Apollo finally came back to the present. He stood and declared to the whole crowd, both gods and mortals, “The competition has been suspended. Please adjourn to the main arena for the closing ceremonies.” Some of the mortals followed his directive, but others lingered to watch the divine drama. We were already visible to them as a customary part of the pageantry, and none of us had the presence of mind to change that.
“What did you see?” Persephone demanded of Apollo. “You tell me who is going to kill my son. I will have their ass locked in Tartarus before the closing ceremonies are over.”
“I don’t know,” said Apollo.
“If you’re trying to protect someone, I will find out,” Persephone threatened.
“I honestly don’t know,” said Apollo. “I just saw Adonis bleeding to death at Persephone’s Doom. I was there, and so were you and Calliope. None of us were holding any weapons, and that part of the vision didn’t last long enough for me to tell anything from the wound. There was so much blood, I couldn’t see the wound.”
“That part of the vision?” Persephone repeated. “That means there was more to it. What was the rest?”
“I saw the seasons changing in the meadow,” said Apollo. “Autumn, winter, spring.” He looked at Adonis with longing and heartbreak. “I saw a bereft lover looking for Adonis, but never finding him.”
“Apollo,” said Artemis, “Stop. I know what you’re doing, and you don’t have to do it anymore.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Apollo.
“I know exactly what you’re talking about,” said Artemis. “I guess next time I won’t be able to stop myself. Persephone,” she requested, “keep me in Hades until the summer’s over and Adonis is back home. If I’m not here while he is, the vision can’t come true.”
“I honestly didn’t see who killed him,” Apollo maintained, “and you know my visions always come true. We’ve tried to stop them before and it never works.”
“You are not going to Hades for the rest of the summer,” Athena told Artemis. “I just got you, and I’m not giving you up now.”
“Don’t get all possessive on me,” Artemis defended. “I’m through killing my brother’s faithless lovers, and if I have to spend the next six weeks in the Underworld to keep that resolution, that’s what I’m going to do.”
“Then I’m coming with you,” Athena protested.
“You have work here,” said Artemis.
“It’s just six weeks,” said Athena.
“Wait, what’s going on here?” Apollo asked.
“Athena and I are together now,” was Artemis’ matter-of-fact reply. “I was going to tell you tomorrow, after the Games were over.”
“It’s about freakin’ time,” said Persephone. “When you two used to ‘chaperone’ me before I married Hades, I was always like, ‘When are they going to do it already?’ If you two want to honeymoon at my palace, go for it. I’ll take you right now.”
“So,” Zeus interrupted. All of our attention was now on him. “My daughter and my creation; the two ‘virgin’ goddesses. How long has this been going on?”
“Forever, and a day,” said Artemis.
“Are your vows still intact?” Zeus asked the two of them.
“They’re both women,” said Hera. “You know that whatever they’ve done doesn’t count.”
“Whatever we’ve done is no one’s business but our own,” said Athena, stepping ahead of Artemis to shield her from Zeus.
“You made a vow before the gods,” said Zeus. “It could be argued that it is indeed the business of the Ruler of the Gods whether or not you’ve broken that vow.”
“Hera is right,” said Athena. “By the laws that you and she laid down for gods and mortals, only a man can take a woman’s virginity. By those laws, as long as Artemis and I only have each other, we will always be virgins. Besides, our vows were not made to you. They were sacred oaths made before the Fates. They’re unbreakable. Anyone, mortal or divine, can try as hard as they want to break such a vow, but the Fates will never allow it. So, no, my lord, our love and whether we’ve consummated it is not and never will be your business. The Fates and the Fates alone will hold us accountable for our vows, just as they will hold you accountable for every vow you’ve made.” I had never seen Athena so magnificent and resplendent. Goosebumps covered every inch of my skin.
“Are you questioning my authority?” Zeus demanded.
“I am reminding you that all authority has limits, even yours,” Athena replied, cool and resolute.
