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One of Mercury’s favorite things to do is drive. He likes watching the scenery whiz by, the low rumble of tyres on asphalt, but most of all, he loves the wind in his hair and on his skin, how it roars in his ears to deafen him to the rest of the world. It’s why he always drives with the windows down, arm hanging out the side as if to catch the breeze with his fingers.

It’s times like these that almost make him miss being a god.

What would it be like, he wonders, to finally see his pantheon and pantheon returned to their former glory? To once again walk upon the air as Mercurius? And what of Rome? It’s been a long time since he paid any thought to his former existence, and a longer time yet since he felt anything for it but indifference, but tonight seemed… distinct, somehow. A strange buzz in the air. He’s not sure why.

When Mercury received the invitation, he’d simply sneered and banished it to the trash without a second thought. I mean, come on, what did Jupiter expect? That he was going to run right back the second he called for him? The old Mercury would have. Going here, doing that. Always the dutiful son. Always there to answer to his father’s beck and call.

Without him, Aeneas of Troy would never have made his destined pilgrimage to Italia. Without him, Rome would never even have existed.

Maybe he should pretend to be dead, go into hiding until this whole mess was over. He’s done it before, and it’s actually a whole lot easier than most people think —– at least when you take into consideration the alternative.

You see, the Roman god of commerce was easily bored. Like a shark, he had to keep moving lest he sank to the bottom of the ocean, choking on the very seawater that was meant to keep him alive. He’d always prided himself on being two steps ahead of everyone, on his ability to know exactly how far to push it before he got in trouble, but… maybe that was the exact reason why he did these things.

He hated predictability, and he found the stillness of tranquility all the more unbearable.

There was one time in Florence, Italy where he had to take a dive into the Arno after stealing the ducal crown of Cosimo I ‘de Medici. And when he disappeared into the frozen tundras of Siberia with the imperial jewels in tow.

But Paris is what Mercury remembers the most, with its cobblestone streets and sprawling cathedrals; it was there that he stole and broke the heart of a handsome young gendarme. They’d first met in a gambling den in Montmartre. Mercury was losing big but winning bigger at the bassette table, and the officer had all but stumbled into the room, smoking and laughing with the rest of his regiment. His shiny black hair, twinkling eyes and sharp-cut jaw caught Mercury’s attention instantly, and so, the Roman god of commerce took it upon himself to get to know him.

He poured the officer a drink as soon as he sat down at the table, dealing him into the game and allowing the first few rounds to go his way. With his lips loosened by wine and the warmth of victory, it was an easy enough matter for Mercury to find out more about him. He first learned his name: Nicolas de Voyer, and how he was the second son of a comte, a count. It was his first day in Paris after a long journey back from a skirmish on the Franco-Belgian border.

For the rest of the evening, the two spent more time talking than playing. And as the hours passed in a blur of wine, hushed conversation and the smoke twirling from their cigars, it soon became time for each of them to take their leave.

Mercury, however, could not abide. He knew he needed to see him again, touch him, speak with him and so much more. He still bid his farewells, of course, shook the hands of his opponents as he congratulated them on their winnings or commiserated with their misfortune, but for Nicolas, he allowed his grip to linger, tracing a finger against his palm when he finally let go.

He knew the officer understood when he stepped out of the cool air of the streets and saw him waiting there.

They had their time together, stole whatever moments they could between their respective duties, and for a time, Mercury was satisfied. He didn’t think about what he could gain from their liaisons or how he could make off with the Voyer fortune. Instead, he just… lived in the present, basking in Nicolas’ adoration like a cat does the sun.

It felt almost idyllic, a little slice of heaven just for the two of them, but Mercury was never one to be satisfied with the status quo.

Their relationship soured just as quickly as it’d began, and Mercury would be the first to admit that he was the salient reason behind its slow, grueling march towards death. More and more often, he began to go out drinking and gambling; and while he was usually alone, other times he brought Nicolas along with him. On such occasions, the god would do everything he could to stir up trouble, to act like he no longer cared —– all to see the anger flash black in his lover’s eyes.

Mercury didn’t let him try and fix things. He didn’t want him to. But even after all the fights they had, all the shouting, the bruised knuckles and bloodied teeth, Nicolas wasn’t prepared to let go, and maybe he wasn’t, either.

That was when he knew he had to leave.

On their last night together, Mercury waited until Nicolas was asleep to slip the signet ring from his hand. It was heavy, cast from pure, solid gold and engraved with the Voyer coat of arms. Mercury took it for himself. Not as a keepsake, but a prize. Something to justify all the time they spent together, or at least that’s what he told himself. And after taking one last look at the sleeping form of his lover, he went back home and did the only thing that made sense at the time: he burned it all down.

By the time the inferno finally died down in the wee hours of dawn, nothing remained of the house but its charred, crumbling bones.

After that, it was easy enough to pretend he was dead. Everyone already assumed that he’d perished in the blaze —– how could he have not? Everything in the house had been reduced to ash, spread across the atmosphere as atoms. But all Mercury had done was acquire a new identity for himself. A new name. A new life. Growing richer with every suckered victim he left in his wake. But one day, out of curiosity, or maybe some sick, masochistic attempt at closure, Mercury found his way back to where he knew his former lover would be; and as he watched him from across the street, he felt something akin to guilt, a sort of regret that twisted painfully in his chest.

Barely a year had passed since the “tragedy” that claimed his life, but the officer’s hair was now streaked with silver, graying at the temples, and there were lines in his face that hadn’t been there before. He looked older, sadder. There was a certain melancholy to him, his movements, even as he walked arm-in-arm with a smiling woman with pretty, flaxen hair.

Mercury hadn’t known what to think, but it was what he wanted: a clean break. With how he’d involved himself in the comings and goings of the city, he knew from his contacts that the Colossus was about to be moved again, and he didn’t need any loose ends coming back to haunt him.

That wasn’t the only time he’d been forced to resort to something this drastic, and now, he’s beginning to think that it might not have been the last.

Gods, he really needed to stop being so dramatic. He’s only going to see his family, not stick his head in a guillotine, though it sure as hell felt that way sometimes. So, with one long exhale, he wills the memories to leave him, letting them be carried away on the wind before they began to grate, and starts rummaging through the glove compartment for a fresh pack of cigs.

His arrival at the event is heralded by the telltale roar of a Ferrari. It’s loud like thunder, or perhaps the cry of a great, mythical beast, and does its job turning the attention of the media from whoever they’d been gawking at onto him instead.

Mercury wasn't not exactly thrilled to be here, but he figured that as long as he was, he might as well make an entrance.

As he rolls up to the red carpet, Mercury pulls one last drag from his cigarette before dropping it into an empty, blue-and-silver can in his cupholder: Red Bull. It had to have been his sixth —– no, seventh one for the night, and he was finally starting to feel its effects, a syrup-sweet shot of pure caffeine buzzing its way through his system.

Of course, he was going to need something a little stronger than Red Bull that to deal with Juno, but it was a start.

Stepping out of the car, he passes his keys to a waiting valet who, quite impressively, manages to keep his expression neutral even when he climbs inside.

Compared to the expensive, immaculate gleam of its exterior, the inside of the vehicle was nothing short of a mess. It smelled of cheap coffee and even cheaper cigarettes, every inch and crevice of the upholstery infused with their sour, smoky terroir. The floorboard was littered with fast-food wrappers and half-empty rolls of breath mints, a savaged 12-pack of Red Bull in the passenger seat, and to top it all off, he had one of those novelty air fresheners shaped like a palm tree dangling from his rear view mirror —– Tropical Breeze™.

