if he hadn't deliberately incited Ares to this act. And Ares, violent Ares, responded by thrusting even more brutally, trying to break the man. He didn't understand the rules.
"This means nothing to me, you know. It's boring. You don't understand the intricacies of pain and pleasure. You're an amateur."
Ares, underworked brain pushed to its limits, hating that Caesar mocked him, but not knowing any other way to stop him, rammed so hard into the man that I cringed, knowing from experience that skin was tearing, blood welling, even as Ares came. I knew the stinging pain of saline fluid in that torn flesh. I would've cried, screamed. I had.
When Ares pulled his cock from the man's ass, Caesar slowly rose to his feet to stand before Ares. He ignored the blood making crimson patterns on his thighs. "Do you remember when you first appeared to me?"
A nod. What else could Ares say? He'd lost.
Now Caesar had to rebuild the god's shattered ego. The irony! The victim comforting his attacker. But the man kept breaking the rules of power, always reassembling them in odd configurations. An engineer of ordered chaos, with him at the apex.
"My soldiers had just slaughtered an entire town, punishment for refusing to bow to Caesar. They impaled villagers' heads on metal spikes around their church, while I stood in the building drinking from the font. I recognized you at once."
An appeal to Ares' vanity, always a wise move. Why do the unconscionable ones always understand others so well?
Caesar moved to the bed, lying carefully on the red silk cover. How could anyone disregard his own pain like that? But that's why Caesar ruled the world. He gestured toward Ares, and Ares joined him, leaning his large frame against the embroidered pillows.
Ares, casually rubbing one of his nipples, teasing it to firmness, responded. "I'd been watching you for awhile, admiring your ruthlessness. And when I saw you in the church, looking so calm while your legions decapitated the villagers."
I didn't move, knowing they'd forgotten about me, and listened to this bizarre pillow-talk. Nothing like rape to bring out the tenderness in those two.
They spoke further of that first meeting, Caesar mocking Ares while he stroked the god's well- muscled thigh. Caesar mentioned the young boy who had burst in on them, the one Ares had stabbed, while his hand moved higher.
"We should've fucked him first," Ares interjected, his cock beginning to swell, whether from the idea or from Caesar's fingers lightly tugging the dark hairs on his inner thigh, I'm not sure.
The corners of the man's mouth turned up, and he made an odd, barking sound. A laugh. "You weren't missing anything. I'd fucked him that morning, for the last time. Tedious, really."
"So why bother?"
I knew what Caesar was going to say even before that sensuous mouth formed the words. "A little wedding present to my sister: I wouldn't want Cassia being fucked by an incompetent virgin, would I? Now, of course, he'll never get to fuck her at all." Satisfaction there. He was proud of himself, even excited by the memory. His polished nails left bloody trails in the god's skin, which Ares absently healed at once.
The god's gesture distracted Caesar. "You just don't get it. Why don't you let yourself feel pain? To give it, to receive it. It's the only reason to live."
"Why would I do that? Why would anyone want to feel pain? I thought mortals lived to avoid it. My experiences with pain as a mortal were...unpleasant, to say the least."
"I'm talking about controlled pain. When you refuse to experience it, you limit your body's ability to feel pleasure. The two are intimately connected. I could give you unbelievable pleasure, but you'd have to let down your defenses, and allow yourself to feel pain."
Ares, more confused than ever, even frightened, vanished. That departure was the god's final chance at redemption. And ours.
"Ares." Iphicles, brought by Ares to his Athenian temple, could barely speak. He stood rigidly, muscles so tight with tension that he looked like a statue.
The cold greeting surprised even Ares, but he ignored it. "I want you," he said simply. "Come here." Ares opened his arms.
"Do you even know what you did to me?" the king asked. "Do you even give a shit?"
"That's over now. Just come here and kiss me, Iphicles."
