A quiet flip of the page was the only thing to disturb the silence in the apartment. Nimble fingers ran along the edge of the paper, gentle as they moved over the side of the book. There was a small clunk as a cup filled with half cold tea was put back on a glass coffee table. A creak of springs as the disturber of the peace leaned back on the sofa, hand flicking under dark tresses to let it spill over the back of the furniture.
It was a favorite book of Nikita's. Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of Baskervilles. She had read it countless times and still it held the same intrigue. With a slight grunt, she pulled her legs up on the couch to cross. From there, the hazel eyes became absorbed in the words, flicking from side to side as she mentally picked over the story she knew very well. All in all, it looked to be another quiet day in the cambion's apartment.
That is, until there was a knock at the door. Her eyes flickered up to the door, a bit to her left. A frown tugged down the corners of her lips, as was customary to her face. What was not customary was the knocking. Shekti was gone. She had intimidated the neighbors plenty and they had stopped calling on her. Her landlord only ever called by phone, and even that was rare. She always got her rent in on time. So who would be calling on her?
A light purple bookmark was inserted between the pages as the woman stood slowly, letting her body arch and pop to adjust to the new position. A glance at the clock showed she had been reading for nearly four hours. How odd, she hadn't even noticed the time. Only out of habit did one of the pale hands skirt down the length of her hair, assuring herself it was in place. Nikita had long ago given up on the opinion of humans.
Her walk was silent as she made her way across the small space, socks muffling any further noise. A twist of the knob and the door stood open just enough to reveal the brunette's slim form. Her face was troubled when she saw her visitor. A positively sunny young man with an enormous smile, as though calling upon his oldest and dearest friend. Nikita had no memory of ever seeing him before. Well practiced eyes gave him a once over, trying to detect a hint of a concealed weapon.
“Who are you and what do you want?”
“Oh, well, I don't want anything. Just thought I'd come say hi to a pretty girl.” Nikita barely blinked at the confident, little wink he sent her way. “You're a quiet one, aren't you? You don't seem to come out of this gloomy little house of yours often.”
Nikita's responsive frown was almost immediate. He seemed a little overly cheery to her. This almost always translated to trouble. She straightened, an unconscious attempt to intimidate, perfected from years of practice. Yes, she didn't leave her place all that often. What was the point? When you get attached to humans, you have watch them die again and again. Staying tucked away in the apartment was simpler; easier to keep from getting attached.
“Listen, there’s got to be a reason you’re here. People don’t just randomly show up here. In fact, most people avoid it.” A sudden, disturbing thought occurred to her. “Did Cain send you?” A lighter thought followed. “Or Shekti?”
He seemed deep in thought as he pursed his lips, directing his eyes upwards for half a moment before back into Nikita's suspicious ones. He shook his head as he spoke. “Nope. Does sending myself count?” He tilted his head with a definitely playful tone. “You must not have many friends.” Nikita repressed a snort. “Most wouldn’t automatically think this was a trick. My name is Eros, by the way.” He nodded now, still flashing around that bright smile.
"No, I don’t have many friends. It’s better that way." What was it about him that seemed so off? Her eyes narrowed as she thought about it, earning a smirk from him. It was a familiar feeling, the sense that phenomenal power was contained in a harmless looking body. The last time she had run up against it was when she looked into a mirror or talked to her siblings. Excluding those times, she had last seen it on the battlefield, slaughtering demons alongside angels. If that’s who he was, then she wanted no part in it. "Polite of you to come down and comment on my social habits but I think you’ll be going now."
As Nikita backed up slightly, the door began to swing into its frame before being caught by something hard and a muttered, “Ow.” Nikita glared down at the foot that had inserted itself into the path of her door. The man, Eros, was frowning down at his foot. It only took another moment before bright blue eyes zipped up to meet her own once again, the smile gracing his face. Nikita had to force herself not to slam the door again.
“Sorry, I'm not trying to be rude.” Well, you are. “Simply wanted to come and talk to you. You seem like an interesting person.” Though his smile was apologetic, Nikita's gritted teeth showed her plain irritation with him. Thoughts of the power in him, sensed by her own magic, interrupted her turbulent thoughts. Perhaps it would be beneficial to learn if the theory forming in her head was correct.
The cambion allowed the door to swing open, admitting the strange man with the strange name. She turned her back on him at once, stalking across the room to the kitchen. “I'm going to eat. Would you like anything, what was it, Eros?” She pulled a box of crackers from one of the higher shelves as she spoke, before turning to pluck strips of cheese from her refrigerator. “I assume not because angels don't eat.”
