Circe stood in the cold marble of her home, and waited for Medea.
She had seen while scrying that her niece had fallen in love with a youth named Jason, and had killed her own brother so that she could leave with him.
A foolish deed, Circe thought, especially done in the name of a man. But Medea was young and innocent enough to believe that the man she loved would be somehow different, worthier.
Hopefully this had taught her differently.
But now, as it appeared, she felt some sort of guilt for the crime, and wished to be absolved of it.
A foolish girl, to think that responsibility for her actions could be so easily tossed away.
Circe smiled. She could teach the child differently.
Medea watched as the Argo moved closer to the island that her aunt had chosen to live upon. Both the crew and Jason had objected to coming here, telling wild tales of men turned into animals and an evil witch who enchanted weary travelers. Jason too had thought it foolish to come here, a pointless errand, distracting from their journey.
But Medea had done so much for their quest that Jason at least knew that they owed her this. And they had all seen her powers, and, fearful as her magic could be, they did not wish to offend her.
So here they were.
She had known she had to come here somehow, known that only Circe could wash this blood from her hands. And she must be cleansed, she must. These days, when she looked down at her hands she thought she could see traces of her brothers' – no, she would never say his name again, he was dead, forgotten, she didn't have to remember him – blood still there, in the lines of her palms, underneath her fingernails. Even after she had washed her hands a thousand times over, she knew the stain would always be there.
But Circe, Helios' daughter, had the power to heal her, to purify her, to make her mind whole again. And Circe would understand, she had to understand, even though Medea knew she would feel ashamed to stand before Circe now, having deserted the Goddess she had been sworn to serve for all eternity.
But Circe had to understand.
The water was getting too shallow for the boat to go, and she heard the men – Atlanta was still injured, not doing much work, though she wished to – shouting to drop the anchor. She lifted her chin, mentally readying herself to see her aunt again, for the first time in so long.
Circe could hear murmuring outside, a woman's voice and a man's. The man would be Jason, she was sure of that. Medea should know better than to bring him here, Circe thought with a smile, here where men were shown in their true forms.
But a set of footsteps could be heard walking away, and it was obvious that Medea had some sense after all, and also that she had some authority over her lover. That was good.
Then there was the sound of a door opening, and Medea entered.
She wore black, mourning clothes, as if her brother had died by some other cause and it was fitting for his sister to mourn him. But the proud lift of her chin negated that, for there was no remorse in those dark green eyes, so like Circe's own. When she reached a certain point, she stopped walking, still not lowering her eyes as was proper in presence of an elder.
Still examining her niece, Circe spoke, her clear voice ringing throughout the room. "With the blood of her brother still upon her hands, Medea, once of Colchis, comes to me in search of purification. What makes you believe that you are truly worthy of my blessing?"
Medea's face registered surprise, but briefly. "I believed that you would understand the circumstances that led me to commit the crime and sympathize with them, Circe of Aeaea."
Circe laughed. "If you thought that because I am a woman I would understand your foolish love for a man, you were severely mistaken, niece. Indeed, I thought that you would be wise enough not to indulge in such foolishness as falling in love with the man who shares your bed. I thought you would remain free of men."
Medea seemed to have nothing to say to that. She lowered her eyes for the first time, and when she finally did speak, it was quietly. "Then you shall not cleanse me of my brothers' death?"
Circe smiled slightly. "I did not say that. I meant only that you would need to first understand how foolish and…unnecessary the murder was before you can be absolved of your guilt for it."
Medea nodded, lifting her eyes. She watched her aunt carefully as Circe walked closer to her, beginning to circle her. Then she spoke suddenly. "Untie your sash."
Medea frowned, but obeyed. She tossed the smaller piece of black cloth aside, looking curious now. Circe continued circling her, her eyes looking over Medea's body, still covered by the tunic, which now hung loose over her frame.
In a movement as sudden as her earlier statement had been, Circe undid the pin at the other woman's shoulder, and the black tunic fell, pooling at Medea's feet, leaving the young woman naked.
At this she turned to look at Circe, confusion obvious in her eyes. "What are you trying to do?" She asked, her voice showing a hint of anger. Circe replied. "I intend to make sure you do not make the same mistake again, and kill for the sake of a man. For," She said, her seductive smile making Medea shiver, though she hardly understood why. "women like us, intelligent, thinking women, don't need men."
And with that she kissed her, slipping her tongue inside Medea's mouth. It was different from the times Medea had kissed Jason, gentler in some strange way. With Jason, everything had been somewhat rushed, kisses stolen on the Argo when few were watching turning quickly to almost frantic touches and hasty undressing. This held more passion than ever those kisses did. She wants Circe, more than she thought was possible.
Medea moaned as Circe pulled out of the kiss, trying to pull her back toward her again, but Circe stepped away, smiling. "I didn't realize you would be quite so easy to persuade. A little more and I can make your forget Jason all together. Would you like that? You would, wouldn't you? Because then you could forget your crime, that crime done for quite a frivolous reason. If you wish to make amends, you need to ask your Goddess to forgive you. It was she you wronged, after all."
Medea's voice was low. "How shall I do so?"
Circe's tone was light. "You spilled the blood of your brother, let you now spill your own as a sacrifice to her to atone for your crime."
Medea was not afraid of shedding her own blood, for it is required for many rituals, and to work some magic. But now she did not wish to see her blood, for she had seen the blood of one child of Aeetes on her hand only a little while ago, and she did not wish to see that of another. But she took the knife Circe handed her, seemingly out of nowhere, and held it to her hand, drawing it across her palm, not even wincing at the pain. Circe watched, and there was a certain fascination in her eyes, as much as her gaze was idle.
But the blood fell, dripping down onto the marble floor, and Medea, who had never winced at the sight of blood before, winced now, turning away, for she was looking at her brother's blood again, and there had been so much of it, as she had cut his body apart, trying not to care, but she remembered it was him, though the blood obscured his features, but his head, after she had cut it from his head – what an effort that had taken! – still remained recognizable, even though his skin was turning grey and his eyes were empty, and his dark hair was plastered to his head….his hair so much like hers in fact, they both had the same dark hair, the strands so fine…
But even as she turned away, nearly feeling sickness growing in her at the memories, Circe pulled her back to face her, catching Medea's dark green eyes with her own. Her voice was soft and harsh. "You killed once, there's no need to be squeamish." Then she laughed, a sound so unlike her tone of voice that it startled Medea. "The first murder is the hardest, dear niece. After that, everything else is easy." Her hand brushed the curve of Medea's breast, oh so lightly, but it made Medea shiver. She spoke, her voice quiet. "Who did you kill?" She doesn't know why she wants to know it, but there's a dark fascination in it.
Circe smiled. "You don't need to know that, Medea But let me assure you, I did not use such…gruesome methods as you did. I prefer poison." She continued caressing the other woman, her gestures completely at odds with her words. "You see, it doesn't really matter, murder…life, death, it's all the same for mortals…but you, Medea, priestess of Hekate, you and I are made for greater things." Her touches grow suddenly harsher, and Medea's breath catches in her throat. Circe laughs again, this time at Medea's pleasure. "You will return to me, beautiful, clever Medea, when he betrays you. They always do, men. And when that happens, I shall be here, waiting."
Circe suddenly turns away from Medea, and begins to walk toward another room. She turns back as if as an afterthought. "Follow me. You did want to be purified, did you not? You can leave your tunic there." Circe smiles, with those same green eyes, so like Medea's own.