The butterfly Effect
Thanatos’ mind wanders to Jesus. The son of God. Heir to the King of Kings. Adored by millions of mortals hated by even more deities.
Thanatos wonders what Nemain is up to right now. Whatever she’s doing, Thanatos hopes it doesn’t involve Azrael.
What were the motivations for assassinating Christ? The throne? Retaliation for the Christianization? Is there some kind of link to the Apocalypse?
Thanatos prefers Nemain with blue eyes. Not that red isn’t a beautiful color. She’s just kinder to him when her eyes are blue. When they’re red she can’t seem to take her attention off of Azrael.
Suspects? Well, obviously the Aesir aren’t fond of the Christians. But after Ragnarok Thanatos doubts they have the resources necessary to pay for such a high-class kill. So Thanatos wants to suspect the Olympians or The Egyptians. But both pantheons were in neutral standing with Christ last time he checked.
Thanatos and Nemain were having such a good talk before Azrael showed up the other day. It’s a relief to know that even after the last few centuries she’s still his best friend. It’s always so hard to hide his smile around her, especially when she does things like climb all over him.
Why is he ruling out so many of the lesser pantheons? Well, money is the first hurdle that comes to mind. But if enough of them banded together it wouldn’t be impossible.
It wouldn’t be impossible. It wouldn’t be impossible for him to tell her how he feels. It wouldn’t be impossible for them to be together.
“Thanatos?” Thanatos hears Rhiannon’s voice just before feeling a sharp pain sink into his hand.
He looks down and finds Rhiannon’s lips wrapped around several of his fingers. Her disembodied head rolls back and he sees a blush on her cheeks.
“Thanatos!? I-I’m sorry for biting you,” she stammers while rocking in place. “I said your name again and again, but it wasn’t working. I was only trying to get your attention-”
“Hot,” Thanatos interrupts.
Thanatos picks Rhiannon up and presses his forehead against her’s. The act confirms his suspicions as she’s grown even warmer.
“Your face is flushed,” Thanatos explains. “Maybe we should get some rest.”
“Yeah,” Rhiannon responds. “You were starting to seem pretty distracted...”
“I guess it would seem that way. But believe me, I was focused on something important.” He pets her head. “It’ll make sense one day. Promise.” Thanatos stands and keeps her head cradled in his arms. “Here, I’ll carry you back to your room.”
“T-thank you, Thanatos.”
When the two arrive at Rhiannon’s room her body is there to greet them with open arms. Thanatos passes over Rhiannon’s head and nods to the girl. As he goes to leave she whispers to him.
“Wait,” she says. “I wanted to say thank you, for helping me brush up. I feel that the more I learn about the Psychopomps, the closer I become with everyone.” Rhiannon hoists her head up onto her shoulders.
She flashes Thanatos a small smile. “If you ever feel like you need someone to talk to. To confide in...m-maybe I can help? It seemed like talking to me helped you focus earlier. So we can keep doing that. I-if you want.”
Thanatos wants to return the favor. Offer her a smile of his own. But, she isn’t Nemain. So instead, Thanatos only nods. “I’ll think about it.”
“I’m home,” Thanatos says as he pushes his door open. In the same motion, he’s crushing one of his butterflies.
“Welcome home, Master.” Nemain is there to greet him, like always. She’s on her hands and knees and will remain that way until he pets her head.
“You know you don’t have to call me that,” Thanatos says, approaching her.
“But I want to.”
Thanatos runs his hands through her auburn hair as he makes his way to the sofa. Smiling, Nemain follows him over to the couch. She climbs into his lap and nuzzles into his neck.
“Master,” she says. “You look tired. Stressful day?”
“Nah.” Thanatos cups her cheek. “Just planning for the day when I finally rescue you.”
“Master really shouldn’t worry about me so much.”
“Well, I can’t help myself. So you’re just gonna have to get used to it.”
“Master.” Nemain gasps. “You’re so good to me.”
“Do you love me, Nemain?”
