[26th of Metageitnion, Year 4 of the 697th Olympiad, late summer]
“You’re back late, love. And tied one on, I see. Red cheeks and hair do charmingly set off your eyes, little captain.” Eros uncurled from his position on the bed and set aside the book he’d been reading in the dark.
“Carolyn called. Las’ minute booking, short hop, only needed one pilot. Me ‘n Arthur and some of the mechanics went out for a drink. No flight t’morrow. S’okay.”
“You took a taxi home, I sincerely hope.”
“Of course! Can take care myself, y’know.”
“I know, sweet. But let me help you with those pesky buttons. There.” Eros deftly stripped the shirt and trousers from a loose-limbed and compliant Martin. “Do you want a glass of water?”
“‘M fine. Thanks.” Martin yawned.
“I was beginning to wonder if you’d be home at all. I’m accustomed to missing you when you’re abroad, not so much when you’re still in England.” Eros heaved a sigh. “It feels like I’ve hardly seen you at all this month. You just got back from the Miami trip. Carolyn certainly is keeping you hopping.”
Martin’s blinks were slow, head tipping as he tried to focus on the space where Eros sat beside him. “But I thought you wanted me t’get out more, not stay stuck in the house s’much. Not a pris’ner.”
“Yes, I did say that. You’re completely right.” Eros tangled his fingers into the curls on the side Martin’s head, enjoyed the tickling slide as he combed through them. Martin’s head rocked with the motion until he made a complaining noise and turned his head to trap Eros’ hand against the pillow. Eros took a breath. “Martin, are you all right?”
“M’ fine!” Martin said. “Told you.”
“No, I meant… you’ve been preoccupied lately.”
Martin seemed to realise the insufficiency of his answer and groped out until he found Eros’ knee. He patted it a few times, nearly missing his mark. “Well. Well, y’know. I have the worst luck. In the world. I mean, for, for, for example! Nearly died. Twice! On one trip! Gotta wonder, why, why me? And, and then… “ He seemed to recall himself. “Worst luck. Tyche hates me, maybe. My life, everything. Jus’ wanna know why. Why me.” His voice began to slip into incoherent mumbles, hand falling from Eros’ knee. “Hafta think ‘bout it. Some more. Din’ mean to worry you.”
Eros lifted his lover’s hand. “Martin, I’ll always worry. You do know I love you, don’t you?” A heavy exhalation was his answer as Martin slipped into alcohol-assisted sleep. Eros kissed the limp fingers. He let Martin’s arm relax back onto the bed clothes and slid his trapped hand from beneath the warm weight of his love’s head.
Eros rubbed his knuckles over the ache in his chest, watching Martin as he slept. Russet lashes on pink cheeks, the generous mouth part on a slight snore, the freckles dusting his nose - so unconventional. So unique. So bright his spark, though the wavering of its light had become even more pronounced. This mortal, this Martin Crieff had undone him. He’d curse Pothos, but he’d been complicit in putting himself in this predicament.
No god hates you, Martin, more than I hate myself for my own folly.
He lay down and pulled the sheet over them both. With hands that trembled, he picked up his book and opened it. But the words refused to resolve themselves and he closed it again, gripping it with both hands until the spine cracked.
[28th of Metageitnion, Year 1 of the 697th Olympiad, late summer ]
The private back room of the pub was one that no mortals ever saw. Ostensibly it was a private dining area that could be reserved for parties, though the grotty condition of the drinking place without and its location in an unfashionable and dangerous area ensured that few humans would ever try. If they did ask, ‘The Symposium’, as the hand-lettered sign on the room’s exterior named it, would be under repairs. It often was, in truth - immortals enjoyed a good knees-up as much as they did their music and poetry. It was well-known that if one was rusticating in England in the mortal realm, The Symposium was a great place to drop your guise amongst your own.
Nonetheless, evenings in The Symposium did tend to start in a civilised manner. There was food to cushion the drinks, with revellers getting more raucous as the wine was passed around. Songs and poems were presented at ever-louder levels that tested the room’s sound-proofing. No one ever suggested to Euterpe what she could do with her flute twice, though; word had gotten around.
