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Slash and Yaoi Fiction
Title: The Eagle, the Bull...
Author: Juxian Tang
Fandom: Hercules/Xena
Pairing: Zeus/Ganymede
Rating: NC-17
Archive: yes
Feedback: juxiantang@hotmail.com
URL: http://juxian.slashcity.net
Warning: non-consensual underage sex. Okay, everyone sees the warning?
Summary: Hercules kills Zeus. Ganymede is free to go.

THE EAGLE, THE BULL...

I knew he was dead when the floor trembled under me and the flames of the candles that never stopped burning before went out, as if a long breath of cold put them all away. And then there was silence and darkness.

After a while I got up and walked to the door, probing my way by touch. Smooth and carved surfaces my hands met were so familiar that I had no trouble finding the direction. The door was locked; his death that made the whole place shiver like a man released from a long agony, didn't take off the seals on the doors. Partly I expected it; partly I knew that I had nowhere to go all the same.

There was some food and water he'd left for me before going - but even though I tried to be sparing with it, it still ran out sooner than I wanted it to. So, when they came - maybe, three or four days later - I already felt quite weak.

I didn't hear them enter - but the light of the lamps and candles hit in my eyes and made me blink in fear. And when I could see, they were already here. Gold flashed from Athena's helmet and hair - and in comparison with her Ares looked defiantly dark in his black leather. They both were impressive, Zeus' children - big, strong and beautiful - but, standing in the middle of their father's hall, they looked somehow diminished; frail and almost childish. And, maybe, it was how they felt, too - because for a few moments they just stood silently, looking up and around at the polished marble, gold and mirrors of Zeus' interior.

It was Athena who regained composure first and walked around, as if measuring the room with her steps.

"I think it would be a waste to demolish this place just because father is dead." Her voice, usually non-melodic, sounded especially flat - but there was no note of indecisiveness in it. "He doesn't need us to cherish his memory by destroying it. I can live here; after I re-furnish it, of course. Surely, every god or goddess will be able to take anything they want from here."

"If you say that, sister." Ares' words were respectful but his tone was not and Athena seemed to choose to ignore it rather than didn't notice. "As for me, I don't want anything from here."

"Well, then the objects that no one claims will be annihilated," she said coldly - but not so coldly as she looked at me at last. They both seemed just to notice I was standing in front of them. Or, maybe, they really just did.

"Looks like here is one object no one is going to claim," Ares said with a chortle. Athena's icy gaze, brief and unkind, slid over him and then returned to me. She had this ability to look and at the same time make me feel that I didn't exist. But probably it was true.

"I want this whore gone - as the sooner the better. His presence on Olympus is an insult for all of us. Father could've indulged his vices - but now I want this place pure."

"Well said, sister." Two short claps Ares made sounded like cracking of a branch. "New broom sweeps clean. What are we going to do with him?"

"Is it such a problem?" Athena's long eyebrows rose in deliberate surprise as she made a short motion, like brushing dust off of a table. I swallowed hard, imagining how long it would take to fall from Olympus. I could only wish to be lucky enough to be dead before I hit the ground. I felt Ares' eyes on me - cool, slightly curious - and met his gaze steadily. I hadn't expected mercy from him or from Athena. And I was not going to fight.

"What?" Athena seemed to sense something in Ares' pause.

"He is immortal, isn't he?"

"Not any more." I heard her words like through a thick cloth as she raised her hands and the threads of blue tugged into her palms from my body. I ended up on the floor, coughing and clutching my belly; it hadn't hurt half this much when Zeus had given me immortality. "Get rid of him, Ares." Athena didn't raise her voice but it was clear she wouldn't allow disobedience. "Spare me from this... thing. Now."

"Yes sir." She was already at the door and Ares said it in sotto voce, so, I didn't know if she heard sarcastic notes in his voice; but even if she did, she didn't stop.

I got back on my feet at last and stood waiting. Ares walked around the room, touching various objects, took one or two in his hands and inspected them, shaking his head skeptically.

"So damn flashy. No wonder I always got a headache after a few hours here."

He was right - my master had loved colors. Rich ones - blue and scarlet and gold. He had loved beautiful things. He used to tell me: //"I am a collector. If I see something I like, I have to own that."// I didn't know if Ares had any idea how precious most of the things were here; nor it was my concern if he did.

He had a mechanical fan in his hands, designed specially for Zeus and for Hera by Hephaestus - and when Ares spoke, at the first moment it almost escaped me that me was talking to me.

"Don't worry. I'll do it quickly."

"Whatever," I whispered. I'd handled enough pain before; I surely could stand some more. But my chin started trembling - and no matter how I struggled, tears ran from my eyes.

I didn't want to die. It didn't make sense: so many times I had begged Zeus to let me die - and now, when I could have it, I didn't want to. Not when he was dead, when I was free from him at last...

