A seafood restaurant. Okay. August must be—no, Jupiter must be in a good mood. The news would come smooth like their salmon, and the honesty would come appreciated.
Right. So, why did he stand stuck between the folds of his ragged leather seats picking away at the Target brand button up that smothered his neck and wrists. October chill should have shocked his bones, yet Poseidon felt the sweat build at the back of his nape. The bottle of Xanax sat in the passenger seat, mourned for its valiant sacrifice. Unfortunately, that sacrifice had been made two days earlier to which Poseidon lamented the pangs of anxiety suffocating him now.
Just get out and go in. Just get out and go in. Poseidon gripped his steering wheel. Squeezing his eyes shut, Poseidon felt a rush soar through him. He seized that surge and bolted out of his tiny car. Cold air blasted the heat of his face, it worked to send him into a shock so much that the anxiety just barely faded from his mind.
Before he knew it, Poseidon stood at the designated table, chest puffing as he stared at Augu—Jupiter. He stood there, staring at the man with his heart in his ears and the background sound falling away to the constant huff of his breathing. Then, in that instance his breath vanished as it did every single time. Despite the sizzling anger that radiated off him, Poseidon felt the tug of heat rising in his chest to grip his heart and slam it against its cage.
Then he swallowed it down because the both of them agreed, silently perhaps, that this was just something fun for them. Stress relief. An escape. Though, he could laugh now knowing that escape would soon vanish as he seated himself across from the Roman king.
”I’m actually Poseidon.” He blurted out. What he wanted to say was ‘Hello, how are you? How has your day been? You look like you’re about to decapitate someone with your bare hands.’ Instead, Poseidon sat there with his eyes wide and his hands barely hovering over the table, frozen in the lake of his own idiocy.
”I-I mean, I, uh… you’re… and I’m—you…” Poseidon fizzled out, staring in dejection at the man in front of him, shoulders slouched and a pinch to his face that he couldn’t shake off.
Mannerisms that Jupiter once found endearing on Peter - the cute way he stutters, the hesitancy, the impulsivity - he can only now see it with a thin veil of annoyance. All that endearment was a bandaid hiding the nasty gash beneath it and now Jupiter can only feel the sting of it being ripped off. A small gnat of a voice in the back of his head told him that at least Poseidon was being honest with him now, that he came clean right away. Then there was a growling beast, fat on paranoia, that whispered to him that Poseidon only told him because he had to, that all of this has been a charade. In the end, it doesn’t matter really what Poseidon’s intentions are. Jupiter knows his own intentions and that’s all there is to it.
Jupiter removes a piece of paper from his pocket and unfolds it primly before sliding it across the table. It’s the picture Mars had so thoughtfully shown him earlier at the meeting with his brothers, an image of Poseidon vomiting on his brother. “I’m well aware who you are, Poseidon.”
He wants to end it right there, tell Poseidon that it’s over and to not contact him again, but it is a dinner meeting. Jupiter should at least be polite enough to pay for their meals one last time.
A waiter stops by poised with his pad and pen. Jupiter’s menu is promptly closed and he says, “I’ll be having the halibut and bring a bottle of your most expensive blend. Order whatever seems appealing, Peter.”
Poseidon blinked, trying to process the information provided in Jupiter’s curt answer. That shifting cold seemed impenetrable from Poseidon’s vantage point. He had to wonder why, though the way Jupiter reacted seemed to indicate that it was likely the whole Poseidon thing that had him miffed. More than miffed. Miffed didn’t seem the appropriate term for how the heat that wafted off Jupiter’s skin.
That heat belied a coldness to Jupiter’s words and Poseidon frowned as he looked down at the menu. ”I think I’ll just take some salmon and could I get just a… you know what, surprise me. Nothing too expensive,” Poseidon said, quiet as his eyes continued to flicker upwards toward Jupiter. He immediately handed the menu to let the server walk off.
Silence hung between them, Poseidon’s eyes shifting everywhere but Jupiter before finally landing back onto him. ”I… didn’t tell you and I’m sorry,” Poseidon said, pinching his brows before frowning and looking down at his hands on the table. They were calloused like his soul had been, like he’d dragged them for years against sharp gravel until the skin grew over itself, hardened and scarred.
”I’m ashamed of what I’d done as a god. You can tote your kingly glory, find pride in a nation you built from the ground up,” he continued, knowing he’d revealed that he knew who Jupiter was, or at least that he was Roman, ”I hurt people for greed, for power, for vengeance. Simply because I wanted something someone else had. The seas rose and the earths quaked because I commanded them to; because my anger allowed me to take that emotion and destroy whole swaths of my people.”
