Lifeless Love

A day at the beach goes horribly wrong when an old enemy decides to show his face. When the life of Colbie Morrow hangs in the balance, Jay Parker is at loss with what his next action should be.

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1. Lifeless Love

It was a beautiful January day along the coast of the Pacific Ocean when an old enemy decided to show up.

            My name is Jay, and this old enemy I mentioned earlier is Cronus:  the god of time, King of the Titans.

            Call me crazy, but he’s real.  Classical mythology, in general, is what my life is based on . . . from my roots spanning way back to ancient Greece, to the most recent prophecy I’m a part of.  Growing up with these myths and legends made the impact of them in my life a little easier to deal with.

            I was not expecting to get a repeat of a close call I had with death when I was fifteen.

            See, my friends and little sister were spending our one day off on a peaceful beach studying for our upcoming exams.  My better half – Colbie, a beautiful dark-haired girl with eyes the color of blue topaz – was freaking out about the senior Precalcus provincial.  After working through a couple questions with her, Herry – my longest lasting friend – assured her she’d be fine.

            Colbie heaved a sigh.  “I sure hope you’re right,” she said.

            Archie snickered.  “You’re better than me at it,” he replied.  “An average of eighty-two is pretty good.”

            “Eighty-two’s not bad going in,” Odie agreed, “but it’s the final mark that counts toward university.”

            Colbie buried her face in her hands.  “I’m going to fail!” she moaned.  “I’ll flunk the exam.  I’m going to do terrible on it!”

            “You’ll be fine,” I reassured.  “You only screwed up on two questions.”

            She snorted.  “Who says it’ll be just as easy as the review?” she retorted.

            “Says me,” I replied with just as much attitude.

            Colbie raised an eyebrow as she shoved me.  “You can’t be sure, Jay,” she stated.  “I’ll talk to Theresa about it.”  Colbie turned to her best friend.  “Well, Terry, is he right?”

            Theresa – a girl that stood about five foot four with strawberry blond hair and emerald green eyes – concentrated for a few seconds before replying with, “It’s easier than the review, Colbie.  You’re not entirely right about the exam, Jay, but you’re not wrong about it, either.”

            “Ya see:  We told you it won’t be bad,” Odie added.  The African-American leaned over and patted Colbie on the shoulder.  “Now, are you convinced you’ll do fine on it?”

            Colbie nodded.  “Sold on that fact,” she answered.  Colbie then smiled.  “Now that studying’s done with, let’s do something fun.”

            “Fun is my middle name,” came a deep, menacing voice.

            My group of friends and I jumped into our battle stances the minute we heard it.  Turning to face the source of the voice, I almost groaned inwardly.  We’d been fighting the same damn fight since the start of 2009.

            The man standing in front of us was none other than Cronus.

            Preparing for a fight, we drew our weapons . . . I pulled out my trusty xiphos, my sister her dagger, Colbie her spear and shield, Archie his adamantium whip, Atlanta her wrist crossbow, and Theresa her nunchucks.  Herry cracked his knuckles, eager to do some head-busting with the goons Cronus usually brought with him.  Odie drew his PMR, ready for anything that came at him.  Neil clenched a fist.

            But the usual ambush that accompanied the Titan didn’t come.  Instead of barking out a single order to his waiting army, he summoned a stone approximately eleven inches in diameter.  I knew exactly what he held.

            That blue stone was a chimera egg.

            “Scatter!” I called as he threw the rock.  My sister echoed my command as flames leapt from the two broken halves of the egg.

            I knew J.D was a little late when she repeated the order because, over the roar of the fire and the monster that took its place after it disappeared, I could hear the sound of celestial bronze clashing against imperial gold.  To me, that signalled the fact descendant and ancestor were engaged in one-on-one combat.  I turned my attention back to the chimera.

            The beast was just as big as I remembered it to be.  The thing was still part lion, part goat, and part snake.  The lion’s mane was still bloody; its maw – along with the goat’s – stank with rotten flesh.  The chimera’s eyes were still a glowing red.  Its front feet were paws and its back legs were that of a goat.  Its cobra tail hissed at me, like it couldn’t wait to bite me again.

            I wasn’t going to give it that chance.  I didn’t want to see Atropos again.

            The monster lunged at me.  I took a step back and slashed at the lion’s head.  I didn’t miss my target . . . the chimera growled and moved away.  A fresh wound – open and bloody – was on the thing’s snout.  It snarled – both a vulnerable and an angered sound – and began attacking the people that stood by my side.

