I teleported to just in front of the God Complex’s front door and wished I could curse the Titans. I wanted to teleport straight to my bed. Well, my shower first, then bed. But since the Titans ruined it for everybody, I’d have to walk. It took all of my energy to make it to the elevator, leaning against the wall as I walked. I pressed the button for my floor, then slid to the ground and rested my head on my knees while waiting for it to come to a stop. When the doors slid open, I thought about staying right where I was. I could just take a small nap here. It was the need to shower that finally gave me the strength to get up.
I opened my door and headed straight for the bathroom, but was brought up short by a manic looking Luke. It didn’t look like he had shaved since I left, and his hair hung wildly around his head. He had been pacing in my living room and stopped, his eyes going wide when I walked in.
“Finally! Do you have any idea how worried I’ve been?” Before I could respond, Luke continued, his deep voice shaking, “It was all over the news. A freak storm? The boat sank! It sank! And you didn’t come back! You didn’t even call. What was I supposed to think?”
I could see the fear in his eyes, and my heart melted. “Everything went to shit once the pirates attacked.” I knew that was the wrong thing to say when I saw the look on his face.
“The what?!” he ground out between clenched teeth. “I missed out on pirates?”
“Ugh… you’re so much work,” I said, falling into his arms. I laid my head on his shoulder as he held me. After a few minutes of silence, I tried to step back. He held on, and I laughed as I pried his arms off from around me. “I know what my excuse is, but why haven’t you showered? You kind of stink.”
He sighed and said, “I’ve been a wreck without you.” Then he pulled me into another hug. I held onto him, my hands fisted in his shirt.
“I need a shower, and so do you.” When he still didn’t want to let go, I forced a laugh, trying to sound more upbeat than I felt when I added, “I’m ok.”
“Alright, go. I’ll shower after you. Then you can tell me what happened,” Luke replied.
After I took the hottest shower possible, I pulled on one of Luke’s tee shirts and fell into bed. I intended to wait for Luke to finish showing so we could talk. I knew he was anxious to hear what happened. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, though. I was vaguely aware of him moving the blankets as he climbed in next to me. He wrapped himself around me, and I fell back into a deep, contented sleep.
I woke up slowly, keeping my eyes closed and tried to roll over, but Luke was lying almost on top of me, his legs tangled in mine. I cracked open one eye and found him watching me. “You’re thinking too loud. It’s keeping me awake,” I groaned.
“You’ve been asleep for almost eighteen hours. I’m getting bored. I needed the sleep too, but I don’t think I can lie in bed any longer. At least not while you’re asleep.” I could hear the smile in his voice. “Are you ready to tell me what happened?” Luke asked, then wrapped his arms around me and rolled, pulling me on top of him.
I laid my head on his chest and used my finger to draw figure eights down his arm as I talked. I started from the beginning and told him everything that had happened, not leaving anything out. I felt his body stiffen when I got to the kiss between Athena and me, but he listened to everything in silence, not asking any questions. I wasn’t sure how he would react, but I felt like leaving it out would be a lie of omission. I hated secrets, and I didn’t want to keep anything from Luke.
He waited until I finished, then asked, “Are you ok?” He was fidgeting with the pale pink comforter while we talked, and I felt bad for worrying him. I was home, though, and he still seemed…upset, maybe? Stressed?
“Yeah, I am. I have a lot to do, though.” I wanted to avoid any deeper conversations until I had a chance to think about how I felt. It seemed like everything had happened so fast. Lifting my head so I could look at Luke, I asked him, “What about you? Are you ok?” I was a little surprised at how upset he had been, but I guess I could see it from his point of view. He had no way of knowing that I wasn’t on the ship when it went down.
“I’m great now that you’re back. Anything else will work itself out.”
The tone of his voice seemed off somehow, and I wondered what he meant by that, but I knew if he wanted to talk about it, he’d tell me when he was ready. “I need to go check with the office. Erections don’t get up by themselves.”
Luke laughed like I knew he would, breaking the tension that seemed to suddenly fill the room. Sticking to a safer subject, I asked, “So how’s the private securities business going? Come across any fresh bodies lately? I want to get some more practice in. I know there’s more to my abilities than what we’ve done so far.”
I could feel Luke nod his head and the deep rumble in his chest when he replied, “Actually, yeah. We’ve been having a lot of problems with one of our buildings. We can go through and clear them out and have plenty of test subjects for you. We had been trying to handle it legally, but that rarely works out. It’s become an even bigger problem.”
“I really do need to check in with my office. I’ve been leaving everything for my assistant to handle, and the business is barely hanging on. Other than that, though, I don’t have any plans. So, let me know when you’re ready for me. I’m anxious to see what I can do.” I tried to slide off the bed, but Luke held me tight, the length of our bodies pressed against each other.
“Not so fast. I’m not ready to let you go yet,” he said softly. “I was really worried about you. I wasn’t expecting to miss you so much.”
“Hey, I’m ok. I’m here,” I replied, my voice thick with emotion. Suddenly I was feeling torn. Luke had been such a good friend to me since my return, and I didn’t want to lose that friendship. But now, with him holding me, and feeling his body pressed against mine, my mind started to wander. I was glad he couldn’t see my face because I knew he’d be able to tell where my thoughts were.
“Does she see you?” he asked, his voice hard.
Startled, I propped myself up so I could look into his eyes. I wasn’t sure what I saw there. “What do you mean? I haven’t been hiding.”
“Yes, you have.” When I started to argue, he silenced me with a shake of his head and continued, “You do. You hide. You hide behind your snakes. With everyone but me.” He had been running his fingers through my hair, and he held up his hand, showing me it was hair, not snakes, wrapped around his fingers.
After a painfully long moment, I sighed and said, “I’m not sure what you mean.”
“I think you do. You know you scare most people with your snakes. You wear them like a coat of armor, thinking no one will get close to you because of them…but she does.” Then holding my hair up again, he said, “You don’t need them with me.”
He was right. I hadn’t even realized it. At some point, though, I stopped keeping my snakes out when it was just the two of us. I was silent as I considered. My snakes were a part of me. I didn’t hide behind them. Did I? I wasn’t sure what to say, so I laid my head back on his chest.
“I didn’t want to upset you. I was just…I don’t even know. I guess, just think about what I said.” He dropped a kiss to the top of my head, then released me.