Summary: Two gods of Olympus meet for the first time.
!!!!A/N: The artwork was drawn by the amazingly talented shigai!
Ο Ἔρως Εμπνέει τον Πόλεμο
Olympian Muse: Love Inspires War
!!! DO NOT TAKE OR REPOST THESE IMAGES !!!
Olympus was always teeming with vibrancy, though most especially when the gods who inhabited the mountain tops would clash in argument or come together in celebration. One such evening was quite significant: the third anniversary of Zeus, king of all gods, acquiring his throne. Deities of all ranks and classes had united, their sacrament heard all throughout the heavens. At the foot of the mountain was Peneus Lake, born of the river Styx, where two deities in particular had chosen to spend the momentous holiday in solitude. Ares, having returned home from yet another glorious battle, had taken up a position in the deeper portion of the lake as he washed away the blood of his enemies. No farther than one yard away was Aphros, the male counterpart of Aphrodite, perched on the shoreline in a torturous state of grief. Roses of deep red were being plucked and carefully placed upon the surface of the water, each one accompanied by a pearled tear of sadness. Doves could be heard nearby, warbling their own melody of misfortune in tandem with their master.
Upon sensing that he may not be alone, Ares was instantly torn from his reverie of personal triumph. Gazing around the vicinity, Ares slowly began to move through the chilled water surrounding him until his movement was no longer his own, but more akin to a trance. Ares continued to follow the source of each sound as though it were his sole path in life; however, the final destination would be so unexpected that it would render the god of war completely speechless. His body more still than it had ever been, Ares could feel his thoughts and emotions twisting up inside of him; the very core of his being was on fire at the sight before him. Coincidentally, it was not something that Ares saw, but someone: his hair was as black as the feathers of a raven, yet glossy and silky as the wind-swept surface of a pond; he had eyes so clear and blue they would shame the deepest fathoms of any ocean; his skin was fair and his lips were full, though his body had truly been crafted by the gods; each finger and hand was sculpted to match, though uniquely broad shoulders gave way to perfection. The distressed red flush of tear-stained cheeks drew Ares in, and he began to wonder if this was the same Adonis that Aphrodite had chosen so willingly over him? There was no doubt that Ares was emanating jealousy at that moment, but there was something else; a new feeling which was somehow tinged with familiarity. Such an overwhelming sensation only arose in the midst of war—why was it suddenly so inspired now?
"One rose for each day I will have to spend in such a union..." Aphros whispered to himself, kneeling forward over the lake as he allowed a wilting rose to slip free from his grasp. Each tear shed gave Ares a pang of melancholy.
"You are not supposed to be here while the heavens are engaged in celebration." Ares whispered firmly, though his jaw was taught with curiosity. Aphros had heard Ares speak, yet continued on with his lament, haphazardly allowing tears to fall where they may upon the water. The god of war began to feel ignored and his anger was piqued, but Aphros was quick to sate it with acknowledgement.
"I could very well say the same for you, god of destruction..." Aphros began to smile solemnly, his eyes lifting to meet those of his new visitor, "...a son of Zeus." Ares was silenced for the first time in years. Even this man's voice was lyrical in nature and only gave a more virtuous appeal to his appearance. It was one thing to see the blue of those eyes for oneself, but to look into them as they looked upon him now; Ares was stricken with every emotion possible to an Olympian god.
"You...are exquisite. You remind me of someone..." Ares responded slowly, completely unaware that he was now only a mere foot away from the breathtaking creature who spoke to him in a voice designed to accompany the finest lyre.
"I assumed I might. Maybe...Aphrodite?" Aphros inquired, lashes slowly dropping to meet now puffy cheeks before rising again to keep Ares in view. Ares had never known feelings such as those he was experiencing with only his eyes on another. Swallowing hard, Ares took one more step forward, then another.
"Ah...yes." Tilting his head, Ares removed himself from the water's embrace so that he could seat himself beside his alluring companion.
"I am sorry...but I am not Aphrodite. I am her male counterpart, Aphros." Their eyes never once abandoning one another, Aphros sighed, his expression reflecting bitterness in combination with solemnity. Too enticed, Ares reached forward to graze his fingertips over naturally rouged cheekbones; sampling what he saw as if it were too surreal to be true.
"But you are even more beautiful than Aphrodite herself..." Ares breathed, a thumb gently brushing over the other’s full lower tier.
