Atë dropped the knife from her right hand and watched it fall before catching it with her left. She tried to drive the blade in, aiming for my midsection, but my shadows and reflexes were fast. My suit was ripped, but she didn’t break the skin. A boisterous laugh erupted from me.
“Really, Atë? I didn’t know we were stealing kill moves from pop culture now.”
She held the blade tightly before tossing it into her other hand, a slow smirk spreading across her face. “Actually, that’s an old war tactic…where do you think they got it from?” Black mist rolled off her slender curves, and she backed into the darkened living room, her eyes a bright gold as her shape disintegrated.
My hands grasped at thin air. I should have known she would use that move. I circled the now red pool, not looking at Amy. Atë wouldn’t have gone far. She was clearly on a mission. I walked back through the open doors and into the living room of the penthouse.
“Atë, you know I really hate that disappearing act you do. It reminds me of Italy,” I said with a smirk. “You do remember Italy, don’t you?” I walked around the couch she’d ripped to shreds, and raised my voice, unsure of where she was hiding. “That’s where we first kissed.”
Her voice echoed through the expanse. “Oh, I remember everything. That’s what Tartarus does. It was a thousand years for me. A thousand years of nightmares. Of torture. Of Darkness. Reliving my mistakes over and over again until I begged for an end.”
I gawked. A thousand years. I clearly had no idea, and here I couldn’t wait a lousy month. I’m an ass. “I’m sorry, Atë.” I walked past the bar, the mirror behind it reflecting the dark room. I scanned it, looking in all the corners for her. “I can’t begin to imagine the pain you went through. It was torture for me, too, knowing I had put you here. I didn’t think you would ever forgive me. Eros wasn’t lying when he said I was broken…I still am.” My shadows crept along the floor, searching for her. “I needed you…only you. I still do.”
“I told you…your words don’t work on me anymore…” She appeared out of thin air behind me, driving the knife towards my back. I moved as fast as she swung. I glanced at the dagger lodged in the bar to the hilt. That was a little too close for my liking. A second later and it would have been wedged in between my wings and shoulders. I stopped cold, dread filling me as I noticed the liquid that pooled around the metal of the blade.
“Wh─What is that?” I stammered.
She yanked the knife from the bar, splinters ripping from the wood that held it in place. “Oh, this?” She held the dagger up and slowly spun it in her hand. “Come on, E, we have both been around for a long time. Think. What’s shiny, red, and can incapacitate a god?”
My eyes bulged from my head. “Hinds blood! You mean to use hinds blood on me?” I was hurt, not physically, but the realization of how much she hated me was slowly sinking in. She wanted to kill me for real this time.
She flipped the blade to her other hand. “Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!” The anger in her eyes flared. “I have had it for a while now, actually. I planned to use it on Kronus. You know, after I destroyed Olympus. But I guess I get to use it to destroy you instead.” She charged at me again, slashing in a diagonal line.
My reflexes were faster this time. I jumped back as my black wings stretched out, taking me to the second-floor landing, putting some space between us. I looked down at her in surprise.
“Why are you trying to kill me?” I said, trying to understand.
Atë’s form disappeared before reappearing in front of me. “It’s simple, really. You made me think you cared about me. I let you in. And I don’t let anyone in. I cried for years, feeling this guilt because I thought I hurt you. The one person who liked me when I was nothing but anger and war. And now there is nothing but these voices in my head screaming all the time, begging me to end you.” She waved her hands around as she spoke. “So, I figured it out. No more you. No more idiotic feelings. No more regret. I’ll finally be free.”
“Atë.” I wrapped my shadows around her gently so she couldn’t hurt me while I tried speaking some sense to her. “I won’t hurt you, not again. I can’t begin to make up for the pain I’ve caused you. But you have to know that I would never hurt you intentionally. This show…this show was my way of trying to get over you, and I couldn’t do it. I tried to do as you asked. But I couldn’t. You mean too much to me. We…I thought we were friends?”
Atë manipulated her voice to sound like mine from months ago when I visited her in Tartarus, the first and last time. It was her turn to use my own words against me. “Friends don’t abandon each other.” Her eyes glowed brighter. I could see the panic in her eyes, I could feel her again, inside of my head. She felt trapped. The room shook as the entire hotel vibrated. Parts of the ceiling fell as the landing we stood on crumbled away beneath us, sending us to the floor. My shadows expanded, holding and protecting both of us as we fell.
We scrambled up from the floor, Atë went straight for her knife. I raised my hands forward and up in front of my chest as I faced her. “Atë, you are right. Friends don’t abandon one another.” I could see she was unhinged, more so than usual. “I know there’s no chance you’ll believe me now, but I was ending this.” I waved my hand in the air at the camera lights in the penthouse. “I was ending it all tonight. I was coming for you.”
She knocked the debris from her dress while looking at me. “You’re lying.” Half a second passed before she raised her arm and ran at me full tilt with the blade aimed at my chest.
I darted from her aim, disappointed by everything that was unraveling between us. Grabbing her by the wrist, I leaned into her and spoke sincerely, “I wouldn’t lie to you.”
She placed the palm of her free hand on the back of the blade, trying to drive it towards my heart. Her eyes were frantic and determined, her emotions bleeding through. It was too much for her. The building began to shake again. Car alarms blared in the surrounding area, the lights flickering once more before going out completely. The sounds from outside were drowned out by the enormous roar of Atë’s Ruin power as it poured out of her in waves.
If I didn’t do something quick, the building’s integrity would be shot, and she would collapse it with us in it. I could see she couldn’t stop. I closed my eyes, focusing, trying to connect with her mentally, like we used to do. I could hear her faintly.
“I have to do this. It will go away. They told me it would. It will all go away.”
I was surprised at how strong she was. I knew she was using everything in her power to pin me with the dagger. If I let her, she would end me right now, but I knew that wouldn’t take away the pain. This was about more than just me. If she ended me, her pain would increase tenfold. She would never forgive herself, and the month she had spent in Tartarus would look like a cakewalk in comparison to the hell she would live through. There had to be a way to stop her. I looked down at the knife inching its way towards my heart. Just a knick, a little one, enough to disarm her. I winced at the thought.
I twisted my body out and away from her briefly so I could get the advantage. Bringing her back towards me, I held her against my chest with one arm, using my shadows as backup. Slowly, I grabbed hold of her hand and the knife with my free hand. Everything went quiet. The room had stopped shaking, Atë was still in my arms. I knew in that moment I had done the very thing I said I wouldn’t do. I had hurt Atë.