“Have you forgotten that it was my power that brought you into being?” Zeus rebuked her. “I am the creator of creators, ruler of rulers, god of gods. It was my power and mine alone that defeated my own creators and bound them in Tartarus for eternity.” I glanced at Hera and Demeter. Yep, they’d caught that, alright. “Hades rules the Underworld, and Poseidon the Seas, because I in my wisdom allowed it for the sake of peace among the gods,” Zeus continued. Persephone had most definitely caught that. “I granted them their realms, and I could take them away in a moment if I chose. The universe exists by my grace and would perish by my wrath. I am Zeus, Keeper of the Lightning Bolts. I am Zeus, Supreme High Ruler of the Gods. I am Zeus, Lord of the Skies and the Seas, Bringer of Sun and Rain, Giver of Fair Winds and Storms.”
Then, in the eyes and ears of every creature gathered at the Games, mortal and immortal alike, he proclaimed his doom.
“I AM ZEUS, LEADER OF THE FATES!”
“Holy hubris,” I heard Melpomene exclaim under her breath. “This cannot possibly end well.”
“Do not,” Zeus said to Athena, “presume to tell me the limits of my authority.”
“Then do not presume to exceed them,” Athena responded. “If you ever exceed the limits of your authority as it pertains to Artemis, I will avenge her. I have taken this woman,” Athena, quiet and unassailable, spoke the words that Hades had spoken when he’d claimed Persephone, and that every god since had said of his bride on his wedding day. “She is my own, and none may take her from me.”
“Athena,” said Zeus. “My perfect creation. In all your existence, you’ve brought me nothing but pride. I gave you the strength and wisdom of a man in the fair form of a woman. You’ve been the only one of my children to never cause me regret or grief. Which is why it hurts me so much to do what I must do now.”
A metal bolt flashed into Zeus’ hand. We all scrambled out of the line of fire and away from his target, knowing intervention would be futile. All but Artemis. She tried to step forward, but Athena anticipated her movement and pinned her back. Lightning shot from the bolt straight at Athena’s heart. Athena raised her shield, the shield Zeus had created along with Athena herself. The shield crackled and flashed as it absorbed the lightning. Athena gasped and struggled to stay on her feet, still pinning Artemis safely behind her back with her free arm. The bolt kept firing. Athena’s knees buckled. Sweat stuck her hair to the sides of her face. She panted for breath. But she still stood, and the bolt still fired. She collapsed against the nearest chair with Artemis under her. As Athena struggled, she taunted, “Is that all?” And the lightning kept coming at her.
The bolt ran out of lightning half a second before Athena fell to the ground, limp and unmoving. Artemis peeled herself out of the chair and knelt over her. “Take her away,” Zeus ordered. “Hera, come with me to the main arena. I’ll adjourn these Games myself. The rest of you are dismissed. Do as you please.”
“Aglaea,” said Artemis, “let’s get her to your tent.”
Aglaea, Artemis, and Apollo took Athena to the medic headquarters. I followed. So did everyone else except for Aphrodite and the other children of Zeus. Most of my sisters left the tent when they realized we’d all come. Calliope, Erato, and Melpomene stayed.
With great care and precision, Hephaestus telekinetically lifted Athena onto the exam table. Aglaea and Artemis pried the shield out of Athena’s rigid fingers. Aglaea then ordered everyone to step back, and drew a curtain around the exam table. All of us, even Artemis, were banished to the other side of it. “As soon as I’m done examining her, she’s all yours,” Aglaea promised Artemis. “I just need some space and privacy for this part.”
“Of course,” Artemis agreed.
“So,” said Apollo, “you and Athena?”
“Yeah,” said Artemis.
“I guess that’s alright,” Apollo conceded.
“I guess I didn’t ask,” said Artemis.
“Fair enough,” said Apollo. “Now, about you wanting to spend the rest of the summer in Hades so you don’t kill my boyfriend?”
“Pack your stuff, and I’ll take you as soon as Athena comes to,” Persephone said. “We have a fantastic guest chamber that you won’t be able to leave even if you want to, and I guarantee you won’t want to.”
“Why do you want to kill Adonis?” asked Apollo.
“They always give me a reason eventually,” Artemis shrugged, avoiding eye contact with the prospective victim. “Old habits die hard.”
Apollo turned to Adonis. “I didn’t want to say this in front of Ares, but I wasn’t entirely candid about the vision. Aphrodite was there mourning you, too, and she was the one who kept going back to Persephone’s Doom praying for your return, not me.”
“I haven’t cheated on you,” Adonis protested with a wary glance at Artemis. “I love you, and I have no intention of going back to her. Maybe in the vision she’s remembering what we had and regretting the fact that she broke up with me.”
