WHO: Tragos, Melpomene, Apollo, Alan WHEN: Tuesday late afternoon WHERE: Melpomene's WHAT: Tragos needs help WARNINGS: Characters deciding to do their own damn thing
Barak’s car was a monster, one that roared through the streets of the Hole, parting puddles like the red sea. Tragos or Cy’s car now, really. First come, first served, and since Cy wasn’t home when Tragos walked Kaden back from the bus, the car was his.
Clouds choked the city from above, hanging low and full of terrible promise. Tragos raised his eyes at them as he drove down the expressway - they weren’t the only ones with a promise to keep tonight.
He had promised Kaden a future that didn’t involve another family or a group home and come hell or Hole water he was gonna keep it. He could see no way to do it, though. The deep, deep sense of impending loss was choking him, thicker than the clouds. At least some of the neon lights of the city struggled to shine through up there.
Hecate had promised to stay with Marcie, to guide her passage from life into death so the young woman with the strong heart and stronger curse wasn’t left to face it alone. She sat stalwart at Marcie’s side as her time, minute by minute, ran out.
And Apollo stepped out of his fraternity after a thorough investigation of the last month of his boys lives, and found no sign of Ares’ involvement. He had a promise to keep to Athena, one he would uphold with the most begrudging of attitudes, but then, Aphrodite had a promise to keep to him.
The only promise Melpomene had made today was the promise to feed Alan delivery from her favourite Mediterranean restaurant. She’d made the plans with him late this morning, before a three hour work meeting (during which time she’d had to get up and pee twice) and now she was sitting in the back of the Uber, thinking Alan and olives and what she was going to do to both of them tonight. She was a little hungry, a little hornier than hungry, but generally pretty mellow, and was even considering a quick nap before Alan arrived so she had a little bit more energy to pour into him tonight.
Ares post changed all of that.
She read it as the car cleared the last traffic lights before her apartment, and read it over and over again with growing feeling: relief, alarm, insult, anger, injustice. The only thing that stopped her replying to Ares was the unwillingness to prove that Ares knew something about her Apollo that she didn’t.
Her breath came thick and fast as she called him through messenger, knowing from weeks of experience his answer machine was full which meant the phone itself was gone. But Apollo, without some communication device? Apollo without the means to take selfies? Of course he’d got himself another phone.
“I find out you’ve returned from Hades via ARES?” she yelled at him as soon as he picked up, making the Uber drive jump in his seat. “How DARE you, Musagetes!”
“Ah, Melpomene, a pleasure to hear from you,” Apollo said, feeling a twist of bitterness that she was the second goddess he’d spoken to and neither had welcomed him back. “You seen Ares? I don't want you near him.”
“FUCK Ares,” she snapped at him, and heard him say ‘ew’ before she carried on. “Come and see me, RIGHT NOW!”
“Ah, about that,” Apollo looked at the time on his dash, as his meeting with Athena (Marcie, Aphrodite) grew closer. “I-”
“NOW,” Melpomene insisted, slamming the door of the Uber behind her and cutting across the pavement to the door. “I NEED to see you, Apollo, please,” her voice did not sound any less emotional, but at least the emotion no longer seemed like anger directed at him. “Please come and talk to me,” she softened toward him a little more, and fuck it, he couldn’t resist any of his Muses when she asked like that. He could swing by on his way to the hospital, he could use someone else on his side right now.
From the fraternity to her apartment in Soho wasn’t even half a mile. “I’ll be there in a minute,” he promised, and the sound she made, of relief, of grief lifted, was enough to convince him he’d chosen correctly.
Melpomene almost let herself burst into tears in the elevator, but held it all in though her heart felt it was cracking. Apollo, returned at last. Yes she could be angry, furious even, that Ares knew before she did, but not enough to override the need to see Apollo for herself, to cup his face in her hands and hear his story, to feel his arms around her and see his face when he saw how much her body had changed in that month. She held her tears in, the more satisfying to let them out when he held her, and was glad that she did, when the elevator opened on her floor.
Because they opened to reveal Tragos, sitting in front of her door, and the look of bare need on his face when he looked up at her was enough to stagger her.
He stood as she came closer, and spoke her name in a low and broken voice. He’d screamed, in the car. Gripped the wheel and screamed so deep he felt he was choking, and with that feeling came the memory of the night he’d almost choked to death on sand in the arena. The utter helplessness, the desperate need to do something to save his life, when he’d yielded his fight and silenced everyone in the arena with his choice.
When Tragos looked back at that choice now, he was astounded. The more he learned about Ares, the more he understood what a rare miracle had passed that he’d survived it.
Because she’d been there. She’d provided the knife.
As she said herself: he was the one who’d used it. That was his choice. That was why he lived.
But she was the one who provided it.
He needed that again, now. Not a knife this time, but something. He was losing Marcie and losing Kaden and had nothing to grab onto to that would save either. Marcie was past help, even gods believed she was beyond help, but Kaden...
“What is it, Tragos,” she asked, standing before him and watching the words and the need and the desperation crowd his throat, clogging it so he could not speak. It was in his eyes, though. Eyes of a man on the edge.
“I need your help,” he managed, eventually, his eyes dropping from her face as he said it. “I don’t know what to do...”
“Come inside,” Melpomene offered, reaching to touch him, to cup the back of his head in her hand for a moment before she unlocked the door and let them both in.
She led them to her couch, needing to get off her feet herself, and he looked like he hadn’t slept properly in a month. His face, though, was clean of fresh bruises, his knuckles too. Interesting. He’d been a mess physically when she’d seen him on New Years Eve, but now this was Tragos turned inside out. Unhurt on the outside, but on the inside…
“What have you been through?” she asked, and he squeezed his eyes shut, muscles in his jaw and down his neck going rigid.
