Thanatos fiddles with his cufflinks as he looks at the three of us, but when his eyes fall on Hedone on the bed, his dark brows shoot up in surprise.
Hedone sits up, holding her hand out to Thanatos, her entire demeanor so painfully childlike, it breaks my heart to know that I’ll never know her like that. I’ll never get to watch her grow up.
Thanatos pulls out a black peppermint and crosses the room, placing it in Hedone’s palm, and she plops it immediately into her mouth.
“I can see you two are acquainted,” my brother remarks dryly.
Thanatos still gazes down at my daughter quizzically. “I often wander the other realms. I came across this little one, several years ago, though I’m curious why she’s here with you.”
Hedone sucks on the black peppermint idly. “He’s my father.”
Thanatos stares at Dinlas. “You have a daughter?”
Hedone laughs lightly. “Not him, the other one.”
When Thanatos’ eyes land on mine, I’m a little offended by the amount of shock in his gaze, making my hackles immediately go up. “She said you can take us to where she was.”
Hedone holds out her hand to Thanatos again, and he plops another black peppermint into her hand.
Without even a word of warning, Thanatos swings his scythe through the air, slicing reality, and the echoing wails of lost souls filter onto my floor.
I glance at Hedone guiltily, this is where my daughter grew up?
Thanatos steps back, glancing at the group gathered. “After you.”
Standing to my feet, I wipe my hands on my pants, trying to get myself ready for what I sense is on the other side of that tear.
Glancing at Nyxie, she nods her head solemnly, moving to Hedone’s side, ensuring my daughter doesn’t follow us.
To Dinlas, I murmur, “I don’t suppose there’s any chance you’ll be staying here?”
My brother slaps his hand on my shoulder roughly. “You wormed your way into my life, Eros, you’ll have trouble getting rid of me now.”
Thanatos waits patiently as my brother and I step through the tear in reality, into the howling dimension. My face whips to the side from the sudden force of the wind, and it takes a moment for me to adjust and narrow my eyes with focus, processing my surroundings. Thanatos passes in front of both Dinlas and I, barely seeming to notice the weather, forcing us to stagger after him, even as shrapnel cuts my cheek.
The three of us approach a cave, and Thanatos suddenly stops, glancing back at Dinlas and I, announcing somberly, “Only one may go in.”
Dinlas scoffs. “Fuck that.”
My brother presses forward towards the cave’s entrance, but suddenly slams against an invisible force, keeping him out.
Thanatos’ lip twists into a ghost of a smile. “Like I said, only one of you.”
Dinlas glances at me, his eyes a bright, blue, identical to my own, but cracked with little tendrils of black.
Taking a shaking breath, I take a step forward, leaving them at my back. Thanatos and Dinlas hover directly behind me, both silently watching as I linger outside of the force field that surrounds the cave. The force field is invisible to both of them; as gods of death and hate, they couldn’t pass this barrier, only I could. Only a god of love could pass through, which is why Hedone, as my daughter and goddess of pleasure, was able to pass back and forth.
She’s here, just on the other side, waiting for me to rescue her. For the first time in two thousand years, I’m going to face my wife.
The ground pitches under me, reminding me that I only have moments before the realm collapses around us. I don’t have time to lose, yet I still can’t force myself to strep through the barrier.
The ground rocks beneath my feet again, and Dinlas murmurs to me, his voice barely audible, “We’ll be here for you, brother.”
Taking a marshaling breath, I make the step forward into the cave, sighing in relief when the barrier allows me to. Forcing myself to trudge forward into the darkness, leaving my brother and Thanatos behind, I try to think of what I’m going to say when I see her. Yet the ready wit I’m so famous for is deserting me, my mind is drawing a blank. What do you say to the wife who betrayed you, not just once, but twice?
The cave curves suddenly, opening it a full cavern, furniture from items sourced from the lost items that constantly end up in the realm, and numerous books that look like they’ve been through the wringer littered all over the floor. When I first met my wife, she devoured the written word, educating herself in all the topics once thought to be unsuitable for women of that day and age. I shouldn’t really be surprised that she’s been doing the same during her exile.
Leaning down, I pick up one of the volumes, a children’s book, and a pang goes through me as my fingers trail the bright cover. I missed so much with Hedone, and now it’s too late. I’ll never get the chance to read her to sleep, or wake up to her standing by my bed, seeking shelter in my arms from a nightmare. Her first words, her first steps, all things I’ll never know.
“Hedone?” A voice calls from somewhere deeper in the cavern, my head snaps up at the sound, and the approaching footsteps that bounce off the walls as she approaches.
