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The Heat of Battle

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They met on the battlefield.

She was running errands in Makedonia when she heard the Spartans were planning an attack; she told herself it was the promise of drachmae that drew her to the Spartan camp, but the local whispers might have also played a part. They said the Athenian champion was a son of Ares. They said he was undefeated. It shouldn't have made a difference, but she knew somehow it did.

Still, the undefeated son of Ares died on the battlefield. Once the fighting died down and the remaining Athenians fled, just like they always did, she couldn't help but feel a little disappointed.

"That spear looks familiar."

She turned. The man standing there behind her was unarmed, but he was wearing armour that gleamed in the sun so brightly that she had to squint and shade her eyes to see. Even then, she couldn't see much. She hadn't heard him approach. She wondered if she was starting to slip or if she'd just been so thoroughly let down by the fight that her guard was down, too.

"It was my grandfather's," she said, pulling it smoothly from her back. The metal shone brightly in the sunlight bouncing off his armour and she squeezed tight at the short shaft of it, ready for a fight if it happened to come. It certainly hadn't felt much like a fight had come before. "Do you want a closer look?"

He laughed. He shook his head. "No, but I look forward to seeing you use it."

As he shifted his weight, his armour dazzled her completely, and when she opened her eyes he was gone again, just as suddenly as he'd appeared. All she could think was perhaps Tekton, son of Ares, had hit just a little harder than she'd thought he had.

In Achaia, the Athenians called their champion Amphion, son of Ares. He was a giant of a man with a warhammer even taller than he was; across the field, Kassandra saw him fell five Spartans with a single swing and scatter them like tiny dolls. She cut through the Athenian ranks, her heart pounding in her chest as she wondered if she'd found herself a challenge at long last, but it turned out Amphion was yet another bitter disappointment.

"You almost fight like a god," that same man from the last battle said, standing there nonchalant in that same dazzling armour when she turned her head to look at him. Amphion's hammer was slow in the air, much slower than Kassandra was, but the distraction almost cost her dearly. And, as she wheeled around behind the dreaded son of Ares, she realised that the only man on the battlefield whose swiftness matched her own most definitely was not Amphion - it was the stranger whose armour shone just like the sun.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"I am Amphion, son of Ares!" Amphion bellowed.

She sighed, dodging a rather lacklustre attack. "I wasn't talking to you," she said, and gestured with the tip of her spear. "I was talking to him." But the Athenian champion didn't last long enough to see who she'd actually been referring to. She felled him like a large, meaty tree, and when she turned to address the stranger, he was gone again. She cursed under her breath, then she cursed out loud. Whatever the Spartans were paying her, which frankly they'd yet to discuss, she wasn't sure it was enough.

The champion in Boeotia was Demokritos, son of Ares; she dodged her way across the battlefield and put her spear straight through his neck without preamble. As it turned out, the Athenians didn't like that. As it turned out, she was sick to death of fights she could win in less time than it took to braid her hair.

"Malákas sons of Ares," she grumbled, as the Athenians fled, and she stooped to retrieve his coin purse. There was no sense it going to waste, after all, and it seemed kind of him to keep it so handily located. And besides, sometimes the Spartans were surprisingly stingy.

"You know, they're not actually sons of Ares."

She turned, still down on one knee in the battlefield dirt, though she had her spear in her hand in a flash; it was that man again, in his strange gleaming armour, so bright it was like sunbeams shone straight out from it.

"You again," she said. She stood. She dusted off her knee "What is it with you and battlefields?"

"I came to watch you fight," he replied. "It's a shame it was over so quickly."

She huffed out a breath. She shrugged, spear in one hand and sword in the other, frustrated. "Don't you think I know that?" she asked.

He took a step forward. She brandished her spear, so he stopped and he held up his hands.

"I just want to look," he said. "It seems very familiar."

"Maybe I threatened you with it once."

He tilted his head. She squinted. "I'd remember."