"Flatterer." Aphros finally, but languidly turned his face toward the lake with a playful scoff. Eyes slowly blinking as they noticed the differently shaded mixture of roses and blood upon the water, Aphros felt his smile returning. It felt quite symbolic to him somehow in a way he had not quite figured out yet.
"I do not say this to flatter." Ares slid his hand beneath the counterpart’s chin, gently pulling his attention back. "I say this as truth. I never say things I do not want to say or that I do not mean."
"The great god of war presenting an honest compliment to anyone but himself?" At the least, Aphros was amused; at the most, he was intrigued. "Unheard of." With that, Aphros offered a shy, yet coy smile of playful challenge.
"...Until today." Ares was most definitely not playing games, but he knew Aphrodite herself to be of that nature when she willed it so—and he felt himself willing to finally play along for once. "It seems you have an effect on me."
"Oh do I now? A mere counterpart?"Aphros scoffed once more, his lashes lowering as if to shield the truth with a display of seductive manner. Ares was unfaltering, and he forced Aphros to gaze only on him.
"As I said...I say nothing without a meaning which is not partial to my own free will. Do not make me repeat myself, Aphros..." As tempting as this creature was for Ares, he could not allow himself to become enamored—at any level—with one of the same mold as Aphrodite. Not without securing himself a foothold in the endeavor should he need to escape.
"Oh my, son of Zeus...might you be falling in love with my face? I have never had someone—"
"I have never been in love...I know not what that feeling is, dear Aphros. Forgive me for declining your suggestion."
"Never? Well...if Aphrodite could not snare you..." Aphros chuckled, tilting his head ever so slightly to view the other man's face at a new angle. "I see no possible chance for me. Forgive such narrow minded assumptions...I am sure you know by now that it is just my way." In saying this, Aphros freed himself from the hardened gaze they shared, nonchalantly lifting himself to a full stand. "I must bid you farewell, son of Zeus...I have an engagement to attend."
"Your father expects his children to be present, does he not? Any event is as good as the birthday of Zeus...though none as important as the anniversary for his reception as king." By now, Aphros had the smile of a devil, though it was so innocent that Ares found himself confused as to what he could really believe. How could such a beautiful smile seem so perfectly evil and good all at the same time?
"We can attend together..."
“You must attend alone, not with another whose appearance is like mine. Is that not what your father was trying to avoid in the first place? I could only imagine what would come from a situation involving you and I...” Although his intentions were good, Aphros had successfully angered Ares for the first time since their meeting.
"You cannot presume to—"
"What? Did you plan to parade into your father's party with me displayed on your arm as some form of trophy? Maybe from one of your many battles? You are the son of Zeus...god of war, courage, and destruction. What could you possibly see in the counterpart to a lover you once viewed as pure perfection in herself? You cannot fool me, Ares...no matter how handsome and cunning you may be." Aphros took a single step backward as if to leave, adjusting the deep blue garments at his waist. "Alas...even if I wanted to, my affections and attentions are not mine to give you."
"I—" Ares was more than willing to prove his case and save his own dignity after Aphros had so carefully punctured holes in it, but he was prevented from continuing further as a burst of brilliant light literally forced his eyes upward into the night sky. By the time Ares realized that he had been tricked, quite sneakily, Aphros had disappeared with no trace left of his presence.
Zeus, as one might expect, was the life of the party that night. Ares made an appearance for his father's sake, though his mind was on anything but the wild antics of Dionysus or Athena's intellectual discussion of war-time ethics. The god of war simply cared nothing for the events of that evening; Aphros had completely invaded his senses. Why was anyone able to do this to him? Ares had no concept of any emotion that could be deemed romantic, nor had he ever had the time and interest for discovering it in depth. What did Aphros mean when he said he was unable to give him anything? Why was that man so unbelievably beautiful? In all truth, Ares was most certain that Aphros could put even the great Adonis to shame should they be compared side by side.
Staying away from the festivities, Aphros had retreated to Cyprus so that he could regretfully begin making himself ready for his new life. As a ritual for his future marriage, Aphros first took advantage of the bathing springs so easily abandoned by Aphrodite. Once his lower garments were removed, Aphros moved into the sacred pool of water with his eyes downcast. It was unlike him to feel so helpless and controlled, yet he was under the command of Zeus—and soon, Hephaestus too. Placing a hand upon a thickly inlaid rock where water flowed freely for rinsing, Aphros closed his eyes as a fresh wave of tears sprang forward to sting at his vision. His kind would never have the life of a true god, regardless of how equal they were to their opposites in rank or status. As once would have been the life of Aphrodite, now is that life for him: Aphros, a mere counterpart.
