“You rang, sister mine?” I slapped my hand against my face, realizing I had brought this upon myself simply by mentioning my brother’s name. With a smirk on his face, he continued, “My ears were ringing.”
I held my hands up in surrender. “That was my bad. Me and my big fucking mouth.”
The only people who didn’t seem completely uncomfortable by my brother’s presence was the one who married him and the one that the rest of the world remembered as being a drunk. “Oh, hello, Eros,” Dionysus said as he looked up. “I think your sister has been missing you.”
Eros rested his hand on his chest in mock sincerity. “How could she not, Dion?”
“Well, you are a bit too skinny. You really don’t make that good of a target.” At least Dionysus was good for a laugh and a come-from-behind burn.
Eros seemed unbothered by the insults being flung at him as he took a seat next to his wife, his cheek receiving a kiss from her lips. “So, Tia.” Those words always meant trouble when they were coming out of Eros’s mouth. “I heard you mention a her?”
I looked at him in genuine confusion. I hadn’t talked about anyone in the way he was referring to. “I beg your pardon?”
Wrapping an armed around Clio, Eros clarified, “And by mention I mean I was in Boston earlier. Gossiping with your flat-mates.”
My heart dropped at that nonchalant statement. I knew my eyes were wide with horror. What I didn’t know was if my face was white from blood draining from it in dread or if it was red from rage rushing to my cheeks. Either option was highly likely at that moment. “You were doing what?! Tell me you’re lying!” I knew he wasn’t—after all, it was physically impossible for him to do so—but a girl could hope.
“Oh, Adora—” Dionysus cut himself off before using a nickname that would agitate me all the more. “Never beg in front of Eros. It’ll blow his head up even more, and we’ll end up with Stewie with a bow and arrow.” As wise as Dionysus’ words were, at that moment, I wasn’t thinking straight enough to acknowledge or heed them.
“I was,” Eros paused, looking around like he was about to tell me some great secret, “spying,” he finally whispered. To punctuate his point, my brother slowly morphed and rippled into a perfect copy of me. I hated when he did that. It was way too unsettling.
Clio sighed heavily. “Eros.”
“What did you say!?” I asked loudly, cutting my sister-in-law off from the lecture she was about to go into. “What name did you give them!? Did you refer to me by my full name?!” All of these thoughts bombarded me at once, reminding me of all the ways that Eros might’ve just ruined the charade I had worked so hard to build.
Clio released an exasperated sigh. “Where’s my spoon?” she muttered.
Eros laughed. “So long as a person is beloved, I can take their form. Fascinating, isn’t it, Tia?”
My vision had gone entirely red. “I am going to fucking kill you!” I screamed as I drew my sword and charged.
Clio had found her spoon by this time and used it to jab at my older brother. The jab caused Eros just enough pain to make him lose his guard. I tackled him to the ground, pinning him. Without Clio’s help, I knew I wouldn’t have caught him. “Traitor!” he yelled to his wife. Her only response was a smile as she cuddled Alexander.
“Look, Aurora,” Dion encouraged as he held my new niece. “Food and a show.” Apparently, my pain was very amusing to everyone, and Dion popped a peppermint into his mouth to push that point home.
“Tell me everything you said and did!” I demanded. “Word for word!”
Of course, Eros didn’t take my threat seriously. He never did. He just laughed and threw back his own threat. “Careful, or I might just change forms again.”
“Can’t change if you’re dead!”
Eros kept his word. Still pinned beneath me, he started morphing into all of my housemates, waiting for some kind of reaction on my part. Jude. Jacob. Melissa. Makayla. Charlie. Kit.
Haley. It took all of my anger and military discipline to keep the hesitation from showing in my eyes as I looked down at the cheap copy of her form.
“Not again.” That was all I heard of Phobos before his big, meaty arms hooked under mine. He pulled me to my feet and off of Eros. “Come on, Adrestia. No killing Eros.”