When he turned, the armour shone. She didn't close her eyes, though the brightness of it dazzled and stung, but when that brightness died the fact she hadn't closed her eyes didn't change the fact that he was still just gone. That was starting to get very annoying.

On Euboea, the champion's name was Nikios, son of Ares. Kassandra was so eternally fucking fed up of sons of Ares - apparently distinct from the Followers of Ares, it turned out, though she also wasn't their biggest fan - that she almost turned the Spartan commander down flat when he asked if she'd join them in battle. But Barnabas had grumbled something about the Adrestia needing new oars and how arrows didn't just grow on trees, so she had to admit the drachmae would come in handy.

"You have excellent technique," the stranger said, once she'd clenched the spear and scattered eight Athenians through the dirt with a shockwave she wasn't sure she could explain if asked. "Who taught you that?"

"It's just something I do," she replied, not even bothering to turn, and then she barrelled full tilt into the next section of the crowd. She shattered the commander's shield and as he and three of his men went down, she saw the champion. She ran toward him. And when she reached him, all it took was a twitch of the spear and time stood very nearly still.

"You make that look simple," the stranger said. She could see the gleam of his armour from the corner of her eye and as everyone around her moved as if weighted down in the Aegean, he kept up with her. "Don't you find it tiring?"

"I find this conversation tiring," she replied. "Who are you?"

Five swift thrusts of her spear and Nikios fell down into a heap in the dirt. She wiped her bloody blade against his tunic, then she turned. She expected the stranger to be gone already, but there he was behind her, blinding as the sun. She shaded her eyes, but only for a moment; as what was left of the Athenian forces scattered around her, as the Spartans dragged their wounded from the field, the shine died down. After a moment, the blazing glare was just a glow like embers in bronze.

"That spear was mine once," he said. "My brother made it."

He was tall and lean, neatly bearded, broad-shouldered, and when he removed his shining helm and tucked it underneath one arm, he had long, dark hair tied back in a braid, almost but not quite like a Spartan soldier.

"Who are you?" Kassandra pressed.

"Firstly, let me just clarify that these champions are not actually my sons," he said.

She raised her brows. "So you're telling me you're Ares, god of war."

"I didn't say that."

"So you're telling me you're not?"

He smiled. He spread both arms out wide, and he stepped back, and the fire like the sun inside the metal of his armour began to blaze again. He tapped his helm back into place.

"I didn't say that, either," he told her. And then, again, fucking infuriatingly but hardly unexpectedly, he was gone.

"Malákas gods," Kassandra swore under her breath. She rubbed her eyes. "I think I'm losing my mind."

Barnabas said she must be blessed indeed if the god of war had visited her. Herodotus took a slightly more pragmatic approach to the debate, and suggested they make a visit to their old friend Hippokrates. Hippokrates pronounced her as physically healthy as he'd ever known a woman to be, then referred to her Sokrates for a more philosophical explanation of the symptoms.

"Do you believe he is a god?" Sokrates asked.

"I don't know what I believe, Sokrates," Kassandra replied. "I don't even know if he's real."

"Ah, but who can say what is real?" he said. "Am I real?"

"Well, I can see and hear you." She reached out and squeezed his arm. "And I can feel you. I'd say you seem real."

"But do I only seem real? Might I instead be imaginary? Might you be? Might not we all?"

Kassandra groaned. She rubbed her face. Several hours later, including a good meal that still didn't quite redeem the situation and several cups of wine that almost did, she returned to the Adrestia. She was no closer to an explanation, but a good deal closer to drunkenness. Except for the fact that she nearly fell overboard right there in the port before they'd even set sail, that seemed to help.

The Athenian champion in Lokris was Diomedes, son of Ares. When the Spartans asked her to fight, Kassandra found a tavern and ordered herself a drink instead.

"Not fighting today?"

The stranger sat down at her table, smouldering armour and all, though she seemed to be the only one who noticed that. She raised her brows. "How many sons do you have, anyway?" she asked.

"I lost count several thousand years ago," he admitted, with an awkward scrunch of his face. "But I swear these aren't mine. They just think the name sounds intimidating."