Ares was no fool since he knew exactly where to find Aphros. Besides, how many times had Ares found himself being intimate with Aphrodite in her own location of birth? More times and in more places than he could count or let alone remember. In the land of the Olympians, counterparts were the same as their opposites in every way; that is, every way but in terms of gender. Ares, wanting to avoid suspicion or rumors of disloyalty to his father, reverently excused himself from the night's festivities in order to prepare for his next battle—or so he claimed. Perusing the lush sanctuary of Aphrodite's bathing pool, Ares began to recall a point in time when he had attempted to ravage the goddess there in the holy waters. Aphrodite heatedly declined, her response grounded in personal distaste toward committing an act of desecration in a place of purity. So angered by the refusal, Ares chose the months of Maimakterion through Anthesterion (November/December to February/March) during which to cut off all association between him and the haughty goddess of desire. Naturally, these were the months which were coldest for Aphrodite, and Ares would not be present to provide her with the warmth and companionship she so desperately required from him. As all things do, Ares reasoned, the relationship between him and his Aphrodite eventually came to an abrupt end. Did Aphros serve a purpose in this new equation? Just before he became lost in his own thoughts, Ares heard it: that same lyrical voice which could have only belonged to Aphros. It was not enough that Aphros rivaled all others in appearance, but his voice could influence the very flow of time through any universe. Ares crept forward through the exotically decorated and quite familiar sanctuary, finally concealing himself between two fig trees. From his new hidden perch, Ares peered outward at the fully nude perfection that was Aphros.
“...Come, my love, let us get into bed..." As the line was chanted in a somber tone, Aphros slowly tilted his head back and into the tranquil rush of water to rinse his hair. How in the name of the gods was anyone able to capture the god of war in such a way?
"Make love...together..." Aphros continued to sing steadily, yet his voice remained joyless. Ares could not help noticing that once the clear fluid from above made contact below, it splashed over and down the other man's naked form. Each drop trailed its way down slowly as if taking in each smooth curve of flesh or toned portion of hardened muscle. Even the sacred waters of his former lover's bathing pool wished to remember this man!
"Hephaestus is not home...no doubt..." Hearing that name made Ares cringe. How he had hated that man. But what did Hephaestus have to do with Aphros? Gliding his fingers down over his own body to brush away the droplets that still clung to him, Aphros then lifted his head until he was facing forward. A single glance in the right direction gave Aphros the upper hand in discovering that he had a visitor; a very arrogant, but undeniably tempting visitor. Aphros knew what to do—the same thing she would have done and had done for quite some time. However, now it was his turn.
"He is gone..." With little thought as to his next move, Aphros let his tongue snake out to trace lavishly over his upper lip. Eyes dropping to half-mast, Aphros gradually let his voice lower to a mild hum before turning his back to Ares. Such behavior left Ares at a loss, though he could not say that it was something which had no effect on his possessive side. There was nothing to be jealous of quite yet, but Ares felt the instinctive need to possess this creature.
"Gone...to visit..." One step forward brought Aphros back beneath that waterfall, and Ares came close to demanding that the other man return his lost attention. Unfortunately, that would mean he could be discovered and that simply could not happen. Aphros stood where he was only for a moment before his hands were down at his sides, slowly raking perfectly sculpted nails over seemingly untouched hips. Ares had to wonder: was this man a virgin? If it were so, he would be damned if he allowed another to defeat him in claiming that virtue for himself.
"Lemnos...and the Sintians..." Aphros brought his nails up the sides of his body, slowly curving around to his stomach and back up to scrape over his shoulders. Even from where Ares was, he could see the faint red marks left behind in the process—such beautiful skin marred by the act of bathing. Was Aphros always this way or was this a dream? Who better to make love to than someone who was just like him in sexual deviation? One thing was for sure in the mind of Ares: he would never see bathing as a simple routine ever again. With such a realization, Ares returned his focus to the male Cytherea before him. Why was Aphros still singing? The song in itself was tragic and it had nothing to do with him—did it not?