Mercury thought the whole thing a fitting tableau of his current state of being.

He doesn’t let the flash of the cameras bother him, nor does he stop to offer anyone an answer more in-depth than the standard niceties. On another night, at another place, maybe he would have ignored them altogether, but he was still the face of Argentum, and he knew the rules he was meant to play by.

So he smiles, entertains whatever questions that come his way with as much false modesty he could muster. One particularly courageous reporter even questions him about Argentum’s alleged dealings with a Turkish smuggling ring, though he waves them away with nothing more than a bland statement of denial, making a mental note to remind his associates of the importance of circumspection.

By the time he finally makes it into the building and away from all the hubbub, Mercury has worked up quite a thirst, and he snatches a flute of champagne from the tray of a passing waiter. His eyes scan the room as he takes a sip. Most of the men here were dressed in dark colors, mostly black or gray, but he had decided on something a little different for the evening. It was a cream-coloured ensemble, more suited for a trip down the French Riviera than Seattle in October. All he needed now to complete the look was a straw boater.

Then, he catches sight of a familiar figure, perched atop a magnificent flight of stairs across the room. Even this far away, there was no mistaking that stiff posture and furrowed brow.

…Oh, well. Might as well rip off the band-aid and get it all over with.

Mercury navigates the floor with ease, pausing every now and again to extend his greetings to anyone who recognized him. Some of them were associates, even more of them rivals, though he shakes their hands all the same, offering each of them the hospitality they were due, and snags himself some rings, watches and cufflinks along the way. After all, it’s only fair that he received some form of compensation for playing host in the stead of the King of Gods.

As he approaches the stairs, he sees Mars and Juno there as well, locked together in an embrace —– mother and son. A touching reunion, to be sure. It was almost enough to bring a tear to Mercury’s eye, though he held no delusion that his own appearance before his father would be anywhere as poignant.

“Well, you look happy,” Mercury begins, briefly allowing a smirk to cross his lips. Of course, he knew better than anyone that making fun of Jupiter was akin to poking a nest of very angry hornets, but he couldn’t resist, it was second-nature to him; and he kind of wanted to see that ever-stoic facade crack, if only for a moment. “Woke up on the wrong side of bed today?”

He moves to lean against the banister then, shooting a pointed look at his father before nodding towards all the people milling about the ballroom.

“You should be out there, you know? Mingling with the commonfolk. I mean, what kind of host leaves his guests knocking about like a herd of lost sheep?”



At Beaufort & Messier, everything runs like clockwork, a well-oiled machine of three-piece suits and penetrating minds; but work isn’t the only thing they see fit to direct their efforts towards. Civil lawsuits are, more often than not, a long, tedious process —– monotonous at the best of times, and downright hellish at the worst. The mountains of paperwork involved are nothing compared to the evasive maneuvers of bureaucracy. So every won case, every hard-earned victory is met with celebration.

And that’s why the office, full of glass walls and ultra-modern fittings, has tonight grown abuzz with the beginnings of festivity. Gone is the atmosphere of single-minded focus that had suffused the firm that very morning. Instead, bottles of wine have been uncorked, ties loosened, and jackets carelessly cast aside.

Xolotl, however, has other matters on his mind.

He’s distracted, just a little, though an attentive eye would likely be able to see past his veil of responsiveness. Unfortunately, the junior associate currently chattering away to his left seems to lack such a degree of observation. Xolotl feels thirsty just listening to him speak, words tumbling from his lips like machine gun fire.

Murmuring a bland acknowledgment in response, he drains the last dregs of Moët & Chandon from his glass. It goes down easy, almost too easy.

“You know, Mr. Ochoa, I’ve really learned a lot from you these past few months. This whole case… it’s been eye-opening, to say the least.”

“I’m glad you feel that way,” Xolotl says, a wry smile on his lips. He’s only been half-listening. Not like it matters. Every time he spoke, the kid hung onto his every word like they were gospel. “Not every case is going to be like this, though. Most of the time, you’re dealing with workplace injuries and unpaid overtime. Not exactly exciting stuff, but I think you knew that already.”

The junior associate laughs, then for a brief, blessed moment, falls silent. Xolotl uses it as an opportunity to put an impromptu end to the conversation, telling him to enjoy himself before clapping a hand against his shoulder and standing up.

He leaves his now-empty glass on the edge of someone’s desk and reaches into his pocket for his phone, unlocking it with a practiced sequence of taps. Somewhere behind him, a chorus of cackles rings out, no doubt the result of some off-colour joke someone made. Xolotl ignores it in favour of scrolling through his contacts. Most of them are clients, associates, then Tlazōlteōtl and Xōchipilli, his siblings, listed under their human aliases. Truth be told, he doesn’t have much of a life outside of work, but he doesn’t mind, really. He enjoys having something to do, something to occupy his time, and being a lawyer of his caliber had its perks.

Money. Contacts. Influence. All well and good, but there’s something… missing. A heaviness in his chest which left him adrift, tangled up in the seductive pull of the past.

Without even fully realizing it, Xolotl finds himself stopped at a certain name in his contacts, his thumb ghosting over the surface of the screen.


He’s not sure what he’s hoping to gain from this, or why he’s even doing it in the first place —– a misguided longing for comfort? Understanding? Whatever it is, Xolotl knows it’s a foolish endeavor, but his fingers are moving of their own accord, typing out a message to the Norse goddess before he can even think to regret it.

To: Freya
If you’re not too busy, let’s get a drink.

Xolotl stares at the words for a moment longer before hitting ‘send’, slipping his phone back into his pocket. His coworkers beckon him to join them, and he lets one of them push a new glass of wine into his hand after a cursory protest.


unsteady alliance.

𝙰 𝙲𝙾𝙻𝙻𝙰𝙱 𝙱𝙴𝚃𝚆𝙴𝙴𝙽 @Legion02 𝙰𝙽𝙳 @beetlemoth

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Ares kept repeating that in his head as he made the short walk from his Mercedes to the mansion’s large front door. He let the ash of his cigarette dwindle down to the ground. Fuck he had too much to think about. Too much he didn’t want to think about. The whole business with Hephaestus was getting him nowhere and he promised his mother results. So he would have results. Even if that meant he had to team up with the worst possible person he could imagine. The literal cause of all that he knew was wrong with himself. A man who called him most hated and cast him aside in favor of all his other children. Even the memories alone were enough to work Ares up. Even though he thought he got his emotions under control. Nonetheless, desperate times require desperate measures. At least it kept his mind occupied. For now. At the front door he knocked three times, and then begged the fates that he wouldn’t be home.

Behind the door, there’s the sound of shuffling, of things being picked up and put back into place, and a muffled shout of “just a minute!” that sounded more annoyed than anything. When the door does eventually crack open, Ares is not met with the face of Zeus, but that of a woman.

She’s middle-aged, short — about 5’2” or so — with a sturdy build that spoke of a lifetime of wrangling children and hard work. Her box-blonde hair is tied up into a messy updo, held in place by an assortment of bobby pins. And with a scrutinizing narrow of her eyes, she stares up at Ares, questioning, though the intended effect is somewhat ruined by the pink t-shirt and leopard-print leggings she happened to be wearing.

“Can I help you?” she snaps, looking none too pleased at having a visitor. There’s a squeegee clutched in her right hand, and she holds it protectively in front of her chest like a xiphos. “Mr. Sarandon isn’t expecting anyone today.”

