I stood at the kitchen sink, pre-washing dishes to put into the dishwasher. The smell of warm soapy water didn’t soothe me like it did some days. I shuffled a favorite playlist to cheer me up, but it wasn’t working either. Today I felt cranky and out of sorts. I had not heard from Melpomene or my mom, and I hadn’t seen Thalia or Clio in days. Erato was busy with work, and the rest of my muse siblings were scattered in the wind, trying to avoid Chronos and the other Titans. I really just wished that Apollo would come in and wrap his arms around me, telling me that everything would be okay, but that was unlikely to happen. My chest ached.
Recent time with him was strained and pulled tight. It was if Chronos himself bent the plane of our existence just to mess with us. A small part of me wondered if Chronos was behind it. Nothing would surprise me anymore.
After losing Apollo to Crius for over a week, having him return felt like an answer to my prayers. But the normal fun-loving Apollo had been replaced with a different version. One that was jumpy, stressed out, and self-isolating. The avoidance only went so far though. For some reason, he seemed hell-bent on finding and facing new situations with escaped Titans. He and Arty popped over to Los Angeles to fight a couple of Titans there, and he came back with his hand a battered mess. He scanned the news and imagined Titans behind every ugly incident, wanting to go track them down and bring them to justice. He wasn’t sleeping much, and when he did manage to, he’d end up waking from nightmares.
A sharp sound of glass breaking in the other room rattled me. A second later, I heard Dugo’s claws trying to find traction against the floor as he ran for cover. Frank was nowhere to be seen, the poor thing.
I grabbed a small broom and dustpan and headed in to see what mess awaited.
Apollo was in the middle of the study, a broken bottle at his feet. He looked at me and gave me that infamous half-grin, a hint of sway in his stance.
“What happened?” I asked, but I didn’t really need an answer. He made an attempt to clean it up but cut himself in the process.
“I’ve got this,” I said and tried to sweep the glass into a small pile.
The next thing I knew, I felt a rush of air and heard a pop as he teleported away. It infuriated me when he did it without warning because as of late, I never knew where he was going or when he’d be back. Before I could get the glass into the dustpan, he was back, juggling three bottles of liquor and a cheesy grin.
His phone rang, and I could hear Sticks attempting to yell over the din. Apollo had forgotten a concert. He assured them he’d be right there and hung up.
“You can’t be serious,” I said. “You’re hardly in the right frame of mind for a gig.”
“I am fine,” he claimed, but the slur of his words told another story.
He seemed to be looking for an argument, and I did not want to give it to him. Since his godnapping, it seemed that he was far more comfortable drinking and arguing than anything else. It pained my heart to see him like that. I wanted to help, but he was pro-level keeping me at a distance.
Several times I’d suggested that we pack his things and move them to the apartment as a distraction or at least a temporary diversion from his drinking. The only thing that he willingly brought with him were his buddies Jack Daniels and Johnnie Walker, along with a handful of excuses. He stayed most nights, but would always pop back to his floor at the GC to change.
He grabbed his liquor and readied himself to leave. I tried to get him to stay with me, but he wouldn’t listen. Obstinate. Ugh. I didn’t know what to do.
“I have fans that need this awesomeness…” he bragged as he popped out of the room.
“I’d like a little of the awesomeness…” I started to yell, but then realized it was moot. He was gone. In frustration, I chucked the dustpan across the room. Frank poked his head out from behind the ottoman and looked at me with his big blue eyes.
“I’m sorry, buddy. Come here.”
I sat down, and he cautiously made his way to me, pausing to rub against my ankles. I picked him up, and he offered his weird little bark-chirp-purr as the irises of his eyes spun in their little circles. I petted him for a minute and finished cleaning up the shattered bottle glass.
Apollo was nearly as broken as the bottle. I just hoped he would be easier to fix. One thought led to another, and soon I found myself thinking about another broken one. Zeus. As far as I knew, he remained unconscious and fighting to recover. I wished he was better. I wished he could help Apollo. I wished…
A sudden urge to see my father swept over me, overwhelming any common sense I had. No one asked for my help since Zeus had been hurt. I had my own healing powers, but the rest of Olympus never took me seriously.
I headed out onto my balcony and summoned my constellation powers. Apollo might be able to teleport, but I could channel the power of the stars. Corvus always felt like a good bet when I needed to be somewhere quickly. I shifted into the shape of a crow and flew the short distance to the God Complex. I worked my way onto dad’s floor of the building through a hole beneath the plywood covering one of the windows that had yet to be replaced after Hera’s blowout. Once inside, I shifted into my normal form, but I employed the Corvus shadow camouflage and worked my way through the dark. It was surprisingly simple. I hoped they had plans to step up security, even though it took a special combination of powers to get in undetected.
It’s a good thing that crazy Hera is out, running amok with her wild carpet.
I made my way into the room and saw Zeus in the bed. I gasped and quickly covered my mouth when I saw how damaged, frail, and lifeless he looked. Emotion stung me. My nose wrinkled in response, and tears started down my face. I swallowed hard and knelt down at the side of the bed. Afraid to touch him, I sat in silence and watched the small rise and fall of his chest as he struggled with each breath. I wished I could breathe for him. Frustration picked at my nerves.
Both of the important men in my life were broken, and I couldn’t fix either one.