"Don't you start *this* on me!" Suddenly Ares was furious - and I realized he was glaring at me. I blinked tears away and then my vision became blurry again when new tears came running; but I had time to see Ares' expression - disgusted and at the same time confused.

Don't pay attention, I wanted to say, just do it - but my lips were jumping so hard that I couldn't make out a word.

"For Fates' sake." His voice was irritated and somehow uncomfortable. "How old were you when Zeus picked you up?"

"Eleven," I said. I still looked eleven, hadn't changed a tiny bit for all those centuries. But inside I was not a child any more; I knew it - and Ares knew it, too. He could've recalled for how long he'd seen me during the dinners on Olympus, as Zeus' cup-bearer, or in Zeus' bed when my master chose to handle the business not interrupting the pleasure.

Ares looked at me - a narrow, dark gaze - and I noticed he was nibbling on his lower lip. I wiped my nose and eyes with my palms, trying to re-acquire some dignity. It was when he turned away in annoyance, muttering:

"What does she think, that I am an executioner or what?"

He seemed not to notice that the fan slipped out of his hands - but his boot landed on it unmistakably, crushing the delicate mechanism. I couldn't take my eyes away from the pieces of gold and ivory on the shining marble - and when I looked up at last, Ares was right in front of me.

"If I don't kill you - you can't stay on Olympus all the same."

He was so tall - when he was close like that I could see nothing but him, his chest in clinging leather, a silver pendant on his neck, dark curls falling on his shoulders - and a scowl on his face.

"I don't want to stay on Olympus," I said.

"And what am I supposed to do with you?"

"Let me go."

I felt blood throb in my temples painfully as I said that. I thought about all those times I asked for that... I even asked Ares, once, I didn't know if he remembered. But, maybe, now I could get it.

"Go where?"

"Go home," I said.

"And where is your home?"

"It's called Agrimathon. It's a village."

I saw his eyes get thoughtful, like he was trying to recall something.

"Agrimathon... I don't think I heard about this place."

I suddenly felt dizzy with premonition.

"It's a village on the sea-coast. You had to hear about it. You know all places in Greece, don't you?"

I shouldn't have insisted but I couldn't help it. To my surprise, instead of putting me on my place, Ares seemed to think again and then passed his hand in the air, creating a half-transparent picture. I knew what it was, had seen Zeus doing it; the map of Greece. For a few moments Ares looked at it, frowning, and then snapped his fingers.

"Ah, here. You see, kid..." His voice trailed away - but I continued to look where he looked - and saw nothing but a wide semi-circle of the sea eating deep into the land. "Now I recall. The sea swallowed this place. Let me think... some couple hundred years ago."

"No." I felt my fingernails enter deeply into my palms and I clenched my fists until I stopped feeling them. "It is not true! Zeus promised me... My village became big, became rich - because it was where he found me! He said it was blessed because of me! He said they remembered me, passed my name from generation to generation because I was the one who warranted their prosperity. He said they didn't forget me - so that I would be able to go back there, one day..."

Ares snorted; it was an answer good enough - if only I could think calm enough to understand it. I couldn't; I made a few steps, hectic, stumbling against the couch and the low table. I was not going anywhere, I just couldn't stand still. Ares waited silently, his arms folded on his chest.

At last I regained some control.

"Then you probably should kill me."

"Is it what you really want?"

"I don't know what I really want," I said.

"I can take you down to the Earth - and there you can have your way."

"Yes," I said. "Thank you. I want it."

He touched my shoulder, his palm warm and hard - and then the world disintegrated around me. And when it reassembled, I was not in Zeus' palace any more - but on the green grass, under some green trees, with the empty road not far away behind Ares.

A gust of warm wind hit in my face and I raised my hands, shielding from it. Ares' eyes widened in surprise and annoyance.

"What's up?"

"It..." At last I understood. "It smells."

"Smells like mortality, huh?"

I didn't smile; I couldn't think about anything but the smells. So many times in all those years I tried to recall how something smelled and never could - and now recognition came back to me effortlessly: the fresh, bitter smell of the stomped grass under our feet, honey and spice of the blossoming flowers - and far away, brackish tang of the sea.

"I'll go to the sea," I said.

"If it makes you happy." He sounded uninterested but he kept looking at me, like he tried to figure out something.

"It does."

"I don't think you'll survive long enough to get disappointed with life." Ares shook his head. "So, perhaps it would be a mercy to finish you quickly. Alone, without any skills... and a fuckin' kid! It's going to be hard on you. However, if to think about it, you have... some skills, so to say," he added. I felt blood rush to my face.

"No, I don't," I said levelly. He contemplated me for a few moments.

"Well, then. You know I would send you to one of my temples to serve me - but you don't look like you'll make a good warrior."

"I am not sure I want to be a warrior anyway," I said.

"And who do you want to be?" He sounded like he couldn't quite believe he continued this conversation.

"I wanted to be a carpenter. Make something with my hands." I smiled apologetically, knowing how ridiculous it sounded.

