Terpsichore had noticed Jace and Thanatos talking. She tried to be discreet in her observation and was pleasantly surprised at the tenderness that Jace displayed. It seemed a little strange that he would be open to someone so soon after the emotional display that she had observed. She had done her best to try and comfort him by sending him gifts and notes... Signed 'T'... as in Thanatos.
A wave of panic swept through her. She didn't want Jace to be hurt so soon after the heartbreak that she had observed.
She called mentally to Thanatos, //Thanatos, Jace believes that you left him gifts and notes to comfort him, it's my fault. I don't know what to tell him that won't hurt him. I just wanted him to feel better, he had been hurting so bad.//
//Terpsichore? What did you tell him in the notes, if you don't mind my asking.//
//I told him that I saw his dance, I saw his pain, I told him to be comforted because someone cares, and I signed the note with a T.//
There was a moment of mental silence as Thanatos absorbed the information and the possible connotations.
//So he believes that I saw him dance and offered him comfort... That explains a lot.// Thanatos thought sadly.
//Yes. But let me ask you, if you had been the one to see him hurting, would you have wanted to offer comfort?//
//Of course, but I wouldn't because...//
//So you care?//
//Then the notes aren't a lie. He believes that the someone who cares is you. If you do, then there is no reason to tell him the rest.// Terpsichore reasoned.
//Do you have any romantic interest in him?//
//No, I just wanted him to know that someone cared that he was in pain.//
//If you are agreeable, I will never tell him of this. Although there can never be a relationship between us, I believe that he would be distraught if he found that he approached me under such a misconception.//
//I agree, he is vulnerable right now and needs someone to watch out for him. If you are willing to be that someone, I will give any assistance you need.//
//Thank you Terpsichore, you are a very good friend. Even if Jace doesn't know it.//
* * * * *
Ganymede said quietly so that only Asclepius could hear, "Why don't we take a break from the tour?"
Asclepius, still keeping his eyes averted, nodded slowly as Ganymede led him back to Meg.
"M'Lady, Asclepius and I need to discuss some things privately. Do you have a room we could borrow for a short time?" Ganymede asked with a sincere smile.
Meg thought for a second before responding. "Of course Lord Ganymede, right this way." she said before leading them to a room beside the bar.
They entered and Ganymede led Asclepius to sit. "You remember when I told you that I would always be honest with you?" Ganymede asked quietly.
Asclepius nodded, staring at the far wall.
"Would you please be honest with me as well. Tell me what's wrong." Ganymede said, starting to worry at Asclepius' drastic change in mood.
"When you touched me... I felt something... but I can't, you look like a child..." Asclepius rambled, almost too quiet to hear.
Ganymede had suspected that it might be something like that. "Have you ever had this feeling toward a child before?" he asked gently.
"No, never... it's just... wrong..." Asclepius said, nearly in tears.
"I think I may understand." Ganymede said, then asked, "You know that I'm not a child, right?"
"Yes, but..." Asclepius began to say.
"When you are attracted to someone, do you just feel for the physical body, or do you feel for the person inside?" Ganymede led.
"The person inside, that's why I wouldn't visit a place like this. I couldn't enjoy sex with someone I don't know and like." Asclepius said, sounding a little better.
"I hope I'm not assuming too much but, maybe you're getting to know the person that I am inside and that feeling was stronger than your feeling about the appearance of my body." Ganymede said, trying to be non-threatening.
Asclepius thought about that for a second before asking, "If that was true, how would you feel about it?"
"I would feel honored and pleased that you could feel so strongly for me that you would respond to me even though my physical appearance isn't attractive to you." Ganymede said sincerely.
"Do you feel anything like that for me?" Asclepius asked with a bit of tension in his voice.
"I think so, I'm not used to having those kinds of feelings. I've never loved anyone, I don't know how it feels." Ganymede said with uncharacteristic unsureness.
"If you're right about my feelings, the problem may be solved tomorrow when I give you the antidote." Asclepius said with a hesitant smile.
"Possibly, but what if it doesn't work? I mean, I think it's important to me to know what you'll do if I have to stay in this form... or choose to." Ganymede said with tears in his eyes.