“Of course I do, Master. I love you.”
“Do you love me more than Azrael?”
“Of course I do, Master. I love you.”
The worst part about being an illusionist is knowing it’s all smoke and mirrors.
“Strip for me, Nemain,” Thanatos says.
“Of course, Master.” Nemain complies.
Nemain arches her back and rolls her hips. She gyrates for him, dances as she unties the sash around her waist. She drops it to the side where it falls on the couch but casts no shadow. Nemain giggles and reaches for Thanatos’ hair, but he feels nothing as she fishes through his black locks. Next, the feathers at her collar ruffle and the pink fabric of her top shimmers away. As Thanatos suspected, the cloth on her body was merely plumage she made appear as clothing. However, she did have a bra on. Not because it made sense, but because Thanatos wanted it this way. Her bra is tight and thin, not providing any of the comforts or support it was meant to and was instead there solely to accentuate the plumpness of her pale flesh. He made her wear a white bra because it makes her look innocent. In his eyes, she had yet to be marred by anyone else.
Nemain goes for Thanatos’ hands and he simply follows along in time with her movements. She wants his assistance in undoing the bra. Thanatos’ gaze bounces from one curve to another. Her skin is white and perfect but he knows it wouldn’t be. It’s ideal, but Azrael saw to it that it couldn’t be this way. All manner of cuts and bruises were missing from this canvas. From this portrait painted by someone who wishes he hadn’t known the truth.
Thanatos knew Azrael hurt her. He could try to ignore it, but the memories always come rushing back. Like an alarm, it blares in his mind every time he looks at Nemain. He falls back to times where he did nothing but hide the fact that he knew about injuries.
Thanatos walked the edge of Death’s Domain. As always, the sky was cloudy and the waves carried a dead gray color as they crashed upon the shore. Up ahead Thanatos saw familiar figures. One very large and the other small, so small she could break. He knew them from their silhouettes alone and walked up to meet them; he didn’t want to seem eager.
“Hey.” Thanatos greeted Hel and Nemain as he walked up behind them.
Hel jumped up, turned to look at him and stepped back. Nemain stayed crouched beside the river. Both her arms were submerged, as were parts of her leg. She tilted her head and grinned up at Thanatos.
“T-Thanatos, what are you doing here,” Hel asked, stepping back.
“I live here. Just like you two.” Thanatos shrugged.
“Don’t get smart with me.” Hel arched one of her thin black eyebrows. “I meant what are you doing out here with us, and not wherever The Reaper is?”
Thanatos was on the verge of responding when he felt something crash into his side. He looked down and saw Nemain clung to him. Thanatos took a step and her grip tightened. He jumped and her grip tightened further.
“Don’t scare him off Hel! It’s been a while since the ol’ gang’s been together like this! I caught myself an elusive Thanny and I don’t plan on letting him go just yet!” Nemain climbed up onto Thanatos’ back.
“Don’t get comfortable,” Thanatos said, not meaning a word.
“Too late!” Nemain giggled and Thanatos felt her chin on his head.
Thanatos looked ahead found himself staring at Hel’s chest. It wasn’t intentional, it’s just hard not to be faced with them considering Hel’s height.
“Your arms are looking better already.” Thanatos heard Hel’s voice. “Must be your accelerated healing.”
Nemain rocked on Thanatos’ shoulders, and whenever it felt like she might fall, he’d reach up and put a hand on her lower back to hold her in place.
“Yeah, I guess so. But I heal best whenever I’m around Azzy,” Nemain said. “Dude’s like always angry or thinkin’ about killing something so I might as well make use of all those negative vibes.”
Thanatos picked up Nemain and lowered her down before himself.
“What happened,” Thanatos asked. He had grabbed her shoulders, and only when she looked at his hands did he think to pull away.
“Oh, is Thanny worried about me?” Nemain flipped her hair, snickered and looked off in another direction. She nudged Hel’s thigh with her elbow. “Just yesterday it seemed like you wanted nothin’ to do with us, and now here you are, acting like you care. So what do ya say Hel, should I tell him to hit the road?”
