Seduction of the Feathered Serpent

"Xolotl, your idiot brother is missing again."

Xol turned away from the balcony, the feathers in his hair caressing his cheeks as the movement brushed them against his face. Standing in the middle of his room with his arms crossed in annoyance was Huitzi, brown eyes narrowed as he scowled unpleasantly at Xol.

"Like that's unusual," Xol replied with a shrug. "I haven't seen him since this morning, so he could be anywhere by now."

Huitzi stiffened, shoulders set tensely beneath his blue and green armor. "The ceremony is in ten minutes," he snapped.

Xol sighed quietly. "I assume that means you're going to want me to take my brother's place again. Can't you just do the ceremonies without him? They obviously aren't suffering any for not having his personal presence."

"The people expect to see Quetzalcoatl," Huitzi snapped again. "There will be problems if the great Quetzalcoatl isn't present, even if it's just a useless lookalike."

"Your social skills never fail to impress me," Xol muttered as he crossed the rug to his desk, sitting down and pulling out the cosmetics he would need to impersonate his errant twin. It wasn't that hard, and Xol had gotten rather proficient at it, given how often Quetz forced him into doing it.

First, the hair. Both twins wore their black hair long, but they differed at the ends where Xol's tips were a dark grey and Quetz's a brilliant green. Fortunately, there were dyes to solve that problem. Their eyes were the same, a startling emerald green, and their faces were nearly identical. So identical that in earlier times they'd often dressed as one another for amusement and none had known the difference.

Ignoring Huitzi's impatient presence, Xol stripped out of his own grey and red clothing, donning instead a set of Quetz's that was all gold and green and feathers everywhere. When he was dressed he exchanged his silver earrings, skulls to signify his dominion over death, and replaced them with a set of the ocelot claws that Quetz was so fond of.

"There," he said dryly. "Happy now?"

Huitzi snorted and grabbed his arm, dragging Xol from the room. "You two are more trouble than you're worth. Why we bothered conquering your worthless people, I will never know."

Why indeed. That very question was at the heart of Quetz's frequent disappearing acts. Quetz had never been able to accept their changed positions as their former protectorates had been integrated into the conquerors' empire. For that matter, neither had Huitzi. He'd been cold to them from the day they'd arrived at the great temple, furious that his status as the supreme god in the area was no longer so absolute. Quetz usually bore the brunt of his anger, as no matter how often Huitzi tried to discredit him the people still revered him with almost a single-minded passion.

Of course, Xol often felt the burn of Huitzi's fires as well as the temperamental blond god would turn his wrath onto Xol when his twin turned up missing yet again. That part, Quetz wasn't aware of. It would only be yet another thing for him to feel guilty over.

Twice Xol nearly fell down the steps as Huitzi pulled him harder than strictly necessary, reaching the ceremonial platform with a number of scrapes and bruises that were really going to hurt until Quetz came home to heal them. He dusted himself off when Huitzi finally released his arm, making certain that his headdress was straight and that none of the cuts on his arms and legs would be easily visible to the people. They did have an image to maintain, after all.

Tlaloc glanced at him briefly then summarily dismissed him, gazing out dispassionately at the assembled people instead. His two pet lackeys were nowhere in sight, no doubt waiting just inside for the ceremony to end so they could whisk him off for pampering. Tlaloc wasn't a bad guy, he was just so stuffy that Xol frequently found himself wishing for the old days when Quetz had enthusiastically aided him in playing tricks upon the rigid rain god.

Also missing was Tezca, though that didn't surprise Xol. Tezca still had exclusive dominion over the night, and thus all his ceremonies were performed either at sunset or during the middle of the night. Xol frequently envied him, as Tezca didn't have to put up with Tlaloc or Huitzi.

"Try not to make a fool of yourself this time," Huitzi hissed, shoving Xol roughly forward as he assumed his own place, arms raised outward toward his people. Xol resisted the impulse to kick him. This was just a simple noontime ceremony. The priests would do all of the talking; all he had to do was stand there and look like his brother.

It had been different, in the old days. The temples had been small, the people closer. So close that when Quetz was feeling generous he'd walk amongst them and allow them to touch him. Sometimes Xol had joined him, though infrequently. Few had been those brave enough to reach out and touch the death god.

He paid little attention as the priests droned on, merely waving appropriately when Huitzi elbowed him in the side. Tlaloc didn't have to be 'reminded' thus, but then, Tlaloc had taken to their new domain far better than Quetz and Xol. Sometimes Xol was almost convinced that Tlaloc enjoyed it, but that was giving the stuffy rain god too much credit. Tlaloc didn't enjoy anything, he just did his duty as required.

Then there was Tezca. The night warrior's thoughts were even more of a mystery than they'd ever been. Tezca kept his own council and remained ever aloof. Even Huitzi tended to avoid him; Huitzi who frequently bullied the other 'new' gods that had come into 'his' territory. There was just something about Tezca that made him special.