The woman’s appearance was a bit of a surprise. But then again, it wasn’t as if Zeus was a stranger to women. “No.” Ares said. “But he should have.” He then pushed the woman into the house. “Get down here dad! We have matters to handle!” Ares yelled for the entire house. Knowing full well it would probably raise a few questions from ‘Mr. Sarandon’s lady friend. Not that he cared. Not right now.


The woman’s protest is cut short by an indignant squawk as she’s all but shoved aside, stumbling a little over her own feet. And for a moment, all she can do is stare, wide-eyed and gaping at the audacity of this intruder.

And since when did Dean Sarandon have a son?

But before she has the chance to think about it any further, or try to smite Ares with the sheer might of her cleaning apparatus, another voice calls out from the second floor.

“Angie, I already told you I’m not seeing any guests today. Who the hell is making all that—”

Zeus appears, rounding the corner. He’s busy typing something on his phone, brow furrowed in concentration, and doesn’t notice Ares until he looks up a few seconds later.


The expression on his face is one of surprise with just a little dash of panic thrown in, like a deer staring down the headlights of an eighteen-wheeler. And then, suddenly, as if broken from a trance, he stops staring and puts his phone away, hurriedly making his way down to the foyer where Ares was.

“You should’ve called.” Zeus chides, jaw set in a rigid line, but there’s something different about the way he looks at Ares, this time —– something soft and sad and… almost remorseful. It doesn’t last long, however, his features quickly arranging themselves back into a mask of businesslike neutrality. “But you’re right. We need to talk. Let’s take this to my office.”

He places a tentative hand on Ares’ shoulder, giving it a squeeze before turning back to the woman —– Angie.

“Hey, uh, why don’t you take the rest of the day off? Just… leave everything where it is for now, and here,” Zeus pulls out his money clip, counting out a small stack of bills and handing it to her. “What I owe you for this week and the next.”

She doesn’t waste any time in pocketing the proffered money, but gives the two of them one last look before shaking her head and moving to pack up her belongings.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Mr. Sarandon.”

Zeus just smiles, giving her a little wave as she leaves.

When the door finally clicks shut behind her, he lets out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding, and combs his fingers through the perpetually graying strands of his hair. Zeus had to wonder then just what it was that brought Ares here, though he had a sinking suspicion he already knew. The timing was too opportune.

“Shall we?” With a slight incline of his head, he gestures for Ares to follow him, striding ahead towards the office on the second floor.

Ares just let out a disinterested grunt of acknowledgement as he followed his father. The whole fatherly thing hadn’t caught with the god of war at all. Even now with the whole hand on shoulder and momentarily vulnerable look. It was all an act. Always an act. Even if the Greek god of Lightning didn’t realize it himself perhaps. Ares never believed in it, and never would. This was the man that called him most hated. The man who never even tried to hide who his favorite was. The distaste towards Zeus was so deeply rooted that pushing off the arm of his shoulder would’ve been too much. Ares simply did not care.

Once in the office he sat back on one of the sofa’s and with practiced smoothness a burning cigarette was again in his hand. Making him billow out smoke through his nostrils. The way the god of war was looking at Zeus made clear it was a challenge. “Are you hitting that?” He asked, pointing down back to the entryway of the house and clearly meaning Angie.

It takes a while for Zeus’ mind to even register the question because of how out of the blue it is, how incisive, and for a brief moment, it seems to knock him off-balance. He stares back at Ares, incredulity coloring every square inch of his face.

He couldn’t be serious.

Sure, Angie was a nice capable woman, but the mere insinuation that he would’ve had… relations with her was downright farcical. Zeus was a man who sought out beauty in his lovers, and she, in spite of her cleaning prowess, was far from his ideal partner.

Just who did Ares think he was? Priapus? Unlike that coarse, squirrelly beast, he actually had standards.

“No. Gods, no.” He shakes his head then, a quiet huff of laughter tumbling past his lips. Briefly, he shoots Ares a meaningful look, one accentuated by a raised eyebrow. He’s joking. Probably. “But if you want to, I’m not gonna stop you from trying.”

Pushing off his desk, he walks over to a glass-and-wood cabinet on the far side of the room, retrieving a bottle of amber-colored liquid and unscrewing the cap.

“You might wanna watch out for that broom, though. She’s got a mean swing. Drink?”

Zeus doesn’t wait for his son’s response before starting to pour both of them a glass, handing Ares a carved crystal tumbler as he joins him on the couch. He first pauses to take a swig, letting the taste of single malt settle on his tongue.

“So,” he begins, and the scotch in his glass keeps swirling, spurred on by rhythmic revolutions of the wrist. “Given the circumstances, I have to assume this is about Hephaestus. Did you find anything yet?”

The god of war just rolled his eyes when his father made the joke. And when the old man found it necessary to share the same couch with him, he was quick to push up and head for the drinking cabinet. Adding another finger to whatever drink Zeus would use to impress mortals. Then with the indignation of someone who would never care what you served him, Ares downed it all in one gulp. After which he poured himself another finger.

“It is about my brother indeed. And I have.” He said as he turned around to face his father, leaning against the drinking cabinet with cig still in hand. But then he turned away his attention towards pretty much anything he could find in the room. Things he could use against his father. Trophies. Pictures he would be proud of. One seemed to stand out. His father shook hands around a bunch of people, in front of just a massive field of dark-blue solar arrays. He picked it up to look closely at it. “Funny. God of lightning but has to beg his own son for power.” Ares said showing Zeus the picture. Then he opened his hand, letting it tumble to the ground. “Oops. Slipped.” He said with a coy voice.

It didn’t matter that Ares seemed intent on draining his reserves of Macallan Lalique. Zeus’ pockets ran deep. He could afford a hundred more bottles to replace the one.

And it didn’t matter that Ares was stalking about the room like an ornery feline, looking for whatever shiny object he could knock over or destroy. What did Zeus care about trophies and trinkets? His achievements would always be his own, and anyone with two working eyes could see that.

So, Zeus tells himself that it doesn’t matter. Not even when Ares directs another pointed jab towards his ego. Or when a framed photo of the inauguration of the Lycaeum Project shatters against the ground with a piercing crack.

Outside, lightning flashes, the air itself vibrating with a roll of distant thunder.

“Ares…” Zeus sighs, setting his drink aside for the moment to stand up, although he doesn’t approach Ares this time; just walks over to his desk and starts fiddling with the rolodex the way he does when some upstart, nouveau riche CEO starts talking to him like they know better. The new Zeus wouldn’t let himself be worked up into a frothing rage by mere property damage. He refused. He’s above that now.

“If you want to tear my house to shreds, be my guest. But bear in mind that you were the one who came to me, and right now, all you’re doing is wasting both of our times.”

The shadow of a smile crosses his lips —– thin, rigid, a warning for Ares to not push this further.

“So if there’s anything of use you’d like to say, please, I’m all ears. Otherwise, I don’t see the point in continuing this conversation any further.”

In a flash Ares crossed the office space to get right up in Zeus’ face. “Yes!” He said, his eyes ablaze not with quite the same intensity as at the Conclave, but nonetheless burning with anger that hadn’t gone away for half a week now. “But that is the man I need to talk to.” He continued, pointing out at the sky where the thunder and flash of lightning had come from. “The man who murdered his own father, who fought in the Titanomachy and put Atlas in eternal torment.” Then he took two paces back. Letting himself cool for a second before saying: “Can you be that man? The one I need? The one mom and Hephaestus-“ and Hebe now too “need?” Or was he already so consumed in his own ideas of self-improvement that reverting back to his old self was impossible? Was there not even a hint of the old man’s old self deep within? There had to be.

