Poison and Wine, Part III

“You would be correct in saying that I do not deserve him. I spurned him, and worse. But do you think that attempting to kill his wife in his own temple would endear him to you?” I kept my voice calm, hoping to bring her down some. I knew her bullets would do little more than hurt and piss me off, but why risk her accidentally hitting someone else?

“Glad to say I have never had the misfortune of meeting you before. So how do you know me?” I asked. The only mortals I’d revealed myself to were the three I trusted more than anything and the abusive asshole I’d dispatched for hurting Callie. 

“That night, you just appeared in the dungeon to save that pathetic woman. I was working security. I was watching the cameras, and you just poofed into the room and threw him around. I knew you were one of the gods then. It was just a matter of figuring out which one.” 

I couldn’t help but sigh as I lowered my hands and took a step closer to her. If I ended her existence, would the three of them be free? I couldn’t guarantee it, but it was worth a shot. “Is this the part where you go on some long explanation of your master plan and then let me have enough time to destroy you? Or do you leave without confirming my death, and then I destroy you, anyway?” Perhaps I spent too much time watching mortal media, but it felt like I’d ended up in some B-movie spy adventure. 

“Don’t ruin my fun,” she hissed, pulling a gun from beneath her jacket. I almost laughed, but I didn’t want to risk her turning her attention to any of my mortals. “Now shut up and let me finish. I want you to know why this is happening. You’re going to listen, and then you’re going to watch your precious mortals die, knowing that there was nothing you could do to save them.” 

As much as I wanted to end it, I was curious about her reasons. But really, I just wanted to make sure she wouldn’t take her anger out on Micah, Tori, or Callie any further. “Fine. Please, continue.” 

“There. Was that so difficult?” I didn’t answer her, but she was pleased enough with herself to continue on. “I got that girl’s name and went through all the information I could find on her. Including her trips to a sex therapist three times a week. That helped me narrow it down quickly. And when I figured out just who you were, I knew Hephaestus was finally smiling down on me. The vicious, unloving wife that had spurned him had been dropped into my lap. And she loved humans! Was that it? He wasn’t human enough for you? It doesn’t really matter because you don’t deserve him!” she screamed at me, her gun leveling at my torso. 

“You would be correct in saying that I do not deserve him. I spurned him, and worse. But do you think that attempting to kill his wife in his own temple would endear him to you?” I kept my voice calm, hoping to bring her down some. I knew her bullets would do little more than hurt and piss me off, but why risk her accidentally hitting someone else? 

“Of course, it would! You’re a weight that’s dragged him down. My family, my friends, we’ve all worshiped him our entire lives. We love him as you never could!” 

“Idolatry is not love. Obsession is not love. Do you believe that groveling at his feet proves you truly care for him?” Then again, I had every intention of groveling at his feet if it earned me his forgiveness. 

“I love him! You never gave him children! You never blessed us with his legacy, and that’s really for the best. You’re not pure enough for him. How could you go to him after everything you’ve done?” she spat at me. 

“Do not believe everything you read, dear.” Most of it was true, but there was plenty left out of the stories and some embellishments I really hated. 

“No! You humiliated him! You were undeserving of his love. You could never love him because you don’t know how.” That hit a little closer to home than I would’ve liked. Not that I didn’t know how to love. That part was untrue, but I was definitely undeserving of his love. Guilt lived in me every day with how I had treated him. 

“So why target my mortals? Are they bargaining tools for you?” I could only hope that they were, and she wanted something to lift their curse. 

“Tools? That’s how you see all humans, isn’t it? No, that’s just so you can know how it feels to have something you love ripped away from you. I thought he might enjoy the show.” She was wrong in thinking I’d never lost love, but I wasn’t going to argue that point with her. 

“He is not vicious enough to enjoy your show. As malicious and bloodthirsty as so many of us are, he is better than that.” 

“He’ll enjoy this. It’s poetic justice for everything you’ve done.” Nothing I said to her would sway her from her beliefs or executing her plan. 

“Perhaps he will, but what will you do after that? Do you truly believe I would let you walk out of here with their bodies lying lifeless?” I could hear the cold wrath and hatred I’d bottled up leak into my voice. 