Thanatos dropped to a knee in front her and tried to get ahold of her elusive gaze.
“Hey. Listen. I do care.”
Somehow he killed her smile, though that wasn’t his intention; he’d never want to do that.
Thanatos looked up at Hel, caught her staring down at him, but as soon as their eyes flitted over one another, she looked to Nemain. Like Hel, he looked at Nemain again. She sighed, then chuckled, and her cheeks flushed as it looked like she tried puffing them out as far as they’d go.
“Geez, Thanny, I was only kidding,” Nemain says.
Thanatos saw her hands coming towards him and made no effort to avoid her touch. She gripped both his cheeks then pulled them, as though forcing him to smile.
“Come on, you’ve known me for this long and you still get worried. I’m not a little doll or anything,” Nemain whispers. “I’m okay, really.”
Thanatos’ hands fell from Nemain’s shoulders to the ground beside her feet. He dug his fingers into the ground. His back flexed, his wings stretched and toes curled. His entire body reacted, just so his face didn’t have to. So after letting it hurt a little, Thanatos reached up and pulled Nemain’s hands away from his face, then he stood up and turned away.
“Alright, I believe you.” Was what Thanatos said, but not what he meant.
“It was Azrael,” Hel said, fastening Thanatos in place.
Thanatos let Hel’s words burrow into him, burn him, hurt him. Thanatos didn’t turn back to face them until he was sure his anger wouldn’t be apparent on his face.
“Hel,” Nemain said as she stomped. “Why’d ya have to go and say that? You make it sound worse than it was! Besides, I’m all better now thanks to the river.”
“Well, Thanatos cares about you. So he has a right to know.” Hel shrugged, looked at Thanatos and nodded. “Right Thanatos?”
Thanatos is better than Azrael. He knew it then and he’ll always know it. So because he’s better, he puts that hatred away, down somewhere deep, where it couldn’t spew out and risk hurting anyone he loved. Thanatos hatred for Azrael wouldn’t ever hurt Nemain, it’ll only hurt the one it’s intended for.
Thanatos inhaled, looked at the sky and then exhaled.
“Hey, you two hungry?” Thanatos looked back at the pair. “Let’s head to the mess hall.”
Nemain slams down one last time before convulsing the way he likes. Moaning, she pulls away to look Thanatos in the eyes.
“That felt great Master,” she says between deep pants. “Did it feel good for you?”
Thanatos doesn’t respond.
“Master.” Nemain leans in for a kiss. “I love y-”
Nemain fades away as Thanatos gets up to clean his sticky fingers.
He heads to bed soon after and falls asleep. Everything is silent but more so than before. The entire world around Thanatos turns upside down and he opens his eyes to find he’s no longer in his bedroom. Instead, he’s atop a hammock of branches in a decaying forest.
Thanatos leaves the nest and heads down the one open path he can. He finds a corroded cathedral amidst dying shrubbery. There are old trees that curve like fingers around the church. The structure’s drawbridge lowers naturally as Thanatos approaches.
When Thanatos enters the church he studies the dozens of unattended pews and the countless candles that surround them. He notices that two candles light on occasion, only to fade moments later.
Thanatos looks to the sound of snoring coming from a black pew near the back of the room. Sure enough, that’s where he finds his twin brother, Hypnos, sleeping. He walks up to Hypnos and taps on his shoulder. After ten or so snores, Thanatos kicks the pew.
“Get up,” Thanatos says, kicking the bench once more for good measure.
With a grunt and a yawn, Hypnos’ eyes open. Thanatos locks eyes with his silver-eyed, sandy-haired brother. The differences between them are so apparent, Thanatos often forgets they’re twins.
“Is...that you? Brother? ” Hypnos inquires as he rubs the edges of his eyes. He holds a hand to his face and catches a yawn while trying to speak again. “I almost forgot how gloomy you looked, Thanatos. Not gettin’ enough sleep, are we?”