“Please stop talking,” said Persephone.
“I believe you,” said Apollo. I wanted so badly to smack some sense into him with my shepherd’s crook, but I restrained myself. “I’m afraid, though, that we might end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy. Aphrodite was named in the poem, and Ares heard it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re really a threat. Only whether Ares perceives you as one.”
“So you think it was Ares?” said Persephone.
“Again, I don’t know,” said Apollo. “The killer wasn’t in the vision, and I couldn’t get a good enough look at the wound to figure out how it was made. But I think Ares is a pretty good candidate.”
“But it could be anyone, then?” said Persephone.
“I suppose so,” said Apollo.
“New plan,” said Persephone. “Artemis stays here, and we go home tonight. Like, right now, from this tent, as soon as we know Athena’s okay.”
“Absolutely not!” Demeter protested. “It’s bad enough that I got you three months late. I will not lose you six weeks early.”
“Would you rather lose your grandson altogether?” Persephone argued. “If he dies, you will never see him again. I will, but he won’t remember me. He’ll just be another spirit in the Elysian Fields, and I’ll be the nice lady who comes around every now and then to see how he’s doing.”
“Do I get any say in this?” said Adonis.
“If you had enough sense to deserve a say in these plans,” said Persephone, “we wouldn’t be making them.”
“But I don’t want to go back to Hades,” said Adonis. “Sure, you belong there, but I don’t. My life is here.”
“Where have you been for the last hour?” Persephone demanded. “Your death is here! And I am trying to prevent it!”
“Persephone, so help me, if you go back to Hades tonight,” Demeter threatened.
“If I go back to Hades tonight, you will see me again next year at the Spring Equinox,” said Persephone. “You’re over a thousand years old. What’s a few months to you?”
“It’s the principle,” said Demeter. “You’ve already broken your rhythm once this year. You don’t come in spring, you don’t go in autumn, next year why bother coming at all? Why spend any time with your mother when you could be home guarding your son? Why let me have any order and consistency in my life? And if I can’t have it, why should the earth?”
“Oh, grow up,” said Persephone.
“Demeter,” said Apollo, “as much as I hate to say goodbye to Adonis so soon, I’d rather do that than say goodbye to him forever. I think Persephone’s right. They should go home before the prophecy has a chance to come true.”
“Weren’t you the one saying that your prophecies always come true no matter how you try to prevent them?” Demeter reminded him.
“Yes,” said Apollo, “but there’s a first time for everything.”
“And how do you know this’ll be enough?” said Adonis. “Maybe your vision wasn’t of this summer. For all you know, it could be a hundred summers from now. What am I supposed to do? Hide in Hades for eternity to keep from ending up in Hades for eternity?”
“You didn’t look any older than you do now,” said Apollo. “You’ve already aged a little since you first came here. It’s subtle, but I can tell. Can’t you?” he asked Persephone.
“Of course. I’m his mother,” she replied.
“But don’t different gods have different primes?” said Adonis.
“There’s some variation, but your maturity rate seems pretty average,” said Apollo. “And you’re a demigod. By next summer you’ll probably be a little taller and maybe have a full beard, and you’ll have faint crow’s feet by the summer after that. By the time you stop aging, a human who saw us together would think you were a good ten years older than me.”
Adonis was left to ponder these horrors in silence, since Apollo was interrupted by Aphrodite’s sudden appearance. “Is Athena alright?” she asked in breathless haste. “I’ve been so worried about her.”
“She’ll be fine,” Aglaea called from behind the curtain.
“Aphrodite,” said Apollo, “can I ask you something?”
“I haven’t been with him all week,” she said.
“I know,” said Apollo. “He told me. This is about the vision. I know you wouldn’t care now, but you will if we don’t save his life.”
“Well, okay then,” said the goddess with coquettish indifference. “Sure, I dumped him and everything, but I guess I don’t want him to die. What do you want to know?”
“Are you pregnant?”
Aphrodite was stunned; Adonis twenty times more so. Persephone was livid.
“Yes,” Aphrodite answered. She was quiet and solemn, a strange combination for her. “I mean, I think so. Probably. Most likely. I’ve been meaning to see Aglaea and ask her, but I’ve been so busy.”
