Ares scanned the contents of his dread throne room. Each element seemed to be in place, and yet he was positive that Aphrodite left something of hers behind the last time she’d whisked herself away in a hot pink, strawberry-scented cloud. Something was tugging at him and making him feel rather sentimental, and, being the God of War and not some doe-eyed poet, Ares could only conclude that Aphrodite had blighted his home with some foul, love-sotted charm.
Beginning his circuit at the smoldering pyre at one end of his smoky hall, Ares trod the scarred marble floor in an evenly measured pace. His eyes flicked over the blackness in search of a telltale bit of pink, or perhaps even more insidious, of tarnished silver or age-darkened ivory, something that might easily be overlooked among the moldering bones and the weapons they once brandished.
The slut was cunning, that was for sure. She would flit around him, breathing creamy sighs, speaking of this and that and nothing at all until he’d completely tuned her out, and then the next thing he knew he’d agreed to wage war on Sparta, all because the queen said she had prettier hair than Aphrodite. The looks on the Spartan soldiers’ faces had been quite disturbing as Delphi’s forces mowed them down -- so disturbing, in fact, that he’d rutted away the memories of their wide eyes and gaping mouths between his sister’s legs.
Cupid was born nine months later. Perhaps he was the goal after all, and not the slaughter of the queen with the hair.
As he scowled at the memory of Sparta being slaughtered by the effete forces of Delphi, Ares’ eye settled on a garnet that shone from the pommel of an intricately worked sword dangling from a hook on the wall. Perhaps Aphrodite had hidden something red among his things, something the color of blood and shame and a pulsing, wet heart. Finding such a talisman would be most difficult in the Halls of War, and so that cunning bitch had probably got the better of Ares yet again.
Wary of promising anything to Aphrodite in regards to the mortals since the Spartan incident, Ares began to pay better attention whenever she whispered in his ear, and thus extricated himself from many an unplanned battle for years afterward. So pleased was he with himself for finally learning her game, Ares blundered right into her trap when she’d murmured something about his daughter.
Hermes had been sniffing around Alcippe lately, Aphrodite said as she twirled a pink-tinged daisy between her fingertips. The girl was only twelve, but perhaps she was mature enough for her age to go along with Hermes so that he wouldn’t have to force her...
It was most embarrassing to find out that Hermes had never even heard of Alcippe. In Ares’ rage with Aphrodite over encouraging him to accost his brother in an apoplectic fit, he whisked himself into the halls of love, bellowing and smashing, and rending her pink gossamer chiton into ribbons.
Nine months later, Anteros was born. Aphrodite said that Cupid looked bored and needed a playmate.
And so Ares knew there had to be some sort of new plot underway, some reason that Aphrodite had shown herself in Ares’ hall that he needed only to decipher. Was Anteros bored now? That was doubtful; he and Cupid were the whole world to one another. Maybe Aphrodite wanted a daughter for a change.
“Who knows?” Ares snarled, prodding through the crisped remains of bovine organs that ringed the oily fire. She could simply tell him if she wanted a baby, of course. Hephaestus would be livid, but who could blame her for wanting her brood to be as strong and handsome as possible?
It wasn’t a child she wanted this time -- Ares felt fairly confident of that. It seemed more like she’d been trying to set him up with someone, the more deeply he analyzed their conversation. At least the bits of it that he remembered. He’d been so busy trying to determine if she was herding him into another war he didn’t want that he hadn’t really paid attention to her meaning overall.
Dragging a black bearskin to his throne of bone and gristle, Ares arranged the pelt upon the seat so that its fearsome, toothy head was displayed attractively and then sprawled upon the fur, tapping his fingers on the skeletal throne arm.
“It’s like, totally gnarly when someone finds someone, y’know, who, like, shares their interests,” she’d said. Aphrodite was on some kind of mutual admiration kick, bragging about how well she’d matched this or that mortal, nymph or godling together with someone who helped them -- what was it? Blossom, or some other repulsive word.
Unfortunately, since Ares was looking for hints of jealousy and subterfuge, he’d quickly discarded what had turned out to be the meat of her conversation. Was he supposed to be someone’s one true love? Someone married, maybe? Someone whose spouse was going to try to kick his ass?
Well, let them try, Ares thought with a smug nod. He was always up for a skirmish. And what if Aphrodite was speaking of herself, of her and Ares? He could take Hephaestus, he thought. His brother might have been a challenge if he weren’t a cripple, but even with the most glorious weapon in the world (which surely he’d be brandishing) he was no match for Ares.