"It sounds ridiculous."

He shrugged. "I don't disagree," he said, then he reached toward her wine and she batted his hand away before he got to it. He felt solid. He felt real, though Sokrates would probably have said that posed more questions than it answered. As it was, Ares or whoever the fuck he really was just chuckled, surprised, as he took off his helm and put it down on the table.

Kassandra leaned forward on her elbows to study his face, her brow furrowed. "You seem surprisingly human for a god," she said. "Is this some kind of disguise?"

"You seem surprisingly godly for a human," he replied, then he leaned forward, too. He had deep brown eyes that seemed to be lit up from inside somehow, or maybe that was just a trick of the bad tavern light. "Did you really not want to fight today? This is your plan, getting drunk in Opous while that fake demigod wins another battle?"

"You can go kill him yourself if you care so much," she replied. "I'm comfortable and the wine's surprisingly not the worst I've ever had." Of course, she didn't mention that the worst she'd had had actually been poisoned.

He paused for a moment, like that idea hadn't even occurred to him. Then he smiled brightly, and he stood.

"I think I'll do that," he said, and he turned to walk away.

"Well, this I have to see," Kassandra murmured to herself. And she followed him to the salt flats, a nice full wineskin in her hand, keeping a discreet distance.

On the battlefield, Ares roared so loudly that almost to a man the combattants turned to stare at him. He cut men down with a spear that looked a lot like the one Kassandra carried on her back, except it still had the full length of its shaft; she had no idea where he'd produced it from, since he hadn't had it with him in the tavern, or where the shield came from that burned like he'd doused it in oil and set fire to it. There were moments when he moved too quickly for most of the others to follow. There were moments when he flung men clear across the field. And when he found his way to Diomedes, son of Ares, all it took was a swing of his bronze shield to put an end to him. The solid rim of it crushed his chest. God or not, the way Ares fought was very nearly breathtaking.

As the Athenians fled, and the Spartans returned to their camp with their wounded, Kassandra strode out onto the field.

"You were watching," Ares said. "Did you like what you saw?"

"That spear looks familiar," she replied, and he held it out, blood and all - when she held out hers, the spear tips matched.

"Did you think it was unique?" he asked. "I hate to break it to you, Eagle Bearer, but I've lost more than one of them over the years. Luckily, I have a blacksmith for a brother."

Then he left her there, in a sudden flash of red-gold light from the bronze of his armour. She sighed. His manners really hadn't improved with acquaintance.

In Argolis, the champion was Polymenes, son of Ares.

"Another one of yours?" Kassandra asked, watching from a hill nearby. She was eating an apple, sitting on the grass. When he arrived, bright sunlight and all, she didn't even flinch.

"None of them are mine," Ares replied. "At least I don't think so. I forget."

"You forget?" She raised her brows at him and took another bite, then continued with her mouth full, frowning at the flailing form of Polymenes on the field. He relied on his size and brute strength - there really wasn't an ounce of other talent in him. "But maybe I'd want to forget it they were mine, too."

They sat and watched together, with Ikaros circling high overhead and Phobos chewing grass nearby. It was a beautiful sunny morning that turned into a lovely sunny afternoon, and as the battle died down below them, and the clash of metal slowly ceased, Ares pulled off his blazing bronze armour and stretched out in his tunic on the grass. Kassandra handed him a shiny red apple and he ate it, still lying there flat, as if the possibility of him choking on it was the last thing that might cross his mind. Perhaps, she thought, he was immortal after all.

"You should fight next time," he told her, as the sun started to set. "I haven't seen you fight in months. It's getting boring. Honestly, I expected more from you."

"So you just want to watch?" She tutted loudly. She shook her head. "I thought you were the god of war."

He sat up. He knelt on the grass and he leaned a little closer. Something in his eyes burned like a fire and made Kassandra's heart beat faster.

"Maybe I'll join you," he said. Then he scooped up his armour and, in a flash, he was gone. That had been really disconcerting once, but now she just expected it.