“I sleep enough to do what I need to,” Thanatos says, shrugging.
“Enough? But never long enough to dream?” Instead of ears, Hypnos has small wings that flap at the sides of his head whenever he laughs. “You know, it’s recommended that you sleep for 9 hours a night.”
“It’s eight. If you’re mortal.”
“Huh, I guess. Works wonders for me, though. Anyway, seeing as you’ve taken the trouble to grace us with your presence for once. Please, tell me. How’ve you been?”
“I’ve been better. How’re things in Olympus?”
Seconds go by before Thanatos realizes Hypnos had fallen asleep. Thanatos exhales softly, shakes his head then stands up.
Thanatos leaves one brother to seek out another, the one he came here to speak to in the first place. There are living quarters in the back of the building, at the end of a hall decorated with religious paraphernalia. Crosses were strange to see in an Olympian home but Thanatos wasn’t surprised to find brother had redecorated his domain with such heavy Judeo Christian influences. He wasn’t happy about it either. This place belonged to mother long before it was Phobetor’s so to see it converted to this did leave a sour taste in his mouth.
Reaching his destination, Thanatos knocks on the door and it isn’t long before someone comes along to answer it.
“Sorry, I’ll be there right away!” A soft feminine sounding voice escapes the slight crack in the door.
Soon, Thanatos comes face to face with his youngest sibling, Phobetor. Centuries hadn’t changed Phobetor much as he still bore the greatest resemblance to their mother. A soft innocent visage, large eyes and a lithe, eternally youthful, frame. Though unlike mother, Phobetor had their father’s dark skin and hair.
“Brother?” Phobetor gasps. “I-is that you!? Is that really you!?”
With each step Phobetor takes, Thanatos finds himself inching away.
Much to his chagrin, Thanatos accepts a hug from Phobetor. If not for Phobetor’s lacy nightgown, Thanatos wouldn’t have reservations about embracing his own brother.
“Hey, Phobetor,” Thanatos says while tapping his younger sibling on the shoulder, hoping that would be enough to free him.
“Please tell me this isn’t one of your dumb tricks. This is you, right? Like you you.” Phobetor pinches his own cheeks. “Please don’t tell me I’m dreaming.”
“This may be the plane of dreams, but I’m the real deal,” Thanatos says while twirling his finger around.
“It’s been ages. You have no idea how much I’ve missed you!” Phobetor breaks the hug and peeks behind Thanatos.
“Sorry to disappoint, but it’s only me,” Thanatos says as he shrugs. “I take it the others haven’t visited?”
“They do, from time to time. But it still gets lonely. I’m thankful to have Hypnos and my Master. Otherwise, I might…”
“End up like mom?” Thanatos’ words bring a doleful look to the younger daemon’s face. “Sorry. If I had known I would’ve…”
“No,” Phobetor says, “It’s okay I understand, really.”
Phobetor looks past Thanatos, and by turning, Thanatos manages to follow Phobetor’s line of sight over to the thousands of unlit candles filling the church.
“It wouldn’t be so bad if I were able to keep busy like you guys. Even with mortals gone things still die. So you’re always needed, but most gods don’t need sleep and even less of them have nightmares. So I just wait around for the brief moments I can be useful to someone. Anyone.”
“Well the free time can’t be all bad, right?” Thanatos motions around. “I mean, look here. You turned an old cave and some creepy ass rocks into an ah...creepy ass gothic church. So I mean, that’s something. Dad’ll probably hate it, but dad hates everything.”
“Is mom doing any better,” Phobetor asks, steeling Thanatos. “Hypnos says she’s getting plenty of sleep but you know how he is. He thinks sleeping is the answer to everything. Maybe, if you go back home, could you check with dad and-”
“So about dad hating everything. Pretty sure he hates me most.” Thanatos rubs the back of his neck.
“Coming back to bed, or what?” A low voice calls out of the room, getting Phobetor’s attention.
“Well, second most,” Thanatos mutters.
