Love is a Battlefield
Instead of the God of Love, though, a hard female voice spoke up. “Eros didn’t come. We thought it would be too obvious.” I turned, startled at the sound. A woman stood there, tall, muscular, with a pair of glasses perched daintily on her nose and her lush brown hair pulled up into a bun. She wore a simple pant suit, and looked like every nerd’s “Hot Librarian” fantasy come to life.
“Well well,” Stephanie said. “I’m surprised to see you here. I thought you would have stayed neutral with Zeus.”
“Father doesn’t know I’m here,” the librarian said. “Or at least, he’s turning a blind eye to it. But somebody has to stop your husband, Persy, before there’s no one left on Earth to remember us at all.”
“Adam,” Stephanie said, “this is my sister, Athena.”
I extended a hand to her, which she took the way you’d take a dog’s paw. “Charmed,” she said, although her voice clearly indicated she was not.
“Athena,” I said, rolling the name over in my head. “Help me out here. I know you’re a goddess.”
“The goddess of wisdom,” she said. “No small wonder you and I aren’t acquainted.”
“Theenie!” Stephanie scolded. “Sorry, Adam. Clearly with great wisdom one doesn’t necessarily get great manners.”
“I really didn’t anticipate having this discussion with your pet present,” Athena snapped.
“Anything you can say to me, you can say in front of Adam. What happened to you, Theenie? You never used to be so… oh, what’s the word? Obnoxious.”
“Come, Persephone. You’ve seen what they’ve done to this world since we went away. I swear, sometimes I think the entire human species used up its allotment of intelligence when it birthed Odysseus.”
Athena took a seat across the picnic table from us. As we turned to face her, Stephanie’s hand dropped beneath the table and rested on my leg. The protective gesture didn’t bother me. Even in the summer sun, her hand felt warm.
Athena picked up my sketchbook and examined my drawing of the Sad Girl. She tried the outline of the sketch with her finger and nodded. “Still, I suppose this one has some talent. There’s something to be said for that, in its own way.”
“Gee. Stop. You’re making me blush.”
“Who else is with you?” Stephanie asked.
“Apollo, of course. And Artemis. Phoebus, Aphrodite…”
“And my mother?”
Athena grew tight-lipped. “Demeter is remaining neutral. She and Hera have stayed with father throughout all of this. Heracles is on our side, though.”
“Heracles?” I said. “Wait, do you mean Hercules?”
“Original Greek name, sweetie,” Steph said, patting my thigh. “Well, you know Hephaestus and Ares have both sided with my husband. So has Morpheus.”
“He says he wants the world to end. He can finally sleep in peace.”
“Damnation.” Athena pounded her fist on the table. “And Hermes? We haven’t seen him on Olympus for months. We assumed he went over to the other side.”
“I haven’t seen Hermes either. I don’t know where he is, but when I left the Underworld, he wasn’t at my husband’s side.”
Have you ever been with two people who start talking about a bunch of mutual friends and relatives that you’ve never met? Makes you uncomfortable, doesn’t it? Well, imagine how much worse it would be when those friends and relatives are legendary gods and the conversation involves the potential end of the world. Yeah, sucked to be me.
“Sounds like you’ve got them outnumbered,” I said, trying to be helpful. Athena simply snorted.
“Hades has Hephaestus and Ares on his side,” Stephanie said, trying to sound understanding. “With father refusing to fight and Poseidon dead, numbers alone won’t be powerful enough to conquer them.”
“Which is why we want your power,” Athena said. “You’re not as strong as Ares, but you can match Hephaestus. And more importantly…”
“More importantly, my husband wouldn’t expect me to take sides with you.”
I glanced at her. “He wouldn’t? I got the impression the two of you didn’t have the best relationship.”
“We don’t. But among the many delusions he’s suffered under over the past millennia is the idea that I love him more than ever.” She shook her head. “For the lord of the Underworld, Hades suffers from a remarkable lack of self-awareness.”
“You could turn the tide, Persy,” Athena said. “You could strike him at his heart. We need you. I thought we should just take your pet and refuse to return him until you capitulated…”
“Still sitting right here,” I said.
“…but Eros thought that you would respond more favorably to this approach.”
“Oh, Theenie,” Stephanie said. “How does it feel for someone else to be the wise one for a change?” She looked at me then, took her hand from my leg, and gently brushed it against my cheek. “Adam? What do you think I should do?”
“You’re asking him?” Athena shouted. “You’re asking that sack of human to make a decision that could decide the fate of the world?”
“It’s his world now, Theenie. It stopped being ours a very long time ago. Well, Adam? What should I do?”
My mouth wobbled. On one level, I couldn’t even begin to comprehend what she was asking me. This was an awful lot to take in. It was hard enough to even believe I was sitting at a table with a pair of Greek goddesses (let alone that I’d lent a t-shirt to a god the night before). Now, one of them was asking me to decide if she would take sides against her husband in some sort of cosmic civil war. It took me 15 minutes to decide what to ask for on my sandwich at Subway.
“Let me see if I really understand,” I said. “Your husband murdered your uncle… his brother… and now your sister is asking you to side with her and your… cousins? In a war where your father and mother don’t want any part of it?”
“Yes. Oh, and if my husband wins, he may cause the destruction of the world.”
“Right, that’s what I thought.” I sighed, then took her hand. “The world is at stake, baby. I think… I think you have to do it.”
Neither of the goddesses said anything.
“But I gotta warn you… the next family reunion is going to be a bitch.”
They were quiet again. Quiet, that is, until Stephanie started laughing.
“Oh, Zeus, that’s why I love you, Adam. You always know what to say.”
“You love him?” Athena said, not trying to hide her disgust.
“I realized it the night after that movie. Thank you, Adam. You’ve made this easier.” She turned to Athena. “Give me the rest of the summer. Let me have this time with him. Let us be happy. Then this fall, when I go back to Hades, we’ll begin our work.”
Athena thought quietly, and nodded. “Very well. I’ll report your decision to the others.” She stood us and turned, as if she was about to walk away, then she turned and looked back. “What if we had just… taken him?”
Stephanie smiled at me, then looked back at her sister. “Oh, sweet Theenie. If you had hurt Adam, Phoebus himself couldn’t have found all the pieces of you.”
Summer Love by Blake M. Petit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.evertimerealms.com.