It was the deepest sleep I’d experienced in a while and it took a lot to drag me out of a comfortable, peaceful darkness as I came to in the waking world. Rubbing my eyes, I took the slight ache that ran twinges through me as I shift onto my back. Groaning, I rubbed my bleary, heavy lidded eyes, my back arching as I yawned loudly, feeling a more prominent ache down in my lower back. Yet despite the ache in my body, it felt quite...satisfied.
My eyes glanced up at the ceiling above me, as my memories of last night fluctuated over and over again like a T.V. showing off its many scenes. A heated flush grew in my face as I ran a hand through my trussed-up hair splayed all around the pillow before sitting up.
So, that’s what they talk about. Holy Hera, Aphrodite, whomever is listening.
Keeping the blanket up to protect any sense of modesty, though that was now long gone, I found the right side of the bed empty but it wasn’t cold meaning Warren must’ve gotten up recently.
How did we get to this?
Sighing, I pulled the blanket over my head as I rested my chin on my knees breathing in deeply through my nose and out through my mouth as I felt strange...nervous, confused. Unsure of myself. But only mere days ago, I tried to knock the War horseman down with a fire poker and now...
Rubbing my lips, which I faintly mused felt slightly swollen and tingly, my lips twitched faintly as I shook my head self-mockingly. Whatever happens, and maybe this should not have been a focus, but after we have gotten everything done and the others are safe, I can muse over more things to worry about. Did Warren regret it? Oh, shut up! I was arguing with myself over everything until my eyes fell on the closed curtains where flickers of daylight streamed through the sides. Daylight. Morning. Maybe Pan has gotten back to us! I can worry about everything else another day, right now time to move and get up.
Throwing the blanket off, blushing as the cool morning air hit my naked body, I looked for any bit of clothes I had, musing in sarcastic delight this was not my current room and the only clothes in here was the dress I wore. Well, the under garments I had as well but that would do very little. Blushing, I grabbed a large jumper that was definitely Warren’s which swallowed me whole and leaving his room I quickened to my room to find some bottoms that would definitely fit me. I could not bring myself to take off his jumper though and fighting off the strange shyness overcoming me, deciding that it was much warmer in this thick, large jumper, I kept it on and headed downstairs where it was incredibly quiet.
Was he still here? Did he maybe get some information from Pan and leave without me!? Oh no, don’t you dare-he better not have-
I came to a quick stop, slipping a little on the floor as I stood at the kitchen door and finding Warren with his back to me until he heard me. He turned, facing me and I felt that red hot flush grow on my cheeks as I turned pink.
“Good morning, Pan.”
“Um, good morning, Warren.” I stammered, standing in front of the kitchen doorway awkwardly as we both stood across from one another. Awkward silence surrounding us but not a bad one more just...me watching Warren who watched me as if we were both unsure of what to do. He was shirtless but wore long, navy, sleep pants that hung a little low on his hips and I glanced away before I made a mockery of myself with a very visible expression.
Good God. Pull yourself together already.
“Is that my jumper?”
“Uh, yeah.” His eyes lightened and his lips twitched, the amusement obvious.
“You could disappear in that.”
“You’re a big guy,” I shrug and his brow raised slightly as he hums in agreement.
“And you’re tiny.” I glare at him and he grins widely but I can’t help relaxing as the awkwardness fades but it was still early to think far ahead. He throws his chin towards the dining table, gesturing for me to go.
“Go sit, I’m making breakfast.” He turns back to the stove and I the smells I wasn’t paying attention to have my stomach rumble in approval.
“Do you want me to help?” Instead of turning to the table I follow him into the kitchen and standing next to him I see the stove top with one large pan and a couple eggs frying on it along with strips of meat. The meat and eggs crackle, spitting oil and I’m extremely relieved to have pants on. “I haven’t cooked anything since I... since I came to in this world and it’s all so different still.”
