“Ahem. I have documents that require your signature,” Moxie said, tapping a thick folder of papers cradled in her arm. “Hey! I’m talking to you.”
Zeus didn’t move. He sat in his large office chair, staring out the massive windows that overlooked the God Complex. Being 90 floors up, it was a glorious sight on a normal day, except there have been no normal days of late.
“Z, I need you here,” Moxie pleaded, frustration coloring her tone as she dropped the folder on his desk with a loud thump.
That seemed to register with the silent king, and he finally turned his chair around to face his foster daughter. He looked at the folder of documents sitting on the edge of the desk. Papers. Day in, day out. Papers.
“Is it worth asking what these are? They all look the same to me anymore.”
Moxie’s brows knitted together, and she eyed him with a mixture of suspicion and concern.
“Security personnel. You ordered extra guards on the floor we are assigning to Helios,” she said.
Zeus cocked his head to one side, the memory slowly returning. “Oh. Right,” he said, grabbing his pen to authorize the papers with his signature. “I hope this is a good idea. The last thing we need is another damned civil war.” He pushed the papers back to Moxie.
“You have reservations?” she asked as she gathered the papers and stuffed them back into the folder.
“Would it matter if I did?” Zeus replied, shrugging. “Selene comes in here begging for her brothers’ release, trades her sister to do it, all in the hopes I didn’t just spark another revolution in the exchange.” He sunk further into his chair, taking a deep breath. “Yea, I have reservations. Every decision I make leaves me wondering if I didn’t just set off another war.”
“You’re making Helios swear an oath no other Titan has ever sworn. You, Poseidon, Hades. This isn’t on you so much as it is him. A spectacle that brings Styx up from the Underworld to bear witness, Zeus,” Moxie paused, finding a seat opposite the king’s desk, “this is no small thing. You’re putting the full weight of the Administration behind this. Losing faith in your judgment?”
Openly questioning Zeus was a tenuous choice on a good day. Few people would risk such a thing in public, let alone in the office of the King of the Gods. To his face, Moxie was never shy about taking risks. A trait she shared with someone else. Zeus could only laugh.
“Is it that obvious?”
Moxie smiled, crossed her legs and leaned back in the chair. “To them? No. Me? I know when you’re not you.”
“You sound so much like her,” Zeus blurted out.
Moxie said nothing, eyes wide.
“I haven’t had time to breathe. You know I died, right? Anyone remember that?” Zeus said, agitation in his voice.
Moxie nodded. “I remember.”
“I have no clue what I’m doing right now. I’m operating by rote, instinct, habit. It all feels so damned hollow.”
A period of silence befell the office. Moxie sat, unmoved, waiting for the King of the Skies to drive the conversation.
“This isn’t what we were supposed to be,” Zeus said, finally. “I didn’t call for everyone to return to do the same thing we did before Rome.” He stood and walked towards the thick glass window overlooking the God Complex. “We had two thousand years to get our base desires out of our systems. To refocus our attention towards the mortals who need us now more than ever.” Zeus put a hand to the glass, a gentle touch, the cold outside air cooling the fire burning inside the King.
“It’s only been a year, Z. You know how slow immortals are to change,” Moxie offered.
Zeus turned on her in a flash. “Change? What change? They are the same as they ever were. They are focused entirely on themselves. Selfish, hedonistic, only after gains for themselves and ignoring everything I’ve worked to do. No, they want to sleep with each other and cry about hurt feelings, all the while, mortals die. Not a single one of us has made serious attempts at outreach. No, it’s TV shows and entertainment and utter bullshit.” His blue eyes flash in anger, subdued, but still there.
Her lips tightened, and she quirked a brow, but held her tongue. This went deeper than she thought. This was not just a case of Z being preoccupied or obstinate. There was a pain here that she didn’t understand.
“I brought us down from the mountain to be closer to them. I wanted us to be accessible. Now we have half the family complaining about what they’ve lost, not what we can fix. We aren’t solving problems. We’re causing them. It was meant to be different, Moxie. I thought enough time had passed for them to understand.” Zeus turned away, the fire quickly gone from his eyes, “yet they repeat history as if they know nothing different. The ‘Dead Men’ are more of an authority on our lives than we are.” Zeus slowly sat back down into his chair, “I was wrong.”
