You are my sweetest downfall

I loved you first.

-Samson, Regina Spektor


Chapter 11

Promise Written on the Sand


"What!" Thanea exclaimed, leveling the panic drawn from Zeno's face. She immediately stooped on fours and tapped the grasses, "it must be here…it can't be lost!"

Zeno bit his lower lip and finally sighed, accepting the fact that he was outwitted by bandits on the woods. It insulted him not ever to hear a single move they made when they must have fished it from behind him. And deep inside he was absolutely thrilled to hunt for and spill their blood on the ground. They did not know whom they have stolen from.

"Never mind, Thanea, I'll figure it out. Stand." He commanded and maneuvered her to rise up, feeling the drizzle getting strong and each droplet becoming more significant. Instead she met him with furious eyes, "How could you just let it be! It was a gift from your mother! We have to find it!"

"I lost, Thanea. You're right, those outlaws are cunning. I'll find them anyhow, but right now you have to go home." He looked up with narrowed eyes, "the nocturnal rain is coming."

"But what if your mother notices it's not with you when you go home?" she panicked and was about to stoop once again but Zeno caught her arm and forced her to stand. "I can settle it."

"No. You will not go home until we find it."

"Wha—" he replied with and irritated face and looked away before turning back at her, still holding her arm. He felt her more powerful than he was, more powerful in terms of her ability to convince him even with just a word.

"Thanea, the rain is coming." He sighed, not wanting to be in this argument…not wanting her to get wet and catch some kind of cold.

"Promise me you won't go home until we find it."

"Why you!" he gritted his teeth and shut his eyes, hearing the rain coming from a distance but she was firm as a rock, determined to hammer him in case he refused to succumb to her wishes. Their eyes met, and he saw the same fire in them as when she was yet in Olympus with her full glory. It was a wonder how it easily melted him. Zeno clicked his tongue and pulled her so they could start walking home, "alright."

The door flew open as Thanea entered with the muddy mat on her hand. She placed the mat on a corner before attending to Zeno who entered after her with the basket. As soon as they closed the door, the roar of rain hoarded over the rooftops and Thanea quickly went to the upper chambers to grab a towel and bring it to a slouching Zeno on the rug before the empty fire place. As she left, he looked around at the familiar place and the images of an old man and woman sent shivers down his spine. He can feel his heartbeats getting loud, gaining most of his auditory senses and his head began to clutter with their screams. His temples ached, making the veins on his scalp visible and droplets of cold sweat began to surface. He closed his eyes and pinched his temples as he shook his head, trying to escape from the ghosts beginning to hunt his conscience. It was becoming intense, though, making him partially blind. The screeching sounds of their wound felt like hearing metal scrape against metal, and he can feel his eyeballs about to burst, can feel him nearly crying out blood like a pressurized force was screaming inside his head to be let out.

"Zeno?"

He suddenly looked at her, breathing hard. Her face was pale and eyes tampered with worry. She immediately went to his side and held his cheeks with both palms, trying to revive him. Zeno, on the other hand, blinked faintly.

"What's wrong?"

He groaned and stopped her hands from touching his face. Zeno breathed deep and shook his head once more.

"My…my head hurts,"

"Must be the rain. Here," Thanea responded by placing the clean towel on his head and helped him to dry his moist hair. He felt weak as an old stump of tree.

"You need to rest, Zeno." She whispered in his ears before placing his arm over her shoulder and she held his back to support him. Both stood with Zeno becoming more drained, and before he eventually passed out with a thud, he heard her scream but he felt like being taken away. He needed the pendant…or else the souls of those whom he has slain would slowly suck the life off him and be haunted by his guilt for eternity.

"Zeno…"

He slowly opened his eyes and looked around weakly, feeling heavy weights on his shoulders.

Thanea…? Where am I?

"Zeno…"

Where are you?

Ares found himself in a white room with white marble walls and porcelain flooring. Even he himself was wearing white tunic without any armour and whatsoever. He crawled with blurring vision. Everything seemed to glow so immaculately without any trace of darkness delusion. Thanea, where are you?

"Look up."

He grunted, trying to reconcile what he was hearing, yet before he could look up, a drop of blood fell before him. It was deep red against the whiteness of the room, and never the less it sent his muscles freezing. The droplet of blood widened and from before him, it was turning into a small pool.

"Look up."

He heard the voice once more, and he felt the winter cold drifting on his veins. He moved his neck slowly and froze at the sight of Thanea hanging above him by a rope on the neck. She was wearing a white tunic as well, and the hem concealed only her top down to her knees. His chest heaved and his eyes dried at the sight of her state. There were droplets of tears forming on the corner of his eyes and he couldn't force his fingers to move. The blood was coming from her inner thigh, streaking through her legs and dropping from the tip of her toes, as if she had just given birth.

"I trusted you, Zeno…"

The voice was becoming more distinct, and he was in an absolute shock to see how she could smile despite her broken neck.