Zeus hardly reacts when, all of a sudden, he finds himself with a faceful of Ares, and he doesn’t look away even when it feels like the other’s gaze might burn right through into his skull. Ares’ wrath has always been his greatest strength and weakness —– an all-consuming fire that razes everything into the ground, but right now, it just seems… trivial. Almost puerile.

Like a slighted child throwing a tantrum.

“You know, Ares,” he begins, voice steady, but edged with something else. Something challenging. Perhaps he wanted to get a rise out of Ares, too. “You’ve always been too presumptuous for your own good.”

“What makes you think you know anything about me, hm? I built this empire from the ground up, brick by brick out of nothing.” And I made you who you are. Though they remain unsaid, the words’ implication hangs thickly in the air, and in the cool, withering stare he fixes upon Ares.

“I know what I have to do.” Zeus declares with an air of quiet finality, fingers steepled over his chest. “I also know that I’ve committed many sins in the past. Against you. Against your mother. But do not think that just because I seek recompense that I am incapable of seeing justice done.”

“You’d do well to remember that, υἱός.”

A slight grin formed on Ares’ lips. This was the man he needed. Not the old fool who brought Danishes to a Conclave that almost turned into a battlefield. Slowly he walked back, sitting down on the sofa and leaning backwards. “It’s not justice I am after.” Ares’ voice turned much, much colder. In the last few decades he had learned more lessons than Zeus could ever know of. He too had grown. “Justice is a funny word mortals use so others receive that which they deserve. It’s no more than foolish ideas of karma or destiny. What we would do wouldn’t be justice. I call it revenge, you can call it settling a score. Or if you’re feeling magnanimous: making an example.” Ares spoke plainly now and knew well what it was he wanted. But knew very well as well what the Olympians as a whole needed.

Yes, Hera needed her son’s body and after that doubtlessly she’d demand the perpetrator killed. That was revenge. The others needed to be shown they were safe. That could only be done if the other pantheons were shown an example. It was why people dangled corpses off city walls, why terror was the strongest force on a battlefield.

From the pocket of his coat he pulled the notebook his men had found in Hephaestus’ apartment and tossed it on the small table in front of him. “This was found in my brother’s place. Filled with names of minor gods… and Hebe’s. Hers is encircled several times.” Slowly he leaned forward, staring right into Zeus’ eyes. “I fear she’s next.”

Zeus is silent as he picks up the notebook, flipping through the pages with an evaluating gleam in his eyes; and just like Ares said, Hebe’s name is on the very last page, singled out from the rest by a messy scrawl of ink. Slowly, the tips of his fingers begin to grow numb with fury, pupils fixated on his beloved daughter’s name on the page. If she really was in danger…

—– No. He wouldn’t let it get to that point. Hephaestus’ death was already one too many, more blood on his hands that he could never wash off.

Disgusted, he snaps the notebook shut and casts it back onto the table.

“Call it what you like, but any act of retribution against our enemies is justified.”

As Ares had so squarely pointed out, Zeus was not the sort of man who operated in half-measures, meting out cold, bright vengeance to those who had wronged him. How he became King of the Gods in the first place was testament to that.

Cronus believed him harmless, but he thought wrong.

“You already have people out looking for your brother?” Zeus is quick to draw matters back to the practical. He understood how important it was to find Hephaestus’ body. A proper burial meant a clear path to the afterlife, even if such circumstances had been rendered nebulous by the interference of the Colossus. It disquieted him, thinking about what might happen to them after death. Without Hades there to watch over the souls of the Underworld, was there anything keeping them there?

He wonders if his brother knew the answer, if he, too, worried about the prospect of lost souls. But now, there were other, more important things to be concerned about.

Hebe. She needs someone to keep her safe. Have you spoken to her?”

“I have. This morning.” Ares said as he got up again to take the notebook back and pocketed it. “She’s safe. For now. Hasn’t talked to Hephaestus for a while.” Just like he hadn’t. “I can’t protect her.” These were the facts, but he hated them. “My people… they stand out in a university.” Of course they did, they looked like jacked up gorillas that walked into a wall and the wall broke. “Maybe an intern you trust or something could keep an eye out.” Ares offered before he walked up to the office’s window to look outside. It was cloudy. Always cloudy in Seattle.

At least his father seemed to be reverting surprisingly quickly to the old man he hated. The Zeus that felt no love for the violent god of war. “The body is still out there.” He continued after a brief pause. His eyes scanned over the skyline of Seattle. As if he would be able to see it from the window. “And I haven’t come a step closer to finding it. The only thing I have is footage of a man leaving his apartment.” The words he spoke, they were toxic. Cutting. But only towards himself. There were few things that could genuinely hurt Ares. Failure when it counted the most was one of those things. “And you? What did you find in the past two days?”

“I’ll have someone sent over, then.” Zeus makes a mental note to keep track of Hebe’s whereabouts. He would also have to spare a few members from the company’s security detail to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary, though whether they would be able to do anything when faced with somebody capable of killing a god remains to be seen.

“I take it you haven’t spoken to Athena?”

The question is more rhetorical than anything else. Zeus knows that Ares and Athena have never really seen eye to eye, even if the siblings shared more similarities than either of them would’ve liked to admit. But setting aside the bad blood that had split this family into sharp, ragged splinters, the Goddess of War was the one who stood the best chance of finding Hephaestus out of them all. “She should already be working on it, but I’ll send her a heads-up about Hebe and the notebook.”

Ares’ sudden shift in tone takes him aback, although it probably shouldn’t have. His son has always expected much of himself, and now, as he wrapped his words in thorns, a shroud of hate and weakness, Zeus wonders if there was anything he could’ve done to pick up the pieces of their relationship.

It’s too late, a part of him whispers.

But he doesn’t want it to be.

“We’ll find him.”

A promise is the best he can offer Ares for now, and as he speaks, he fixes him with a level gaze. This time, he would not allow himself to fail. Not when the safety of his family was on the line.

No doubt Athena was working on the case indeed. And before the sun was down, Ares’ father would’ve told her about the notebook. Would she come around to pick it up for evidence? Dust it for prints believing Ares hadn’t done that yet? Probably. Or she would just send some poor police officer to retrieve it. No matter, the notebook’s purpose had already been served. In truth, Ares did not believe his sister could help them now. If law and order were real, Hephaestus would be on TV now. Making some fiery speech about how the police corps of Seattle prevented an assassination. Instead he was dead and justice had failed.

With the assurance that Zeus would look after Hebe, Ares had what he needed from his father. “We will.” He said, putting down his glass. “I’ll be going then.” Ares turned away from his father to head out the door. Neither of them were, truly, of the sentimental bunch. And Ares had always been terrible at goodbyes. But as he opened the door of Zeus’ office, he stopped. Though he kept his back at his father as he said: “I know you wished it was Athena who told you all this. And I know the minute I step outside, it’s her you’ll call and tell everything.” And if Athena learned something, Ares wouldn’t hear it. He was the criminal. The black sheep. He knew it. He had accepted it. “I’m sorry I’m not the child you wished I would be.” With those words spoken he left the office, and soon Zeus’ house as well.

