A muggy tropical night was at its end. The stars had already faded and darkness kept on dispersing with every moment giving way to the morning grayness. Kratos sped up his pace. He had to sneak into the barracks unnoticed before dawn and he still had a considerable distance to walk.
He was wondering if it wouldn't have been better to start running at that point when suddenly cold blinding white light exploded a few meters in front of him.
He stopped raising both arms and covering his face. The light shimmered rapidly then faded a bit, its hue turning warmer, and finally flashed with sharp blinding blaze again to shoot away lightning alike branchy rays earth and skywards.
Strong scent of ozone and sea water filled the air while a vague blurred shape solidified among the flashes and discharges. A few moments later, a human figure emerged from the light.
Kratos stared at the man with utter amazement. In front of him stood... his own self - ashenpale, with a bloodred tattoo running across his face and chest. Also visibly older.
"Who... what are you, spectre!" Kratos snapped frowning, his hand gripping the handle of a sword strapped to his belt.
The man hurridly raised opened palms in a universal gesture of peace.
"Relax and give me a chance to explain..."
"Don't come any further!"
"I have no hostile intentions."
"Time will show."
"I do realise it must seem suspicious but believe me I'm the last person whom you have any reasons not to trust."
"No offence, but you don't look like a human to me."
"And yet I am one. Just like yourself. Or even exactly like yourself. I am you."
"Yes. I come from... err..."
The ashenpale one hesitated. He had practised this particular fragment of the conversation many times but despite all preparations he did get a bit confused when it came to delivering the speech in front of the the one it had been intended for. But then it wasn't everyday he lied to his own self thus risking an occurence of severe time paradox and inevitable destruction of the universe. Let alone, losing the chance of carring out the plan he wanted to fulfill.
"From a... parallel, err... y'know, a parallel reality."
"Yeah, exactly. How should I explain this to you..."
The ashenpale one pretended that he tries to collect his thoughts. It seemed that the most difficult part was already behind him. He managed to begin the conversation avoiding the fight. Now he just had to ensure the young one that it was all about the mentioned parallel realities and not time travel he had performed using the mirrors once guarded by the Sisters of Fate - the fact that had to remain concealed if his present was to be safe.
"Let's put it this way; time is like a string stretched through infinity. A string that's weaved from hundreds of smaller threads. Each of those threads is a complete, separate reality. Some of the realities are very similar, nearly identical, others differ visibly. There are also realities so radically different from everything you know that having found yourself in one of them you'd be sure you're dreaming. Apart from many various realities there are also methods... of travelling between them."
"I cannot tell you. I've already said too much. This knowledge will be revealed to you in due time. Of course, if in this particular reality you are to know those things."
"Why should I believe you?"
"You don't have to."
"But you think I will."
"And you don't believe me?"
Kratos looked at the ashenpale one carefully. There was no way to deny that he appeared from nowhere in a storm of flashes and lightnings. He could also pass for his twin brother. The explanation sounded like a talk of a madman but despite high motivation he was unable to come up with a better one himself.
"Why do you look... the way you look?"
"That's not something particularly relevant but I shouldn't tell you anyway. It might have unpredictable consequences for your, hm... future."
"What do you mean?"
"Believe me, playing with time is a damn dangerous thing. A lot has happened in my life so far. A lot, really. And not less is surely going to happen in yours though I'm not sure to what extent the path of your fate will be similar to... mine. Regardless of that, everything must run as it was meant to. If I tell you too much, if you gain the knowledge of things you shouldn't have the knowledge of now, the final results may turn out to be catastrophic."
In silence that followed both men stood motionless like two twin statues looking at each other intensely and not saying a word. It took a long while before Kratos finally spoke:
"What do you want from me?"
"Well..." his ashenpale twin smiled somewhat affectedly. "Nothing special, really..."
"Are you trying to tell me that you have travelled from your reality to mine because of nothing special?"
The ashenpale one scrached his shaven head clearly embarassed.