Ares was learning. The careful use of the name, which he'd never before spoken, the request for a kiss, not a blow-job. I wanted to speak up, only I knew the rejection had to come from the king. But he couldn't do it. Instead, after a long pause, Iphicles walked into Ares' embrace.
As his arms encircled Ares' neck, and their clothing disappeared, my eyes burned. I knew why he'd succumbed. And it had less to do with Ares' allure than with Iphicles' own insecurities. Maybe this time he could please him. Maybe this time he could win the love he wanted. Maybe this time Ares wouldn't abandon him. Maybe this time would matter.
It didn't. After kissing the king deeply, Ares sat back on his throne, hard thighs spread. Wisely, he said nothing, let Iphicles come to him. But as the man began to tongue the heavy cock, Ares barely stifled a yawn. He stared up at the ceiling, and I knew he was thinking of Caesar, of the emperor's promise of pain. Only suffering could interest someone bored with pleasure.
I'm not even sure Ares realized that he was coming in the king's mouth. His orgasm resulted only from physical stimulation. But something about the eager way Iphicles kept drinking his semen annoyed him, and planting a booted foot on the man's chest, he knocked him to the ground.
"Enough, already! You've sucked me dry!"
The king slowly rose, brushing himself off. He turned slightly, as though blocking my view of his face.
"You can go now," Ares said impatiently, inclining his head toward the temple door.
"Didn't you like it?"
The childlike tone to of Iphicles' soft question nauseated me. This man was a ruler, a warrior. He was strong and passionate and brave. And this is what Ares reduced him to. A boy trying desperately to please an abusive parent. It didn't matter if I identified with that; it still repulsed me.
And then Iphicles offered himself to Ares. The final desperate act.
Ares agreed, and these near-identical men began the ritual dance again: kissing, caressing, with Iphicles seated on the god's lap.
Afterward, I realized Ares said yes because he wanted to experiment, to see if he could uncover this world of pain on his own, without Caesar. At first, though, I didn't understand when Ares suddenly sprang to his feet, hand at his neck where Iphicles had been nuzzling him. The king, knocked to the floor, again rose, looking confused. But when Ares settled back on the throne, calling him over, he went docilely, and suckled Ares' throat when ordered.
"That's not what I want. Use your teeth. Just be careful. No, not good enough. You've done that before. It's ok, but I want more. Increase the pressure. Slowly."
I watched Ares grab the king's cock as if to encourage him. Then I understood. He'd somehow dispelled the protective shield that blocked his pain receptors. He wanted to feel the sensation of Iphicles' teeth sinking into his flesh.
"Harder," Ares commanded, rubbing oil over his hands and cock. He pulled Iphicles more fully onto his lap, sliding a finger inside the king's ass. Startled by Ares' action, as Ares intended, Iphicles sank his teeth in deeper. The god's eyes closed, as the unexpected sensations shot through him.
He was so beautiful. They were both so beautiful. Can you blame me if...
Ares next lifted Iphicles above him, then lowered the man onto his huge cock. The king bit harder at the penetration, and Ares cried out, pushing Iphicles down until he was fully inside him. Ares began to thrust up repeatedly into the tight ass sheathing his cock, until sweat poured over his gold skin. The king' cock beat in time against Ares' stomach, and he moaned loudly, unable to withstand the pleasure Ares brought him. Pushing the bronze head from his neck, Ares pounded more ferociously into the king's body. "I'll tell you when to do it again. And when I do, make it hard!"
Iphicles was groaning nonstop now, writhing on top of the god's cock. With a sharp cry, his own erection, huge and swollen, began to spill thick, creamy semen onto Ares' belly. His frantic movements and obvious excitement had Ares shuddering. "Now!" he commanded, and Iphicles bit Ares' taut throat, breaking through the skin.
Ares' head flew back, and he howled, while the king sucked the blood from the wound. Then Ares grabbed the man's face, plunging his tongue into Iphicles' mouth, sucking his own blood until the orgasm ran its course. "That was more like it!" Healing his bloody throat, Ares then reached out to catch the red drop on the king's full lower lip, feeding it to him. "You'd do anything I asked, wouldn't you?"