Like there was something that made Quetz special, though whatever it was, it was completely different from whatever Tezca had. Two more different people had never been created. Unless one counted the obnoxious Huitzi, but Xol preferred not to count him for anything.

Finally the priests stopped speaking and they could all go back inside the temple. Huitzi first, of course, shoving Xol roughly aside and striding through in his arrogant swagger. Tlaloc followed him, and just as Xol had anticipated he was immediately flanked by Xochipilli and Xochiquetzal, the twin god and goddess pair that practically fawned upon him. What they saw in the old goat, Xol had never been able to figure out.

He returned to his rooms, stripping out of Quetz's finery and slipping his own, more muted colors back on. A few minutes later he had all the dye washed out of his hair and was once again merely Xolotl, god of lightning, fire, death, and, apparently, missing brothers.

Xol considered. Quetz could be anywhere, honestly. Sometimes he swore Quetz knew the temple better than those who had built it, so easily could he hide himself away in its depths for hours upon hours without being discovered. Still, there was only so long that Quetz could stand being indoors before he sought the open sky and the sun above. If Xol had to guess, he was heading for the roof.

Course determined, Xol strode out of his room and promptly collided with a very firm body. He took a step back and looked up, eyes widening slightly as he beheld the enigmatic Tezca.


"Missing again, I take it," Tezca observed, silver mirror-eyes unreadable.

Xol made a face. "Word travels fast, I see."

Tezca chuckled darkly. "Not really. Huitzilopochtli just has a big mouth and a bigger temper." He leaned against the cool stone wall. "Going off to find him, now that you've gotten to bask in the praise meant for your illustrious brother?" he asked.

Xol stiffened. "I don't do it for the praise. I do it for the people that still love him, despite everything."

Tezca's smirk was infuriating. "Of course, of course." He reached out and petted Xol's head like one would an animal they were fond of, then turned and walked off. "Do say hello for me when you find him," he called over his shoulder as he departed.

More than anything, Xol wanted to throw lightning or a good firebolt at the departing god. Unfortunately, attacking a war god was never a good idea, even if you were the god of death. What was it about war gods that made them completely obnoxious? Tezca and Huitzi, both powerful gods of war, both completely insufferable.

Xol stalked angrily through the hallways and up the stairs, startling more than a few attendants along the way. By the time he reached the peak of the temple the edge had worn off of his anger, but he still wasn't in the mood for much of anything.

"Quetz!" he yelled up at the pillar-supported stone dais, "Get down here so I can hit you."

There was a slight rustling sound, distinguishable as feathers and fabric if you knew what to listen for, then his brother's head appeared over the edge, peering down at him.

"Why should I come down if you've already promised to hit me?" Quetz asked, his long hair falling forward over his shoulders and hanging down around his face, casting it into shadows. It made the bright, vivid green of his eyes stand out all the more, almost appearing to glow.

"Because if you don't come down, I'm going to come up there," Xol threatened, "And then I'll do more than just hit you."

With a faint sigh, Quetz dropped down from the elevated dais. He landed in a slight crouch next to Xol, who took the opportunity presented to punch his twin in the arm.

"Ow," Quetz muttered, rubbing a hand over his upper arm. "You hit too hard."

"I'll hit you a lot harder the next time I have to fill in for you after you've run off someplace." Xol fixed his twin with an annoyed glare. "You do this on purpose, don't you?"

Quetz blinked at him. "Well, I wouldn't be able to get up on top of the pillars by accident..."

Xol rolled his eyes. "That's not what I meant and you know it." He crossed his arms. "I'm really getting tired of having to cover for you."

"So don't?" Quetz suggested.

"Like that tyrant Huitzi gives me a choice," Xol pointed out.

Quetz sighed softly. "You would think he'd be glad not to have to share the attention with me. I don't know what his problem is."

"His problem," Xol snorted, "Is that the first time you pulled one of your vanishing acts the people went crazy calling for you. I think it embarrassed him a lot to be so badly upstaged by someone who wasn't even there."

"Oh," Quetz murmured quietly. He moved closer, draping his arms over Xol's shoulders and resting his forehead against his brother's. "Sorry, Xol..."

Xol sighed, wrapping his arms loosely around his twin's waist. "I know, it's not your fault, only it is, and I'm frustrated and you're upset and adjusting to our new life has been more stressful than we thought and-"

Quetz cut him off with a kiss, pulling Xol close until their bodies were flush against one another with only the thin fabric of their wraps and a bit of jewelry separating them. His tongue managed to elicit the most delicious sensations from Xol's mouth, dizzying and overwhelming in a way that he'd once described as being struck by lightning from the inside rather than the outside.

Though Quetz had laughed at him then, he'd still understood what Xol had meant. After all, he felt it too.

They separated slowly, drawing apart a little at a time, hands sliding along arms until only their fingers remained touching, tangled together as they were. "Thanks," Xol murmured. "I guess I needed that."