It takes everything in me not to run.
Coming to a stand, I wipe my suddenly moist palms on my pants, I’ve suddenly lost the ability to swallow. The steps come even closer, before she appears.
My heart stops in my chest when her eyes connect with mine. Psyche stands at the edge of the massive cavern, her rainbow eyes shining as they connect with mine. Her dark hair is longer than when I last saw her, hanging almost to her waist, and her iridescent butterfly wings flutter slightly. She’s even more gorgeous than she was before, but it was never her beauty that drew me, it’s her.
Yet as my gaze focuses on her, there’s things I never noticed before. Maybe time had dulled my memories of her face, but looking upon it now, it strikes me as familiar. Take away the hair and the eyes, she looks…she looks a little like Clio.
We stand there frozen for a second, merely staring at each other, neither sure what to do. As if possessed by some unknown force, I close the distance between us at a run, wrapping my arms around her. All I knew was that I needed her to be in my arms immediately, I couldn’t really think past that. Crushing her to my chest, her familiar scent of lemons overwhelms me, filling me with a sense of completeness, as if part of me had been missing for so long, and finally I’m whole. It’s always been like that with her, our souls connecting on something deeper that my typical heart ties, as if we were one soul housed in two people. She saw all of me, all the dark parts I hide behind an acerbic wit and a smirk, and loved me anyways.
“You came,” Psyche murmurs to me, pressing her head into my neck, as I lift her from the ground, nearly crushing her with my strength.
My breath whooshes out roughly from my lips when the sensation of pain in my side, making me slowly pull back from her, my brows furrow as I lock gazes with hers. Her kaleidoscope eyes, which had just been glowing with warmth and affection, were suddenly cold.
Using my distraction, she pushes me back into the cave wall, digging the blade into her hand deeper into my side. Shuddering, my gaze drops to the knife in her hand, unable to believe that once again, I’ve fallen for her trap.
“Why?” I whisper brokenly, even as she yanks the knife higher, and the feeling of blood dripping down my side is the only thing making it past the shock.
Her flawless features sneer and her entire form ripples, along with the remainders of the cave, the form of Psyche flickers before falling, revealing the group of imps who’d taken her form.
How sad is it that I’m relieved it wasn’t actually her? That for once, it wasn’t her that betrayed me?
With the illusion dropped, I see the cave for the first time, the books I once thought littered the floor where in fact scraps of food and bones, and the pathetic palettes in the corner.
The imps speak as one, hissing at the same time, “The masters said not to kill the love god, that he needs to get the staff, but they won’t know if we take a bite…”
The words snap me from the shock of this revelation, and fuel me enough to lunge forward, tackling the first imp. The wound in my side is still hemorrhaging, but I manage to grip one of my shortened arrows, driving it through the body of the imp.
The others screech with outrage, and claw at me. Rolling away from them, even though I’m forced to roll on my injury, I palm two more arrows, hurling them blindly.
Both hit their intended targets, and they’re screams of pain make me grit out a small smile.
Limping to a stand, I storm closer to the closest imp, gripping the arrow in it, wiggling it to make it yelp in pain.
“Where is she?” I grind out.
The imps laugh in unison before they groan in pain. “The god of love is truly blind, he sees not what is right in front of him.”
“What does that mean?!”
They merely cackle in horrific glee, even as I sense their life forces slipping from them. What did that mean? That I was blind?
Standing fully, I tear my shirt, wrapping it tightly around my waist, keeping the blood from gushing.
The god of love is blind…
Love is blind…
With the illusion dropped, I take the opportunity to survey the cave, and a glint of light catches my eye. Focusing on the source, I limp towards it, stunned to see what’s hiding beneath one of the palettes.
This isn’t possible…the three trials, the box that my mother sent with my wife to collect a piece of Persephone’s beauty, was cradled in my hands. I hadn’t seen it since the day I found a sleeping Psyche next to it, having been knocked out by Morpheus, who’d lain inside the box.
Why is this here?
I can hear my brother pounding on the shield, keeping us apart, but my focus is on the jeweled box in my hands.
This doesn’t belong here…
Curiosity has and likely always will be my greatest weakness, so I doubt any of you are surprised that I cracked the lid of the box.
But the god of dreams was not what came out.
With a rush of adrenaline, memories were released, trapped inside that small box for over three millennia, flooding my brain.
I’m not sure how long it takes me to understand what I’m seeing. What I’m feeling.
The god of love is blind…
Love is blind…
My wife was in front of me all along…