Asclepius sat silently and thought about it for a few minutes. Finally he turned and took Ganymede's hand in his and looked deeply into his eyes.
"It wouldn't matter, I like the person who you are inside and if the antidote doesn't work or if you decide not to take it, I won't feel one bit different toward you." he said with a loving voice. Then Asclepius leaned over to place a gentle kiss on Ganymede's lips.
Ganymede was surprised. For an instant he felt the little spark of fear that always accompanied physical intimacy but then it faded and he just allowed himself to experience the kiss.
Slowly they parted and both sat startled for a moment.
"That was, wow." Ganymede finally said.
"Yeah." Asclepius responded.
"Tomorrow, I'm going to take the antidote. I don't know what I'll look like when it's done. It's important to me to know that it won't make a difference between us... I'm afraid." Ganymede ended with a tremor in his voice.
Asclepius took Ganymede into his arms and began to rub his back and murmur soothingly, "Don't worry, no matter what happens, I'll be with you. You don't have to go through it alone. And however you look when it's done, I'll still be there."
Ganymede snuggled deeper into Asclepius chest. It had been so long since anyone had comforted him. He found that he enjoyed it. And whatever tomorrow held for them, he could always hold tonight close to him as proof that Asclepius cared.
"I thought I was supposed to be making you feel better." Ganymede mumbled into Asclepius' chest.
"We take care of each other. Whatever happens, we take care of each other." Asclepius said, revelling in the feeling of giving comfort and support. He had always been the one needing support, his father was so strong and the muses were so close-knit that he never had to support someone in this way.
Professionally he offered support, but there was a certain detachment to that. When the patient was recovered, there was no more attachment between them. This was personal, and he found that he liked being depended upon, he liked being able to soothe, he liked being a partner.
"Ganymede?" Asclepius asked quietly.
"I think I would like... I mean... If you wouldn't mind..." Asclepius sputtered.
"Just say it Ace." Ganymede said with a smile.
"If you would be interested, I think I'd like to date you... I mean steadily... exclusively." Asclepius said carefully.
Ganymede thought about it for a moment, then said, "Yes, I think I'd like that, but we need to take it slow, I have some things that I need to work out before I can let things go any further."
"I know, I mean I know some of what you have to deal with, and I'm here for you if you need to talk about it." Asclepius said gently.
"Thanks Ace. I have the feeling that right now all I need is time to work things out." Ganymede said calmly.
"Then time you shall have, but we still get to do this, right?" Asclepius emphasized his words with a squeeze.
"Definitely, and this." Ganymede said and turned for another gentle kiss.
"Good, I wouldn't want to do without that." Asclepius said with a smile.
"Are you ready to go back to the tour?" Ganymede asked quietly.
"Sure, I hope each of the stops doesn't have a revelation like this one did." Asclepius said in a teasing tone.
"No, Meg's is special. The rest are just plain old whorehouses." Ganymede said with a smile.
* * * * *
Cupid sat alone in his room and reflected on his past relationships and perceptions of people. As he thought of his treatment of Strife, tears started running down his face. Strife had always been loyal and loving toward him while he was oblivious to what Strife wanted and needed. Hades had been exactly right in saying that he couldn't be trusted. He hadn't seen beyond himself. All his actions proved that he thought about his own pleasures before he thought of anyone else. Cupid thought sadly, [I used Strife.]
He noticed some scrolls sitting on his dresser and thought of Anteros. His brother obviously had problems with him. Until now, when Cupid had bothered to think of his brother at all, he just assumed that Anteros was jealous of him. But now he looked beyond his own self importance and saw his relationship with his brother in ruins, not because Anteros was jealous but because Cupid was a self-involved fool who wouldn't put forth the effort to become interested and involved in his brother's life. Anteros had made many attempts to draw Cupid into his interests so they could have something to share, but he had been in his own world, and since Anteros' interests weren't his, he declined invitations one after another until he was no longer invited. And being so self involved, he never even thought to include his brother in his own interests, so he never invited Anteros into his life. Cupid thought despondently, [I pushed Anteros away.]
