Adjusting to an Elysian afterlife had proven to have its ups and downs, and as of late there had been more of the former than the latter, a trend that Asterius hoped would continue. When he saw the king jogging toward him, all smiles, he knew this would indeed be a good day.
“Asterius!” Theseus called, still several yards away but, as always, more than loud enough to be heard. The Minotaur had come to find this trait of the king’s charming as of late, rather than grating. It was hard to ignore him, but Asterius found that he no longer wanted to. “I hope you are prepared, for I have a grand gift for you, the likes of which you have never before seen!”
His ears perked up when Theseus spoke, but he did not answer; Theseus knew that he was listening, and so there was no need to speak. (It was odd, he thought, to spend such effort keeping his own speaking abilities intact when he was alone, only to learn that once he dwelled alongside people, the most important things could be left unsaid.)
“You wear very little here, in Elysium, and that is all well and good! I myself spend much of my time in the nude. It is to be expected, with magnificent physiques such as our own.”
“That much is true,” Asterius replied. Though he had once felt shame about his monstrous form, and even still there was some lingering awkwardness, there was no outfit in the world that would cover his unusual body. There was no point in putting effort into what he wore, for few of Elysium’s residents saw fit to give him more than a cursory glance before scurrying away. So long as he was appropriately covered, all was well.
The king was not the same, and though he did indeed spend much of his time in the nude, he put in an equal effort to clothe himself extravagantly whenever he saw fit. Though Elysium itself could provide anything that he desired, he saw value in building up a collection of clothing, each designed just for him. They could be easily obtained from otherwise-bored shades that had worked with textiles in their lives and continued in the underworld, he had explained, and the shades were more than satisfied to be doing such work for a king.
“And so, I must see to it that you are clothed properly,” Theseus continued.
“Properly, my king?”
“You’re a prince!” Theseus declared, as if Asterius was not already aware of the fact that his mother was a queen and his father was not, in fact, her king. “And you are always by my side now! You should dress well--no, you deserve to dress well!”
“I will do as you say, then.” It mattered little to him either way, though Asterius couldn’t help but wonder if it was indeed less about what he deserved and more about looking presentable by Theseus’ side.
But though Asterius had agreed, Theseus’ face visibly fell. Asterius was not sure why. “You don’t sound very enthusiastic,” the king said.
“Nobody here sees me as a prince, present company excluded. It is not cold here. I can fight equally well in the finest regalia as I can in the nude. And so, what I wear makes no difference. Besides, bulls do not wear clothing, typically.”
“Well, Asterius, they could.”
The Minotaur took a moment to briefly imagine what it might look like if a bull, grazing in a field, wore a chiton, and perhaps the same golden bands Theseus enjoyed donning to emphasize the swell of his muscles. They were different from his own nose ring, and Asterius liked them more. Impractical perhaps, but they were chosen. “A ridiculous image,” he concluded. “But then, I suppose I am as much human as I am bull.”
It was getting easier to remember that, these days.
A part of Theseus had thought that Asterius would quickly make friends. He was not a threat to the other shades as he was here, and while the Minotaur had been notorious within Greece while he was alive, those in Elysium came from all parts of the world and all times, so most of them would never have heard of him. Asterius could have created a whole new story for himself and told everyone around him that he was a legendary warrior, even a hero. But when Theseus suggested that to him, he declined.
“If they ask, I will tell them the truth,” Asterius said. “Though nobody has asked.”
It was hard for Theseus to believe that, for who would not be curious to hear the story of such a majestic beast? (And who, for that matter, would refrain from lying about his own past at least a bit in order to make himself seem more favorable?)
Asterius seemed content enough to be alone whenever Theseus was not by his side, and while the other shades feared him, they at least let him be. Sometimes Theseus would find him alone, resting in the grass among butterflies; other times, he would be admiring Elysium’s many fine sculptures.
Still, Theseus came to develop a certain irritation for the other shades in Elysium, who never thought to even give Asterius a chance to prove himself a worthy companion. Some part of him was pleased to have Asterius’ attention all to himself, but would it not be even better if he had a chance to show Asterius off? It was easy to imagine it: shades cheering in the stands as they sparred, all of Elysium envious of the way they were perfectly paired.
And after the feasts, they might retire to Theseus’ chambers, and…
Well! And do the sorts of things that were done after victory feasts.
But if the others would not appreciate Asterius, at least Theseus could, and he could start by bringing the Minotaur just a bit closer to the splendor that he deserved.
In the end, it wasn’t much of a challenge to convince Asterius to visit his most favored sewing-shade. But while he did not object to being brought there, he still seemed wholly unconvinced that there was any need for it. Of course he was simply incapable of understanding--he had always been a solitary creature, with no need to dress well. This was all changing now, if only he would understand!
But the Minotaur, Theseus knew, was shy. He did not know how to appreciate many of the finer things in life--er, the afterlife--and had to be taught, one at a time.
And with all of this in mind they were off, for Theseus had concocted the perfect solution for Asterius’ woes: together, they would select new garb, clothing that the two of them could don in tandem. “Perhaps then,” Theseus said, “you could be reassured that you belong!”
Asterius merely shrugged. “If you say so, King.”