It was into the early evening relaxation of flute music, flowers and quiet discussion that a figure smothered in a rain-wet cagoule was thrust stumbling to his knees into the back room. “Black teats of Nyx, just fucking get in and stay in here,” hissed Anteros at the unfortunate. “You’re starting to strobe like a broken disco.” He kicked the door closed behind him, strode to a low table and splashed wine into a kylix. Draining it in one long swallow he shook his head. “Why I let you drag me out so you could whine at me about unrequited love, I don’t know.”
“It’s what you do,” the figure said, rocking back on his heels and overbalancing onto his rear. There was a flicker of light in the shape of wings as the man tried to focus. “Oof. Are you going to pour me one of those?”
“Well, I didn’t do it to you, you fathead! You're barking up the wrong tree! And no, I think you’ve had quite enough!”
“Are those the dulcet tones of our dear cousin, Anteros?” a lazy voice called from a couch. Pothos sat with his booted feet on a low table. He blew a stream of smoke ceilingward and crushed out his cigarette.
The god turned his head towards the sound of Pothos’ voice. “You. I told you to stay away from him.” He pawed at the strings cinching the hood tight around his face. The knot broke and the cord was yanked free.
Pothos lifted his hands as if to demonstrate how empty his hands were of blame. “Yasou, Eros, son of Nyx. According to the terms of our wager, I’ve not gone near your mortal. Zeus bear witness to the truth.”
The woman in black sunglasses lying with her head on Pothos’ lap stopped bouncing a ball against the wall upon hearing the name. “Eros,” she said, turning her sightless gaze towards him. “Huh.”
Eros pawed the smothering hood of the cagoule from his face and wavered to his feet, uncaring of the stares and giggles from the other occupants of the room. “You! And her. Was it you, Tyche? Did he make a bargain with you? No one has luck that bad. No one! Martin almost died twice.”
“Um,” she said but Eros turned on Pothos again.
“You can’t interfere. In any way. You’ve done enough to me as it is. We - we had a bargain!”
“I’ve done nothing,” Pothos said, lifting his voice. “For Chaos’ sake, get it through your thick skull. I don’t want him dead. Aside from the entertainment value of seeing your oh-so-maudlin state, the world is much more interesting with Martin in it.”
“True,” Anteros called. “I sure get a kick out of watching him. He’s so funny.”
Unheeding, Eros spoke to Tyche, voice rough. “Please, please don’t kill him. Don’t let anything else happen. Even if I can’t have him, let him have a long and happy life.” He gulped. “It’s killing me, he keeps asking, and I can’t let him see me, even a little! Much less all of me, because I’m me and he’ll, he’ll just fall in love and it’s not what he wants.”
“Oh skies above,” came a muttered voice. “Someone’s drunk.”
Tyche blew a breath and sat up, swinging her legs around. The cheap rubber ball spun and danced between her fingers until colour and sparkles swirled within. “For pity’s sake, Eros. Fine, Iisten up - I’ll tell you something but only because you’re such a love-sick chump it’s giving me secondhand embarrassment even to be near you.” She caught the ball between two fingers and held it up, soul sparks reflecting in the black lenses of her glasses. “Look here - this one? That’s Martin as you knew him when you met.” One spark expanded, brighter than the rest. “Pretty lad, isn’t he? I like the look of him. Oh, but here you come and scoop him right up. Arranged marriage dropped on him like a cage just when he’s ready to spread his wings.”
Eros drew near, watching as the spark flickered and dimmed. He pressed a fist to his mouth.
“Tyche cooed at the spark. “Aw, honey, don’t look like that. You know you’ve got grit.” The dim spark suddenly flared, a bright blue light taking root and began to burn. “That’s him telling you to stuff your marriage unless he got what he wanted. Good for you, Martin!”