            The others that had skills suitable for combat did well fending off the chimera.  Atlanta, Archie, and J.D added to the beast’s wounds.  Theresa gave it more bruises than I could count, and I was pretty sure Herry twisted its front left paw.  Neil sidestepped the tail every time it tried to bite him.  Odie was collecting the egg halves.

            I guess Odie got too close to the injured creature because it lost its interest in Neil and focused on a moving target.  The cobra hissed and made a motion to strike.

            “Odie, catch!” Colbie’s voice yelled, shrill from fear.

            I wasn’t sure how my girl got away from the Titan, but she came running toward us.  She unsheathed the bronze knife she had strapped to her thigh and tossed it as she ran.  She shoved Odie out of the way just before the chimera struck.

            Whatever the mythological beast was thinking, it didn’t change its mind when Colbie took Odie’s place.  The chimera bit her as she tried to jump out of the way.  She screamed as it lifted her into the air by her right calf.  I remembered how it felt when chimera venom started pumping through my blood system . . . it felt like fire running through my veins.  Every breath ached and every movement I made before I passed out was agony.

            Odie caught Colbie’s knife and did what came naturally to most of us . . . he shoved that three-inch-long blade into the chimera’s rump.

            The monster screamed like a harpy the minute the bronze cut through its hide.  It dissolved into yellow powder, and Colbie was dropped.  She swayed a little in her sitting position.  I rushed to tend to the injury she sustained, but she waved me off.  She stood shakily, the blood from the wound pouring down her leg.

            “I’ll be fine,” she assured.  “Just get me my knife.”

            Odie passed the knife back to its owner.  “You don’t have much time before you lose consciousness,” he said.

            “After that, you’ll have to fight like hell against fate,” I added.  “Atropos won’t leave you alone the minute she finds you, and you can’t accept the fact you’re dying.  No matter what happens, keep fighting.”

            “I get it,” she groaned.  Colbie took her dagger back and took a step forward.  She stumbled a tad, but corrected it.  She started running toward Cronus, knife in front of her, ready to attack.

            The enemy grinned as he grabbed her wrist.  I was certain the grip he had on Colbie was enough to loosen her hold on the hilt of knife.  Cronus caught the knife with his other hand and plunged it into Colbie.

            I wasn’t sure if she felt it, but Colbie dropped to her knees, clutching her stomach.  She glared at the god of time – who was holding the bloodied knife – for a few seconds before wincing and doubling over.  His smile grew, and, for the first time in three years, I realized how frightening and cruel he could be.

            Cronus dropped the knife in front of Colbie.  “It was a pleasure battling you, my queen,” he sneered, that sadistic smirk still in place.  He mocked a bow to her from the waist.  He straightened up, snapped his fingers, and set one foot in his portal.  He surveyed the scene before him before saluting at me.  I spat on the ground as a response.  With that, Cronus entered his portal and disappeared.

            Colbie stood once the Titan was gone.  She still hung on to her tummy, but she faced us.  Odie closed the egg the chimera came out of.  It sealed itself with a flash of white light.  When I looked at the sand, the lemon-peel shaded dust was gone.  My concern wasn’t the remains of the chimera; it was Colbie.  I watched her stumble along the shoreline until her eventual collapse.  While everyone else was congratulating Odie on a job well done, I took off in Colbie’s direction.

            I found her lying on her back in shallow water that covered a centimeter on her.  Colbie’s hands were covering the wound she recently sustained.  Blood seeped from between her fingers.  She was still conscious, but she was barely breathing.  Her gorgeous ice blue eyes were unfocused and she was looking around, like someone might stab her again.

            “It’s okay,” I said, “it’s me.”

            Colbie swallowed.  “My leg,” was all she whispered.  She groaned as she tried to sit up.  I pushed her back down gently.

            “Don’t move,” I ordered.  “That wound on your stomach looks pretty bad.”  I set my hands on hers and applied pressure to the wound on her belly.  I looked back toward the beach.  “Guys, woman down!”

            Atlanta was the first one to reach us.  She kneeled beside me, attentively waiting on orders.  Colbie started quivering under my touch.

            “Atlanta, try to get the bleeding stopped,” I commanded.  “Archie, Neil, get a stretcher.  Herry, examine her leg.  She’s going into shock.”

            “What do you want the rest of us to do, Jay?” my little sister asked.

            “J.D, take Theresa with you and get Herry’s truck,” I answered.  “Odie and I will try to get her out of it.  If she loses consciousness . . .” I trailed off.  We all knew what would happen if she did slip into her subconscious.

            My little sister nodded and took Theresa by her bicep.  “C’mon, Terry,” she said, dragging the local psychic into motion.  Theresa complied with my little sister, and both girls were running.

