Chapter Twenty Eight
Kali woke in a bed for the first time in weeks. To her distress and relief, it was a room she didn’t recognise. After a few hazy moments, she worked out she must be in the hospital. Sure enough, she was hooked up to some kind of monitor and there was a drip in her arm. She still felt wretched, but she pulled it out and unhooked herself the instant she could move.
She noticed Tom sitting with his head in his hands at her side. “I hate hospitals.”
Tom’s eyes snapped to her face and he forced a laugh, reaching for her hand. “You’re more yourself. But you still look like crap.”
“You’re one to talk.” She replied. She wanted to joke with him, to reassure him, but all she could muster was concern. He had deep bruised around his throat, and his voice was even huskier than usual. Instead of pushing, Kali asked “How long was I out?”
He shrugged “About twenty three minutes.”
She wasn’t surprised by the specific count. She didn’t quite have the energy for a comforting smile, but she tried. “I was hoping I was done with the healing part already. My arm is killing me.”
“That’s not surprising; it’s broken.” He ruffled her hair slowly, trying his best not to jostle her. “That drip had some painkillers in it, but it probably didn’t have time to kick in before you took it out.”
“I’ll do better without it.” Kali insisted quietly. She looked around at the pristine white room and shuddered “Can I leave yet?”
“It’s odd how much you hate hospitals, considering your dad invented them.” Tom teased, but his signature smile was nowhere to be seen.
Kali scowled again; the irony was not lost on her. Her hand drifted to her stomach, feeling the bandage under her shirt. The pain had lessened to a dull ache, which radiated around the middle from her back. They must have done something to repair most of the damage. Her head pounded and her gut clenched at the memory of the blade slicing through her. She changed the subject. “How are the others?”
“I don’t know. Think they were mostly unscathed though.” His expression darkened as he added “You sure bore the brunt of it.”
She bit her lip and asked gently “How are you?”
He shrugged “Fine.”
Kali hesitated, but she didn’t need her talents to know he was lying. She squeezed his hand gently and muttered his name. After a moment, he hung his head and grunted “I never want to see you like that again.”
Barely a heartbeat passed, and Tom hugged her. His face was scrunched up and Kali knew he was trying not to cry. Despite the pain radiating through her, she returned his embrace with equal force. She didn’t know who she was trying to convince when she insisted “Tom…I’m okay.”
He just nodded and squeezed her lightly. When he moved back, he motioned to her arm and said “You’re using that already?”
“It’s still killing me. But it should be okay in the morning.” Kali took a deep breath and slowly murmured “You know…that’s the first time in my life I actually thought I was going to die. She told me I would die, and she wasn’t lying. She believed it.” She looked down at her hands, her voice a whisper, and admitted “That’s the first time I’ve come that close. And…I realised that I don’t want to die. I want to live.”
Tom’s eyes were wide. “God, Kali. Of course you want to live! Was that ever in doubt?!”
She laughed softly, more at herself than anything else. “It’s not really that simple. But the clarity in that moment…every detail was so defined. I could track every thought in my head, and I knew that was what death must feel like. My body was empty, but my mind was so awake. Like it was savouring every sensation because it was the last time.”
She stopped, trembling. She knew she was scaring Tom, that he didn’t know how to respond. Her voice was stronger when she continued “And then…I said no. I didn’t beg for my life. I didn’t ask anyone to spare me. I told them, whoever was listening, that I wasn’t done yet. That they couldn’t have me.”
A silence stretched between them as Tom floundered for a response. Before he could find any words, another voice resonated from the doorway, stating “Good.”
Kali looked up and saw Hades standing there, watching her. Without thinking, she pushed herself to her feet and started towards him. Before she took the first step, he was at her side and sweeping her off her feet. Kali buried her face in his chest, finally letting the tears that had been building up tumble down her cheeks.
Hooves clapped against the polished floor, halting with a gasp at the door to the room. Kali twisted her hands in Hades’ shirt to steady herself and looked over to see Sage exchanging a startled look with Tom. Before he could start asking questions, Tom moved to the doorway and pushed him out, closing the door behind them.
