Lentil Soup

Debra Fran Baker

"Why won't you let me do it for you?"

Joxer looked up from the huge pot of soup he was stirring. He must have been concentrating too hard on his cooking to not sense his lover's appearance. "Because I like making soup myself."

Ares scowled. "That's *not* what I mean, although I would do that, too." He glared at Joxer, who sighed before putting down his big spoon and carefully moving the cauldron further from the fire.

"I know, love. If I let you..." He hugged Ares tightly. "Welcome back. I missed you. And *you* won't let me go with you."

"I can't. You know that." Joxer felt Ares relax in his arms. "It's too dangerous on the battlefields. I won't risk you. Bad enough I'm going to..."

"Now you're being morbid. Kiss me instead." He tilted up his face .

"I can't get away with anything...oh, yes." Ares shook his head, and did as he was told, with so much passion and need that it belied their ten years together. Joxer responded with all the desire that two-weeks abstinence could produce, stroking Ares' powerful arms and delighting in the tickle of his beard and mustache.

A god can kiss indefinitely, but a man sometimes has to breathe. They parted long enough for Joxer to lead him to their bed and sit him down. "How did it go?"

"Gods, I missed you." Ares began exploring Joxer with his hands...as if he hadn't mapped him thoroughly years ago. "You have a gray hair."

"I have several. That bad?"

"Worse. You expect deaths in a war. That's part of the purpose, but this...this was butchery." Ares closed his eyes. Joxer could tell he saw the battlefield again. "Time was...time was...time was, I would have thought it glorious. Nothing was even decided. They just...straggled home."

Joxer could do nothing more than hold him. "I *know* you did your best to make it...less so."

"It's not enough. It's all so...I'm tired of death, Joxer. And you won't let me stop..." Ares pulled away.

Joxer sighed. "I don't want it. I don't need it."

Ares took both his hands in his. "I want to give it to you. I want to give you everything - wealth and power and...everything. Eternity. Why won't you...you're worse than Xena. Xena turned it all down. You...you take me but nothing else."

"I don't want anything else. Just you. If I took those things, I wouldn't be me, and you'd wonder if I was only in it for them." He forced a grin. "I said this before, you big lug."

"Then I'll become mortal. Live here with you...make soup. Help you do...what you do."

Joxer leaned forward and kissed h