Ares’ tongue skimmed his lips as he struggled to recall anything else Aphrodite said that would allow him to unravel her plans. “Birds of a feather flock together,” she’d sung.
No, wait. Wouldn’t she have said, “Opposites attract,” if she were angling to run off with Ares? Damn. He thought he was so close, but now her modus operandi was as cloudy as ever.
Though Ares shifted and lounged this way and that, he found he wasn’t quite comfortable, even with the heavy pelt between him and his gristly throne. He still felt the tiny tug of whatever it was that Aphrodite had cursed him with, and apparently the niggling annoyance made him restless.
“Whatever,” he sighed, slinking from his chair to his bonfire and around the nefarious hall yet again. Irritated and bored, Ares willed himself to one of his temples, hoping to take his mind off Aphrodite’s perplexing visit.
Typically, Ares found a handful of worshippers in one of his many temples at any given time, and more if there was a war in progress. While his followers weren’t many in number, as perhaps could be said of some of his siblings’, they were at least ubiquitous.
It was with some surprise that Ares found his shrine in Thrace laden with grapes and coins and the loin of a freshly slaughtered ox. How odd, he thought, with Thrace at peace, that someone should go through all the trouble.
His curiosity piqued, Ares rifled through the minds of the soldiers present until he found the reason for the huge spread. The soldiers’ memories unfurled neatly, showing their Lieutenant being wickedly mauled during a routine drill. The Lieutenant survived what looked to be a horrific gut wound, and for some reason Ares got the credit. Once he’d soaked up the worship that emanated from the most impressive offering, Ares shrugged and blinked away to his temple in Megara.
Immediately besieged by screaming supplicants, Ares eased back behind the Megaran altar and attempted to determine what sort of insanity had alighted there.
“Please, my lord, please tell us,” wept a blood spattered charioteer.
“Tell you what?” Ares rumbled, though the mortal couldn’t hear or see him.
“There must be some way to make them die.”
An undying foe? That sounded interesting.
“If you would only send us a sign...”
Stroking his beard thoughtfully, Ares transported himself to the outlying plains of Megara. He materialized in what seemed, at first, to be a fairly normal battle. Arrows whistled through the air, clattering off shields and biting into flesh. Spears and swords sliced and hacked while horses and men screamed. Ares kept a shrewd eye out for some sort of undying monster: a regenerating hydra, or perhaps one of Zeus’ enforcers. Instead, he saw nothing but men hacking at other men. And no corpses. There were no fallen on the battlefield at all. Not a one.
Whoever laid the geas on the warriors must have been powerful indeed, Ares surmised. Yet it made no sense that both sides of the fray would be enchanted with preternatural endurance.
Perhaps two opposing gods were at war, each infusing his or her side with invulnerability. Yet Ares squinted through the melee and determined he was the only god present. That, and there was plenty of gore, so the soldiers weren’t exactly invulnerable, either.
It made no sense. Ares gazed at the blood-churned mud at his feet and wondered who had enchanted the soldiers. Someone fond of bloodsport, perhaps. Ares smiled. Probably not, though if that were the case, he’d like to meet the deity responsible.
Ares’ curiosity was aroused, and he meant to slake it by paying a visit to his dark uncle, properly dressed and fortified, of course. Inhaling the carnage and smoke and screams of agony through flared nostrils, he clothed himself in his wickedest cuirass and his most evil looking helmet, a fearsome piece of armor with exaggerated eyeslits and a regal, flowing plume atop.
“Hades!” he bellowed as he appeared amongst the eerily quiet, sulfurous landscape of the Underworld. Half-formed shades cringed away from the intruder, sliding into the shadows which sprawled this way and that, in no particular pattern, among the broken, gray boulders and stalagmites.
“What is it now?” snapped Hades as he strode impatiently from one of the deformed shadows. “And don’t tell me you’re planning another blowout like Troy. I’m still processing the slain, the starved and the suicides, you know, and to top it all off, Hercules has stolen Cerberus.”
Beneath his imposing helmet, Ares’ mouth gaped.
“Exactly how am I to run a kingdom with shades dashing out between the gates, hm? It’s a mockery and a sham -- a crime against nature!”