“How? Many? Times?” Persephone yelled as she shook her bewildered son, who was evidently getting this news for the first time. “How many times have your dad and I talked to you about contraception spells? They are not hard. Any adolescent moron can pull them off. Obviously it’s too much to ask for you to keep it in your chiton, but if you have to go around boning every fertility goddess who looks your way, how hard is it to remember the damn contraception spell? Hint: it’s not. I don’t know if you’ve noticed your lack of siblings, but your dad and I have managed to go our entire marriage with a 100% success rate.”
“Don’t be so hard on him,” said Apollo. “Sometimes when you’re young and the girl is unbelievable, a contraception spell is the last thing on your mind.”
“Yeah, and the baby grew up to have me, the end,” Aglaea called. “That’s all we need to know.”
“Are you okay?” Calliope whispered to me.
“I’m fine. Why?” I whispered back.
“All those uses of the word ‘hard’ in a conversation about contraception spells, and I haven’t had to tell you to stop giggling once,” Calliope replied.
Aglaea came out from behind the curtain. “Athena’s going to be fine,” she said. “I’m not too worried. She’ll need someone to stay with her overnight.”
“I will,” said Artemis. “Do you need help teleporting her to her quarters?”
“You can help me hold her,” said Aglaea.
“I’ll come with you,” said Psyche.
The four of them left.
“I might as well start supervising take-down,” said Hephaestus. “Eros, can you watch your sister?”
“Sure,” Eros happily agreed. The three of them left, too.
“Why don’t the rest of us meet up at Helicon?” Calliope suggested. “We can discuss plans there.”
“There’s nothing to discuss,” said Persephone. “Adonis and I are going home tonight.”
“Then let’s go to Helicon so we can give you a proper goodbye,” Calliope persisted.
“No one is saying goodbye because no one is leaving,” said Demeter.
“Well, I’m going to Helicon,” Calliope stated, “and I know you three are eventually, and anyone else here who wants to join us can.”
Calliope disappeared. Persephone grabbed Adonis and followed. Demeter and Aphrodite went after them. That left me, Erato, Melpomene, and Apollo.
“You two can go home if you want,” said Apollo, “but, Thalia, I’d really like it if you came with me.”
Oh, come on, really?
“No,” I groaned, leaving the rest of my request unspoken, as had he. “I know what you’re thinking. Don’t ask me. Please.”
“Just for some moral support,” he begged. Oh, I understood exactly what kind of support he wanted, and I couldn’t believe he was asking me for it. “Thalia, please. You’re the only one who can…be you.”
“Damn right,” I said.
“What’s going on?” asked Erato.
“Whatever it is, I’m thinking I don’t want any part in it,” said Mel.
“You and me both,” Erato agreed. Together, they went home to Parnassus.
“Are you out of your mind?” I asked Apollo once we were alone.
“If there’s any chance at all that my vision can be changed, it’s with you,” said Apollo.
“But we don’t know that,” I said, “and I would really like to avoid challenging the Fates.” Twice in one week.
“Listen,” said Apollo, “I’ve never told anyone this because I wanted to protect you, but you need to know. I have seen a vision change, one time and one time only. It was a few years ago. I saw a vision of Epione and my grandchildren at Asclepius’ funeral pyre. I couldn’t tell when it was going to happen. I kept the vision to myself because I didn’t anyone to end up bringing it to pass in an effort to prevent it. That’s happened often enough.
“Later that year, at Cronia, I mentioned off-hand how much I wished I could’ve been with my son and his family instead of spending the whole day on Olympus. You replied, ‘There’s always next year,’ and spun this random but realistic story about what their Cronia celebration would be like the following year.
“Asclepius was executed and resurrected before the next Cronia. The scene in my vision never happened. His body was never burned, and I don’t know if Epione or any of their children even know he was dead. I didn’t think anything of your story until the day you brought Echo to me and asked me to save her. I’m still not a hundred percent sure you’re responsible, but that’s the only time in my entire life that my prophecy didn’t come true.”
“I’m not sure at all that I was in any way responsible,” I said. “I’ll come, I’ll listen, I’ll say whatever you want me to say, but I can’t make any promises, and I do not want you to get your hopes up.”
“Good enough,” said Apollo.
“Not good enough,” I said. “I want your word that you won’t blame me if Adonis dies.”
“You have it. Let’s go.”