Hades and Kali were alone. She was shaking violently, so Hades slowly sank to his knees, bring her with him. She sat with him, sobbing into his shirt, while he held her.
When her tremors finally subsided, Hades cupped Kali’s face in his hands and brushed away the remaining tears with his thumbs. His voice was so soft as he whispered “No one is taking you anywhere.”
She hated how much her voice shook when she mumbled “I missed you.” It had been too long since she had seen him, or even heard his voice. Ever since he kissed her, he had been avoiding her. She knew why, but that didn’t make it any easier. Their good night messages were too fleeting to fill the void he left.
“And I you.” He had hoped some distance might help him think, but all he could think about was how much he ached to be near her. He breathed her in and tangled his fingers in the silk of her hair. Being so close to her made him crazy, but it was also calming. It steadied him.
“Hades…they wanted me dead.” Her eyelids brimmed with tears once more but she hastily brushed them away. She swallowed the lump in her throat and mumbled “How can anyone hate me that much?”
Hades’ eyes turned cold and shadows seemed to creep out of him, filling the room with darkness. “I want to tear those two demigods limb from limb.”
“Please don’t.” She said quietly.
Hades was surprised that she didn’t even quake in his presence. “They hurt you.” He watched her carefully. His voice was liquid darkness, wicked fury and malice. Even the shadows trembled, but not her. He could not meet her golden eyes any longer, but he insisted “I cannot accept what they did to you.”
Kali reached to touch his cheek, hating that he was trying to hide from her now. “Hades…”
He seemed to sag slightly at the way she said his name. After a moment, he met her eyes again and sighed “If you ask me to spare them, I will. But I want you to know that it is only for you. Forgiveness is not in my nature, Kali. And it is all I can do to keep from destroying anyone that hurts you.” He caressed her cheek and murmured tenderly “You, my love, are all the light in the world. How anyone could hate you is beyond me.”
He caressed her cheek, but Kali scrambled back, panicked, as a stream of fire hurtled towards them. Hades calmly moved his hand to catch it, the flames dwindling as they reached him, but Kali’s heart was in her throat. Tears sprung back to her eyes as she struggled to catch her breath, her stomach giving her sharp reminders of her injury.
Kali looked up to see Apollo fuming in the doorway and stood shakily. Hades rose slowly with her and said coolly “Would you like me to stay?”
“I think I’ll be OK.”
Apollo cut her off, snapping “Get out.”
Hades chuckled quietly and bowed, his eyes never leaving Kali’s face even as he melted into the shadows. Kali turned to her father as he seethed “What do you think you’re doing?!”
“Recovering, if it’s all the same to you.” Kali scowled, gritting her teeth.
Apollo drew himself up to his full height. “You nearly exposed yourself tonight!”
“I nearly died tonight!” Tears sprang to her eyes again. She gripped her arms to stop the shaking, but Apollo didn’t notice. The concept of death was foreign to him. He couldn’t understand how the experience had affected his mortal daughter.
“That wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been so reckless!” He shouted, grabbing her arms.
Kali shook him off, wincing as his hands burned her skin, and her eyes went cold. She couldn’t afford to get too worked up or she’d throw up again. Instead, she stared at him, realising that his anger had nothing at all to do with the exercise. “Why don’t we skip this and you can say whatever it is that’s really got you so angry.”
He snarled “Have you given yourself to him?”
“I haven’t ‘given’ myself to anyone. But that’s really none of your business.” She snapped, embarrassed. She turned away from him. She wasn’t going to discuss that with her absentee dad. Especially when he was like this.
“I’m your father. It’s my job to protect you!” He groaned and steered Kali to sit on the bed. After a moment of silence, he held his hand over her broken arm and Kali could feel a warmth spreading through it. She grimaced; apparently to him the conversation was over. She stood up again and slapped his arm away, his bewildered expression only infuriating her more.
Apollo’s face went quickly back to anger and he insisted “You cannot pursue him, Kali. He is the most dangerous of us all. He will never be yours. When you live in the darkness, the darkness lives in you!”
