“Jake?” Sam Lipson’s voice came from behind monuments a few feet from them. “I think I just saw Jake!”
Jacob, Blane, Ares, Asclepius, and Perses with Katy and Paddie continued forward to the vent for the Fire of Hell. Now on their feet, it was clear that this little group of people had sat around this vent for the last few days.
A well of emotion rose in Jacob. These humans had sat here the entire time he and Abi had fought the soul stealer and when he’d rescued Ember, the fourth fairy queen. They’d believed in him throughout the entire thing. He wanted to weep and laugh at the same time.
His father grabbed his shoulder and pulled him into him. Jacob tried to come up with words, but nothing came. He held his father tight. Sam patted Jacob’s back before letting him go.
“Let me take a look at you,” Sam said.
Jacob stood before his father. Sam looked at his son as if he were seeing him for the first time.
“You’re a little taller,” Sam said, shrugging. “Otherwise, well done, Asclepius.”
Asclepius blushed and was appropriately humble as he edged his way toward Delphie. When Jacob looked up, there was a great deal of general chaos. The youngest of the three young men had jumped into Blane’s arms while the other brothers were loudly welcoming Blane. Ares was laughing at the boys’ exuberance while Perses was suspiciously looking around the cemetery.
Through it all, Maresol sat meditating. Her head was shaking back and forth. Jacob went to Maresol’s side.
“What is it?” Jacob asked.
“They are coming out,” Maresol said.
Everyone stopped moving. Perses took two quick steps to Maresol’s side.
“Who?” Perses asked, grabbing her shoulder to support her.
“The fairies and Abi,” Maresol said.
Maresol pointed to the vent hole for the Fire of Hell. The group became very silent. Blane set down the youngest brother. They turned en masse to look at the vent hole in the middle of the circle. As they watched, the ground began to vibrate. Dirt and rocks began to slide into the vent hole.
“Move back!” Ares yelled.
Jacob lifted Maresol to her feet. Their eyes on the hole, everyone jogged back a few feet. They fell silent. The air filled with the sounds of nature —the wind in the trees, and birds chirping — the tinny sound of the dirt slipping through the hole and landing on the rock below. They watched with equal doses of excitement and horror.
Abi’s head slowly appeared as she rose out of the vent. Her shoulders and her waist were above the dirt when Asclepius and Perses dropped to their knees.
Ares, the God of War, squealed with delight. He did a fast pass at kneeled and then ran to Abi.
“Mother!” Ares said.
He twirled Abi around and then crushed her in a tight hug. His sheer delight was infectious. Perses and Asclepius rose to standing and went to say hello. Ares set Abi down and turned to see that they were looking at him.
“You told me about some ‘Abi’,” Ares said. “I didn’t realize that you meant the mother of us all! Where is …?”
He said an unpronounceable name.
“He was just at my house,” Ares said.
“They know him by Gilfand,” Abi said, breaking off from saying hello to Asclepius and Perses. “He went to work out a few things out while I am here.”
Jacob laughed. They helped Asclepius, Ares, and Perses out of the SUV. They woke up Katy and Paddie. Each of them took a child as they got out of the SUV. Carrying a sleepy Paddie, Jacob gestured toward where he knew the vent to the Fire of Hell was located. The group started walking. Wide awake, Katy peppered Blane with questions.
“What do you think about having new brothers?” Katy asked brightly.
“Okay, I guess,” Blane said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with me.”
“I like having brothers,” Katy said, as if that was the point of her asking the question. “I know you will too.”
Katy kissed Blane’s cheek and he set her down.
“Hold onto Blane’s hand, Katy,” Jacob said. “We don’t know what we’re dealing with here.”
“Everything is okay, Daddy,” Katy said. “I promise.”
Jacob stopped walking.
“You’ll hold Blane’s hand anyway,” Jacob said.
“Of course,” Katy said.
Katy shot him an “I’m a good girl” grin. Jacob gave a rueful shake of his head and began walking again. Blane grabbed onto Katy’s hand.
“I’m not a baby,” Katy said under her breath when her father was out of hearing range.
“I know you’re not a baby,” Jacob yelled back to her.
Katy stopped and put her hands on her hips.
“He just wants to make sure you’re safe,” Blane said.
“But I …” Katy said.
“He was nearly killed,” Blane said. “At this exact spot, due to an issue that’s not resolved. Is it so unreasonable for him to be a little over careful?”
Katy looked up into her Uncle Blane’s face. Seeing his kind sincerity, she nodded in agreement. She held out her hand. As soon as it had come up, her irritation had passed. They skipped until they caught up with Jacob just as he was putting Paddie down.
Looking up, Jacob stopped walking. His hand went to his chest. He bent over, trying to catch his breath. Blane let go of Katy and went to Jacob.
