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Wine and Water

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Ariadne doesn't believe in love at first sight, any more.

She used to. It was, or so she told herself, the reason for helping Theseus defeat her father's minotaur. He had been so strong, so glorious, so full of confidence in himself; and Ariadne, smitten, had wanted to do anything for him.

Her interpretation of 'anything' had willingly included sailing off with him.

It hadn't included being waking up to find herself entirely abandoned.

Naxos was a beautiful island but it was still an island, and it wasn't home. After most of a day of searching for Theseus, without any luck aside from a shepherd boy's report of a ship much like his sailing away, she told the ocean precisely what she thought of Theseus, his parentage, and love in general, and vowed that she would never love again.

That promise lasted approximately one month three days three hours and twenty-six minutes.

#

"I love you," Dionysus said. "Come away with me."

He had wonderfully expressive eyes, and a graceful figure, and Ariadne reminded herself that good looks aren't everything. "You don't know me," she pointed out stubbornly.

"I know everything I need to." He smiled, and held out a goblet full of a dark heady-smelling liquid. "Here; drink."

"You know nothing," she said, but took the goblet and sniffed cautiously. "What is this?"

"I know that you are mortal but with beauty worthy of a god; and I know that you hold yourself as one used to royal courts but are dressed as a commoner--"

"It's more comfortable," she pointed out, looking down at what she was wearing.

"--and I know that you are thirsty. Drink," he added, using one elegant figure to nudge the goblet towards her mouth. "I promise you no harm will come."

"I'm sure you say that to all the girls," Ariadne muttered, but she took a sip anyway. It was glorious. She said nothing, but his face lit up with a delighted smile.

"Is there more?" she asked when she had finished; at his nod, she commanded, "Serve it."

"As you wish," he said softly, and poured more, and smiled.

#

In the time she had spent with Theseus, they had had relations a few times, and while he was not the worst lover imaginable, he was not the best either. It was not uncommon for him to take his pleasure and then sleep, leaving Ariadne restless and unsated. Such was the way of men, or so she had come to believe.

But the first time she made love with Dionysus -- both of them sober enough but flushed with giddy delight, warm skin a lovely contrast with the gentle night breeze, the stars bright and clear like Dionysus' eyes -- it was a completely different experience. He was attentive to her, and gentle without being meek, with all the patient endurance of a long-distance runner; and when dawn came creeping across the sky, she kissed him and settled into his embrace and murmured drowsily, "Don't ever leave me."

"I promise," he said.

She woke later in his arms, and decided that perhaps there was something to this love thing after all.

#

There came a time when Ariadne died, as mortals do, and went to the Underworld. She grew listless, unable to find peace without Dionysus.

"We all miss the sunlight," one woman told her, "but you grow accustomed to this place in time."

"It's not the world I miss," Ariadne said irritably, "it is my husband."

"He will come here eventually," said the woman, who introduced herself as Semele. "Have faith."

But Ariadne knew that he would not, and said as much, "for he is the son of Zeus, and the children of gods do not die."

Semele grimaced. "The consorts of gods do," she said with surprising venom. But then she settled herself next to Ariadne and said, "Tell me of him."

So she did. She spoke of all the things she loved about him; of all the little annoyances that she missed; of all the ways that he made her smile, made her cry, made her laugh, made her rage.

Semele dried the tears off of Ariadne's face when she was done. "That is the true measure of love," she said. "Who you want to live for is a part of it. Who you can't bear to spend eternity without, though? That is a stronger sign."

#

But it turned out that Dionysus did come, walking into Hades' throne room as though he belonged there, flanked by white leopards. "I have come for what is mine," he said as he bowed to the lord of the Underworld.

"Nothing here is yours," Hades said curtly. "This realm is mine. Those who are still living do not belong here."

Dionysus smiled. One leopard stretched; the other yawned, baring teeth that were impossibly sharp and a curling pink tongue. "I will leave with those I came for." He held out a hand to Ariadne -- "I told you I would never leave you," he said, "did you think death would stop me?" -- and another to the woman Semele. "Mother."

"You're his mother?" Ariadne asked.

"Apparently so," Semele said, raising an eyebrow at Dionysus, "though for a son of mine he took plenty long to come visit me."

Dionysus gave a sunny smile. "I had other distractions."

"I can see that," Semele said; but the look she gave Ariadne was one of conspiratorial friendliness, not any sort of bitterness. "You don't call, you don't write..."

"You don't have to come with me," Dionysus said pleasantly.

"Nonsense; what sort of mother would I be if I disappointed my dearest son?" she returned, and Ariadne snickered a bit.

Hades stood up. "No one who is dead leaves my realm."

Ariadne stepped forward, ready to unleash some sort of retort on him, but before she could do so, someone else spoke. "Darling," Persephone said sweetly to Hades, and tugged him down to whisper something long and involved in his ear. Hades flushed, and a smile tugged at his lips as he listened.

"Perhaps," he murmured to her. "That would be... intriguing."

Persephone laughed. "You three can go," she said to Dionysus and Ariadne and Semele. "Just ... don't come back."

"I think we can manage that," Dionysus murmured, and together the three of them left the Underworld.