"Mmm hmm, come on," Quetz said, tugging him gently toward the stairs. "Let's go see what they've got for us for luncheon today. I'm hoping for fruit."

Xol laughed. "You're always hoping for fruit," he teased, but he allowed himself to be pulled along, hand in hand with his brother.

Quetz stripped off all his jewelry, leaving it in a pile of glittering gold and sparkling jewels on the table. His day-wear headdress and neck wrap followed, leaving him clad only in the green and gold short wrap that protected his modesty. Xol had used to tease him that he only had two settings when it came to clothing: Full wind god regalia and stark naked.

Since then he'd tried to moderate a bit, but Quetz had to admit that it was probably true. Boring clothing just wasn't for him. He liked his soft, dyed cottons and his abundant feathers in their bright colors, not to mention all the pretty gold things he got to wear. He'd never been able to figure out how his brother wore the muted greys and reds that he did. And silver. You would think that identical twins would be able to wear identical clothes, but Quetz always felt ridiculous when he tried dressing up as Xol.

It looked good on Xol, though. Most things looked good on Xol. Quetz sometimes wondered if it had to do with his personality. With the exception of Quetz's antics, nothing really riled Xol. He was so calm and composed. Quetz wished he could be even half as steadfast as his twin, but knew it would never happen.

Xol said he felt too much. That he allowed everything to touch him, and thus to affect him. Quetz couldn't help it. It was just how he was.

He sprawled out on his bed, rubbing his cheek against the soft cotton sheets while his fingers caressed the light fur blanket. It felt wonderful against his bare skin, the silken sensations sending shivers up his spine.

A low chuckle broke the silence of the room, causing Quetz to sit up quickly. "Oh, don't stop on my account," Tezca observed from where he was leaning against the doorway. "You looked like you were so enjoying yourself."

Quetz flushed, fingers tightening on the blanket. "Tezca," he greeted. "Is the evening ceremony over?"

"It just finished," came the reply as Tezca pushed away from the door and stepped further into the room. He was like a prowling jaguar, dark and deadly, the image further enhanced by the teeth and pelt worn as decorations over his armor. One didn't even need to see the weapons he carried tucked into every available location to know that Tezca was a god of war.

In Tezca, Quetz could see why Huitzi disliked them so much. Huitzi was also a god of war, but next to Tezca he looked like an untried boy with his first knife. Tezca simply oozed confidence in a manner that Huitzi would never be able to duplicate no matter how much he tried.

"Mmm, if only your people could see you, writhing about in hedonistic pleasure." Tezca chuckled again, drawing closer until he was standing at Quetz's bedside looking down. "What would they think of you?"

Quetz tried not to squirm beneath that silvery gaze, but it wasn't easy. Tezca's mirrored eyes made him difficult to read, his thoughts impossible to discern. One could never claim they knew what the dark god of night and warfare was planning. His motives were always his own.

Tezca laughed quietly. "They would think you are beautiful," he answered his own question. "The people will love Quetzalcoatl no matter what."

Flushing again, Quetz stared fixedly at the nearest of many daggers tucked into Tezca's clothing. "I'm not... I'm just..."

"The god of life and light?" Tezca finished for him, bemused. "For a being who embodies all that is good in the world, you think remarkably little of yourself." He reached out, the small bells encircling his wrist chiming softly with the movement. A hand traced the flow of Quetz's hair, lingering at the emerald green ends and running the shimmering strands between thoughtful fingers.

"Me, they fear," Tezca continued conversationally, "But you... you they love like no other. Even their own Huitzilopochtli pales beside you, much to his vexation. You underestimate the power you have, beautiful Quetzalcoatl." He leaned down to press a soft kiss to the dark strands of Quetz's hair, then used his steady grip on those same strands to pull Quetz closer. His free hand reached out to trace the curve of Quetz's jaw, stopping at the chin and forcing Quetz to tip his head up, mirrored eyes meeting emerald green.

"You underestimate many things, beautiful one," Tezca murmured before dipping his head to cover Quetz's lips with his own.

Never in all his life would Quetz have expected the reclusive and mysterious Tezca to kiss him. Not like this. His lips caressed, teased, stroked, eliciting sensations that sent shivers through Quetz's body. Then his lips parted, the tip of his tongue running along the line of Quetz's mouth as he tested, tasted, asking permission in a way that could not be mistaken. Or denied.

Quetz parted his lips, allowing Tezca's tongue to dart in, the intruder lazily caressing the contours of his mouth as he explored. Every curve, every hollow, Tezca's tongue mapped out, learning Quetz's mouth as well as it knew his own, twining and caressing Quetz's tongue a brief moment before withdrawing and space separated them once again.

Dimly Quetz was aware that he was shaking, but his mind was still overwhelmed by the thought that Tezca had kissed him. Tezca, the beautiful and aloof god of the night. Tezca, the war god who never lost his temper and was feared all the more for it. Tezca of the smoking mirror. Who didn't dream of Tezca, in the dark of the night?