There were many things Zeus felt about Ares, and even more things he wished to say to him, but as he watches him walk out the door, eyes fixed on his retreating figure, he can’t bring himself to say a word.

How did he ever let things get so fucked up?

He’s still perched against his desk, a little unsteady now, like a blackbird ready to take flight at the sound of thunder. But the silence is deafening. He looks to the walls, to the expensive furniture lining every inch of the office. It all felt hollow. A pointless facade of status and artifice. Zeus lets his eyes slide shut then, drawing into his lungs a steadying breath. Ares’ words had affected him deeply, sunk their claws into him in ways he never thought possible.

Then again, his firstborn son always did have a way of bringing out the worst in him —– the king, the tyrant. Not the father he wanted to be.

Was supposed to be.

Perhaps it was too late to change, after all.

Pushing it all aside for the moment, he fishes his phone out of his pocket, dials a number that has grown all too familiar to him.

It rings once. Twice. Three times.

A quiet click on the other end of the line lets him know he’s been connected.

“Athena? There’s something I need to tell you.”

interactions: @metanoia
mentions: @smarty0114@Danvers@sly13


Nothing could have prepared him for what happened next. He had just sat down and was about to start grilling the man who’d puked on his shoes when the Morrigan said something that all but knocked the air out of his lungs. At first, Zeus wasn’t sure if he’d heard her correctly. She’d said it in such a casual, off-handed way that he couldn’t be completely certain, but now that a name had been extricated from the depths of his subconscious, he had no fucking clue how he didn’t realize it sooner.

“Poseidon?” He’s almost breathless with disbelief. Of course it’s Poseidon. How long has it been since he last saw his brother? A millennia, at least. Maybe two. He kind of wants to reach out and touch him, to see if he’s really there or if he would just dissolve like seafoam, but he’d already done that earlier, didn’t he? When he pat his shoulder? The muscles he felt shifting under his palm had been warm and solid, and seriously, why is he having such a hard time believing the truth when it was right there in front of him?

“Holy shit, it’s really you…”

All this time, Zeus had figured Poseidon a casualty of the fall, but here he was. Alive and looking… a little unwell, but for someone who’d just expelled the contents of their stomach all over the floor and his shoes, that was to be expected. There were so many questions he wanted to ask him, so many things he wanted to know, the foremost of which being “where the hell have you been?” with “how are you still alive?” following closely behind, although he doesn’t get the chance to ask any of them before the Morrigan decides to drop another bombshell.

“Hephaestus is dead, and I don’t know who killed him.”

The news is definitely not what Zeus expects, and for a long moment, there’s nothing he can do but digest, turning the Morrigan’s words over and over in his head.

As realization dawns, an icy weight settles in the pit of his stomach.

Dead. It’s a word that spoke of finality, of absolutes. Death was not something that operated in uncertainty or half-measures. It simply took and took and took, indiscriminately and without mercy. Zeus does not think about it often, believing it too macabre a topic to dwell on for long periods of time. But now, faced with the demise of one of their own, it’s all he can think about.

Hera’s response is what finally breaks him out of his daze —– first a stuttering intake of breath, and then a cry so full of pain and heartbreak that it almost made him flinch. He had never been as close to Hephaestus as Hera was. The god of fire and smithery was Hera’s child, not his own, but still… family was family; and while he could never hope to understand the depth and complexities of a mother’s love for her child, he’d always thought of Hephaestus as an ally, if not a son.

Now he’s dead. And the name Hephaestus would only ever belong to a memory.

So when Hera starts spitting venom, starts accusing him of having committed this heinous crime, Zeus nearly cracks. Instinct screams at him to defend himself, to fire back with a condemnation of his own that she had been the one who’d loathed Hephaestus from the very beginning, that she had been the one to cast him out of Olympus the day he was born, but at the very last moment, he stops himself. Hera was grieving. She was in pain, mourning the death of her son, and nobody else in the room could have possibly comprehended how heavy a burden it was.

Ares seemed intent on trying, though.

Like the handgun he’d brandished, the Greek god of war was a shining promise of blood and violence. Zeus knew better than anyone else that Ares was the type of man to make good on his threats, but even he must’ve known that shooting another god in the middle of a Conclave was a bad idea.

“Ares, that’s enough.” He sounds more tired than angry, though there’s an edge of steel to his words that hadn’t been present before. “Put the gun down and stop acting like a child. He’s not the one you want.”

With no more kindling to sustain it, the indignation that had burned within his chest begins to flicker and wane until all that’s left is smoke. There was no longer anything to get angry about, nothing to do except decide their next course of action.

Zeus knows that he hasn’t been the best husband or father, but seeing his family in such a state just felt like another sin to his name.

He had to do something. Hephaestus’ killer needed to be brought to justice.

“Hera, I’m…” He begins, voice quiet and slightly unsure. Would words of comfort be welcome from him at this time? Did he even know where to begin? Distracted, Zeus doesn’t notice pink creeping into the edges of his vision until it overtakes him completely.

He smells… lilies. A faint, redolent perfume that reminded him of times long gone, and hair like spun gold. Then, he remembers a smile, a laugh so rare and exceptional that it filled his heart with warmth every time he heard it. Recalling the past felt like staring at the sun — too bright, too much — but at the same time, he couldn’t bring himself to look away. He wanted to remember.

And then, it’s gone, slipping through his fingers like sand, and he comes to to find himself back in the middle of a dusty-smelling conference room.

It’s clearer to him now, what he needed to do. Aphrodite’s vision and her words to the room provided him a sense of direction, something to work towards. There have been times in the past where Zeus had taken others for granted, let crimes go unpunished on nothing more than a whim and the power of his authority. But now, more than ever, he felt like inaction would be worse than any consequence they could ever face.

“I swear to you that we’ll find whoever did this.” With Poseidon knelt by Hera’s side, and Ares’ hand on her shoulder, Zeus chooses the path of practicality. Hephaestus’ body had to be uncovered, yes. But until his killer was located and dragged screaming into the light, he couldn’t keep any of them safe. So when he speaks again, there’s a newfound conviction in his voice, a desire to finally do right by his family. Briefly, he lets his eyes lock with Ares’ own — an unspoken appeal for peace and an apology for before — then turns his full attention back on the Queen of the Gods.

“Whatever you need, Hera. I’ll be there.”


Fenrir doesn’t sleep well.

Too many memories for that.

He goes to bed exhausted every night, but still, they come. Dreams. Nightmares. They dance behind his eyelids like shadow puppets, distorted afterimages of things that have happened, things that are happening, and things that will happen. They cling to him endlessly, promising to stay and haunt him until the day he breathes his last.

It never gets any easier.

Fenrir can usually tell when he’s dreaming. There’s a certain… fuzziness to it all, like seeing everything through a pane of frosted glass. But there’s also the fear. The dark. More familiar and real than anything he’s ever felt. Familiarity helps when you’re trying to pull yourself out of a nightmare, though. It serves as an anchor, something you can use to remind yourself that all you needed to do to escape was wake up.


The first thing he feels is the cold —– frigid gusts of winter wind battering and slicing into him from every direction. And then, the pain starts to seep in, slowly at first, before growing unbearable all at once. He can’t move more than a foot from where he’s chained, and his mouth…

Blood and drool drip from his yellowed teeth, mixing together to form the beginnings of a river. A sword holds Fenrir’s maw open in a perpetual scream, its sharpened blade piercing through his lower jaw before emerging from the top. It hurts, is all he can remember himself thinking. It hurts and no one is coming to help.

