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Apollo returned to the main hall of the temple where he had left his son and the others. He was surprised to hear excited talking. When he entered the room he immediately noticed Cupid was awake. He didn't seem to be coherent, but he had some limited awareness of his surroundings.
Apollo watched as each of the men tried to engage Cupid in conversation. Cupid was looking from person to person with tearful eyes but not showing any recognition of who they were or what they were saying.
"Save your breath guys. The light is on but no one's home." Apollo said as he made his way to Cupid.
"But he opened his eyes and started looking around." Asclepius said, wanting to understand.
"Don't get me wrong, it's progress. And I expect you to tell me how he got this far, but he is far from well. The three of you hovering around him is not going to help. If that would help, I would have let the last bunch stay." Apollo said wryly.
"Got it Dad, and he got better because Ganymede called for retribution against him." Asclepius said simply.
"Good. I was worried that no one would want to be first. Now that someone has done it and proved that it worked I can call Cupid's parents." Apollo said and became defocused as he called. //Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaistos. Something is wrong with Cupid and I need you to come to my temple, now.//
Ares, Aphrodite and Hephaistos appeared immediately. Apollo preempted their speech by saying, "Cupid is deep in a depressive state. He feels that he's hurt people and doesn't deserve forgiveness. The only way we're going to get him better is for those he hurt to seek retribution."
Ares, Aphrodite and Hephaistos were all speechless from hearing the news and seeing the crying, incoherent Cupid. "Ganymede called for retribution and brought Cupid out of his catatonic state to be as he is now." Apollo said a little less forcefully.
"What can we do to help?" Asked Ares, always ready to jump directly to a solution when possible.
"We give him what he needs. You three have to call for retribution on Cupid or he won't feel that he made up for hurting you." Apollo said as he walked beside Cupid and picked up the list. [3... 2... 1... ]
"Why would I ask for retribution against Cupid?" Aphrodite asked, puzzled.
"According to what Jett and I could make out through Jett's godhood... Jett? Would you?" Apollo asked.
Jett rose from his chair and took the list from Apollo. After reading it for a moment he said, "Aphrodite and Hephaistos, he feels he has been selfish and oblivious to others, especially you two. He feels that he was such a failure as a son that you both had no choice but to give up on him."
Aphrodite's mouth fell open in shock at the very idea, at the same time Hephaistos just nodded in acceptance.
"Ares, Cupid feels that he was a disappointment to you as a son. He never was what you wanted him to be, and he never put forth the effort to even try." Jett said in a flat tone.
"Are you sayin we have ta hurt Cupie? Cause if you are 'Pol, I'm gonna tear you up." Aphrodite said ending in a snarl.
"No, no. You don't actually have to hurt him. Ganymede, would you mind explaining your retribution to Cupid's parents?" Apollo asked, trying to shift the focus off of himself.
"Yes, I would mind very much." Ganymede said in a deep voice and moved closer to Asclepius.
"Ganymede? Whoa sweetie! Talk about a growth spurt." Aphrodite said in surprise before becoming focused back on Cupid's situation.
Apollo gave a dark look toward Ganymede then said to the parents, "Fine, I just need you to think about why Cupid would feel this way. Specific instances when he acted selfishly, especially with you two. And times when he passed up opportunities to do things with you Ares. Then you have to think of a way to make things right between you. What can be done to balance the scales between you?"
"I just can't do it 'Pol." Aphrodite said, and threw her hands up dramatically.
"I suppose we could do this the mortal way. It might be a little slower but it's a proven treatment." Apollo said absently.
"What's that?" Hephaistos asked, subdued.
"Public flogging. With the state he's in, I'm guessing he'll have all the guilt beat out of him in about two to three months." He said in a speculative voice before he was lifted with one strong hand and pinned to a wall.
"Find. Another. Way." Hephaistos said in a voice full of menace.
"I... I was just saying, that's why I need you three to come up with retribution ideas that won't damage him. Just think about it. You three and Strife are the last that I'm going to ask to do this. The others should be easier, since there is less guilt to be dissipated." Apollo said, massaging his throat when Hephaistos put him down.
