|The Bar II: Whiskey
Author: Guede Mazaka
Well, the bars had gone underground, but that definitely didn't mean that the beer or spirits had gotten any better. Some things in Boston never changed, Odysseus was mildly pleased to see.
On the other hand, some things were prime examples of why he should've stayed in the Carolinas, that clingy waitress Calypso notwithstanding. He'd known that the best had died in the Trojan War, but it was still a shock to find out just how low the caliber was of those that remained.
Once upon a time, Boston had actually been a decent city to live in. Slightly less than Eden, but the crime had known to stay low enough so that they'd made money, and everyone else could pretend they hadn't been around. Being a criminal had been more like…working for the government than raping and pillaging like the Vikings. Which had been a style behind which Odysseus could and did get. In order to feed off the prosperous, there first had to be the rich. Civilizations needed businesses.
Now, everywhere Odysseus walked, he saw nothing but slumps and raddled buildings, broken-toothed windows and frightened women hurrying along. Or else they were bold with the boldness of the desperate, their fates hanging off the rips in their stockings.
"I told you. This place has gone to the pits." Dios kept his voice down, one hand constantly rubbing at the stage make-up Odysseus had carefully applied.
"Stop that." Odysseus once again slapped Dios' hand down, then directed them toward the nearest speakeasy. He let Dios mumble the password while he took in the bar's occupants. Christ. And they were uptown, too.
Once they'd gotten seated and had dragged their drinks from the sullen bartender, Dios sprawled out and picked at his sleeve. "We really look like shit. Match the wallpaper."
"There is no wallpaper." It wasn't one of his best lines, but Odysseus was slightly preoccupied with overhearing another conversation. "And that's the point. No one remembers us looking this bad. It's field application of psychology."
"I take it you caught up on all that reading you always said you were going to do." That seemed to end Dios' supply of small talk, because after it he fell silent. Except for the loud slurping at his beer. The man still hadn't gotten any manners.
There were numerous suspicious dialogues going on, but the one that attracted the most of Odysseus' attention was being held between a scruff he vaguely recognized as having been attached to one of the Ajaxs, and a tall, thin fellow that occasionally lapsed into Italian. Which, fortunately, was one of Odysseus' many languages.
"…she's angrier than a whore with a dry cunt. Jesus. Her daughter walked in on her and Glass, just to tell her that the Romanys had hacked up another place, and you should've heard the racket-"
"-and you were there, ready to comfort the poor girl? God, Electra's a piece of work. Probably why Clytie hates her so much; woman's got a better head than Gam did, but she's getting…you know…saggy."
"Hey, shut up. You want to get your balls off? She's real touchy now, ever since she heard they were here. Got us all on double patrols, and fuck if she isn't actually buying us ammo for once, 'stead of taking it out of our pay."
Dios looked mournfully into his empty glass. "Wasn't good, but it was something."
"That'd be a great epitaph for our lives. We might make a poet out of you yet." Odysseus banged back the rest of his drink, then yanked at his friend's elbow. He'd heard enough here, and there was no point in tempting fate. Plenty of chances to do that later.
First, of course, he had to come up with a plan. Well, actually, he had to figure out just what he was trying to do. 'Restore stability to Boston' probably made a great campaign slogan, but it wasn't too helpful when it came to the practical work.
Keep everyone else out of Clytie and Aeneas' war. That was easily doable; it wouldn't be the first time that Odysseus had shuffled people around the city. Ach hadn't been the first mercenary Gam had had imported, and somehow Odysseus had always ended up the host. Not that he'd minded too much, as generally speaking, those people had always had their heads screwed on a little more sensibly than the high command. Achilles being the likable exception.
Keep the twins alive. That went with the first goal.
Help twins get control of the city. And that was where Odysseus' vaunted cleverness tripped, because honestly, he had no idea how to go about doing that. Ahmed hadn't been very enlightening, for all that he was a member of the family that had held their city for the longest time of all the American bosses. Over three centuries was nothing to sneeze at.
Of course, all that his old friend had had to say was to let the twins run around until they figured it out on their own. Brilliant. Why was it that when it came to magic, there never seemed to be any guidelines? Because Odysseus actually preferred that there be rules. It made it much easier to know what he was supposed to subvert.
Odysseus had forgotten how quiet Dios could be when he wanted to. He managed to bury the curse before it left his mouth, but couldn't quite suppress the jump. "Don't do that."
"And do do what?" His friend's eyes were so bloodshot that the whites were hardly visible, and his speech was slurring with something besides alcohol.
Well, they couldn't do much until they got some firepower, and that wasn't going to happen tonight. And while the twins had been nicely docile, Odysseus didn't think for a moment that they would stay put of their own accord for very long. "Go back to my place, figure out where we can get some guns. I don't think I brought enough."