The Athenian champion in Korinthia was Talos, son of Ares. Kassandra wondered where exactly they all came from, but had no doubts where they were going.

She took the field with her spear in one hand and a sword in the other, though who the fuck knew where she'd picked it up from on her travels. Seconds later, Ares joined the battle with a cry so loud it made even her ears ring.

"I thought you were going to turn up late, like always," she called to him.

"And miss you in action?" he called back. "Never."

They fought back to back in one impenetrable, sweeping arc. She shoved her spear into an Athenian's throat; he tossed her his without missing a beat and took up hers instead, and for a while they fought that way, the long-shafted spear glowing at the tip just like her own though it handled rather differently. They switched back, and switched again, and when it came to Talos, Ares swept aside and gave her both. The surge of power she felt with a spear in both hands was staggering. It was intoxicating. She felt she could have torn down cities single-handed. Talos did not last long.

Afterwards, when she handed back his spear and felt the power it had lent her dim back down to its usual more manageable level, he smiled and then he turned and walked away. He walked away and he didn't disappear the way he usually did, so she followed him, intrigued by that. He went into the woods and down a winding, leafy path to a stream that ran through a nearby clearing, underneath the wide-spread branches of a tall old tree. He seemed to know where he was going. She really didn't. She didn't even really know why she'd followed in the first place, except she remembered the power of the two spears inside her, filling her almost to the point of bursting. Maybe she meant to steal his spear, but probably not. That seemed a little rude, all things considered.

She hung back, shaded by the bushes, and she watched him. She watched as he stripped, feeling a jolt inside when it dawned on her what exactly he was doing. He took off everything, first his armour then the tunic underneath, then his sandals last, pulling all the pieces off till he was standing there completely naked. She watched him step into the stream and wash the sticky blood off his scarless skin into the running water. She watched him kneel to wash his blood-slicked hair, watched his hands move down his chest then his taut abdomen, watched one hand wrap tight around his stiffening cock. She couldn't help wondering what in the name of all the gods she thought she was doing.

"Why don't you join me?" he called to her, and she groaned and left her apparently poor hiding place.

"How did you know I was watching?" she asked.

He raised his brows, still kneeling there in the middle of the stream. "I'm a god, Kassandra," he replied, and then flashed her a smile. "That and you smell like a day-old deer carcass."

She thought about joining him, she really did. She thought about taking off her clothes and washing away the blood and dirt, and she was sure it would feel wonderful to be clean after the day she'd had. She thought about joining him because she couldn't have called him unattractive even if she'd wanted to - he was tall and leanly muscled, tanned, defined, and he'd shaken out his long dark hair that clung to his shoulders with the water from the stream. His cock was long and thick and straight, and flushed just like her cheeks were. She'd had less attractive men over the years, and none of them had fought like he did. She could feel her sex twitch with interest at the thought of it. If she'd slipped her fingers in between her thighs, she was sure she'd have found herself already wet, though it was difficult to say if that was for him or the battle.

She thought about joining him, but in the end she didn't do it. She sat down on the grass with her back resting up against a tree and she watched him instead, and he seemed genuinely amused by that. He stayed there on his knees right there in the stream, one hand still wrapped around his cock, and he stroked himself as he looked at her, completely unselfconsciously. She watched him as his muscles tensed under his perfect, flawless skin, as his grip seemed to tighten, as his eyes drifted closed. She watched him make himself come in long, thick bursts, over his own fist into the water.

"And thus twenty new nymphs are born," she joked, but her voice sounded thick even to her own ears. Her clit throbbed underneath her tunic, begging to be touched. She could almost feel exactly how wet she was just from watching him; this time, she knew it wasn't the battle.

He laughed, picking himself up out of the water. "That's the kind of thing my father likes to do to procreate, not me," he said. He wrung out his hair and then gestured at it. "Some help? You'd think sometime in the past several millennia I would've got the hang of this."

