I stepped outside the bedroom and gently closed the door behind me, hoping I would not wake Apollo. Since his return, his sleep could be described as minimal at best. I didn’t want to interrupt the few minutes he managed to get. My sleep patterns had changed as well. If he slept, I remained awake, trying to watch over him.
In the early morning hours when the world was quiet, my mind wandered down all sorts of dangerous paths. I wanted to keep those negative thought wolves at bay, but they snuck in every chance they got. The button from Apollo’s pants stayed with me; I continued to use it as a soothing element. His return should have eased my mind, but things were far from normal, and I secretly doubted they ever would be again. The gut-wrenching terror of losing him still haunted me.
I curled up on the couch. Frank appeared at my hip and Dugo looked for permission to climb up on my chest. Thankful for the distraction, I gave them both love. It felt like they were the only ones who understood me. Even when Apollo was missing, the others didn’t seem to care much about Apollo being gone or what I was going through. That hurt. I knew everyone was caught up in the Titan crisis, but the lack of support still bothered me. Of course, there were rumors and laughs about Apollo being a rock star and that I shouldn’t be surprised he’d be “missing”. Eros glibly even suggested Apollo ran out to the 7-11, which really threw me for a loop.
After I thought about it, it struck me. How did Eros escape the heart pain of me missing Apollo? I knew that he and Dinlas seemed stranger than usual over the past couple of weeks, but I wasn’t sure that explained it. The more I thought about Eros, the more evidence surfaced that something with him was off, and had been for quite some time.
Dugo purred as I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. His purrs vibrated against my chest and his warmth comforted me. Frank’s heft kept me centered. I scrolled through my memories of the last few months. Eros causing trouble at Eventide. Eros appearing quiet and moody during the SBF events. Eros arguing with Nyx over her request to be shot at by Dinlas. Eros in the breakroom being difficult. Eros spitefully throwing the ritual in my face once he found out Apollo and I got engaged. Eros blanching at Nyx gifting Dinlas a pair of wings.
I hadn’t thought about it in some time, but I knew he had suffered through something traumatic. He never really told us what happened to cause him to take the horrifying step of cutting them off, but even the thought made me cringe. I couldn’t imagine what that must have been like.
I knew that it couldn’t be the only reason he was troubled, but figured it had to be a considerable part. Would he be different with his wings? Maybe. Maybe not. But it was too late to know for sure. Or was it?
Another memory suddenly surfaced. Once, in the GC breakroom, Eros told us that since the scythe of Thanatos removed the wings, that scythe would be the only way his wings could return. I didn’t even remember how it came up in conversation, but it had.
There was a chance he could get them back.
Thanatos. The favor. Ohmygods.
Bolting upright, I swung the cats off of me and plopped them onto the sofa. I needed to find Than. Weirdly, I realized I didn’t know how to contact him. Does Death answer texts? I scooted into the bedroom to change into my clothes.
Apollo was on his back, staring up at the ceiling. It seemed like he hadn’t even heard me come in.
“Hey, babe. I need to find Than. I’m going to head over to the GC and see if he’s around. Will you be okay for a bit?”
He didn’t blink, just stared straight ahead.
I sat near him on the edge of the bed and stroked his hair.
“I want to talk to Than about Eros,” I said, hoping that would at least get a reaction out of him. Nothing.
“Are you okay?” I asked. At that, he closed his eyes.
“I can stay…” I started. Then he shook his head.
A feeling of dread settled somewhere between my heart and stomach.
I left the room and grabbed my purse and keys. “Keep an eye on him, boys,” I said to the cats. “And Frank, if there’s trouble, find me.” Frank twirled his big blue eyes and gave me his wide-toothed smile.
The GC felt downright ghostly when I arrived. I made my way to the god lounge to wait. Thanatos frequently stopped in with coffee and doughnuts (sometimes even a breakfast buffet) for everyone, so I hoped it would be my lucky day.
It was. Than arrived, arms loaded with goodies for the hungry immortals. He only looked slightly suspicious when I told him I wanted to redeem my favor. I pulled him into the hall and whispered like we were conspirators. Than gave me his flat smile (at least I chose to believe it was a smile), and I hurried to the elevators.