"Mm..." As Aphros reached the ending of his song, he slowly turned and moved away from the water until it could no longer touch him. A single corner of his mouth curling upward in amusement as he noticed how easily he had lured Ares into his game, Aphros finally lowered himself into the pool of dancing water below. Seated quite comfortably with both legs bent up just enough to allow his feet to dangle playfully in front of him—the perfect view for Ares to see finely sculpted thighs and a solid abdomen—Aphros leaned back on both hands before resting his chin quite innocently on one shoulder. Facing Ares once again, he and Aphros made direct eye contact. There was no way to hide the fact that Ares had become significantly aroused in that instant, and Aphros gave the war god a devious smile before chiming in with the last words of his verse. "...Such...barbarians.”
"Gods be damned..." Ares gasped as he became frozen in utter shock. The emphasis Aphros used with those particular words in no way helped to sate his overwhelming desire for the Cyprian nymph. Before Ares could react to being discovered, or react to anything in general, Aphros used both sets of perfectly angled toes to begin flicking water at him in a spritely manner. Was this mischievous devil attempting to escape from punishment after bewitching him so shamelessly?
"The gods may be damned, but the son of Zeus will be soaking wet when I am through with him!" Aphros chuckled, having made a mental note that Ares was now coming for him, which only convinced him to kick at the water more furiously as if the effort would be enough to keep the other man at bay. With those words, Ares lunged forward and quickly restrained the flailing feet by pushing them beneath the surface of the water.
"Did no one warn you against provoking the god of war, dear Aphros? You will never win..." Tugging gently at the slender feet he held so tightly in his grip, Ares managed to ease his body forward into the water until Aphros was directly beneath him. No walls left shaken by the beauty he had so adamantly pursued until that moment, Ares leaned forward just enough to breathe in the scent of such an arousing being. Aphros realized what this type of behavior was, and it excited him more than he could understand.
"Ah..." Dropping his head back just slightly, Aphros could almost feel all the air leave his lungs when his eyes became locked with the god of war in such a moment. Ares was quite the devastatingly handsome man himself with facial features contoured so perfectly that they could only produce the most meaningful of expressions; war-ridden flesh was no betrayal to the superior masculine form which lay beneath. Aphros was unable to stop a hand from reaching up toward the other man's face, feeling the outline of beautifully bowed lips and the well chiseled strength of a jawline. "Define the word win, my lord..."
"You lose...I win. It is quite simple...what is there to misunderstand?" Ares chuckled, his head tilting slightly even as he refused to let their gaze break for even the slightest second. Aphros let his fingers travel lower past a thudding heartbeat in the throat, down to firmly set collarbones. Even lower still, Aphros trailed his fingers over hardened shoulders and wonderfully toned arms, stopping to let his sense of touch admire the extravagant solidity of a well-built chest and stomach. There was no denying that Ares was the epitome of a real man, and damn near his exact opposite—though not by means of gender. Ares moved closer, and Aphros felt the unrelenting pulse of arousal between his own legs.
"Nn...I do believe we both have lost this battle, son of Zeus..." Aphros whispered; his voice shaky but not enough to give away his own demeanor. Ares could feel his entire body tighten with outright lust, and all he could see in that moment was Aphros. Such stunning perfection could only belong to him and him alone.
"How do you figure this..." It was a question, though Ares left it as a statement because he simply had no concern with winning or losing when it came to Aphros. Ares knew that once he could have this man, he would have won everything without ever having lifted a finger to begin a war. Cautiously, Ares leaned forward one final time in an attempt to steal a kiss from those perfect lips he had been longing to taste. It was then that Aphros trailed his hand down, deep down in between the other's legs.
"This..." With that word, Aphros aggressively let his nails rake along the thin cloth which shielded proof of his companion's thickening arousal. Rendered frozen once again, Ares felt a near-strangled groan shake his throat upon being touched in such a way.
"...Uhng." Closing his eyes, Ares tightened his jaw and vengefully returned the favor, fingers wrapping around Aphros without restraint. The expression of surprise on that beautiful face coaxed a haughty smirk from Ares, though he was still slightly winded. "It seems...we both have lost...you minx..."
"It would seem so..." Aphros panted quietly, biting gently at his lower lip to prevent from making any sounds which might provoke Ares to continue. Remembering his purpose in coming back to Cyprus, Aphros forcefully shrugged off the temporary moment of enjoyment he found in such spirited foreplay. "Release me, Ares..."
"Why would I—"
"He will come soon to collect me...if he finds you here it will be the end of both of us." Aphros gently relinquished his grip, head falling back in relief when Ares reluctantly did the same.