She crossed the stream, not entirely sure why she was doing it. She went over to him, and she braided his damned hair, so close to him she could feel the heat of his bare skin. He seemed so hot, hot enough that he was drying really, really quickly, almost impossibly so. Then he turned, still completely and utterly naked, and tilted her chin up with one hand. He leaned close. His eyes seemed to blaze inside.

"Meet me on Olympos," he said. "When you get there, I think you'll know exactly where to go."

Then he scooped up his clothes and, in a second, in a flash, he was gone again. Kassandra cursed into her hands. For a second, she'd believed he was going to kiss her. She couldn't honestly say she wouldn't have let him if he had.

She thought about ignoring the ridiculous thing he'd said. She intended to ignore the ridiculous thing he'd said. There was absolutely no point in taking the Adrestia back up along the coast to Malis and making her way up to the peaks of Mount Olympos on the say-so of some strange maybe-deity. There was no point, even if he fought extremely well and, well, when it came to it, even if he made excellent material for the occasional highly sexual fantasy. There was something about the fact his skin lacked scars so completely, despite the fact he was so clearly at home on the battlefield, that made her want to touch and touch and touch. His smart mouth, though, really just made her want to punch him in it.

She intended to ignore what he'd said but the problem was she'd destroyed the Cult of Kosmos, closed the doorway to Atlantis and regained her Spartan citizenship, and as much as she liked to help people every now and then, most days seemed to blend into one another. She sunk bandit ships or she raided bandit camps, tried vainly to teach her little brother how not to make everyone who met him hate him, and told herself she wasn't going to Olympos.

The Athenian champion in Phokis was named Aetios, son of Ares. Kassandra shot him with a flaming arrow from the top of a hill nearby just so she'd see the end of him without getting blood on her armour, then she admitted defeat. She went to Olympos.

The mountain seemed just like every other mountain that she'd ever seen, and she'd seen a few. There was snow at the top and there were trees and the occasional bear, and after the seventh day meandering around to no avail, she started to think she'd been had. When she fed Ikaros, he seemed to agree. When she scratched behind Phobos's ears as they rode into yet another empty, high-up valley, he seemed to think so, too.

And then, of course, just when she was thinking of heading back to the coast and her ship and the sea and the warmth of the sun, she saw the carvings at the mouth of a cave nearby. They glinted with the same odd light as her spear did when she took it from her back. She'd seen it so many times before, though she knew not everyone saw what she did.

The passage in the cave led up. It led up winding stone stairs and long, twisting stone passageways, almost inside the peak itself, impossibly. She lit a torch to see by and she traversed water-filled chasms, climbed, shimmied through cracks, climbed, climbed, until she came to a large stone archway, like she'd seen on Andros or on Lesbos. A single beam of light shone through a slit there in the centre of it, bleaching the stone floor that it fell against. When she slipped the spear tip into it, the stone doors slid apart. She stepped inside.

It was a valley on the other side, huge and fresh and green and full of light, and she really couldn't see how that could be when she'd taken Phobos all across the mountain and found nothing of the sort. She could see grand palaces; some of them were great sprawling complexes like she'd seen at Knossos or Mycenae, sitting by the swift river on the valley floor, and some were built into the mountainsides, like she'd seen on Thisvi or on Thera. There were horses running, groves of trees and a crystal-clear lake and...looking out from that place on the mountainside, Kassandra knew where she had to go. Really, it was obvious.

His home was set apart from the others, at the height of a series of rocky switchbacks, by the side of the roaring mouth of the river. There was a curious white horse that approached her as she made her way down into the valley and he let her jump up on his back; he wasn't quite good old trusty Phobos, but he seemed happy enough to take her to the gates of Ares's high stone fortress, two days' ride away across the valley. Still, at the gates, the horse shied till she hopped down and let him turn back.

He was in the courtyard beyond the gates when she arrived. He was practicing with his spear in his hand, stripped down to his sandals and his loincloth so his armour couldn't get in the way. When he turned, she met his spear with hers. He was strong. He was very strong. The blow almost knocked her off her feet, and it didn't even look like he was trying.