“Hm,” Warren hums and using tongs flips the meat over but grabs a glass from the cupboard above and hands me two glasses. “One day I’ll teach you.” I blink, stunned at his words but a smiling involuntarily crosses my face. “But for now, can you get a drink, juice or water or whatever you want from the fridge and some cutlery from that drawer.” I grab all I’ve been asked to get, setting it up at the table just as Warren approaches with two plates with some bacon and eggs which waft heavily, making my stomach groan hungrily. I pour some juice in a glass for Warren and he sets a couple more items on the table before we both sit. A comfortable silence resonates in the dining room as we both eat quietly.
“Um, have you heard anything from Pan? Dionysus?” I ask while I lather some butter on a piece of toast, licking some of it off my fingers.
“No, I’m sorry. Nothing yet.” Warren gives me an apologetic smile. “We should hear something soon at least but we’ll go from where we can.”
“Do you know where we can start? You said, there are too many places to try and not enough time.”
“No, I don’t. I can only have an idea and just, assume. It’s not useful but it’s all I can help with.” I nod slowly, the truth and honesty from Warren needed but unfortunate. We’re so close! So very close to helping everyone we just need to find the right place to start and we’ll get them out.
“I think you shouldn’t give up hope Pan, no matter what. Daphne hasn’t either.” What? Glancing up at him from my plate, immediately confused but he smiles faintly and looks behind me. Following his gaze, I find the pot filled with soil and the slight branch sticking out.
I’m on already out of my chair and standing in front of the kitchen island next to the kitchen window, reeling and stunned. The branch which was nothing more than a plain, dry twig was now showing more tiny little branches near the top, like tiny little arms sprouting out. There was a touch of green at the ends, the beginnings of tiny little leaf sprouts.
Daphne! You’re gonna be okay!
“You haven’t given up on her.” Warren stood beside me, his hand on my shoulder. “Your patience in the past few days and care has started to show. Granted it will take a long while still but she’s gonna be okay.”
Oh, thank you! Whoever is listening, thank you!
“Thank you, thank you!” I smiled through watery eyes at Warren who nodded slightly, looking away but I clutched onto him, wrapping my arms around him firmly. “Thank you, Warren, for not giving up on her too.” He chuckles faintly.
“I think if I did give up, she’d come back to spite me and make me regret it.” I felt his lips at the top of my head as he rubbed my back. “Come on, your breakfast will get cold and you should eat. You’re tiny afterall.” Groaning, I pulled away while he laughed and disappeared into the kitchen to get some napkins.
“How did you and Daphne meet?” I questioned, finding his mentioning of her familiar and friendly. Though I tried not to feel a flick of envy, I made sure to ignore it. This was not the time and I was genuinely curious. Warren’s brow raised and a wry smile on his face as he shook his head slightly. “I can tell there’s a story there.”
“Not a big story. Just a big misunderstanding basically.” I leaned in curious and he grinned, sipping his juice before he turned to me with a tale. “I knew of Daphne and the rumours. You know of her tale between her and Apollo?” At my nod he continued. “Okay, so, this was a time after what happened and well a misunderstanding where I thought I was hunting a very chaotic nymph I had been paid to stop. Daphne on a very aggressive run from Apollo but the spell had been worn off from Apollo so he had stopped chasing after her. Anyway, the tracking led me to Daphne who thought I was Apollo and ensued a very chaotic fight.” He sighed heavily, shaking his head. “I’ll admit she got me good.” He touched his forehead. “She’s lethal in a fight.”
“Basically. But I met her here, almost a hundred years ago. Same situation sort of. Almost got my ass beaten down. One of the nuns at the church had been possessed by a type of ghoul and she needed help because during the day she was fine but at night, she was out on the streets, killing or feeding on whoever came by. Anyway, I chased her down and almost got my head knocked off by Daphne. Don’t worry, we didn’t kill each other. Just slowly resolved a growing situation and earned me some trust with the church that they decided to leave me be.”
“You’re good friends with Daphne-”
“Hah! I wouldn’t say good friends. We just tolerate each other in a manner we like to be petty. She’s a little sore that I got the upper hand last time.”
“I see,” I was shaking my head at the thought. It was like two kids pranking each other. “Who is Tiamat, that Dionysus mentioned last night? It almost implied Poseidon was afraid of them...”