"Oh, easy." Dios yawned and staggered into Odysseus' shoulder. He twisted away from Odysseus' shove and stared at a shop window. "Clytie didn't get all of Gam's armory. We'll just swing by my place on the way over, and I can get you a great selection. Hey, you think Cassie would like that?"
Odysseus simply looked at the other man, carefully keeping all emotion out of his face. Dios stared back, perfectly serious.
"What? I told you, she left the Romanys with nothing but the clothes on her back. I just…well, feel sorry for her."
"She's a little skinny for you." While installing the twins in one of his old hide-holes, Odysseus had done some thinking about that odd connection, and he'd decided that Cassie didn't pose a threat to what he was doing. Whether she'd be a help or a hindrance was still up in the air, but he was past the time when he'd kill solely due to expedience.
And besides, it was more than a little amusing to watch Dios act like an embarrassed teenager.
"Shut up." Dios stalked into the store, jaw set.
Laughing to himself, Odysseus waited for a few minutes before going on and showing Dios just what women's sizes translated to in terms of wooing.
Dinner had been eaten, and the apartment had been explored three times over. The shower had been used, and Connor had stolen another one of Ode's shirts, which really were too big, but the guy bought good stuff. Then he and Murph had had a minor disagreement over the merits of prodding Cassie, who was reading in the next room, for more details on Ode. That one was solved by her falling asleep.
Consequently, they were now bored. And a little in pain, especially since Murph kept trying to scratch at his stitches and Connor kept having to slap the idjit's hands down. "Stop that, you jackass. You've got to let it alone if you want to walk without that gimp."
"Are you calling me a gimp?" Outraged, Murph promptly scrambled across the couch and burrowed into Connor, hands-
--"Guess I didn't need to worry, after all." And shite, Ode was freakishly cat-like sometimes. Especially with his eyes gleaming like that in the dim light. "Unless you went out, came back, and are trailing trouble as we speak."
Connor knuckled Murph's response into the cushions, then laid across his brother, grinning. "I'm beginning to think you don't trust us. That hurts, man."
"I don't even know you." Ode didn't stop as he crossed the room and went into the kitchen, probably to wash all the crap off of his face.
Like an overactive kitten, Murph squirmed and shoved until he could get his head free. Just about when Connor could've used Murph's mouth a little closer to his cock, but wasn't that always how it went? "What's with him? Is he always like this?"
Standing in the doorway, Dios shrugged. "No. He's actually a pretty funny guy, but it's just…well, Boston. Not a good place for him. Back during the war, he always tried to get out of town. Did the talking to the families in the other cities, and things like that."
"Yeah?" Connor rolled over to make room for Murph, for the moment ignoring the fingers sneaking into his shirt. "What happened to him?"
"What didn't happen, you mean." Cassie drifted in behind Dios, smoke floating out of her nose. She'd been out for at least three hours, and she still looked as if she was going to fall over. "He was neutral through the beginning-had a wife and son. And then one day, he stepped out of his house just in time to see them get run down by one of my half-brothers."
Murph winced. "Jaysus."
"After that, he saw about as many of our friends get killed because of infighting as because of Priam's boys." Dios' face had darkened, and he snapped off his words like he was breaking windows. Beside him, Cassie abruptly took a step back.
That apparently broke the spell, because he coughed and turned to her, suddenly shy. A bag changed hands, and it was a real pity that he'd lowered his voice, because that conversation definitely would've been fun to listen to. Not that just the shifts in their expressions weren't already telling.
"Cute," Murph snickered, breath misting up Connor's neck. "Bet if she fed up, she'd be a real looker."
"And since when you did look at girls?" Connor took advantage of his brother's sputtering to slide off the couch and make for the window. It was getting a little stuffy inside, so he figured he'd open it a crack.
Just as he touched the latch, a hand came out of nowhere and yanked him aside so fast that he thought he felt his lungs bang up against his ribs. His peripheral vision caught Murph leaping up from the couch, then nearly falling over while grabbing at the bad leg, and Dios suddenly shifting into a damn good imitation of a wary lion.
"Are you complete idiots?" Ode rasped, pushing Connor away and drawing the curtains. "There are hundreds of people stalking around the city, just waiting for a shot, and-"
"Aren't you overreacting just a little?" Connor retorted, shoving back. "Hell, do half of them even know what we look like? And anyway, if we're to get to know the city like you say we've got to, then we kind of do have to be out in it."
For a moment, he thought Ode was going to hit him. But no, the other man just turned up the glare a few notches and stalked off. Which Connor wasn't going to take, thank you, and so he followed Ode. As he passed, Murph raised an eyebrow, but Connor shook his head and gestured toward Dios. Getting it, Murph put on a big smile and wandered over in that direction.
Ode ended up in the bedroom he'd claimed for himself, rummaging in a suitcase and then producing some of the largest handguns Connor had ever seen. "Christ. Is that a gun or a cannon?"