"I trusted you…" her head moved to look down on her and he couldn't do anything but to watch her float down, freeing herself from the rope which broke her neck. Suddenly she screeched, "ARES!"

"Athena!"

Zeno stormed from his lying place, throwing the blanket which covered him. His face was wet with tears and he looked around calling Thanea's name. It was then he realized he has just woken up from a nightmare, and he was still on the living room, having been sleeping on the couch. The flames from the fire place danced and sent crackling noises to his ears. He was still breathing hard and he ran his palm to wipe his face. His throat dried from the constant screaming on his sleep.

The layers of blanket fell on the floor as he slowly went towards the kitchen to have a cool drink. He made sure his moves won't cause a chaos and was glad that Thanea didn't wake up from his constant moaning and talking while unconscious. The kitchen was absolutely dark, with a dim light from the fireplace casting his shadow upon the wall. He found a basin of water and wet his face with both palms digging onto the liquid, freshening him up a bit. After which he strode across the living room to find anything he would write a note from.

I'm sorry I had to leave again, Thanea… his mind thought of the message he needed to write. There was no time to delay. He needed to find the damned bandits waiting for their death from his hands. He readied his dagger. It was enough to strike only once and let a dozen men fall with decapitated heads. Suddenly his ear caught a faint sound of footsteps coming towards him from outside the house. He listened a while longer, and figured out it was Thanea's footsteps coming near. He quickly disarrayed himself and jumped to the couch where he used to sleep, fixing the layers of the brown blanket. He closed his eyes to pretend as if asleep, but in his mind were questions why the hell was she coming from outside on such a dark night.

He seemed to stop breathing when he heard the door slowly open behind him. His ears can get any noise, any detail of what she was doing. He heard her place something gently on a corner. Its thudding sound seemed like that of a wooden club. She walked across the room with the gentlest care, denying any noise which she worries might wake him up. He can sense her looking at him for a few seconds and she fixed the blanket, pulling it up to cover his chest. He can even sense her smile despite his closed eyes, and can now hear her walk towards the kitchen. There was something, though, which caught the attention of his nose and made his brows furrow. The moment she turned his back on him, his eyes opened at the smell of iron. The smell of blood. She was currently bleeding, and it sent fiery sensations on the back of his neck.

"Where have you been?"

Thanea nearly dropped the candle holder when she heard his voice. She was currently lighting one when he sprang from behind her which made her muscles jump. She giggled, seeing him looking seriously at her. In the dark, she can sense something was bugging him, and he can sense she has been in a bloody trouble.

"Zeno!" she whimpered and acted as if not feeling the hurt she currently perceived on her skin. Her smiled was delicate, and it pained him to see how far she could go to hide her true emotions.

"Oh, I'll have to surprise you on this, wait a while." Thanea smiled and turned her back on him.

"What are you hiding?"

She looked back once more with a seemingly wondering face, "What? Nothing. I'm just—"

Thanea stopped when Zeno suddenly grabbed her arm and revealed to him a red bruise on each. As if she had just placed it above the fire. He caught her eyes and she gave the same apologetic look, like a child caught stealing.

"Zeno, that's nothing."

"What's nothing!" his blood boiled and she was startled at how his voice rose at her. She pulled her arms away from him and timidly embraced herself as she stepped back. He followed her with raven eyes and she took quick steps toward the living room to have a distance from him. She had began to fear his temper about to burst.

"Who did that to you?" Zeno followed her.

"No one!"

"Don't lie to me!" he grabbed her shoulder and she tripped, eventually falling on the carpet.

"I'm sorry, Zeno! I'm sorry! I'm really sorry!" she finally sobbed. Tears streaked down her cheeks and she was reddening from guilt. The way she looked up at him dissolved the heat on the top of his head, as if she had just thrown to him a bucket of iced water. He sighed and kneeled to level with her face, looking at her with concerned eyes.

"What are you sorry for, Thanea…?" he brushed a lock of her hair off her face and tucked it behind her ear. She was trembling, and slowly opened her palm to him.

"I dropped it on the way home and accidentally stepped on it." Her voice was honestly clumped on her throat and she let out another sob, "The edge on this side has cracked…I'm really sorry…"

Zeno was dumbfounded. He found himself unable to move as she passed into his palm the pendant with a mild crack on one of the silvery edges. He swallowed and peered through her with moist eyes.

"W-where did you get this…?" he asked in a whisper.

She looked at him after wiping a tear, "the woods."

"From whom…?"

"The…outlaws."

He raised his brows, "the…outlaws…? The…bandits…?"

She slowly nodded her head and left him with agape lips. His heart thundered, indicating he had stopped sucking air. He repeatedly opened and closed his mouth, unable to bring out the words stuck between his tongue and teeth. He shook his head, making sure he wasn't dreaming.