"He? You cannot possibly mean—" Ares began to protest, but Aphros shot him a very telling expression. "Hephaestus? You...and him?"
"I have no reason to lie about such a thing." Aphros quickly shrank away from Ares, lifting himself to a rather wobbly stand. The sound of water thrashing about with abrupt movement was eventually reduced to mere plinks, Aphros having become unwilling to move. Aphros gazed down at Ares with an expression reminiscent of mourning; the two gods were now at an impasse.
Ares was unsure of why he had felt so strongly toward Aphros to begin with, even if he was the counterpart to Aphrodite. As if that was not enough, why was the great god of war going to such great lengths to be with someone whom he had only just met not even a day ago? Aphros asked himself why he would risk a lifetime of security to spend mere fleeting moments of playful enjoyment with someone he knew of, but did not know in depth. Was there any way he could escape the terrible fate that waited for him just around the next corner? Why was it so easy for them to toy with one another as if their tryst was all a game? Or was this really a battle and each of them had more to lose than they realized?
The following morning, any and all mortals beneath Grecian skies would awake to the sound of thunder so fearful that not a single soul would dare to leave the safety of their home. Ares had been angered to the highest degree of violence and nothing could calm him. Well, maybe that was not entirely true. If Ares had not been a man there would have been no way in Hades he could have ever been so affected by the wiles of that minx of a desirable god. Concealed away in his darkened palace high above the barren forests of Thrace; Ares raged away at his situation. Pacing here or there in a rush of heated madness, the god of war simply could not accept that he had been rejected—especially when it came to satiating his desire.
"Why have they not returned?!" Ares growled arrogantly, his hands latching onto the nearest object—a bookcase—before slamming it to the ground at his feet. Books were strewn about, and Ares could feel his blood beginning to boil.
"My lord, Deimos and Phobos have been gone but one hour." A shadowless minion, the god Kydoimos made his presence known quickly, the rumble of his voice echoing throughout the halls of the palace. Ares was not amused by such an answer.
"That is unacceptable Kydoimos. They are my closest companions and therefore part of me...they should have returned by now!" Ares retorted, his disgust quite evident in every move he made. When Ares sent others on errands, he expected them to be done. Each second the two remained gone was more time wasted on behalf of Ares discovering the truth about Aphros and that disgusting man. Ares began to focus solely on the wild string of possible connections between absolute perfection and absolute abhorrence; his inner fury increased, threatening to spill out thick enough to drown the entire length of the Elysian Fields in crimson.
"My lord...is this degree of seething necessary...? He is but a counterpart." Kydoimos asked, now exasperated with the war god's behavior—though by no means unaccustomed to it.
"I must know what their relationship is based on. Aphrodite has fled...he is left. It cannot be what it seems!" Ares had become restless; however, when a reflection caught his eye from one of many mirrors adorning the walls of his residence, the god of war took a moment to admire what he saw. It was no secret that Ares believed himself to be quite magnificent and statuesque. Ares knew deep down that his problem did not reside with his appearance, but with the fact that he had been denied what he wanted more times than he cared to admit. Once more, Ares felt his lividity returning full force.
"Leave me be."
"You cannot possibly think—"
"I said leave me be!" Quickly, Ares lunged forward and snatched up a book from where it had fallen before throwing it directly at his companion. "Immediately!" Kydoimos flinched as the book struck his chest with a loud sound before tumbling to the floor, both sounds so embittered that they resonated throughout the estate.
“Forgive me, my lord. I will take my leave.” With a bow of remorse, Kydoimos vanished amongst the shadows of the room just as silently as he had appeared. Finally alone, Ares returned his attention to the mirror with a scowl.
"What has become of me?" Ares asked himself, expression twisting to reflect his own torment and outrage with the situation at hand. Why was he so unyielding in his efforts? What could Aphros possibly offer that he could not get for himself? The inner barrage of questions had driven Ares to a breaking point, and it was during that point when a tightly balled fist quickly and inexorably met with the thick pane of reflective glass. The mirror shattered from the center on out, cracking and snapping was heard as shards of various sizes fell from their inset positions, only to crash at the war god's feet. "I will have him...no matter what news is brought forth...that counterpart will belong to me..."
