Mortal Favors

Debra Fran Baker

"What in Hades are you doing?" Ares, naked body glowing in the moonlight, stood over Joxer, his hands on his hips. Which, Joxer noticed, framed a still impressive, if flagging, erection.

He took a deep breath to get his heart started. Never get a god angry at you, Joxer. It doesn't do wonders for your life expectancy. Then again, neither does...doing whatever it was he was doing. "I thought you wanted know. So, I got ready." He indicated his position on his hands and knees.

"You call that getting ready? I show up, tell you that for reasons I do not understand, I've decided to honor you with my touch tonight, and you just...grovel? Is this how you normally make love to gods?" Tiny sparks glowed from Ares's eyes, enough to remind Joxer of just *who* his father was, as if he wasn't terrified enough. Although, even that terror wasn't enough to quell his desire. Ares was magnificent. There was no other word for it. Joxer preferred the ladies, and longed for Gabrielle, but he knew a fine male figure when he saw it, and Ares...was a god.

"I have never made love to...made love *to*?" Joxer blinked. He couldn't mean...that was impossible. "I've barely slept with mortals, and then mostly with whores. Whores don't care. I figured..."

"You figured *wrong*.'re frightened." Ares's face softened at those words. The sparks faded from his eyes. He knelt down beside Joxer, and touched his shoulder with a hand gentler than anything Joxer had ever felt before. "I don't understand. Are you afraid I'll hurt you?"

"That's what you do, isn't it?" Joxer could not believe his daring. You're the god of war. And I'm just a...worm. Something to use. Just get it over with." His voice was steady.

Ares shook his head. "That is what I am, but not who I am. When I use force, it's with someone who can fight, someone who will be aroused by the battle. Someone like..."

"Someone like Xena." His voice sounded bitter even to him. "I'm nothing like Xena. Or your brother."

"I know." Ares smiled. It made his face beautiful. "I think that's one of the reasons I'm here. I don't want to fight. I don't want to take. I want... you." He stroked Joxer's hair. "I want...right now, I want to kiss you. May I?"

"You're asking?"

"Yes. And you can say no."

"Yeah, but I won't last long if I do."

"Joxer...I promise you. I swear to you. If you tell me no, I will leave you and never disturb you again. And if you tell me yes, I promise that you will feel only pleasure." He took a deep breath, and then another. "Joxer. Please."

Xena and Gabrielle called him a fool. So did Hercules and Iolaus. Even Autolycus did. Maybe they were right, and they'd certainly tell him he was being one now, if he survived this night and told them. But he looked into Ares's dark eyes and his softened face, picked out by the full moon, and he decided to trust the least trustworthy god of them all. "Yes."

Moments later, he found himself cradled in Ares's arms, their faces fingertips apart. He waited for Ares to do more, to move, but he remain still, expectant. "It's all up to you, mortal. All of it."

Joxer shivered at the emotion in Ares's rich voice, and at his words. He nodded and leaned forward to touch Ares's lips with his o