“Put me down,” Rose looked into the frighteningly icy eyes of her aid, “please?” she tacked on, her heart pounding.
Hermes sighed, just ever so slightly, exasperated. What the hell was going on? He let her down, allowing her to sit on one of the benches down the hallway leading to Apollo’s operating theater.
“I’d ask if you’re alright, but I think you already made it perfectly clear back there that you didn’t want my worry,” Hermes snipped, searching the end of the hallway with vacant eyes.
“Hermes? That is your name?” Rose pushed her hair away from her face, a nervous habit.
“I also answer to Mercury, which ever you prefer,” Hermes answered remotely. This was the first real conversation he had partaken of with a mortal in years.
“Mercury, Roman god Mercury?” Rose asked. Hermes glared at her, defensive. “Zeus, and Hermes, let me guess, the other guy in there was Poseidon?” Hermes had to snort at that. If Apollo could only hear that, the sun wouldn’t come up for the next month.
“So he has a sense of humor, well isn’t that great?” Rose directed her comment to the vast expanse of empty corridor.
“No, he’s my half-brother Apollo,” Hermes supplied.
“You can sit down, you know?” Rose offered, feeling uncomfortable with his stoic posture. Hermes hadn’t realized he had been standing. With the off handed comment he found himself suddenly sitting next to her. It was startling, but it didn’t take him long to connect that whatever Zeus had made her say was now overriding some of his voluntary reflexes.
“Where am I?” Rose pressed after Hermes had sat down. She wasn’t going to touch the Roman god part of the equation yet. Apparently their parents had quite a sense of making their children suffer their childhood. Hermes analyzed her, calculating. He wasn’t sure how much he was at privilege to tell her. The last time an injured mortal had come to the Great Houses realm, she had returned to earth as a nightingale. He was thankful to realize that if she asked a question, he wasn’t forced to answer. That was at least one blessing in this conundrum.
“I am not sure that I am at liberty to divulge that information to you at this time,” he answered honestly. Rose cocked an eyebrow at him.
“Alright, well, can you tell me what it is that I’m doing here then?” she pressed.
“You’re sudden injury required immediate attention, so I used the fastest method I knew,” he responded.
“You could have taken me to a hospital. I get the distinct feeling this is not one. What made this the ‘fastest method’?” she asked.
“Me,” Apollo appeared from a door in the hall. Rose gasped, recoiling from the sudden materialization of the half-brother.
“You?” Rose asked, inching imperceptibly closer to Hermes.
Apollo watched his oblivious brother, noting the dead-pan look of boredom he typically exhibited around pretty much anyone he didn’t know. He sighed, “you doing okay, Herm?”
“No,” Hermes forewent elaboration.
“Do you mind if I sit down?” Apollo motioned to a bench across from them. Rose waived the question away, gesturing to the cushions. Apollo eased himself onto the stiff vermilion pad. “Zeus did not approach this whole thing well, and he wanted to extend a formal apology to you,” Apollo told Hermes. “He didn’t mean to push you as far as he did.”
Hermes shifted, knowing that he must answer the apology. “What am I?” he asked. “What am I to her? What can I tell her about…” he was unsure if he should include himself, his brother, the house, the Great Houses, the Realm, “this?” he waved to the general breadth of the topic.
“I had this happen to me once before. Zeus mentioned it to you probably,” Apollo tensed, still not really ready to confide his existence of time with the mortal he had been forced to accompany.
“Am I really a concubinus, a sex slave to…this…this woman?” indigent, Hermes stared down Rose like she was a wilting bouquet that needed to be tossed in the compost.
“Woo boy, wait! Sex…slave…wtf, man?” Rose shrieked.
“No, no you are not. That was a cruel joke on Zeus’s part, and I don’t fault you for getting angry with him. Now threatening him with the cadaseus…that was a little much…”muttered Apollo, trying to placate both the woman and his half-brother.
“I think he deserved it,” Hermes replied.
“Not that he doesn’t need his ass handed to him on a silver platter every so often. Herra would appreciate it happening on a more frequent basis, but Hermes, come on man, when you get mad you aren’t very fast to do anything. Next time around use some throwing stars or something, add a bit more pop to your fizzle,” goaded Apollo.
All that Hermes could think to do in that moment was execute a fluidly perfect facepalm. “Apollo…?” he moaned.
“You’re not helping.”
“I have a question,” Rose motioned for some attention. Apollo swung his attention to the woman, “Yes?”
“What is going on here?” she asked, just as confused as Hermes.
Apollo paused, blinking. What was he supposed to tell her? Hell with it, start simple. “You were injured, so I brought you here to operate,” he didn’t lie to her.
“You operated?” Rose wasn’t without merit for doubting the playboy looking individual.
“My son and his daughters were of great help too,” he mentioned.
“Son…daughters? Like, granddaughters?” Rose asked. Hermes narrowed his gaze on her. She was fast. This was going to get tricky. “How old are you?” she asked.
