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Of Blood and Breath, Ichor and Pneuma

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"You say you'll wait, well, let me ask you this," a pause settles in between them, the air thick with longing tension before Thanatos continues, "What are you waiting for?"

Before any answer can come, he rushes out once more, his voice wavering beyond its natural, unearthly reverberation, "What are you waiting for?"

"I'm here, already," Thanatos assures them both, solidifies the reality of the moment into a simple truth.

And yet one more word, the very last lingering shred of apprehension slides past his quivering lips and falls at Zagreus' fiery feet, "Right...?"

He has never felt so exposed. His feelings unfolding out of him with all the trembling of an emerging butterfly, wings still slick and malformed, raw and oozing, and yet longing to fly.

Zagreus answers first with his name, the lilt of it at once surprised and delighted, "Than." Already, he reads between the lines Thanatos has so carefully caged himself within, and parts them with but a smile.

He trails off into a fond chuckle as he draws in closer, finally allowing his hand to bridge the undefined space between them and imbue it with new meaning as it settles on Thanatos' bicep. Zagreus’ words turn lighter, fonder, and yet there is a hunger lingering in their undercurrent, "Oh, you're right."

The Prince breaches the boundary between them with all the conviction of his many escape attempts. Slides right into Thanatos’ space and the elder God can only lean into him with the same inevitable surrender of the Earth’s wobbling axis to the whims of precession. His Guiding Star shifts, realigning itself to point true towards Zagreus.

Arms trained by a hundred hardships encircle his waist, guiding him back down to let his feet once again grace the ground. Carefully, Thanatos returns the action, wrapping around the Prince as if measuring the circumference of the world itself, for they are one in the same in that precious moment. Doubly so as those gemstone bright eyes lock on him, managing to pin him in place for once.

But the nervous need to vanish is stayed for once - they both want this, they can both have this. All the knots of anxiety woven into the Threads of their fates come undone just as their interweaving begins. The one red thread within his tapestry of black and gold, all the more vivid for its contrast.

“Than,” his voice is softer now, sweeter now. A taste of aural ambrosia just for his newly confirmed suitor. One that has Thanatos’ proverbial cup running over as Zagreus continues, “May I kiss you?”

He bites back the teasingly acidic quip threatening to rise up, swallows it all back down to force himself to be honest. No one has ever offered Thanatos his own selfish desires before, has ever given him the chance to accept and acquiesce to them. Of course, it could only be Zagreus who does so in the end, finally accepting the power he now wields over Death himself. But even when tempered, a bit of the sass that underlines their banter slips out, “I do believe you’ve earned the honor, yes.”

A low, thoughtful hum proceeds his murmur, “It is my honor and my pleasure then to willingly - oh so willingly - accept the Kiss of Death.” More notes of laughter rise up, hanging in the air for only a moment before fading away as their lips finally meet.

Naught but a fledgling kiss at first, a delicate caress that serves mainly to confirm the structure of their new reality. One where affection need not be bottled up, but allowed to flow freely between them. And they need only that first cautious confirmation before shifting to drink deep of one another, each kiss a Fountain unto itself. Each one healing over the last lingering scars of their prior quarrels, washing it all away into the past.

It takes a miracle for Thanatos to even consider pulling back, but one swells within his chest as his long mummified heart stirs after eons of deathly silence. For Death's heart has no need to beat, no reason to follow any sort of mortal mandate. Just as gravity cannot touch him if he so wills it, so too is his heart untethered from the natural flow of the world.

And yet, it beats because of Zagreus. Beats for Zagreus.

With all the gradual gentleness of a river eroding a canyon, with the slow but insistent flow of sand through an hourglass, at the same measured pace of stars and planets coalescing - the hallowed ichor within his veins begins to flow. How long has it sat, at once stagnant and shimmering within him? And how little it has taken to inspire its circulation.

The very real, very new sensation inspires another in its wake as Thanatos exhales. Not the little sighs of either exasperation, longing, or the ever-present mixture of the two, but a true gasp of air from long empty lungs. Enough to be felt, enough to stir the sanctified silence between them.

That small bit of breath ghosts along Zagreus’ still parted lips, lingering in the air for a moment both utterly ephemeral and infinitely stretched out. The Prince doesn’t have quite the right words to describe the scent - not quite that of the rolling green hills of Elysium, but not entirely of the Surface either. Certainly not the cold snap of the snow-covered mountains, but that’s almost it. Both earth and water in one ethereal blend, a fleeting fragment of Thanatos’ immortal pneuma.

The exact terminology and definitions do not matter. What does matter is how Zagreus can’t take his mind off the scent, how he chases it down with another kiss. And oh, do Thanatos’ sacred lips and blessed tongue have their own unique flavor to seek out and savor. He tries to catalogue every last nuance - the bits of flickering stars and waning moons, of endless abysses and lingering twilight.

And in kind, Thanatos seeks out the warm spice only encountered in the divine mouth of the Prince - his Prince now. Sparks and embers, copper and flint. Everything bright and unbound, untamed and unrelentingly alive.

His once still heart trembles again within his ancient ribs, against bones of stone and iron. It should be terribly disconcerting - this fragile fluttering, these blossoming beats so foreign and new.

But he does not fear.

He no longer fears what Zagreus inspires inside of him. This fierce and unshakable loyalty that drives him to formerly unthinkable levels of defiance. This ardor that reconfigures his cosmos and reignites his long frozen heart.

Finally, they manage to part, pausing their combined explorations of one another for a moment. Mismatched eyes crack open slowly at first and then grow wide at the sight before him. "Oh, Than," Zagreus whispers, voice kept low and secretive as if he might startle Death himself. "Are you blushing? "

Tentative as it may be, he glides his hand upward to cup Thanatos' cheek as he simply studies the hitherto impossible sight before him. The creeping flow of the ichor within his veins brings new color to his cool, tan skin. Subtle at first, but blooming all the brighter under Zagreus' unwavering gaze. Different from the Prince's own rosy flush, instead a warm undertone of gold that adds an undeniable glow across those high cheekbones. A glow shining all the brighter in his eyes, their metallic tones now liquid with this newfound heat.

"Stunning," Zagreus purrs, just before sliding back that signature dark hood. Nothing should distract from the perfection before him. From how the color is now sliding downward, melting into the edges of that gilded gorget, daring him to chase after it. "You're simply stunning, Than."

"Zagreus," his breath catches on that precious name, hitches in his chest in an unfamiliar tremble. It's like standing on the Surface with how his senses are flooding, awakening sensitive nerves and prickling over his warming skin.

"Is this what you meant when you said I should 'live a little?'" It could be played off as a joke, but Thanatos can't deny how but a few kisses and sweet words affect him so profoundly. How this infinitesimal sliver of time has challenged the millennia stretching back before it.

And yet, who else but Zagreus - endlessly determined Zagreus, disarmingly gentle Zagreus, undeniably alive against all odds and in defiance of the Fates themselves Zagreus - could ever make him feel this alive?

"It is," comes the reply - so simple and yet encompassing so much of the new reality consolidating around them, quickening into their own emotional omphalos. All carefully circumscribed within the tender trace of Zagreus' fingers along sharp jawlines and kiss-swollen lips alike. The revenant mapping out of all that he holds dear, holds close, holds secret and safe between himself and Death Incarnate.

All sealed with an anointed kiss and a whispered prayer to the God whose heart beats for him alone, "It is."