Nikita waited for conformation from the being, not looking up as she organized the crackers and cheese into piles on the platter. If only she was eating, there was no need for them to look aesthetically pleasing. She could hear the groaning of her armchair as it bore new weight. She resisted the impulse to look up at him. She was right, she knew she was. This conviction led to the surprise at his response.
“Angel? Oh no, you have it all wrong dear, I’m no angel.” Nikita's teeth were grinding at the use of the familiar term “dear.” He was quickly getting on her nerves. “I’m far more powerful than any mere angel. Good guess though.”
Good guess? No, she was right. He must be lying to her. “No, you've got to be an angel. I worked it out.” Picking up the tray, she padded around the bar and into her living room. The tray quickly joined her cold tea on the glass coffee table. “I can tell you're older than you look. It's obvious.” It was the eyes. His eyes screamed of a deeper, hidden pain, despite his sunny personality. She had seen the look too many times in the mirror.
“That, coupled with the fact that you're taking notice of me, means you're not what you seem.” She resumed her previous place on her couch, moving her book aside. “You haven't killed me yet, so you're no demon.” Demons were bitter. They held grudges. They would be glad to kill the woman that had lost them the battle so many thousands of years ago. She picked up a few crackers and a bit of cheese from the platter. “Thus we come to angel. It's obvious.” She didn't look at him as she nibbled at her food, confident in her own reasoning.
.“And those are all very good and well though out observations. But I’m not an angel.” Nikita looked at him now. He had leaned forward, interlocking his fingers and looking down. He was shaking his head. “Of course a lot of people have made up the fact I have wings in stories. That is a lie. And I don’t know where they got the idea.” There was a moment's pause before he turned his head to look at her. “I'm higher in status than an angel. Far higher.”
The woman's eyes narrowed at this man, this Eros. A lot of things came to mind, but most of them were from books she had read. “It’s impossible to be higher than an angel. The only one higher is God and I’ve met him. You, sir, are not God. So, what are you? I’ve met the archangel Michael himself and you claim to be higher in status? While I can see from you attitude you believe it, I’m not sure how you can get higher.” She stared at him, wondering what he could possibly be thinking. What other kind of creature had wings?
He seemed to be calculating the best way to say it as he looked at her, a smaller smile playing along his mouth. “You know my name, Nikita.” Had she even told him her name? “Eros…you’ve heard that name somewhere before have you not?” No, don't be stupid. “I am higher in status than any angel…but I’m not the God. I’m a god.”
“No. No.” She refuted immediately, shaking her head, some loose brown locks floating around her head. “There are no gods. The Greeks and Romans just really loved a good story. There were no real gods. Eros, the original, is just a myth.” He must have been mentally damaged to believe himself a god. Perhaps she ought to take him somewhere with humans to watch over him. “Don't tell me you're so inclined as to think you're a god. There is no way.”
Nikita leaned back as he stood and began to roam the small living room area, partially walled off by the kitchen bar. Her hazel eyes followed him, listening to the sigh that escaped his lips. This went on for a few moments before he looked back at her. “I can see why you wouldn’t believe me, but it is true. I can prove it if you’d like. We’d have to go outside for me to do anything properly though.”
He seemed exceptionally eager for her to believe him. It was odd. She wasn't sure what exactly it was he hoped to prove. There was no way he was a god. He had nothing to convince her unless he decided to pull a few cheap magic tricks out of his sleeve. Although, why that entailed them going outside, she wasn't sure. Perhaps he wanted the space in case he aggravated her and she decided to force him to reveal what he really was.
“Fine, Eros, we'll go outside.” She also stood, jerking her head towards the door, indicating him to follow. Despite her disbelief, her curiosity had still been piqued. Without bothering to wait for him, she walked out of the apartment, grabbing her tennis shoes from the side of the door. She pulled them on as she walked, determined not to look back at the stranger. They took the single flight of stairs down and out of the building, emerging onto a busy, well lit street. Nikita blinked slightly, pulling her arms around herself at the chill breeze.
Eros appeared to be looking for something, frowning around her street before focusing on the bus stop nearby. Nikita glanced over the two sitting there. A woman on her phone, evidently working, and a man in a suit and tie were sitting as far away from each other as possible on the small bench. Her gaze wandered back to Eros who was looking at her again.
“Okay, I want you to watch closely. Those two are a couple of strangers.” He leaned back against the wall of her apartment building, eyes now roaming back to the couple as he spoke to her in an undertone. “Never even met each other. Now, I promise you this isn't staged whatsoever.” Nikita resisted a snort, her attention turning back to the couple. As if she would believe any promises he made. “That's not how I do things.”
Nikita watched until he gave a casual flick of his finger towards the two. The cambion looked between Eros and the couple. He was looking down at the ground. Her attention returned to the couple who were now looking at each other. One brow raised in curiosity. They were smiling now. “Wait a moment.” Eros warned her. She threw an annoyed glance at him.