“But isn’t it a mortal’s nature to die?” Ares felt as if he were pretending to be Athena, debating with pithy lines, the implications of which he hadn’t quite fully worked out yet. But it sounded good.
Hades stopped mid-rant, squinting at Ares. “It’s another great war, isn’t it?” he said slowly. Ares began to ask him why the soldiers weren’t dying, but his question was clipped off after the first syllable. “Kill, kill, kill. That’s all you can think of. Paint your temple with blood and dance to the sound of striking bones.”
“Paint with...? I never thought of that.”
“Well let me tell you something, mister.” Hades poked a bone-white digit accusingly at Ares’ eye-slits. “There’s no one guarding the gates here but me and Charon, and if you send me a mess of gutted soldiers right now, they can wander around the far bank of the Styx until they fall in and annihilate themselves for all I care.”
Ares paused to savor the macabre image of a hundred thousand wailing ghouls milling on the Styx’s bank. “Is that why they’re not dying?” he ventured, once he’d banished the smile from his voice.
Hades cocked his head and looked at Ares strangely. “Would you care for a summary of the proportions of dead, wounded and living from the last five wars, or the last hundred? How about the last thousand?” He bared his teeth in an alarming grimace. “If you think I’ve the time to break out my statistics and run through them with you, you’re as crazy as your father.”
“But I didn’t--”
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a gate to guard.”
With an impatient swirl of his shadowy cloak, Hades was gone.
Pursing his lips, Ares tapped at the arm of his throne with a wickedly pointed dagger, ivory shards snowing onto the silver-chased black skirt of his cuirass. People weren’t dying, and Hades either wasn’t aware of it, or was trying to hide the reason. But if Hades wouldn’t talk, then who would? Certainly there was someone who had a fair amount of contact with all the gods who would be able to help Ares. Whether he’d be willing was another matter entirely.
Hermes dangled gleefully from the mast of a great trireme, his honey-colored hair whirling about his face in the salt spray and his perfectly white chiton clinging to his smooth thighs. Appearing beside an oarsman who grunted as his oar clove the water, Ares stared up at his brother, shielding his eyes from the harsh midday sun. He’d left his helm propped against his throne and Apollo’s orb blazed at him relentlessly. “Ho, Hermes.”
Hermes’ smile disappeared immediately. “And what do you want? Wait, let me guess: You’ve had another daughter and you’re worried I’ll be masturbating on her cradle.”
Cautioning himself from attempting to wipe the sneer off Hermes’ face, Ares pursed his lips and shifted his feet instead. The fact that Ares had been wrong in accusing Hermes of raping Alcippe made Hermes’ words cut all the worse, somehow. Reaching deep within himself, Ares found a long, drawn out, well put upon sigh. “Will that matter always be between us, Brother?”
Hermes blinked a number of times before fluttering down to the deck on his winged sandals. “Okay, I’ll bite. What do you want now? I suppose you need me to deliver some war missives.”
“Nothing so mundane as that,” Ares purred, pacing slowly upon the deck so as to display himself in all his charming splendor to Hermes. Whether Hermes appreciated the show or not, Ares couldn’t say, but one needed to use all of one’s resources in such an endeavor. “I simply have a small riddle to solve, and assumed that you would be a logical person to aid me.”
Hermes’ eyes flickered over Ares. “Why me? Why not Athena? She’s the learned one.”
Ares turned to Hermes and nailed him with what Ares hoped was a smoldering gaze. “Because you’re so very... clever.” Flattery never hurt.
Surprise and interest warred in Hermes’ expression. “Well, it’s no great hardship to hear a riddle, I suppose.”
“I knew you’d see it my way,” said Ares, easing up to his brother’s body. He bent and set his lips to Hermes’ ear. “The riddle is only this: why aren’t the mortals dying?”
Hermes backed away from Ares suddenly, propelling himself with a small shove to Ares’ chest. “The wha...? Really? Wow, that’s intense.” He paced a restless circle around Ares, brows drawn together in thought. “The Fates must have told Thanatos to stop killing them.”
Ares raised an eyebrow. Of course it made sense that Thanatos would know more than Hades about the freshly dead, or lack thereof. Hades simply herded their shades around, but Thanatos was the one who separated the body from the spirit. “Yes, of course,” Ares murmured appreciatively. “But where do I find him?”
Hermes tugged at Ares’ bronze gauntlet excitedly. “Easily done. We simply find out from the Fates who the next man to die shall be.”
