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river crossings

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"Dionysus promised me a feast," Zagreus eyes Thanatos from his side of the bed. "When I make it out."

Thanatos glances over to him. "He did, did he?"

"He did," Zagreus repeats, mismatched eyes sparkling with mischievous intent. From that look alone, Thanatos can tell what’s coming next: a very, very bad idea.

"No," Thanatos answers before Zagreus gets a chance to ask.

Zagreus laughs into Thanatos’ shoulder. "Oh come on Than, an Olympian feast, you can't say no to that.” 

Thanatos momentarily considers that in many cases, it would indeed be highly unwise to turn down such an offer. The gods aren't exactly known to handle rejection well. Good thing that invitation isn’t addressed to him.

"You can’t," Thanatos corrects. He can feel Zagreus’ hair tickle his neck. 

"It’ll be fun," Zagreus continues as if Thanatos hadn't said a thing. “We’ll make it a date. Dress up and everything.”

Thanatos rolls his eyes. Dress up? Is Zagreus planning to get some freshly cleaned skulls for his pauldron? "You won't make many friends upon Olympus with death on your arm, Zag."

"Why, personally I think your winning smile and irresistible charms will take care of that," Zagreus replies, a little too serious to be taken seriously.

And Thanatos intends to scoff, but instead he ends up laughing. That kind of thing seems to happen a lot whenever Zagreus is around. At least that means they always laugh together.

“See?” Zagreus gently brushes his fingertips along the swell of Thanatos’ lips, tracing his ebbing smile. “Right there,” his whisper barely contains the adoration packed into his words.

“You’re a fool,” Thanatos mumbles, flustering, feeling Zagreus’ touch slip from his mouth as he speaks.

“I must have some irresistible charms of my own then, seeing how you’re in my bed regardless,” Zagreus grins.

“Modest, too,” Thanatos adds.

Zagreus chuckles. With one, almost-fluid movement, he rolls himself on top of Thanatos. Raising himself on his elbows, he rests his head on his hands.

“Find me a god who is,” he says, peering down at Thanatos expectantly.

“You’re heavy,” Thanatos says instead, even though his hands have already snuck up to hold Zagreus’ hips in place. Just in case he plans to move away.

It’s quiet for a beat. Thanatos watches Zagreus, who pulls himself up to perch in his lap. He begins drawing patterns on Thanatos’ chest, constellations between ribs, muscles, marks and scars. It's relaxing and exciting at the same time, the way his fingers dance across Thanatos' skin.

“It'd be a great opportunity to meet them all," Zagreus says, continuing his earlier train of thought. "My family." 

Entranced by Zagreus' soothing touch, it takes Thanatos a second to register his words. "You...want me to meet your family?" he asks.

"Well, yes?" Zagreus seems embarrassed. His hands still. "Is that weird?"

Thanatos looks at Zagreus, at the sincerity in his gorgeous red-green eyes. He's not joking. He actually wants him to meet the Olympians. Thanatos bites his tongue. He can't bring himself to tell Zagreus that this ‘family’ of his wants absolutely nothing to do with anyone born of the Underworld.

(He has his theories on why Zagreus himself became an exception to that rule. Most of those theories involve Zagreus' smile. Not even Olympus can deny a soul so beautiful.)

"No, I'm just, not sure why you’d want something like that," Thanatos averts his eyes, lest Zagreus reads his thoughts. 

“Why?” Zagreus repeats, surprised. “Isn’t it customary to introduce your...uh…”

“Your…?” Thanatos raises an eyebrow at Zagreus’ coloring face. "Your what, Zag?" 

“Um, haha, well…” Zagreus runs a hand through his hair. “I mean, it doesn’t matter, really."

(Thanatos wants to disagree but Zagreus keeps talking.)

"What matters is that you’re important to me. So if the gods want to get to know me, they should get to know you...You know?”

“You don’t think they’d cast you out?” The question escapes Thanatos before he can consider its implications.

“Huh? For what?” Zagreus blinks.

Oh. He really hasn’t thought about that, it seems. Thanatos tries to keep his voice gentle. He doesn't want to crush Zagreus' dreams but if those dreams are unrealistic, it'd be best to find out early, right? “Continuing to consort with us...with me, after your successful escape? They're likely to take offense."

“I don’t see how it’s any of their business who I do or don’t consort with,” Zagreus huffs.

And Thanatos laughs because Zagreus is a god in so many ways, but he’s just Zagreus in so many more. It's that mess of a mix with which he fell in love. 

“You’re right,” Thanatos says. He reaches out to brush a lock of hair from Zagreus' eyes. “It’s not.”

“And hey, Lord Ares likes you,” Zagreus adds. “That’s a start, right?”

Thanatos’ expression pulls into something uncomfortable. Now it’s Zagreus who laughs.

“Right, befriending the murderous cousin's probably not the best approach to win over the in-laws,” he admits, chuckling.

Something inside Thanatos’ chest jumps and sings at Zagreus referring to the Olympians as his in-laws, his wedded family, like it’s easy. Like there’s a deity out there who’d be willing to speak the words over them. Even if someone did, Thanatos’ doubts their marriage would be acknowledged. He winces just imagining what Lord Hades would say.

But then there’s Zagreus’ smile again, and the thought of getting to see that all the time makes complications seem irrelevant. Maybe it is easy. Their vows have already been spoken between here and the surface, echoed over and over between ambrosia and keepsakes, panicked cries for help and longing calls for companionship. Between Zagreus’ body and his own. They are gods. There's no need for anyone's blessing but their own.

“You’re serious about this, aren’t you,” Thanatos asks.

Zagreus looks down at him, his palms resting flat on Thanatos chest. His touch is soft, like Thanatos is made of something far more delicate than death. “Of course I am,” he says. “Aren’t you?”

Thanatos covers Zagreus’ hands with his own. They always feel so much warmer. “I am,” he promises.

Zagreus just stares at him for a moment, that sunny-sweet gaze that makes Thanatos feel weak in the knees. Like he’s looking right through him, sees everything about him and decides all of it is worth his love. All of him. Thanatos doesn’t think he’ll ever grow used to the things Zagreus makes him feel.

But he doesn’t want it to stop, either.

Zagreus stretches, bones and muscles gently popping back into place as he raises both arms above his head. Thanatos can’t resist drawing a single line down the center of his torso and Zagreus’ budding yawn shatters into ticklish giggles, collapsing him on top of Thanatos in a spontaneous embrace. They lie like that for a moment as calm reclaims them, following each other’s rise and fall as if floating on one of the many rivers they’ve crossed. Thanatos’ hand lazily strokes along Zagreus’ naked spine.

He cherishes these moments, just the two of them and whatever part of the sheets didn’t yet slide to the floor. When they're this close, skin on skin, he can feel Zagreus' heartbeat, the music that keeps him alive. Listening to it fills Thanatos with the urge to protect it. To protect him. If there were any gods to hear him, he’d pray for nothing else.

But the only god who hears him is Zagreus, and he's got prayers of his own.

"You're headed back soon, aren't you," Zagreus sighs into the silence.

It's been a while. The pressure of unfinished business seems to tug on them both. But Zagreus makes no move to get up, and Thanatos likes how he fits in his arms.

"Mm," Thanatos hums. Work can wait a little longer. "Wasn't planning to leave just yet," he says. He feels Zagreus smile between the slow kisses filling the dip of his throat.

Some mortals up there are living a long, happy life right now, but Thanatos isn’t upset. He’s slowly but surely starting to believe the Fates have happiness for him, too.