In the lobby, I sat and thought about Eros. He could be the most frustrating god. I always hoped he would be lovey and romantic. It was disappointing, to say the least, that he actually mocked romance. I couldn’t count the number of times he’d ribbed Apollo and me for being too “cheesy”. Love was difficult enough without having the god who oversees it treat it like it was something to be discouraged. His idea of love was not my idea of love.
That was something that plagued me. Why should I care? Should I just keep my favor and have Than do something to try and help Apollo? He was my heart. That’s where I hurt. Why was I suddenly concerned about Eros?
My phone buzzed. I looked down and saw a message from Calliope. I hadn’t heard from her since she heard Apollo had returned.
“How’s it going, sis?” she texted.
“Apollo isn’t doing well,” I responded. “I’m working on that. But right now, I’m actually thinking about Eros. Do you know why he’s such an ass?”
“Not a clue,” she texted. “Why do you care?”
“I guess it’s timing. Valentine’s Day and all,” I texted back. “It always makes me think of love and romance, but also just love in general. Is it better to do selfish things in the name of love and hope it works? Or should you do something selfless because it might be the right thing to do?” I texted.
Calliope took so long to respond, I thought she had been sidetracked. “Like agapē?” she asked.
“Yeah. Like that,” I replied. And with that response, I had an answer.
Greeks had words for different types of love. Agapē was the word we used for altruism…an unconditional love.
Than came down to the lobby and lurked, as he was his norm. So many times, he was right in the room with other immortals and somehow, they didn’t realize he was there. Strange. He looked at me, and I nodded.
Almost like clockwork, Eros entered the building a few minutes later. Thankfully, he was dressed casually in jeans and a pricey t-shirt and not a suit. I jumped up and tried to look like I’d just walked in myself, fidgeting with my purse as I crossed the lobby.
“Good morning, Shadow. You’re here early. Lose Apollo again?” Eros smirked, raising an eyebrow.
For a half-second, his snarky greeting almost made me change my mind. Then I looked at his eyes. They were beautiful but a bit empty.
I took a deep breath. “Very clever, Eros. No, Apollo is at the apartment. I just wanted to catch up to you and ask you about how your Valentine’s Day was. Were you super busy?”
“Haha, Shadow,” he rolled his eyes. “Why are you being weird? You know that I am not actually Cupid, right?” With that, he winked.
I blocked his way to the bank of elevators as I juggled my purse. My lipstick and keys fell out.
“Oops. I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” I stated. “I guess I’m still a bit on edge.”
Eros bent down to pick up my dropped items.
Than stepped silently behind Eros, holding out his scythe. Eros stood upright, handing me my stuff. I juggled the keys and lipstick, nearly dropping them again. Eros put out his hands to steady me. Than moved his scythe forward, the blade tip poised near the base of Eros’s neck. The blade glowed; the colors of the aurora borealis beamed from behind Eros. Eros sensed something and started to turn. I grabbed his hands in mine to distract him.
“No hugs, Shadow,” he growled.
“I wouldn’t think of it. I just wanted to ask if you might come by to see Apollo at some point ” The lie tumbled out of my mouth like nothing.
I looked past Eros as Than worked his scythe.
Eros shifted his eyes.
“I mean,” I squeezed Eros’ fingers and his eyes returned to meet mine. “I think it really might help.”
“Just tell golden boy to get his act together and come down here to hang with us.” He gave me a quizzical look. “You’re being really weird, Shadow. Maybe you should talk to Yaya for some counseling.”
I rolled my eyes.
The colors from the scythe stopped. Than gave me a nod before slipping backward to blend into the lobby again.
“Okay, Eros. Whatever. I’ll see you later.”
He furrowed his brow. Sidestepping me, he yanked his hands away and called the elevator.
He walked through the sliding doors as they opened. He turned slightly, giving me a look of suspicion as he pressed the button. I gave him a silly smile and waved. He shook his head. Just as the doors started to close, I noticed the first feathers sprouting across the back of his shoulders and dimpling his shirt. I grinned.