Chuckles ran around the room and heads craned to watch. The saga was as good as any lyric poem for entertainment.
“Oh, but then there’s your wager - and you’re a featherbrained twit for making it, by the way, Eros. Martin doesn’t even get the courtesy of having a husband for days as well as nights, not even a name.” The spark shivered again, but the blue blaze shone on. “Thank the skies that Martin has his flying, because, peaches? Not even the best sex in the world is going to make up for half a marriage.” The tilt of her head said, you idiot. Eros closed his mouth on what he was about to say as she tapped the blue with a fingertip, making the spark dance.
“And life goes on.” The ball dropped from her fingers, now a pendulum on a string. “Martin has some ups and downs - mostly downs for a while, but you know that.” The pendulum swung out to the left unevenly. Left, left, left again. “Wow, that is some bad luck, sucks to be him. It’s almost like someone has it in for him, strange, huh?” Her dark brow lifted meaningfully. “But Martin? He swings back. You see?” The pendulum’s swings grew smoother, with longer arcs. The spark grew brighter until its glow engulfed the ball's shape. “Of course, there are those near-death things, but he always swings back. He’s a tough one, your Martin. Now, I can’t tell you much about his future but what I’m seeing is this: Martin is blessed. Otherwise…”
The ball dropped. Eros took a stumbling step forward but Tyche caught the ball before it reached the tiles.
Pothos drank off the last of his wine with a sigh of enjoyment. “So much fun. Note that I’m not calling the bet won even though you stretched the terms a teeny bit by calling for that intervention from Panacea. If you’re so worried about his popping off the mortal coil, cousin, why don’t you just keep him at home?”
Eros shook his head, wobbling slightly. “I can’t. Can’t. I love him. Give him anything. Even if he wanted to leave. Won’t even deny him that. I want him to… be well.” He lifted a face lined with strain. “He should be happy. I want his happiness above my own.”
In a sudden motion he grabbed for his quiver, tangling the strap in his cagoule before tossing it at Pothos’ feet. “Here. Just take it. Your bet is as good as won.”
Pothos eyed it, the corner of his mouth lifting. “Oh, cousin,” he sighed. “No, not just yet. I think I’ll wait. There are ten days to go before your year of bliss is up, and I won’t have anyone saying there was any kind of dodgy play if I take your powers prematurely.” His smile was vulpine but not unkind. “Ten days for Martin to declare his love. To you, the real you. No guises, no tricks.”
“As if I could forget,” Eros snarled.
Anteros hummed in appreciation. “Hoo, you’ve got it bad, cousin. It’s practically a paean to myself, all this unrequited love.”
“Savour my misery, then. Especially you,” Eros spat at Pothos. “Drawing it out like this.”
Pothos only shook his head. Dropping his feet from the table, he toed the quiver back towards Eros. Eros picked it up. “Promise me,” Eros said. “Just… promise me that whoever Martin chooses, it’s really love. That’ll be within your powers then. After you win. ”
“Oh, sweet skies!” Pothos dropped his face in his hands, shoulders shaking. He lifted a grinning face to Eros’ serious one. “Okay, Yes. I promise. When Martin loves, then he’ll be loved in return. I swear it.”
“Good.” Eros nodded. His legs buckled and he sat abruptly on the low table in front of the couch. He swayed towards Tyche. She cocked her head. “Dearest Tyche, I apologise for my previous words. But please don’t make me suffer through Martin anymore. The small mishaps I can take, but this unremitting bad luck, the near-misses - don’t do that to him.”
Tyche shook her dreadlocks back over her shoulders. “I told you, sweet cheeks. His luck is, believe it or not, well-balanced. You saw it.” She patted him on his drooping head. “I can see you’re in a bit of a down-swing yourself, hon.” She smiled. “Get me a drink, and I’ll see if I can push your pendulum back.”
Eros took her hands and pressed messy kisses to the backs of them. “Don’t care about me. Just him. I can be nice. Not like that, married and everything but… God of love. For now. Tell me what you want, I’ll get it for you. Favours. People owe me favours. Just give him good luck.”
