A single blue butterfly stayed fluttering about my cell as the others immediately darted out in search of light. I envied them. They might find it where I would not. Not anymore. I turned back, facing Erebus, an ache forming once more in my chest. This wasn’t the same feeling I had carried all those years with the hatred for my father. No, this one felt different. It was longing for something, I now realized, I wanted more than revenge. A tinge of sadness crept over me, and I feared my eyes would soon betray the mock expression of calmness I tried to portray. I forced another fake smile, shaking my head slightly before stretching my hand out in a “give me” motion towards the bottle he still held.
He looked at me for a moment, a thought edging his features before he spoke. “Do you feel—?”
My brow raised at his question, suddenly curious for him to finish. “Do I feel what?” I paused, egging him on, “I tried to kill you, Erebus. You can ask me anything.”
He held my gaze a fraction of a second longer, then shook his head, turning forward. I slid closer to the edge of my prison. I leaned my head against the back wall, looking at him.
“Don’t tell me the Primordial of Darkness has trouble speaking?” I joked.
He smirked before handing the bottle back to me over the edge of my cell. I would be lying if I said I didn’t let my fingers linger far more than I should on his. It would be the closest I would ever get to actually touching him. Lately, my dreams of him proved time and time again how much I craved him. I might be a prisoner in Tartarus, but I was not dead…yet.
I leaned back against the wall as I took another long sip. My eyes closed. The fire that passed over my tongue, to my throat, and then into my chest was euphoric.
“I miss this.” I popped open my eyes, not realizing I spoke out loud.
Erebus looked at me with a soft smile on his face, apparently happy I enjoyed the alcohol he brought. I tucked a piece of tangled hair behind my ear again as he continued to stare at me. I felt insecure for once. I probably looked like a complete and tragic mess. Wait, why did I care?
I cleared my throat, continuing, “I miss a lot of things. So tell me. What was it like today? The weather? Everything here is cold, damp, and disgusting. There are no windows or natural light, as you can see.”
I meant the last part to be more of a joke, but the soft silence that held this place echoed on. We both knew I was making light of a very grave situation, and we both hated it.
We sat as close as we could get, talking about any and everything. We talked about the stupid things, the things I never thought I would miss. I felt like he sensed that I needed a touch of the reality that I had lost. I watched as he spoke about things that made his eyes light up and I nodded at the appropriate times. I wasn’t paying attention. I was too busy trying to memorize every line and detail of his face. Afraid this would be the last time I would see him. I opened my mouth to say something else when Hades suddenly straightened from his relaxed position against the far wall. His eyes seemed to dance with fire as he looked from Erebus to me.
“We must leave shortly, Erebus,” Hades said, eyes roaming between us.
I hopped to my feet faster than I thought possible. I looked at Hades. I knew my eyes were pleading, yet at that point, I did not care.
“Already? But he, I mean, you both just got here.”
Erebus copied my movements, almost in sync as he jumped to his feet. For a moment, I had forgotten how much taller he was. His large frame blocked my view of Hades. Actually, he seemed to block my view of everything. Wait, no, that’s wrong. It wasn’t just him but his shadows and darkness. Was Erebus upset? Did he not want to leave either? For the first time since I had been down here, my heart felt like it skipped a beat.
“Why don’t you piss off,” he remarked coldly.
Hades responded calmly, unafraid, as the King of The Underworld always is, “Erebus. I have to return to the party, and you cannot remain here without me.”
The shadows Erebus wielded lowered, allowing me to see between them once again. I looked down, the lump in my throat returning as I realized I would be alone again. I didn’t want to be alone again. The dreams and voices would return. Then something registered, and I looked between them, my head cocking to the side.
“Party? Did you say party?”
Hades’ face remained calm. Impassive. “I can give you ten more minutes, Erebus, no more, no less.”
Erebus turned back to me, running a single hand through his hair, as he mumbled under his breath, “Fucking Hades, always has to butt in.”
My nostrils flared as I looked at Erebus, really looked at him, and took in his attire. Once again, I was a fool.
“You were at a party? And a timed one at that? Explains the alcohol and the clothes.”
