He moved in slow motion, it seemed, as he raised the gun and pulled the trigger. The shot rang through the air, and I stepped to the left, blade passing upward and hitting the bullet with a solid ring.  

I straightened up and saw Dinlas’ faint smile, my chest loosening slightly. Repositioning myself before him again, I returned my focus to the barrel of the gun, keeping my breathing in check.

“Ready?”

I blinked. “I am ready.”

Another shot rang out, and I danced to the right this time, another bullet parried with the sound of metal on metal. I rolled my shoulders, my wings appearing now and flaring outward. Dinlas nodded in approval.

“Alright, Nyx, two this time?”

I considered him for a moment, before changing stances and nodding curtly. He took his two-handed position once more. “Ready?”

My sword gleamed. “I am ready.”

Two shots rang out, and again the world felt slow. The first bullet glanced off my blade, and I launched myself backwards with a sweep of my wings to catch the second one. The ringing noise was music to my ears as I hovered an inch or two from the ground, his smile a little wider now.

“Alright, are we done here?” Dinlas let his gun drop to his side. His expression morphed into a frown as he watched me take flight proper now.

“No. You have two more shots, by my count.”

“Nyxie, come on, you proved your point,” Eros started, but Dinlas silenced him with a look.

“That I do.”

I ignored the protests and kept my eyes on his face instead. “Reload your clip,” I nodded to the gun by his side. “All at once, both sets.”

He blinked. “I’m sorry?”

Eros cursed, throwing his hands in the air, Apollo glancing at him. “Fucking knew it.”

“You want me to shoot two guns at you?”

My Titanomachy armour materialized around me, longsword swapped out for my kopis now. “Yes.”

He squinted at me. “Off hand and regular hand at the same time?”

I moved a little higher into the air, nodding my head. “Yes, just as if you were on a job.” 

“Oh hell no, Nyxie,” I heard Urania start, her sister Clio mumbling beside her, “I don’t like this, I do not like this. Should have stayed at the Complex.” Urania nodded in agreement, pulling her tightly to her.

“What is this, amorcito?”

He had so many questions, so many thoughts in that one sentence, but I…I couldn’t bring myself to say it all, in that moment. I don’t know what stopped me.

Eros moved to his brother’s side, arms folded and glaring up at me.

“A test for myself.” A few sweeps from my wings and I was now several feet from the ground, kopis by my side. Dinlas didn’t move.

“And you want what? For me to empty both magazines at you? All at once?”

I nodded once. “Yes, please.”

He gave me a long look, before rubbing his face hard with his free hand. “When do I get my flying lesson?”

I gave him a tiny smile. “When you get your wings.”

I saw him glance at Eros, who shook his head vigorously. “Absolutely not.” He turned to the muses and Apollo. “Perhaps you should go.”

“I trust no one else to do this foolhardy thing,” Dinlas growled.

Apollo nodded, looking grim. “Come on, ladies, let’s head back.” They started to move back, but Dinlas held up a hand. “No, please. Stay.”

Urania and Clio shook their heads. “We’re not going anywhere. I want to make sure she’s okay.”

The whirl of confliction below me was growing higher, and I could feel it pressing on my chest again, my focus slipping. I tossed my kopis in the air, where it disappeared at once, and I rummaged in my side satchel for a moment before tossing a small bracelet down to Dinlas.

“There.”

He snatched it from the air with one hand, examining it closely. “What is this?”

“Your wings.” He shot a look up at me as I went on. “I was going to wait for the right time, and they are not permanent, but…nonetheless.”

He looked between me and the bracelet, a smile on his face as he slid it on and reloaded both pistols. He took a few steps back, readying himself as I summoned my kopis once more. I saw him take a deep breath and pause, Eros shaking his head.

“Din, I don’t like this.”

Dinlas narrowed his eyes once more, and I felt a sudden wave of focus grab hold of us. I held my kopis before me, the silence nearly deafening.

“Ready?”

He sounded far away, and so close. I nodded. “I am ready.”

Dinlas focused his eyes on me, staring down both barrels as he began pulling the triggers. Muzzle flashes and the deafening roar of the weapons as bullets streaked out at me, and I whirled my kopis and deflected them, the sound of them ricocheting into the sky surrounding me like fireworks, and I gave a quiet grunt as the click of an empty barrel followed up. I looked down, breathing heavily, where Dinlas was watching me over smoking gun barrels. I lowered my sword, wings hanging heavy in the air, searching his face for something.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” I asked lightly, coming down slowly.