Poseidon looked toward Jupiter, knowing he likely wouldn’t find the face of someone sympathetic to his plight. He both wanted Jupiter’s condemnation and contempt, as well as his compassion and love. To deserve either of those things, however, Poseidon had to actually matter to the man beyond an obstacle in his way.
Something at the back of his mind gnawed at him, told him this was the last he’d see of the magnificent man he’d known. But, to come to grips with that would be to submit to reality and Poseidon just wanted to grasp one hopeful wisp of their relationship. He wanted to salvage what could possibly be unrepairable.
When the server came back with a glass of red wine, Poseidon smiled and told her, ”Could I get just one more bottle of this, please?” he smiled and when she nodded he gave her a sincere, ”Thank you.” And then he unscrewed the cork, poured himself a full wine glass, and dunked it. Then three more. Four. No, he’d stop at five glasses. It wouldn’t hit him until he stood, he knew that, but he was determined not to stand for quite awhile now. Not until Jupiter physically scooped him up from his seat. He just wanted… Poseidon didn’t want to bring voice to what he wanted.
”Do you hate me?” Poseidon asked, his voice barely above a whisper. His face pinched into worry, something he tried his damnedest to hide but failed miserably. ”Do you—do you want to ask me questions? I’ll answer them. Honest. What’s that saying the one in latin about… truth and alcohol?”
Jupiter neglected to answer Poseidon’s first question, hesitant to give a definitive answer on his feelings towards the other god. Jupiter hates all Greeks, is the easy answer, and it was on the tip of his tongue, but it felt like gravel in his mouth. Jupiter isn’t a liar; Jupiter used to hate all Greeks. Now, it seems, he tolerates more than just one Greek. How did he sink so low to allow himself to lay with a degenerate?
“In vino veritas.” Jupiter responded, mulling over his wine. He reached over and poured Poseidon another glass of wine. If he indeed wanted to convince Jupiter that the wine has loosened his lips, he’d have to drown in his alcohol first. A measly couple of wines wouldn’t undo what the god of the sea has done. “In wine lies the truth.”
There are a lot of questions he could ask, he even made a mental list on his way here. Now, in Poseidon’s presence, there’s only one that is seared in his mind’s eye.
“What was your intention?” Jupiter sips his wine, voice even as his eyes smolder like coals on fire, “To make a fool of me? To spy on the Romans? I–”
Trusted you? It’s a tough pill for Jupiter to swallow, because in a way, Jupiter had let Poseidon in. Poseidon – no, Peter – was a comfort to him, a silly little human who didn’t need to worry about the god matters. A human that Jupiter didn’t have to worry about being betrayed by; all gods are snakes, they all have their agenda. Poseidon wouldn’t be the first god to get under Jupiter’s skin, but he will be the last.
Wait, what? Poseidon stopped mid drink and stared at Jupiter. Why would he want to make a fool of him? Intentions other than what? Confusion fell upon Poseidon to the point he truly did feel the need to drown himself in wine. Forgoing the glass the second he emptied it, Poseidon dunked the entirety of the bottle given to, ignoring any sense of decorum. At this point, caring about what other people thought of him felt idiotic.
The sight of Poseidon downing an entire bottle of wine took the server by surprise the second she’d brought him another bottle. She faltered, but remained straight laced and professional as she placed it down beside him. After a nod, she left and Poseidon resumed his attempt at getting absolutely smashed; he didn’t want to remember this night, didn’t want the hurt of it to wash over him in the morning. If the alcohol couldn’t make him forget, then the hangover would.
”What was my intention?” Poseidon grinned, struggling to release the cork from the bottle neck. He grunted, but flashed the lopsided grin at Jupiter. ”My intentions had nothing to do with you, actually. I had no fucking clue who you were, to be honest. It was purely for selfish reasons: I liked you, I really fucking liked you, and I wanted to get lost in that. I wanted to forget all the bullshit that came with being a god, with being Grecian no less. I messed up, I messed up so much. Ow… fu-fuck. Ahh…”
A hiss left him, feeling his hand seize up. The wine bottle slipped, colliding with his chair and then smashing against the ground. Poseidon immediately fell to clean it up, holding his stiffened arm away from him as he grabbed the table cloth napkin and started padding the spillage. ”I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” he repeated under his breath as a waiter came to assist him. With dust pan in hand, she gentle nudged Poseidon away.
”Is your arm okay sir?” she asked, eyes wide as she stared at him.