"Okay," Ares shrugged. "Let's imagine I wish you good luck with it."

And when I thought everything was said, he seemed to recall something and I saw him pass his hand along my body. For a moment I couldn't understand what felt so weird - and then realized I was dressed. And there was a solid staff in my hand.

"It looks like you're going to have a long walk." He snapped his fingers and handed me a few heavy coins. "It probably will spare you trouble, at least during the first time."

I was mesmerized with the feeling of the material against my skin - and the coins were of the kind I'd never seen before - and when I looked up to thank Ares, he was already gone.

I was alone - and free. I put the coins in the inside pocket of my vest and walked towards the road, hitting the ground with the staff.

* * *

Till dusk I managed to reach a small village between two stretches of forest. The staff certainly made walking easier but even like that my feet in the sandals were blistered and bleeding and when I stupidly tried to walk barefoot, the little stones under my soles quickly proved it impossible.

I liked it; I liked to know that every little thing that hurt me, the sun that made me hot and sweaty, my painfully empty stomach - all those things were just the facts of life, not inflicted by someone's will. And no one had a power or wish to make me suffer more or to spare me.

I followed the sound of running water and found a creek where I drank at last. Somewhere downstream, women's voice sounded and I went there until I saw them rinsing their linen.

For a second, seeing them, I panicked, thought that I didn't know how to talk to them. I hadn't talked to a mortal for centuries; what if they didn't understand me?

I asked if I could reach the sea, walking this direction, and they smiled to me, quite politely, and said that yes, I could - but not within one day. I sucked on my lip wondering what I was supposed to do now - and then one of them said:

"There is an inn in the village where you can get a place to sleep if you have some money."

"I do," I said.

"You travel alone?" another asked. "Aren't you too young for that?"

"I am older than I look," I smiled to her and went where they pointed.

The inn was small but cozy. I paid for supper and a room upstairs just with one coin from those Ares had given me.

At night I felt as if I was not alone in the bed. It was dark in the room - and I could feel a hot bulky body next to me, shifting and turning. And even without looking, even before a hand reached to me, I knew it was him - Zeus - back with me. Ready to claim me as his own again.

And a moment before I woke up with a strangled cry, in a paradoxical way that is inherent to dreams, I could see him clearly in the darkness - his beautiful, bright-colored face - ruddy cheeks, golden hair and beard, blue eyes - and pink lips bared his teeth in a cruel smile as he looked down at me.

"You are dead," I whispered - and he answered, in his deep, indulgent voice that he used when he wanted to be charming:

"Did you think it would make you safe from me? Even death will never do us part, my Ganymede."

I rolled off the bed, kicking away the blanket, and stood in front of the open window, gulping the fresh, cool air and listening to the song of cicadas.

It was just a dream; I knew it - he couldn't really come back to me. He was not going to rise from the dead. And then I thought, in a fit of blind panic, what if he waited for me there, in the Underworld - waited for me to die? So that he could meet me there - and then I wouldn't ever be able to escape from him again.

I looked at the bright starry sky above me - the sky that mortals could see every night and probably thought it was where the gods lived. I didn't know - maybe, it was where I had lived for so long. The sky, the moon, the dawn - the gods and goddesses that other mortals could pray to - and whom I knew and saw and talked to - and who never listened to me.

I had no one to pray to. But I knelt in front of the window and closed my eyes - and wished - not asking anyone concretely - but to some other force that, maybe, was there. Please, please let me go. Leave some place in me that still was whole, still was untouched by him.

And it seemed to me I heard Zeus' voice, harsh and mocking, saying:

"There is nothing whole in you. Nothing where I didn't touch."

* * *

My mother was a religious woman; or it was what she used to say. My father always teased her that she just liked what *she* could do for gods, not gods themselves. Perhaps it was true. Our village was not big enough to have a temple of any god or goddess - but we had altars for almost everyone. And my mother prided herself on how well and aptly she could decor every one of them. She embroidered linen with lush pink roses for Aphrodite and painted pictures of fat yellow pumpkins and green eggplants for Demeter. She didn't dare to make donations for male gods but she nagged on the village's smith until he forged some shiny pointed thing for Ares or she bought something exceptional for Poseidon from a passing trader.

When I was little, she used to take me with herself when she went to talk to the gods and wanted me to talk to them, too. I think a few times she played a god herself, eavesdropping and fulfilling some wish of mine. I bet she could never imagine how imminent the godly intervention in my life would be.

I remember that day clearly - to a certain point: hot, bright sun, the heavy stuffed ball my friends and I were kicking. And then just blur - and the ground going far away from me; and frightened cries below, and a huge winged shadow above me.

Some time later, I was on the firm ground again, standing in the middle of an opulent room - but still incoherent, sure that I was dying or dead. There was a blond long-haired man in front of me, looking down at me with blue eyes, so cold and hard that I seemed to choke under this gaze.