"You came," he said, and he smiled at her, all teeth. He stepped back, sweeping his spear aside. "I knew you would. The gates of Olympos don't admit just anyone."

"They let you in," she replied, with a smile of her own as she drew her sword. "How hard could it be?"

He laughed. "So you're here to fight!" he said. "I've been looking forward to this for a very long time."

She came at him. She had a feeling it was a terrible idea, all things considered, but she did it anyway; she did it like she meant it because she had a feeling that he wanted that, and anything else seemed like an insult to them both. They danced around each other, spears in the air, circling, slashing, and he was fast, he was so fast, and strong, so strong, the force of his blows jarring right into her bones. But it felt good - it felt so good - to have a challenge again. It was exhilarating to feel like he might just beat her. She didn't want to die, but she thought somehow that if she had, at least she wouldn't have gone disappointed.

They fought till they were breathless. They fought till sweat trickled down Kassandra's spine and stood out at Ares's brow. Then he lunged, and she dodged, but he was quicker; he dragged her down and when they got to the ground, his back pressed to the dusty flagstones and her lying there winded on top of him, he had his spearpoint to her side under the low edge of her breastplate. The edge of hers was pressed against his throat.

"Could this kill you?" she asked, as she pressed a little harder. The edge sheared at the margin of his beard.

"I don't know," he admitted. "Honestly, I'm not in a hurry to find out." He pushed his spear a little tighter to her side, and she heard it tear her tunic. She felt it press up to her skin. "Are you?"

Her heart pounded. Her pulse raced. He was an excellent fighter. He was the challenge that she'd lacked. He was a fucking god, that much was painfully obvious given all the things she'd seen. And she could feel how his cock swelled against her abdomen, under both his clothes and hers, as the edge of her spear scraped higher at his throat. She drew blood. His eyes flashed hot and, for a thrilling second, she wondered if he was holding back. She wondered if he'd intentionally fought her to a draw. The thought of it made something in her surge up, too, bright and hot and fierce.

She pulled back, but only far enough to slice the linen at his groin to useless shreds with the point of her spear and bare his thick erection. She reached underneath her tunic and her tassets and pulled her own linen wrap away, too. She took his cock in one hand, her spear still in the other, and gave a few slow strokes. He bared his teeth and gripped her thighs and he was hot, so fucking hot, like he was on fucking fire inside, as she spread her knees and straddled him. She used the pulsing head to spread her lips and rub her clit in slow, firm circles. Then she pushed it back and she pushed it in and she opened herself up with the thick length of him. She'd been thinking about it since that day at the stream and, if he was who he said he was, he probably knew. If he was as good as his word, he'd thought about it, too.

He gripped her hips and he braced his heels and he pushed up hard against her, fucking her in short, sharp thrusts from underneath. She clawed at his chest with her spear in her hand, meeting those thrusts with quick snaps of her own. She could feel how wet she was around him, slicking him from base to tip with her arousal that absolutely matched his own. She rested the spear on his bare chest and she pulled off her breastplate, then groaned in frustration as she realised her tunic was still cinched in by the tassets at her waist. She tore it, the fabric ripping loudly, to expose her breasts to him; he reached up and he palmed them, his hands so fucking hot, then he pinched hard at her stiff nipples and made her moan out loud.

"You're holding back," she said, flushed and nearly breathless. "Haven't I convinced you I can take it?"

He laughed, right at the point of breathlessness, too. Then he moved. He turned. He pushed her down on her back and he entered her again, pushing in hard, pushing in right up to the hilt in one deep thrust. It maybe should have hurt but she was clutching at the spear, one hand above her head; nothing hurt, not the way he fucked her, not his big cock inside her, stretching her, her cunt so tight around him, making her shiver, not the stone floor at her back, not the strain in her thighs as she squeezed them tight around his waist. His eyes burned like the shine of her spear and time seemed to slow as she clenched her fist at the spear's short shaft, as he came up to his knees with her thighs still tight around his waist and he held her there upright, like she weighed nothing, fucking her in those same short, deep, should-be-bruising strokes. His skin shone. His skin glowed. And she understood the blaze of his armour had never just been in the metal; it was in the burning heat of his skin as well.