"Is there anything we can do for him now?" Ares asked calmly.
"No, I just called you so that you could start thinking about it." Apollo replied.
"Call if there's anything I can do in the mean time." Ares said in a commanding voice before flashing out.
"I'm gonna stay with Cupie..." Aphrodite began.
"It would be best for him if you didn't. I can guarantee it would make things worse. He doesn't need or want to be coddled right now. Go and think about the retribution you can call on him and I promise that if there is anything you can do to help, I'll call you immediately." Apollo said seriously to Hephaistos and Aphrodite.
Hephaistos took his wife's arm and guided her away from Cupid before they flashed out of the room.
"Ganymede, I still need to know about your retribution." Apollo said sternly.
"It's between Cupid and myself. It's settled." Ganymede said and folded his arms across his chest.
"Go ahead Gan, tell Dad what you told me. I mean, if it will help Cupid..." Asclepius said in a begging tone.
"Fine. He did something that hurt me, I think it will always hurt me. So I gave him a reminder of what he did to carry from now on. End of story." Ganymede said gruffly.
"You were easier to get on with when you were little." Apollo said, frustrated.
"No he wasn't." Asclepius answered in a teasing tone.
Ganymede smiled at Asclepius' teasing and pulled him in for a kiss.
After a brief kiss, Asclepius pulled back and whispered, "Not in front of Dad."
"You ashamed of me?" Ganymede asked seriously.
"No. He'll want one too." Asclepius said with a smile.
* * * * *
Joxer appeared in the second war camp to find that they were already past the planning stage and were arming for battle. He couldn't think of how to stop the warriors at this stage so he called to Ares.
//Ares? One of my camps is already arming for battle. Any suggestions of how to stop them?// Joxer asked with worry.
//Let your mischief godhood loose. Rain hardship on them and thoughts of battle will be a distant memory.// Ares replied with humor.
//Love you.// Joxer said before turning his mind back to the army before him.
//Love you too.// Ares replied with a smile under his thought.
Joxer closed his eyes and looked deep within himself, into the essence of mischief. He drew the power up and out, and let it flow without focus.
Suddenly a horse reared up and knocked over a cart.
The cart in turn landed on a soldier's foot.
The soldier screamed and drew his foot up, throwing himself off balance and falling into two other soldiers.
One of those he fell into was sharpening his sword and cut off a finger, the other twisted at the impact and broke his ankle.
Ants started swarming up the legs of a dozen men, causing them to jump around furiously swatting at themselves.
Two men just fell over for reasons that no one could explain, causing worry among all those around them.
The camp fires sputtered and jumped their pits to burn indiscriminately.
The oil lamp in the warlord's tent fell over and the tent began to burn swiftly.
Four of the horses laid down and fell asleep and could not be awakened.
Armor straps and boot lacings broke.
The smoke from the tent fire and the campfires seemed to collect over the camp, stinging eyes and making breathing difficult.
Joxer looked at the havoc that had been wrought by releasing a burst of his power and chuckled. He decided that all that was left to do was some detail work.
Joxer went to a campfire and threw in some wet wool, chunks of sulfur, and a bottle of rancid oil, just to add some spice.
Then he went to the warlord's tent and saw the warlord standing by, yelling orders at his men who were trying to contain the fire.
Joxer focused his power and his concentration to create a reasonably large puddle just behind the warlord. Then with another push of his power, he caused a flash of fire to leap out from the tent, toward the warlord, knocking him off balance and into the mud puddle.
Chaos was all that could be seen in all directions. Joxer decided to go back and check on the first camp. These guys weren't going anywhere for a while.
* * * * *
As soon as Cupid's parents had left, Apollo started studying the list again, trying to decide who would be best to help Cupid in his current state. Anteros... had been pushed away, Joxer... didn't get help when he should, Bliss... didn't spend enough time with. Considering the choices, he decided that Anteros was the best to call at the moment. Joxer was too new a god to help Cupid in his current state, and Bliss was too young. He didn't need to see his father like this.
//Anteros, I've got a way that you can help Cupid.// Apollo called.