Cupid thought of his father and another wave of sadness washed over him. They had been so close at one time, but now they hardly spoke. Cupid could think of a dozen occasions when he had acted selfishly in regard to his father and remembered that each time his father had given him that tolerant loving look. His father didn't expect any better of him... he had written him off as a lost cause. Cupid thought with increasing depression, [I disappointed my Father.]
Thoughts of his father led him to think of Joxer. Cupid should have been the one to offer assistance and advice to Joxer since he was a new god. But true to his selfish nature, all he did was wallow in his own problems and expect Joxer to help him like everyone else. This new god, given no training had helped him when he wouldn't help himself. Joxer had told him to talk through his problems with someone, but what had he done? He had wandered around, wallowing in his own self pity until Joxer had taken it upon himself to take Cupid aside and discuss his problems. Cupid thought with pain, [I've failed as a god.]
Shame overcame Cupid along with a fresh wave of tears. What kind of a parent was he being to Bliss, giving him an example of how to act like he was the center of everything. His little Bliss spent most of his time with Hestia these days so he could work... but after work was finished, he left Bliss with Hestia until he was ready to go collect him. Had she given up on him too? He was such a pitiful excuse for a father. Lately the time he had spent with Bliss had been moving him from one place to another. He hadn't just sat and held Bliss in quite a while... and it had been months since they sat in the floor and played. Cupid thought with agony, [I've failed as a father.]
His mother and stepfather had been as willing as Hestia to watch Bliss, and never said a word against his self-involved actions. From Hephaistos' talk with him the other day, he knew what Cupid's problem was... 'it's not about you, Cupid.' That's what he had to keep reminding Cupid. But he hadn't said it before, not until he had to intervene on Psyche's behalf. So Hephaistos knew... and so did his mother, she had always given him assignments and left him to do his job. She rarely involved herself in his business, and when she did he had made it clear that he didn't want her there. He had behaved selfishly and arrogantly and not had the sense to be humiliated by his own bad behavior. They had given up on him too. Cupid thought from an abyss of misery, [I've failed as a son.]
The feelings were overwhelming. [Too much.] The shame, the guilt, the lost time, the missed opportunities, the ruined relationships, the knowing what a disappointment he had become. [Too much.] A bad father, bad husband, bad son, bad god, bad person. [Too much.] Who was left that he could turn to? [Too much. Need help. Too much...]
And Cupid became silent but for some humming. Sitting and rocking with his arms hugged around his knees and tears streaming down his face.
* * * * *
The sound of laughter could be heard throughout the Halls of War as Ares and Joxer appeared. Joxer took Ares by the hand and led him to the bathing chamber.
"I can't believe how much we danced. I'm so tired, I feel like I could sleep for a week." Joxer said happily.
"It does sound like a good idea but we have things to do... I have to try and stop some wars that the silly mortals started up on our day off." Ares said with disgust.
"You said 'we', what do you have planned for me?" Joxer asked with a sensuous gleam in his eyes as he lowered himself into the tub.
"Many things, but in the morning, I thought I could introduce you to your duties for the house of war." Ares said in relief as he settled in next to Joxer in the tub.
Joxer's eyes lit up with excitement. "Really? You mean I'd be doing a real job just like the other gods?"
"Yes, really. You've learned mind-speak, transporting, invisibility to mortals, and rudimentary materialization so I think you're ready to work." Ares said with a proud smile.
"Uh... ruda what?" Joxer asked curiously as he traced trails of water across Ares chest with his fingers.
"You're a very fast learner. You've developed the ability to create things. Can you make an apple?" Ares asked to prove his point.
"Red or green?" Joxer asked seriously.
"Doesn't matter, just make one." Ares said with a smile.
Joxer thought for a moment and a little green apple appeared in his hand.
"That's what I mean, you can create things that you can picture in your mind. Now all we have to do is practice so the pictures can become more complex, the next step after that is to teach you to create things that don't have a physical manifestation, and finally extra-dimensional materialization." Ares said, accidentally slipping into lecture mode.
Joxer just looked at him puzzled.
"It doesn't matter, we'll be focusing on creating more complex things for the next few decades." Ares said with a loving smile, then without warning he moved in for a kiss.
Joxer responded with enthusiasm. The kissing became deeper and more serious as Joxer thought happily, [The honeymoon's not over yet.]