So there we all were at Helicon, in our old dining hall. Calliope had taken charge of the meeting and sent everyone to their corners. “I just don’t think acting in haste is going to help anything,” she was saying. “We all need to cool off before we make any decisions.”
“What decisions do you have to make here, Calliope?” Demeter argued.
“Whether to continue hosting the three of you as guests in my house,” she warned.
“This seems pretty simple to me,” said Persephone. “We leave now, my son doesn’t die.”
“You don’t think the Fates could conjure some means of keeping you here?” said Demeter.
“What, like my insane mother turning the weather cycle over to Eris?” said Persephone.
“I can’t help it. When I’m in distress, the cycle becomes irregular. That’s just nature,” Demeter defended.
“So the weather’s a little crazy,” said Aphrodite, “Just go, and come back next spring. It’ll be too late for the prophecy by then.”
“I don’t want to leave,” said Adonis. “If I go back to Hades, Mom and Dad might never let me come back here.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Persephone. “I’ll be coming back to Olympus next spring. You can come with me then.”
“In other words, I’ll never have a life apart from my parents?” said Adonis.
‘Why do you want to get away from us so badly?” asked Persephone. “All we’ve ever done is take care of you.”
“Why did you want to get away from your mom?” he asked.
“Because she lived on Olympus and the man I loved lived in Hades,” said Persephone. “I found a way to keep both of them in my life.”
“I’m sorry I’m not frigid enough to go six months a year without love,” said Adonis.
“I have never struck you in your life, but you’re pushing me in that direction right now,” Persephone warned.
“Wait, you don’t expect him to come and go with you every year, do you?” Aphrodite cried.
“Seems like a good plan to me,” said Persephone.
“But he’s right,” said Aphrodite. “We can’t do that. Maybe you and Hades can go half the year without each other, but Adonis and I are creatures of passion. I could never live with that arrangement.”
“Give me a break,” said Persephone. “You’ve never spent six months with the same lover.”
“And anyway, you broke up with him,” said Apollo. “Right?”
“Yes, but I changed my mind. I want him back now.”
“He said he can’t go six months without love,” said Apollo, “not six months without you.”
“Bitch, I’m pregnant!” Aphrodite snapped. “Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
“Since when does it mean anything to you?” said Apollo. “Out of all your babies, you’ve only kept Eros, and that was just because your husband made you even though he knew he probably wasn’t the father.”
“Well, maybe I want this one,” Aphrodite protested. “With Eros, I found out having a baby isn’t so bad if the father mostly raises it.”
“I guess I’d be good with a kid,” Adonis pondered.
“You are a kid,” Persephone yelled.
“You don’t have to get back with Aphrodite to help raise your baby,” said Apollo. “I’d be there for you. I’ve had actual experience as an involved parent,” he said with a slight sneer at Aphrodite.
“Well, he’ll have all winter to think about it,” said Persephone.
“Stop!” Adonis shouted. “Just, stop. Everyone. Please.” All parts of him came together at that moment, crashed into each other, and shattered into a thousand pieces that scattered and mingled. The child, the young man, the alpha male, the flirty femme, all were crushed and broken. “This is my life. Or maybe my death. I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore. I’m so over just being someone’s son, and I’m so not ready to be anyone’s father. I love Apollo, and I love Aphrodite, and I can’t say I’ll love either one of them or anyone else forever. I don’t want to die, but I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I just know I want to live my life, not the life someone else, anyone else, has in mind for me.”
“May I make a suggestion?” Calliope offered.
“Go ahead,” said Adonis. “You’re the only one who hasn’t.”
“Go home with your mom and wait out the summer,” she said. “You don’t have to live with your parents. Hades is a big place. Maybe you could get set up at one of the lakes or on one of the river banks or something. But if you want to try to escape the prophecy, staying in Hades is your best bet. Spend as much time as you can by yourself. Figure out who you are when you’re not trying to please a parent or impress a lover. Come back next spring when your baby is born. Hopefully by then you’ll be able to make a solid decision on whether you want to be involved with Aphrodite or anyone else or no one else. But whatever you decide on that matter, you are going to have a child, and you should do whatever you can to help your child grow up.
