I didn’t stop screaming the entire time Eros carried me out of the God Complex and onto the nearby battlefield. I squirmed as hard as I could, trying to break Eros’s hold on me to no avail. For a God of Love and not War, he never had any issue playing with the rest of us kids when we rough-housed. I would never understand how he could keep up.
“You’re lucky I’m letting you get healed up instead of taking you on now,” Eros told me through my screams. “Look at me, trying to fight fair.” It wasn’t a common occurrence. That was for damn sure. Of all of us, Eros was the one who was most adept at finding the loopholes and weak spots to take advantage of. He was the king of fighting dirty.
“Put me down! Nobody wants me here, so I’m leaving!”
“I want you here!” he snarled in response.
“No, you don’t! You want her here!”
Eros’s only response to my accusation was his increased, heavy-footed speed as he continued the trek to the battlefield. Once we were there, he threw me down onto the stone beneath his feet. “Fix her up,” he snapped at one of the healers.
I didn’t let the healer get close enough to do as he ordered. I ignored the pain of my impact with the ground, scrambled to my feet, and dashed to make a run for it. I needed to get far enough away so I could teleport to the safety of the Revolt House.
“I’ll catch you,” Eros called after me. “You know I’m the fastest.”
Don’t let him get in your head. Eyes forward. Keep running. Don’t—
My thoughts came to a screeching halt as I slammed into Eros’ hard torso. “You don’t want to make it fair? Fine.” He slipped off the thigh-holster for his arrows, throwing it to the side with his bow. “Come at me. I’m unarmed.”
This was one of his classic tricks. He would present himself in his weakest state—completely unarmed—and taunt you into attacking, making you think there was no way you could lose. But I knew better.
I didn’t want to fight him, anyway. To fight him would be to pretend that everything was exactly how it always was with us. We were those siblings who expressed love through fighting. It was when we were avoiding and ignoring each other that let people know we weren’t on good terms with one another. But did I not want to fight Eros because I was angry with him? Or was it because I still gave a damn about him, despite his actions?
I started backing away from him, looking frantically for any open path that would lead to an escape. “Coward. I thought Pater raised us to never run from a fight.”
Damn him and his exploitation of weaknesses. He knew calling me a coward and bringing Dad into this would get me to accept his challenge. I knew this even as I drew my sword, digging my heels into the ground.
Falling into his own fighting stance, Eros taunted, “Come on, little sister. Show me what you’ve got.” Rather than accepting his invitation, I stepped to the side, circling in search of an opening opportunity. My hesitancy made Eros quirk his brow at me. “Come on. Are you scared you’re going to hurt me?”
He’s gonna try to hit all the trigger words today, isn’t he? Tightening my grip on my sword, I responded in my deepest voice, “I know better than to fall for your taunts, Eros.”
Surprisingly, Eros smirked. “But not Atë’s? We’re both tricksters. She taught me everything.”
I couldn’t stop my face from twisting into a scowl. Did he ever talk about me the way he talked about this traitor? For some reason, I doubted it. “Then maybe you prefer having her as a sister.”
Eros scoffed, “What is it with you and one or the other? Why can’t I love both of you?”
I felt another snap in my body at those words. “She doesn’t deserve your love! She tried to kill you!” I charged forward, swinging my sword high as I screamed.
Eros flinched back, dodging my swing with a simple step. “Deserve? I don’t deserve to be loved by Clio, but I am.”
“That’s different!” I screeched as I whipped around, arching my sword wide around me.
This time, Eros dodged the attack with a one-handed back-bend and flip that kicked the tip of my sword up to a harmless angle. “How?”
“You didn’t try to destroy the world!”
Another scoff from my brother. “I would if Clio was hurt or threatened.”
I couldn’t take it anymore. “Why does everyone use that as an excuse?! She loved us, so she tried to kill us! Where the fuck is that logic?!” It reminded me of those abused by their partners while they were still in denial—they hit me because they love me. Talking to those people frustrated me, too. It was like talking to the dumbest brick walls in existence. What was it gonna take to knock sense into them? Charging at Eros was the first best idea I had.
Eros easily side-stepped my charge, allowing me to flash past him, then wrapped his arms around me from behind before I could react. His hand fell on top of mine and started pulling, trying to loosen my grip on my sword. “Who are you really mad at, hm? It’s not Atë.”
Squirming in my brother’s grapple, I protested, “Yes! I! Am!”
“No, you’re not!” Eros yelled, twisting my grip on my sword until I had to fall to my knee to ease the pain. Eros ripped the sword out of my hands, throwing it down with his bow and arrows. “You think I chose her over you.”
“You did! I was trying to protect you, and you chose her!” In that moment, I realized how easily I went from intimidating to petulant. It was as simple as disarming and forcing me to my knees. I hated it.
“I don’t need protecting!” Eros argued.
“You nearly died,” I reminded him.
Eros scoffed again. It was his favorite way to make you feel wrong. “So?”
“And if I had been there, I could’ve stopped it!” Even I didn’t know where those words had come from. They were completely reflexive as they rose in my throat. And that made them the most true.
“No, you couldn’t have!” he yelled one more time. Eros sighed, shaking his head as he lowered his volume. “You couldn’t.”
“Yes! I could’ve!” I protested. “That’s my job!”
Eros kept shaking his head with every word I spoke. “You’re not responsible for me, Tia. For any of us. Only for yourself.” That sure as hell didn’t stop him, Phobos, and Deimos from hovering over me all the time. “But you’re scared of that, aren’t you? To look within?”
Why did I always fall for his games so easily? I couldn’t stop the tears from welling up as I inhaled and exhaled heavily through my nose. “No, I’m not,” I lied.