            I repositioned myself at Colbie’s head.  I lifted her head into my lap and took her pulse.  It was on a steady decline.  To keep me from darker thoughts, Herry called me over.

            “You better take a look at the bite,” he said, taking my spot as I took his.  I looked at Colbie’s leg and almost vomited.

            It was worse than what Colbie let on earlier.  The skin around the wound was jagged and a sickly shade of green.  A broken piece of fang jutted out of the open injury.  Swallowing, I pulled it out of her wound.  Colbie gasped, shuddered, and went still.  Mumbling under my breath, I took off my sweater and wrapped it around her leg as a precaution of more bleeding.

            Archie and Neil returned with the stretcher I asked for.  After trading places with Herry, I felt Colbie’s pulse falter and stop for a few seconds.  I saw her eyelids droop:  This was it, the end of Colbie’s short, cruel life.  I was losing her.

            Once her eyelids were shut, her heartbeat spluttered back to life, but it was faint.  I could barely feel the jugular vein under my hand.

            She’ll be okay, I reassured myself.  Colbie won’t give up that easily.  She can’t surrender like that.

            Herry scooped up Colbie’s body and set her on the stretcher.  I shooed Atlanta away from Colbie and resumed applying pressure to the wound Cronus gave as Herry and Neil picked up the stretcher.  I ran alongside them as they took her to Herry’s Chevrolet Avalanche.  Archie had the tailgate open and took over for me as I climbed in and made myself comfortable.  I signalled to them to hang on for a few seconds as Odie walked by.

            “I found this embedded in her leg,” I said, stopping him.  I showed him the fang.  “You’ll take it to Chiron?”

            After an agonizingly long moment, the eldest of the team nodded.  “Sure,” the descendant of Odysseus replied, taking the chimera’s tooth from me.  He walked away soon after, but I could tell he wanted to say more.  I knew that sensation . . . every time Colbie and I argued, when I made her cry, I always wanted to say something to comfort her.  The things I said would haunt me, even after we talked and made up.

            I regretted it, now that Neil and Herry were sliding her into the bed of Herry’s truck.  Now that she was barely alive, I wanted to take back everything I said that tore her down.

            Shaking those thoughts from my head, I focused on the fact I was back to getting the bleeding stopped.  After everyone else was settled in the cab of the vehicle, I let the tears fall as Herry set the truck in motion.

*           *           *

“Chiron, help us,” Theresa said as we rushed into the room.  I was, once again, running alongside Herry and Neil as they carried the stretcher Colbie was on into the study.  The bleeding hadn’t eased up during the trip to Olympus High, and the wound the chimera left started oozing blood.  That, at least, had some sort of dressing.

            The centaur cantered over to the couch where Herry and Neil had laid Colbie’s stretcher.  I knelt beside her and continued to try and stop the blood from the stab wound she suffered.

            “What did this?  What happened?” Chiron questioned, looking into Colbie’s partly peaceful, partly pained face.

            As a response to the inquiry of the trainer of heroes, Archie, Odie, Theresa, and Herry started talking.  Each of their stories were different, each of them sounding more like an argument.  I shook my head.

            “Guys, you’re just going to get into a fight over this,” I pointed out, mentally cursing the fact I wasn’t able to get the blood to stop flowing out of Colbie.  I nodded at Odie, a gesture we discussed as we ran through the halls of the school.  He pulled out the fang I passed to him.

            Archie looked at me, like he couldn’t believe me.  “If you know what happened, Jay, why don’t you explain it to Chiron?” he said, paling when he looked at Colbie.  Like everyone else – excluding Neil – Archie grew fond of Colbie.

            I did what Archie suggested, starting with when Cronus showed up.  I couldn’t describe the battle between Colbie and her ancestor had because the rest of us were distracted by the chimera.  I was, however, able to describe how Colbie came to Odie’s aid by tossing her knife, how she was bitten by the beast, and how Odie put the chimera out of commission with Colbie’s dagger.  I talked about how she grinned – grimaced, really – and shouldered the pain as she tried to attack Cronus.  I spoke of how he disarmed her, stabbed her, and left the scene.  As I started with how much we were able to do with her injuries, I felt the temperature in the room drop twenty degrees and Colbie’s hands felt like ice.

            I stopped talking when I came to the part where she passed out.  We all saw it – I felt it – happen at the beach, and Chiron probably dealt with it when I was fifteen.

            The centaur cussed, taking the fang from Odie.  The room was dead silent when Chiron looked at Atlanta and said, “Get Hera.”

            The Huntress sped off with a velocity that made her look like a blur.  I felt a hand touch my shoulder.

            “You’ve done enough, Jay,” Chiron stated.  “I can take it from here.”

