Because He Loved Me
The meaning of life is something a lot of people talk about, but no one knows what it actually is. Gabrielle thinks itís knowledge; Eve, as of a few days ago, thinks itís the Way of Love. (It sends a chill down my spine as I think what it was before.) I, on the other hand, am happy to admit that if there is some as-yet-unsolved mystery about life (which I doubt) I am highly unlikely to ever figure it out.
If, however, I were forced to make a guess, I would suggest that it was change.
I could see him tossing a dagger from hand to hand as I walked towards him. Something about it was clearly deeply fascinating to him, as he got quite a fright when he finally noticed me.
"You might want to be careful with that. Itís easier to hurt yourself than youíd think."
"Oh, itís you," he said, startled. Then the usual cocky grin made its appearance. "Didnít know you cared so much." I knew I was not imagining the questioning tone in his voice.
I sat down next to him as he sheathed the dagger and looked at me. The grin left his face as I watched, replaced by a searching, desperate look. Normally I am good at staring people out but I found it impossible to withstand his gaze. I looked away, down towards the beach. I had seen the same desperation in his eyes the last time we had spoken here, when I drank the Essence of Death in front of him. He had known then that I had taken all his power away from him, he could do nothing to save me. Now, it was the same look, except that this time he had willingly given up that power to me. I was unsure which of us felt more lost.
We stayed like that, staring at each other for a long moment, and I wondered if it was possible to feel lost and found at the same time. Unbidden, my hand rose and touched his jaw; the flash in his eyes was a mixture of desire and trepidation. He took a deep breath.
"Are Ė Eve and Gabrielle all right?" he said, his voice catching. I found this strangely endearing, seeing this man (as he now unquestionably was) who had always been so sure of his own invincibility, unable to prevent his hand trembling as it covered mine. Unable to stop himself leaning toward me, at the same moment I moved nearer to him.
Our noses bumped just as though we were teenagers sharing our first kiss and I had to smile at the look on his face.
"Itís all right, it happens," I reassured him.
He pulled back from me, although we remained holding hands, and I thought his pride must have been wounded.
"Listen," he said awkwardly, "I want you to know something. I didnít save them because I want Ė this," Ė he indicated our joined hands Ė "and I donít want you to do anything because you think you have to repay me." He paused as he searched for unfamiliar words. "I did it because I knew it would make you happy Ė and that makes me happy." He shrugged uncomfortably. "So if all youíre doing is saying thank you, thenÖ youíre welcome."
I didnít know whether he had greatly over- or underestimated my character. On the one hand, I had only been thinking of my own feelings as I leaned in for that kiss; self-absorbed as I was I hadnít even considered that he would take it the way he had. On the other, I felt uneasy that that was all he thought of me.
"I didnít mean it like that," I muttered. I lifted my eyes from our hands to his face and it was my turn to shrug. "I just wanted it."
He squeezed my hand as I finished speaking and I saw the warmth in his eyes. He shifted closer to me and kissed my cheek softly. I turned my head before he moved away and I touched my lips to his.
I had kissed him many times before and I had had to fight not to appear breathless, but that was when he was a god. As a mortal the sharpness was no longer apparent, but was replaced by a tender yearning that was so intense that I could not help but breathe hard as we parted.
I smiled as I saw him swallow.
"Maybe there are some benefits to mortality after all," he quipped.
The sun had dropped below the horizon and the sky was beginning to darken so I stood reluctantly; he joined me.
"So," I said to fill the thick silence between us, "what are your plans?"
He looked at me quizzically and I scowled inwardly. What plans could he have? But then he smiled. "Iím going to wander the earth."
A surge of irrational longing almost made me ask if I could wander with him, but I didnít.
"If you need anything, anything at alló"
He cut me off, "Iíll survive, donít worry." I suppose it was enough of a shock to have to admit he might need help, let alone getting it from me.
"And Ares? Try to be a better man than you were a god."
He winked at me. "Only for you."
We kissed again for a short moment and then he was gone. I stood there watching him walk away until he was almost out of sight. He only turned around once, when I could still read his expression, and I could see that it was costing him as much to go as it did for me to stay. But neither of us caved: I turned away and went back to my friend and my daughter, and he disappeared into the world that was now his home.
It was his home because he loved me.