By Gwendolen

 It was finally finished. After long hours of planning, creating and working, it was done. Hephaestus lifted the sword and looked at it, content with his own work. He thoughtfully studied the simplicity of the sword; admired the perfect balance and ease with which it followed each swing and stroke. His finger slid over the protective runes engraved on the blade, runes in the old language of the gods. Runes for protection and guidance, strength and victory.

"Is this for me?" The voice was soft, deceptively soft, hiding all the hurt and pain, showing no weakness. Hephaestus knew this voice only too well, had heard it before but never before directed at him. He turned and looked at his younger brother. Dark and forbidding, his face an emotionless mask, showing nothing: no anger, no rage, no pain, none of the love and joy he usually saw there - nothing.

It hurt.

He watched in silence as his brother reached out and surrendered the sword to him, after all it was his. Hephaestus sat unmoving while his brother picked up the sword, weighting it, judging it. It was a beautiful weapon, as beautiful as the god holding it now; beautiful in it's strength and balance, created with one special person in mind, created for just this one person. Created as the beginning of an apology for something there was no real excuse for.

"Do you really think that this will make me forgive you? That it excuses what you did?"

The words, spoken in that soft voice - that hid a welter of pain - hurt, just as the truth of the words hurt. There was no excuse for what he'd done.

Hephaestus stayed silent when his brother pushed the sword in the crack
between anvil and rock and with a hard snap broke the sword. Another hurt but nothing compared to the broken trust that lay in millions of tiny splinters between them. Each splinter promising new pain, each splinter a remembrance of what he'd done.

Dark eyes regarded him coldly, the distance between them increasing with every heartbeat. It was his brother who finally broke the tension, by stepping closer, pressing his forehead against Hephaestus'. His voice now an intimate whisper, reminding Hephaestus of nights of passion, laughter and shared secrets. "I trusted you, Heph. I lived with the knowledge that when I needed you, you would be there. But you weren't. You ran - just like all the others. You ran and left me all alone."

"Ares..." He wanted to explain but how do could he explain something for which he didn't have an explanation. And there never was an explanation for betrayal. He had always known that he was the only one who was allowed to see the vulnerable side, the need and caring, and the love in the one god who was known for his temper and rages, his anger and cruelty. And he had turned his back when he was needed the most. He had know that he should have stayed, offered his help but he'd been afraid. Afraid for his own life. His pitiful existence. And when Zeus had given the order to leave, he had gone without protest, without looking back. Leaving behind the one person who needed him the most of all the gods. Too afraid. But fear was no excuse. How could he ever be forgiven? Nothing he said or did would ever be enough. Hephaestus understood this but it didn't stop the pain he felt when he looked into his brother's closed face.

"No." The word sounded final, and without the usual lightshow his beloved brother left him alone. Alone in his forge, alone with his pain.

"I'm sorry," Hephaestus whispered although Ares was already gone and couldn't hear him.

The End