“And so should you,” she said to Persephone. “You haven’t helped Adonis grow up. You’ve helped him stay a child. Protect him, support him, of course, but you need to let him grow up and live his own life. When he gets overwhelmed and wants to come back and be mama’s baby again, you need to make him grow up and live his own life.”
“Excuse me? Who do you think you are?” said Persephone.
“I think I’m the person who’s been giving you lodging off Olympus,” said Calliope. “I’ve decided that’s over. I have my own family to protect, and if Adonis can’t go one summer without ticking off the wrong gods, I don’t want us involved. Whatever you decide, all three of you are moving out of the Museum tomorrow.”
“Calliope, you can’t send them back to Olympus if he stays,” said Apollo.
“I can and I am,” said Calliope.
Had he been particularly stupid, Apollo could’ve pulled rank as Governor of the Muses. To his credit, he did the sensible thing and kept his trap shut. Calliope can be pretty hard to resist when she’s in Ultimate Big Sister mode.
“Now,” said Calliope, “I’m going home. I’ll come back tomorrow evening and help you close up shop. Between now and then, I’ll leave you alone to make your decisions about where you’re going from here.”
“I guess you all have a lot to talk about,” Apollo said with some reluctance. “I’ll be back tomorrow with Calliope; sooner if you want. Thalia, anything you want to say before we go?”
“Good luck,” I said to Adonis. “And if I don’t see you tomorrow, which I probably won’t, I’ll see you next spring.” Yes, it was a tepid, half-hearted wish. It was all I could muster. I no longer wanted him dead, especially since he was probably leaving anyway, but I couldn’t honestly say that I wished him any happiness. I’m only superhuman. “Oh, and when you get home, tell my kids I said hi. Our kids,” I put an arm around Apollo. “The seven kids that Apollo and I had together after we totally had sex.”
“I will,” said Adonis. “You two should visit them more often. And…maybe you could visit me during the winter? All of you? Any of you?”
“We’ll see,” I said.
“Of course,” said Apollo.
“I can’t,” said Aphrodite.
“If you lose the baby there, I can take care of it, I guess,” said Adonis.
“It would go to the Realm of the Dead and grow up there,” said Aphrodite. “But that’s not the point. I’m permabanned from Hades. I don’t know why. I didn’t even find out until a couple years ago.”
“What happened?” I asked, truly curious.
“There was this one priestess that I especially liked. I lent her one of my compacts for a big event she was working. Then the stupid creature died, and my compact was buried with her. I wanted it back. I’d never had any reason to teleport into Hades before, but I’d always assumed I could as one of the Twelve. It turned out I was wrong. I couldn’t get in.
“I used Hermes to ask Hades about it, and Hades said I was banned. He didn’t know why. Hades hadn’t banned me, and he couldn’t find out who did. He said the spell would be pretty hard to undo, so he wasn’t going to put himself through the trouble just for me to get some makeup back. Sure, I didn’t need one more compact, but it was the principle of the thing. So I sent Psyche down there after it.”
“Psyche?” I repeated. “Squishy little butterfly Psyche?”
“Yeah. It was while she and Eros were engaged. She was bending over backwards trying to get into my good graces. I figured this would be a nice little daughter-in-law initiation for her. Charon formally invited her, Hermes took her, she got Persephone to retrieve the compact for her, and she brought it back to me. She’s turned out to be a pretty decent daughter-in-law after all.”
“How did I not know this happened?” I said in bemusement.
“Why would she tell you?” Aphrodite shrugged. “You two aren’t that close. Anyway,” she said to Adonis, “the point is, unless one of your parents lifts the ban, I will never be able to visit you in Hades.”
“Mom, can you?” he asked.
“I could if I wanted to, but I think some time apart is going to be good for you,” said Persephone. “You’ll be fine on your own for awhile.”
“You can’t lift a ban, can you?” he frowned.
“I probably could,” she defended. “I am the Iron Queen of Hades, and don’t you forget it.”
“But you’re second generation,” he reasoned. “Is this one of those things that Dad can do and you can’t because he’s a child of the Titans?”
“Okay, fine, I don’t know,” said Persephone. “I’ve never tried. Never had the motivation. It takes some pretty strong magic to ban a god from anywhere, especially from Hades. Everyone tends to end up there sooner or later. It’s like gravity. And I’m sorry, but I’m not going to try.”
“So this is our last night together?” Adonis said to Aphrodite.