And shit. Staring at the business end of a pistol. Connor gingerly put up his hands and did his level best to look innocent. "Hey. Just me."
"I wish you would stop walking up behind me." The gun went down, and Ode went back to magicking a small but impressive collection of firearms from his luggage. "It's terrible for my nerves."
"Beginning to think everything's bad for them. You're a little neurotic, anyone ever tell you that?" There weren't any chairs, so Connor ended up dropping himself on the bed, splaying around the guns. He picked one beauty up and fingered its smooth cold curves. "It's not like we asked for all this. We just happened to be our father's kids."
That got him a long, studied look that didn't reveal much, except that Ode clearly had some wheels churning behind his eyes. Maybe the man wasn't inclined to be enthusiastic, but he didn't seem incapable in the slightest. Might even be fun, if the right set of circumstances presented themselves.
And that did remind Connor that yeah, he should be thinking about whether he and Murph were going to play this game. On the one hand, they definitely weren't going home with their tails between their legs. Ma hadn't brought up cowards, and she certainly hadn't raised…well, saints in the martyr mode. Nothing wrong with the warlike ones who actually got things done.
So. Boston. Not the friendliest city Connor had ever been in, but certainly the most interesting. And it did have that extra something, like a wash of lukewarm water over his skin, which even here he could almost touch, if he thought about it. Just had to reach a little farther, maybe stretch himself, and then…
…damn. Damn. Better than beer, Connor numbly thought, and then he stiffened as someone not in the room agreed with him. But it was okay, because it was only Murph-and wait. That had never happened before, close as they were.
"Getting to like it yet?" Ode had finished with the unpacking, and was now stashing pistols in various places around the room. He leaned above Connor to slide a shotgun under the headboard, and suddenly, everything tilted sideways again.
Okay, fucking weird. Connor could get Boston, but Odysseus?
Wait a minute. Boston. Odysseus. Harbor, and traveling, and blood-fighting. There was something, some kind of link that he almost felt but not quite, as if it were sand just slipping out of his hands as he lifted it from the water. "Let me get back to you on that."
"Fair enough." Ode left out a pair of handguns and a truly wicked-looking sawed-off shotgun, which he then proceeded to stash about himself. "If I were to leave you two alone overnight, would you have the sense to not go sleep-walking?"
"I think we could manage not getting killed," Connor offered, figuring Ode would probably lock them in, no matter what he answered. To be truthful, he was already bored, but not enough to strain his aching body any more. His ribs were starting to feel like twelve paired bands of steel tightening around his chest, and a long nap sounded nice. "Where are you going?"
Ode gave him another visual examination, and while Connor wasn't humble, he did know he wasn't looking that good at the present time. Close-mouthed bastard. Did Ode ever talk to anyone, even Dios?
"I'm going to call on Aeneas," the other man finally said. He swung his weight back on one heel, cocking his head.
"As in, one of the guys trying to kill us." Connor thought about that for a moment. "Any reason why? Or are you just being friendly?"
Ode blinked, apparently not expecting such a calm response. Well, what? It wasn't like Connor couldn't be practical and all. Actually, having Murphy for a twin pretty much required that skill. "Hey, the entire point of betraying someone is making sure they don't know about it till afterward. So I assume you're trying something."
"I suppose I am," Ode slowly said. He was checking the hang of his coat, trying to eliminate any suspicious bulges. When Connor scooted over to straighten out one wrinkle, he produced an expression that was half-amused, half-wary. "However you two end up playing it, neither Aeneas nor Clytie are going to stand for living under you. So that means they've got to go."
"And why Aeneas first? I thought he was one of your enemies." Up close to Ode, Connor was starting to get that weird mix of senses again, with echoes from the city that was being a fucking tease. He hoped Murph had the sense to quiz Cassie on some of that supernatural shit while his twin was at it, because something seriously strange was happening between Ode and Boston. And he was almost positive that Ode didn't have the slightest clue about it, or else the other man would be a lot more grouchy.
As it was, 'crusty' was a good description, though Connor had never thought of applying it to a guy that didn't even have gray hairs yet.
"Because it seems that he's the one who doesn't know that I'm helping you. Clytie's probably already gunning for me, but we'll have to deal with that later. After I figure out just who's willing to leave her, and who's not." Irony was a gray shade around Ode's eyes and under his mouth. "That's a little harder, since I fought with most of them."
"Should be the other way around, but figures that it's not, huh?" Connor sat back on the bed, flinching as he accidentally moved some bruised bit that didn't want to go. "Well, it'd be nice if you came back in one piece. Seeing as you're now one of the few people we know that doesn't want to kill us."
As Ode turned away and headed for the door, he snorted. "You shouldn't assume that. For all you know, I might be opting for the puppeteer route."