“That’s so cute,” someone commented.
“Aw, peaches.” Tyche drew her hands free and cupped his face. Eros stared into her glasses, the reflection of his hope burning back at him. She kissed his forehead gently. “He has all the luck he needs. What will be, will be.”
Defeated, he slumped back. “Mother Nyx, help me,” he said and pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes. “Help me.”
Pothos cleared his throat. “Come on. I’ll put you up for the day, you’re in no state to go outside. Can you pull a guise together long enough to get to my car?” He rolled his eyes as Eros made no response. Pothos yanked the hood of the cagoule forward and pulled Eros to his feet. “Good evening, all. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion in ten day’s time. Let’s go, cousin.”
They left to called farewells and the renewed buzz of conversation. Tyche smiled to herself as Anteros took Pothos’ place on the couch. “You are so full of shite, all you erotes. Unrequited love, my arse.”
“Pfft. What about you? ‘He has all the luck he needs,’” Anteros intoned. “Yeah, but is it good or bad?”
Tyche hummed and rolled the ball back and forth on the back of her hand.
Anteros laughed. “Yeah. Thought so.” He leaned in. “Can I see it again?”
Tyche grinned, a flash of white in her olive-skinned face. “Why not.” The ball spooled from her fingers like a yo-yo. Anteros watched, fascinated, as the pendulum began to circle. “Dear, dear,” Tyche said. “Just spinning in circles. But… ah. There.”
The sparkling orb’s orbit changed course, great elliptical swings. “So close to disaster or victory,” Anteros murmurred. “Just look at that.”
“He’s something else, isn’t he,” Tyche said.
“Does Eros even know how lucky he is?” Anteros asked.
Tyche caught up the ball, the glow of the spark within now so strong that blue light leaked through her fingers and flesh. She laughed. “Not a clue.”
“Martin, are you still… thinking?”
“Mm? About what?”
“You told me that your experiences in Canada had given you reason to reflect on your existence.”
“Yes. Yes, that and… Yes. It’s b-been quite the summer.”
“It’s just that I feel as if you’ve been avoiding me.”
“No! No, not that. MJN’s business is picking up. I’m sorry, but I have no control over bookings.”
“You’re not going to ask me to stop flying? Or… or try to take shorter flights, or maybe change airlines? Not that I think it’d be better at another firm, I’d definitely be working more, and -”
“No. I’d never take that from you.”
“Your happiness is paramount, love. Flying - it’s part of your very soul. I think if you didn’t have it… you wouldn’t be the man I loved.”
“Oh. Can… Can I ask you, um. To do something for me?”
“Anything, darling. What would please you?”
“Huh. Oh, sorry. I was just remembering that first time. When Hermes told me that I was to be betrothed to some mysterious immortal.”
“Why the sudden recollection?”
“You said you wanted to please me. And, and the terms of our betrothal were that I was supposed to please you.”
“Thanks. I… I don’t think anyone’s said that about me before.”
“People are idiots but I’m not. Martin… do you remember the rest of the contract?”
“Uh. Besides me getting to fly?”
“No. You omitted a piece. ‘Love and please me,’ it said.”
“Um. I… I…”
“I want to go flying!”
“ With you. My request. Flying. We could go at night. Please. I’d really love to try flying with you.”
“Okay. How about if you blindfold me? Would that be all right?”
“Eros? Will… will you take me flying?”
“But, darling, don’t we make love every night?”
“...Yes. Yes, we do. Never mind. Sorry.”
[The 6th day of Boedromion, year 4 of the 696th Olympiad, early autumn]
Douglas leaned back in his chair and pushed both hands through his hair with a groan. For all that doing fuel consumption calculations was routine, he was heartily glad to be finished. He rolled his shoulders, loosening muscles gone stiff from doing paperwork in MJN’s inadequate office chairs. “I’m done, cruel taskmaster. Yourself?”