            I looked at him.  “Just get the bleeding stopped,” I replied, letting go of Colbie.  I stood, brushed the curtain of dark hair away, and kissed her forehead.  It was a silent goodbye I’d adopted in the spring of the previous year.  She’d been a good sport about it when I decided to tell her about it.  It killed me to do that – kiss her forehead like that – but I knew the worst was yet to come.  I’d lose the one real thing I’d known since breaking up with Theresa, and Cronus would win.  Colbie’s prophecy would come to pass.

            Atlanta was back in less than five minutes with Hera.  After asking us – me, in particular – what happened, the queen goddess headed in the direction of my co-leader.  Chiron wrapped up whatever he was doing and turned to face us.  He ushered us out of his study.  Once outside his office, I sat down on the top step.  If I wasn’t going to see Colbie again, I wanted to be the first to know.

*           *           *

It didn’t take long for my mentor to get a good look at the injuries Colbie received, but it sure felt like hours.

            The doors opened, and I jumped.  If Hera was through with examining the damage that quickly, the information she had couldn’t be good.

            “Is she going to live?” I asked, standing up.

            My single question was enough to send the others into a paroxysm of queries.  I wasn’t surprised to hear the others ask about whether or not she was awake and if she said anything, but the concern in Neil’s voice caught me off guard.  I was expecting him to snort and say Colbie deserved it.  I looked at the descendant of Narcissus, confused with the change of attitude toward Colbie.  I didn’t say anything out loud to him, but I thought about talking to him about it later, once things were calmed down.

            As if!  How was I supposed to know if Colbie would live or die?  If she was to survive, how in the name of Olympus was I supposed to recover from an emotional blow like this?

            Hera hushed my team with a stopping motion she made with her hands.  The question frenzy came to an abrupt halt.

            “She’ll be fine, Jay,” Hera answered, the smallest trace of a smile appearing.  “Odie, you know the cure, you know where it grows:  Get the others organized.  You don’t have much time.”

            Odie nodded.  “We’d go to the wickedest regions of Hades for Colbie,” he said.  I looked at him.

            “I demand to know what’s going on,” I ordered.

            Hera was the one to speak up.  “The only reason why you’re still here is because of aconite,” she answered.  “Aconite nectar is the only thing known to counter chimera venom.  It grows in the Plains of Asphodel.”  She turned to the others.  “J.D, take the others to Persephone.  You’ll receive further instructions from her.”

            My little sister nodded and walked off in the direction of Persephone’s solarium.  I started to follow the rest of the team when Hera touched my shoulder, the same one that had chimera fangs pierce it all those years ago.  “Jay, you are to remain at the school,” she ordered, turning me around to face her.

            “I’m not going to hold Colbie’s hand as she dies, Hera,” I replied.  “I’d be much more of a use retrieving the aconite than just staying here.”

            “If you’ve been to the Hall of Judgment, Jay, you’d understand why I won’t let you go.”

            “Then why is my sister going?”  I glared at Hera.  “Minos had everything against Theseus, not Jason.”

            “Minos has a grudge toward Jason because Theseus was on the quest for the Golden Fleece.  Besides, after hearing of J.D’s daring rescue of Herry, Minos has taken a liking to her,” Hera reasoned.  I felt my guard fall slightly.

            “So Minos hates me because–”

            “–Because you fell in love with a descendant of the enemy,” Hera concluded for me.  “Looking at you trying to get the bleeding stopped from her wounds, Minos would say she deserved this.”

            “But she’s an innocent person!” I argued.  “Just because she shares Cronus’s blood doesn’t mean she’s capable of being good.”

            Hera sighed.  “I know, Jay,” she agreed.  The goddess of marriage began to walk away when she beamed sadly.  “Get cleaned up, my hero.  The blood on you is starting to worry me.”

            I nodded wordlessly and found my way back to Chiron’s study.  I walked back over to Colbie and unwrapped the chimera bite on her leg.  It still looked pretty gross, and I was still repulsed by it, but I thought more about it.  Colbie saved Odie by giving up her one defence against the chimera.  I was sure she figured she was through with Cronus when she saw the chimera.  She saw Odie was in distress.  Like me, Colbie put herself in Odie’s position and paid the consequences.

            But why did she take on Cronus?  It was too bad she wasn’t awake to tell me.  After she was bitten, Odie and I warned her she didn’t have much time before the venom knocked her out.  I alerted her to the fact Atropos was already working against us and her prophecy.  I wondered how she’d react to the vision Atropos would show of her prophecy.

            I thought back to what I was shown while the Prophecy of the Seven was still active.  Atropos was cruel to show me how merciful Cronus was to the human population.  It never dawned on me then, but it hit me as I looked at Colbie.  What would happen to her if I wasn’t here?  Would Cronus hunt her down?  I stroked her forehead.