"Mmm, yes," Tezca murmured, licking his lips. "Now that I did not underestimate at all..." His thumb traced Quetz's cheekbone up to the curve of his ear and down across his jaw to brush lightly across his lips. He smiled subtly, mirror eyes gleaming in the dim torchlight. "What do you think, lovely bird?" he asked. "Shall we try that again?"

Before Quetz had a chance to reply he was being kissed again, Tezca's weight pressing him down onto his bed as the night god's tongue plundered his mouth with exquisite skill. Too much. He couldn't think, couldn't focus. A soft moan escaped his lips and Tezca drank that in too like life essence, his reward for the sensations he could evoke in Quetz's body.

When he let Quetz breathe again they were both panting quietly, Quetz's thin wrap doing nothing to disguise what Tezca's kisses were doing to him. Tezca ground down against him, drawing shaky cries from both of them. Quetz lifted his hands, running them slowly up the sleek muscles in Tezca's arms until he was thwarted by the night god's armor.

Off. It needed to come off. Quetz fumbled with the fastenings until strong hands came to his aid, undoing the lacings with practiced ease and tossing the breastplate aside. The gauntlets and his undershirt followed, with the lower half of his armor just behind them leaving Tezca in little more than his own wrap, the bells at wrist and ankle, and the knife still strapped to one thigh.

This time Quetz arched up against him, breath hitching at the delicious sensations evoked as their groins rubbed together with only the flimsy fabric keeping them apart. He ran his hands across the powerful muscles of Tezca's chest, slowly sliding them down to trace the lines of Tezca's abdomen, marveling at the sheer power that was contained within the war god's toned body. He was like a living weapon, perfectly balanced and controlled, just waiting to be unleashed.

Tezca kissed him again, slowly, almost languorously as he pulled off first his, then Quetz's wrap. The silken heat of his member caressed one of Quetz's thighs, making him want to moan only Tezca had his mouth and wasn't releasing it. Fingers trailed down his body, touching and teasing, then wrapping around his straining cock and pumping it firmly.

This time Quetz did cry out, arching involuntarily up into the touch and gasping as Tezca ran his thumb firmly over the slit. The war god smiled slowly in satisfaction, leaning down to utter lowly in Quetz's ear. "I want you."

Quetz shivered again, clinging to Tezca's arms as his traitorous body refused to obey his commands. He stared up at his dark seducer, seeing only himself reflected in those eerie silver eyes. "Tezca..." he whispered.

Tezca wet one of his fingers, trailing it down Quetz's body with maddening slowness, leaving a glistening trail of saliva behind. Quetz whimpered quietly as Tezca's hand cupped his balls, kneading and caressing so deliciously but still not enough. Tezca wet his fingers again, then slipped them down low, seeking out and finding what he was looking for.

His lips descended again, swallowing Quetz's cry as one finger pressed inside him. Quetz forced himself to relax, focusing instead on Tezca's fiery kisses and barely making a sound when the second finger slipped in to join the first. He was so occupied with trying to wring sensation from those invading fingers that he almost missed Tezca's slight shifting, followed by a soft whoosh and thunk from across the room. Tezca had thrown something. His knife? Why?

Then the fingers were gone and all other thoughts fled as Quetz whimpered, wanting them back. He was almost to the point of begging when something much larger and hotter brushed against his entrance and he moaned softly. Tezca captured his mouth again as he began to push in, swallowing Quetz's cries.

Tezca was much larger than Xol. Tears pricked his eyes at the initial pain, his breaths coming erratically when he could breathe at all. Then Tezca's intruding cock brushed against that special place deep within and Quetz arched, crying out sharply as his vision spun in a whirl of pleasure that threatened to overwhelm him.

When he was fully seated Tezca rocked himself once, shallowly, drawing a strangled moan from Quetz before he slowly slid back out, then in again. With each thrust he brushed against that secret spot, sending explosive pleasure shooting throughout Quetz's entire body. Slowly, at first, then with increasing speed he pounded into Quetz, harder and deeper, spurred on by the wordless entreaties Quetz couldn't help but make.

Too much and not nearly enough. Quetz cried out again when Tezca's firm grip wrapped around his aching cock, pumping it in a rhythm to match with his own thrusts. Sensation overwhelmed him in intensity, spiraling out of control until his entire body tensed, exploding with a ragged cry of passion. Tezca only lasted three or four thrusts beyond that, then he came as well, spilling his hot seed deep into Quetz's trembling body with a quiet cry.

Quetz caught his breath slowly, leaning up for a kiss and feeling hurt when Tezca pulled away instead. The war god withdrew carefully, sliding off Quetz's bed and crossing the room to retrieve his dagger from the doorframe. He crouched down to inspect the floor, nodding to himself in satisfaction before turning and re-crossing the room.

Again, Quetz tried to pull him close for a kiss, only to be denied once more when Tezca instead began to re-dress himself. "You're safe now," he announced calmly, strapping back on all his weapons. "Huitzilopochtli won't dare risk harming you if he thinks I'm your lover."