Martin was sitting hunched with both elbows on the table and a pencil lax in his hand. He blinked from his reverie. “Huh? Yeah.” He made no move to gather his jacket and leave, however.
Douglas contemplated the immobile figure. Martin was normally a study in nervous energy. “Are you planning on going home soon, or will you root yourself in the cheapest plastic seats known to mortal-kind? It’s getting dark.” Meaning, don’t you have somewhere to go?
Martin seemed to recover his some of his wits and looked about himself. “Right. Yes.” The burst of animation drained away. He began doodling on the form he’d finished, eyes downcast.
Martin was not the sort of person to deface official paperwork. But then, Douglas thought, Martin had been acting oddly for going on two weeks, his usual tetchy discourses interspersed with bouts of introspection, even sadness. Perhaps Douglas could get him to talk and draw the problem out.“Lover’s tiff?”
Martin’s head snapped up, cheeks red and mouth open to deny it. He slumped. “In a way.”
Douglas hummed, indicating he was interested. Martin’s mouth turned down. “Is it really a tiff when one person won’t explain anything and just keeps you in the dark? Or is that -” He broke off and sighed.
“I assume you mean metaphorically.”
Martin lifted a shoulder. “You don’t have to listen to me whinge, Douglas, it’s all right.”
Douglas lifted a brow. “But Sir needs to whinge. Do you need a reason? All right.” He cast his eyes up. “How about… ‘Martin, your performance these past weeks has been sub-par. I don’t pay you just to have Oscar the Grouch moping around the flight deck, I already have one Muppet in shape of my son.’”
Martin giggled a bit at Douglas’ falsetto impression. “That’s a clear falsehood, my work has been perfectly… standard.”
“Ah. Let’s try again. ‘Skip, what’s on your mind? It’s just you seem, oo, er, not-brilliant -’” Douglas stopped. “Sod it, I can’t do Arthur properly.”
Martin wrinkled his nose but gave him an appraising look. “No, you can’t, can you. It’s impossible for anyone to do Arthur except Arthur himself.”
“Just so. Well, moving on to the ace in the hole. ‘Hey, Chief. I might be wrong, but you’ve been morose for the bulk of Metageitnion and it’s not over losing our word games. This makes me…”
“Douglas, if you’re just going to take the piss,” Martin started but Douglas held up a hand. Martin closed his mouth, lips thin.
“This makes me, well. Concerned. And we’re friends, are we not? So one thing you could do is pour your troubles in a sympathetic ear that’s been ‘round the block a few time when it comes to matters of the heart.” Douglas held Martin’s startled gaze. “How does that sound, my captain?”
Martin’s lips had parted. He shifted in his chair, looked away then back. “I… I’ve had a lot on my mind.”
“So I gathered.”
“Can I ask you a question?”
Douglas wrinkled his brow but made a go-ahead gesture.
“You said… you said at my party that you’ve never... That no one loves you.”
“Ah.” Douglas stood.
“Where are you going?”
Douglas cast a wry look over his shoulder as he rummaged in his locker and withdrew a bottle. Collecting two glasses, he set the lot on the table. “I think we’ll need something for what ails us in order to have this conversation. Especially if I’m expected to bare my soul before you reciprocate.”
Martin was frowning at the bottle. “Isn’t that…?”
“Lord Leverhulme’s Abhainn Dearg? Yes, it is. Is it vile green? Even so. Arthur got a little excited with the food colouring on that trip to Vulcan. Best to close your eyes when you drink.” He poured them both a generous measure. “I plan to pretend to drink by toying with my glass in an attempt at comradeship and solidarity.”
Martin groaned but accepted the glass. He sipped and grimaced. “Eurgh!”
Douglas squinted at the label. “Three year whiskey? No wonder. It’s a bit young and rough around the edges, but we all start out that way. Even me.” Douglas swirled the green liquid. “It’s true. I’ve have many a tumble in the hay, some lovely liaisons. But I’ve never married -”
“I thought you had. Three times.” Martin’s gaze was keen.