Poseidon had his other hand in his face, leaning against the off kilter chair with his knees. He’s not gonna cry. He’s not gonna fucking cry. ”Yeah, it’s un… mmnnn, it’s unrelated. I’m sorry. I’ll pay for it. I, uh, fuck,” Poseidon sighed, dejected and certain that if he hadn’t made a fool of Jupiter already, then he certainly had now. If he didn’t think too hard, didn’t look too hard he could stop the spinning and clear the fog that settled on the storm in his mind. He pressed his head to the chair and did his best to slide back up it, wincing at the pain that surged through his left hand.
”I’m just a hack. I’m the only fool here. I thought you’d know that by now,” Poseidon hissed in pain again, wanting nothing more than to leave and drown himself in his bedsheets. The alcohol already slammed into him, though, and he’d been lucky getting back into his chair without collapsing in on himself. Maybe it wasn’t the alcohol or maybe it was combined with being on the verge of a total panic attack.
“Pos– Peter,” Jupiter started, surging forward to help him into his seat. The sight of Poseidon was unfamiliar. Sure, Jupiter was no stranger to drunk sloppy mortals, maybe even some immortals, but he never expected this from his Peter. No, not his. Just Peter. Poseidon.
Unbidden and unwelcomed, concern welled up into his stomach. The way Poseidon favored his arm reminded him of long nights when his mysterious pain flared up. Poseidon, then Peter, always dodged questions on how he hurt his arm and Jupiter let it happen; mortals hurt themselves in so many ways, it didn’t really matter to him how it happened but that it happened. Now, though, Jupiter felt his hackles rise with a sneaking suspicion. How did Poseidon hurt his arm, if he was a god? Jupiter couldn’t ask in the middle of the restaurant, especially with a waitress glaring at him from her spot on the floor.
“I’ll send someone to get our meals.” Jupiter said to the woman, throwing a couple hundreds on the table. God forbid he leave his halibut; he was hungry, god damn it. “The extra is tip.”
With strong hands, Jupiter hefted Poseidon up and slung an arm around his shoulder. Poseidon could drink himself into a stupor, but he wasn’t off the hook yet. Jupiter frowned as he thought back on Poseidon’s words. He would further interrogate him on the drive to Poseidon’s apartment – in wine there is truth. Poseidon was on the precipice of something, Jupiter could tell he was balancing on a tightrope and one wrong word from Jupiter will send him falling, but Jupiter had no intention of holding back. He would ask what he wanted and if Poseidon shattered, well, he’d deal with that later.
“I’m going to take you home.” Jupiter told Poseidon, his face donning a stoic mask. There was a tight feeling in his chest, feeling something like distress, but Jupiter pushed it down and covered it in a blanket or self-righteous anger. “Can you walk?”
”I don’t wanna go home,” Poseidon said, a hushed slur under his breath. He immediately leaned against Jupiter, staring at him with his face in a slack, pitiful expression. Everything spun and Poseidon could only hold on tight to the man hoisting him up. Knots built in his stomach, roiling the contents inside to a lump in Poseidon’s throat; he wanted desperately to vomit, like his panic bid him to, but the sea god held it in.
Of course everything came crashing down the second he ousted himself as a god. His family wanted to use him, Jupiter lost all trust in him, and he’d thrown up more times in this week alone than he had in his years hiding. To think, the therapy worked for him in so many ways and yet this alone toppled all of that down, foundation and all. It tired him. Made him want to crawl into bed and never leave. Made him want Jupiter more in ways he didn’t quite feel confident enough to voice. A stalwart, unshakeable soul laid deep in Jupiter and that provided a pillar for Poseidon to fall to. Yet, he couldn’t use Jupiter like that, especially not now when they fell aground against the sharp rocks of adversity.
”I can walk—” Poseidon said, trying to step onto both his feet only for his legs to bed unnaturally in his mind. He looked down, aghast, only to find that they were indeed okay. He was alright, for the most part. ”Mm-mm, I can’t walk,” he said, looking up at Jupiter in defeat.
”Ah—ow, fu-uuuck,” Poseidon winced, staring at his arm as he tried flexing it. The stress, the anxiety all of it welled up inside and he pushed it down—or tried to—and it came to bite him fully in the ass. ”Sorry, sorry. I’m okay. I’m okay. Well, no, I’m not okay, but I’ll live… I think.”
“Get the valet to bring my car around.” Jupiter tells the waitress, adjusting his grip around Poseidon’s waist. By the time he has hefted Poseidon to the entrance, his car is parked in front with a nervous valet fiddling with his keys in front of it.
“I, er, may have scratched—” The valet starts.
“I don’t care.” Jupiter interrupts, because in that moment he really doesn’t. A car is so easily replaced with his vast wealth, there is no purpose in redirecting his rage over something so trivial.