“Sorry Master,” Phobetor says. “You won’t believe who showed up. I want you to come and say hi.”
Phobetor waves into the room. Seconds later a much larger figure pushes through the other half of the double door.
“We were kind of in the middle of something, Phoebe.”
There Zad stands in the buff, looking oh so proud of himself. Thanatos looks away, only catching a brief glance at his well-structured, muscular form. Black hair rushes down from his head and ends at the base of his neck. There’s pair of sunglasses sitting neatly on the brim of his nose that hide both of his eyes. At first, his face seems clean shaven, but in the glance, Thanatos did see some stubble, maybe a stray hair or two. A mouth full of razor-sharp teeth makes for a nasty little smirk that always bothers Thanatos. But the most characterizing detail, for Thanatos at least, is the big dumb golden cross he wears around his neck. The cross sits on his sternum and its middle bar is aligned in a way that guides eyes to either of his nipples.
“Just the guy I was looking for,” Thanatos says.
“What’re ya starin’ at my cock for,” Zad asks. “Ya some sorta queer?”
Zad wraps an arm around Phobetor’s waist and forces a deep kiss on him. Thanatos turns away and doesn’t look back until the sloppy wet noises stop.
Phobetor drums against Zad’s chest with his tiny fists as he complains, “Master, don’t, not in front of brother…”
Laughing, Zad releases Phobetor, and faces Thanatos.
“So what’s up? Got somethin’ for me? Finally here to rat out your little killers club,” Zad asks.
Thanatos answers, “Not exact-”
Zad steps back into the room before Thanatos can finish. He isn’t in there for long and reemerges, now wearing a black bathrobe. He looks down at Phobetor and smiles as he runs his fingers through the daemon’s hair. Zad’s thumb rests against Phobetor’s lips, and Phobetor places several soft kisses on the digit before it’s pulled away.
“Hey, Phoebe, bagel me,” Zad says, holding out a hand. Phobetor bobs his head and a perfectly cut bagel appears in Zad’s right hand, and a knife with cream cheese appears in his left.
“Are you hungry,” Phobetor asks, looking to Thanatos. “I know dream food doesn’t fill up physical bodies, but it at least tastes good while you’re here.”
“I’m fine. I lost my appetite earlier.” Thanatos watches Zad sway his hips as he spreads cheese on the bagel. The hip gyrations grow into a dance as Zad eats the bagel. It all ends with one last spin so that Zads back is facing Thanatos.
“There isn’t even any music,” Thanatos whispers.
Zad finishes his bagel and licks each and every one of his fingers while approaching Thanatos.
“Listen, kid, the only thing that keeps me from ripping your death dealing pecker off is that we’re kinda like family,” Zad says. “I love Phoebe here with all my heart. But it still pains me -like, emotionally- to be in the same room with criminal scum like you.”
A pair of shadowy hands fly up from the ground and grab each of Zad’s limbs, preventing him from reaching Thanatos.
“Play nice, Master,” Phobetor says.
“Fine, fine. Sorry, Phoebe. You know how I am when talking to the ‘bad guys’. I’ve never really sounded all that heroic. Guess that bit of training was lost on me.” Zad smiles at Phobetor, and after a sigh, the arms release him and vanish. “Do me a favor honey, save that little number for later. S’not half bad.”
Zad smiles at Thanatos. “Sorry for being…”
“An ass,” Thanatos says.
“Yeah, I would’ve gone with dick. But hey, you are what you eat right?” Zad pauses and Thanatos says nothing.”What? Too much? Okay, gotta remember Thanatos is blandness made manifest.”
Zad returns to his spot beside Phobetor, and wraps an arm around the godling’s waist, pulling him into a tight embrace.
“Well, I’m sorry for ruining your little family moment. I’m gonna go wait in the bedroom. Take your time, baby,” Zad says as he leans over to kiss Phobetor’s forehead.
“Wait, Zad,” Thanatos calls out.
Zad looks over his shoulder with a smile already buttered on his face.