Douglas paused. “Ah. Well, I may have exaggerated the extent of the connections.”
Martin lifted both brows. “Exaggerated, meaning lied?”
“You malign me. Mutually satisfactory cohabitation, then.” Douglas shrugged in self-deprecation. “They didn’t last.”
“Why not? You’re nice.” Douglas couldn’t help his grin at Martin’s instinctive rejoinder. Martin flushed. “When you’re not… not putting on that act.”
“What act?” Douglas cocked his head, still smiling.
Martin gestured with his glass. “That. That act. The world-weary, sarcastic, sophisticated charmer. The one who thinks people are impressed by the.. by the number of lovers you've had. You’re more than that, I know it.”
The statement pushed Douglas back in his chair. Martin pressed his advantage. “You’re always going on about your conquests. What about love?”
Wrong-footed, Douglas spoke without thinking. “I never loved them.” Martin drew in a sharp breath. Douglas avoided his gaze and swirled his glass again. “Entanglements. They never end well when the feelings are one-sided.”
Martin’s mouth shaped an oh. Douglas shrugged. “You put your precisely finger on it, my captain. I’ll boast about my past history but I’m not proud of it.” He lifted his glass, examining the greenish tint the whiskey gave his fingers through the glass.
Martin looked at his own glass, his voice low. “I guess you did the right thing, if you couldn’t return their feelings. You can’t live a lie in a relationship.” Douglas twitched, pricked by Martin’s comment. “Poor things. They never had a chance, Douglas. You might have loved them back, if you’d known they saw the real you. The one behind the charm act.”
Douglas’ mouth tightened. “A palpable hit. Again.”
Martin was silent a moment. “You’re always going on at me to pray to change my luck. Why don’t you?”
Douglas grimaced. “I don’t pray. Well, except the once.” He saluted Martin with his glass. “Maybe you should do it for me. You’re the one with the direct connection. Ask Tyche this: if Douglas Richardson is so blessed with fortune, why has love passed him by?”
“You don’t pray to Tyche for that, you pray to -”
“Eros, yes, I know. No, no, don’t ask on my behalf. It’s not going to make a difference at this point in my life. My ‘charm act’, as you put it, is so ingrained that it’s probably impossible for anyone to pierce it. But thank you for the thought, Martin.” Douglas clinked his glass to Martin’s. “You have a good heart, trying to help an old satyr like myself.”
Martin smiled but his eyes were concerned. “Everyone deserves love, Douglas.”
Douglas swallowed at Martin’s sincerity. “Thank you again. But you've enough love in your marriage for both of us.”
Martin’s shoulders hunched. He took another sip of the green whiskey. His gulp was audible in a room gone quiet.
“Don’t you, Martin?” Douglas probed. “You've always given the impression that your marriage was happy, if unconventional.”
Martin set his glass down, stood and began to move restlessly about the office, face averted. “I… you think it’s stupid, don’t you? I mean, you’re the one who said I should count my blessings. My perfect house, my perfect life. But it’s not, Douglas. It’s not.” He whirled to face Douglas, eyes dark with emotion.
“Martin.” Douglas half-rose from his chair but Martin began to pace again, hands flying as he tried to express himself.
“I.. I have been thinking a lot, ever since, well, the Vulcan trip. Well, before that really, but it’s all just come to a head recently. This whole situation, my marriage - I don’t know him, I don’t know my own husband, Douglas!” Martin’s breath caught, choked. “I may never know him. And, and this marriage where I only get to share a tiny part of my life with him… I can’t do it anymore.” Martin stopped dead, his back to Douglas.
Douglas wanted to do something, find the words that would comfort Martin, but Martin wasn’t done. Douglas pressed a knuckle to his mouth and waited. Martin’s voice was hoarse.
“I've come to realise something, Douglas. And it’s that… that I deserve to have all of him. A-and I won’t settle for less anymore. No matter what.”