"What?" Quetz asked, sitting up in confusion. "Why would Huitzi..."

"Envy," Tezca explained, lacing up his armor again. "Huitzilopochtli's powers are only secondary to yours, mine, and your brother's. I overheard him plotting to kill you and become the supreme god of the sun in your place." He smiled grimly. "He knows that I never miss. That dagger could have gone through his head, if I'd meant it to. He'll know it for a warning to stay away."

"You..." Quetz's voice caught and his hands shook as he gripped the blankets tightly. "So you only came to me... because of Huitzi?"

Tezca shrugged. "You are Quetzalcoatl. If that was what it took to keep you safe, then so be it." He stood, fully dressed, silver mirror eyes as unreadable as ever. "You are no longer in danger, so I will be returning to my own rooms." He crossed the floor, stopping near the door and turning to nod once, briefly, to Quetz.

"Good night, Quetzalcoatl, Lord of the Winds." With that brief parting comment he was gone, leaving Quetz alone.

Xol stared blankly out at the city, the heavy clouds hanging low in the sky making it seem like twilight despite the fact that it was barely noon. For two months now those clouds had hung above the city, blocking out the sun's lifegiving light. In the streets below people waded through murky, waist-deep water left over from the heavy rains a month ago. What crops hadn't died then were dying now, withering away from the lack of sunlight.

The winds hadn't come. Always, Tlaloc unleashed the heavy rains to feed the crops and Quetz's winds moved the water around to make certain it got where it was needed. This time the rains had stayed above the city, nearly drowning it before Xochipilli and Xochiquetzal had run crying to their lord, devastated that their precious flowers were dying. Tlaloc had stopped the rain, but by then the damage had been done.

Any other time Quetz would have called out the sun, bright and hot and healing, to dry out the water and restore life to the sodden city. But the sun remained hidden despite Huitzi's desperate attempts to call its fire, leaving half the world to drown in water while the other half withered away. If something wasn't done soon, everyone would die of starvation.

The high priests were planning a series of bloody sacrifices to try to bolster Huitzi's power. It was all that the mortals could think of to do, even if Xol could have told them it would still be pointless. Huitzi's meager powers might have been able to bring weak sunlight through the clouds, but he would never be able to call the winds to send Tlaloc's rain to the crops. Without the crops...

Xol didn't understand. Quetz had never vanished for more than a day before, and now he'd been gone for two months. He was nowhere in the temple, of that Xol was certain. The priests and retainers had all searched fruitlessly, as had Xol himself when they were done. None of them had found anything. Quetz had left the temple.

It didn't make any sense. As often as Quetz tended to shirk his ceremonial duties, he'd always, always been there when he was needed. That he'd been gone so long when their people were obviously suffering... it just didn't make any sense. Quetz either couldn't come back, or really didn't want to. Given the unnatural thickness of the clouds and the complete stillness of wind, Xol was betting on the latter.

If Quetz wasn't going to come home on his own, then someone was going to have to go out and find him.

Sighing quietly, Xol turned and stepped back into his room, discarding all his jewelry and nice clothing, donning instead the plainest things he owned. He pulled his hair back so that the telltale grey tips wouldn't be quite so obvious, then walked out the door.

And almost ran into Tezca for the second time in less than three months.

Xol glared. "Would you stop doing that?" he snapped. He really wasn't in the mood to deal with Tezca's mocking, not now that he'd finally worked up the courage to leave the temple in search of his errant twin.

Tezca regarded him silently, silver eyes seeming oddly muted. He looked much the same as he always did, light armor and weapons everywhere, but the effect was off somehow in a manner Xol couldn't quite identify. Almost as if something was missing.

"Well?" Xol grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest. "What do you want?"

The tall war god looked him over briefly, then nodded to himself. "You're going out to find your brother, aren't you?" he asked.

Xol tensed. "So? Why do you care?"

Tezca was silent for a long moment, enough for Xol to really start to get fidgety. When he spoke, his voice was quiet, and carried none of his usual arrogant authority. "I would like to accompany you."

What? Xol blinked up at the taller man in surprise, then his eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Why?" he demanded.

Tezca shrugged. "I have my reasons," he said simply.

Xol eyed him warily for several moments more, then shrugged. "Why not?" He might be useful to have around, especially if they had to go into some of the seedier sections of town. Xol might be the god of death, but his weapons skills definitely left something to be desired. "But you can't go out like that," Xol stated flatly. "You're far too noticeable."

In response, Tezca unhooked his armor and tossed it just inside the door to Xol's room, leaving him clad only in the simple things he wore beneath. He was still armed, though Xol had to actually look for them to pick them out, and even then he was certain he'd missed a few.

"Better," Xol said with a shrug, "If not quite casual. Hopefully no one will look too closely at your eyes and you can just pass for a mortal warrior."

Tezca arched a brow, but said nothing, following Xol through the cool hallways to one of the smaller temple entrances. There were two people in the small altar room, one junior priest and a retainer. Xol frowned.