"Nah. You hate this place too much." When the other man halted and stiffened in place, Connor shut up and just watched Ode for any quick movements.
"You should watch your mouth," Ode finally said, voice heavy with fatigue and faint bitterness. He put his hand on the doorknob and quickly left, leaving behind an extremely thoughtful Connor.
Murphy popped in a few minutes later, obviously bouncy with information, but when he saw Connor's face, he closed his mouth and quietly climbed onto the bed. "Interesting?"
"Not too bad, 'cept we're locked in now. Dios and Cassie left, probably so they could find somewhere to fuck." Eyebrows waggled over a salacious smile. "Hey, was there a second where you kind of felt…bigger? And then one where you-"
"Yeah. Yeah." Connor rolled over so he could pillow his head on Murph's back. Best position for thinking. "Give me a minute, yeah? I'm working on it."
Electra huddled next to the door, straining to make out the words. It was hard, both because the wood was thick and because she had to fight down the urge to just rush in and shoot. Her mother…
No, that-that thing in there wasn't her mother anymore. Her mother was dead, had died the same time sweet Genia had, and all that was left was a scheming bitch that needed a good shotgun blast up her ass.
Inside, the conversation abruptly ceased. In fact, all sound stopped, and she had just enough time to duck behind a nearby potted plant before the door swung open. Glass' piss-ugly, broken-boxer face peeped out, giving the hallway a cursory glance. "There's not anything out here," he reported to the inside.
"You're certain? I could've sworn…" Clytie trailed off, betraying the slightest hint of nerves. As if she realized that, her voice grew richer, sweeter. Sickeningly so. "Never mind. Come back here."
Though she had to dig her nails into her palms down to the blood, Electra managed to hold still until the noises in the room said that they were busy profaning Father's things again. Then she silently rose and made her way to her room, nodding once to the shadow where her so-called bodyguard prowled. Like she didn't know what her mo-what Clytie was up to.
Well, Electra had her own secrets, such as the secret passage she'd discovered in her closet. It led from her bedroom down to the garden, where her brother, long since banished from the house, waited.
"You sure they won't miss you?" he greeted her as he helped her slide out of the tight tunnel.
"No. They're used to me sulking all night." She disgustedly pulled at the cobwebs that had stuck to her hair; for secrecy's sake, she couldn't use the tunnel nearly as much as she wanted to. "Clytie's gunning for Ode. It's official. They're going to start searching his known hide-outs today."
O snickered and leaned against the ivy-covered brick. Just like when they were actual children, he ruffled Electra's hair and poked at her indignant face. "And they think they can catch old Uncle Fox."
"Well, they're going to try. And that might not be very helpful-someone's got to take this damned city, but it's not going to be her or Aeneas." She settled beside him, careful to keep herself in the hidden niche so any grounds patrols wouldn't see them. "Or us. I just want to get out of here."
"I'll second that. This isn't the place for our family." Suddenly morose, O stared at the little patch of stars they could see. "Dad tried, but…anyway, he still didn't deserve what Clytie did."
She hooked her arm through his and let her head come to rest on his shoulder. "Exactly. She doesn't deserve to live, and neither does that bastard, Glass. He…oh, God…he tried to corner me yesterday after dinner."
Just thinking about it made the bile rise in her throat, and the cold crawl over her skin. She shivered, moving closer to her brother so his outrage would warm her.
O's jaw was set, like the concrete around the feet of a river-corpse, and his hold on her was a little too tight for comfort, but she didn't say anything. "He's a dead man," was all her brother said.
Electra drew a shaky breath, trying to remember what she'd meant to tell O. "Listen…Clytie's stretching everything really thin, between Aeneas and Ode. So if any fighting breaks out, she and Glass will be here, without much protection. That's when you've got to come."
"How will I know?" He rested his chin on her hair, hand slowly combing her curls into place.
"I sneaked one of those huge votive candles from church. When I know there's no one inside, I'll set it in my window and light it. You should be able to see it from across the street." She wriggled away and put her hands on his shoulders so she could look directly into his eyes. "You're only going to have one chance."
He nodded, determination coloring every speck of his eyes. Then he softened and pulled her back for one last hug. "You need to go back up. But I'll come get you, soon. And in the meantime, I'm going to go say hi to Uncle Ode."
"Tell him I miss the bags of jujubes," she whispered, trying to keep her voice from shaking. It hurt to push free of O's arms, like feeling Clytie's ax plunge into her breast, but he was right. She had to go back and pretend to be helplessly angry so she could continue to keep her brother informed.
The passage was five minutes' crawl going down, and ten going up, so Electra had plenty of time to readjust herself. By the time she flopped, exhausted, onto her bed, she was able to tell herself the stinging in her eyes was from the dust. And she could believe it.