“Let me go!” I railed against my brother, my feet running in mid-air like the fool of every Saturday morning cartoon. Why did I have to be the short one in the family?! “He needs to die!”
“Adrestia, when are you going to learn to stop reacting? That’s why he keeps doing this, you know. To get a reaction out of you.” Oh, like you’re one to talk, Mr. Short Fuse!
“He’s right, you know,” Eros agreed, making me angrier.
“Oh, let her kill him a few times,” Dion encouraged. “But take it to the kitchen. Tile is easier to clean up.” At least someone was on my side.
Clio stood from the couch and reached down to grab Eros by the ear. She dragged him painfully to his feet as he desperately said, “Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!”
“Eros! Apologize to your sister,” Clio demanded, her eyes flashing.
“She’s clearly in love with one of them,” my brother tried to argue. “But she won’t get the balls to actually do something about it.”
“Gee, I wonder why,” I yelled in sarcasm. “Remember the last time?”
And just like that, whatever jovial, light-hearted attitudes that were still in the lounge evaporated. Clio was looking at me in confusion while Eros narrowed his eyes. Dion seemed unfazed. Whether that was because he didn’t care or because he was good at masking his interest, I didn’t know.
Even I was a little shocked at the words, and even more shocked when angry tears pricked at the corner of my eyes. I hadn’t really dwelled on the past in the two thousand years that I’d been gone. I’d just tried to keep myself busy with the next war. The next revolution. The next project. Why bother thinking and worrying about things you couldn’t change when you could think ahead?
But Eros’s cavalier attitude and blatant disrespect of my private life had made something snap in me. Everything I thought I had forgotten just came rushing back in one fell swoop. I hated it, and I hated that it was bothering me so much.
“That was before,” Eros said, attempting to defend himself and his actions.
“Before what? Before you humiliated me?”
“Before I met her,” Eros answered. Clio. She was always his excuse. For everything.
“Why do you feel humiliated?” Dionysus interrupted. “You want to reach out to someone and be with them. It’s really that simple.” Simple? What about any of this was simple?
Clio let go of Eros’s ear, but she didn’t turn her disappointed mother’s gaze from him. She looked in questioning criticism, wanting to know what other offenses he had committed against me. “What did you do?”
“Go ahead,” I challenged. “Tell her. Tell everyone.”
In classic Eros form, my brother looked to his bare wrist rather than answering the question his wife had posed to him or accepting the challenge I had laid before him. “Would you look at the imaginary time?” And with that, he was gone.
Silence fell over the room as the weight of what had just happened came crashing down. I was the first person to break that silence by mumbling, “Fucking coward.” It wasn’t the first time he had run away from his problems, issues, mistakes, and shortcomings. I doubted that it would be the last.
“He thinks he can hide,” Clio commented. I wiped my tears away with my still-clenched fists. He always knew how to put me on edge, no matter how hard I tried not to let him get to me.
The only person who seemed completely unphased by everything was Dionysus. Luckily, I didn’t have to ask how he could stay so composed. He volunteered that information himself. “The more heated the family, the closer it truly is. I’ll be far more worried when there is silence between you two.” Another day and another time, I probably would’ve given some kind of retort. After dealing with Eros, I was too exhausted to take on Uncle Dion.
“Adrestia,” Clio said gently. “Would you like to go for a walk?” She was asking for more than just a walk. She was offering an opportunity to talk. To find out what Eros had done in the past, and maybe for the chance to correct it, if she could. I would never know what my brother did to deserve such a kind goddess…well, that wasn’t entirely true. But it was how I was feeling at that moment.
Despite my curt nod and scowl, a walk with Clio did sound nice. Phobos lowered me back to the ground. Once I had put my sword away, Clio laced her hand with mine, carrying Alexander in one cradling arm. “Dion, can you keep an eye on Aurora until we get back?” Dion nodded and tickled the baby girl to prove his point.
With that, Clio and I left the lounge, hand in hand, bonded by the man she loved and the brother I was barely tolerating.
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