Chapter 1: The Silence
You make your way toward the pavilion, glass tables glitter in the sunlight, cherry blossom petals whisper past in the breeze. It’s a lovely sight, one unfortunately ruined by the entire student body quieting down and turning to look at you.
Yeah, that never gets old, you think bitterly.
You sigh, ignoring their stares to the best of your ability, making a beeline to the empty table near the fountain.
Taking your cue, everyone returns to their previous conversations, many of which are now about your team’s success in the First Trial.
The bruises you sustained there are still tender, as are your muscles, in addition to a head-splitting, Athena-bearing headache that comes in and out of existence every once in a while—though Avery says that the headache is more from malnutrition, exhaustion, and an inordinate amount of stress.
“I might not be able to do anything about that last part,” Avery had said ruefully, “but I can at least tell the lunch workers to let you get an extra healthy snack.”
“Great, more vegetables,” you groaned sarcastically as you bled profusely.
Your food tray is teetering with chicken breast lying on a bed of vegetables, a precariously placed bowl of black bean soup, some sort of purple smoothie in addition to bottled water, an oatmeal raisin cookie, and—because you assume either Avery or the lunch workers took pity on you—a small boat of fries.
You sit down at your usual spot and feel positively ancient when your muscles strain at the action, and you immediately set about ignoring the implications of the word and focus instead on the sudden unease you felt on realizing that you now have a usual spot to sit on.
And that you are alone.
Looking around the area, you see Calypso paused mid-step, tray in her hand. Her feet are pointed in your direction but her attention is with the other Ares kids. She smiles broadly at them and gestures toward you with a nod of her head, but before she can take another step, one of the Ares’ kids begs her to finish telling them how she kicked the other team’s ass. She pauses, open-mouthed, as she turns to look at you.
The sudden unease grows heavier but you resolutely ignore it and wave her off along with a light tug at your lips. After her performance in the First Trial, she deserves the chance to brag.
She beams and sets her tray down with the Ares kids and faces them fully, returning to her story. Despite your discomfort, you can’t help but smile at the wild gestures that accompany her storytelling, but then you catch the smug look on the Ares child who’d requested she stay and your smile is dragged down by that heavy feeling from earlier.
But Calypso remains standing, and for that you can will yourself to ignore the feeling.
Tearing your attention away, you consider what to eat first. Definitely the fries will be last—a treat in case the rest of the food is terrible—and the chicken smells divine (you snort at your own joke) so that should be second to last...
You wonder which would be riskier: the thick, dark soup, or the runny, purple smoothie. You pick up the smoothie to sniff it, expecting to smell blueberries, strawberries, or other fruity scents, but gag at the musky scent of dill weed.
Alarmed, you slide the cup a full arm’s length away.
Ignoring the snake slithering up your spine, you go to pick the raisins off of what should have been a plain oatmeal cookie but your stomach curdles when the stubbornly embedded raisin causes the cookie to peel off the small plate you received it on.
You immediately drop the cookie onto the floor like a hot potato (your stomach grumbles) and scan the pavilion again, desperate for one of your friends to come over so you can trade food.
Your eyes fall on Santiago reading a couple of tables away. He's sitting the way a sunbathing cat must feel, all splayed limbs, warm sunlight, and an arrogant cast to his face. In one hand he’s casually flipping an Oreo like a quarter, in the other he’s languidly holding a book; bits of crumb fly off with every flip of his cookie.
Given his casual appearance, you are surprised to see a tense set to his shoulders, his mouth drawn in a hard line, and a furrow marring his brow. His head is stock still and you notice that his eyes aren’t moving across the page, they’re focused and frozen on a single point in the book.
Then, like a pinball, his eyes dart up at you, widen briefly, then snap back down to his book. He stops tossing the Oreo, crushing it in his fist, and nonchalantly yet stiffly brushes the crumbs off his lap.
His face reddens and he looks even more tense now. He takes a very slow, very stiff breath, but when he exhales his breath carries a small flurry of black crumbs off of his book and the blood drains from his face.
He stands, shuts his book, and leaves.