“Ah, Tiamat is a primordial Goddess of ancient Mesopotamia. Basically, a primeval creature from the very beginning of time.”
“She’s not of Greece...”
“No, every culture, it’s not just Greek Gods you know that exist. There are thousands of Gods and Goddesses in this...universe. For every culture, along with the creatures that reside. How we live in secret is beyond me but it works and I believe the God’s are behind it.”
“What or who is Tiamat, exactly? She that terrifying?”
“Considering she’s a sea serpent who practically owns Mediterranean seas, was slaughtered millenniums ago after her mate and is still residing and without a doubt is older than Poseidon...Yeah, I could say she’d be a force to be reckoned with. Not that I know much, or anyone really would. It’s not like Gods and such show up and make a spectacle at all. It’s rare to hear anything from God’s, especially in this day and age.” He shrugged, shaking his head slightly.
“It’s a bigger world than I ever realized, even long ago.” I hum.
“Yeah, it really is.” Warren hummed, eyes glazing over slightly as he stared at the sink.
“Have you travelled to a lot of places?”
“Yeah, maybe I’ve had a glimpse of everywhere and... seen so many things. Good and bad.” Warren turned to me with a neutral expression on his face. “There’s always been good things, but just as much as there is good, a lot of bad things have happened in this world. Shitty, horrible things that never had to happen but it’s part of the human mind and control.”
“Do you mean war?”
“...You feel responsible for it?” War grew silent, staring at me with an unfathomable expression that neither denied or agreed with the question. Feeling the tension starting to grow, I quickly changed the topic. “Um, I think I asked you this once before, but you never told me why you decided to go into the profession of teaching?” He frowned, shrugging slightly.
“To be honest, there’s not much to say about it. I’ve not only been a teacher, I’ve been others. This place here,” He waved around to walls, the kitchens and living rooms. “I made myself and I’ve given homes to others.”
“You made this all?” I glanced around the walls around us, marvelling at it all. It was very beautiful, homey, a home for someone or anyone.
“Most of it. I constructed it close to fifty years ago and it’s been altered little bits here and there for structure and fitting in with the current times. I’ve worked in medical which is a painful job and more.” He gave me a bitter smile. “When you have eternity alone, you get a lot of time for other stuff.”
“You’re not completely alone.” I started, unsure of where to go with this. “You would’ve made friends and met many women...” He chuckled faintly.
“Yes, friends are a dime a dozen and hard to find good ones. I’ve learned through the best of friends I’ve made throughout my years, finding trust and a friend, like any relationship, it’s not something to ever take for granted. I don’t think, as a friend, I would’ve been the most open and honest friend, because well, as you know. As for...relationships,” He snorted, rolling his eyes but his expression was closed off. “It’s not been a priority or real interest of mine, just fleeting moments. I’ve not met anyone close to interesting or one who frustrates me to no end.” I found myself going completely silent at his words but he started to clean up the table as if he hadn’t said anything that made me wonder or just overthink. Following suit, I took some of the cutlery and placed them in the washer as Warren did who closed it up. The only sound now was the dishwasher running water inside and Warren cleaning up the sink and the few dishes beneath the running tap and taking a spot beside the sink, I started drying the items. I could feel Warren watching me as I looked up at him confused and he stares at me, a strange expression on his face before a soft smile took place and he returned to washing dishes and me drying them. It was a simple routine and it was quiet, albeit slightly awkward or maybe it was just me, but it was easy-going between us both now. Taking the glasses from my pile of dried dishes, I could just slip them in the cupboard where Warren had them extravagantly high.
“Must you have them so high?” I grumble irritably and Warren chuckles behind me, his arm stretching behind me above to move the glasses around so I can fit them all in easily.
“I wasn’t expecting to have any short people living here.”
Again with the short thing.
“How did you meet Aello?”
Warren tensed immediately, slowing the washing of the dishes and without looking at me, his voice grew cool and soft.
“A long, long time ago. I made her fear me for it was the only way to stop her reign of terror. That’s all that needs to be said.”