Meanwhile, on Mount Olympus, the many gods and goddesses prepared for the wedding which would take place three days hence. In the palace of Hephaestus, a courtyard lined with elaborate marble columns housed varieties of exotic plants and flowers blooming freely with a fragrance of overwhelming sweetness. Situated at the very center of this courtyard was a fountain of stone, and it depicted the goddess of love placing a tender kiss to the head of a dove while it nested within her hands. At the foot of the fountain was Aphros, perched upon a settee laden with cushions of white silk and gold trimming etched into the elegant wooden frame. The counterpart stared blankly ahead in his silent anguish as he realized, with Aphrodite gone, he had inherited her once obligatory betrothal to Hephaestus. Aphros believed such a fate could only be his greatest burden for having the status of a counterpart. To the left were two maids fussing over intricate details such as clothing design or jewelry. However, to the right sat the anti-paramour himself, the Olympian blacksmith Hephaestus.
“There is nothing in this universe I could not give you...” Hephaestus cooed, which sent a shudder through Aphros before he felt a fine-toothed comb slide gently through his hair.
“I said nothing to the contrary, my love.” Aphros forced a light-hearted chuckle, tilting his head slightly as if to make Hephaestus less apt at feeling alienated.
“I have never believed another man to be capable of such beauty...” Hephaestus replied softly, Aphros already pondering what life might be like after having married someone who promised him the world. Were that even possible, could he be happy with that knowing any semblance of real love was nonexistent?
"And with me it seems I have broken the rules?" Aphros sighed, obviously discontent but maintaining a peaceful expression nonetheless. It was quite difficult for the counterpart to believe he had any place in Olympus without the patronage of this man, had it not been for the disappearance of Aphrodite. Blinking slowly as he felt rough fingers brush against the tender flesh beneath his chin, Aphros suddenly went still. Hephaestus had purposely locked their eyes together, a sly grin on his face as he did so.
"You have broken every rule, my dear Aphros. I have plans to break even more with you after today. You are quite exquisite..." Hephaestus whispered the last half of his confession, making Aphros nearly cringe from the inside out at the way it sounded to his own ears. Suddenly, Aphros remembered back to when Ares had used that same word—exquisite—for him not long ago. The memory made Aphros smile out of nowhere, which gave the blacksmith false reassurance that his compliment and intentions had been accepted in full.
"Your words are flattering, love...but they are not necessary." Aphros could not stop his mind from replaying the few moments of careless freedom he was allowed with Ares. From the moment they had met to the flirtatiousness in the baths; Aphros recalled every touch, feeling, or thought they had shared. Before his memory could delve deeper into that day, Aphros nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt the press of lips against his cheek. "My lord—"
"I apologize for my abrasive behavior...it would appear I have difficulty in waiting to make you truly mine." Even as Hephaestus was now smiling with an obvious look of apology in his eyes, Aphros was not pleased at the unwelcome display of affection. Hephaestus was a kind man and exceptionally talented when it came to his trade, but Aphros felt nothing for him past those qualities.
"My lord...I—" Aphros knew what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it. Unfortunately, the moment the young counterpart worked up the courage to speak, he was interrupted by a loud chime throughout the palace to signal a messenger's arrival. Three maidens of gold, known to Hephaestus as the Kourai Khryseai, eagerly hurried up to their beloved creator and bowed respectfully. With such an unexpected appearance, Aphros only hoped the great Zeus had sent the three women to call off his upcoming wedding arrangements as an expression of pity.
"Lord Hephaestus, we bring you a request from the great Ares. He wishes you to build him a wondrous panoply of armor and weapons for an upcoming battle!" One of the three voices rang clearly, snapping Aphros out of his solemn reverie. Why would such a request come on the day of a wedding in Olympus? Hephaestus leaned closer to the maidens as their voices lowered to a mere whisper, preventing Aphros from hearing anything further regarding the wishes of Ares. The timing of the request was intriguing, but knowing that it had come from Ares sent a wave of suspicion through Aphros almost immediately. After a few moments of silent nodding and one final amused chuckle, Hephaestus turned his attention back to Aphros once the golden maidens had been officially dismissed.
"I am afraid there are business matters I must tend to before the evening arrives, my dear. As much as I would enjoy staying with you to help prepare...I must take my leave.” With slight difficulty, Hephaestus then hauled his near-broken body to a stand. "I must go to my forge atop the mount in order to accomplish such a heavy task in time for our union. Of course, you realize that this means I will be unable to accept disturbances or requests of any kind. Again, I apologize." Aphros watched the blacksmith without making a sound, his only response coming in the form of a single compliant nod. Hephaestus gave his gilded beauty a final glance of affection before quickly disappearing from the courtyard to begin his errands.
