The King of the Gods is lame in both feet.
He squirms and stumbles on the ring, swinging a punch against his opponent, who pulls back and easily avoids it.
The old King sneers and then winces as he has to follow his adversary, putting too much weight on his right leg and he only manages to knick his shoulder.
When the other boxer retaliates, his strike is swift and powerful enough the King can barely parry it by crossing both arms. He’s shorter and weaker than his adversary, a conundrum he’s going to take another eternity to get over with.
A cheer rouses from the crowd, filling the concrete dome where the match is sliding towards its inevitable conclusion. People squeal, yell, cry and shout, their faces hopeful – they have made a safe bet, and the King is going down. Battered and bruised, he is going to fall in a few hits.
If he’s lucky, they are going to break his nose back into shape.
The King spits and falls back, lets out a quick groan of pain as his leg threatens to fail him. He pulls back, towards the ring’s corner, towards the ropes, towards the unkind end to this joke of a match.
The crowd ripples as if aroused by a storm, maybe one sent by the King’s younger brother.
Among them, though, there’s a small figure dressed in grey, who sits in the highest row and chews on the hem of her hoodie.
This is no good.
It’s the third match in a row that’s going like this. By now, he doesn’t even have to pretend to lose, he’s going down all on his own.
Beneath the hoodie, grey eyes scan the crowd for a lead. She shouldn’t be doing this, but if he loses another match like this he’s going to come back home broken.
And she hates the shadows lingering in his blue gaze even more then the shame of helping him like this.
She pulls her hoodie tighter. She’s not as good at this as her sister.
Never was, and she does not have time for any complicated plan.
She hates to run on instinct, but when have the Fates ever been anything but cruel?
She leaves her hiding spot and slithers between the people, trying to make herself as small and as silent as possible.
Hold on your breath, put the ball of your feet down first, says her sister’s voice in her head, but that kind of advice used to be good for running after hares.
She squirms between the stinky bodies, their smell of booze, mary jane and similar brother to opium mortals delight themselves with.
An opening. A lead. Anything.
Cutting the power? Perhaps starting a fire?
Hey, calling the police might just work, if she didn’t spot a few off-duty officers cheering with the crowd.
Something catches her attention: the opponent’s bottle is left uncorked.
Ah, that’s one big mistake.
Her grey eyes blink and a sharp grin pulls on her lips. Her fingers twitch, as if she were already back to pulling threads together.
Mortals did not grow any more careful through the screaming abyss of time.
She squeezes between the bodies. Some push against her a little too close for comfort, and if she could she would turn them all into squabbling foxes, but that’s long past her. She just has to hold her breath not to breathe in too much bad cologne, smoke or tangerine piss… and then she’s there, right at the edge of the ring.
Everyone is looking at the match. The King is cornered, holding up his arms to try and face the storm, but the other fighter is battering him with punch after punch.
She can feel each of them, rattling from her skull to straight into her chest.
She reaches for inside her hoodie and pulls out a vial.
May the Fates bless her crackhead of a brother, for once.
She uncorks it and with one quick gesture, so swift she’s quite confident not even the crafted eyes of the cameras caught it, the contents of the vial fall into the water bottle.
She withdrwas quickly, kicking off the nearest person in the shins just to cause a bit of ruckus – and as she squeezes back to her hiding place, a small squabble covers her tracks.
It grows loud enough that the referee, that chalk-faced refuse, calls for a break.
And that’s when the spokes pull the strings taut. As the King tries to catch his breath, half his body covered in bruises, his opponent takes a few swigs from the bottle.
Beneath the shade of her hoodie, she allows herself a small grin.
The match resumes – for a few heartbeats, it seems like everything is going just like before. The King tries to compensate for his lame feet, but there’s little he can do.
He falls on one knee. Desperate, he lunges forward, hugging onto his adversary that thunders punches down on his shoulders to dislodge him.
But then, like two bears locked in a fight, it’s his opponent’s turn to stagger. He gags, choking on air. His face grows pale, then red.
The King frowns, a flash of understanding going through his blue eyes.
He’s supposed to throw the match, but he instead throws an uppercut right at the man’s jaw, strong enough to send him flying against the ropes. The boxer blinks, stumbles, gags for air again as a frigid silence falls upon the crowd, stunned at the impossible sight.
It reminds her of that time the world first discovered winter.
The King roars, and he chases after his opponent, punch after punch. One makes him fall, another sends one of his teeth flying, and the third stamps him against the ring’s floor.