Cassie held up the skirt-and-blouse set, an indecipherable look on her face. She didn't seem angry, or resigned, so Dios figured he hadn't completely fucked up. "Is it the right size and everything?"
"Yeah, I think so." Still not giving a hint, she began to fold up the clothes and put them back in the bag.
Dios shuffled around, trying to think like Ode, who was astronomically better at this. Then he remembered. "Oh, right. Here."
It took a moment for Cassie to reach out and take the gun, and even then, her fingers were shaking so much Dios was afraid she'd shoot him. He stepped over and showed her how to properly hold it. "Too late for shooting lessons, but I might have to go out later, and-"
It wasn't the best kiss he'd ever had, though he thought some of that had to do with how he was standing and she was sitting on the couch. So he shifted down, pressed her back into the cushions, and that worked…a lot better. "But you could use a few pounds of steak," he muttered, wrapping his hands around her waist. "Keep thinking I'm going to cut myself on you."
"God, I hope not," she feverishly answered, grabbing onto his shoulders and yanking him down. Off-balance, he went and nearly crushed her in the process. "Haven't seen…haven't seen anything for you, and I don't…I don't…"
While he was ducking his head, Aeneas took the opportunity to light his cigarette. He needed it.
His fucking hell-wife threw another ashtray, which shattered against the wall about six inches from his elbow, and then she collapsed behind the couch in what sounded like a real grand-standing fit of tears. "You don't care about me!"
"Never did, remember?" He dragged on his cigarette, waiting for the nicotine to hit his system and flush it calm. Christ, he didn't need to deal with this. Really, all he needed was a gun and a bullet, and that would've been one less problem. So why the fuck couldn't he just hole the bitch? "Your dad needed mine, and mine needed his, and so we tied the knot."
"I thought you liked me for a while," she sobbed. "When-when-"
Furious, he slammed his palm against the wall. "Don't even fucking start, you whore. If you'd been picking him up instead of fucking that addled girl-toy of yours, our son would still be alive. God, I should've cut your throat for that."
"Then why didn't you?" Her crinkled, blotchy, ass-ugly face popped up. "Why? Does that mean you do like me?"
Holy God, sometimes Aeneas wondered if there was anything left in her head that still functioned. Granted, she hadn't ever been sane, but in the beginning, she'd at least been mature about it. Now…thank God for Dido. If he didn't have her warm body and sweet hands to look forward to, he didn't know how he'd make it through the day without massacring someone. That he didn't mean to, that was.
"Lavinia, just…go to hell. I can't…I really can't take this." He didn't stop to watch the fresh round of howling that that provoked, but instead made his exit while he could.
Dei was waiting patiently on the front step, hunched over a cigarette so his awful garbage bag of an overcoat almost completely hid his head. He started to turn at Aeneas' approach, but stopped when Aeneas grabbed onto the porch railing and slumped. Tactful of him, and that was why he was the only relative Aeneas trusted to see this shit.
"She used to be fucking marvelous. Batty as hell, but time was, that was actually fun. Hell…where'd it go?" Aeneas blew smoke at the bushes, watching it dissipate like so many that had gone before him. "Ah, fuck it. How's things?"
"Interesting." And that was when Dei turned into Odysseus.
Aeneas whipped back, snatching out his gun a beat too slow. Steel shoved up his chin, freezing him from head to toe. It stayed there for a long few seconds, then dropped away. Ode casually leaned against the railing, gun relaxed but still present. "Dei's in the car. Should be fine, if a little sore." He stubbed out his cigarette on a nearby tree. "I was just in town, and I thought it'd be nice to see what happened to people."
"Really." Aeneas swiped at the sore underside of his chin, then stomped on his fallen cigarette butt, which was in danger of setting the porch on fire. And fuck-he'd forgotten to check Lavinia for matches.
On second thought, he'd never liked this house very much, and it would be a lot less expensive if she torched herself. Just as long as he wasn't around to get pinned for it.
"So far, I'm not liking what I see." Ode wasn't looking at Aeneas as he spoke. "Clytie's made a mess, and it doesn't look like she's going to clean it up."
"Amen to that." Well, well. So the rats were finally starting to jump ship, were they? Of course, any offer that Ode was going to make-and he definitely was about to make one-was inherently suspect, but Aeneas could work with that. "So…what are you saying?"
The other man drew back a little, shadows sloping down over his face to leave only his eyes and the glowing end of his new cigarette visible. It made him look almost demonical; Aeneas suppressed a shiver, and reminded himself that however good a fake the man was, his time had gone down the river. "You know, this fighting's ridiculous. Everyone's losing money, and blood, and it's just opening up the city for newcomers."
Like those goddamned twins, which Aeneas' men still hadn't managed to track down. "Look, I've got business to deal with. Can you get to the point?"