“Age is rather an indifferent definition. I put you out on any other rock than the one you live in within you orbit and you’ll be a whole lot younger or older than you are now,” he evaded. She blinked, suddenly more perplexed than she had hoped to be with such a simple question.
“We don’t really have an understanding of our age within this Realm,” Hermes supplied, figuring the worst he could do would be turned into a worm for a thousand years at this point.
“What are you guys on about, Realm? You’re what, 27, seriously, you can’t have granddaughters unless you had a kid at like 13 and they had a kid at 13, and at that point, I don’t feel entirely sure that would be of great use in an operating room,” she stated.
“So, teenage parents can’t become doctors?” Apollo seethed, indignant.
“I didn’t realize that happened, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to insult you,” Rose breathed, suddenly horrified that she had stepped on what she would consider to be such a personal topic. Apollo groaned. Hermes rolled his eyes.
“What can we show her, Apollo? Are we allowed?” Hermes asked.
“Well, let’s try this,” Apollo extracted a shallow bowl from the vortex. He filled it with a smoking black liquid from a vial he pulled from a pocket of his jacket. He approached Rose. She inched back, suddenly nervous. “What is that?” she pointed, terror edging her voice.
“Nothing you need fear,” Apollo soothed. “Touch the edge of the bowl, it needs just a little bit of contact,” he told her. Yeah, right, like she was about to go anywhere near that stuff. Apollo waited, watching conflict race across her face. Humans were cursed with curiosity, it was one of their most inopportune characteristics that typically lead to their early demise. At the moment, she was fighting her curiosity for the less utilized function of human intuition – caution. Hermes reached over and snatched the bowl, raised it to his lips and drank a deep gulp of the liquid, wincing at the horrid taste. He handed the bowl back, grimacing at the burning aftertaste reminiscent of seared hellhound fur. For all he knew, seared hellhound was probably one of the ingredients.
“You really need to look into something better tasting, I prefer cherry myself,” Hermes wiped at his mouth. “There, see, it’s not poisonous. Touch the thing,” Hermes turned to Rose. He had in the past accidently drank the stuff, learning the hard way that it was rather vile, but wouldn’t have too many ill effects, outside of a nasty short lived headache after sleeping. Rose chewed on her lip for a few seconds before reaching out and touching the bowl. Apollo lowered it so that she could see the filmy, smokey black liquid swirl. Slowly images began to flicker up, her childhood, her grandfather. It flashed through all the pivotal points in her teenage life, her falling out with her parents, running away to college. “What is this?” she whispered, knowing full well what the bowl and the liquid within it were called.
“It’s a scrying bowl. I’m showing you your past,” Apollo could see she already knew the answers.
“How are you doing this. Have you guys been stalking me since I was a kid?” She asked, truly afraid now.
“You had no problem with me pulling the bowl out of nowhere, but a scrying of your childhood has you convinced that we are stalkers?” Apollo cornered. She blinked, fully focusing on what Apollo had done.
“Not possible,” she mumbled, her brain feeling like it was cracking.
“May I reintroduce us?” Apollo motioned to his brother, keeping Rose’s eyes focused on him. She was beginning to space out, they could both see her consciousness slipping into disbelief.
“I am Apollo, or Phoebus, oracle of Delphi, patron of the medicinal and musical arts. I am half brother to Hermes through our father Zeus. Hermes, Mercury, is protector of travelers and messenger of the Great Houses. We, by mortals standards are called gods,” Apollo went for a short, but grand introduction. Thankfully he had foregone having his clothing and physical attributes convert over to his historically Greek persona.
“Gods? Really? That’s quite an egotistical claim,” Rose tried to grasp at least at sarcasm, if in a way to escape the levity of the situation.
“You are familiar with Greek and Roman mythology, yes?” Apollo asked. Rose nodded, “Most everyone with a Western education has some understanding of mythology.”
“Well, we aren’t myths,” Hermes answered quietly.
“Gods aren’t possible. I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe in the whole metaphysical thing. I’m an atheist,” she waved them away.
“Hey, we were known by mortals as gods, we never said we were ones,” Hermes shrugged the comment off. Believe whatever you want, that won’t make this situation disappear, Hermes thought.
“Great Houses, Realms, gods…I think I just want to go lay down for a while and delude myself that this isn’t happening,” she replied.
“Delude yourself all you want,” Apollo smiled, rising from his bench and sauntering off down his hallway.
Rose buried her head in her hands, trembling. She could feel tears burning at that back of her eyelids, not really sure what to make of herself. What was she getting into this time? She had thought that just escaping her parents was enough, but this, this was a situation she didn’t know if she was going to easily escape from. These guys were deep into this. She knew the Kool-aid had taken it’s victims too far down the rabbit hole.
“So, what do you want to do now?” Hermes startled her from her revery. Exhaustion was swamping her head as the pain from her leg began to eat away at her last vestiges of sanity. “Take me back to the infirmary, would you?” she asked. “Sure,” Hermes muttered, offering her a hand. She took it, standing up, testing how much weight she wanted to place on her leg, which wasn’t much. She groaned, not liking her options. “Does it hurt?” Hermes asked, mistaking her moan for pain. It did hurt, but how much did she want to depend on this guy?
