By Gwendolen

Winter in Greece means days of rain and then even more rain. Itís not pretty, especially when it turns cold. Even the gods suffer, become moody and morose. I should know; after all, he's the epitome of moody and morose. At times like this you either avoid him or stay at a safe distance. I prefer the second option because I still love to watch him.  I enjoy watching him. It's my favourite way to pass the time. After all he's one of the most beautiful gods around, and the most dangerous one. Beauty and danger, who can resist them? I surely can't.

I wonder what's going through his head right now; he's scowling at something only he can see. His dark eyes glowing and his mouth - no, I'm not going there, once I start, there will be no stopping - those lips, that pout, the way he bites his lower lip. You know, what I'm talking about, don't you?

Anyway, there he is, all brooding, dark godhood watching the rain. It's still pouring. What's he thinking of? The battle that's raging between Epidauros and Hermione? The skirmishes up in Oitaia that might turn into another nice little war?

Or, more personal things that occupy his thoughts right now? That irritating Xena maybe? Or some of the other mortals who've managed to capture his interest? The winter rains must've hit them hard, especially when they were still on the road and had no shelter close by.

Suddenly he blinks out and I know that he has decided on a course of action. I follow him, as I always do.

I think I know where he's going. And when I see them I'm not overly surprised. His mortals are rarely far from his thoughts. And naturally he has to make sure that nothing has happened to them. If asked, he would of course deny that he cares or that there are moments when he worries about them.

Her first. His dark warrior-princess. His obsession. I think he should let her go, set her free. And free himself. She's way too wrapped up into her bardling and her quest to be good, to redeem herself. Sometimes I wonder if he really still cares or is just going trough the motions because he can't be seen to lose, can't give up, can't give her up because once she was his.

They are safe, dry and comfortable, both the warrior and the bard. I look around and see that they found shelter in a nice little cave. It's dry and even warm, protected from the winds outside. They are sitting around a fire, wrapped in their cloaks, exchanging wine and stories.

He doesn't stay for long but moves on. Knowing they are safe seems to be enough.

Who will it be now? Ah, the clumsy wanna-be-warrior. You know, in some ways he's rather adorable but I don't think he'll ever be a fighter. It's his tenacity that demands respect and his strength of conviction. He's doing everything to become what he wants to be and doesn't allow others to divert him. I guess that's what makes him watch over this mortal. He can respect his determination and his strength of will, even though he doesn't really belong to him. Not like the others.

The mortal's safe, some lovely matron obviously felt sorry for him. Or had a big heart for a wet, bedraggled, lost puppy and took him in, fed him, and wrapped him up in a nice featherbed, with her as bedwarmer. He looks happy.  Who wouldn't? This is the best way to spend a winterstorm.

Onward again. Who will it be now?

Does this astonish me? No, not really. I know this house, this room, the home-made furniture, the colourful covers on the bed and the drawings -- presents from adoring children -- on the wall. It's all very familiar to me, after all we've been here before. Beloved enemy, hated brother. Does he even know what he feels for this half-mortal, this demi-god? He can't leave him alone. Can't leave them alone. I sneak closer and take a look. The hero and the hunter, wrapped around each other, under warm covers with a roaring fire in the hearth. They are talking softly, exchanging lazy caresses and kisses. You know, they actually make a really lovely couple.

Something dark crosses his face while he watches. Anger? Envy? Some unvoiced, unrecognised longing? Resentment for what they have with each other?

Figuring out what he thinks or feels is never easy. He's so good at hiding everything behind that badboy mask. How much of it is real and how much just a protection? Can you tell? I'm never really sure. Sometimes I think I have him figured out, and then he turns around and does something that takes me by surprise again. Masks within masks within masks hiding -- what?

We stay here for a little while; he watching the oblivious lovers and me watching him. Finally he seems to have had enough and moves on.