"Well, I'd hate to inconvenience you." Ode encircled his cigarette with a perfect ring. "I came back in town to help some of my friends who have had enough-of all of it-to get out. But Clytie's probably not going to be amenable to that, whereas I can't really see why you'd want any of us around. Too much trouble."
"Oh. So you help me slaughter that hell-bitch, and in return, I give you and your friends free passes out of town. I get you." Aeneas did some quick weighing of the odds. "Sounds like a fair proposition. But I think I need to hear some more details."
One moment Ode was there, right across from Aeneas, and the next, he was a dark silhouette wavering over the lawn. "Meet me at St. Ignatius' in an hour. Good night, Aeneas."
"Good night, asshole," Aeneas muttered very, very quietly. He got off the porch and walked over to the car, where as promised, Dei was recovering in the front seat. "Up, lazy ass. We've got a fox to hunt."
Odysseus slowed down after he was far enough away from Lavinia's house to be sure that he hadn't picked up any new followers. Then he straightened out his path a little, not wanting to lose the Atreidus tails he'd picked up just before meeting Aeneas.
So far, so good, but that was liable to change in an instant. And his plan was the kind that didn't leave much leeway, but then again, they didn't have much time. The twins were already connecting with Boston, and the moment they had it was the same moment that everyone was going to know where they were. Therefore, before that happened, he had to get Clytie and Aeneas both seriously crippled, at the very least. Best-case scenario would be death, and him walking away and straight out of the city, but he wasn't going to bet on it.
It was funny, really, how he kept going and going and simply couldn't give up. His wife and son were waiting for him, most of his friends had worn the way for him, and yet he couldn't stop fighting. Even now, he was thinking of how he was going to spark a mutual slaughter and still live through it. Old habits, and the stupidity of not knowing when it was his time, he supposed.
He should stop trying to look. And to laugh, and to struggle, because it always ended up in his falling again. But in the end, that was him. Him and Boston, never quite syncing long enough to work out some kind of compromise with which both of them could be happy.
Odysseus honestly hoped that the twins had better luck with that; the city was a fickle thing, and she didn't drop her former favorites very gently. And they genuinely seemed to be just nice, fairly ordinary guys. Aside from the strangely attractive incest, which really shouldn't surprise Odysseus. That particular sin seemed to be endemic among the crime families of Boston. Ach and Pat had been born in the city, after all, even if they'd grown up somewhere else, and Glass was some kind of cousin to Gam. Then there'd been the stories about Hector and Paris, and even Lavinia and Aeneas were a little too closely related for comfort.
Maybe all the problems could be chalked up to inbreeding. Like show dog breeds.
Laughing softly to himself, Odysseus stepped into a nearby bar to give the chance for his tails to report to their mistress. As for himself, he didn't look at the old bartender as he flicked a scrap of paper over the counter. A mug banged down beside him, froth sloshing over his hand, and the old man bustled away.
Cassie woke up in a cold sweat, clutching at the sheets in a desperate attempt to warm herself. She wrapped her arms around herself, then turned into Dios when he woke up and nuzzled inquiringly at her neck. "I see blood."
He went still. "Anyone in particular?"
"No…not yet." She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to blot the red out with black. It didn't work.
The phone rang. Dios hesitated, arm hovering against her shoulders, but when it shrilled again, he let go of her and lunged for it.
She didn't wait to hear the conversation, but instead simply laid down in the warm hollow he'd left in the mattress, trying to thaw out her bones. Whatever Odysseus was doing, it was working too fast, too well. They weren't going to have that week he wanted; matters were either going to get settled tonight or tomorrow night.
"Listen, I've got to-" Dios wasn't startled when she moved, and he didn't flinch when she accidentally ripped his lip in her hurry. He grabbed her by the arms and drank her, deep and hard, before putting her down and getting up. "Think I'd like pancakes for breakfast."
"You want eggs, too?" She turned around, not wanting to watch him dress.
He was quick. "Sure. And…you remember where the guns are?"
Cassie nodded, and then she rubbed his hand when it briefly touched her cheek.
She didn't get up until she heard the front locks click their bolts home, and even then, she waited another five minutes before she got dressed. But after that, it took two minutes to twist her hair up into a messy bun, and another five to get dressed in a pair of Dios' pants and the blouse he'd bought her.
Climbing down the fire-escape was slightly harder than the other times she'd done it, mostly because Dios' was too rusted to slide all the way down. Cassie bit off a curse, made sure the gun in her waistband wouldn't accidentally go off, and then let herself fall the last few feet.
The ground jarred up her heels, shaking hurt through her legs, but she didn't have time to whine about that. She just gritted her teeth and made her way to the nearest car, where she put one of her hairpins to good use.
A minute later, she was on the road and headed for Ode's place.