Douglas was unsure where to start. “Have you -”
“Asked him to stand be with me in the day? Show himself to me? Yes. He said no. No. He says he loves me… He won’t do it for me, Douglas.” Martin voice was a choked whisper. His back was taut, hand clenched at his sides, his entire being a spring wound to the point of breaking. “How is that love?”
Douglas shifted to face Martin fully, elbows on his legs. His hands opened and closed as he tried to bring reason back into the conversation. “Martin. He’s a god.”
“Yeah. The god of love.” The word was as bitter as the ultimate irony. “You knew that, right?”
“Yes,” Douglas admitted. “There may be some reason, a purpose to his actions. To see a god, a god in his glory - Martin, what if you were harmed? He could be keeping you safe.”
“I don’t care what the reasons are anymore! It’s like, like this wall between us. Together and always apart, is that how marriage is supposed to go? Because there’s not much point in being together, is there.”
Douglas’ breathing suspended. “You’re… talking about leaving him?” Disbelief tightened a band of horror around his chest. Martin’s silence hung between them. “You’re not really? You can’t be serious. Martin, that’s madness.”
Martin turned at last. His face was strained, the freckles standing out in relief on pale skin. “Help me, Douglas.”
Douglas was shaking his head. He rose to his feet and picked up his jacket. “I can’t stay here and listen to this folly.”
Martin took two quick steps to block his departure, hands outstretched. “Please, Douglas! You’re the only one who can help me!”
In a sudden fury Douglas snarled, “You’re going to get your new paramour killed, whoever it is. I hope to the skies above it’s not Arthur. Do you have any idea what’s at risk?”
“I… I think I know, yes! And it’s not Arthur, why would you ever think that?” Martin cried. “It’s... it's -”
Martin broke off with a frustrated noise. He reached out and with a hard yank on his tie that had Douglas stumbling forward, Martin plastered his mouth over Douglas’. Douglas froze as Martin wound an arm around his waist to clasp him closer, lips moving with frantic insistence over his own. For a moment Douglas responded, mouth softening under the assault as Martin pressed against him, all lithe warmth and need. A moan vibrated in his chest, released in a whisper of air before reason returned and he tore himself away, hip knocking into the table behind. He stared at Martin, gasping for air. The way Martin looked, lips pink and moist and his eyes, the wild hope. Oh, skies above and below.
“You’re going to ruin me,” Douglas managed to squeeze past the lump in his throat. “You’re ruining me. Don’t. Don’t do this, Martin.” His hands gripped the edge of the table until the pain in his fingertips reminded him of why he was not to reach for Martin.
Martin’s eyes dimmed slightly. “Do you… do you care for me? At all?”
Douglas shut his eyes, struggling to regain control. Of himself, of the situation, he wasn't sure. “I’m your friend, always.”
“Oh.” The laugh came out a broken gasp. “B-but.. I had to try. B-because it’s you, Douglas. You. And maybe I’m making a terrible mistake, but I have to. It’s my future, and I’m not willing to give up without a fight.”
Douglas forced himself to meet Martin's eyes and promptly wished he hadn't. But he clung to the table behind him, a drowning man with a spar, and didn't move.
The silence stretched. Martin's expression slowly slid to somethind hopeless and lost. “I thought… I hoped. Anyway.” He took a step back, then another until he bumped into the door. “Douglas, please… please think about it. I’m willing to take my chances.”
He opened the door and gave Douglas one last look, smile trembling. “I hope you are, too. See you tomorrow?”
“Yes,” Douglas whispered. The door closed with a soft click. Cut free, Douglas sagged into his chair. He drew a shuddering breath. “Oh. Oh, Nyx and Chaos, what am I going to do. Yes. Yes, Martin.”
In a burst of motion he stood and heaved the table on its side. Papers flew, a glass smashed with a tinkle and the whiskey bottle skittered across the floor without breaking. “Fuck,” he hissed. He tilted his head back, lips drawn back from teeth. “Are you happy?” he shouted at the ceiling. “Are you all enjoying this up there?”