            “I’m probably crazy, talking to a girl who’s likely in Elysian Fields by now,” I murmured, kneeling beside her, “but I need you, Colbie.  I didn’t think I kept you alive for this.”

            I stopped and looked around for Chiron.  I haven’t seen him since I re-entered the room.  I wondered where he got to.  Chiron was supposed to be here, supposed to be watching over her in case she woke up.

            She didn’t move so much a finger to acknowledge she heard me.  It shouldn’t surprise me, but it stung to know I was talking to a dead girl.  I thought back to November of 2011.  I was scared I lost her once:  I hated how I couldn’t do anything to help her.  I wanted to say something encouraging, but how do you talk to someone already gone?

            I stayed beside her for a while.  The doors opened, and Chiron, Hera, and Persephone strode in.  Chiron looked solemn as he pulled out a drachma.  Hera and Persephone looked like they finished arguing over the present situation.  Hades’s wife looked at Colbie’s body.

            “Hera, the rituals must be performed,” she said.  It didn’t matter to me if Colbie really was dead at the time, I still wrapped my arms around her.  She was still warm.  I could still feel her weak pulse.

            “Not yet,” I replied firmly.

            Chiron looked at me, noticing me for the first time since I walked in his study alone.  “Do you want her to wander outside the Gates of Hades for eternity?” he inquired.

            “If it keeps her heart beating, then yes,” I answered.

            “It may already be too late,” Persephone continued, looking at Hera.

            My mentor sighed and took the coin from Chiron.  “Let her go, Jay,” Hera said.

            Reluctantly, I did as my ancestor’s patron goddess asked.  Hera opened the Pravus’s mouth and dropped the drachma inside.  I watched her intently.

            It took her a few moments, but Colbie spat it back out.  The drachma landed on her chest in a mix of saliva and blood.  I grinned:  I knew it.  Colbie wasn’t dead yet.  I knew she’d fight Atropos.

            Hera took back the coin and wiped it on her robe.  The blood and saliva stained the snow white of it with crimson.  She was smiling, too.

            “That’s my girl,” Hera and I commented in unison.

*           *           *

I wasn’t sure how long I stayed next to Colbie, but it felt like hours.  I never glanced at a single clock to check, but the lights in the hidden part of the school were starting to dim with the setting sun.

            I was halfway between sleep and consciousness when the others made their appearance.  I almost fell over when I saw a flash of white light.  Absolutely certain my eyes were playing a vicious prank on me, I did a double take.

            My sister and friends were really standing there, each of them holding a bouquet of purple flowers.  J.D was looking at Theresa like a five-year-old would her mom.

            “How’d you know it would work?” my sister asked my ex-girlfriend.

            “It’s like I told Odie in March – coming up to be – three years ago, I didn’t,” Theresa answered, blushing as she looked at her current boyfriend.

            “An assumption,” Odie agreed.  “An assumption that saved a life in 2010, and will save a life tonight!”

            Chiron galloped over.  “The aconite,” he noticed, spotting the flowers Herry held.  The Brawn offered them to the centaur.

            Chiron took the bunch of flowers from Herry and trotted over to Colbie.  He squeezed the aconite over her leg.  A sparkling purple liquid came out of the flowers and dripped into the wound.  I assumed this to be aconite nectar: the same stuff that saved me.  I breathed a sigh as the wound disappeared.  The skin was scarred where the chimera bit her, and it was no longer an ugly color of green.  It looked healthy for the first time since that afternoon.  I waited with anticipation to see if she woke.

            Seconds ticked by like molasses in January.  Colbie’s eyes blinked once . . . twice.  The blinking became more frequent after the third or fourth flick of her eyes.  After a few more seconds, her eyes remained open.  She looked around, and smiled that tired smile I loved so much.

            “Hey, guys,” the descendant of Cronus croaked.

            The other girls rushed over and squished her in a hug.  Even if Atlanta and J.D weren’t related to Colbie by blood, they still treated her like a sister.

            Random fact:  Herry, Archie, and Theresa are distantly related to Colbie through Hercules, Achilles, and Theseus.  Hercules is the demigod son of Zeus, making Herry – technically speaking – Colbie’s very distant nephew.  Theresa was a demigod son of Poseidon, also making Theresa a distant relative of Colbie.  Achilles’s mother was a daughter of the Titaness Tethys, which made Archie and Colbie vague cousins.  As I mentioned, it was a random fact.  Yeah, I get the jest . . . move on.