Jupiter helps Poseidon into the car, and reaches around him to buckle him up. He can feel Poseidon’s breath on his cheek and if he turned his head just right, he could capture his lips with his own. He won’t, though, not with Poseidon in this state. Not now, that Poseidon’s identity has been revealed. Jupiter sighs before leaning back and shutting the door.
It is only when he is in the driver’s seat, pulling from the driveway of the restaurant, that he begins his interrogation anew. “What were you planning on doing, then? You didn’t know who I was, then how did you find out? What were you going to do with the information?”
Funny how things run so smoothly for so long until one small instance turns it all on its head. Poseidon lamented that fact and wanted nothing more than to throttle himself for ever thinking of coming back from the dead. After all, those that die should stay dead, except for the select few risen from death’s chilling grasp. Maybe he’d thought he was the exception. Seeing the simmering heat wafting off of Jupiter’s face, Poseidon could clearly see that wasn’t the case.
”Mmnn,” Poseidon grumbled, staring up at Jupiter. What a sight and what nice, soft lips to just fall into. Yet, the man pulled away like Poseidon knew he would and now he was staring at him with half-lidded eyes and rose plastered on his cheeks. ”What’d I intend to do with what information? That you’re Jupiter. Iunno, probably freak out about the serendipity—wrong word. Coincid… Coinci…. Coin… the weird not-fate but fate thing. I dunno.”
Drunken stupor washed over him in a lake of sweet tasting wine. Oh, he forgot to eat and just slammed down an entire bottle of alcohol. Why’d he do that? Poseidon turned to look at the man next to him. He sighed. Yeah. That made sense.
”My niece, oh she has a business card, haha, so official,” Poseidon rummaged around in his pocket, body fully sideways in the car seat as his hands retrieved the card. Despite the fact that it had her human name and thus identified her, Poseidon still handed it over. He didn’t exactly know if he’d have done that sober, but he certainly wanted to do so drunk. ”Lookit, she wanted me to call her with information and stuff. I dunno what, prolly if you butter your toast or if you’re the one that murdered my other nephew. You didn’t did you? Would you do the same to me? That’s a stupid question. Prolly, I’m no one special, just a stupid… mmf.
”I jus’ wanna be okay for once. I don’t want any of this feud nonsense. I don’t wanna think about Hephaestus dying. I wanna take back the whole god thing and live in obscurity again. Is that so much to ask? I thought I wanted to be with my family again, to stop being so lonely, but…” Poseidon slumped down in his seat, fingers picking at the buttons of his shirt, ”They just wanna use me. Is that all I’m good for Jupiter?” He tossed a look at the man in question, eyes welling up with a ocean deep sadness, something not even Poseidon wanted to truly acknowledge. Yet, the alcohol coaxed that info out of him, brought it to the surface in admittance, ”Is my worth only in how useful I am to someone? And… and when that’s gone will everyone just leave me?”
Poseidon looked down at himself, at the wrinkled, cheap pants and the now wine stained shirt soaking alcohol into his skin. ”Am I better off dead, Jupiter?” Poseidon said, words so quiet and small that he might as well have kept them in his thoughts. Yet, putting voice to them made the reality of his situation all the more tangible.
All Greeks are better off dead, is what he wants to say. When he opens his mouth, dry as cotton, he says instead, "No, never. Don't—" He clears his throat, and his tone becomes commanding and harsh, "Don't say that again. Just, stop talking."
He never wants to hear Poseidon sound so
broken. It makes hating him that much harder, and loving liking him that much easier. He will never admit that to himself, though. His hands tighten around the wheel and he reminds himself silently that he's talking to Poseidon. Fucking Poseidon. Not broken Peter who melts under his touch and arches against him just right; who curls into him until dawn and feels painfully mortal and fragile.
He thinks about using him, pinning him against his niece. Steels himself to do it, knowing that it is what Janus would do, would want, and would benefit Rome the most. The best way to take down the other pantheons. But then he's pulling up to Poseidon's apartment building, a dingy blot against the city skyline, and he remembers that he's not Janus. Jupiter can't do it, can't use and throw away Poseidon like that. It's not an act befitting a king.
"We're here, Poseidon." He wants to call him Peter, to wait with him until he sobers and then take him with a passion. He wants to throw him out of his car, yell at him for being something Jupiter doesn't want, for being a weakness Jupiter can't afford. "I'll help you to your apartment."
The reflexive flinch that caught Poseidon didn’t happen intentionally, neither did the pounding of his heart at the sudden severity of Jupiter’s tone. Yet, how could he obey that command when it had egged him on this entire week. It hurt to think. He didn’t want that; he wanted Jupiter to cradle him in the strength of his arms and will that pain away.