It took him a long moment to speak. “They’re going to take my little brother away,” he said, not looking at her, not able to look at anyone as he admitted that. “Because Barak can’t be his guardian. Because Cy won’t be. Because I’m too -” he couldn’t say the word young. He hated his age, so much. Eighteen months, if he’d been born eighteen months earlier… But that might as well be forever.
A lot could happen to a kid in the foster system in eighteen months. He’d heard the stories. Even if Kaden only had to survive it till he was sixteen, that was still November.
“What do you need?” Melpomene asked, and then Tragos lifted his head and looked over Melpomene’s shoulder, and before her eyes he was a different man.
Melpomene, too, turned her head over her shoulder, and she, too, became a different woman. “Apollo,” she breathed, her face softening, brightening -
And then Tragos launched himself from the couch at the god.
He hit hard, as Ares had taught him, didn’t give Apollo a moment to prepare, and if Apollo had been a normal man he might have knocked him down. But Apollo parried, blocked, and struck Tragos’ jaw with his elbow before Melpomene had the change to put her feet back on the floor. “Stop it!”
Tragos wasn’t listening. This bastard. This BASTARD! His knife was in his hand before he knew it and then his arm was twisted back and he shouted in the sudden pain and staggered away, his promise to Marcie forgotten, his promise to Kaden - but gods could die, he knew gods could die, you just had to be faster than they were, take them by surprise -
Tragos pulled out his gun and aimed it at Apollo’s head as Apollo ran at him -
Melpomene stood -
Apollo grabbed the gun and twisted it out of Tragos’ grip, his momentum shoving Tragos hard up against Melpomene’s bookcase, the barrel of the gun wedged hard up against Tragos’ neck, burrowing beneath his jawbone. “You’re gonna die here, boy,” Apollo growled, deep. “Right fucking here.”
Melpomene grabbed both of their faces and clawed them apart. She was not strong, but her fingers dug in, and neither had any desire to fight her.
Apollo stepped back with the gun in his hand, and Melpomene put her hand against Tragos’ chest and her eyes on Apollo. For a moment, Tragos covered her hand with his own, chest sharply rising and falling. “What is this about?” Melpomene demanded, turning her eyes back on Tragos.
“He killed Marcie,” Tragos snapped, glaring at Apollo around Melpomene’s hair.
Melpomene stared at him, then Apollo. “Marcie’s dead?”
“Not yet,” Apollo said, flicking the safety back on the gun.
“FUCK YOU!” Tragos surged under Melpomene’s hand, and she held her other hand up toward Apollo to stop him surging back.
She used her voice to hold them apart, a stronger tool than her arms. “SOMEBODY. EXPLAIN.”
“Marcie murdered me,” Apollo pushed the gun into his back pocket. “I returned the favour. Was it you who threw me in that hole, lover boy?”
“You?” Melpomene’s head snapped back around to look at Tragos, trying to see him in this new light. Tragos’ eyes were still purely on Apollo and Melpomene could see only his death if she let this continue.
“Yes, him,” Apollo said, his eyes moving to Melpomene’s. “This explains why Marcie killed me with your knife.”
“My-” Melpomene was taken aback by the anger in his eyes as much as she was by the revelation itself. Marcie? Marcie killed Apollo? She was going to need a minute to process this.
Caught between two men who would quite gladly rip each other to pieces, she didn’t have a minute. Choices had to be made.
“Apollo, get out of here,” she said, looking at him imploringly. We’ll talk later.
Oh we sure as shit will Apollo’s eyes promised, and he cracked his neck and spun the knife that had killed him through his fingers. “I’m taking this,” he said, and smirked at Tragos. “Never know when I might need it.”
Tragos didn’t say anything, but he was breathing like a bull beneath Melpomene’s hand.
“I’m late anyway,” Apollo winked at him. Gonna go visit your woman he thought about telling him, just to put the fear of god (him) into the boy, but settled for a knowing smile instead.
Melpomene watching him leave, half wanting to run after him, because she’d never even got to touch him (attempting to claw his face did not count) but instead she slowly turned back to face Tragos.
Tragos could barely keep up with what was happening. Apollo, here. Apollo, another layer of proof of the deathlessness of the gods. Hecate had been one proof, but... but he’d been up close and personal with Apollo’s body. He’d manhandled it into a suitcase, then a tarp. He’d had his cold blood all over him. It was very, very personal, the burial of Apollo, and yet he’d been as hot blooded as any opponent just a moment ago.
Tragos had to stagger back, and sit down heavily on the couch. Knowing that someone you buried may come back to life, and being pressed up against a bookshelf by when with your own gun jammed into your throat, those were different things. He sat, and for a few long disassociative minutes, sitting was all he could do.
Melpomene took a seat next to him. “So you’re losing everything at once,” she said, drawing Tragos back out of this state, his eyes back to her. He pressed his lips together, and swallowed, and nodded.
“Marcie… Marcie’s going to die,” he tried to make his voice as strong as he would need to be, when that happened. “But Kaden’s not. I need to keep him. I need...”
Melpomene remembered the first night they met as clearly as Tragos did. She reached out and touched Tragos’ arm, over his sleeve, but right on the spot where his KM tattoo was. Everything I do I do for that kid he’d said, and she’d thought there it is. His raison d'etre, his heart.
“Let me meet him,” she said, sliding her hand down Tragos arm to take his hand in hers. “We’ll find a way to let you keep him, just let me meet him.”
Tragos closed his eyes, because hope was too vulnerable an emotion to allow anyone to see on him right now, and leaned his head forward as he gathered both her hands in his, his head bowed forward, in gratitude, in relief, in something like prayer.