"What am I to do here alone?" Aphros sighed quietly after a few moments, oceanic eyes of bewilderment now trained on the maids he had been left with. "This is not my wedding...it is his. Tell me what to do..."
"But of course it is, dear Aphros!" chirped the maids in perfect unison, "you must be ready for this wondrous day and cherish it for it is unlike any wedding a mere human could ever aspire to!" Aphros gave a saddened smile to the women who were obviously versed in what to say should questions arise. Did no one understand his plight in the least? He did not want this and grasped at any idea in his mind which might free him from it. In that moment, Aphros simply wanted to be alone. Gazing around the courtyard, Aphros suddenly felt an epiphany rise in the back of his once hopeless mind.
"I do not wish to trouble either of you..." Aphros began, keeping his smile as he watched the maids rub scented oils into his skin, "but I need your help inside the palace. It is in no way prepared for this evening and I do not know what to do. Would you mind seeing to things inside while I tend to myself?" The inquiry made both maids halt in surprise before their expressions reflected pure confusion. Feigning innocence, which was easy to do when one came from the same mold as the love goddess herself, Aphros smiled and gave a nod to confirm his own words. Before any further response was heard, the skies above darkened and began to shake with an undeniable rage.
"That will not be necessary, maids of Hephaestus..." barked an angered, yet familiar voice. Maids who were adamant in their aide were now down on the marbled floor, trembling in fear and begging not to be harmed. Aphros stared at his new arrival in complete astonishment. It took several moments for Aphros to swallow the terror in his throat before he spoke.
"...Lord Ares?" Aphros choked out, blinking several times as if he were having trouble believing what his eyes beheld in front of him.
"You were expecting another?" Ares responded casually, "the crippled letch, perhaps?" Chuckling as he watched the fairness of the counterpart's face redden at his words, Ares tilted his head to one side as he looked Aphros over. It was unlike any man to wear such a long chiton, even if he were as beautiful as Aphros. Folds and creases of deep amethyst rested against such a finely made torso and it made Ares appreciate the beauty of the male form on an entirely new level. A rich scarlet himation adorned one shoulder, sweeping down to hug loosely around the left hip, and it was there that Ares noticed the fragile belt of golden rope clinging down the length of a perfectly muscled outer thigh. The maze of amethyst continued further south, ending just above the ankles in a wispy mass. Sandals of auric thread gleamed in a crisscross pattern above pale flesh, traveling upward beneath shadowed layers of fabric as if to tease anyone who dared imagine so far. Ares began to wonder if Aphros even realized just how appealing the common Grecian apparel looked on him. The maidens tending to Aphros from before had long since made a scrambling escape from the courtyard, even as they knew their master's predetermined consort would be tempted by the powerful and ever appealing god of war.
"He is a kind man, my lord..." Aphros whispered, lowering his eyes momentarily as if to hide his true thoughts and feelings behind thick lashes. Ares was not one to tolerate such deviation; in fact, it pushed his anger to an entirely different degree. He had gone through enough to have this perfect creature for himself and he was not about to stop here when the prize was so close. Reaching forward, Ares took Aphros by the hand and gave a suggestive tug in his direction. When Aphros failed to respond accordingly to the silent demand, Ares possessively tugged the beautiful love god into his arms in a single swift motion.
"Kind or not, I know it is not your wish to join with him." Ares spoke with an air of confidence and assuredness, as any god of his status would. Aphros was too taken with the stare Ares was giving him that he had nearly forgotten his own name. The tight strength of the arms holding him was nearly enough to make Aphros plead for Ares to take him away. Could it be that he was the reason behind the actions of Ares? Possibly even the sudden demand for aide from Hephaestus as well?
"My lord, I—"
"I will hear nothing further about your misplaced concern for that wretched man. I have gone through a great deal of trouble to find out about you and your situation here, and I must say that I am appalled by it. I see the way you look at me and how you respond to my presence...why must you be dishonest with me and hide your true feelings?" Ares never once let his hold on Aphros waver as he finished speaking, but instead, he simply turned from the courtyard with eyes ablaze. "We are leaving, my love." Not knowing what else he could do, Aphros obeyed and allowed Ares to remove him from the palace.
The one thing Ares knew that Aphros did not was their final destination: the same place where they were once able to steal a brief moment of glorious freedom together.