"You know I would."
This should have been it: the moment when Iphicles' devotion broke Ares' unnatural attachment to Caesar. This should have been the moment when Ares, staring into Iphicles' clear, dark eyes, realized that nothing mattered more than love. This should have been the turning point of our story.
But it's not.
Ares, though he is unspeakably beautiful, is not the hero. He's the villain. We all want him to be good, to fall in love with the handsome, desperate king, whose need is almost palpable. But it doesn't happen. This is not a love song.
"Leave me," Ares said abruptly.
Veni, vidi, vici. Caesar had won.
Now our story speeds up, spiralling toward the inevitable conclusion. It will end, as it began, with golden images of passion, violence and death.
Iphicles, rejected by Ares once again, is suicidal. I comfort him, telling the king of my own aborted attempt. But nothing can assuage his pain. So I play Caesar. I manipulate him. I stoke the embers of his rage.
"You're a fucking idiot. Ares has never given a shit about you. You're a piece of meat to him. A fuck. And not even a good one. You bore him. He laughs at you when you're not there, and who can blame him? The prick raped you, mutilated you, and now you're sucking his fucking cock? He's using your insecurities to get his rocks off. You feed his perverse tastes when you humiliate yourself like this! He's not your father or your mother. Stop acting like a five-year old afraid of his own shadow. You're pathetic!"
The blow almost knocked me over. "You little bastard! How dare you speak to me like that? You know shit about me! You don't know anything about my feelings for Ares--"
Wiping the blood from my mouth, I cut him off. "You're a weak loser who lets Ares torture you because you get off on it! And don't get mad at me. I'm not the one who's laughing at you right now while I fuck the one man I give a shit about! I'm not the one who's telling Caesar while I ram my cock into him about how you spread your ass for me and how you loved it--"
Iphicles grabbed me by the collar, smashing his huge fist repeatedly into my face. "Shut the fuck up!"
But I couldn't stop. "He doesn't even hate you, you miserable prick! He can't even be bothered! Your suffering means dick to him! He'll never love you! He can't even fuck you without thinking about Caesar!"
About to strike me again, Iphicles suddenly let go, dropping me to the hard temple floor. Blood coursed from my nose and my split lip. I could feel one eye swelling shut. One of my teeth was loose. "Hate him," I whispered. "Hate him for using you. Hate him for hurting you. Hate him."
That night, when I appeared again in Caesar's darkened bedroom, I was almost happy. The end was drawing nearer. Order was reemerging, or perhaps emerging for the first time.
Ares' haunting voice emerged from the darkness. "I'm ready now."
"You're always ready. That's your problem."
"No. I want you to teach me."
"Ah. I gather you've been experimenting?"
"Yes--a bit. But he was too easy. I want something more challenging."
"You'd have to trust me completely, you know. Are you willing to do that?"
"I think so."
"Come back when you're ready. Don't waste my time."
"You can't do it half-way. If you're going to give me control, you have to give it over absolutely. You can't change your mind mid-way through. You'll have to let me do what I want. Even if you don't want to. You'll have to let me hurt you." He paused. "You'll have to be mortal."
"You're asking me to hand over the sword of power?"
Caesar snorted. "Is that what you call it? But yes. You'd have to give it up during our encounter. Throw the sword on the table by the window, then join me."
And Ares did. He removed his weapon, disempowering himself completely. I wondered why he trusted Caesar; the man obviously craved Ares' power. But of course Ares knew that Caesar couldn't kill him. Zeus would strike down any man who killed even this, his least favorite son. Not a bad safeguard.