It always feels like he’s there for ages, half-crouched in a pile of dirt and rotting leaves. Breathing. Waiting. There’s nothing else to do but wait, and in the crushing solitude, Fenrir’s mind starts to wander. He thinks of his family —– his father, brother and sister. Were they suffering as he was? What became of them after the judgement? Then, he thinks of the Æsir, the ones that had condemned him to this fate, and he feels nothing but hate. It burns through his veins like fire, a constant reminder of what he had to do when he was finally free of his chains.

Iron. The coppery taste of blood. Odin’s blood. It burns his tongue.

But hidden beneath the overwhelming stench of decay, Fenrir catches the scent of something else.

Something sweet.

The island of Lyngvi remained overgrown with heather even in winter, white and purple flowers sprouting from frozen soil. They held a faint earthy smell —– more herbal than anything else, but also, Fenrir always thought they were the only good things there. The only things that stood out as a rose-tinted example of what life could be. These thoughts were what kept him from truly losing hope in those dark, dark days, and in his dreams: they are what finally allows him to claw his way up from the murky depths of unconsciousness.

Fenrir awakens with a start, the morning light spilling across his bedroom floor through the gaps in the curtains.

Still here.

For a long time, he doesn’t move a muscle, just lays there on his back, staring up at the ceiling. Seconds pass, then minutes. He forces himself to take deep, even breaths until he feels the jackrabbiting rhythm of his heart begin to slow.

In one corner of the room, the radiator lets out a noise that sounds like sputtering.

When it finally feels like he can breathe again, Fenrir moves to sit upright, lifting a large, calloused hand to rake through his hair. The scrape of fingernails against his scalp grounds him, reminds him of where he is. Not Lyngvi. Not Amsvartnir. Not Asgard. Seattle. Things are different now. Not much better, but different.

He starts to press the heels of his palms into his eyes, hard enough for it to hurt. Stars and colors pulse behind his eyelids, and he only lets up when he hears the telltale click-clack-click of claws against wood.

Frida leaps up onto the bed next to him, a whine low in her throat, and noses inquisitively at him.

“Hversu ferr?” He catches her face in his hands, scratching behind her ears the way he knows she likes. Fenrir can feel the warmth rolling off her in waves, and it lets him muster enough the energy for a smile. “You hungry?”

At the mere mention of the word, Frida’s tail begins to thump excitedly against the mattress, and Fenrir knows he has no choice but to drag himself out of bed. His muscles ache, and the floor feels freezing against the soles of his feet, but as much as he wanted to, he couldn’t just laze around in bed all day. He had things to do, and right now, getting Frida some breakfast was at the top of that list.

He pads barefoot to the kitchen, Frida dashing ahead of him, then shoots a glance at the clock that hung above his fridge —– 7:02. Still some time before he had to get to his job at St. Fiacre’s.

The kibble plinks noisily against the bowl as he pours some out for Frida, and she’s on it in an instant, sending a few unfortunate pellets tumbling out in her enthusiasm. Meanwhile, Fenrir gets to preparing his own breakfast. There’s hardly anything in his fridge that’s not beer or empty space, but he finds some leftover beef chow fun he’d gotten from the Chinese place down the block. It’s at least a day old, maybe two, so he gives it a little sniff to make sure it hasn’t turned.

Eh, good enough.

Making his way to the living room (really, it’s only separated from the kitchen by a counter), he chews on a mouthful of cold, almost rubbery rice noodles, and flops onto the couch. It’s a ratty, old thing, upholstered in the ugliest mustard-yellow fabric you’ve ever seen. But to him, it’s just a couch. It’s where he sits while having breakfast or watching TV. Besides, it came with the apartment. No point in wasting money on something he didn’t need, right?

Atop the coffee table, there’s a small pile of letters: not bills or junkmail — he kept the former someplace else and threw out the rest — but letters. Real, genuine, handwritten letters. Some have been open and unfolded, while others were still tucked away in their envelopes. He’s read them all, though, sometimes even two, three times over; and Fenrir knows that there’s only one person in the world who cares to send him letters —–

Hel. His sister.

He sets his food aside for the moment to pick up one of the letters, tired eyes flickering over what’s written. Most of Hel’s letters to him follow a similar pattern. Usually, she’ll tell him about whatever’s going on, ask him how he’s doing, that sort of thing. It’s actually kind of funny, how even in this day and age, she still insisted on sending him these handwritten letters.

Every now and then, he’ll entertain the thought of writing a reply, but in the end, he always decides against it. What did he have to say to Hel, anyway? And if she really wanted to talk, she would’ve sought him out already. She had his address, knew where he lived, where he worked. They lived in the same city and neither of them had ever said a single word to the other.

…But maybe he should stop being so stubborn. Fenrir keeps telling himself he’s better off alone, that he’s getting by just fine without anyone by his side, but part of him can’t help but wonder what it would be like to see his family again.

And would it be so bad to finally let somebody in?

He’s biting his nails again, worrying away at them with his teeth until he realizes what he’s doing, and lets his hand drop back into his lap.

Fuck, he needed a smoke.

Fenrir sighs and climbs to his feet, dumping the remainder of his chow fun down the garbage disposal before shrugging on his jacket. Frida watches him expectantly, head tilted to one side.

“Come on. Let’s go for a walk.”
Interested. >:3c
𝙰 𝙲𝙾𝙻𝙻𝙰𝙱 𝙱𝙴𝚃𝚆𝙴𝙴𝙽 @Mao Mao 𝙰𝙽𝙳 @beetlemoth

Hephaestus was dead... The news certainly caught his attention for sure. For the first time in recorded history, a deity was permanently dead. Did that mean that all deities aren't invincible? Unlike the others, Xōchipilli wasn't afraid that death was possible. Instead, he had embraced it years ago when one of his moral workers died in a terrible accident. And maybe it was the cost of gods acting like morals. He had wondered how his siblings were reacting to the news. However, his attention was on Hera's outburst. Admittedly, it was good to see the so-called 'Queen of the Gods' broken. But he didn't care nor dared to speak his thoughts loudly.

And then, a gun was drawn and pointed at Shango. Xōchipilli was disgusted by Ares' action, but it was expected for the Greek God of War. Instead, he turned to his siblings and started talking in Nahuatl. "I'm going now before the Greek gets us in trouble. Come if you want to."

So, Xōchipilli stood up and started making his way to the door.

Xolotl processes the news of Hephaestus’ death in a distant, clinical way. It had caught him off-guard, sure, but he’d always known just how dangerous the Colossus could be; and it wasn’t just because of what it did to them, either. Instead, he believed the real danger to be an amalgamation of factors. The Colossus dampened their powers, kept them all running from one place to another like dogs on a lead, but none of that compared to the pressures of time. Over the course of millennia, the gods and goddesses of old seemed to… change. Walking the earth and living among mortals was so far removed from their previous, deified existence that many allowed themselves to be moulded by the world around them, to be affected by the trivialities of the mortal realm.

To Xolotl, the ultimatum that had been set before them was obvious. If they didn’t come up with a way to destroy the Colossus once and for all, Hephaestus would be far from the last casualty.

He’s not at all surprised when the atmosphere in the room turned sour. All of the Greeks in one place? It was a recipe for disaster. But throw a Roman into the mix, and you may as well have set off a bomb. Feuds, both new and old, started clawing their way to the surface; and Xolotl is suddenly reminded of the dead in Mitctlān —– writhing, crawling, desperate for another chance at life.