"Now what?" he muttered beneath his breath.

There was a slight shifting of movement behind him, then the sweet sounds of a wooden flute filled the air around them. The two mortals blinked slowly, weaving a bit, then they both sank to the ground. A moment later the music stopped.

Xol turned to frown at Tezca, who was tucking the flute back into its hiding place beneath his clothes. "What did you do?" he demanded.

Tezca shrugged. "Put them to sleep. They'll wake in an hour or two."

Well, that was useful. If somewhat freaky. He'd never known Tezca could do that before, and he wondered what else the god of night had been hiding.

Shoving the thought aside to worry about later, Xol led their way out of the temple and into the city itself. It was even worse up close than it had looked from his balcony, with mud-choked waters ranging anywhere from ankle-deep to hip-deep. The people were miserable, weak from starvation, and there were signs of sickness almost everywhere he looked.

How could his brother stand it? Quetz was the god of healing, of life, of light. This went against everything he stood for, everything he was. He couldn't imagine what could ever had driven Quetz out into the city like this.

Behind him, Tezca could have been a statue with how silent he was. The brief glances Xol risked showed him to be watching everything, assessing, but as always his thoughts remained a mystery. He raised not a single protest as Xol led them deeper into the poorer sections of town, simply following along like a great dark shadow.

Xol shivered. Even on a good day, Tezca was unnerving. As it was now, Xol's already frayed nerves were just short of snapping. So jittery and unsettled as he was, he almost didn't notice it at first. It was gradual, not something that anyone would have noticed unless, like Xol, they'd been looking for it.

They were almost at the edge of the city now, in an area where the very poorest of the people dwelled. By rights, it should have been even worse than those areas they'd passed through to get to it. Instead, there were no signs of sickness anywhere and the people, though weak, seemed to be managing well enough. Even the water that swirled around their ankles seemed cleaner somehow, as though something had reached in and pulled out all the impurities.

He grabbed the first child he saw, a small girl who couldn't have been more than eight. Putting on his best smile and trying for once not to look like a death god, Xol said, "Excuse me, but my friend here is not feeling well. Is there a healer nearby?"

The little girl regarded him fearfully, her gaze darting up to Tezca and back, then she pointed down the street. "The little house, at the end."

Thanking her, Xol released her arm. In moments, the girl had vanished behind a building. That didn't matter. He knew where he was going now. The little house at the end of the row.

It was shabby and faded, a far cry from the opulent glory of the temple. Still, it was clean, and something about it made it seem a little bit brighter than the rest of its surroundings. A little more welcoming.

Xol pushed the door open and stepped inside. Quetz was kneeling on the ground, mixing herbs together in a way that had never made sense to anyone but him. He looked up at the sound of footsteps, flushing when he saw Xol. He opened his mouth to speak, then went completely white as Tezca followed Xol inside.

"What do you think you're doing?" Xol demanded, glaring down at his brother. "The city's a mess, the people are suffering, the priests are panicking and you're here playing healer in the slums! What's wrong with you?"

Quetz flinched and looked down at his hands. "Sorry, Xol," he murmured quietly.

"I can't cover for you when it gets this bad, Quetz!" Xol stamped his foot impatiently. "You've got to come back and fix things before they get any worse, because nobody else can."

"I..." Quetz shook his head slightly, eyes flickering up to Xol, then past him. "I can't..."

"Why not?" Xol sputtered, exasperated. "You can't possibly be happy here, watching everything fall apart around you!"

"It's not... it's not like that, Xol..." Quetz protested helplessly.

"Then what is it?" Xol demanded angrily. "You've done strange things before, but this puts them all to shame!"

Quetz was silent, staring at the floor. Xol jumped as a hand landed on his shoulder, spinning to face Tezca... who was looking intently at Quetz.

"Xolotl," Tezca said quietly, "Would you mind giving me a moment alone with your brother?"

Xol hesitated, frowning, then sighed in frustration. "Fine, go ahead. Good luck getting through to him. He's the most stubborn person I know." He stepped around Tezca who barely even acknowledged him, exiting the shabby building and slamming the door behind him, leaving Tezca alone with his brother. With any luck, the war god would be able to shake some sense into his aggravating twin.

Quetz swallowed as he heard the door slam, his shoulders already beginning to shake as the dust settled, leaving him alone with Tezcatlipoca. He stared intently at the floor, trembling in the silence that stretched on until he was certain he would break into little pieces at any moment. Then there were quiet, almost silent footsteps, and suddenly Tezca was kneeling on the floor before him, gently tipping his chin up so that he could look into Quetz's emerald eyes.

"Quetzalcoatl." Tezca's voice was unsteady, his eyes more uncertain than Quetz would ever have believed they could be. "I need to apologize," he said quietly. "I never meant to hurt you in any way. All I wished was to keep you safe from Huitzilopochtli."