"Do you know who I am, child?" he asked.

"G-g-god." This much I understood. He smiled approvingly and stroked his beard.

"Zeus, the King of Gods. Do you understand that everything and everyone in the world belong to me?"

Later I sometimes thought that it all could have been different. I was scared - but I was excited, too - wondered what Zeus - Zeus himself! - could want from me. And if he hadn't been in such a haste then, talked to me some... But I also knew that it couldn't have been different; because Zeus didn't care for doing it different. He wanted it the way he did it.

"I watched you," he said. "Did you know that? I wanted you from the first moment I saw you, four days ago. You were swimming in the sea, with other boys, remember? You are the prettiest thing I've ever seen." And while I tried to figure out what it all meant, he flicked his fingers and my clothes disappeared. "Yes, that's much better. That's how I want to see you, Ganymede, from now on. No, don't cover yourself. Don't you dare to do it!"

He made a step towards me and something pushed in my chest heavily, without him touching me. I toppled backwards - but there was a bed behind me, a bed that hadn't been there a moment before. He looked down at me, smiling, and his light eyes looked weird with the huge, pulsing pupils. He moved closer and put his knee between my legs - and then leaned over me, one of his hands holding my face and the other sliding over my chest, thumb rubbing against my nipple. His words became hasty and slurry, almost incomprehensible:

"I waited for you for too long. I can't wait any more. Don't make it difficult for me."

Later he said I'd driven him mad, that he couldn't control himself, couldn't think about any preparation. Sometimes I almost believed him; till he reminded me that, calm and calculated, he could be the same bad or worse than in a lust-besotted state.

I didn't make it difficult for him; how did he imagine it? Me putting a fight that could slow him down? He pushed his hand between my thighs and yanked my leg up and aside, opening me. The position was inconvenient, with his own weight hindering him - and it probably made him angry, made him apply more force than necessary. I screamed when the ligaments in my groin tore. It angered him, too.

"Shut up! Don't you like what I am doing?" He slapped me. It felt like something exploded in my head. I gasped and choked and thrashed involuntarily - and he slapped me again, settling between my legs, pressing down so hard that I thought my bones would snap. I didn't notice it when his clothes were gone, just knew that I could feel the heat of his bare flesh against mine.

"I dreamed about filling this little ass of yours," he whispered, leaning to me, his lips nibbling on my cheekbone, first gently and clamping harder as he got carried away. "I'll stuff you fuller than you can imagine it; you'll forget about anything but my cock inside you."

But I didn't forget - even when tearing pain took away my breath. The burning, overwhelming agony of his cock pushing its way inside me was unspeakable. Yet on the periphery of my mind I still could recognize other things - his teeth on my mouth, his hands roaming wildly over my body, pinching and tugging. And his weight on me, inhumanly huge, that made me fight for every breath - and I was not sure how long I would be able to do it.

He pushed and pushed into me, pulling me closer to himself at the same time - and I wondered half-coherently how agony like that could last so long. I was hurt worse than ever in my life. He kissed me. His arms wrapped around me, cradling me, crushing me in the embrace. I felt his tongue in my mouth and my blood as he bit me.

"You taste so good," he said. "Salty blood, salty tears - and yet sweet." But at the next moment he got angry again. "Don't look like this at me! As if you are dying! You are not going to die!"

He made his hand in a fist and slammed it in my face. I saw red and black; he still looked at me when my vision cleared - intent, fascinated gaze.

"You silly ungrateful mortal. You can't even appreciate when Zeus pays attention to you."

He pulled out of me; it felt like he was pulling my insides out together with his cock - but even that was not so bad as him slamming back again. I didn't know if I screamed; but even though I was not quite lucid, I also don't think I ever passed out. He kept thrusting - until pain rose beyond the point of being survivable, as his movements became wild and erratic - and my pelvic bones started crushing under his weight. He froze; I didn't feel him coming inside me - even though later he made me say that I did and loved it.

He rested on me for a while - and I was slipping away into unconsciousness. It was when he yanked me down to the floor and pushed his limp cock to my lips. There was shit on it - and so much blood that I thought dumbly how I could bleed so much and still live.

He broke my jaw pushing his cock in - and not because I struggled him; I was just too incoherent to figure out what he wanted from me. He shoved his cock past my lips unimpeded - and it made a soft slurping sound in the blood that filled my mouth. The head of his cock swelled against my tongue - and in seconds he was hard, thrusting into my throat - all the way until he came.

I remembered choking on his come and how some of it leaked from my nose - and then I must've blacked out - because next thing I remember I was in bed, with blood still seeping out of me and nothing in my body feeling whole. Zeus stood over me, waiting until I looked up at him. And when I thrashed in fear, seeing him, he raised his hands and blue lightnings ran over my body. The pain stopped.

"Here, child." Zeus smiled pleasantly and folded his arms. "Everything is neat and clean again."