You feel your stomach plummet and your throat dry as you watch him walk away from you. You tell yourself it’s out of envy of his dead cookie and you crush your discarded oatmeal and still raisin cookie with your foot out of spite.
Exhaling shakily, you look around for a friendlier, more beautiful face, but Adonis isn’t with the Aphrodite kids. You feel pleased at the fact but before you can wonder why, you find him facing the cherry blossom tree.
He stands contrapposto, a hand on his hip, the other gliding up to rub at the side of his neck as he looks away from the tree. His lips move slightly, and you realize he must have said something. Your eyes flit around him to see who he could possibly be talking to but then his eyes glide over and come to a halt on yours.
Butterflies erupt in your stomach when Adonis’ lips slide into an easy smile.
He cocks his head in your direction—at you, you belatedly realize—pointing you out to whoever he’s talking to, and his focus on you is stolen by movement behind the tree.
Aeson’s head whips around the tree to see you, disturbing the flutter of cherry blossom petals that have been falling around them. Your own butterflies reach your throat but wither and die there in the sudden heat that creeps up your neck toward your cheeks as Aeson smiles lightly at you.
It is the softest of smiles, but is more than enough for your cheeks to become twin suns. For a single moment you think they’re going to come over and sit with you, but then Aeson’s smile twists with amusement and he turns back to Adonis.
They both turn away from you.
You can't breathe.
The heaviness from earlier has wrapped itself around your lungs, your throat, your heart, and squeezes so tightly that your eyes prick with tears.
Stiffly, you turn back to your tray, ready to stuff your face with fries and abandon the rest, but are horrified when you see they are halfway gone.
And Saint, sitting across from you, has frozen mid-chew, with a handful of golden, crispy, half-eaten fries clutched in his hand.
“Um...are you sure you don’t want to eye-fuck Aeson for like thirty seconds more?” He glances down at the fries, “Forty seconds, tops.”
You want to punch him.
“Please don’t be mad!”
You want to rip every single one of the goddamn cherry blossoms out of that fucking tree.
“I’m just really tired—”
You want to chuck your crushed oatmeal raisin and dirt cookie at Santi’s stupid head.
“—and I was so hungry—”
You want to throw a boiling pot of black bean soup at that stupid smug Ares bastard’s face.
“—and you just had so much on your plate—”
You want Santi’s stupid, goddamned Oreo.
“—and you weren’t even eating it—”
You want a purple slushie that’s blue raspberry and cherry mixed together, like you used to get every day after school from Al’s.
“—and fries are my favorite—”
You want to go back to Aunt Alice’s house and sit in your seat, the one next to the window that faced east and warmed you with the sunrise.
“—and, haha, since you’re my sister, my only family—”
You want to go upstairs, jump over the squeaky sixth step, fall into your real bed, and go the fuck to sleep.
“—I thought you wouldn’t mind me.”
You want to be alone.
“Obviously I was wrong.”
Alone, alone, alone.
“Very, very wrong.”
“It’s ok,” you finally say.
“Uh—” His head whips up.
You push your tray over to him, “I’m not hungry. You can have it.”
If Saint says something back, you don’t hear him. If Cally hisses at Saint what did you do?, you wouldn’t know. If Donny and Sonny exchange worried looks, you don’t see it. If Santi almost crosses your path and backtracks to hide behind a pillar, you wouldn’t care. And if the student body grows quiet and stares at your escape, you don’t notice.
Because you’re already gone from the pavilion and the cafeteria and the school and stomping your way up the stairs and breaking into a run to your room and locking your door and ripping off your uniform and throwing it at the floor and screaming.
You grow blind with tears.
When you open your eyes, your tears are like a fog obscuring your vision. You think you see your bed, your legs curled up toward your chest, your jacket tossed on the floor, but it’s not clear. Everything is dim and when you lean forward to touch it the image dissipates like mist.
You pull your hand back and are startled at the biting cold of your fingertips when you press them into your palm. Your fingernails search for flesh to sink into.
There’s a distant thrumming sound that blurs your vision with each beat. The edges of your vision grow darker the closer and louder the sound gets.