With another sigh and shake of his head, Eros approached me, clearly not worried about this fight of ours anymore. He plopped down on the ground next to me, bumping our shoulders. “It’s okay to be afraid, you know.”
“I’m not scared.” I sniffled again.
Eros snicked. “You’re terrified of being alone. Because then…it’s just you. It’s why you throw yourself into your work, into hating Atë. Because you’re scared…but it’s okay.”
I shook my head. “No. No, it isn’t.”
Eros laid back on the ground, sighing as he went. He patted the grass next to me, inviting me to join him. I refused, stubbornly wrapping my arms around my knees, which were tucked up into my chest. After taking a long pause, my brother asked, “You know what was always my biggest fear?”
I didn’t, though I couldn’t say that such a topic didn’t intrigue me when it came to my flippant brother. “Hm?”
“Being rejected.” I turned to look back at my brother in surprise. His lips were twitching. “Not being enough. Silly, isn’t it?” He refused to look at me. “Maybe that’s why I was so ready to believe that Clio was the one responsible for cutting off my wings. Because I was just waiting for her to realize that I wasn’t enough for her.”
“But you’re always so confident,” I stated simply.
Eros laughed. “With everything else, yes. When it comes to Clio…I’m not.”
I sighed. I was tired. No. I was exhausted in every way one could be. I was emotionally spent from dealing with Atë. I was physically tired from my fight with Sergai. I was mentally exhausted, trying to understand why everyone was so…blind to my intentions. I flopped onto my back next to Eros. This was comfortable. It was our childhood.
Eros lulled his head to the side, smiling just a little. “What about you, little sister?”
“What about me?” I played dumb.
“Your greatest fear.”
I sighed again. “Failure. And the consequences that come with it.”
“You think you failed me. Me and Din because we were captured,” Eros stated, summing up my thoughts perfectly. I hated when he did that.
“I failed everyone,” I admitted.
“I should’ve been there. I should’ve fought. I should’ve taken care of her.” None of this ever would’ve happened if I had just sucked it up and come home.
Eros shook his head. “You didn’t even know she existed. None of us did.” I couldn’t tell if he understood that my definition of take care of was different from the way he had been using it.
“Okay, but I still should’ve been there.” The only time failure was guaranteed was when one didn’t even try. Would the odds have been against me? Yeah. But at least no one would’ve been able to say I allowed my family to be hurt. But I didn’t make that choice. I chose my other family. Clearly, it was the wrong choice, regardless of how it felt at the time.
“Why?” Eros asked.
“I could’ve protected everyone.” Even as I spoke the words, I knew that what I was saying was beyond my capabilities. “Or at least you and Din.”
“Kronos grabbed us on the roof while I was sleepwalking,” Eros said, gesturing to the God Complex building. “You couldn’t have stopped it.”
“How do you know?” I challenged, even though I knew he was right.
“Tia.” Eros laughed. “It’s Kronos. He’s the Devourer. He would’ve just taken you, too.”
“At least I could’ve said that I tried.” I couldn’t even claim that. “She is my failure, Eros. She’s its physical representation. A constant reminder. She won’t go away, and I don’t trust her.”
“Well, I do. Do you trust me?”
I looked to Eros, recognizing the opportunity his question provided me. “In general, or…?”
Eros rolled his eyes like it was old times again. “You know what I mean. Do you trust me?”
I sighed in defeat. “Yes.”
With a smirk, Eros said, “Then know that I’ve effectively neutralized her. She’s not a threat. I’m not asking you to forgive her, but I’m asking you to stop treating her like she’s the enemy.”
Once again, there Eros went turning me from an intimidating goddess to a petulant child. “Do I have to like her? Cause she makes it really fucking hard,” I whined.
Eros snorted, amused by my change. “You don’t have to. You just have to trust me. Don’t engage her. Don’t fight her. Just evade her.”
I looked at my brother with the most dead-ass serious look possible. “Do you not know me?”
Eros returned the look. “What do you mean? Can’t resist a fight?”
“Literally, my point of existence,” I stated flatly, drawing another eye roll from my brother.
“It so is not. All revolutions are not about fighting. They’re about hope. Hope for a better future. A better life.” I hated when my brother seemed to know my domain better than I did, and I couldn’t stop the sigh that expressed that from coming out of my mouth. “Annoying, isn’t it?”
Another rare opportunity. “Yeah, you are.”
“That, too, but annoying how I’m right.” Eros jumped easily to his feet, leaving me on the ground as he started collecting our weapons. “I have hope, you know. For Atë. For you. For all of us.”
I sat up and looked down at the stone beneath me. “I hope we don’t disappoint you.” The question was, who was more apt to be the disappointment? Me or Atë? I hated to admit it—even to myself—but either sounded like a likely possibility.
“You never do, little sister.” Eros smiled at me. He approached me, handing my sword back to me by the blade. “How about we go see Clio, hm? You can apologize in person, and she might just give you some clarity on the history of our complicated history with the Goddess of Mischief.”
I looked between Eros and my blade. My mind was starting to work properly again. It presented all of my options to me, though at a slower pace than usual. “Don’t forget, I’ll still stand in your way, Tia. You’re not getting her.” Damn him for reading my mind.
I reluctantly took the sword back, complying with his orders. Once my blade was safe in my hands, Eros offered me his hand in kindness. I took it, still scowling a little.”
As he pulled me to my feet, he said, “You know, Clio is going to be having baby velociraptors? I expect you to help.” I couldn’t stop my brows from furrowing in confusion. My brother was so weird.