            The girls let Colbie go, only for Colbie to be smothered in one of Herry’s famous bear hugs.  She patted her buddy’s shoulder, helpless to do anything else.

            “It’s good to see you, too, Herry,” Colbie managed.  She hugged him back, and spent the next thirty seconds paying for it.

            I reacted by touching her shoulder.  “Are sure you’re –?”

            “Jay, relax,” Colbie interrupted, “it’s not that I’m going to die anytime soon.  Besides, you guys saved me for the umpteenth time since November 2011.”

            “I remember then, both of you were almost killed,” Archie mumbled.  His dark expression broke as he grinned.  “Ya still think you’re going to fail that provincial exam for Precalc, Colbie?”

            “No, Arch, I’m not going to fail.  I still think facing Cronus is easier,” she answered.

            “You do it all the time,” Odie said.  “Of course it’s easier!”

            “Not only that, Precalc is hardly ever practiced in battle,” Colbie replied.  She held out her arms to him.  “C’mere, Odie, tell Arch to man up and get over here.  I know you guys want a hug.”

            The descendants of Odysseus and Achilles grinned and each embraced the Pravus gently.  Colbie smiled, but – in her light blue eyes, underneath the contentment – I could see the sadness she was hiding.  Colbie learned her lesson with Herry, and I knew she wanted to hug them back.  Every guy in our dorm – excluding me and Neil – was like a brother to her.  She knew she’d spend a minute in pain if she did hug them, but she was in more if she didn’t.  She was stuck between a rock and a hard place, basically speaking.

            I turned and saw Neil, who was pouting a couple feet away.  After Archie and Odie let Colbie go, she also looked in his direction.

            “Aw, you want a hug, too, Neil?” she asked, seeing the sullen look on his face.

            It took Narcissus’s descendant a while, but he finally nodded.  “Okay,” he admitted, his Adam’s apple moving as he swallowed.  Neil walked over and hugged her.

            “A first:  You haven’t said any snide remarks all day, Neil,” Colbie pointed out when he let her go.

            Neil snorted.  “Don’t get too comfortable, Morrow.  I’ll wait till you’re recovered.  Maybe then we’ll be enemies again,” he sneered.

            “Maybe,” Colbie replied cheerfully, “then again, the last time I was on my deathbed, you were my best buddy while I recovered.”

            “Your boyfriend would’ve murdered me if I wasn’t nice to you,” he retorted, indicating me as he talked to her.

            Colbie and I exchanged glances and nervous laughter.  It wasn’t weird for the others to take a reference to our relationship, but, after our major spat at prom, we had to be careful around them.  Our friends believed we broke up then and weren’t getting back together.  They placed bets on me and Colbie – like who would kiss who, if we’d get back together, etcetera – but we’d prove them wrong.

            Behind the backs of Odie, Herry, Atlanta, Archie, J.D, and Neil, Colbie and I were stronger than ever.  Theresa knew we were still together; the Olympians even knew about us.  The rest of the team had no business in my personal life, and Cronus would kill me ten times over if he found out I was dating his descendant.

            Whatever the reason was, Colbie looked at me.  “So, now what?” she asked.

            I shrugged.  “Get Hera?” I suggested.

            She shook her head.  “I’d be squashed like a bug.  Hera’s adopted me as a daughter, so she’s bound to squeeze the air out of me in a hug,” she dismissed.

            I laughed.  Our friends laughed.  Colbie laughed.  It was hilarious in the most ironic way.  Colbie was related to the queen goddess through Cronus; we all knew, had Colbie existed during the Titanomachy, they’d be sisters . . . the best of friends, too.

            Colbie yawned, cutting her laughter short.  I also quit snickering to look at her.  Her eyelids fell shut.  I pressed my hand to her jugular vein: her pulse was strong this time.

            Then again, I could be hallucinating, too.

            A loud bang! interrupted the others’ laughter.  Car alarms were sounding off.  I tore my gaze from the Pravus and to the window.  There was only one person who’d benefit from Colbie’s death, and that was Cronus.

            “Sure didn’t wait long to claim victory, did he?” I commented.  “Someone, get a hold of Medelia.  We’re going to need her if we’re going into battle.”

            My sister was one step ahead of me and on her PMR.  It was a few seconds before she and the descendant of Medea started chatting.

            A word before we continue:  J.D and I are both descendants of Jason . . . the same guy who led fifty other heroes – known as the Argonauts – in the quest for the Golden Fleece.  As I mentioned a little earlier, this Medelia I talked about is a descendant of Medea . . . the witch that was married to my ancestor until he dumped her and she flipped.