It’s pathetic.

He remains silent even as accusations begin to fly. No point in interjecting and making himself a target. For now, he would simply observe. The alleged “Queen of the Gods” was the one who seemed most deeply affected by news of Hephaestus’ death, voice straining with rage and despair. It was almost enough to make Xolotl feel for her —– losing one’s children was undoubtedly one of the most painful things in the world, akin to a gouge in your heart that would never heal. He had not experienced such loss himself, but knew how his sister, Tlazōlteōtl had.

Centeōtl, machtli. Your name will not be forgotten.

And then, out of the corner of his eye, Xolotl catches a glimpse of metal, scents the smoky bite of gunpowder in the air.

“A gun? Really?” Incredulous, the question tumbles out of him before he has the chance to stop it. He couldn’t quite bring himself to believe that even in such a dire situation, the only feat the Greeks seemed capable of was making things worse. What did they think they were going to achieve by pointing fingers? Certainly not answers, although he doesn’t have much time to mull it over before he spies Xōchipilli making an exit.

He’s up on his feet and trailing closely behind him, reaching out to catch his brother’s arm, but decides against it at the last second. Xolotl didn’t think he would appreciate being grabbed right now. Somewhere along the line, he noticed that Tlazōlteōtl had wandered off as well, and frowns when he sees who she’s speaking to. He had a bad feeling about the Greek god of trade. Everything he knew about him pointed to a duplicitous, conniving character —– traits he himself possessed, but loathed seeing in others, especially when said persons became associated with members of his family. Nevertheless, Xolotl knew that there was nothing he could do about it, at least for the time being; and so, elects to turn his attention back to the matter at hand.

“Wait.” Xolotl’s voice is low and even —– ever the picture of calm. He’s hoping to soothe Xōchipilli’s doubts, to make him see the wisdom in staying behind, if only just to listen. He understood Xōchipilli’s wanting to leave, though. He himself dreaded the thought of getting caught up in this mess; but as much as he despised all the trouble the Greeks caused, he liked the thought of them running around behind his back even less.

“Don’t go yet. There’s more to this than we know. If we leave the Greeks alone to their devices, there’ll be more trouble yet. It’s smarter to stay, hear everyone out. After that, you can decide what you want to do.”

Xōchipilli knew that his brother was right even if he didn't want to admit, but it was still stupid. Even if more information was learned, it won't matter to them whatsoever. He didn't care about Hephaestus and barely knew the Greek besides the usual stories and rumors here and there. And he positivity didn't care about the fact that deities are able to die for some random reason, which might never be answered. Still, it would've been useful to learn how he died. So, he groaned and rubbed his forehead in annoyance. "Fine, I'll stay. But if someone gets shot and the police are involved, I'm blaming you."

“Fine by me.”

On his back to the seat, Xōchipilli noticed that The Morrigan was in the midst of providing the answer. It turned out that poor old Hephaestus was murdered. That news... actually surprised the flower prince. After all, how often was an immoral God murdered out of the blue? That made him wonder who was the murderer, and who was their next target? He briefly looked at his sister and then brother causing him to feel protective of them, especially to Tlazolteotl. And the possibility of being in the Greeks' position was cause enough to worry. Then suddenly, a thought came into his head about the pantheon. Xōchipilli wondered if it was possible if one of them murdered their own since history often told of their sinister misdeeds. His primary suspects were, of course, the mother and father given their experiences in ruining their children's lives.

Yet, Xōchipilli understood it was totally foolish to outright blame them, especially if their innocence was proven.

Xolotl doesn’t return to his seat after that, but hovers near the edge of the room, casting a scrutinizing gaze over everyone in it. The chaos that had threatened to boil over just a few minutes ago had mostly evaporated, and all that’s left behind is a vague shadow of uncertainty.

How could a god be killed? And of them all, why Hephaestus?

Truth be told, he couldn’t bring himself to really care about who did it so much as how and why. The death of a god was not something that happened regularly, mostly because of how difficult it was to kill an immortal, but also because of the promised retribution that would soon follow. Killing one god meant angering the rest of their pantheon, painting a target on your back in crimson red. It was an open invitation for them to do the same to you.

An eye for an eye.

But the Morrigan’s lack of answers was not doing much to convince Xolotl of the necessity of this meeting. He had expected at least some information about the incident, scraps of evidence that would allow them to pinpoint their killer. So when Xolotl realized that none of it was forthcoming, he sucks in a fortifying breath through his nose, then exhales.

For one fleeting moment, Xolotl catches a whiff of marigold — Mictēcacihuātl’s flower — but pulls himself out of it with a tiny shake of the head, nails digging into the flesh of his palms. This is no time for memories.

The sight of Anubis is a familiar one, as is the unwavering steadiness of his voice. Both he and Xolotl, along with a few others in the room, were part of the Seattle legal scene. They’ve had their share of encounters in the past, although any meetings outside the courtroom were few and far between. From what he’s seen of him, though, Xolotl knows that he’s good at what he does, even if his goals might seem a little… idealistic.

Still, what did that say about his own plans of destroying the Colossus? Was it actually possible, or just a hopeless pipe dream? He doesn't like thinking about the latter.

When Xolotl speaks again, it’s to bring up a question. He pointedly ignores how three more of their number make to leave. “Does anyone have an idea of who might’ve held a grudge against him?”


For Xolotl, a new case meant late nights at the office, mountains of paperwork and falling back into old habits.

So far, he’s got all three checked.

There’s a stack of financial records from the auditor he has to look through by Friday. He’s already on his sixth (or was it seventh?) cigarette. And a cursory glance at the clock tells him that it’s a quarter past two.

Sighing, he leans back in his chair, eyes squeezed shut, and raises a hand to pinch at the bridge of his nose. All around him, blue tendrils of nicotine-tainted smoke dance through the air, curling around his hair like dragon’s breath. Good thing there aren’t any smoke detectors in here, Xolotl muses.

The last thing he needs are the sprinklers turning on and drenching all these documents.

He’d actually quit smoking a few centuries ago, way back during the Industrial Revolution when tobacco actually tasted like tobacco. Nowadays, it was all filler, smoke without the buzz. Anyone with the barest scrap of discernment would know that modern cigarettes were nothing compared to a good, hand-rolled cigar from Cabañas.

Still, you get used to it. Hell, if there’s one thing Xolotl has learned over his many, many years of existence, it’s that you can get used to anything, even the bitter tang of tar, anise and menthol. Besides, he kind of liked having something to do with his hands, and smoking was a great excuse for lulls in conversation.

Right now, however, he’s doing it because he needed to, the whole ritual of lighting up and smoking a cigarette, drawing the fumes deep into his lungs —– it calmed him. He isn’t nervous or apprehensive, though, just… concerned. Xolotl has always prided himself on his resourcefulness, on his ability to turn any situation to his advantage. That’s what made him so good at his job, and why his clients were willing to dig deep in their pockets for him to represent them in court.

Rumor was you could never get Salvador Ochoa to sweat because he was always three steps ahead of everyone else in the room.

But even the most consummate professional could be caught off-guard.

When Xolotl opens his eyes again, he’s staring at a cream-colored envelope on his desk. He’d opened it earlier, breaking through the wax seal with a letter opener, but even before he read through what was within, he already had an inkling as to what its contents entailed.

Crushing the remains of his cigarette into an ashtray, he picks up the letter again, drags a nail along the crease where it had been folded. The paper feels rough between his fingers, heavy, but beneath it all, there’s something else.