Ares didn’t care much to visit the Fates, though he’d do so if he had no other choice; their workroom was just dour and depressing, in his opinion. All three hunched over their labor with nary a word to the other, the small whispers of thread mean company in an endless endeavor.
“Ladies,” Hermes chuckled as he and Ares appeared, materializing sprays of delicate white flowers around the workroom to woo the Fates, something Ares would never have thought to do. He supposed goddesses were susceptible to flowers as much as mortal women, though. Hermes had been a good choice to assist him, as much as it smarted to watch him work.
The three goddesses poised in their customary positions, Clotho spinning, Lachesis bundling the thread onto shuttles and Atropos at the loom. And yet, amidst the seeming normalcy, something had obviously gone amiss. While Clotho twirled her spindle with her usual nimbleness, Lachesis’ lap brimmed over with shuttles that had come unwound, with other lengths of thread in half formed hanks and still more tangled about her feet. And if that wasn’t strange enough, ancient Atropos merely sat gazing at the loom, her gnarled, spry fingers unnaturally still.
Clotho looked up from her overly abundant spinning as the Olympians arrived. “Why, Hermes, it’s such a surprise to see you.”
Ares looked awkwardly at his sandals, somewhat relieved that he hadn’t been acknowledged, for fear that such a mention would only consist of, ‘and what is he doing here?’
“Just checking up on my favorite weavers,” Hermes said smoothly, conjuring a tiny, perfect pearl that he rolled into Clotho’s lap. “Say, Clotho, you seem to be getting ahead of your sisters. Lachesis is practically drowning in yarn.”
Though certainly her sisters could hear her in the silence of the room, the only noise being the squeaking of Ares’ leathers as he shifted minutely, Clotho leaned toward Hermes and muttered to him loudly enough for Ares to hear. “Atropos won’t cut the thread.”
“Atropos!” Hermes cried. “Whatever for?”
Atropos lifted her slightly nodding head, her blue eyes burning with intelligence within her wizened face. “I cannot.”
Ares looked at Hermes, who looked as puzzled as Ares felt.
“You can’t?” Hermes asked. “Well, what about me? Should I try?”
Atropos laughed, more of a wheeze. “All could try but none would succeed. The thread is unbreakable until Thanatos sunders body from spirit.”
“So,” Ares ventured, his voice overloud in the stark room. “Who’s the lucky stiff with the unbreakable thread?”
Lachesis reached out a hand from the hanks and coils of thread beneath which she was buried and ran her fingers down the thread that thrummed taut between Atropos’ fingers. “Sisyphus.”
Both gods had done work in the kingdom of Corinth as it was formed: Ares mucking in the trenches and Hermes spiriting vital correspondence back and forth from Corinth to Olympus. Both familiar with the kingdom, Ares and Hermes materialized outside the castle at once. The stone was laid less than a quarter century ago, still new, though moss had begun to blanket the southern face of the squat structure.
“How old would he be now?” Hermes wondered aloud.
“What, Sisyphus? He was young when he took the throne. In his middle years now, I suppose.”
Hermes rose into the air, the wings on his sandals humming as he observed the castle from another vantage point, and then settled back beside his brother. “How was he? As a warrior, I mean. That’s all you notice about a mortal, isn’t it?”
Ares shrugged, disturbed by the thought that Hermes found him so predictable. The fact that the only thing he typically could recall about any given mortal was his performance in battle galled Ares all the worse for it. It was Aphrodite’s charm clouding his mind, no doubt, that made him so painfully self-aware. “He could hold a spear like any other, but his tactical mind was brilliant.”
“Yes, well,” Hermes said, sounding slightly bored, “one usually is remarkable in some way or another when one carves out a new country and declares himself king.”
Still ruminating on his own superficiality, Ares decided it was best to separate himself from Hermes, lest his unaccustomed sensitivity begin to bog down his wits. “Let’s split up. You find Thanatos and I’ll find Sisyphus.”
Hermes looked skeptically at Ares. “And what if they’re together?”
“Then you’ll just have to catch up with me once I’ve found them both.”
Crossing his arms, Hermes screwed up his brow in thought. “You look for Thanatos and I’ll find Sisyphus, then.”
Ares rolled his eyes. There was no difference to him, and probably not to Hermes either. Hermes was just being obstinate because of the Alcippe incident. “If that’s what you want,” Ares said with mock graciousness.