There was a clatter as the woman's phone fell from her hand. She scooted across the bench towards the man smiling shyly at her. Without any warning, she lifted her mouth to the man's, kissing him. A slight flush was on Nikita's face before her skeptical look returned. She wasn't intruding on anything. He set this up to trick her for some bizarre reason.
“Don't even know each other.” Eros said fondly, looking over them with a proud expression, as though he were a parent surveying his child and a well picked companion. “They're going to be a cute couple.” Nikita tried to refrain from an eye roll. Sure, this was set up to prove that he was the god of love. The cambion was not so easily fooled. It was with an irritated expression that she trailed behind the man who had begun to walk down the street.
“I can do more than that, though, since you're probably still in disbelief, so-” A finger snap. That's all it took. One snap of his fingers and everything around them froze. Nikita did so also, though it was more out of surprise. The cars were frozen, their drivers firmly fixed with their hands on the steering wheels and their feet on the gas pedals. Eros had turned to look at her, still walking backwards. There was complete silence around them now, except for his footsteps against the pavement.
He stood still then, grinning at her. “This is one of my favorites. Helps me when I need to stop and think about something for a moment.” Nikita blinked slowly at him, unsure of what to say. Instead of taking the time to craft a response, she moved over to a man in mid-stride, frozen with his phone to his ear. She gave him a hard poke in the stomach. No response. She put all of her strength into a slap to his face. He didn't move an inch, though there was now a large red print of Nikita's hand on his cheek.
Frozen. Time had stopped. She arranged her face into a carefully impassive mask as she turned back to the god in front of her. She had to admit, he was powerful. Although that boyish grin he flashed around gave him a bit of an innocent look. “I'll admit, you're pretty good.” She walked closer to him, slowly and with her hands clasped tightly behind her back. “There's still something I'm having trouble understanding.” She stopped walking a mere foot away from him.
“If you're this powerful, then why take notice of me? Surely you have other gods to socialize with, more interesting people to see and to meet. If you are really who you say you are, then why are you wasting your time on me? Not even humans take the time to do that.” Even if he was faking this somehow, which she was beginning to doubt, she still didn't understand why he had come to her. What was the point? Why would he bother with her? She was dying to find out why someone with the power to stop time even knew her name.
Nikita had never managed to stop time this way. She had tried a fair few times out of simple curiosity. The closest she had come was being able to freeze her test subject, a cockroach, for twenty seconds. Time was complex and she hadn't wanted to tamper with it for several centuries. She had thought perhaps when she was older and wiser, she might go back and try again but she had never had the motivation. And here he was, able to do what she never had been able to.
“You're special, Nikita.” She snorted. “You are, aren't you? You know it. Of course, everyone has to find love at some point.” A second snort and an eye roll to boot. Her? Love? Ridiculous. “I suppose I'm scoping you out. It's been a bit hard for me to understand you when you're tucked up in that house so much.” She raised an eyebrow now. He had been watching her? He merely watched her a moment longer, as though fascinated by her. Then his eyes narrowed in a curious manner. “How long have you been watching humanity, Nikita?”
A muscle in her jaw twitched as she looked away from him. She had been having such a great time until he had to ask that question. She hated thinking about the past. “Ten thousand years, roughly. Lost track after about two thousand.” She looked back at him with a steely glint in her eye. “I don't need love.” She stated firmly, saying it slowly and clearly so that he would be sure to understand. “Any sort. I stay tucked up in that house to avoid any sort of attachment to people.”
A disturbing thought occurred to her. “I don't want you making me suddenly fall in love with some man, no matter who he is. I might be special, but I'm not important.” I've served my purpose. “I'm a shadow mover, not disturbing history's course if I can help it. And that includes disturbing the histories of the individual.” She stepped forward with determination. “I don't want to charge into someone's life and ruin it.”
Eros leaned back against the brick wall, away from the slightly angry cambion. She watched his arms cross over his chest and his lips pursed. “You're still young. Young compared to me, that is.” He let out a short laugh. Young. Young. The last time anyone had called her that was her brother and the memory was not at all pleasant. It wasn't a characteristic one applied to her.
“I understand why you wouldn't want to get attached to someone but everyone deserves affection, Nikita.” Not her. That was the last thing she deserved. “I don't think you'd be ruining anyone's life by coming into it. You might make it better.” Bullshit. “So far you've kept a very low profile, but I'm sure things must get boring.”