I didn't hurt any more but I was cold. I didn't dare reach for the sheet to cover myself and just curled tightly. He sat on the bed next to me, his expression so benign that somehow I managed to believe he didn't want to hurt me any more.

"Can I go home now, please?" I asked. "I won't tell anyone, I promise."

"You want home? You are so sweet," he cooed and started settling in the bed, behind me, wrapping his body around mine. "Little silly frail mortal child. Don't you want here to be your home now? I'll be your father..."

"I want home," I whispered dumbly and felt tears trickle down my cheeks. I knew he was going to be mad with me for crying - but I couldn't help it. He leaned to me and I felt him lick away my tears.

"You are such a cute little boy," he whispered in my ear. "Look what you have done. I am hard again... How can I let you go when you do this to me?"

After he came again and healed my injuries, he fell asleep in the same position, behind me, with his arms around me, holding me against his chest.

I didn't sleep. It was when a thought came to my mind. It was not Zeus; it couldn't be. He might've turned into an eagle and he'd made me whole again. But still it couldn't be Zeus. Zeus was different - strong and kind and noble. This one was an impostor. Some other god, a bad one, who just pretended that he was Zeus, just tried to deceive me.

This thought gave me strength to move. Trying to be as quiet as possible, I slid out of his arms and sneaked towards the door. I wanted my clothes back - but they were nowhere, so, I decided it was not a priority.

The place was huge. I walked through the rooms, beautiful and wealthy, and when I passed the doors, there was just another room in front of me. I walked for so long that it seemed to me I had been in some of these rooms before. Then I saw the doors that were closed and thought that it was what I needed. I ran there - and when I was just in a few steps from them, Zeus appeared in front of me.

"Going somewhere, Ganymede? Without saying good-bye to your new father?"

You are not my father, I thought, and you are not the King of Gods.

"Oh, am I not?" At the first moment I didn't realize he was reading my thoughts. "Well, maybe, this will prove it to you."

A blast of hot wind swirled around me, singeing my eyelashes. I could feel the heat - but this time I was not hurt.

"Or this?" He sent a bolt right under my feet, making the pieces of marble fountain in the air, a sharp sliver cutting my cheek. "Or this?" Suddenly he was gone - and there was a raging bull instead of him, digging the floor with his hooves. The bulls' blood-shot eyes looked at me - and with as little similarity as there was, I still recognized the pulsing, black stare that I had seen when Zeus fucked me. The bull lowered his head - and I heard a voice, not coming from him but sounding somewhere above me, from everywhere. "Now do you recognize me?"

I didn't have time to answer - and I couldn't say a word anyway - when the bull moved on me and I realized I couldn't move, spread and fixed on some strange metal frame that held me down and held my legs open wide apart...

* * *

In the morning I asked the inn-keeper's wife for a knife and cropped my hair short. Zeus liked me to wear it shoulder-blade long - and it was the only hair I was allowed to have. He enjoyed my body marble-smooth. It was probably going to change soon. I rubbed my forearms and felt that the hairs were going to come through soon. Good. It meant I was real - again.

I was not sure how successful I was in hair-cutting but the inn-keeper's wife gave me a weird, half-pitying look, so, I figured I could've done better. Not that I cared. I asked for the direction and started, hoping to make some way before real heat came.

I was on the outskirts of the village when a stuffed ball rolled to my feet. For a moment I froze, flooded with memories, unable to fight nausea - and then I saw a couple of boys who ran up to me.

"Hey, toss it back, what are you waiting for?" one of them shouted and I understood slowly he was talking to me.

He was about my height and probably the age I had been when Zeus took me away. He watched, a little defiantly, as I picked up the ball - like he would look at any stranger boy. The ball was shabby and heavy and I realized with surprise that it was one of very few things that didn't look different from what I knew. I threw it to the boy and he caught it on his knee and kicked farther to his partner. They both turned and ran away and I continued to stand, shocked almost mute with the simplicity of all that.

I would never do what they do, I thought suddenly. Even if they agreed to take me into their game. For all those years with Zeus, I thought that one day I would go back to a normal life - and I would catch all those things I missed. I would play, I would make friends again, I would learn... I would live, just given a chance.

Now I had a chance - and I felt I couldn't break something that set me apart from everyone I met. Like I was dead inside.

"You can't do this to me," I whispered, turning and walking away from the village. "After everything else - not this."

I almost could hear my master's dry laughter in reply to that.

* * *

I think it was the second or third day I spent at Zeus' place. There was no change of day and night and I was not sure Zeus, being a god, really needed sleep. But I dozed a couple of times, once in bed with Zeus and once, when he was away, on the floor in the corner.

He fed me and gave me some wine.

"I bet you never imagined you'd eat from Zeus' hands. Other mortals would kill for a chance like that. But you... you are so thankless. So narrow-minded. You don't deserve my attention. I really don't know why I bother with you."