Something magic.

Weak as it may be, he could still feel it fizzling away under the surface. Every deity left behind their own magical signature, and the Morrigan was no different. Hers felt like… electricity and ozone. The scent of petrichor after a rainstorm. If the seal on the envelope hadn’t been enough of a giveaway — a crow with its wings spread and talons outstretched — Xolotl could have guessed who the sender was without even looking.

And when you received a message from the Morrigan, there was usually only one reason.

He just didn’t expect it to happen so soon.

Quietly, he slides the letter back into its envelope and tucks it inside his jacket, casting another look at the clock —– 2:21 A.M. Everyone else had already gone home for the day, and Xolotl was the only one left in the office. That’s how it was, most days. After the final stragglers clocked out around midnight, the whole place would be left to him alone. He doesn’t mind staying late, though. It gives him a little extra time to hone in on specifics, iron out the details, and he likes the quiet.

He stands up then, walking over to the floor-length window that separated his office from the city outside. The streets below are empty, bathed in the orange glow of sodium street lamps. Occasionally, a car will zip by, and Xolotl will stare at it until it disappears into the distance. This high up, they look like toys —– small and utterly insignificant.

Fuck it.

He could put off preparing for the case for a day or two, but if he had to listen to god-knows-who arguing about god-knows-what at eleven in the morning, he’s going to need a little more than two hours of sleep. And so, trying to ignore the already-growing headache behind his eyes, Xolotl turns back to his desk to click his computer shut, slips a fresh cigarette between his teeth, and prepares for the long drive home.

He’s up bright and early the next day —– or the same day, technically, but he doesn’t see the point in being pedantic about such things.

There’s a sense of unease in the air as Xolotl goes through his morning routine. This was the first Conclave they’ve had in, what, eighty-one years? And he can’t stop thinking about what could possibly be important enough to warrant them all coming together again.

(Part of him wonders if it all couldn’t be summarized in an email instead. He’s not exactly looking forward to dealing with the Greeks. Mostly because more often than not, they were the ones causing the problems that everyone else needed to solve. It’s sort of become routine at this point, cleaning up after their messes, and frankly, he’s getting a little tired of it.)

But Xolotl knows as well as anyone that there’s no sense in delaying the inevitable, and so decides to take one last look at himself in the mirror before heading out. He’s wearing one of his cheaper suits, an Alexander McQueen knockoff he’d just gotten back from the dry cleaner’s. It’s charcoal black, cut in a way that’s elegant yet discreet —– just the way he likes it.

Satisfied, he turns to leave, though not before slipping an unopened pack of menthols into his pocket.

The drive to the university is uneventful, filled only with the purr of an engine and the occasional click-click-click of his turn signal. Once he actually gets there, it doesn’t take him long to find the conference room the Morrigan had been talking about in her letter; and already, there seemed to be some sort of commotion going on inside.

Business as usual then.

…The smell of vomit is new, though.

It’s the first thing Xolotl notices when he steps inside, though he doesn’t give the perpetrator more than a brief, withering glance before moving towards the two most familiar faces in the room.

“Tlazōlteōtl. Xōchipilli.” He greets each of them with a nod, and settles down into the seat he’d been assigned. It’s cheap, plastic, and exceedingly uncomfortable. Xolotl supposes it’s a fitting metaphor for their current situation.

“So,” he begins, reverting to his native tongue of Nahuatl, trying in vain to find a position that doesn’t make him feel like he’s strapped to a medieval torture device. He’s hoping Xōchipilli and Tlazōlteōtl might be able to provide some much-needed distraction. “I take it didn’t miss anything important?”


Things were actually going… well?

In fact, things were going so well that Zeus had almost forgotten exactly why his family was such a mess in the first place. He was just happy to see everyone back together again —– Apollo, Athena, Persephone, Comus… Even Ares and Heracles. Hermes, on the other hand, seemed intent on stealing his thunder with a secret stash of gummy worms, but he was in a good enough mood to let it slide.

If he had known baked goods were such a hit with gods and goddesses alike, he would’ve done this sooner.

So yeah, he was pretty damned pleased with himself. For once, he wasn’t going to fuck things up. For once, he would prove to everyone that Zeus, King of the Gods, was not a narcissistic maniac with coping mechanisms more toxic than the ruins of Chernobyl, but actually a pretty okay guy you could totally be friends with.

…Seriously, though. He should’ve known better than anyone than to have such unwavering confidence in himself. Back in his day, such behavior was called hubris, and would earn anyone a swift smack in the face from Nemesis herself.

So it only made sense that the second Zeus started feeling good about himself, started thinking that “hey, maybe this won’t be so bad”, everything began to fall apart.

The first sign of things going south was the arrival of Hera. Technically, she hadn’t done anything but show up, but the look she shot him as she walked in was enough to make whatever words he’d wanted to say die in his throat.

Ex-wife jitters. Classic. He’ll give her some space. She’s clearly not in the mood to talk to him right now.

The second sign was when a man smelling of grease and fish food all but careened into the room, and Zeus noticed that he was looking — pardon the pun — a little green in the gills. But he didn’t have much time to wonder just who the hell this guy was before he started blowing chunks all over his very expensive shoes.

The noise that escapes him then is more of a gasp than a whimper, and it takes a few more moments after that for the man’s question to register.

“They’re Tom Ford, actually.”

Somehow, in that single, horrifying moment, that’s all Zeus can bring himself to say.

Gods, he’s gonna be sick.

No, wait. Throwing up here is a terrible, terrible idea.

Hold it together, asshole. Don’t you dare lose your shit now.

When he starts to lift his foot, the carpet makes sort of a… wet squelching noise that nearly sends him retching again. But through sheer willpower, he manages to swallow it down, and with two trembling fingers, slides off his newly-ruined shoes.

Now what the hell was he supposed to do with these? Throw them out?

But they looked so good on him…

In the end, after what seemed like an eternity of internal deliberation and weighing out the pros and cons, he just dumps the shoes into the lonely, little trash can sitting in the corner of the room. Sure, his shoe guy might’ve been able to scrub them clean, but deep down, Zeus knew that they would never be the same again.

Rest in peace, shoes.

It’s kind of amazing, isn’t it? Just how fast things can change. A minute ago, he felt like he was on top of the world —– everyone was loving his danishes, nobody was trying to kill each other, and he still had two shoes on his feet.

Now, he’s just standing there, shoeless, toes wiggling in his socks.

What a fucking nightmare.

He’s not even mad, really. Or maybe he is, and his brain was just trying to deal with the shock of it all before moving on to anger. A betting man would put his money on the latter, because if this happened back during Zeus’ heyday, he would’ve already turned whoever was responsible into a pile of electrified ash.

Still, he was trying to change, trying to be less like the murderous tyrant he used to be. And to be fair, he’s sort of distracted trying to figure out exactly who this greasy, pukey man was to really get angry.

That fish smell is familiar, though. And the voice. And the general air of melancholia that hung over him like a funeral shroud.

Where exactly did he remember him from? Gods, it’s just gonna keep gnawing away at him, isn’t it?

He had to find out.

“Hey, uh, don’t worry about the shoes, alright? I think we’ve all had days like these.” He tries for a chuckle, hopes to Cronus it doesn’t sound too much like acting, and reaches out to place a hand on the man’s shoulder, giving it a consoling pat.

“It’s just… You don’t look so good right now. Maybe you should sit down somewhere. And we can talk. About stuff.”

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