Eyes flickering to the side to avoid that intent silver gaze, Quetz drew in a shaky breath. "If Huitzi wants my power so badly, he can have it," he murmured.

Tezca shook his head firmly, his grip on Quetz's chin tightening. "No, that would not be a good thing for anyone. Huitzilopochtli's power comes from the blood spilled in his honor. Even now, the priests are readying a vast series of sacrifices in the hopes that they can bolster him enough to bring back the sun. I know you, pretty bird. You value life too much to let so many die when it is within your power to save them."

Quetz swallowed. "Sacrifices...?"

"Most likely hundreds," Tezca confirmed. "The priests are getting desperate, and without you Huitzilopochtli is their only hope."

"I..." Quetz shivered again, tears beginning to sting his eyes. "I..."

Tezca's grip eased, thumb stroking the side of Quetz's face gently. "At least allow me the opportunity to set things right, even if you cannot forgive me for what I have done. I truly never meant to hurt you, little bird. I didn't think..." He grimaced, looking away for the first time. "What would the god of life and light want with one whose domain is war and darkness?"

Quetz blinked, rubbing away the tears that blurred his vision. He tried to speak several times, but nothing would come out beyond a mangled version of Tezca's name. The war good stood slowly as the silence stretched out, walking the few steps toward the door.

"If for no other reason, then return to us for your brother's sake," Tezca said softly, "Beautiful Quetzalcoatl."

The door opened, then closed again. Quetz struggled to his feet, stumbling to the door and almost falling through it, looking wildly about with eyes that refused to clear. A hand touched his arm and he knew it was Xol's before he turned to meet his brother's worried eyes.

"Quetz?" Xol asked, "Are you okay?"

"Tezca... where did Tezca go?" Quetz managed to get out.

"I don't know," Xol answered, frowning in concern. "He took off toward the temple, but then I lost sight of him... what happened?"

Quetz stared off toward the tall figure of the temple rising in the distance, then slowly straightened. "We need to go back," he said softly.

Xol blinked and turned to look at him, his eyes widening as Quetz's arms went around him. "Hold on," Quetz instructed quietly, then great feathered wings erupted from his back, sparkling emerald green tipped in scarlet. He braced himself, then launched them into the air with one powerful downstroke.

The awed and startled cries of the people were lost in the rush of wind as they rose high into the sky above the city. In moments they were circling the temple; he saw right away where the sacrifices were to take place. Huitzi was there, along with four of the high priests. Quetz dove up into the clouds, laughing aloud as Xol filled them with lightning, chasing the arcs back and forth before diving down again to drop Xol off on the platform.

Xol's feet had barely touched the stone floor before Quetz was winging back up into the sky, riding the winds he'd summoned up into the clouds and beyond them. He broke through the tops into glittering sunlight, basking in the glow for several moments before focusing his attention once more on the world below. With a thought he assumed the shape of a long, sinuous serpent with emerald wings and summoned the winds again. He flew down, skimming the tops of the clouds as his winds pulled them away, sending them out over the dry plains where they belonged.

Circling back, he wound his way through the sky to hover over the assembly for a moment, then resumed his usual shape and glided down to land next to Xol, wings fading away as his feet touched the firm stone beneath them.

"You..." Huitzi spat, shaking in fury. "How dare you come now..."

Quetz held his head high, not allowing the furious blond to intimidate him. "You could never be a god of life and healing if you require death to bring you power, Huitzilopochtli. My power is mine alone."

With a snarl of rage, Huitzi pulled his sword and lunged, narrowly missing Quetz as he jerked backwards out of the way. The second strike was aimed far better, and Quetz stumbled trying to avoid it.

"Leave him alone!" Xol hissed, grabbing Huitzi's arm. The enraged god whirled on him, kicking him back and leaving a shallow, bloody gash across Xol's stomach.

"Get away from me, foolish death god," Huitzi snarled, then whirled to swing his sword sharply down at Quetz's chest.

It never connected. Instead, a ringing clang filled the air as another blade interspersed itself between Huitzi and his target. Huitzi stumbled back, brown eyes flashing as he looked up at the interloper.

Tezca glared darkly, clad once again in the full armor of his station. "Now, Huitzilopochtli," he announced icily, "It is time you learned what a real god of war is like."

Quetz scrambled out of the way as the two war gods set at one another, their blows ringing out sharply in the air, echoed by the steps of the temple. He crawled on his hands and knees to where Xol had fallen, placing a hand across the wound and healing it with a thought. Xol sat up with a wince, his eyes widening as they spotted the combatants.

"Tezca's fighting Huitzi," he breathed in amazement.

"Yes," Quetz agreed, his voice containing none of his usual softness as he held Xol close. "Huitzi will never touch you again."

Twin pairs of emerald green eyes watched as Tezca forced Huitzi back again and again, their fight taking them up the stairs to the very top of the temple, their blades flashing in the sun. Quetz bit his lip as Huitzi threw flames at Tezca, but Tezca merely shrugged it off and lunged again, overbalancing the startled Huitzi who had expected his fire to slow Tezca down more than that. He flailed wildly, sword falling from his hand as he dropped it in his panic, then gravity won out and Huitzi's body went tumbling through space as he fell.