 “Don’t ever ask me to do that again.”

His voice was sharp, and I nodded once, feeling odd. “I won’t.”

I watched Eros walk away towards the muses and Apollo as Dinlas holstered his weapons, turning his attention back to the bracelet.

“That was awesome,” Apollo said, shaking his head. Clio was beside him, clinging to Eros.

“T-that was really intense.”

“That,” Eros growled, “was wrong.”

Urania turned to Apollo, poking him in the ribs with her elbow. “Guess you got your drachma.”

I landed aside Dinlas, shaking my wings out and wincing ever so slightly, before they disappeared, the armour following suit.

“There was nothing wrong about it.” He shook his head and ignored me, so I turned back to his brother.

“Touch the bead on it, then it’ll work.”

He ignored my comment, instead staring at me intensely. “Are you hurt?”

I stiffened slightly. “I’m fine.”

The others turned towards me at Dinlas’ question, and Eros glared at me as the slightest trail of gold slid down my side. Dinlas didn’t seem to notice, however.

“You sure, Nyx?” Urania asked, peering at me. I gave her a warm smile.

“Yes, I’m just fine, U, but thank you.” 

A sudden rustle beside me caught our attention, and I stepped back as two gray wings sprouted from Dinlas’ back, fanning themselves out. His eyes widened in amazement, fingers still rolling the bead on his wrist, and I heard exclamations behind me.

“Wow, Dinlas! Those are…” Urania started, at a loss.

He looked from side to side as they stretched and flexed, before shooting a grin to the muse. “She really is the best gifter.”

I laughed in delight, dancing around Dinlas and examining my craftsmanship. “These are much better than I thought they would be,” I said, touching the joints lightly. “They look glorious on you.”

Eros crossed his arms tightly across his chest, the muses watching him closely. “Are you okay?” Clio asked, and I turned to see his eyes shimmering with unshed tears.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I should…head out for a bit. See you back at the Complex.”

He popped away, and I sighed. My attention was turned back to Dinlas when his hands found themselves on my cheeks, eyes looking over me. “What are you up to?”

I couldn’t hold back the beaming smile growing on my face. “Indulging, of course.”

I stepped back as Dinlas’ wings beat the air several times, kicking up dust around us. I alighted next to him, and watched as he left the ground unsteadily, pulling his sword from its scabbard on his back. I grabbed his hand as he rose a little higher, wobbling in the air, and gave him a grin.

“It does take some getting used to.”

His smile was nervous, and he looked below him briefly. “Yes, I see that. Alright, well, what would you have me do?”

Clio called out to us before I could answer. “Hey, we’re going to head back – have fun, you two!”

We waved to them before they disappeared, leaving us alone in the arena. I looked him over once. “Well, we’ll do a test drive around here, then we’ll see if you can swing a sword around.”

He frowned at me, sword in hand. “Well, of course I can swing a sword.” He moved to do so, and lost his balance, falling into me. I chuckled, catching and straightening him up.

“Not in the air, you can’t.”

Bemused, Dinlas glanced around himself. “I’ve no way to balance myself, how’s this work? The wings have to counteract the body, right?”

I edged next to him, aligning my posture with his. “Straighten your back, and keep your feet beneath you, not splayed out.”

“Like this?” He tucked his feet beneath his body a bit more, and took another sweep forward, unsteady, but not as bad. I chuckled, a hand on his chest to steady him.

“Yes, just like that! You’re getting it already.”

Dinlas grinned at me. “Just needed a moment to adjust, that’s all.” He pushed upwards, coasting away from me, dropping and doing a slight swoop, before pulling up to me once more, his wings beating in time with mine.

“There you go… ” I blinked, the sudden closeness taking me by surprise, and I gave him a small smile.

“Were you torturing me first?”

His question was almost a statement, and it made me pause for a moment. “Not at all. It is…new to have you in the air with me.”

Dinlas leaned over and kissed my cheek. “I meant with your idea of sparring, love.”

“Oh.” I averted my eyes, sliding my hand into his. “I didn’t mean to.”

He shook his head, a smile on his face. “Will you take me for a night flight when I get better at this?” He gestured to his wings.

My eyes lit up, and I beamed at Dinlas. “Yes, absolutely! I would love that…”

He took my hand and we circled the arena a few times, before angling back to the ground. I watched Dinlas fold away his new wings, before turning to me.

“Shall we head back?”

I nodded once, and he pressed his forehead to mine as we popped out of the arena, and back home.

Nyx (Ashley Gallaher-Pollard)
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