“Yeah,” she said. “If you are going tomorrow.”
“I think I probably am.”
“I’ll make this simple,” said Persephone. “You’re spending the night here,” she said to Adonis, “and you,” she said to Aphrodite, “are not. You can say your last goodbyes tomorrow.”
“Come on,” Apollo said to me. “Let’s go home.”
So we did.
When we got home, Apollo and I said an uncomfortable goodnight and went our separate ways. Thankfully, none of my sisters waylaid me for a report, so I went straight to my room to get ready for bed. I took my time. The truth is, I was dreading sleep. I was starting to expect nighttime visits from the Fates after days like this one.
I laid awake in bed, trying to think of anything but what had just happened, and thus thinking of nothing but what had just happened. I wondered if there were any possibility at all that Adonis could avoid the fate in my dream and Apollo’s vision. I wondered why the Fates had put me through the turmoil of the last test. So Artemis hadn’t killed Adonis and probably wouldn’t. What now? Was his death still inevitable? What if he did make it safely back to Hades tomorrow? If he avoided this death, would the Fates weave yet another one for him? And would I, again, be called upon to avert it with my blessing? Was that going to be my job from now on? Forget theater. Forget comedy. Forget art. Why do any of that when I could be employed full time keeping an utterly useless demigod alive?
The more I thought about it, the more strongly I felt that Adonis really was as useless a creature as anyone could imagine. Did anyone even know what kind of deity he was? I couldn’t think of any special power he’d ever exhibited. A beauty god? That couldn’t be it. I was pretty sure he couldn’t change his or anyone else’s cosmetic appearance. A love god? That would explain his bizarre connection with Aphrodite. But both Aphrodite and Eros had always had a perverse need to meddle in other people’s love lives, not just enhance their own. If collecting a harem made one a love god, Ares might as well claim the title. Same with the possibility that Adonis was a sex god. Aphrodite has a conniption if any of us go too long without getting some. I’d never known Adonis to care about anyone else’s sex life unless it pertained to his.
I thought about Athena’s theory, that Adonis had some kind of ability to provoke obsession. I could kind of see that. Apollo, Aphrodite, Persephone, Demeter, even Ares, were all unnaturally obsessed with him in their own way. But what kind of power was that? What was its end? He wasn’t using it for his own agenda in every case. In some cases, he didn’t even want it. And why would it work on some people, but not on others? Artemis and Athena’s hypothetical immunity was logical since they were immune to Aphrodite’s power, too. But apparently I was also immune to Adonis’ hypothetical power, because I wasn’t the least bit obsessed with him. That didn’t add up.
After a few hours of such contemplation, sleep conquered my resistance. Resistance which turned out to be unwarranted anyway, since the Fates never came. I don’t think I ever got into a deep enough sleep to have a dream. After more hours of this light, virtually useless sleep, an obvious realization startled me wide awake.
Adonis was an idiot.
Aphrodite was an idiot.
Apollo was an idiot.
I got my helmet.
ATTENDING PHYSICIAN: Aglaea
This is my second confirmed case of a full-blood god struck by a lightning bolt. Patient exhibited signs of full paralysis while being moved to the clinic. Removing an object from her hand proved difficult, as her fingers appeared rigid. However, observation of the muscles and tendons in her hand and arm indicated that the patient did, in fact, have a range of movement and was mimicking rigidity. Further examination showed an absence of the paralyses of the internal organs observed in my first such patient. Heart rate and pulse were elevated. This, however, could easily have been a symptom of emotional stress and/or excitation, and not the effect of the lightning bolt.
I observed the patient for several minutes, monitoring vital signs. They returned to normal as the patient relaxed. A blood analysis showed no injury to the muscles, nervous system, or internal organs. I performed several reflex tests. Patient exhibited no reflex responses, but elevated pulse and twitching temples indicate she may have been suppressing her reflexes.
Further testing consistently showed no damage to the patient. There was no indication that she had suffered anything more than emotional stress and mild exertion.
Upon concluding my examination, I determined that the patient was unhurt had recovered well enough to be discharged. Patient was exhibiting some slight movement and making attempts at speech. I discharged her in the care of her partner,
Artemis, leaving Artemiswith the instructions to observe the patient through the night and summon me in the event of any medical problem. Patient has an appointment for an evaluation tomorrow morning.