“What is it?” Asclepius asked. “What has happened?”
The God of Medicine went to Jacob.
“I’m okay,” Jacob said. “I’m okay. I just …”
“Panic,” Asclepius said. “It’s understandable.”
“I didn’t think that I’d …” Jacob said.
“You almost died, son,” Ares said. “Not many know what that’s like.”
Ares and Perses looked at Jacob with understanding and knowing. Jacob gave them a quick nod.
“I’ll hold your hand, Daddy,” Katy said.
Jacob looked down at this girl, his daughter. She was outrageously brave. She gave her a soft smile and held out his hand.
“Jake?” Sam Lipson’s voice came from behind monuments a few feet from them. “I think I just saw Jake!”
“Don’t be absurd,” Asclepius said. “One can only be what one is made to be.”
“What does that mean?” Blane asked, his scowl in his voice.
“Some people are interested in everyone,” Asclepius’s eyes flicked to his father.
“He’s talking about me,” Ares said.
“Some people are only interested in the opposite gender,” Ascelpius said. “So far, that has been me. Perses?”
“I’ve only loved two females in my long life,” Perses said. “I am the God of Destruction, not the God of Love.”
Jacob glanced at Blane and they both nodded.
“Only females?” The God of War asked.
“Only females,” Perses said with a nod. “Why are we talking about this?”
“Young Blane here thought we might have some issue with his interest in men,” Ares said.
“Why?” Perses asked.
“It’s not considered ‘normal’,” Blane said, angrily.
The Greek Gods and Titan laughed loudly.
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” Asclepius said.
“In my day,” Ares piped up to say, “every once in a while, men who like men were forced to bed women to make heirs. A few complained about it, but truthfully, it wasn’t a big deal. Often children were made by servants or other siblings. The point was to have the child. As long as they looked close enough to the parents, no one bothered to think about it. I have heard that sci-ence …” He emphasized the word, “ … has made it so male unions can raise children.”
“It is brilliant,” Perses said.
“That’s right,” Ares said. “It was you who told me that.”
“Your grandson,” Perses said.
“His grandson?” Blane asked.
“You don’t know?” Jacob asked.
“Know what?” Blane shook his head.
“Meet your grandfather-in-law,” Jacob said.
“You’re the lad married to my Hedone?” Ares asked. “I knew I liked you.”
“Even if I like men?” Blane asked.
“Hedone has children,” Ares shrugged.
“She’s had my sons,” Blane said.
“Yes, that’s right,” Ares said. “That is the science that Perses was telling me about.”
Blane turned around to look at the God. Ares nodded. When Blane’s eyes flicked to Perses, the Titan shrugged.
“Why would we care?” Ascelpius asked.
Blane looked at the God for a moment and then turned back to Jacob. They heard Perses tell Asclepius about the trouble gay, lesbian, and others have. For a moment, the Gods digested this information. They fell silent.
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” Ascelpius repeated.
“Have you had carnal relations with this lad?” Ascelpius asked.
“Not yet,” Blane spit out.
“Why not?” Perses and Ascelpius asked in near unison.
“My point exactly,” Jacob said.
They laughed again. Jacob looked at Katy and Paddie through the rearview mirror. By some miracle, the children were still sound asleep. After a moment, Ares leaned forward.
“I had this wonderful affair with a man,” Ares said.
For the rest of their ride to the cemetery, Ares regaled them with stories from his romance with a strapping warrior. Jacob was just parking the car when Ares finished his story. Jacob looked at Blane and Blane just shook his head.
“See?” Jacob grinned.
“Shut up,” Blane said.
Jacob laughed. They helped Ascelpius, Ares, and Perses out of the SUV. They woke up Katy and Paddie. Each of them took a child as they got out of the SUV.
Blane turned around to see that everyone else in the car was asleep. Ares had his head resting on his son’s shoulder, and Perses had rested his head against the window. Katy and Paddie were sound asleep in the far back.
“So …” Jacob said.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Blane said.
Blane crossed his arms and lowered his head into the collar of his shirt. Jacob laughed. Blane scowled at Jacob.
“Oh come on,” Jacob said.
“He is nice,” Blane said with a sigh. “He’s incredibly kind. The kids love him.”
“He’s very hot,” Jacob said.
“And?” Jacob asked.
“He listens to what I say and remembers it,” Blane said. “I came home one day and he was talking to Heather in the Castle kitchen. He didn’t know I was there. He was respectful to her. He wasn’t afraid of her in any way, not even a little. When I came in, he smiled when I said, ‘Hello’ to Heather first.”
“Didn’t bother him,” Jacob said.
“Not in the least,” Blane said.
Jacob let the silence lag. When it seemed like Blane wasn’t going to add anything, Jacob asked, “Are you attracted to him?”