I couldn't see the ensuing encounter in the darkened room, only hear as Caesar strapped the now- vulnerable god to the bed posts, commanding his silence. Only listen to Ares' moans as Caesar stroked him, then the angry cry when Caesar's hand connected with his cheek at Ares' objection to the pain. In the dark room, the sounds of Caesar sucking the god's cock excited me, especially when I knew that he'd gagged Ares to keep him quiet. The mattress squeaked and the headboard shook under the force of the god's struggles, then his orgasm. The bottle of scented oil opened with a pop, and the heady smell of sandalwood filled the room, as Caesar spread the liquid on Ares' cock and grunted with pleasure as he mouthed the god's new erection. And then Ares groaned with frustration when the special liquid prevented climax but Caesar kept furiously worked his cock, skin against skin, as he rode the bound god, while Ares, gag removed, talked of fucking Iphicles. Caesar coming, then licking the god's balls, then his cock, finally swallowing the semen that burst into his mouth.
When Caesar finally untied Ares, and they fell asleep in one another's arms, I crept from the room.
And now we're here. In the bowels of Caesar's palace, with chains dangling from the stone walls and a drain running the circumference of the dim room. A far cry from Patrolius' sunlit studio where a lonely boy sought comfort in a golden cup.
Here Caesar ordered Ares to remove all of his clothing, his jewelry, his sword. Willingly robbed of his divinity, Ares allowed the man, naked himself, to place him face-first against a clammy wall, chain his arms above his head and lock fetters to his ankles.
Before he began his theater of pain, Caesar poured himself a glass of thick Gallic wine. He always drank red, liked splashing it on Ares, licking off the pattern it made on the god's smooth skin. Caesar did it again, taking a second glass and tossing it on the gleaming back of the manacled god. It spilled down, trickling into the crack of Ares' ass, running down the backs of his thighs. The man bent down, catching the liquid on his tongue, sliding a finger into the tight hole before beginning to bruise the god's skin with hard bites.
"How Iphicles would love to see this," I said.
"Vengeance," I added, when he turned to look at me with those dead black eyes. "He'll watch, and then. You're safe from him, too. We're locked in here, with your guards outside the door."
The idea appealed to him, as I knew it would. Caesar got up, and went to the table where Ares' sword rested. He looked at it thoughtfully while helping himself to another glass of wine. Then he brought the weapon to Ares, lifting it up so that it touched Ares' hand. "Bring him here."
As soon as Iphicles appeared, Caesar returned the sword. But he didn't walk back to Ares; instead, he clutched the sides of the wooden table, face pale.
The king said nothing, merely walking to the table, collecting the keys, then knelt before Ares. In a second Iphicles had undone the fetters binding the god's ankles, and had turned him to face the room. Then he reached up and undid the manacles at his wrists. Ares lowered his arms, rubbing his reddened skin.
"I want to kiss you," Iphicles told him.
Ares glanced over at Caesar, half-bent now over the table. Caesar waved an acquiescent hand. He understood. He was a very smart man.
Iphicles gently stroked Ares' cheek, placing one hand on the god's hip. My God-Cup again come to life. The king leaned forward, as though to brush his lips against the mouth so like his own. Ares never saw the knife as it sliced through his throat, severing the artery and killing what should never be killed. "I love you," Iphicles said, as Ares fell crashing to the ground, blood spraying.
"Here." Quickly I passed the sword to Iphicles, ignoring Caesar. "You'll need this." The weapon felt warm, filled with the power of godhood.
The king clasped it against his chest, ingesting divinity.
"Hurry," I said. "Change."
Iphicles' bronze curls darkened, and a beard appeared on his smooth cheeks while Ares' leather covered his body.
"You'd never know the difference," Caesar said, his breath oddly ragged. "No one will ever know." He laughed. "Clever."
A knock at the door. I hurried over and opened it. "Come in."
A dark-haired young woman entered. Cassia. She nodded at me, then glided to Caesar. "Hello, brother."
"Save me," he moaned. "There was something in the wine...I think I'm poisoned."
She shook her head. "Not poison. Just something to relax you. I want the pleasure of killing you myself."