Hermes squinted at him and then nodded. “Yes. I’ll find Sisyphus.”
As Ares materialized within the castle, he wondered if Thanatos was going to be as argumentative with him as Hermes was. Thanatos and Ares got off on the wrong foot when Ares was young and brash, demanding from the little winged god that his warriors be allowed to rise up and fight anew after they had fallen. Ares had been lulled into a false sense of security by Thanatos’ delicate appearance and thought he could bully the God of Death. Big mistake. Centuries later, Ares’ ribs still throbbed when the weather turned humid.
Unseen by mortals, Ares paced through all the rooms with no sight of Thanatos, so he set about treading though them again. Perhaps Thanatos and Sisyphus moved from room to room, strolling together as Sisyphus convinced Thanatos to let him live. Clicking a marching beat to himself on his tongue as he made a third circuit around the castle, it occurred to Ares that the number of paces in each room did not add up to the length of the castle. Concentrating on the walls, Ares forced his godly form through the stones to see if the central wall was really so thick as it looked, and found himself in a dim hidden chamber only ten by ten paces.
Ares blinked as he tried to make sense of what he found there -- a bier, a body, chains, midnight black wings spread in all their glory: a god. Thanatos.
The light of a single candle limned supple, perfect limbs, one knee slightly bent, his smooth, boyish face turned to the side, long dark hair -- impossible to separate from his wings in the faint illumination -- fanning out beneath. Ares swallowed hard while he tried to control his breathing and resist the urge to run his tongue along the alluringly naked body splayed so enticingly before him. Thanatos would surely trounce him again. But still, the curve of his hip did indeed look like it needed a lick.
Holding his breath now, Ares simply stared, rooted to the spot. Thanatos appeared to be sleeping, though intricate manacles spread his arms to either side and secured his ankles firmly together. Was Thanatos truly asleep or the victim of something insidious, perhaps a poison or a spell? Sudden worry, a product of Aphrodite’s charm, no doubt, surged within Ares, causing him to gasp.
With that sound, Thanatos opened one eye, just a bit, and then his peaceful expression twisted into a scowl. “What are you doing here?”
Ares looked behind him to be sure that Hermes hadn’t come through the wall behind him. “I -- uh... are you all right?”
Thanatos clucked his tongue. “I’m fine. Now get out of here before you ruin everything.”
Of course the youth that had been so beautiful in repose was now just an afterimage in Ares’ mind. Thanatos’ venomous self was glaring full-force at Ares as was its habit. Only now Ares couldn’t help but allow his glance to roam down the nude body. The nude chained body. The incredibly smooth, nude, chained body. “Ruin what?” he asked absently.
“As if I would tell you.”
Ares swallowed past the dryness in his throat. “Atropos says you won’t kill Sisyphus.”
“Yes I will.”
“That’s none of your business.”
Ares paused to wonder at the manacles, thinking that he should probably get a bit closer to look at them.
"What are you doing?” Thanatos hissed as Ares eased forward.
Ares stared down at the pale belly beneath him, slender, ribs showing faintly but not much muscle, like a youth with servants to do everything for him. Then he recalled he’d meant to examine the manacles. “I should be able to free you,” Ares said quietly. “I won’t tell anyone,” he added from his strange store of newfound empathy.
"Don’t touch those,” Thanatos cried, panic edging his voice. “You’ll ruin it all.”
Ares looked finally at the supine god’s face. His huge black eyes were wide and white-rimmed. “Ruin what?” Ares asked, more aware of the question now.
Thanatos turned his head away. “It’s nothing to do with you, War. You wouldn’t understand.”
“You’ll have your dead soon enough,” Thanatos said, his voice shaking slightly.
Shaking now himself, Ares reached out and smoothed Thanatos’ hair. “I might understand.” A faint movement registered in the corner of Ares’ eye, and he turned to find Thanatos’ cock had stirred from just the single touch, and his own cock began to fill in response. Still, he continued only to caress Thanatos’ hair.
Thanatos turned his face to Ares, eyes still wider, his breathing quickening. “What are you doing?” he whispered.
With no words to express his need, Ares simply trailed his fingers over Thanatos’ cheek, tracing his full lips, petting the faint dimple in his chin.
“Ares,” Thanatos gasped, arching off the bier under his touch, “we shouldn’t...”