Blane nodded. Embarrassed, Blane tucked his hands into his arm pits and lowered his head. Jacob smiled at him.
“He’s attracted to you?” Jacob asked.
Blane nodded. Jacob gave a slight nod to his response. Seeing Jacob’s nod, Blane blushed even darker.
“You may as well tell me,” Jacob said. “We’re bringing this lot back to the Castle. Aden’s going to want to know the details.”
Blane groaned and looked up at the ceiling of the vehicle. Jacob laughed.
“You’re not going to let this go, are you?” Blane asked.
“Would you?” Jacob asked.
Blane gave him a long look.
“My best-friend and cousin might actually have found someone to love who will love him back and …” Jacob started.
“No one said anything about love,” Blane said quickly, cutting Jacob off.
Jacob laughed so loudly that the Olympians awoke. Paddie and Katy roused.
“See what you’ve done?” Blane asked between clenched teeth.
“What is going on?” Asclepius asked.
“We are almost to the cemetery,” Jacob said, still bright from his laughter. “We have maybe ten more minutes.”
“No, I meant between you boys,” Asclepius said. “What is funny? Do tell, so we can all laugh. You know, laughter is the best medicine.”
“My cousin might be in love,” Jacob said.
“Jacob!” Blane said.
“He has found a man to love who will love him in return?” Asclepius asked. “How wonderful!”
Jill had a chance to sleep for a few hours while Jacob took care of the kids. She then really, really, really needed to focus on studying for her finals.
That is, of course, if the fairies were going to kill her husband again.
Sheepishly, the fairies assured Jill that nothing like that was planned.
After promising to be super-duper-careful, Jacob left Jill with the chocolate cake and her studies. He took the twins to the Marlowe School. He picked up Paddie and Blane. Situating Katy and Paddie in the far back of the monstrous SUV, he put the Greek Gods — Ares and his son, Asclepius — and his Titan father-in-law, Perses, in the middle seat. Ares and Asclepius had never been in a car before so they were excited to go for a drive. Perses was happy to show off his knowledge of modern day human life. While Katy and Paddie slept in the far back, the Greek party happily chatted with each other and stared at the world with transfixed awe. Blane took the passenger seat.
They were heading up to the Cemetery and the Fire of Hell to follow up with the fairies and check in with Sam, Delphie, and Maresol. On their way out of town, Blane told Jacob all about what he’d missed while he was gone. They were well outside Denver when Blane slowed down.
“How did you get back to Denver?” Jacob asked Blane. “Last time I saw you, you were at the house in Leadville.”
“Heather needed to go to see her grandfather,” Blane said. He flicked his eyes to the back seat. “I went by fairy.”
“How was that?” Jacob asked.
“If you’re asking if I threw up when I arrived, I can assure you that you and I are not so different,” Blane said.
“Ugh,” Jacob groaned.
“Yes, I am complaining to you who’ve been completely rebuilt from the inside out,” Blane laughed. “How was that?”
“Ugh,” Jacob groaned.
Blane laughed, and Jacob grinned.
“I have to tell you…,” Jacob started.
“Heather told me,” Blane said. “My biologic father has three other sons. Much younger than me.”
“It’s weird because I thought my bio father was killed right away,” Blane said.
“Guess not,” Jacob said. “Did you ask Heather?”
Blane nodded. Jacob let the silence lag.
“She said …” Blane fell silent for a moment and then shook his head. “I’m not exactly sure what she said. Something like time is not linear.”
“Any idea what that means?” Jacob asked.
“None,” Blane said. “I want to say that I don’t give a shit, but I …”
Blane shook himself.
“And anyway, Sam Lipson is my father,” Blane said. “There’s not much else that matters to me.”
“Did you say Sam Lipson?” Asclepius asked.
Blane looked at Jacob, who raised an eyebrow.
“Sam Lipson’s a good man,” Asclepius said. “I like him quite a bit.”
Jacob chuckled. Glancing at Blane, his cousin raised his eyebrows and laughed.
“Yes, well, carry on,” Asclepius said.
“They’re mostly human, son,” Ares said. “Humans don’t need our permission to carry on.”
The Greeks and Titan laughed heartily.
“Shhhh!” Paddie said. “We’re sleeping!”
The Greeks and Titan almost giggled at the reprimand from the child. Jacob looked at Blane and rolled his eyes. Blane laughed.
Laughing and joking, the SUV with
two Greek Gods, a Titan, an object of power, a rebuilt man, a once ill, now
well man, and two children continued on its way to Leadville to meet the fairy
queens, the Fire of Hell, an Oracle, Sam Lipson (of course), the First Mother, and
a few kids, who may or may not be an orphans’ siblings.
Life, you see, is about
the company you keep and the adventures you have with them.