When you peer more deeply into the vision before you, you see the light of stars peeking through the bed, the legs, the jacket, but soon the darkness encroaches like black tendrils, choking and snuffing the brilliance of the stars.
The thrumming has gotten so loud it thunders in your ears, thrashes in your chest, pummels your body with each vibration, until finally it pushes you forward.
You don’t fall.
You are floating, suspended in nothing but an inky abyss.
No light, no shadow.
You simply are.
You are alone.
Alone, alone, alone.
There is no one, there will be no one, and you will always be no one floating in a vast nothingness.
Only, lonely you.
And you will tear yourself into pieces so that you can have someone, but they will all be broken, rip themselves apart to make their own things so that they feel less lonely.
Because they are you.
Because you will always want what does not exist.
But you will do it anyway, the delusional thing that you are, because what else is there?
Only you and you alone.
And the sigh you sigh is timeless, unfathomable, never-ending.
Tears obscure your vision.
If only it could end—
A thunderbolt strikes your heart.
Your throat opens between sobs to gasp, the sweetness of air rushing back into your lungs.
“I’m so sorry!”
Silver fills your vision.
His jaw is slacked with worry, his eyes are shining with overwhelming emotion, and his fingers dig into your shoulder, jolting you.
Literally jolting you, sparks fly off his hands and shock you.
He notices this and rips his hands away, clenching his fists as you scramble to sit up.
With heaving breaths, you sit up and push back until you’re against the wall, clutching your chest with your hands, willing your heart to slow.
You wrack your thoughts, trying to remember what just happened, but the more you try to remember at it, the fuzzier the memory becomes.
Like grasping at mist.
You thoughts are interrupted by the sensation of goosebumps rising on your arms, but only the hairs are being pulled, and in Saint’s direction.
“Sorry,” Saint murmurs over a lump in his throat. He pulls his hands into himself and rests back on his haunches. You see sparks alight when he rubs his fingers against his palms. “When I get nervous…”
He’s not looking at you, but you’re too busy wiping your tears and evening out your breath to pay him mind.
For a very long while, the only thing that fills the silence is your heavy breathing and Saint’s occasional sparks. To his credit, they die down considerably, much faster than you can calm yourself.
But still the silence stretches—
Saint turns away from you to swipe at the corner of his eye—perhaps he’s not as calm as he’s letting on—despite this, both his eyes remain red and wet and shining.
You shiver, blaming it on the draft that invades from beneath the closed door. You think you might have to thank him for thinking of your privacy, but then you see splinters scattered in front of it and how the knob hangs loose and ajar. You hold your tongue.
You look down at your shaking hands. Angry, red crescents are embedded deeply into the flesh of your palms. At least they didn’t break skin. You curl your fingertips over them and rub at them lightly.
—until finally Saint breaks it.
“I’m sorry.” He whispers hoarsely. He still won’t look at you. “I…I didn’t mean to…I shouldn’t have…”
He frowns as a tear falls onto his cheek and he wipes furiously at his eyes. He pulls in a shaky breath and balls his fists to collect himself.
“I know what it feels like,” he begins slowly, “for people to ignore you, to feel like…” he sniffs and wipes at his nose. “…to feel like you don’t matter.”
He rubs his arms but before long, sparks start to fly. He swears under his breath and slumps onto his rear, letting his legs splay out. You pull your legs closer, just in case he can shock you through his jeans. You’re not sure if he’s noticed as he stares determinedly at the floor.
“When I was a kid, after mom—” he lets out a tense sigh, “All I had, for a long, long time—before Cally, before Sonny and Donny, before any of them—was…him.”
Saint puts his hand out, palm up, letting his sparks fly and illuminate the two of you. Your eyes narrow at the brilliance to avoid being blinded. Saint notices this and closes his hand into a fist before screwing his eyes shut.
“Great, now I’m blind,” he grumbles and rubs his eyes. “Anyway, he wasn’t exactly hands-on,” he says with a frown. “He wasn’t even eyes-on half the time. He has so many fucking kids…I wouldn’t be surprised if the only reason he knows my name is because I’m The Great Prophet’s son…if it had been anyone else…”
Saint sighs and flops onto his back. You grimace at the loud thump.