Zeus was in some other room and I stayed in the big hall when the doors slammed open and a tall dark-bearded man walked in. He seemed to know what he wanted, his eyes just scanned the room briefly - and then widened slightly as he saw me.

By that moment I was already beyond clear thinking. I even stopped begging Zeus to let me go - I knew he wouldn't. But this man... he was not Zeus. Maybe, he could help me. Maybe, he could save me.

I dropped on my knees in front of him, startling him away as I caught his hands and kissed his rings.

"Please, my Lord, get me out of here. Please let me go home! Please help me."

He pushed me away; I don't think he wanted to do it violently, just wanted to free his hands - and I landed on my ass ungracefully.

"Who the fuck are you, kid?"

"I..." I started - and then he looked at me more attentively and his mouth twitched.

"Oh yes, I see."

"What is it you see, Ares?"

The voice made me flinch. Zeus was behind me - and there was nowhere to go - and I pressed to Ares' knees instinctively, as if trying to meld myself into him.

"Please..."

He shook me away like I was a kitten and stepped over me, walking towards Zeus. His voice sounded constrained as he spoke:

"You like them really young, don't you? What will be next? Old enough to walk - old enough to fuck? "

He looked angry - and yet there was no fear or worry in my master's face - and I already knew somehow everything was in vain. Zeus was the King of Gods; who could argue with him?

"You have something to say, Ares? Say away - just watch your mouth. I don't think you want me slam you into the wall in front of this mortal."

I saw Ares linger on the spot - and Zeus' smile became a little bit wider, a little bit more triumphal.

"Not so determined any more, huh? Good. He isn't worth it, Ares, believe me - isn't worth you spoiling our relations... that are not so stellar as they are."

"You could find someone willing." Ares' voice was very tight - but the heat was gone from it. Zeus laughed, tossing his head back.

"Someone else? You are joking. Do you really think I can find someone better? At least in this generation. Ganymede, come here, child." I got up and walked to him and he put his hand on my shoulder, turning me around. "He is damn nearly perfect, isn't he? Look at this hair, these lips..." He pressed his thumb to my mouth and I knew what he wanted, he had trained me that, so, I sucked on it. "I've never fucked anything tighter than his ass."

Ares looked bored; displeased, too. His eyes wandered above me.

"Find a five-year old - I bet he will be even tighter."

"Don't blame me." Zeus suddenly talked kindly, almost ingratiatingly. "Try him - and you'll understand me."

"I am not in the mood." Ares' voice came out pretty flat.

"Then let's put it off till later." All affability was gone from Zeus' tone, just business-like briskness stayed. "What brought you to me, son?"

Zeus pushed me away, so hard that I landed on my knees - and when I looked up, they already walked to another room. I stayed in my corner all the time while they talked and as a few hours later Ares walked back, he seemed to already forget about my existence.

I expected a suitable punishment for my insolence - but it ended up better than it might. Zeus teased me about trying to set his own son against him - and then said:

"You know you are even more fun than I thought you'd be, my Ganymede. I probably would like to keep you longer than I planned. And I'd like to keep you the way you are now."

I didn't have time to get scared when blue light from his hands entered me - and I could feel an impossible thing - as if the little cells of my body were changing, encapsulating, freezing in this state.

"Now I won't need to worry to kill you by accident," he said contentedly when I stopped gasping. "It's not like you won't bleed - you just won't die."

He was right. I tumbled through a few more days before I brought myself to cutting my veins - and a moment before the darkness was going to sweep me, the gashes healed and I stayed in the pool of my blood, alive and whole.

And some days later, after Zeus had brought me off and I'd come, over his hand and my belly, he kissed me and whispered:

"You see, I knew you'd like it. I always knew. I noticed it in you at the same moment as I saw you. Do you think why I picked you up? I wouldn't if you didn't have it in yourself, my little pretty whore."

* * *

I still was at the creek, dangling my feet in the water, when two men joined me. They asked where I was going to and I said I was heading to the sea. They said they were going the same direction and didn't I want to join them. I said 'yes', gladly.

The way seemed much easier now, when there were three of us. They kept talking all the time, mostly the things I barely understood, something about dice and roulette. But they were also very amiable, asking me questions about my family and my home.

"My village is called Agrimathon," I said. Illogically, I hoped that they would say they knew it - but they just shook their heads and one of them, Rafe, said it must've been a small place and they preferred bigger ones, it was good for their business. I said my sister was called Galina and she expected her first child - and my father was a fisherman and my mother was good at making things out of scratch. They asked me where I had been and I said I visited my mother's cousin.

"He gave you nice clothes," Rafe's friend said.

At night we camped together and they made a fire - and Rafe showed the tricks with cards. I loved it. I could see how he was doing it, must've been a habit: gods could move much faster than people and I used to deal with it. But for a mortal, he was great.

Later he asked his friend to tell something - and the man started the stories. It was wonderful. Some stories about gods were about the events I witnessed but there was always something new in them. And some I had never known. He told about Xena who'd been a raider and became a defender of the poor and the weak. He said they'd met her - and Rafe's eyes became dreamy and sad. And he told about Hercules and his labors and about Dahak.