Before he was completely finished sending the message, Anteros appeared.
"We figured out what is wrong with him. He feels like a failure and a bad person and needs to be forgiven by the people who he's hurt." Apollo said calmly.
"So what can I do?" Anteros asked cautiously.
"You're one of the people he feels guilty about hurting. He thinks he pushed you away and kept you out of his life." Apollo said directly.
Anteros thought about the blunt words and couldn't help but agree with them. "Okay. I got that, but what am I supposed to do?"
"I need you to seek retribution against Cupid for what he's done to you." Apollo said carefully, knowing that he was going to get a reaction.
"WHAT?" Anteros yelled, "I'm not doing anything to hurt Cupid!"
"I'm not asking you to hurt Cupid. I'm asking you to call for 'just' retribution against him to balance the relationship between you. Once you have, he'll know you have forgiven him for what he did and will get a little better." Apollo said, trying to keep it simple.
Anteros thought on that and finally said, "I guess I can see that. So I need to come up with some way to make things right between us. Something that Cupid couldn't or wouldn't do before..."
Apollo waited. Noticing the distant gaze in Anteros' eyes, he could see that Anteros was working this out.
"I have an idea, but I don't know if it's enough." Anteros said hesitantly.
Apollo turned to Jett and asked, "Are you ready for another one?"
"Ready when you are." Jett said with a smile.
"I Anteros, God of Love Avenged, call for retribution on Cupid, God of Romantic Love...." Anteros said formally.
Jett rolled his eyes and interrupted, "We don't have to be all formal here. what do you want done to Cupid?"
"I want his privacy taken away. I want the wall between his rooms and mine removed and I want all his doors removed. He has hurt me by retreating within walls, figurative and literal. I want the walls taken away." Anteros said sternly.
Jett laid a glowing hand on Cupid's head and after a moment he looked up and said, "Cupid's privacy is very precious to him, if you are willing to accept it as payment for his past behavior, he will be willing to give it up."
"I am willing." Anteros said seriously.
In a pink flash Cupid was gone. Everyone in the room started mentally searching Olympus for him. They found him in his room at the Temple of Love. As one, the group flashed to the temple and found Cupid making walls and doors disappear from his home.
"I hope he doesn't get rid of any walls that he needs to hold the roof up." Jett said, looking up.
Cupid stopped his movement sharply and stood, staring at his brother.
Jett got a serious look on his face and asked Anteros, "Is he forgiven?"
Anteros looked around the room and considered. "Yes, everything is forgiven." Anteros said with a smile.
Anteros held his arms open to Cupid and Cupid ran into the opened arms, crying in relief.
"It's alright Cupid, it's not too late. I'm glad to be getting the brother that I always wanted." Anteros said soothingly as he held Cupid tight.
Cupid finally pulled away and said, "Thanks Ter. Oh gods, Ter, I don't know how I'm going to do it. I've got to make things up to so many people. How am I going to fix this mess?"
Anteros was about to offer Cupid comfort when Apollo walked over and said, "You're going to fix this mess by making things right with one person at a time till you're right with everyone."
Cupid looked confused at Apollo, then nodded. "What do I need to do now 'Pol?" Cupid asked tiredly.
Apollo said with certainty, "You need to make things right with your son."
* * * * *
Hades and Persephone walked, unseen to mortals across an open meadow to a small farm house. Within the house there was an old man sitting, looking sourly at the village woman who came to deliver food to him.
//He's about to die anyway. Why bother?// Asked Hades of Persephone.
//Because love can make even a short amount of life worth living. As it is now, he only waits to die.// Persephone answered.
"Woman! Didja bring tha cakes I asked fer?" the sour old man yelled.
"Aye, made 'em myself, I did." She said, somewhat offended by his tone.
//How are we supposed to make this work?// Hades asked his wife.
//I haven't got a clue.// Persephone replied.
They watched silently as the old man glowered and the woman worked to stock his cupboards.
Hades had enough of waiting and made himself visible. Pointing at the old man, he said, "You, come with me."
"Who... who are you?" The old man asked in fear.
"I am Lord Hades, King of the Underworld. You will come with me NOW!" He commanded.