“Uh… Dad, it’s me. I wanted to see you. I know I’m probably not supposed to be here, but I had to come. Everything is crazy.”
Ugh. Probably not the right thing to say.
I sighed, trying to compose myself.
“I just…I just needed to see you. To tell you that we want you to get better. I mean…you probably already know that, but I just wanted to say it.”
Feeling a little more comfortable with his unresponsiveness, I leaned toward him and placed my hands above his chest, hovering inches over his body, feeling the weak life force surrounding him. I felt a stirring in my core. I didn’t know if it would help, but at least I would give it a shot. Focusing on that current, I channeled it toward him, sending him love, and encouraging his body to heal. My hands strummed with energy and I could hear the hum of the vibration. After several minutes, I relaxed, pulling my hands back, and rested against the edge of the bed.
“I know how much Apollo means to you, and he’s suffering. He needs you. Olympus needs you. And… I…I need you, too.”
It made me tear up again just to admit it.
A sudden shift in the air jolted me and caused me to shudder. It felt horrible, and I was thankful that I had finished with Zeus before it hit me. He definitely didn’t need to feel that. Something was wrong. I closed my eyes and could have sworn I heard Apollo call my name. He was in trouble.
I left the building and flew to the concert venue, the cool night air battling against my shimmering black wings. My stomach lurched as I neared the stadium; danger super-charging the air. A Titan had to be in the vicinity. The power surrounding the area crackled. Which one…and is Apollo safe?
Landing on a tree branch, I scanned the area for signs of trouble. Off in the distance, I thought I saw a cloud of stars shining several feet off of the ground. Astraios. Damnit. Dipping down onto the ground, I made my way toward the star cloud and saw a golden glow behind it. Apollo. Astraios was pummeling him and then sent him reeling with a kick. The crack of bone, as foot connected with jaw, caused my stomach to convulse. I could not watch Apollo being hurt. Panic seized me. A simple shift and I was back in my normal form. Astraios intended to strike again. Hell fucking no.
I threw up a wad of energy in an attempt to protect Apollo. Astraios threw a punch, but my protection worked. He pulled back in surprise and tried again, confused.
Seeing Apollo injured on the ground caused rage to blind me. My primal brain kicked in and all thought processes stopped. Pure anger fueled me forward. I took a giant leap and landed just behind Astraios. He spun to face me and I surprised him by throwing a rapid punch. I jumped at him, ramming my fist into his nose, and pushing it upward. He grunted and blindly reached for me. I stepped back and swung my leg around, kicking as hard as I could, connecting with his groin. He doubled over and I threw another punch, hitting him in the throat.
With one hand, he lashed out at me, grabbing my fist and twisting my arm. I leaned in to him, removing the tension. Ares taught me well. As Astraios pulled me tight against him, I flipped open a blade in my other hand, sticking it in between his ribs. I twisted it, pushing with all my might.
Instead of writhing in pain, Astraios just flinched, and then laughed.
“Stupid bitch,” he cackled. “Who do you think you are?”
His strong arms encircled my waist, and he raised me up and slammed me to the ground, my body bouncing at least twice, my bones shaking from the impact. He reached down and flicked my blade away from his torso like it was like a small insect that annoyed him.
“Why don’t you just go home? Let me get another crack at lover boy.”
I scrambled to get up, but he was too fast. He yanked me by the hair and power kicked me in the abdomen. He kicked me again for good measure. I groaned as he smacked my head against the cold damp grass. Pain rang through my body only to compete with the certain fear that I’d gotten in over my head. The fear lasted two seconds until I saw Astraios turning back toward Apollo.
“Hey, golden boy, are you seeing stars yet?” Astraios sneered. He grabbed Apollo by the hair and pulled his head up.
“Don’t you touch him, asshole,” I screamed. “I will kill you.” I tried to sit up, but my vision swam, and my head pounded.
Astraios looked at me and shook his head, laughing. He turned back to Apollo and my anger boiled over. I would not let him hurt Apollo again.
One thing I’ve learned from being underestimated by my family for millennia…when they don’t expect much from you, it is much easier to catch them off-guard.
I rolled to my side and became very still. I breathed in as deep as possible. I felt the power and energy coming from the crowd inside the stadium; plenty of life force for me to borrow. I pulled it in and created a small life-energy bomb. I lobbed it to the right of Astraios and Apollo. It struck a large Birch and exploded, cracking the tree in half. It fell with a whoosh, startling Astraios. He stepped away from Apollo, looked at the tree for several seconds and then back at me. A look of surprise passed over his features.
This time I would not miss. Drawing energy from the screaming fans of the Hyacinths again, I generated a bomb between my palms that was small enough, he wasn’t able to see it. Come on, Astraios. Just a little closer. He charged me. I threw it at him, hitting him dead center. Everything pulsed white for a moment, and then he collapsed. I didn’t think I killed him, but I almost hoped that I did.
I limped over to Apollo and fell to the ground, cradling his head in my lap. I watched Astraios for any signs of movement while tears streamed from my eyes for what felt like the dozenth time that day. I begged the universe to let Apollo be okay. I could not lose him again. It was minutes before he regained consciousness.
“My gods, I love you so much,” I whispered as he stirred.
His beautiful face was mauled and bruised. He looked up at me from a swollen eye. With a voice that was weak and uneven, he said, “I’m broken, Kardia, can you fix me?”