On an island off the Pacific coast, I scrub my hands as I wash them under the rustic metal sink in the now-abandoned warehouse. The water, usually brown, now has a metallic shine as I rinse off the blood. Next up are my arms, then my face. Like the last few, this lead had been a dead-end, and I mean that literally. The place now had the pungent smell of death thanks to the guy Alejandro had sent me after. He’d decided to show up with what I had assumed he considered lackeys. That didn’t end well for them but, even after I broke every finger in good old Vince’s hands, he still refused to tell me where old-ass Kronos was.
I sigh, move a strand of my freshly blood-splattered hair from my face, turn the water off, and gaze at my reflection in the cracked mirror. It is just like me. It looks how I feel on the inside. Broken. Shattered. Split into a million pieces, with no idea how to make them fit together ever again. My shoulders shake as I lower my head, a hollow cry escaping my lips. What’s wrong with me? Why do I feel like this?
“You look like you’ve been sleeping peacefully and have nothing to worry about,” a thick rugged voice says behind me.
I shoot out my fist, taking a shard from the already broken mirror, and advance on my interrupter. I’m quicker than they expect as I press the glass blade on their pulse just below their chin. Fuck. How did I not sense a primordial? There, in all his six-foot four-inch glory, is Dolus. He looks even better than I remember. Time in the mortal realm has done him good. His hair is a tapered fade atop his head, with his dark beard cropped tightly around his jaw. He is dressed in a blazer-suit way too expensive to be in this rundown place. The silver color plays beautifully against his warm, rich, mocha skin. Anyone who looks at him will know he is a God, even if they don’t admit it to themselves. My long-lost friend, though, that is putting it mildly. Back before my fall, he was one of the very first I had convinced to join my mischief crew. We had been as close as anyone could be until I fell.
“And you know better than to sneak up on me,” I hiss, hoping he sees my threat before I smile widely.
I drop my blade, wrapping my arms tightly around him in an embrace. He returns my hug before pushing me away. He looks over me, the room, and then back again.
“Seems like I showed up too late.”
“I hoped Prometheus had given you my message. I heard after my fall you two had become quite the friends.”
He nods briefly before flashing a smile that would blind even Apollo. “You always call when you break a nail, but never for anything important.”
I nod, stepping back and forcing a smile. “Yeah, and now I need your help again.”
“Like I would do anything for you. As long as it doesn’t involve,” he stops, waving his hands, “this. I would hate to ruin a new suit.”
Dolus, the Primordial of Trickery, speaks in lies. One of the many things I find amusing about him is that one way he can tell the truth is with sign language. So, I know that by showing up, he is more than willing to help me further. Besides, he owes me.
“I’m hunting the old ones, and my leads are running low. I know you, more than anyone, would have heard something underground, maybe? I am not as involved as I used to be with that crowd.”
His silver eyes bore into me as his hands come forward in front of him. They move in rapid motion, signing to me what he can. It has been a while, but soon I pick up what he is saying. He had taught me eons ago. It was one of the many ways we had communicated without others knowing.
“The answers you seek you will not like,” he signs.
“What does that even mean? Do you know where they are?”
He shakes his head no, which in Dolus terms means yes. “Ok, well, just tell me.”
“Will it help?” he signs once more.
It is my turn to be confused. “Help what?”
He makes one motion, then points to his chest. I know exactly what he’s saying, and my fists clench in response.
He knows me like Eris knows me. Like Clio. Like every fucking person I had been close to a millennium ago. It pisses me off. My anger rises as a slight shiver runs up my spine, and my powers make the building around us shake. I don’t need a mirror to know my eyes shine bright as amber.
“Tell me where they are,” my voice is short, clipped, stern as I walk closer to him.
He doesn’t budge, nor do I expect him to. He is older than most and has seen more things than even the gods who now want me dead. His arrogance, however, almost matches mine. Plus, he has his father’s blood running through his veins. I know all too well how cocky he is.
His hands move in rapid succession as he steps forward, completely unfazed by my outburst. “It won’t release you from your Hell. Hell is not a place, Atë. Tartarus was only there to contain you. Everything else you are feeling, thinking. That’s your guilt. Have you considered maybe there are things you haven’t worked out within yourself yet?
That stings because it is true in some sense. I haven’t felt right since I left Tartarus. Yet, the entire time I was down there, I begged for my freedom, and for what? The family I tried to kill either wants me dead or forgave me, which stirred up a whole different pot of emotions. In what amounts to a matter of seconds for us, the man I loved, who I thought felt the same, had moved on. I am just over it, over everything.
“I’m tired, Dolus!” I yell, causing the remaining glass on the windows to burst from my rage. “Tired! I can’t sleep, can’t eat, and can’t think since I left that fucking place. And your father, your fucking father, is in my fucking head. My heart. He’s everywhere. And on top of that, I don’t even know who I am anymore.” I grab at my hair, shaking my head as the ache inside me seems to boil over. I feel it happening again. That stir of uncontrollable power, except this time, there’s no cell wall holding me back or keeping it in. “I’m so lost. I can’t stop fucking crying. I feel so broken. I don’t know how to fix it. It’s like this hole in my chest won’t go away, and the one thing I want, you won’t help me with. I just want it to stop, Dolus. That’s all. I want it to all stop.”
I turn from Dolus, my arms outstretched as I let loose every last bit of power I have in me. The wall of the warehouse rips off as it disintegrates. Wave after wave of my ruin seeps out of me, matching the storm of emotions inside. It feels good. No building stands a chance as it feels like the very earth shakes beneath my feet. Sarah was right about one thing. I am out of control, but a part of me doesn’t care.