“It’s Azrael,” Thanatos says, knowing it’ll excite Zad. “He’s taking a job. Seems personal. He’ll be careless, and for the first time in a long time he won’t be taking her with him.”
“Her,” Zad asks but gets no answer.
“Our client is tracking the target, and giving us on the hour updates to their location. When Azrael moves into position I’ll let you know. Then you-”
“-Say no more.” Zad raises both hands, takes a deep breath, then exhales. “I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time you know. But now I’m curious. Why the sudden change of heart? Did the idiot go and piss you off too?”
“Something like that. He hurt a friend of mine one too many times.” Thanatos huffs. “I’d love to do it myself, but I can’t have his blood on my hands. The person I care about ‘feels death’. She’d sense it was me. And as much as I hate to admit it, killing him would upset her. But it’s only because she doesn’t understand. I’m doing this for her. You know. So she can understand.”
“You really like this girl, huh?” Thanatos gaze snaps onto Zad. He doesn’t say it aloud, but he hopes Zad’s feelings for Phobetor might influence his decisions if he were to ever encounter Nemain.
Zad snaps his fingers, causing his black bathrobe to melt over his limbs. The black ooze reforms along his physique taking on a new shape. Dark clerical clothing hugs tight around his arms and chest but hangs freely from his forearms and at his legs. Some of the ink rises up and becomes a deep violet sash that runs over Zad’s wide shoulders.
“I wonder if Azrael’s ready to repent,” Zad says in a voice brimming both with malice and excitement. “Won’t make a bit of difference to me, I’ll gut n’ skin him all the same.”
Zad breaks out into a loud cackle befitting the lunatic the Psychopomps call “The Hunter”.
Thanatos’s eyes flutter open and he finds himself back in his room. Like any other day, he gets up and prepares for work. Once he’s dressed he heads to the door. Upon opening it he finds Nemain waiting there.
Startled, Thanatos steps back into his room and tries to remember if he’d activated one of his illusions recently.
“Thanny,” Nemain says while getting on the tips of her toes to peek at his face.
Thanatos notices her complexion is a touch paler than usual, which is saying something for a girl who’s already so white.
“Nemain,” Thanatos responds.
“What’s up?” They end up saying in unison. She laughs and he watches her laugh.
“Azzy and Hel are both out working, sooooo...you wanna hang out,” Nemain asks while bouncing in place. ”I’ve got like ten boxes of chocolate I’ve been hiding from Azzy. And I was thinking you could help me eat em all before he gets back.”
“I dunno, I kind of have the day off so, yeah- I’m not sure how I feel about gorging on candy all afternoon.”
“Look, real talk Thanny? I’m feelin’ sick and need someone to wait on me hand and foot until Azzy gets back.”
“So what’s in it for me.” Thanatos tilts his head.
“You get to spend the whole day with your best friend,” Nemain smirks. “Ohmygosh lucky you!”
“Come on, what’s more fun than lounging around, feeding me chocolate and giving me foot massages all day? It’ll be like ol’ times, just me and you.”
“You’re right.” Thanatos nods.
“Yeah.” Thanatos feels the slightest tug at the ends of his lips, but it’s so minuscule he doubts anything comes of it. “It’ll be fun.”
Even if Thanatos thought nothing of his minute face contractions, Nemain’s brightened expression seems to say something else. Her eyes widen and her mouth curls into this delicate smile that is a treat to behold. He can’t remember the last time he’s seen someone look so genuinely happy or so beautiful. It makes his stomach twist but in a good way.
“You should do that more,” Nemain whispers.
It’s like there’s a scent to the way she speaks, an aroma of feeling Thanatos can’t describe. He’s drawn to her. As she reaches out towards him, his fingers twitch, and he thinks about taking her hand and feeling her touch. Though as much as he desires it, he resists, and so his arm remains at his side. Nemain takes Thanatos’ hand and pulls him towards her room with a gentle tug.
“I really like it when you smile.”