Our next stop astonishes me a bit. A castle, or rather a room inside the castle with a large fire roaring in the open chimney, but still cold. An opulent room, with tasteful tapestries on the wall and costly furniture, but somehow lacking personal warmth. And the man who lives in this room seems to feel the cold. He has a cloak wrapped around himself and stands in front of the fire, his hands stretched out, soaking up the warmth. He looks tired, but then being king can't be an easy job, at least not when you care. And he does, I'm sure of it.

The last time we were here they fought. There's still too much unsaid, too much hidden. So alike in some ways, so different in others. And their brother is always between them, even when they don't acknowledge it.

I wonder what will happen tonight.

He walks closer, for the first time tonight visible to mortals, visible in this mortal's presence. He enfolds the other man in his arms, drawing him back against his body, enveloping him with his own warmth.

For the briefest of moments the young king tenses. Then he relaxes and leans back against the strength and warmth offered. Content in each other's presence they just stand there, staring at the fire. His arms are wrapped around the mortal, his face buried in the reddish curls. The king is leaning back against him, one of his hands curled loosely around the strong wrist on his chest.

Finally, after some time, they move, soft caresses, familiar touches which still inflame. It's slow and loving, their kisses drawn out and thorough.

Oh, they can be wild together, believe me I've seen it and sometimes I'm really surprised that the  palace is still standing but tonight, tonight is filled with tenderness. It's the mortal, Iphicles, who finally moves, turning slowly in the embrace until they are facing each other, able to kiss. Gentle kisses, tender and passionate at the same time, a reaffirmation of their relationship and a peace-offering. No discussions about family, or rather a certain brother. Not tonight. This is for them, about them.

They look so sweet together. I'm sure that a lot of people would be amazed if they saw this. Him, being tender? They would laugh if I told them, while I, of course, never would. I'm many things: stupid or suicidal is not among them. It's just another part of himself that he hides, like so much else. With his vocation he can't allow himself to be seen as gentle or caring, he has to be fierce, violent, rash, and aggressive. After all, it's what everybody expects of him.

By now they've made it to the bed, and are undressing each other. The mortal shivers slightly when the cool air hits his heated skin and suddenly the room is warmer. Warm enough to be naked in. Being a god definitely does have its advantages.

They move together and kiss, their kisses are becoming more demanding now and their hands roam freely over each other's bodies. Before you ask, yes, I know I should leave and allow them their privacy. But, honestly, would you?

I mean, they are just so beautiful together. How often do you get to enjoy something this incredible, two such gorgeous men pleasuring each other.

I move closer to get a better look. They are on the bed now, kissing leisurely. The king's hand is buried in his dark hair, holding him in place. The sounds of their heavy breathing and their kisses fill the room. Briefly he frees himself and slowly moves down the mortal's body, mapping it with his fingers and lips, driving the king wild.

Hands in his hair force him back up and they are kissing again, although kissing is almost too tame a word to use for what they are doing. Devouring each other? Seems to fit better.

They are rubbing against each other, stroking, tasting, rolling around on the wide bed. Lovely images. But it looks like there will be nothing fancy tonight, just the friction of their bodies and the comfort they draw from each other. He has his hand between their bodies now, bringing them off. The king comes first, eyes closing, biting that luscious lower lip with a low groan. And he's not far behind, growling softly when he comes, collapsing on his mortal lover.

For some time they seem out of it, drifting in some other realm. Finally they stir, the negligent wave of a hand and they're both clean and the bed's dry again. I think I said it before, being a god, or having one for a lover does have its advantages.

I watch while they settle under the covers, curled around each other, exchanging a few soft kisses before the mortal finally succumbs to sleep. He's trailing his fingers lazily through the mortal's hair, staring at nothing. Thinking again? Whatever it is, it must be pleasant. There's a smile on his face and he doesn't look nearly as moody as he did when we started this voyage.

With this final picture I allow myself to fade out. He'll stay the night here and won't need me before morning.

The End