“Do you like playing He-man?” she haphazardly swept her hair away from her face.
“I do not recognize this individual, so I cannot answer you definitively,” Hermes watched as color was beginning to seep from her cheeks. He could see pain lines thinning her lips, but he could sense her timidness, and stubbornness mucking about with her emotions.
“You might be devilishly handsome, I’ll be the first to admit that, but seriously you are way in the Victorian age,” she grumbled, taking a step forward, hoping that she would remain standing after the weight shifted. Her nerve endings fired off, telling her all was not well. For all that was worthy, how could such a small puncture cause this much chaos? She remembered when she had torn her ligament in her knee playing soccer back in middle school. After surgery, it was the same thing. Such small things could cause certain levels of pain that tv shows just seemed to gloss over with their superhero’s getting the tar knocked out of them and getting back up feeling just dandy. She knew she was off on a tangent, but it was to ignore the fact that as she tumbled, Hermes swiftly hefted her back into the safety of his arms.
She rested her head against his chest, feeling the hard steel of his muscles underneath his soft blazer. She gulped, knowing that he was a different creature entirely from the guy she had encountered at the cafe. Hermes, ever perceptive, knew that she was scared of him. He just didn’t really know what to do about it without possibly sending her into shock. He remained mute all the way to the infirmary, the soles of his shoes clicking in the empty marble corridors.
He eased her onto the infirmary cot, providing her the ability to sit down of her own volition. She looked up into his eyes, her’s having gone soft and pleadingly round. “What is it that you want of me?” she finally asked. “I should be asking you the same question,” Hermes told her.
“I don’t want anything from you,” she answered, confused. Hermes leaned forward, reaching out. Rose inhaled sharply. “You prayed for help, and now I’m here, because of this,” Hermes swung the pendant in front of her eyes. She reached up to cradle it in her hands, afraid of it being handled by such a stranger. “I wouldn’t have called it praying. My grandfather told me if I was ever in trouble, to read the inscription,” she wasn’t sure why she was telling this guy such a secret. She had never told her parents, or even her friends in high school of the inscription.
“Apollo informed me that the inscription is a Gaulish prayer for a god or goddess’s help. This is a du’la, a leaf of a prayer. It is apparently some kind of contract through the Fates. From what I understand of this situation, I am now bound to you, without my volition, sworn to protect you for the rest of your mortal life,” Hermes informed her.
“You’re joking,” she stared at him, baffled.
“I think I should allow you to sleep for a while. It will help you cope with the situation,” he motioned for her to lie down.
“I’m not very tired,” she answered.
“Are you hungry? I can have food sent up,” he asked.
“No, I just…” she looked away, observing the infirmary. It was a rather muted room, lacking in more than two cots and a cabinet filled with various bottles. It was, in comparison to the rest of Apollo’s mansion, underrated.
“Do you want me to leave you alone? I don’t really know what to do now,” he confessed. She didn’t respond to the question, laying back on the cot. She was exhausted, and her leg was throbbing. “Could you get me something for my leg?” she asked.
“Yeah, I can go ask Apollo for his suggestion. Wait here real quick,” he went to open the door.
“Can’t go very far,” she sighed. He glanced back at her, seeing a point of agony wash across her face.
He emerged into the hallway and began his search of the mansion for his half-brother. The farther he wandered from the infirmary the more he felt like a piece of him was being pulled tight like a rubberband, pulling him back to Rose. It was a bizarre and uncomfortable sensation, but he knew returning to Rose without Apollo would not achieve the ends that either of them wanted.
Finally, after what felt like hours, he found Apollo in the kitchen working over a divine looking roast bird. “Hey,” Hermes greeted the blonde. Apollo glanced up, and waved to his brother. “Do you have any painkillers? Rose says her leg’s hurting pretty bad,” he waited as Apollo washed off his hands. Apollo made his way around the grand kitchen, rubbing his jaw. He looked, for all of Herme’s consideration, confused. “Is it okay? Can she not have any?” Hermes grew concerned.
“We may have to call in Hypnos to put her to sleep – but last time he came over, well…yeah. He sort of helped with that potion that Demeter fed you, so I’d rather not deal with him honestly. Here’s the thing, Hermes. I dosed her. I dosed her good. She should still be asleep for another week with what I gave her. She’s awake – she woke up an hour after surgery and is in pain. What does that make you think?” Apollo leaned his hip against the counter near the door. He had flour on his jacket and in his hair. Tendrils had escaped their tie. He looked…disheveled. Hermes gulped. “A demi?” Apollo glanced down and puffed out a breath of air. “I had Orion run over to Athena to see if she had anything on the lineage in her library. He should be back soon, I hope. If she’s got something, we’ll know more about what we can give her that might be effective.” He crossed his arms, uncomfortable. Something just felt off. How had a demi escaped their notice? The Great Houses had grown strict in their efforts to track down and document their seed.