Feeling as if his skin was itching from underneath, Murphy rolled repeatedly over Connor, who didn't react. The lack of response was seriously starting to be worrisome. "Hey. Hey, would you-"
"-knock that off?" Connor suddenly shocked to life, flipping Murphy over and pinning him with elbows digging nastily into the belly. "I'm trying to figure out what's going on, but I can't do that when you're being such a distracting bastard."
"You've been doing that for the past hour. Haven't you come up with anything yet?" Murphy slumped on his back and stared at the ceiling, which had water stains. Actually, it had a leak, and there were drops just swaying, waiting to fall on him and Connor.
Who irritably shifted around, making the bed shake. "I might if you shut up. I-"
And the water fell, and Murphy suddenly knew what it was like to stretch to the sky, to dive into the ground and to wrap around so much: people and trees and cars and buildings and life and death. And there were words, and blood drumming his ears, and Connor right there, the only thing Murphy recognized so thank fucking God his brother hadn't been left out of this.
Gone. Murphy felt his bones get all their weight back in a split second, making him crash into the mattress. His tongue was bone-dry, and it hurt to talk. "Destroy that which is evil, so that that which is good may flourish."
"The Three shall spread their blackened wings and be the vengeful striking hammer," breathed Connor, equally limp. Murphy turned his heavy head just in time to see his brother's forehead furrow. "Except we're twins, not triplets. And…Da's dead."
Which was a puzzle that they didn't quite have time to ponder, because then the door smacked open. Cassie had a tight sliver-thin smile on her face, and an impressive-looking gun in her hand. "Hi. Congratulations, and could you get moving? We're going to be late for the fight."
"Fight?" Murphy hopped up, already doing up the buttons of his shirt.
"Yeah. Ode's trying to kill off both sides at once." A lock of hair swept down her face, like a falling veil. She pushed it back and winched her bun until it looked like it would hold. "Come on. The car I've got is only hotwired, and it's running low on gas."
"We hear, and we obey," Connor replied, tone mock-grandiose. At least, Murphy figured he was trying to make it a joke, but now there were weird echoes and back-tones in his words that twisted it into something almost menacing.
Cassie tilted her head, grinning at something that neither of them saw. "They're never going to believe it's you two. But that doesn't matter. They'll be dead, anyway."
That stopped Murphy for a minute. He checked back with Connor, who was busy pulling out the guns that Ode had stashed earlier. His twin shrugged, flipping the hair out of his eyes. "Well, not like we can leave now."
"More like, do you still want to?" Murphy strolled back over to secure his share of the weaponry, and to slide a hand around Connor's ass. Just grabbing to let him know that Murphy was there, and maybe deserved in on the sequence of thought-clicks in Connor's head. "I think this place might grow on me a little."
Connor's eyebrow went up. "And what about Ode?"
"What about him-" the city hummed "-oh. What, she want to make up for his shitty life?"
"Maybe. And maybe he makes a great balance. You know, since he doesn't even want to be here." Fingers flicked against Murphy's crotch, making him back up. "Knows every in and out of this city."
Murphy cocked his head, considering. He'd always figured his brother and him were enough to meet anything coming, but this…rumble under their feet, which was saying it was their and yet, telling them that they had to do this and that and that…it made him think about the possibility of otherwise. At least to help out.
Hell, it wasn't as if he hadn't been checking out Ode's nicely-shaped arse. Or liking the way the man's voice just kind of rasped around words. And it wasn't as if Connor hadn't been doing the same. Plus, they did owe Ode for taking them around and doing his level best to keep them out of trouble. Wasn't his fault that that hadn't worked out. "Might be worth it just to see what the man's like when he's not moping."
"Excellent point, Murph. Might make a scholar out of you yet." Smirking, Connor slapped him upside the head, then grabbed his arm and started helping/hauling him toward the door.
Bastard. All right, he was still limping, but that didn't mean he was a rag-doll or anything. He yanked away, blew a kiss at Cassie who was following behind them, and got out the door first. Hah.
One last thing, though. "Hey, Connor? I'm still not seeing how we could explain this in confession."
"Why would this go into confession?" The steps were old, and rattled like sheep's knuckles as Connor pounded down them.
"Because I'm thinking this isn't God. This is Boston." Murphy stopped at the bottom, both to catch his breath and to rest his leg, which was beginning to hurt. Damn it. When they were in the car, he'd have to make up a wrap to support it, or something, because as it was he definitely wouldn't be much use.
Above him, Connor slowed, and didn't speed up when Cassie tried to prod him along. She didn't get it, but it was an important issue that would have to be settled sooner or later, and Murphy would rather it be sooner. He didn't fancy trying to explain a modern-day turf war to St. Peter. Hell, he still didn't know half the story himself.
"No, it's not God…but then, neither are the saints or the Virgin. But…" Connor twisted his fingers on the railing, leaning forward so his shadow on the wall was a spiky, rumple-headed thing. "They're God, sort of. They came from him, they exist because of him. Everything does. And besides, what Boston says makes sense. You can't live in the middle of shit."