“If you wish, but I thought there was trust-”
“It has nothing to do with trust. It’s just not something I’m keen or particularly interested in going into. Hardly interesting. Really.” I frowned, confused and little upset at the blockage he was sending out.
“Does this kind of delve into similar territory from that very intense conversation between you and a drunk god? Your worries about being one and the other?” He threw me an irritated look and I glared back. “Don’t bother shying away. If you can read me like a book, shocker, I can get a read from you too, you block of stone.” His lips twitched as his jaw clenched.
“You didn’t seem to think I was a block of ice last night, Pandora.” My lips let out a little pop as my jaw dropped slightly at the sudden return. I wasn’t even sure how to bring it up and he did just too casually. Regardless of how he felt for me exactly right now, there wasn’t any need to be too harsh.
“I’ll get that damn poker again.” Growling, I slam the cupboard door shut.
“You might have to.”
I looked at War stunned and confused and he smiled faintly though there was no humour in his expression.
“It might be good practice.” I felt a chill run down my spine at his insinuation because soon, things will be dangerous and we had no idea where or when or how to begin.
“Let’s, let’s not go there yet. We haven’t heard anything from that satyr yet and...and I’m scared to think of it right now.” War nodded slowly.
“I know it is. There’s nothing wrong with being scared. It’s good if you are. Means you’ll be cautious hopefully.”
“You don’t plan on leaving me behind?” I queried, surprised at his words and his subtle consideration. His brows curled in, frowning at obviously being caught and turned his gaze on me. He remained silent for seconds as he dried his hands on the cloth, a strange expression crossing his face like resignation.
“As much as I would want to, I probably can’t. You’d just stowaway somehow in my car. Or swing a poker at me.” He chuckled darkly. “But I don’t think, I could leave you behind. Afterall, you have my back as well.”
“Of course.” I smiled faintly and pulling the collar of his jumper down, to show off the fading bruises from Aello’s attack. “These are my battle wounds. I’m fit and ready to go.” His eyes narrowed faintly as they stayed on my neck and he placed the cloth on the counter as he approached me, suddenly standing before me. I was well aware that I stood between the kitchen counter and Warren. My body, reacted oddly, but I found my nerves tingling at his look which remained on my neck even though I covered it back up with the jumper. His lips moved faintly, and suddenly his hand was up resting gently on the collar of my jumper and he moved it aside.
“You shouldn’t have to bare any battle scars or wounds.” He murmured softly, his eyes darkening and my skin quivered when I felt the heat of the back of his hand press gently against the fading bruises. “You already have enough of them.”
“So do you.” I breathe and my eyes flittered down to his abdomen without permission, eying his own scars that expressed a journey of his that came with its own consequences. “I mean, I don’t have any scars. Not really,”
“The scars we gain are worth it. For myself, the reasons, maybe one day I’ll share...if I have the heart or guts to do so.” I glanced up at him, his expression was faint but there was a flicker of something there. “The scars say a lot about me, as they do about anyone who has one. And I have room for more about me.”
“I don’t want you to get hurt because of me.”
“I won’t. And I’ve lived a long life remember. Nothing can stop me. I promised you remember.”
“But nothing. If I can survive with you swinging a poker at me, I’m practically invincible.” My lips twitched, the humour hard to fight against and his hand still laid against my neck, curled around the back of my neck, making me tense softly, a quiver running down my spine at the touch. His thumb tracing over my jaw and I couldn’t help lean my head into his hand, feeling the warmth of his hand against me. “For now,” Warren’s voice grew dry and rough like gravel, his eyes moving over my face, eyes dark like onyx. “We’re both okay...I guess.”
“Okay.” I stammered, my voice wavering and hesitant as we both stood there unsure of which move to make. I was frozen but that simmer had started to appear and a shuddering breath left. “Okay. No more poker swinging.” He blinked, confusion clouding his face until he was pulled down my own force curled around the back of his neck. His mouth met mine was grunt of surprise but the return of the kiss was immediate and I felt my body, the tension wavering slightly and that simmer grew hotter and hotter and I was glad it was frigid morning.