He came in her, jerking deep as he bit at the crook of her neck and somehow - thank the spear, she supposed - he marked her but he didn't break the skin. He came inside her in waves, in bursts, hot pulses of his cock and jerks of his hips as he pressed his mouth against her sternum and held her almost so tight she couldn't breath. Then he lay her back down on the ground before he pulled out of her, his breath coming just as harshly as hers did. But then he ducked down, and he pushed his fingers in where his cock had just been, spread her lips and tongued her clit. He sucked there, hard, circled with his tongue, fucking her with his fingers slick with his own come while she gripped her spear in one hand and twisted his long braid tight around the other.

She bucked her hips against his mouth but that didn't deter him. He licked her, sucked her, his mouth so fucking hot against her, until her muscles fucking trembled out of her control. She came with an audible gasp, with an audible groan, holding him there up against her cunt. As he pulled his fingers out, slowly, she felt herself pull tight around them one last time. As he sat back and she let him go, his braid unravelling from around her palm, his skin was flushed and his gaze was still directed down between her parted thighs, like he wanted to have her again already. She wondered what it might have been like if she hadn't had her spear clutched so tightly in her hand. She wondered what it might have been like if she'd had both of them.

Afterwards, she stayed there for three days.

There were no other clothes for her to wear that would have fit, so they sat together, his eyes on her bare breasts almost as much as they were on her torn tunic, and they sewed it up together.

"You know, your needlework's great for a god of war," she said, not quite hiding a smile, and he rolled his eyes and shook his head then tossed her torn tunic aside again. He pressed his mouth between her thighs and opened her up with both his thumbs. He pressed both thumbs in and tongued her clit and showed her precisely what else he was good for. It really wasn't just needlework.

They fought and they fucked, in his bed, on the battlements, on their knees beside a rack of eight identical spears that made her laugh out loud as he thrust into her. She straddled his lap at the dining table and he kissed her, slowly, his hot hands resting at her hips. She let him wash her, her braid undone, his hands on her from head to toe. He slept beside her in his bed at night, once he'd fucked her in the firelight. He tore her tunic and they sewed it up again. Twice.

She stayed three days but she knew she couldn't stay much longer; there was just too much she missed out there, in the outside world, and she'd worked too hard since Kephallonia to give those things up now. He grumbled about it, muttered something about fucking demigods and their fucking mortal lives, but let her go. She's not sure she's actually a demigod, but there was just something about the way he said it that makes her think sometimes.

She wasn't sure if she'd see him again. Until now, she really wasn't sure.

"He's not my son," Ares says, glowing like the sun in the armour that his brother made for him - his brother Hephaistos, another fucking god, though Kassandra's yet to meet the family. He's pointing his spear at Ampelios, son of Ares, across the Arkadian battlefield.

"You might want to tell him that," Kassandra replies. "He's the one who said it. I'm not claiming I'm Kassandra, son of Ares."

He laughs and when he kisses her, rough and hot and deep, she lets him. Then they fight, their twin spears glowing in the blood and dirt, and it's just like old times.

Afterwards, she might let him lure her to another stream and strip her out of all her bloodstained clothes, right down to her bare skin. She might let him kiss her again, like a lover, like he's human and not...something else. She might let him wash her, and trace her scars, and if he asks her how she got them, she might tell him. When she looks, he has a thin, pale line there at his throat where she cut him with her spear those months ago, and she wonders if he'd let her hold it to that place again, knowing what he knows about it now. She thinks he would, and that seems to mean something.

They met on the battlefield, and the battlefield is where they'll keep on meeting.

It's where both of them belong, Kassandra thinks. And, in this moment, as he meets her gaze and smiles, she doesn't mind that at all.