"It's... complicated," he stated, deep lines of wrinkles cutting his forehead. "There is a certain issue... quite delicate one, I must admit..."
"Well... there's this woman that..."
"I mean she and I..." the ashenpale one drawn his palms close together and performed an undefined gesture.
"Yeah, not exactly. I mean, we aren't."
"The thing is that she agreed to... do something that's exteremely important to me and..."
"To do something?"
"Y'know... in bed," the ashenpale one rolled his eyes in a way typical for obscenly accosted virgins rather than warriors who Show No Mercy and Do Not Expect Mercy from Othes Either. "Nevermind the details."
"Hehheh. Ahem, I mean... go on."
"In return, she wants something for herself."
"Logical. But what it has to do with me?"
"One thing at a time. As I've already said, she consented but she wants something in return. And that's the problem because this happens to be something I cannot agree and will never agree for."
"So agree not and force her to do what you want."
"That's not so simple."
"What do you mean it's not? It is!"
"No, you see, it's really NOT."
Kratos winced deeply distasted. He found it hard to believe that he could possibly soften so much and get that eccentric in his old years. Even in some abstract parallel reality.
"You... love her?"
"So what's the problem?"
"The problem is that if I force her it will spoil everything."
"So get rid of her and find some other one who'll agree without making problems."
"If it was enough to do that I really wouldn't bother you. The trouble is that having walked this earth for 39 years I haven't met a female who'd accept this proposal. All of them have always declined. Always! She's the only one who hasn't."
"I cannot waste this chance. It's very unlikely that I will ever have another one. On the other hand, the condition the woman demands to be fulfilled is unacceptable."
"A real dead point."
"I won't even think what could be that thing she wants..."
"What? A threesome...? Just that? From what you've told me I was sure it was going to be at least..."
"You don't get it. She wants another man in our bed."
That left Kratos speechless.
"Disgusting, isn't it. A mere thought of it makes me feel like throwing up, too."
"But what this all has to do with me?"
"Well, how should I... tell you this..."
"I don't think I could manage to persuade her into changing her mind."
"You surely won't. I don't know how many times I myself have tried. I asked politely, threatened, resorted to manipulation and bribery even... all without any effect. The stubborn witch won't let go."
"She must have sensed how important it is to you."
"But what exactly do you expect from me? I don't feel attracted to men. Just like yourself."
"Well, as a matter of fact I do feel attracted to men."
"Yeah, very," the ashenpale one bared his teeth in a skewed lustful smirk. "But only to the dead ones from my list, hehheh."
"Oh, such men I've always found hot, too." Kratos smiled back in the identical way fully appreciating his own heavyish sense of humour.
"I'm sure you have. Anyway, myself sharing a woman with another man is not an option. Even if it was to be a one night stand. Or something less than that."
"I understand you perfectly."
"When we're finished, anyone can take her in any way they want. I don't give a damn."
"Sure, who would."
"...but as long as she's with me... I feel sick whenever I think that this other guy might for instance brush his body against mine while we'd be doing this..."
Kratos shuddered touched to the quick by this paralisingly disgusting vision.
"...or, worse even, touch my... with his... but I thought to myself that if YOU would agree..."
"You're a man yet at the same time you are also technically my own self so..."
"You want ME to go to bed with you and your woman...?"
Having recovered from initial shock, Kratos quickly pulled himself together and analysed the situation.
Just like the overwhelming majority of ultramanly machos he had a definitely positive approach to sex experiments of all kinds - especially that the rigorous regulations of the Spartan army gave the soldiers who were under the age of 30 very few opportunities to fulfill their potential in that regard.
The concept of having sex with a female stranger in the presence of an older and unhealthily pale version of himself, although egzotic and somewhat perverse, was not unacceptable so despite total lack of experience with such erotic configurations he didn't oppose for long and accepted the untypical proposal.
In spite of time manipulation, no negative consequences nor any other visible effects of the whole adventure occured. Well, maybe with one little exception. From then on, classic two person sex did not satify Kratos anymore...