His eyes never wavered when he responded, “I wouldn’t say it was a great party. It wasn’t my idea to be there. I left almost as soon as it started,” he paused, coming closer. “I didn’t want to be there without you.”
My face twisted as I listened to his words. A party. They were celebrating. An array of images flooded my mind of the parties on Olympus before my fall—the laughter and joking—and now they celebrated my demise. I felt the pit of my stomach ache as anger once again crept up my spine, my eyes alight in the darkened area. I could see their reflection in Erebus’s.
“What kind of party, Erebus? What are they celebrating?”
He swallowed a lump, and an odd expression passed across his features. “Hekate. She’s having a party for Olympus. It was felt, by most, that a celebration was in order because we had captured most of the Titans. She made it a themed party,” he paused, grabbing his clothes, “hence the ridiculous getup.”
My breath hitched while I listened to him. My hands tightened once more, nails digging into flesh.
“Oh, is that all?” I snapped, anger apparent in my voice. “You forget, Erebus, I’ve been inside of your head. I know when you’re lying, and I can practically feel it. Your shadows betray you. They practically dance when you’re agitated, and they are prancing now. Look at me, Erebus. You can call it Titans being captured. The family being together. Call it whatever the fuck you want. My sister has bells on because I’m in chains.”
He rubbed his chest for a second as if he was telling me it hurt somehow. “Im sorry, yes.” He looked down, and it was all the confirmation I needed. He looked back to me before stepping closer and stopping just at the edge of my cell. “I didn’t want to go, Atë but if I didn’t—”
“If you didn’t go…what?” I threw my hands up in agitation. “They would still think you weren’t on their side? Because of me? Bullshit. You were there because you wanted to be.”
I turned away from him as I paced my cell like an angry beast. I ran my hands through my already tangled and matted hair as the whispers in my head returned once more.
This is what they wanted.
How could you not see that?
They are better off without you.
He won’t stay either.
“Did you have fun? Play some games? Win some prizes? I mean, that’s what parties are for, right?” My voice came out, not as my own. This time it was cruel and laced with venom.
“It wasn’t like that!” Erebus snapped, running a hand through his annoyingly perfect hair. “I mean, there was a game. I was going to leave, but Eros, well you know what he is like, he suggested a game.”
I stopped pacing, folding my arms, watching him, as I cocked my hip to the side. “A game? One Eros picked? Pfft like what…spin the bottle?”
Erebus didn’t answer me. He just shrugged before rubbing his jaw and meeting my gaze.
I gripped my arms tightly, my nails biting into my skin as he shrugged. Whatever control I had was out the fucking window when he shrugged. Shrugged like he didn’t care. Shrugged like it’s no big deal. I felt my heart shatter in my chest, a sharp pain, like someone had knocked the breath out of me. I knew my next question, and I, Atë, the Goddess of Ruin, was terrified to ask it.
“Did you kiss someone?” my voice came out soft and with a hint of pain.
He didn’t answer.
I snapped my next words out one by one, “Who did you kiss, Erebus?”
His shoulders slumped as he muttered one name, “Clio.”
“What?!?” If the anger and blinding rage in my voice could shake Tartarus, I felt like it would have done so, right then and there.
I slowly stalked forward to the front of my cell. “So, what is this? Came to stop by and see the poor disheveled Atë so you could go back to your party with your friends and family and tell them how miserable I am?”
I stopped close to the barrier holding me back, raising a single finger pointing it at him. “Or just a brief stop before you head back up for a quickie with Clio?”
Erebus’s eyes turned solid black at my words, the darkness around him seeming to grow tenfold. He stepped forward over the threshold and for a second I was reminded of the Primordial who found me in Italy. I stepped back as he moved forward. Shadows seemed to spill out of him, dancing up my cell wall. A sound more hollow than the wails here echoed around him, almost like a void. I swallowed a lump in my throat as my back hit the wall behind me. I hadn’t realized I had backed up so far.
“Absolutely not! It meant nothing,” he snapped. As he progressed, the shadows danced once more. He cocked an eyebrow at me. “Although I didn’t think it would matter to you. It’s not like we’ve sat and talked about our feelings.”