“Give. Me. What. I. Want!” I snap as the dust and debris from the falling city swirls around us. Dolus’s silver eyes are the only thing I can make out during my rage and destruction.
He steps forward, his form solidifying in front of me in a split second. He looks at the damage I am causing, then back to me, a look of pure pain taking over his features.
“I won’t tell you the person you seek owns half the art galleries in Paris. Nor will I say he has a museum opening in a few weeks.” He pauses, grabbing me by my face and placing a kiss on my forehead. “I hate you, Atë. I hope you never find peace.”
With that, he is gone.
I am exhausted from my overuse of power. I manage to dissipate from the destroyed island and back to Greece. Then I get a ride back to the place I am staying. I must have reached a breaking point because I am exhausted. So exhausted, I don’t remember falling asleep on the way. The driver calls out to me again as I lift my head, looking at the home Erebus had bought. Home. Funny, he annoys me, and I hate being here, but it is the closest thing I have had to a home in, well, forever.
I gold-eye the driver, telling him I paid him for the ride, and he leaves happily. I guess I thought Erebus to be out looking for me or angry and waiting for me. Opening the door and being greeted by a blaring TV with him resting on the couch is the last thing I expect. He doesn’t bother to look at me, even though I have been gone a few days. There will be no warm homecoming from tall, dark, and annoying. Erebus reaches for the remote, turning on something loud and irritating as he casually puts his feet up on the table. I watch as his free hand shoves popcorn in his mouth. Well, I guess someone is annoyed.
I fold my arms, the volume and noise irritating my already throbbing head. “Well, this is surprising. I figured you would be out playing bodyguard.”
Erebus looks over his shoulder briefly. “I’m sorry, were you talking to me?”
I roll my eyes, dropping my arms in mid defeat already. I am exhausted and don’t feel like fighting. He should be happy I am even here. Technically, I didn’t have to come back. Yet, here I am. Again. Maybe something really is wrong with me.
“Whatever. I’m tired.” I play it off. I mean, it was a half-truth.
Erebus ignores me, paying me no mind as he continues to eat his popcorn
I shake my head as Ebhot sits with him, holding out his hands for food. Ok, that annoys me now, too.
“Diavoláki,” I call, waving my hand towards me. “Come.”
I call him by the name I had given him, mostly to annoy Erebus, but also because I want to follow what I said. My nights are less chaotic when at least he is around, but lately, he has been obsessed with Erebus. I don’t blame him since my nightmares have made me a little bit scarier. I watch as he looks between us with confusion.
Erebus hands Ebhot some popcorn, and my imp gladly takes it, still staring at me. “Looks like he’s comfortable where he is,” he says, smiling.
I don’t know if it is from my exhaustion, the last few days, or my gut feeling of once again being replaced, but I lose it. I reach over, grabbing on to one part of the sectional, pick it up and toss it, crushing the TV into bits.
“There, now we are all going to bed. Now, like I said, Diavoláki. Come.”
A line in Erebus’ jaw clenches as he stands slowly from the couch and turns to face me. “You’re going to buy me a new one.”
He doesn’t say anything else as he starts to walk toward the stairs.
Don’t pick a fight. Don’t pick a fight.
I scoff. “Like fuck I am.”
The lights dim in an instant, telling me I have pissed Erebus off. He steps toward me at a rapid pace, his voice booming. “You will have some respect for the things in this house. You may not respect yourself or me, but this is our home! You will not destroy it as if it were a villa in Italy. For fuck’s sake, Atë. I’m trying here, and you don’t give two shits about saving yourself!”
I hold up my hands in a mocking fashion before rolling my eyes. “Bullshit. You have no idea what I’m doing when I’m not here or how I’m literally trying to fix myself. You weren’t there, Erebus. You weren’t locked in Tartarus. You have no idea what I’m feeling or what it’s like. And for one second, let’s stop pretending like you’re some hero helping me. You didn’t do this out of kindness. You did it because my idiot therapist made you.”
“Would you for once get your head out of your ass? I’m not trying to play hero. I could have easily told your therapist no. I don’t do anything because some stupid mortal bitch tells me to. I’m doing this because I don’t want to see you go back to Tartarus.”
Before I know what I am doing, I step closer to him. Maybe it is out of instinct, or my brain is running on fumes. Maybe, after this day, I just want to hear someone else cares for me. “Why?”
His eyes soften. Soften like they did that night at the penthouse, and I’ll be damned if my heart doesn’t skip a beat. He owns a part of me, whether I want to admit it or not. “What do you mean, why?” But that too is short-lived, as if his memories begin to replay all the shit I did. His voice grows stern once more. “You know damn well I care about you. There are people in your life that don’t want to see you dead, but you are so damned determined to run us out of your life forever.”
Ouch. As much as I hate to admit it, he is right. But why wouldn’t I? I am no good for them or him. “Because I am not worth it.”
I feel the sting of tears prick my eyes, and I quickly blink them back. I reach my hand out and run my fingers over just a few buttons of his shirt. Maybe I can tempt him once more into letting me lose myself with him, even if it is only for a few hours. Just to feel something. I shake my head, clearing my thoughts, and tap his chest lightly before turning to go to my room.
“You should get some rest, E. You look tired.”
Before he turns, his brow furrows at me as if he can read my mind. I can feel his eyes bore into my back as I head to my room. “I know you didn’t ask for my help, but my door is always open. Do what you like. I’m not your babysitter. I’m not going to play cat and mouse games with you. Just remember, you are hurting more than just yourself when you break the terms of your agreement.”
“Goodnight, Erebus,” I say, closing my door behind me.