Then he said:

"Hercules killed Zeus, you know. I didn't think we would be able to do without Zeus... but you see - we do."

At the first moment I felt I couldn't breathe. Hercules... I didn't know. Sure, Zeus was dead, so, someone must've killed him. But no one told me it was Hercules.

"It can't be... He was Zeus' son! Zeus trusted him..." I knew I shouldn't have told that but I couldn't stop. "Zeus loved him!"

"But so it was."

I remembered the mirror in Zeus' hall - and how Zeus' face always slackened, became almost simpering as he looked at the handsome blue-eyed man in it. //"He looks so much like me, don't you think, Ganymede?"//

"He was afraid one of his sons would try to rebel against him! It was not supposed to be Hercules!"

They looked at me weirdly but I couldn't help it. I started crying, I didn't know why. I hadn't cried for a couple of centuries, thought I lost this ability at all - and now it looked like almost anything could trigger me. Must've been mortality thing.

It took me a long time to fall asleep this night. I was not afraid I would have the dream about Zeus next to me again; the truth was he was in my head even as I lay awake - talked to me, argued with me, complained about everyone betraying him, me being the only one who would always be his.

"I am no one's any more," I whispered and heard clearly his velvety, amused voice:

"You think so, Ganymede. You think so."

In the morning the fire was put out and my companions were gone. I thought I didn't blame them, after the tantrum I'd thrown yesterday. Then I checked my inside pocket and money was gone.

* * *

At first I was so angry I couldn't think straight. I slammed my fist into the ground until it started throbbing with pain. I thought about Ares' cruel words, that I possibly was not going to survive long enough to get disappointed with my freedom. Well, he surely was right - if I was going to stay this open-mouthed idiot and trust everyone around.

I wondered if it was possible to chase Rafe and Eldon and then realized that probably they even were not going to the sea. There was nothing I could do, so, I decided to forget it and keep going my way.

Zeus was of a different opinion about it.

"You see, my Ganymede, you can't pull it off alone. You always needed me, needed someone to take care of you. You just were too stubborn to thank me for that. I always was good to you, wasn't I? I defended you when Hera came to me complaining you replaced Hebe as my cup-bearer. I said you'd make a good one - and she had to swallow it, could do nothing else. I was always on your side. When all the others called you a whore, an abomination, I always stood by you. I would always protect you. I liked fucking you more than anyone else in my life - and don't tell me it didn't make you proud."

"Yes, it did," I said. They called me a bitch, other gods - but they also had to be careful with me, knew I could make Zeus forget about business right when they needed his undivided attention - or, on the contrary, attract his attention to their faults they wanted to cover. They came to me asking to say this or that to Zeus - and when was he more susceptible than ramming his cock up my ass? I made them beg me nicely - even the toughest of them had to fawn. I enjoyed feeling their hateful stares on me as I filled Zeus' cup during the dinner - and how they lowered their eyes first when I looked at them.

"You had a calling to be a whore, Ganymede. I just made you what you were supposed to be."

"Leave me alone," I said. "You can't talk to me. You are not here."

"I'll always be here," he promised. "Inside you."

By the evening I started having hunger pains. Filling my stomach with water didn't help this much. I knew I was almost near the sea - the salty, harsh smell of the seaweed and fish grew stronger. Yet as I walked through a village, almost in the dusk, the smell of food from the inn took the better of me.

"I can do some work if you give me something to eat," I asked the inn-keeper who looked at me with a lot of suspicion. I wondered if my clothes were too shabby and dusted or if I looked untrustworthy - and then he suddenly caught my hand and turned it palm up.

"You don't look like you can do any kind of work. Palms smooth like a baby's. You didn't work a lot in your life, did you?"

"I know what he surely can do!" A voice was behind me, half-drunk, and than a hand landed on my crotch. I whipped back - and looked in the widened, blood-shot eyes of a man in metal-studded leather. "Open your mouth for me and I'll buy you your supper, red-head."

He couldn't mean it. I felt the corner of my mouth tremble and tried to stay calm. It didn't matter what he said. It was not written on my face, that I was doing such things, that he could offer it to me...

There was a pause, like others in the inn also waited for my answer. I smiled pleasantly.

"If you don't care for your cock any more, put it between my teeth." I made a snapping sound and saw the man change in face. A few others chuckled.

The inn-keeper let me wash the dishes eventually and I got a plate of soup and a slice of bread for that. I ate sitting outside. The evening was very warm - and the smell of the sea was intolerably strong, tugging on me almost physically.

I asked whether the sea was a long way off as I gave the plate back.

"A couple of hours," the inn-keeper said. "You can stay in the shed for the night and go there in the morning."

"No," I said, "I am going now."

