practiced maliceMature

Chapter Forty-Two
Pilot, then Eden, by rhetoric
Word count: 1,131

He laughed, and the sound was harsh and brittle even to his own ears.  He propped the phone up against his ear with his shoulder as he brushed down his horse, watching the sunset light reflecting in her onyx coat.  For safe measure, he kept his voice low.  “What makes you think I owe you anything?”  Pilot hated being so cautious, he felt more and more like a craven pansy the longer the conversation went on; it was underhanded to keep her in the dark but he couldn’t help the rising fear in his chest.

He was protecting their life together, he told himself.

He had expected at least a moment of silence from the other line, but none came.  Immediately, almost in such a way that indicated he’d been expecting that very question, Phaedos said, “Because I let her walk out.”

It was ironic that he was struck silent by those six words.

All at once the memory of the last time he had seen Phaedos came rushing back.  There was a demented sort of fury that awoke in his veins – ancient and lethal; and it was tasting his blood and his thoughts for the first time in years.  Pilot shook visibly with the sudden wave of darkness that crushed into him.  He could hardly breathe.

“Listen, Pilot,” Phaedos’ words cracked and Pilot wasn’t certain if it was his voice or the connection.  “I won’t ask anything of you ever again.  I won’t call, I won’t write.  I will continue to burn her letters, unopened.  I will continue to delete her messages without listening to them.  I will keep her firmly in your arms.  Just do me this favor, and you will never have to worry about her running off with me again.  She won’t even know where to find me, if you can help me with this.”

Pilot glanced up over the back of his mare; his emerald eyes catching her silhouette in the window of the kitchen.  Through the lace curtains, he could make out the warm burgundy curls that hung far below the hem of her cut-off denim shorts.  He could hear her humming, even from the barn, and he intentionally lowered his voice another few octaves.    “You swear she won’t be able to find you?”

“If all goes according to plan.”  If there was one thing Pilot hated more than he hated Phaedos, it was Phaedos’ inability to be entirely straight-forward.  There were serious complications on Phaedos’ side, that was clear; it had been clear the moment he saw almost fifty missed calls from the same number.  There had to be real problems wherever Phaedos was if he was desperate enough to call Pilot.

“Fuck you!  I want your word.  I don’t care what you have to do to make it happen,” he was growling into the phone, then.  Callisto stomped her hooves and moved away from him, shaking her silky black mane at him.  He let the mare go and made his way out of the stable.  He locked her inside and leaned against a beam, waiting for Phaedos’ response.

He shouldn’t be doing this, he thought; didn’t he know better?

“You have my word,” Phaedos said, and his words were surprisingly clear.  There was steel in his tone; it reminded Pilot of when they had first met, he remembered it was Phaedos’ ability to stand beneath Pilot’s gaze without flinching that had forged the first bond of trust between them.

Later, it was that same ability that forged the dangerously adversarial relationship which they currently shared.

“I will catch the first flight tomorrow,” he spat; he was imagining how terribly wrong things were going to go.  He could feel it in his bones, like a shiver or a tremble that echoed and echoed and echoed inside of the labyrinth of his skeleton.  His tone turned menacing and he didn’t try to disguise it.  “You better not make me regret this, Phaedos,” he threatened, “I’ll take the debt in flesh.”  He disconnected from the call. 


He grabbed the two pieces of luggage circling around on the luggage wheel.  From behind him, he heard the voice he’d been half-dreading since the plane landed.  “Pilot,” he said, and nothing else.  It wasn’t a greeting, it wasn’t a welcome; it wasn’t even a warning.  It was hollow and bitter.  For some reason, Pilot thought it sounded like someone saying his name from inside a tomb.

Pilot’s forest green eyes held a contradictory blend of stoicism and ire.  “You’re late,” he said, without glancing at his watch.  He heard her soft steps behind him and braced himself for the brutal jealousy he knew was about to sweep over him.

She did not have to do anything at all; simply having the prospect of Phaedos’ eyes on her was enough.  His fingers twitched with the effort it took to restrain himself.

He wanted so badly to lunge and rip out the demi-god’s throat.  He wondered what demi-god blood tasted like.

She’d known seeing him would hurt.

She’d known it, of course, and with a certainty that was nearly blinding; but seeing him standing before her was worse than she'd expected, and he hadn't even noticed her yet.  His sapphire eyes were hot with conflicting urges, his lips a tight line of control, his broad shoulders tense and intimidating.  He’d grown his hair out since she’d seen him last; she liked it, but tried to ignore the urge to run her fingers through the tangled locks.  Instead, she entwined her fingers with Pilot’s, squeezing tightly as if taking support from his presence.

She could feel the roll of dark fog in his veins, just by touching him.  She wondered if this was wise.

“Phaedos,” she said, and waited for those ocean-blue eyes to move to her.  When they did, she held her breath.  She counted in her head until she was certain her heartbeat would remain calm.  He said nothing for a long moment, simply stared at her as if he half suspected that she were a figment of his imagination.

“You brought a guest,” he said, addressing Pilot. 

“I did.”

“Does she know why you’re here?”  Phaedos had turned his gaze to Pilot and Eden felt cold in its absence.  She wanted him to look at her, to acknowledge her, but she wasn’t certain what to say.

She’d tried to reach him, but he was a black hole for so long.  She sent so many things in, so many little pigeons with olive-branches dangling from their feet; but nothing ever returned.

She didn’t have to tolerate this, she realized; her modesty stepped aside to make room for her wounded pride.  “I can speak for myself, Phaedos.”

He flinched.

Funny, she thought; she didn’t remember him being the flinching kind.

The End

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