I’m sleeping, or at least, I think I am. After years of not sleeping, I’m still never sure.
Is this what it’s like to dream? To float endlessly through a cascade of black? Listless without end. Nothing to cling to, nothing to hold on to?
Maybe I miss the nightmares.
Wait, shouldn’t Clio be here? All my dreams, both awake and sleeping, feature her.
My wife is the definition of a thirst trap.
Sorry, not sorry.
So this isn’t my dream.
At least, I’m somewhere around sixty percent sure that it isn’t.
My feet stop drifting and dangling, meeting cold black marble. Cold seeps into my soles. Out of habit, I reach over my shoulder, touching my back.
The silence is broken only by my hiss of relief. My wings are still there.
“About time you got here,” comes a new voice.
Flinching on instinct, I turn slowly to look at her.
“Mellie,” I wince, “no hard feelings about the hair prank, still?”
Her one black eye and one white eye narrow on me. “Only because I got revenge on Erebus, though you deserve some misery…”
Taking a step back from the Goddess of Nightmares, my arms whirl around, trying to find balance. Melinoë reaches out and catches the band of my sweatpants. She yanks me forward, stopping me from falling off the edge of the dream.
“Moron!” Melinoë snaps at me, quickly releasing me.
I step carefully to the side, putting distance between us. “No touchy, I’m a one-woman god now.”
Mellie crosses her arms over her chest, flipping one part of her white hair over her shoulder. “Nightmare on, lover boy.”
Bristling, I mimic her pose. “Why did you summon me here?”
Melinoë smirks. “What do you mean, summon you? I thought you were free of nightmares after our little meeting with your wife? I couldn’t summon you if I wanted.”
The sounds of babies crying echoes through the blackness, and Melinoë’s smile turns evil.
Okay, maybe I wasn’t as nightmare free as I lead people to believe.
I’m about to have twins. As in two. One, two. And I have zero experience with kids. Hedone grew up in a hell dimension outside of time. I never raised her, something I’m still trying to make up for.
Did I mention that the twins already have powers? In utero.
Yeah, imagine that. In the middle of the night last week, I woke up and our entire floor was the color blue. I blinked and went back to sleep, tightening my arms around Clio.
So yeah, nightmares. Might be getting them every once in a while.
But Clio is stressed enough, and I’ll die before adding my fears of being an inadequate father on top of that.
“If you didn’t summon me, then who did?”
“Gods, aren’t you supposed to be smart?” Melinoë shoves her finger into my chest hard, and even in the dream realm, I feel what I missed before.
Pressing the heel of my hand over my chest, I feel an echo of pain beneath it.
But it’s different; it’s not…heart break?
Closing my eyes, I reach out for the source. And Melinoë is forced to reach out and grab me again when I physically rebound back.
My eyes shoot open again. “The fuck was that?”
Melinoë releases me, rubbing her hand on her black dress.
“You’re the God of Love, you tell me. It’s keeping me from their nightmares, too.”
Tilting my head to the side, I look at Melinoë. “I thought you didn’t lurk in nightmares anymore.”
She crosses her arms again. “What’s that supposed to mean? Don’t you constantly meddle in things that don’t involve you?”
Okay, point Melinoë.
“Wait, wait, wait, you’re being summoned to nightmares that you can’t access?” She shoots me a look that clearly questions my intelligence. “And someone’s heart is summoning me but won’t let me in?”
A conundrum. Since being home, the list of immortals with their hearts tied to mine kept growing. Mostly because my wife insisted on helping people, rather than letting them fend for themselves.
My heart was torn in so many different directions. It was impossible to distinguish them now.
But…if I feel the ache and can’t locate the source, I should be able to figure out who is missing.
Whose heart is calling me but blocking me at the same time?
In my head, I go down the list.
Near the bottom, my eyes shoot open.
Rhea preserve me.
They were supposed to be done. They admitted to being in love with each other. He loves her. She loves him.
Yet, I’m being summoned to fix something, something I thought I already fixed. Leave it to them to make something which should be incredibly simple nightmarishly complicated.
I’m being pulled to the dream realm by a wayward heart.
So, why the actual fuck is her heart keeping me out?
Stubborn Goddess of Ruin.
Melinoë raises a white brow at me. “Figured it out yet?”
“Have you?” I snap back.
She bristles. “Atë. She’s blocking us.”
Nodding, I pinch the bridge of my nose, sighing before I drop my hand. “Nightmares. How the Fuck has E not noticed this by now?”
“How long did it take Clio to notice?”
My cheeks burn with shame, and I look away. If Clio didn’t touch me while I was sleeping one time…I could have hidden it from her for months.
Atë is hiding her nightmares for the same reason I did. Because it will destroy Erebus to know what they’re about.
“Tartarus, she’s dreaming about Tartarus.”
Melinoë nods to me. “And she’s hiding it from him.”
“Fuck, what are we going to do about that?”
“We? There is no we, lover boy. When Atë is ready to deal with her nightmares, she knows where to find me. It’s not my job to get her to confront her feelings. That’s yours.”
I thought…I did.
This doesn’t make any sense. She can be with the man she loves. What’s stopping her? From what I hear, she’s living with him already. If Clio and I were forced to live together…well, we would be in the same place we are.
With her, pregnant.
But Attie is resisting. Why?
A reverberating screech of noise makes me cover my ears, making the entire realm of dreams shake. Melinoë just smiles at me, crossing her arms, glowing as she absorbs the nightmare as it dances across the domain.
When the scream levels off, I drop my hands, noticing the gold ichor on my palms.
Even in dreams I can be injured.
“That’s her, isn’t it?”
Melinoë sighs roughly. “Likely, yes.”
“She sounds…sounds like she’s being tortured.”
“She is. Just because it’s our dreams, it doesn’t mean they aren’t real. You should know that better than anyone.”
Heat rises up the back of my neck, and I rub it, hoping to cover it.
“So, what? I convince her that she needs to come see you?” That’s going to be an uphill battle.
More like a war.
Atë never did anything easy.
It seems the God of Love’s work is never done.