“That’s not for you to worry about. Not yet.” I didn’t like the grin on her face, but I took another step toward her. I winced at the sound of the bullet hitting the ground, echoing in the open area. I glanced at the hole between my feet and nearly rolled my eyes. Then again, I wouldn’t tell her I was mostly impervious to her bullets if she didn’t already know. “Not another step! Or the next one won’t miss.” 

I thought about it for a long moment, taking in her cliche warning before lunging at her. She didn’t shift her gun in time to shoot at me. The shot went wild as I grabbed her around the waist and took her to the ground. I looked at Tori, my heart in my throat, worried it might have hit her. 

“Dite? What’s going on?” Tori asked, wiping the black ooze from her face. She cried out at the pain of her mangled fingers touching her face. I’d have to see about getting them healed as soon as I was done with the crazy woman beneath me. I took another moment to see where the shot had gone and nearly laughed as I saw the destroyed statue beside her. 

“Can you move? Destroy the statues by Micah and Callie!” I screamed at her before turning my attention back to the nameless blonde beneath me. Not that I really cared what her name was. She tried to end my mortals and leave me alone in the world once more. I was petty enough to rip her face off because of it. I twisted her hand, holding the gun back and snapping her wrist. I tossed the gun away, glad that it wouldn’t be used on them. That was assuming she didn’t have friends with her, but I figured they would’ve already shown up. 

“You’re crazy if you think he’d ever forgive you for killing one of his followers in his temple!” she shrieked in my face as I shoved her back down with a hand on her chest. 

“You might just be right. I intend to earn his forgiveness, and you are not worth adding to the list of sins I have committed against him.” I glanced over my shoulder to watch Tori do as I’d instructed, Micah and then Callie coming back to themselves with howls of pain. It hurt me to hear their cries, but I pushed it aside as I lifted the blonde and started for the exit. Micah stepped in front of me, his lips tight with pain, but he took her from me. “You—” but he cut my words off. 

“You’re not the only one who wants revenge for what she did,” he said before pointedly looking at Tori and Callie, who were trying to deal with their ravaged hands. “She hurt you, and she hurt them. This is what I’m supposed to do.” There was no arguing with him when he got that look in his eyes, so I just nodded and allowed him to carry the woman out. I’d ask him for details later, but for the moment, I wanted to make sure I tended Tori and Callie first. When he was done, I’d do the same for him. 

I’d bandaged their hands by the time Micah returned. His face and shirt were spattered with crimson. I did my best to clean him up before trying to wrap up his hands, only asking one question. “Will they find her?” 

“No.” That was a simple enough answer. I paused as I looked at each of them. The last thing I wanted was to make them trek all the way back to the house or even wait for a car. It had been years since I’d tried to travel with multiple people using my powers. But I wouldn’t leave them there in agony. 

We all made it back to Tori’s house without loss of limb. While they were disoriented and I was exhausted, it was a successful trip. The three went to grab all the first-aid supplies they could find and tend to themselves. As much as I offered to take them to see a doctor, they refused again and again. They didn’t want to have to explain what had happened. I appreciated the discretion, but I was worried about them. 

“We’ll be fine, really,” Callie reassured me as she curled up against my side. 

I’d put them through enough. I could at least respect their wishes. “I understand if the three of you would like to leave me now. I am very sorry for putting you in danger like that.” 

Micah and Tori moved to kneel in front of me, staring at me like I had said something stupid. “You didn’t put us in danger. We were kind of dumb about going down the alley and getting the only three Aphrodite statues she had. I don’t know about these two, but I’m not going anywhere,” Tori replied. Micah and Callie chimed in with similar sentiments, and I had to laugh. 

“Alright, you can all stay. Under one condition. We tell no one about the insane woman and what happened in the temple.” 

“Deal,” they all agreed at once. 

I laughed and reached for my vibrating phone out of habit. Perhaps my mortals were a bad influence on me after all. My heart leaped as I saw the text on the screen. Hephaestus. He had finally answered me. I quickly texted him the address for my favorite coffee shop, joyful tears filling my eyes. He was willing to meet me. It was more than I’d hoped for. 

“No one includes Heph, just putting that out there.” I would tell him later when the time was right, but I didn’t want to risk him thinking I was turning him against his followers. Besides, I’d had insane worshipers of my own before. 

It was vain and shallow, but my first thought after that was what I would wear. I still looked like a Smurf threw up on me. A sigh escaped as I looked at my trusted companions. “Any ideas on what I should wear?”

Aphrodite (Victoria Moxley)
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