"Thanea…you went into the woods…you faced the bandits…you were alone?" he continuously asked in dangerous whispers, "and you are sorry because…you stepped on it…"

"Zeno, I am! I'm really sorry! It was an accident…please believe me…" she continued to sob and curled, digging her face between her knees.

"How did you…fend them off…?" he swallowed once more, feeling the hairs behind his neck stand. He forced a smile, only to comfort her that he wasn't going to strangle her for now.

This time she smiled and he was insulted at the pride on her eyes as if she wasn't feeling the worry swelling on his heart.

"You should've seen it, Zeno. They couldn't move."

"They…?" he nodded.

"Yes…"

"How many…" he cleared his throat, "are…'they'?"

"Oh, don't worry Zeno. It was just three of them, the others were…I don't know. Maybe they're still sleeping. Point is, they didn't stand a chance against me. At first they were laughing at me and telling me to cook them their coming breakfast. And the other one tried to peep under my skirt but I didn't give them a chance. I'm glad I've brought my club. Father always told me to bring it under such circumstances…"

"Oh…I see…" he sighed and kissed his thumb from his hardened fist, trying to calm himself down, "they almost…raped you?"

"Well…it's not like that." She brightened her eyes, "You should've heard how they whined after I hit them almost around 50 times…and kicked their stomachs before I left with the pendant in my hand, even I couldn't believe I can be able to fight like a real soldier. You should've se—"

"THAT is the stupidest story on the face of the earth you woman!"

Thanea suddenly shut up with fright on her face and was locked in such timidity at Zeno's voice.

"WHAT ON THE HEAVENS IS WRONG WITH YOU!" he continued to yell at her and she nearly screamed when he held her shoulders, nearly shaking her.

"Thanea, what…!" his brows suddenly furrowed and chapped with worry, "why! They could've hurt you! They could've torn your clothes and—"he grabbed his hair with both palms and bowed his head. In front of her he rocked and bent his head low, only to let him bring out his frustrations in a muffled sob. Thanea couldn't move, hearing him cry aloud while gripping on his hair. Never before had he been so worried all his immortal life, never had he been at the brink of almost losing someone he is currently treasuring. He is the god of war: wrathful, savage, full of bloodlust and anger, taking joy upon battles and felt at ease with darkness and doom; now he is in front of the goddess whom he wanted very much to kill, sobbing for a reason he didn't want to lose her. And never before had he volunteered to become pathetic, most especially in front of a woman.

Damn you Athena! He thought with a confused mind and gritted teeth. Yes, she might be capable of fighting. She is a goddess of war as well deserved as he was to be called. She can be fierce at the battle field. And unconsciously she has carried the traits of her ferocity. But she is a mortal. She can die.

DAMN YOU!

"Don't worry now…"

Zeno opened his eyes and raised his head to see her. She was smiling sweetly and she took a move to come near him, "I'm okay…these bruises are nothi—"

There was a sudden action.

Thanea flushed red and tried to fight him off her with a muffled voice. Everything was very quick. All she knew was that she was comforting him and suddenly he placed his palm behind her head and pulled her into a forceful kiss. Their lips touched, and she didn't know what that meant but it sure was uncomfortable, most especially with him trying to tie her down. She felt dirty, and her mind was agitated. She whimpered and pushed his shoulders in a shock but Zeno was far stronger than she was. He remained steady, and held her wrist to calm her down. She slowly stopped wriggling off, and her eyes felt drowsy that she remained it half-opened.

She breathed in and easily caught up with the motion of his lips perfectly. For her it seemed that her responses were automatic, as if it was designed for that purpose. And she didn't even know what they were doing but it felt different. It felt serene, and her body was reacting fervently. She can feel the spasms crawling under her skin, but her heart was tied into a pleasant destination. Everything was silent, and the moment Zeno let go of her mouth then he began to feel his pulses wanting to burst. He withdrew with such care and breathed out shakily on her parted lips as he opened his eyes to see her reaction. She remained calm awhile, but he can behold her paralyzed emotion.

Zeno gently pulled her in an embrace, which startled her and froze her for a second. "Please promise me.." he whispered, and the next few words sent the tears resurfacing on her eyes.

"Don't you ever—ever—do that again, Thanea…please." He broke their embrace to plant a kiss on her forehead while she remained as a delicate child in his arms. She closed her eyes and felt the warmth of his arms as he enveloped her once more against his chest, "from now on, I promise to protect you…by my life I swear whomever scars you will pay…"

Pay by my tears, by my wrath, and even by their blood.

He held her tight and closed his eyes, for the meantime forgetting his task against her and giving her a promise…which he wanted very much to do although blurred by the necessity of the pact with the coming spring.


To be cont'd on Chapter 12:In Between

A new temptation for the god. A new person in her life. A trouble coming for both.


A/N: Oh my...I kind of slipped a future-future happening *smirk* hope no one noticed that. Lol! harhar!

AthenAres