“So half the time—most of the time…scratch that, 99% of the time I would ever get to see him, he wouldn’t say anything to me. He’d just kind of…stare in my general direction, and if I ever gathered up the courage to talk to him, to the King of the freakin’ Gods…he’d just…keep staring. Not really say anything.” Saint’s voice grows quieter. “Like I was just an annoying buzzing sound instead of his son.”
Saint sighs and pushes himself onto his elbows, then pushes himself forward into hunched sitting position. His elbow rests on a raised knee, his hand tugs at his hair.
You ache just watching his restless nervousness. Your limbs are too leaden to even shift from where they are now. And soon, even your eyelids grow heavy with exhaustion.
Saint clears his throat, and finally, finally flicks his eyes up to look at you but just as quickly glances back down with a frown.
“When I saw you sitting there…I saw you were put out when that asshole got Cally got to stay, but I just thought, ‘Who wouldn’t be pissed, with a little bastard like that?’ And Santi…well…” Saint rubs the back of his neck, “Yeah, that was weird.”
Saint shrugs and moves on.
“And then I saw you were ogling the A-Team,” he smirks, “and I thought it’d be funny if I snuck a few of your fries off your plate, you know, like, ‘Haha, Saint, you sneaky little shit, what’re you doing?’ Cue laugh track. And then I’d make a really lame excuse and you’d laugh and then roll credits, I’ve done my part as a brother.”
“An annoying little brother,” you say before you can stop yourself.
Saint’s eyes snap up to yours and narrow, a smirk twisting his lips, “Don’t you fucking start with that.”
The corner of your lips tug, and Saint’s shoulders relax.
He glances back down again. “I’m still really sorry, though. I thought I would make you feel better, but I only made you feel worse.” He frowns. “And don’t feel like you have to forgive me for my dumbassery.”
You don’t say anything.
Saint grows quiet again, but it’s a companionable silence, at least on his part. He’s certainly not sparking anymore.
You rest your head against the wall and your eyes slide shut.
“Help me onto my bed?” you hear yourself mumble.
You hear your door close and your eyes fly open.
You’re in your bed, cocooned inside the warmth of your blankets when you’re suddenly hit by the smell of cooking oil.
You snake an arm out of the blankets and reach for the lamp switch.
On your nightstand is a little boat of glorious, golden fries. Underneath sticks out a folded piece of paper speckled with grease stains. Written all over the front and back are various notes written in familiar sets of handwriting.
Pretty sure I burnt my fingerprints off making these. Hope you enjoy my suffering! –your annoying little brother
I made sure he didn’t die or start a (bigger) grease fire –Cally
I also made sure the grease fires were well-contained and applied first aid when Saint popped a fry in his mouth immediately after taking them out of the deep fryer. –Santiago
It was to make sure they were thoroughly cooked! –Saint
They were still raw. I tried to warn him. –Santi
He just sat there and laughed! –your precious little brother who doesn’t deserve this treatment
I also laughed at him, yes. -Santi
I held the fire extinguisher, and I also laughed at Saint –Adonis
We ALL laughed at Saint -Cally
I cut myself on the potato peeler early on and was banished to the corner. –Aeson (p.s. I also laughed at Saint)
I have no friends!! -Saint
You reach out to grab one. They’re cut in odd shapes and angles, some are more brown than others, and a few of the smaller pieces are outright burnt.
But they’re still delicious.
If you haven't already played Children of the Gods...what's wrong with you?
Go, go play it.
It's so good, you guys.
If you thought this was passable, then you're gonna freakin' love the game, lol.
And special thanks to Fay, Okami-Nora, and Chai from the CoG forums. You guys helped me make this chapter the best possible version of itself. Thank you so much for helping and motivating me!
Follow my personal tumblr if you like memes, foxes, and shitposting.
Follow my art tumblr if you like the occasional art as well as fic updates.
Send me a message on the CoG forums if you just wanna chat.