"Well, just so's we're clear." Satisfied, Murphy clapped a hand on his brother's shoulder and pulled him along. Time to finally get to the ass-kicking.
It really had been a beautiful place, back when Odysseus had been getting married in it. Of course, then he'd been too busy staring at Penelope to bother with admiring St. Ignatius' Cathedral. But even so, he could remember enough of the patchwork jewels the light made as it passed through the stained glass, the high swoops of the carving, the rich alter. Enough to compare it to the travesty that the cathedral was now, and almost remember how to weep.
A fitting battlefield for the end of two families.
He took a quick stroll through the place, making sure there wasn't anyone else inside. And while he was at it, secreting a few guns where he thought he'd need them later. Once he'd finished that, he headed back to the central room, where he stretched out on one of the benches and waited for them to come.
O watched Ode go inside St. Ignatius', and he also saw a shitload of shadowy figures from both sides arrive, which left him in a dilemma. One, Ode was definitely up to something, because O couldn't believe that his uncle would let that many bastards sneak up behind him if it wasn't on purpose, and O didn't want to accidentally ruin whatever the plan was. Two-but there really were a lot of them, and O wasn't sure that any one person would have enough ammunition to deal with all of them. He couldn't call out a warning, either, because that would give away his position to the Romany fucks.
In the end, he got out his gun and did his best to emulate one of the shadows, quietly making his way toward the Achaean contingent. He knew damn well that most of them had only stuck around because Clytie had been Gam's wife, and if there had been one thing his father could do, it was inspire loyalty in his men. Achilles being the famous exception, but then, Achilles hadn't grown up in Boston like most of the others.
Clytie, however, had long since worn out the faithfulness she'd inherited, but O prayed that he hadn't. He hoped that they remembered he was his father's son, and not his mother's.
It was cold inside the cathedral, and anyway, churches had always given Dios the creeps. He preferred to do any of his religious shit one-on-one with God, in the comfort of his own home, thank you. Still, Ode had called, and it usually wasn't a good idea to derail one of the man's plans.
Or creep up on him, apparently. Dios shoved away the gun and rubbed at his now-sore nose. "Hey. It's just me. And, well, the two armies."
Ode sat up long enough to listen, then swung his legs off the pew and pulled them into a corner. "Not bad. You say goodbye to Cassie?"
Damn it, Dios was already having problems jacking up his enthusiasm for this shit. He didn't need his cheeks burning with embarrassment into the bargain. "Fuck you. Actually, I think she knew…something. Said she couldn't see who."
"Well, we're too old." Ode flipped out his handguns and soundlessly cocked them, then glanced at the nearest shattered window. "You remember how the echoes in here work?"
"No." Echoes? Okay, the cathedral had them, but what did that have to do with anything?
His friend grinned, sour and amused. "Never mind. Just shoot enough to get them started, and then get your ass out of here. Cassie's not that bad."
Then he tilted his head, listening again. Something creaked in the upstairs balcony. Ode nodded to Dios, and then he was creeping into the pulpit. Dios stood there for another moment before, shaking his head, he worked his way down the side of the church.
And then he nearly fucked up everything by falling over a pew when something thundered through the church. It was like the voice of Zeus in an especially cheesy Greek-tragedy production he'd seen about five years back, only even louder and deeper. Which was actually good, because then no one could hear his crashing among the benches.
The sound eventually resolved into words: "Aeneas, you double-crossing bastard. Fine, I'll go offer Clytie the twins."
"You what?" screamed the back. "You've got them, and you-kill him. Kill him!"
"Romany?" yelled someone else. "Fuck! Shoot!"
Dios decided to just stay on the ground while everyone worked off their initial clips. And frustration. Though that almost got shot to hell when someone tripped over his feet.
"Shit, Dios, get up and do something. This isn't coffee-break."
"Ode? Hell, weren't you just on the other side-oh, echoes. I get it." Dios climbed over his friend, tracking the changing patterns of the gunfire, which was beginning to shake down into discrete groups. Right. Still weren't enough bodies on the ground, so it was time he got to flushing people out in the open.
But first, he grabbed Ode's hand and shook it. Then he whacked his friend on the head. "That was for being you, and that was for the time we had to go in drag."
"But you had the legs for it," Ode snickered, almost looking as he had in the old days.
Then the world shifted. Literally. And suddenly, Boston had a voice, and she was pissed beyond belief.
"Shit, those two are quick." Something that looked a hell of a lot like aggravation and grudging admiration passed over Ode's face, but given the angle, it was hard for Dios to be sure. "All right, time to go. Good luck." Ode squeezed Dios' arm till it bruised, then scrambled for the nearest confession.
"Same to you," Dios muttered to his friend's back. "Same to you."