“You still have things in place to make a difference. I’m here, Hera is…” Moxie caught herself.
Zeus only sighed, his shoulders slumping.
“Hera. She deserved better of me. In my selfishness, I picked a fight I wasn’t strong enough to win.”
“Z…” Moxie began, but Zeus held up a hand signaling quiet.
“Don’t. This is on me. I thought we were in a good place. I wanted an opportunity to be what I once was. The smell of battle, the taste of blood. It was pride, stupid, stupid pride. She was probably pissed at me for running off, but it’s not like I planned on dying. I still don’t understand how that even happened.”
“But you didn’t die. You came back.” Moxie offered.
“Yea. I came back. To what? Civil War, bitter rivalries, children seeking revenge for the pain I caused millennia ago. Then, my wife disappears because I failed her by trying to play hero again.”
Zeus got up from his chair, walked over to his bar, and opened the half-empty bottle on the counter.
She canted her head to the side, eyeing him curiously as she repeated, “Disappears…Z, what does Mamá’s disappearance have to do with you dying?”
After downing a sizable glass, Zeus continued his train of thought, ignoring her question.
“It’s one thing to have the family at each other’s throats. That’s barely anything but status quo for us. It’s one thing to have the family angry with me. You don’t get my job by pleasing everyone. At this point, it’s old, boring, but it’s not unusual.” Zeus poured another glass. “The thing that’s new is that she’s gone.” He quickly downed another full glass.
“Z, you’re laying it on a bit thick, don’t you think?” Moxie said directly.
A blue flash in his eyes again, and the glass exploded against the wall.
“I want my wife back, Moxie. I want her back. She left me when she thought I’d died. In thousands of years, the things I’ve done, she always stayed. The one thing I never did was die. I cheated, I bore children with other women, I did everything the ‘Dead Men’ said I did, and she never left me. Why now? Why this time? Is this Nemesis demanding payment? Punishing me for all the karma I’ve acquired over the years? What a shitty piece of timing for that bill to come due now.”
Zeus lowered his head, rested his arms on the bar, and just sank further into himself.
“I need her here… and she’s not. Who can blame her? She left because I did the one thing we couldn’t do together. But I can’t do this by myself. I don’t have the strength to keep this whole when we keep cracking apart.” He paused and was quiet as moments ticked past, his voice barely above a whisper when he continued, “She is my compass, Moxie. She is my true north. It isn’t just that I don’t have the strength to rule without her. I don’t know who I am without her. I don’t want to know who I am without her.”
“Z…” Moxie stood up and walked toward the bar. She placed a hand on the shoulder of her foster father. “Z, listen to me. She didn’t leave, at least not in the way that you are apparently thinking. How could you ever believe that? The entire time you were dead, she never left your side. Ever. No one could get near you.”
Moxie forced Zeus to look her in the eye, “Missing? Yes. She’s missing, but something happened. She was tricked or something. We aren’t entirely sure how, but magick may be involved. There were clues that we’ve tried to piece together. You need to talk to Clio. There are some things we asked her to look into after you woke up. We simply haven’t had the time to tell you, with everything…”
The fire in the eyes of the King of Olympus was gone. While they remained their radiant blue, there was such a sadness in them. Moxie had been there since the beginning. The wars, the battles, the wins, and some losses. Never had she seen Zeus this lost.
Moxie drew herself up tall and spoke more forcefully, “Z, know this. Hera did not leave you under her own power. You have to know this! How could you not know this? Go talk to Clio. Maybe by now, she’s found something you can use to find your wife.”
He squinted, and his brows furrowed as he considered her words. He opened and closed his mouth several times as he tried to put words to the thoughts racing through his brain. Finally, he asked, “You…Clio? Why didn’t you..? She? She didn’t leave me?” Then he repeated as realization sank in, “She didn’t leave me…”
A buzzing noise came through the intercom. “Hey, Dad, it’s Hebe. It’s time for the ceremony. You’d better get up to the mountain if you want it to start on time.”
Zeus straightened. A slow transformation from this vulnerable and open man, into the stoic and powerful Lord of Olympus.
“Go be the King they need you to be right now. I have some things to do in the meantime. I’ll make sure Clio knows to talk to you after.”
Zeus nodded and made his way slowly towards the door. He stopped and turned to Moxie.
“Wherever she is, I want her found. I can’t keep this family together on my own.”