I took another deep breath, leaning my head back and shaking my hair out of my face. “Our feelings? What feelings? You mean when I used Melonie to lock you in the dream world or when I dropped a building on you in Italy or how about when I got you shot?”
He responded, completely smug, “Yeah, exactly. Not the kind of loving affection that I’m used to. I mean, do you even have feelings?”
I folded my arms tighter around me, turning away from him.
I heard his footsteps draw closer and then he slammed a single hand next to my head. My eyes snapped towards him, his face inches from mine. “Lie to me again.”
I snapped back through clenched teeth, “I am not lying!”
His eyes searched mine. “You know it pains me you’re in here. I hate that I had to be a part of it. After all that we’ve been through, I thought we were becoming more than friends. Friends don’t just abandon one another or shut each other out.”
I squeezed my eyes shut as his words hit every one of my insecurities. A part of me wanted to admit everything…to tell him the dreams I’ve had, to tell him he was the only thing keeping me somewhat sane in this god-forsaken prison.
“Why can’t you tell me the truth?” His words cut me deep. “Give me something, Atë.”
I didn’t know if it was how he spoke to me or what he asked, but in that moment, I realized something. I cared for him…more than I cared for myself. It was the most unselfish feeling I had ever felt. I couldn’t hurt Erebus. He’d come back here every time if I told him the truth…to see me for the rest of eternity. A part of me delighted in knowing someone truly cared, but it was wrong. He would waste his Primordial life on me, and I wouldn’t allow it. He deserved real happiness, not whatever this was. My heart broke once more, an echo only I heard, as my last bit of resolve left me. I knew what I had to do now. I had to hurt him. Make him see that there was no hope for us. Make him hate me so that he could be happy. Happier without me.
“Erebus?” I spoke, my voice barely a whisper as I opened my eyes and met his. I tilted my head, letting every bit of bitch I had left in me come out to play. “Remember when I helped you with Hyperion? And I said you owed me?”
His eyes scanned mine, almost begging me to go on, begging me to give him some type of answer.
“You do owe me, and I owe you the truth.” I slowly slid my hands up the front of his robe before gripping it tightly. My smile turned wicked, evil, cruel, and my gaze unbreaking. “And the truth is this. Us? There is no us. The only reason you feel this connection is because I got into your head. And the only reason I did that was that you woke up, and I didn’t have enough power to send you back. I never cared for you. How could I? I used you, and I kept trying to use you to help me defeat my father. And you know what the funny part is? I would have left you the second I had a chance,” I paused, making sure my next words hit home, “just like Nyx. Just like everyone else.”
I half expected anger, or the room to shake, maybe even more encompassing darkness, but nothing came. He stared at me for what felt like ages.
“I don’t…believe you.”
“Go home, Erebus,” I replied, pushing him away from me like I didn’t have a care in the world. “I don’t want you, I don’t want you here, and I don’t want you to come back.”
Hades was close enough to us, although I hadn’t noticed at the time. Probably ready to step in if anything went too far. Hades touched Erebus’s arm, willing him further away from me. “It’s time, Erebus.”
Erebus turned to Hades in an instant, “But…”
Hades’ eyes flashed to mine, softening, and I knew, then and there, one of my oldest friends recognized that I was lying. “I am sorry, Skotadi.”
I moved farther away from them, concealing myself in the darkened parts of my cell, speaking to Erebus for the last time. “You owed me, Erebus, and now you owe me no more.”
I watched as Erebus slunk backwards out of my cell, his face unreadable, his feet almost tripping over each other, and I knew I had won. And it broke me.
Hades took one last look at me before the sound of the large, metal door clicking shut was the only thing echoing in my cell.
Turning, I sank to the floor, holding myself. I released a shaky breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. I moved, covering my face with my hands, as tears I couldn’t hide anymore began to fall. This was the second time, in over a century, I cried. I was left, utterly and completely, alone.
Sobbing, I rocked back and forth, unafraid that my cries would be heard. How could they? They matched the wails and moans of Tartarus now.