That wasn’t allowed. He didn’t deserve that. All he could do was feel the cold glass seep into his skin as he stared up at the mediocrity he found himself in. That’s all he deserved. That right there, where his finger pointed at, the dirt and grime that clung to the fabric of the world he squalored in.
”Yeah, yeah, uh…” Poseidon opened the door and nearly toppled over. The seatbelt locked against his chest and he let out a breath. ”I think I need some help,” he said, throwing a look at Jupiter.
Even in the haze of alcohol he could see the steel that lined Jupiter’s jaw and the set of his stoney face crackling to the lightning of bitter rage. It never scared him—until now. Beneath that fear lay a thrill Poseidon never could ramp down. The urge to drink that anger away in sweet, wine filled kisses brought him to the other side of his seat. But, even in a drunken daze he knew this would be a mistake he didn’t want to make, even as his hands gripped the edges of Jupiter’s jacket.
”Don’t hate me, Jupiter,” Poseidon said, soft and hushed with the smell of grapes heavy in the air, ”That… I don’t care what happens to me, just don’t—don’t hate me, please.”
Hate is such a strong word. In actuality, Jupiter doesn’t hate the other pantheons - he finds no use for them. Soon, everywhere will be Rome. There’s no need for them, anymore. All Rome needs is the Roman pantheon and...Poseidon isn’t of the Romans. He isn’t of the Romans, and thus Jupiter should have no use for him. How does Jupiter even begin to explain that to this fractured god? How does he explain that he was born a Greek and Jupiter refuses to let the Greeks rise once more? The only way they will work is if Poseidon turns against his own, and Jupiter cannot fathom him betraying his kin. Not sweet, soft Peter.
So, Jupiter gently removes his hands from his jacket and holds them between his own, and softly whispers, “It’s time to let go, Poseidon. I don’t have room for you in my life.”
Abruptly, Jupiter lets go of Poseidon’s hands and unbuckles him. He feels what little he has left of a heart shrivel into a husk, a husk that will only beat when he sees his Rome again. When he is with his brethren as the one true pantheon, the ones who the mortals seek help from. Not Poseidon or Zeus or Ra or whoever else is in his way. Jupiter cannot use Poseidon, his moral code refuses it, so Poseidon does not fit into his plan. It’s a lonely life to lead, but it’s one that leads him to the road of being a King again. To fulfill his purpose once more.
Hate would have stung. It would have sent Poseidon spiraling, but apathy? That pierced his heart until he felt numb. Poseidon let Jupiter move him, unbuckle him, but he didn’t move from his spot in his car. ”I find more and more reason to yearn for mortality,” Poseidon whispered, tears blotting his vision. They fell down silent into his lap. ”To shuffle off into the underworld, to drink from the Lethe and forget all of this… pain.”
His head turned toward Jupiter, stared at him with the prickle of pain in his cheek as he bit down against it. ”I’m in love with you, Jupiter or Augustus. I don’t care who you are. I don’t… I don’t care who you are,” Poseidon said, steel in his voice, ”I just wish you thought the same. I… hope you let yourself be happy for once; be selfish for once.”
Those words hung between them, against the barrier Poseidon knew Jupiter had already erected. Then he stumbled to his feat through the car door, only to tumble into the sidewalk, hand seizing against the pavement. Poseidon grit his teeth as he let himself breath, kneeled against the dour grey. He wouldn’t sob, wouldn’t let the pain of his arm or his heart get to him until his apartment door clicked shut. Though, he let himself crawl forward past the curb to press his feet against the shine of such an expensive, fucking, stupid car and slam it shut before he let himself roll and roil in turmoil.
Nothing, not even the bite of his arm, stung worse than the words so final flung at him. He must have looked pathetic on the ground in the empty street in front of his dumb apartment complex. So, he sat up, tried to crawl his way and stumble to the door of his building. Til he realized he’d dropped his key inside Jupiter’s car. No. No, he wouldn’t go back. He’d just slink inside and wait til the man left. Wait until he could see his car peel down the drive way. Then he’d find a bench outside and sleep on it until Jupiter sent someone to deliver it back. Yeah. Yeah, that’s… that’s what he’d do.
Poseidon slunk into the building, avoiding eye contact with the clerk at the desk though she obviously looked busy enough with her phone. His eyes kept themselves glued to the window, waiting for the distinct sound of money to squeal against the asphalt. To see someone he thought shared his soul fly into the wind and leave him, used and broken like everyone else eventually would. He had no family. He was certain he never did, already tossed them aside a long time ago only to realize they’d done the same to him. Without Jupiter, Poseidon felt truly, truly alone.