“Pandora,” He gasped against my lips. His hand curled at the back of my neck slid up to the back of my head, where I felt the slight tightening of my hair in his grasp and his arm wound around my back, basking me in a very deep, pocket of heat that was almost suffocating.
I could drown in this heat and I was completely fine with it.
Warren cursed and I suddenly felt air beneath my feet. Gasping as Warren’s arm was tight around me until I felt myself placed upon any section in the kitchen, I was almost eye-level with Warren. But I couldn’t take in much notice because he had his arms on either side of the counter as he leaned in, his lips catching onto mine with no chance of being freed. My heart, I could hear its echo as it pulsed inside my chest, thundered fast like a hummingbird. The blood rushing in my head made me heady, dizzy. Sinking into it all, a flurry of colour in the back of my mind, the pleasure rushing around, much like his arms which touched and ran over me with care and fire. His lips slipped away, making a burning trail over my jaw and neck. My breathing was heavy and hot as I gasped at the touch, he laid upon me. His hands in my hair and his hand which had me pulling away, arms raised as he discarded my jumper. The air was cold on my skin until he was around me again and I felt myself melt into his arms.
“Warren,” I gasp, whimpering when his mouth ran hot and heady down my neck, a slight ache that thrilled me. I heard Warren curse in Greek next to my ear sending a shudder down my spine. I gripped his forearms for anything to hold onto as he painted his touch over the bit of bare skin I had bared now. The simmering heart was turning into a slow boil and a thrum of energy was simmering through my veins and blood.
Exactly like last night...Oh my...
“Pandora,” He gasped as I whimpered at his touch on my sensitive flesh, my body twitching and my hand trailing up his shoulder, my fingers at the back of his neck.
“Warren, please...” He straightened, standing but his face a mere inch from mine, his expression like liquid onyx and a flicker of-
“What have you fucking done to me?” He rasped and blinking unable to respond because his grasped my face to his and his mouth on mine unleashed an inferno I was happy to drown in. His touch, grew searching and mine reaching for him, eager to feel the flames from last night I experienced. The cold hit my legs in mere moments. I gasped against his mouth but he refused to relinquish me until the air was around my legs and stomach completely. I felt my body move, squirming at his touch which travelled lower and lower and a strangled sigh as his hands caressed the tops of my thighs. His hand buried in my hair; his touch moved in further up my thighs-
A distant banging was suddenly the ice water thrown upon us. I didn’t have time to react because Warren suddenly pulled me right off the counter, spinning me around, his body tense and hard like the brick walls around us, keeping himself between me and possible danger. My heart was thundering from what we had just been doing and the sudden jump scare of someone banging on the front door. Warren’s chest was rising and falling and his eyes were pitch black but he suddenly grabbed my jumper and bottoms and placed them in my arms. Quickly throwing the clothes on while Warren pointed at me, glancing at me briefly. His face was strained and I had to avoid glancing at other obvious signs of tension in his body but he gestured for me to wait in the kitchen. Without waiting for my reply, he disappeared out the kitchen and down the corridor to the front door.
I remained standing, legs shaking and little frustrated, tense but I heard footsteps and suddenly Warren stepped into the living room followed by
“Pan!” I exclaimed, stunned to see the satyr here. He was dressed in a neat looking business attire, grey coat, white shirt underneath, with a tie and some matching grey pants that settled awkwardly over his ram legs. He glanced at me, his right brow raising slowly before it slid to Warren, his gaze moving up and down. I felt myself flush at the gaze he was bestowing upon Warren and I. He wasn’t stupid afterall. He lived for these actions afterall.
“Well,” Pan drawled, a crafty smile appearing on his face. “Dionysus was right. Still, he wouldn’t see this coming.”
“Do you have something to share or you just here to be a bother?” Pan didn’t look put off but he rolled his eyes at Warren before his expression became cool and polite.
“I have something. It’s not a hundred percent accurate that I could gather but it’s a start.”
“We’ll take whatever it is you can offer.” I started, moving closer.