Ares’ thumb trailed the tendon in Thanatos’ neck, pausing to stroke the hollow in his throat and then skim his collarbone. “Why not?”
Thanatos squirmed in his bonds, tossing his head so that his hot breath grazed Ares’ hand. “I’m waiting for someone.”
The words near meaningless against the enticing texture of Thanatos’ flesh, Ares dragged his fingertips further down onto the smooth planes of Thanatos’ chest. “Who?” he asked, though it didn’t really matter to him.
Thanatos laughed, an uneasy sound, as Ares’ fingers circled his nipple, followed immediately by Ares’ tongue. “You’ve gone and made me all hard,” Thanatos chided. “It totally ruins the effect.”
“I don’t think so,” murmured Ares as his beard grazed Thanatos’ ribs, not caring that Thanatos hadn’t quite answered him.
Chains clinked as Thanatos reached for Ares’ head, but was stopped short. “Ares, please. Another time, perhaps. This is so important...”
“Why?” Ares said into Thanatos’ perfect navel, following the word with his tongue, and then a tiny puff of air, and his tongue again.
“It’s -- oh gods -- Aphrodite said my... my lover would come.”
Ares’ tongue stopped short in Thanatos’ silky pubic hair. “Aphrodite?”
Ares looked up at Thanatos to find him blushing furiously.
“... I’m sorry. It would have been fun -- surprisingly so, considering I’ve never cared much for you. But I’m waiting for Cupid.”
Ares’ sluggish brain continued to try to wrap itself around the situation. “Why Cupid?”
“He and I would be a good match. We’re both very passionate, and besides, we both have wings.”
Ares tried to control the surge of anger that made him want to go and pluck his own son. “So what.” At least he could still get angry.
Thanatos turned his face to the side, not meeting Ares’ eyes. “Well, that was how I knew who Aphrodite meant would be the one for me. She said, ‘Birds of a feather flock together.’”
After a stunned moment, Ares threw back his head and laughed. “That bitch.”
Ares laughed and laughed some more, until it hurt, and until Thanatos glared at him. “No, you don’t get it. She sent me here with the same line.”
Thanatos narrowed his eyes. “So Cupid’s not coming?”
Ares’ laughter dwindled down to a chuckle. “Sorry. He’s obsessed with Anteros.”
With an annoyed snort, Thanatos snapped himself free from the manacles, which fell to the floor as glittering shards of metal. “Then I’ve been lying here all this time for nothing.”
Ares stopped himself from grabbing the death god by the wing, settling instead for an upper arm. “Hey. Watch who you’re calling nothing.”
Thanatos’ furious face softened as Ares pulled Thanatos against his cuirass. With tentative fingers, Thanatos traced the silvery designs hammered into the blackened leather. “Perhaps... you would be a more interesting diversion, anyway.”
“I’m sure.” Ares touched a fingertip to Thanatos’ chin, tilting his face up. Thanatos stood on his toes to graze Ares’ lips with his, and both gods shivered as their flesh met. “You would’ve gotten sick of all the hearts and flowers and little chirping birdies,” Ares said, once he could find his breath.
Thanatos’ slender fingers grazed Ares’ thigh beneath the skirt of his cuirass. “Do you think so?”
Ares bent to taste Thanatos’ mouth again, sliding his tongue against Thanatos’ lower lip, eliciting a chilling moan. “Yes,” he murmured. “My halls are much more fun, filled with bones and blood.”
Thanatos pulled Ares’ head down, trailing his tongue to Ares’ ear. “Sounds enchanting,” he whispered, his breath tickling the wetness his tongue left behind. “Shall I meet you there once I dispose of Sisyphus?”
Ares ran his hands over Thanatos’ shoulders, daring to poke surreptitiously at the point where wing met body, and finding himself rather turned on by that strange junction. “Can’t I watch?”
Thanatos’ black eyes gleamed with an eerie gaiety. “Very well, if that’s your pleasure. Come, I want to get this over with so you can acquaint me with your lair.”
“Mmm,” Ares murmured against Thanatos’ cheek. “I think you’ll like it.”
“And what’s this?” Thanatos grinned, plucking a tiny, pinkish frond from Ares’ hair.
“You see? Even one flower petal disturbs you.”
“Yes, yes,” said Thanatos, as he tugged his chiton from a mass of metallic shards on the floor and pinned it over his shoulder. “I’m beginning to think you’re right.”