The moon was so bright that walking was the same easy as by day. I almost didn't feel tired. Two hours - and then I would sleep on the fine sand of the beach, listening to the rustle of the waves, like I used to when I had been at home.

Then the bushes next to me cracked and a dark shadow slammed into me. A gut-punch left me breathless. I tried to stop choking as the man pulled me away from the road, toppled me on the ground and threw himself on the top of me, catching my arms between us.

He was heavy, smelling sweat and cheap wine, and the studs on his clothes pressed against my chest. I thrashed, looking at the anger-twisted pace above and recognizing the one who wanted me to suck him off in the inn.

"You'd better have done it when I offered you money for it, fuckin' bitch. Now I am going to take it for free!"

I writhed under him; I was not his match by strength - but I hoped to slide out of his grip - and then he wouldn't catch me.

"Stop fighting, slut, don't piss me off! I am going to pump you full of my seed and you can do nothing about it!"

"Fuck you."

It was not going to happen. Not again.

He didn't like me talking back; he backhanded me, using his gauntlet, and I felt my mouth fill with blood and it was such a sharp reminder that I felt helpless, panic-stricken.

"You'll suck my dick first," his fingers sank into my mouth, tugging the corner so roughly that I felt it tear. I managed to free one hand and tried to hit him - and he slammed my head against the ground. My vision hazed. "Then I'll fuck your ass until you bleed like a duck. And then I'll shove your staff so far inside you that you'll feel it in your throat."

He fumbled with his pants, trying to free his cock from under the leather. The delay made him furious. He hit me again. His eyes, black and wide, glared at me from above.

I knew these eyes. It couldn't be...

//"Now do you recognize me?"// The man's lips didn't move - but I heard the voice all the same. The voice of the bull - of my master - of Zeus. //"You are not going anywhere from me, Ganymede. Not ever."//

The man punched me in my side and I felt something tear inside me. Blood rose, hot and salty, in my mouth - and that was when anger overwhelmed me. I was not going to die! Here, just a few steps away from my home, to die like that - after everything I had been through...

It was just a drunk, lousy mercenary, not my master, not the King of Gods. Zeus was dead, he couldn't hurt me any more. This man was mortal. *I* could hurt him.

I groped on the ground, looking for my staff. It had to be somewhere there. But what I found was a piece of flat, sharp shell; we were really close to the sea. I gripped it and, when he sank his teeth in my lips, slashed against his throat.

He jerked. At the first moment he didn't seem to understand what hurt him. He looked down at me in rage and started cursing - and only gurgling sounds came. A wide flow of his blood poured on my face.

Then he understood. He forgot about fighting, got on his knees, covering the gaping wound on his neck, trying to stop the bleeding - and his eyes as he looked at me were pleading; like I could help him, like I could change something. I scrambled up on my knees, letting the bloody shell go. It took just a few moments for everything to end. He fell, face down, on the blood-soaked ground.

I threw up. I couldn't stop heaving, looking at him. He was dead... I killed him. I smelled blood, his and my own, and the thought that turned in my mind was - if I really needed to do it; if I couldn't wound him some less, not mortally, to make him get away from me. I asked myself if his death was preventing him from doing to me what I had tolerated for centuries.

I didn't know. He was dead. I stood up eventually and dusted my clothes. They were soaked in blood - and my face and hands were sticky, drying blood tugging on the skin slightly.

In silence I could hear the soft splashing of the waves. I walked there until I saw the sea.

There were fishermen's nets hanging on the posts on the beach - but no one was around. I entered the water and walked until it reached my chest. Then I ducked, washing blood from my skin and clothes. The salt stung on the cuts and gashes that the man's studs and fists left on me but I didn't care. I rubbed my face and hands until I was sure they were clean - and then I lay face up on the water and let myself float.

The sea... The world of Poseidon, my master's brother. And the path of silver on it was made by Selena, the moon. They had known me; they probably could see me now - if they recognized or remembered me. But I felt safe. No one cared for me. I was free.

It was the only thing that really mattered - I was free.

"Two days. Two fuckin' days." I heard the voice through the splashing of waves and turned, landing on my feet. Ares was at the edge of the water, watching carefully for the waves not to lick his boots. "It took you just this long to lose you blood innocence."

"Yeah," I said. "A whore and a murderer now."

"I thought you wouldn't survive this long - but now I start thinking I was wrong about you. You whacked him pretty admirably, you know."

"He didn't give me much choice, okay?" I said. I thought suddenly that the man must've been one of Ares' worshippers. It hardly made Ares happy to lose him.

"Never mind." He was apparently doing the mind-reading thing. "He was an annoying bastard and I am sure no one is going to mourn him. I wonder what you are going to do. After you soak in the sea all you want."

"Go somewhere else," I said.

"Well, maybe, you'll decide to go to some of my temples? I just thought I might change my mind about you. You possibly can make a warrior, after all. Or a spy. War needs many skills."

"Thank you," I said. "I'll think about it."

THE END

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