"Oh yes. I received a letter last night, slipped under my door. At first I didn't believe it. My own brother raping me. But the writer knew too much about that night. About what you and he--" she jerked her head toward the still body of the dead god, "did to me." Cassia's voice broke, and I wondered if she were losing her nerve.
Then she pulled the sharp knife from the folds of her pale blue gown, and advanced on Caesar. A lightening-quick stroke to his groin prompted a terrible cry.
"I came," she whispered.
Another stroke, this time from one temple to another. So much blood in the delicate muscles of the eyes.
The third blow from the bloody knife entered Caesar's heart, rent it.
What would the poet say? "Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead! Run hence, proclaim, cry it about the streets."
No one did notice that Iphicles replaced Ares. Or perhaps the Olympians didn't care. Ares had never been popular, and the new god brought much-needed temperance and mercy to the job of war. Or perhaps again they had other concerns: the new religion gnawed at their provenance. A new age arrived to steal power from the pantheon of gods.
Iphicles brought Ares' body to the field of war outside Sparta. And so the Corinthian king died in battle, helping his brother fight Hippocoon, king of Sparta, a fitting end for a brave warrior and a beloved ruler. Hercules cried at the funeral. I think Iphicles was pleased by that.
The history books, of course, misrecorded Caesar's end. Cassia became Cassius, a jealous follower. Not a surprise. Stories of rape and revenge mean less to historians than tales of political intrigue. And so Cassia's act is lost to future generations, while her brother's fame lives on. And what of Cassia herself? At her request, Iphicles transported her to the Gallic church where Caesar had engineered her lover's murder. She wanted to pay tribute to him, she explained. I never saw her again. But recently, I received a letter. Its seal was unusual: a woman in profile. I recognized Cassia's features, mature now, but still beautiful.
"So much has happened since the day my brother fell. I found the place where Lucius died, and saw what other atrocities my brother had committed. And they didn't stop with his death: the Romans won't end their tyranny until we're all subjugated.
"How you must be laughing at this. I speak as though I'm not one of them. But I don't see myself as Roman now. That part of me died with my brother. I speak a new language, the language of my new husband, one of the few advantages of my education: a fluency with words.
"I am a warrior, living in Britannia. I fight with my new family against Rome even now, pregnant with my first child. No one knows my history, and I want to keep it that way. Cassia is dead. I have a new name, one not soaked in innocent blood. It's a Celtic word; I chose it very carefully. It means victory.
"I am Boudicca. And I thank you."
A book has been circulating recently, written by a Roman scholar named Tacitus. In it, he reports the words of the warrior-queen Boudicca on the field before her death.
"It is not as a woman descended from noble ancestry, but as one of the people that I am avenging lost freedom, my scourged body, the outraged chastity of my daughters. Roman lust has gone so far that not our very persons, nor even age or virginity are left unpolluted. But heaven is on the side of the righteous vengeance; a legion which dared to fight has perished; the rest are hiding themselves in their camp, or are thinking anxiously of flight. They will not sustain even the din and the shout of so many thousands, much less our charge and our blows. If you weigh well the strength of the armies, and the causes of the war, you will see that in this battle you must conquer or die. This is a woman's resolve."
I found a woman who reminded me of the young Cassia, trusting and innocent, and a woman who reminded me of the strong queen. I follow them now, ever the stumbling buffoon, ever the watcher. But I have a new role, too: I am a protector. We all need protectors, don't we? I had Patrolius, the strange goldsmith who fashioned a cup that told of the future, but not a future as I would have imagined. And Simonides, the innkeeper whose caring saved my life. Now I try to emulate the actions of these men, giving comfort where Ares and Caesar gave death.
It's not much, perhaps, but finally, after all this time, I have peace.
*** The line "Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is Dead! Run hence, proclaim, cry it about the streets" is from Act III scene 1 of Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, and Boudicca's words are her own.