With angry motions he began to clear up the mess. The glass shards went into the dustbin, the papers stacked. His hand hovered over the bottle of green whiskey before closing around it to set it upright.
[The 7th day of Boedromion, year 4 of the 696th Olympiad, early autumn]
The rich voice drifted across the garden of Red Lodge Farm. “Don' be scared of what you migh’ see there… The firs’ time I saw you, knew love at first sight must be true, so true, oh so true…”
Eros balanced with his toes on the sill of the spare bedroom his house, wrenching at the sash. The window opened with a jerk and he overbalanced backwards, catching himself before painful impact in the rose bushes with a few wingbeats. “Buggering Hades. Ridic’lous window. Ridic’lous god, forgettin’ his key.” He giggled softly. “Shh. Don’t wake Martin.” Beating his wings labouriously, he flapped back to the open window. His entrance was no more graceful; a pinion feather caught in the frame and he tugged against it before disincorporating the wing without thinking. He fell on his face. “Bugger.”
After a moment he began singing once more, voice muffled by the carpeting, “Feel joy.. feel pain...You're in m’heart an’ it's tearing me ‘part…” He rolled over and smacked a hand over his forehead. “Stupid. Shh. Shhhhh. Martin’s sleepin’.” With Herculean effort he prised himself from the welcoming softness of the carpet and made his way to their bedroom, shoulder bumping the wall as he went his lopsided way.
The bedroom was silent. Eros felt a pang of panic. He grabbed at the draperies surrounding the bed and stuck his head through. he relaxed as he spied the curl of body under the sheets with red curls fluffing every which way on the pillow. Still here. Martin slept soundly in spite of all the noise Eros had made, chest rising and falling with deep breaths. Eros breathed in the warm sleep scent. Home, this mortal was his home. For as long as he would stay with Eros, anyway.
He eased himself to lie next to his husband, leaning up on an elbow to study him better. His heart contracted. Martin’s profile was a study of contrasts in red and white, pale skin, red nose and puffy eyelids. He’d been crying. For me or about me? Dream on, sky god. Y'know it’s your fault.
The maudlin reality of his situation swept over him again. He touched a curl, rubbing the silky threads between thumb and forefinger. “Love you, Martin,” he said, his whisper a thread of sound. “Love you. Why don’ you love me? ‘Stead, you go an’, an’ fall in love with sodding Douglas. Or Arthur. ‘Kay, not Arthur, but still. Why not me? You don’ like gods?”
A drop fell on Martin’s cheek and he stirred with a faint noise. Eros stroked the tear away with a thumb. “Sh, don’ worry. Just me. Sleep.” When Martin’s breathing had evened out again, Eros turned his head and roughly wiped the dampness from his face onto his shoulder.
“You win. You don’ like gods, s’okay. Won’t be a god. Give it up for you. Can have everthin’. Jus’... jus’ stay, love.” Eros’ head drooped, lassitude overtaking him. He wrapped himself around Martin, uncaring of how Martin’s curls tickled his face with every breath. “Don’ leave me.”
The drunken snore was stentorious. In the darkness, Martin’s eyes slitted open.
[The 7th day of Boedromion, year 4 of the 696th Olympiad, early autumn (August 28th 2009)]
The rattle of china roused Eros. Skies, but his head hurt. He smacked his lips a few times, trying to work some moisture into the barren desert of his mouth. If only someone would pass him that coffee he smelled. His whole face felt hot. Fiery pricks of gold and red danced across the inside of his eyelids. He frowned. So bright.
Something crashed with a tinkle and then there was literal fire spattering his shoulder. He yelped and shot upright. Coffee from an overturned cup on the bedside table dripped in the sudden silence. Martin was staring at him with a napkin upraised. For a frozen moment Eros looked at his husband. Martin’s hair was a nimbus of golden flame in the morning sun streaming from windows with their curtains flung back. A thought slipped through Eros’ befuddled brain. How gorgeous he looks today.
Martin relaxed and sat on the bed. He patted the dark liquid soaking into Eros’ shirt.