The old man shakily got off his chair and walked toward Hades. The woman stood afraid, cowering against the counter.
In a flash of darkness Hades and the man disappeared. A moment later Persephone made herself visible to the woman.
"Who?" Was all the woman could say.
"What is your name dear?" Persephone asked quietly.
"Leene." The woman asked in a shaking, fearful voice.
"Leene, I'm Persephone. Do not worry, no harm will come to you." Persephone said, wondering what her husband was up to.
"What 'as 'e done wit Venris?" The woman asked, a little more calmly.
"I don't know." Persephone answered honestly.
"I 'ope 'e don 'urt 'im. 'es a mean ole man, but 'e don know no better." Leene said sympathetically.
"I think he just needs someone to hold him close and show him that life isn't as bad as he thinks." Persephone said speculatively.
"I s'pose it could be tat way. But te ole fool won let nobody close nuf ta touch 'im. Nobody be fool nuf ta hold 'im." Leene said with certainty.
"If he were to try, just once, do you think you could be that someone?" Persephone asked, hoping Leene would consider it.
"Yea, buts more likely ta snow in da summertime dan fer 'im ta talk ta me like I'm a person like 'im." Leene said sadly.
A dark flash gave way to the figures of Hades and a very pale and shaking Venris.
Immediately Venris ran to Leene and threw his arms around her, begging her forgiveness and asking her to stay with him and hold him close.
//What did you do to him?// Persephone asked, amazed at the transformation.
//I showed him a rock.// Hades answered simply.
//A rock did all that? Which rock?// Persephone asked, confused.
//The rock in the third level of Tartarus that he would be chained to for all eternity if he didn't treat that woman with love and respect for the rest of his days.// Hades thought smugly.
Persephone considered it for a moment while watching Leene and Venris holding tightly to each other and talking softly. She took Hades hand and made a motion with her head, signaling for them to go.
In a dark flash, the King and Queen of Asphodel disappeared from the mortal realm, thinking how much fun it was to help people fall in love.
* * * * *
Anteros appeared in the Temple of Love with Bliss in his arms. Bliss looked around the room with surprise. "What happened Uncle Ter? Somebody steal all the walls?" Bliss asked worried.
"No Bliss, your daddy took out the walls because I asked him to. You see waaaaay over there, that's my room. We're all going to be living together now." Anteros said happily.
Bliss started clapping and bouncing with happiness.
"Bliss, I need to ask you some very important questions." Anteros said to Bliss seriously.
Bliss calmed down and gave his Uncle Ter his full attention.
"Do you know how you feel when you've been bad? How you feel inside?" Anteros asked carefully.
"Uh huh, I feels like a lizardy thing is crawling in my tummy." Bliss said seriously.
"What does your daddy do when you've been real bad? I mean the baddest you've ever been." Anteros asked, trying not to worry Bliss.
"When I took daddy's arrows and shooted mortals daddy spanked my butt and made me say I was sorry." Bliss said and wiggled in remembrance.
"How did you feel the next day? I mean inside. Was the lizardy thing still there?" Anteros asked quietly, hoping for the right answer.
Bliss shook his head no.
"I'm going to call someone, his name is Jett, he looks like Grandpa Joxer, it's his brother." Anteros said, hoping this would go well.
In a green flash, Jett appeared. Anteros asked Bliss quietly, "If your daddy was real bad, like the baddest he's ever been. What do you think should happen to make his lizardy feeling go away."
Bliss thought carefully and said, "His daddy should spank him and daddy should say he's sorry."
"Then everything would be okay?" Anteros asked to be sure.
Bliss nodded his head emphatically.
Anteros looked up at Jett and Jett nodded.
"Thanks Bliss. I'm going to take you back to Aunt Hestia for a few minutes, but if everything goes right I'll be back with your daddy in a little bit." Anteros said with a sad smile.
"Gonna see daddy!" Bliss said, full of happiness again.
"In just a little while, let's go see Hestia." Anteros said and flashed out leaving Jett alone.
Jett thought to himself in a sing-song tone, [Cupid's gonna get a spanking...]