            Now, I bet you’re thinking:  Wouldn’t Medelia be trying to kill you?  After all, Medea would find some way to exact revenge on Jason.  Don’t freak, but that phase is long gone . . . has been since Olympus High – the high school us heroes go to with other students from the ninth grade to the twelfth grade – last hosted the international field hockey tournament.  Cronus had given back what was rightfully Medelia’s to begin with, and that dragon medallion possessed her.  It had her thinking I was Jason.  Near the end of another epic chapter of my life, I took Medea’s dragon medallion away, explained to Medelia what she did – and almost succeeded in completing.  I never thought I’d see her again.

            That was, until my sister, Colbie, and I all returned from a quest that left Colbie in clinging to life (long story: don’t ask).

            J.D wrapped up her conversation and put her device away.  “Medelia said she’ll meet us somewhere close to Cronus’s location,” my sister reported.  She looked at Colbie.  “What are we going to do about her?”

            “If Cronus has an ambush planned, she’d better stay here,” I answered.  “If we can, I was thinking we could get her to the dorm.  Both here and the dorm are protected from monsters.  Cronus wouldn’t dare seek the weak.”  I let go of Colbie and started pacing the room.

            “If we do it – move Colbie – now, would it affect us?” Atlanta asked.

            “Again, it depends on Cronus,” I said.  “Herry, take Colbie to the dorm.  Make sure she’s in a good place.”

            Herry opened his mouth to protest, but my sister looked at him.  “Just do it, love,” J.D sighed.  “Colbie needs this, Herry.  Please . . . for the team?”

            He sighed.  My sister’s boyfriend nodded reluctantly.  “Okay,” he replied.  He walked over to Colbie and scooped her up into his arms.  The way she was positioned in Herry’s arms reminded me of a rag doll.

            A very pretty, tough, descendant of a Titan rag doll that lived, breathed, and fought her ancestor.  Colbie wasn’t made of cloth and stuffing . . . she was flesh, bone, and blood.

            After Herry was gone, I pulled out my xiphos.  Looking at my reflection, it was safe to say I looked like hell.  I had red marks where I wiped my face with bloody fingers, and my eyes looked lifeless.

            Lifeless love, I thought to myself.  While she fought against Atropos, I loved her so much it damn near killed me.  I looked up from my blade.  What did Aphrodite have in store for us after graduation?  More arguments to keep that beautiful head of hers on her shoulders?  I think not.

            “Hey, Jay,” Archie called, “you ready to go?”

            “Yeah,” I replied.  I grinned at my friend.  “Let’s kick some Titan butt.”

*           *           *

Hours later, we made our tired way back to the dorm.  Cronus escaped again, this time, breaking Medelia’s arm.  We heroes had the upper hand for the round, and he had no ambush planned – or ready, for that matter.  I knew him better than I knew Colbie, and, if Cronus said he had nothing planned, I knew damn good and well the god of time had something up his sleeves.

            I fought a little harder than the others against the Titan.  Part of me knew he’d try to kill another member – me included – of my team.  Another part of me wanted revenge for what he did earlier; to put him through the agony Colbie went through.  I knew it was impossible to kill a Titan, especially a Titan king, but I often wondered how much it would take to snap him like a twig.  I pondered how much chimera venom it would take to cause Cronus pain.

            I watched Odie and Theresa cuddle on the couch just under the window.  The rest of us were either working on homework or stared at the monstrous television Herry turned on.  I wasn’t in the mood to comprehend what was happening on screen, and my homework buddy was out of commission because of Cronus.  She happened to be somewhere in the dorm.

            “You seem a little on edge, Jay,” Theresa noted, looking at me.  She smiled gently.  “Are you going to be okay?”

            “I’m fine,” I snapped.  Realizing how I sounded to my ex-girlfriend, I heaved a sigh.  “Sorry, but I’m exhausted from fighting Cronus.  Not only that, I’ve got a ton of things on my mind.”

            “And?” Odie questioned, resting his chin on her shoulder.

            “And I’m worried about Colbie,” I admitted, my cheeks turning red with shame, “as a friend, y’know?  Anything more would make it awkward.”

            “We all know you’re still in love with her, Jay,” my sister pointed out.

            “Aren’t we all?” I countered.  Herry laughed.

            “Most of us guys are a little in love with Colbie,” he added, “but she’s a sister to us.  I wouldn’t touch her if my life depended on it.  That, and Jay would kill me.  No offense, Jay.”

            “None taken,” I replied, “’sides, I’m going to try to catch up on sleep.  It’s Saturday, guys.  Rest up.”  I stood and walked up the stairs.

            I entered my room – which was conveniently placed across the hallway from Colbie’s – and turned on the light.  On instinct, I scanned it for anything out of the ordinary.