“I do say so!” Theseus said, pushing open the door of his most favored sewing-shade’s dwelling. He could not remember her name--there were so many shades here, and most of them looked so alike!--but her skill was great. “Hello! A request for you, ma’am!” he called to her. “For myself, once again, and also for my companion here! It may be a bit of a challenge to take his measurements, but you are a skilled craftswoman, prepared for any—”
“She is leaving,” Asterius said.
It was an astute observation. Indeed, after only a glance at the pair she had begun to scurry away, and they were forced to follow.
“How dare she!”
“Can you blame her for avoiding the Bull of Minos?”
“We are paying customers!” Theseus huffed. “Fair lady, come back. Be not afraid--Asterius, tell her to be not afraid.”
“Uh, hello,” Asterius said. “You have nothing to fear.”
At this, the woman stopped, at least momentarily.
“You see!” said Theseus. “Now make us some clothes. Or are you afraid that your skills are not adequate for a duo as august as the two of us?”
At this, the shade puffed up her cheeks. “That’s not it! I just have never clothed a bull-man! Or… met one, for that matter.” She glanced at Asterius offering him a hesitant smile.
To Asterius, even this response seemed incredibly tolerant, but to Theseus it was evidently not enough. It seemed that the king mirrored her displeasure with a similar pout, though he himself would never have admitted it. “Fine, then! Do you have someone you work under? Or someone you were apprenticed to? I can ask them instead!”
“Ridiculous! I work for myself alone, and I don’t appreciate the implication that I couldn’t. Come here!”
And thus, the matter was settled. Soon enough their measurements had been taken--a lengthy process that involved the shade standing on a chair, a table, and Theseus’ shoulders--and their formal request made.
Theseus was glad to find that they received their clothing promptly, thanks to the tailor-shades that were bored and eager to please, or perhaps afraid of what he might do if he was unhappy and saw fit to find new practice targets for his spear. Theseus, excited, disrobed the moment the new outfit was in his hands, giving not a single thought to the shade who had delivered it.
Perhaps it was rude of him, but the new chiton was a work of art, created with only the best materials and carefully crafted to show off his best assets! Even the troubles with the seamstress had been worth his while, because the final product was impeccable.
When he was through, he turned to the Minotaur, who surely looked even more spectacular. But Theseus found his companion still staring at the chiton in his hands.
“Do you require assistance?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
Asterius shook his head. “I am… admiring it.”
Theseus watched him trace a single finger delicately across the sturdy fabric. But of course the bull was transfixed by it! He had never worn such garb in all of his life, or his death, and the thought that he was the first to introduce this pleasure to the bull gave Theseus a thrill. “You deserve all of this and more, my friend. I will get for us dozens of outfits--nay, hundreds! All to highlight our glorious forms.”
“There is only a need for the one.”
“There is a need for none, for we will look just as handsome in the nude. But this will not stop me from dressing with style.”
“And we will match!” Theseus added.
“This, I think I will enjoy.”
“You see? All of my ideas are good ones! Now come, Asterius, disrobe.”
Asterius did, with little fanfare. It was a common occurrence to see a brother-in-arms in the nude, and Theseus ought to think little of it. But as the Minotaur unfastened the simple cloth around his waist, Theseus could not help his mind wandering a bit. He could only vaguely recall the hesitation he had felt when he had come across Asterius in Erebus, let alone the fear that had once flooded over him in the labyrinth. His body no longer seemed to belong to a monster, or even a creature It was just… Asterius.
Was it because he was now clean, and well-lit? Because his mane had been styled by Theseus himself? Or perhaps it was because his muscles were fuller now than they had once been, and his coat shinier. Asterius was now fully enjoying the blessings of Elysium, and his appearance reflected this.
“Are you all right? You’re staring.”
This shook Theseus from his reverie. “O-of course I am staring!” he sputtered, attempting to recover from being taken off-guard. “You look… healthier! Finally, you are, ah, worthy of wearing the garb of a king!” Yes, that was it. He was impressed by a fellow warrior.
“I thank you. I do enjoy the colors of it.”
Asterius needed no assistance in dressing, but Theseus aided him nonetheless, as he was sometimes dressed by servants in life. Nothing but the best for his friend—and if he was able to touch Asterius’ body in the process, so much the better.
Dressed to match Theseus, the bull seemed perfectly in his element among Elysium’s perfect green grasses and flowing rivers. He looked like the hero he deserved to become in life, and he looked like Theseus’ partner. These things were equal in both their truth and their importance. Though he had seen it all before, he could not help but admire the flexing of his muscles, and the sight of skin and fur pulled tightly over them.
It was truly a body made unique by the gods, and, he thought with some self-satisfaction, the hard work of training day-in and -out, a habit that Theseus had instilled in Asterius himself.
To see Asterius clothed in his new finery, a chiton in a lovely blue, the fabric thick and luxurious was another grand vision. “You look quite handsome indeed!” Theseus said, not the least bit shy about expressing his admiration. After all that he had been through, the Minotaur deserved the world, and Theseus could at least start with his clothes.
Asterius snorted in what Theseus interpreted as his own show of pride. “I look the same as always. It is you who is handsome.” Asterius replied.
Theseus tossed his old clothing aside, a fine chiton that no longer mattered, as well as Asterius’, barely more than a beggar’s scraps of fabric. Old outfits would no longer have any use to him, now that he could instead match his ally— partner— friend?
He liked friend best.