“I got some gossip from a very lovely nymph I had the pleasure of accompanying last night. I’m sure YOU, would understand, hmm?” He smirked briefly, while I blushed heavily and Warren sighed, folding his arms across his chest. “She’s a simple nymph who happened to be dire straits as she owes a decent sum to a bunch of get-this, ogres! Now I told her I could help her with the money, if she’d tell me where to find these ogres?”
“Oddly enough,” Pan frowned faintly as though reminiscing the conversation. “These Ogres have been busy in Hecate’s marketplace.”
“Hecate’s marketplace? Hecate as in the Goddess Hecate, of magic, witchcraft?”
“The very one. But it’s not Hecate’s place. It’s just a name for the marketplace as it refers to being part of the Underworld.” Pan shrugged and War turned slightly to me, his expression darkening and wary.
“It’s one of the bigger market places, pretty much open to anyone and everyone if you have the right offerings for it but it isn’t a place for everyone. Basically, a black market. The kind of market even Hecate would curse those for defiling her name with such filth. Honestly, the perfect place to get away with holding a few prisoners. A place you could sell others as well.”
“Oh god,” I shook slightly. “But do we know where to go then? Where, where it is then?”
“Yes.” Pan answered before Warren could and he smirked faintly. “Your best place to go to would be the Bow Bridge in central park. Your best entrance is in the bathrooms of course, because no one has taste or better ideas for an entrance.” Pan scoffed, rolling his eyes. Warren’s eyes lightened slightly as he nodded in understanding.
“Good. It’s a start.” Pan smirked and with one last look to me, nodded and quickly turned around and left, leaving us both standing in the living room. At the sound of the front door closing, Warren turned to me and I stared at him stunned.
We’ll get them out soon!
By mid-morning, we were twenty minutes from the city.
I didn’t know much about cars but I don’t think I could condone speeding above the speeding limit which I was graciously taught about at some point when seeing signs with numbers every few minutes. Warren didn’t seem to hesitate and I appreciated his hurry and truth be told, I felt the need to be quick about this. Lives were in the balance. But maybe not at the risk of our lives though. Can’t help anyone if we die.
The drive was silent, the tension was there but it was different. Warren had been quiet after Pan had left and only said for me to get dressed and get ready to go in minutes. I was grateful for my usual jeans and long sleeves since it was chilly today. Warren had grabbed a couple things after dressing quickly and left the house and I sincerely hoped he locked.
“Do you, do you know much about where we are going?” I finally broke the silence, unable to take the silence and feeling edgy and nervous.
“Not much, just as Pan mentioned, it’s basically a black market for our underworld basically. Creatures and others not part of humanity would go there for god knows. I’ve never been, but I’ve heard of it. They are exclusive much like Pan’s festive parties. Hecate’s Troll market is not a place for anyone to go. They keep it pretty much hidden because of the awful crap you could find in there. So, we’re gonna have to prepare for that Pan.”
“Okay, but if it’s exclusive, then how do we get in? I mean, we don’t have an invitation and we don’t have time to find Aello-”
“No, we don’t. But they don’t give out invites. We just need these.” War reached between us where the latch was behind the gear and inside was a black, leather pouch that was heavy and clinked when I pulled it up. It settled on my palm, a perfect fit but still heavy. Opening the pouch, I found many, tiny silver and bronze coins, all irregular and different designs.
“Some old money from Greece. Old style. I have a collection. Haven’t had to use any for a while but some are not meant to be shared except probably in this situation. There are a couple obol’s in there. Obols are more valuable than drachma.”
“The price to cross the river Styx.” I murmured. “Are we crossing a river?”
“Honestly, I have no idea. We’re passing a troll bridge; trolls are the bridge guards. Like Charon, you want to pass the bridge, you got to pay. Either with coin or your life.”
“Okay. But Pan said the entrance was a bathroom though.” Warren frowned.
“Yeah...I don’t know what to say about that. Honestly, sounding like some idea behind a film with hidden rooms.” He glanced at me from the corner of his eye. “Honestly Pan, I don’t know what to expect myself. Whatever we face today, it won’t be pretty. Even if we find them,” He grew silent, looking straight on the quiet road. “It’s not going to be easy to get anyone out of a black market.”