            Neil’s been nagging me for a few weeks to repaint my walls.  I didn’t see anything wrong with them . . . I liked the light blue.  It reminded me of the sea on a calm day when I didn’t have to catch and kill sea monsters; when I was alone with my acoustic guitar and the songs I loved, anchored out in the middle of nowhere.  I’d clear my head like that.

            I had a skylight in my room.  My roof was a little darker than the walls, and a dark yellow crescent moon with three stars were next to the skylight.  I had a black rug with the outline of an ancient Greek warship.  My blankets corresponded to my rug, excluding the ship outline.  I took another look.  Someone was in my bed.  Curious as to who it was, I decided to get a closer look.

            Just a heads-up about me:  I have rules of who I let in or stays in my room.  No other girl – other than Colbie and J.D – is allowed in, and the guys only come here to hang out.  No one is allowed to stay overnight, unless I say Cronus’s threat is still hanging around.  It’s usually Colbie who stays here, to boot.

            I got close enough to see the profile of Cronus’s descendant.  I hoped she hadn’t died in her sleep . . . as peaceful as it sounded, I wasn’t ready to lose the girl I loved to a prophecy that called for it.  I took her into my arms and started to shake her.  “Please, Colbie, wake up,” I mumbled.

            To my relief, her ice blue eyes opened.  She adjusted herself to get a better look at me.

            “What’s going on, Jay?” she questioned, propping herself up on her elbows.  Colbie tilted her head to the side, an obvious gesture she had no idea what was going on.

            “Nothing,” I answered.  I helped her sit up, keeping a cautious hand between her shoulder blades.  She rolled her eyes.  She’d heard that repeated enough times.

            “Seriously, Jay,” she groaned, “if you want me to remain your co-leader, answer me.”  Her eyes were pleading with me.

            I gave in with a sigh and launched into a rough outline of what happened.  I wasn’t sure how much she remembered.  I wasn’t sure if she knew about Cronus’s claim to triumph after she slipped back into sleep.  I left out a ton of fine points to save her pain.  I never noticed it until Colbie sat up with my guidance, but her stab wound was wrapped with gauze.

            She eyed me like she knew I was missing out a lot of details, but she let it go.  Colbie moved over as much as she could to give me enough space to sit down at least.  Her eyes were concerned as she continued to look at me.  I refused to move from my spot.

            “Sit down,” she invited.  “Tell me the whole story.”

            I did as she suggested, and I told her everything: as much as I got to see of her battle with Cronus to when the chimera bit her to when the Titan stabbed her.  I also described as best as I could the anguish of waiting to know if she was going to live or not.  I talked about how the process of waiting for our friends to find the one thing that would save her drove me up the wall.  I left out about how relieved I felt when she woke for the first time since that morning, as well as the hurt I felt when she slipped back into unconsciousness.

            Once I was through, her already glassy eyes were shining with fresh tears.  It would cause her pain to move, let alone give me a hug I needed so badly at that moment.  I needed to know if she was going to be okay.

            “Oh, Jay,” she whispered.  Her voice sounded sad, even if it wasn’t as strong as it was on the beach.  “You really thought I was gone?”

            I nodded.  “You lost too much blood.  I was surprised Chiron was able to patch you up with a lot of the stuff gone,” I answered.  I took her hand that was closest to me and squeezed it.  “You pulled through.  Hera thought you would.”  I touched her forehead.  She was a descendant of the enemy, but she was a priority.  All that mattered to me was her well-being.

            And that hug I wanted. . . .

            As if Colbie read my mind – which I didn’t doubt, considering her ancestor was a Titan – she bolted into a sitting position.  If she was in pain, she didn’t show it.

            Expressing pain is weakness, Colbie said last year on Valentine’s Day.  Cronus would kill anyone that cried in anguish.  And all this about the Golden Age being a time of prosperity for humans?  Minotaur dung!  Cronus saw people as a form of cheap entertainment.  I agreed . . . Cronus had influence and if generally wasn’t good.  Like her, I’d refuse to take an order from him, even if my life depended on it.  Okay, okay . . . I’m going.

            She pressed her forehead to mine, a familiar movement we’d grown used to.  She leaned in to close the distance, and she kissed me.

            Turns out, I got a little more than a hug, even if it lasted for a couple seconds.  I could see Colbie’s lips curve into a smile.

            “We both know I can’t live without you,” she said.

            “Cronus would say I’m unhealthy for you,” I reminded her.

            Colbie wrapped her arms around me and pressed her lips to my cheek.  Her lips barely touched my ear when she whispered the words I needed to hear since past events:

            “I don’t give a damn about what Cronus would say, Jay.  I need you.”

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