Tezca watched until he hit the ground, then sheathed his blade and walked slowly back down the stairs to join them.

The faint music of a flute carried on the winds, circling around him as he climbed up the steps. He refused to acknowledge it, to hear the long, sorrowful notes as he crested the peak and discovered the flute's player sitting and gazing out at the evening sky. He didn't really appear to notice Xol, which was perfectly fine to Xol's mind.

Crossing the flat space of the temple peak swiftly, Xol reared back and punched Tezca in the jaw as hard as he could, nearly overbalancing them both before Tezca's hand snapped out to steady him. He released Xol as soon as Xol was righted, reaching up instead to touch gingerly at his face.

"I guess I deserved that," Tezca murmured quietly.

"Oh yes you did," Xol growled, wondering if he could get away with another punch and deciding not to press his luck. "You bastard."

Tezca's silver eyes turned up to regard him steadily, and oddly somewhat sadly. "I truly didn't mean to hurt him," the night god said softly.

Twitching, Xol threw another punch at him, though this one was intercepted easily as Tezca caught his fist and held it despite Xol's attempts at yanking it back. "Let me go, you prick," Xol howled, jerking hard enough to overbalance himself in his efforts to escape.

"Will you hear me out?" Tezca asked, his grip as unbreakable as steel.

Xol glared, scowled, then finally nodded once, rubbing his hand to his chest when Tezca finally freed it.

"I learned of Huitzilopochtli's plot against your brother that very evening," Tezca explained quietly. "I will admit that I did not think things through very well, but I had no real time to plan. All I knew was that I had to be there to defend him when Huitzilopochtli arrived..."

"So fucking him was just a bonus?" Xol snarled.

"No!" Tezca exclaimed, standing swiftly. "I just... When I arrived, he was..." He closed his eyes, hiding the eerie silver orbs from view. "I could not resist touching. So beautiful..." His eyes opened and Tezca smiled sadly. "You of all people should know. You have only to look in a mirror to see it."

Xol shifted uncomfortably beneath Tezca's silver gaze, finally looking away before it became too much. "And afterward?" he muttered resentfully.

Tezca sighed, turning away from him to gaze out over the nighttime city. "I realized my transgression and attempted to extricate myself before I did something worse. Foolish, perhaps, in hindsight, but..." He cast a sad smile at Xol over his shoulder. "How could a god of warfare and the night hope to gain the love of one who embodies all of life and light?"

"He loves me," Xol pointed out, "And I'm the god of death. I should think that's worse."

"You are his brother."

Xol laughed. "Doesn't mean we have to like each other. Some brothers hate each other. Quetz is just... special."

Tezca smiled faintly. "On that, I will agree," he murmured.

Xol was quiet a moment, then asked quietly, "What are you going to do now?"

"What can I do?" Tezca asked, shrugging gracefully. "I will return to my life in the shadows and not trouble the two of you again. I have lived alone all my life. Returning to that solitary way will not be difficult."

Xol frowned, but it was another voice that responded to Tezca's proclamation.

"Is that what you really want to do?" Quetz asked, climbing the last few stairs to join them atop the temple. "Live alone in darkness all your life?"

Tezca stared at him for a long moment, then shook his head slowly. "No," he replied quietly. "For the rest of my days, the memory of you will follow me wherever I go."

"If you had the chance... to do it over..." Quetz's emerald eyes gleamed in the moonlight, far outstripping the gemstones he wore. He walked slowly, purposefully to where Tezca stood, reaching up to place one hand upon the war god's chest. "Would you stay?" he finished softly.

Tezca froze, silver eyes wide as he stared down at the slender wind god. Xol thought sullenly that if he upset Quetz again, he was going to follow Huitzi over the edge no matter what it took to get him there.

Then Tezca's hands came up, sliding up Quetz's arms as though verifying that he actually stood there. "Yes," he managed at last, his voice little more than a whisper, "I would stay."

A soft smile graced Quetz's lips, then he pulled Tezca down to take the kiss he had been denied all those nights ago. Tezca's arms wrapped tightly around him, pulling him close and kissing him until both were breathless. Xol watched for a moment before coming over to join them, shaking his head slightly as he wrapped one arm around Quetz's waist.

"You realize, if you upset him again, I will have to hurt you," he told Tezca calmly.

Tezca laughed quietly, silver eyes bright. "If I am ever so foolish again, Xolotl, I will welcome it."

Chuckling softly, Quetz stole a kiss from both before drawing them toward the stairs. "Come on. There is a very nice bed inside that is far more comfortable than the top of the temple." He flashed Tezca a mischievous smile. "I hope you weren't planning on getting any sleep tonight, my dear lord of the night."

Tezca shook his head ruefully. "Not in the least, beautiful bird."