Kali refused to break his stare and shook her head. “You’re wrong.”
“I know you want to believe that, Kali. I understand. But you cannot save him.” Apollo grabbed her cheeks, forcing her to look at him. He was desperately trying to make her see that he was right, but Kali didn’t care. She was tired of him trying to control her. And she knew that he was wrong.
She pulled his hands from her face and dropped them. “He doesn’t need saving.”
Apollo shook his head, as though he believed that would change the truth he heard in her voice. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“Actually, I do.” She was quieter now. Not angry, not trying to force him to believe her. His opinion didn’t really matter; she knew what she was choosing. What she had already chosen. “And I love him.”
Apollo looked like she had slapped him. He took a breath, trying to match her calm and nearly managing. “Kali…I will only say this once. If you are with him, you will be destroyed. Perhaps by Zeus, or perhaps by Hades himself. There are no happy endings with any of the gods, but he will ruin you in ways you cannot imagine. You must swear to me you will not pursue him.”
She shook her head. “No.”
His temper flared back up quickly. If anything, the fact she could remain so calm only made it worse. “Let me put it this way. If you enter into a bond with him, I will not stay to watch him rip you apart.”
Kali froze. She was winded for a moment and she felt sick, like she had been punched in the stomach. But it wasn’t about Hades anymore. If that was his threat when she chose something he didn’t like, then she knew what her answer should be. Still, her voice shook so hard she could barely get the words out. “I’ve lived most of my life without you. You will never understand me. You can’t accept anything that doesn’t fit with your perfect standards. And I will never be what you want me to be. If you’re going to leave again because you don’t like who I am, don’t expect me to cry myself to sleep.”
For just a heartbeat, there was silence. Then Apollo’s face contorted with rage and he raised his hand to strike her. Kali didn’t even flinch. Before he struck her, Hades was by her side again with his hand around Apollo’s wrist. His eyes were sad, but his voice was firm. “She may be your daughter, old friend. But if you ever raise your hand to my woman again, you will lose it.”
“That is what I said.” Hades stated simply, his steely eyes flashing a challenge.
“You are making a claim on her then!” He was shaking with the effort to contain himself, but he made no move against Hades.
Hades nodded slowly “Yes.” He glanced over at Kali’s blushing face and smiled gently. “I am.”
Apollo turned back to his daughter and spat “You would choose him over your own blood?”
“I choose myself!” Kali looked him in the eye. Her voice was stronger as she continued “Don’t try to make it my fault that you expected a puppet instead of a daughter.”
Apollo glared, but said nothing. He could not tell her that she was wrong. And he could not set his pride aside and admit that he might be wrong. Instead, he just shook his head with disgust and stormed out.
Kali had realised a long time ago that her parents weren’t perfect; they were only human. But Apollo was meant to be a beacon for truth and light. He was meant to be everything good in the world, and everything Kali held close to her heart. His principles were important to her. She didn’t know how many more times she could be disappointed. Clearly, he wasn’t the only one with faulty expectations.
After a moment, Kali shook herself out of her thoughts and bit her lip. “How much did you hear?”
Hades just looked at her, unashamed. “Did you really think I would leave you alone when he was like that?”
“Thank you.” Kali said quietly. “For trying to protect me.”
“Kali…he was not lying when he told you what he did. I said things would be complicated if you were to be with me.” Hades sighed, running his hand through his long hair.
Kali watched him; there was something about the action that made him seem vulnerable. She took a deep breath and said “You already know my answer.” His glowing eyes still seemed uncertain so Kali continued “I’ve already told you that you’re worth the risk.”
“Come to me tonight. By the fountain. Seven o’clock.” He was not asking. He looked at her lips as they parted slightly with surprise. He knew from the look in her eyes that she wasn’t sure she heard him right. His hand fluttered to her cheek, tucking a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. His fingers lingered there a moment longer before he shook himself and suggested that she rest. Then Hades turned and left without another word, not letting himself get close enough to touch her again. He knew that, if he wasn’t careful, he really could break her.
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