“Maybe I like boring.” She countered immediately, her arms crossing tightly over her chest. “Maybe I've seen enough not-boring that the boring is actually okay. I don't want love, Eros. I don't understand why you want me to have it. I don't want that pain anymore.” Here it comes. The pain. The memories. “I watched my family grow up and die right before my eyes. Brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews. You really think I'm ready to jump into that kind of crap fest? My emotions have been toyed with enough, thank you.”
She hated that look of sympathy he gave her. She hated this conversation and she hated him. Why did he have to come around asking these things, making her feel those old emotions? Was she being punished? She was seriously considering stomping away but she was sure that with his power he would be able to drag her right back, force her to listen.
“I want you to have it because you deserve it, Nikita. Of course I'm not going to make you.” Her eyes widened, surprised. “It takes time. But I understand how you feel.” How could you possibly? “I've seen a lot I wish I hadn't seen. A lot of things that have stayed etched in my brain for too long. And I know that there are things you wish you could forget.” Did he mean her entire existence? “But sometimes we just have to move on from that.
“I'm not going to toy with you or force you into something you don't want.”
“I've lost everyone.” She said quietly, not looking at him. She had watched everyone die, her brother turn on her and her sister leave her. How was she supposed to let anyone, let alone a lover, back in after that? The first thought that went through her head when she met someone was that they would be dead before she could blink her eyes. She wasn't sure he completely understood. If he was a god, then surely there were others, family members that were always there, as immortal as he. He had them, even if he did also watch the humans wither. She just had herself now.
Sure, Shekti was still out there, as was Cain, but her sister was too stubborn to ever come back. Cain wanted to strip her of her flesh and dissect her. She brushed off a shiver at the memory of her brother's twisted experiments. No, there was no one left for her, no one she could care about again, no matter what this god told her.
“You've seen humans die. No matter how many times you see it, it still leaves a hole behind. Every time.” She fought to keep her voice at a steady volume, looking back up to him. “How am I supposed to live with another hole?” I've got more holes than soul. “How am I supposed to care about someone else and watch them die?” And why would I chain them to a monster? What do you think would make them love me back?
He gave her a little nod, sadness evident in his eyes. “Yes, I have watched many people die. And it hurts me every time, to be honest. I know what you're thinking, that I still have friends.” The other gods. “I don't really.” Did you give them the same love pep talk? “I was pushed aside by most of the others because I wanted my one friend I still have to be treated with respect. For them to stop treating him like scum.
“But he was still pushed away, and I've been pushed away too. Anyone who disagreed with them was basically thought of as useless. So, of course, they don't want anything to do with me anymore, and I don't really want anything to do with them either.” Nikita looked away for a moment, trying to process this. However, he kept speaking and her eyes were drawn back to his face. “The thing about caring for someone is they never really leave. And you know that from experience. I simply want you to be happy. I'm sure it's probably been years since you've ever smiled genuinely, Nikita.”
“What's to smile about?” Her tone was bitter as their eyes locked. “The only think I want in this world is the only think I cannot have just because of my ancestry.” Her tongue suddenly stilled, realizing how much she had said and all that she had almost let on to. She didn't talk about her real father, not ever. She certainly didn't talk about him with a stranger.
Nikita was frustrated with the whole idea. All she wanted was to die. That was all. It was the only thing she couldn't have. She had bank accounts bursting with money, she could have any man she liked, she could overthrow a government with a snap of her fingers She could have everything she could ever want. Except death. It was all she had ever wanted and it was what she couldn't have because of her parents. Her mother's reoccurring mistake and her father's reoccurring deceptions.
“Listen, I'm sorry for your friend and you and all, but I don't really see anything to be happy about. It is nice of you to care but I had best be going now.” Without another word to him, she turned on her heel and traced the path back to her apartment. Her mental walls came up automatically, even as the street burst back into life around her. The conversation had brought up too many unpleasant feelings, things she had tried to keep hidden.
The god made no attempts to follow her back into her apartment building and she was grateful. Once inside, she tore up the stairs and into her apartment, slamming the door behind her. No more visitors. Not now, not ever. Smoothing down her ruffled self, she sat on the edge of her couch again, picking up Sherlock Holmes and flipping open to her previous page.
It was quickly evident that she would not be able to resume her previous behavior. Her fingers tapped an erratic beat on the book cover, her mind not taking in any of the words on the page. With a frustrated huff, she put the book back down, running her hand over her face and slumping backwards. Her quick mind was filled with images of the golden haired god with the soft eyes and sad words. Why today? Why now?
Abandoning the cheese, crackers and tea still on her coffee table, she kicked off her shoes. The cambion stood and exited the room which was considerably messier than it had been less than an hour ago. Past the door leading out to the world where that god was, she went through the door frame leading to her bedroom. The mattress squeaked as she threw herself on top of it, pulling a pillow to her face.
What had that been all about?