The King steps over his opponent. Sweaty, panting, he raises his battered visage to glare at the crowd and a victorious grin spreads over his broken lips.
She’s waiting for him right outside the basement, leaning against the wall as she plays with her phone, eternally reloading the page with her weekly funds.
“Guess what!” He roars, coming out of the shadows covered in black bruises and ragged clothes. In his left hand he holds a six pack. He looks so victorious he’s almost walking normally, stumbling just a bit.
“Did they use you for target practice?” She tries, pretending to be shocked.
She should be, in fact. When she pulls him in a hug, her hand reaches for his stinging face – some of these livids are crimson, and very fresh. They will be black soon.
“Ha! No, hey, that hurts.”
She lets go. He coils one of his thick arms around her shoulders and cracks open a beer can, offering it to her first.
“Thanks. You are in a good mood, for looking like a dog’s behind.”
“Bah. Chicks dig the rugged look,” he grins passing a chafed thumb over the shattered profile of his nose. “Nah, someone rigged the match. Got me in a bit of trouble, actually. But I got paid double.”
That explains the newest livids.
“I was supposed to throw it, but I pointed out that in that case, rigging it right back at ‘em would be the best thing to do.” He clicks his tongue, clearly far too pleased with his wit.
“And they believed you,” she replies quirking an eyebrow, even as her hands trace the swelling of his face. Fates, this is her fault.
“Gives them a better lead on who messed with them.”
“May the Fates bless them,” she concedes, taking a swig from the can.
She is not extremely fond of beer, and this one is not even cold.
But it’s the company that matters.
“Yeah. I’m sure it’s going to keep them busy for a while.” He pauses and pulls her closer, so he can whisper right in her ear. “Gonna take ‘em decades to see what your brother cuts his shit with.”
She grows pale.
“You will not believe how bad that stuff makes your breath stink. Ananke must be on my side tonight because I did not drop dead just by hugging him. Hey, those cheeks are sweet!” He turns his head to shout at a pretty girl with a revealing dress. She shots him a glare and keeps walking, while he cackles at her reaction. “Sour grapes, that one. Heh, your old man’s still got it.”
Warm elation in her chest battles with cold shame. Maybe it’s the air of this cursed world of concrete that’s turning her dull. She frowns and pulls her fist deep into her pockets as she takes another swig from the can.
The King opens himself one and he winks at her. He looks a bit too delighted with himself.
“I thought you would be mad at me. I did not want to…”
“I know why ya did it. You’re always too clever by half.”
“Guess who taught me that,” she scoffs punching him in the ribs.
They walk for a few more steps and she counts them in her head, feels their stumbling rhythm as he has to help his legs get past the pain and the lame rhythm of his feet.
“I cannot just keep watching you destroy yourself out there.”
“Not your call, dear.”
Seven. Eight. Nine.
“Not my call but you are my father.”
That makes him stop. He purses his lips and looks up at the heavens. From down here the sky is always clouded. Nix’s shroud is stained with milky brightness.
“Best I can do for now,” he mumbles. An explaination? An excuse?
“You can find some other job. We can look it up together.”
“I’m not cut for other stuff,” he shakes his head, swatting her offer away.
“If you do not even try…”
He doesn’t reply to that. Tapping on his can, they share a look.
“I wouldn’t be great at it anyway. How about we eat out tonight? My treat.”
“When is it even anything other than your treat…” she rolls her eyes. She is going to let him off her needle, but only for tonight.
“When your online… job,” he says making air quotes, “will start actually paying bills.”
“Hey, it is a work in progress! And I am not putting out like some whore, my audience follows me for my games!”
He nods, pulling her towards the closest pizzeria.
“I know that. You’d have the goods for it, tho.”
She rolls her eyes, because he means it, and she knows that coming from him, that’s high praise.
What an impossible father she has.
But at least tonight… they can pretend like it is going to be fine.
They cross the road and he throws the can away. It hits a speeding car and her father roars a belly laugh at the driver’s angry shout.
“So, you are fine with it, are you not?” She asks as they reach the pizzeria’s door. “About me and the match.”
His smile brightens his eyes.
“I am cutting your internet for a week.”
Author’s Notes: Well, this was a blast to write. Yesterday’s piece finally prompted me to give this story a chance. I wanted to write a quick study of these two, and the idea of “Olympians stranded in our world” grew with the tale. Kudos if you managed to guess every character!
Thanks for reading.