She stood on the platform, her black pumps shining in the bright neon glow of the Tube station’s overhead lighting. A large black leather handbag hung fashionably from her right shoulder matching the oversized sunglasses covering her face. Both items had the effect of dwarfing the slight but muscular woman and draining what little colour her pale English skin held onto. Despite all this, Apollo loved her. He loved her more than he had loved any other. She had walked past him mere moments ago, her bright green dress catching his eye as he emptied the last drop of wine from its brown paper prison. It was in that instant he knew that she needed him too. They always needed him. The sweet smell of her perfume filled his senses as the last train of the evening slowed to a halt and opened its doors. Drunkenly he pushed himself up off the station floor and staggered towards his new infatuation.
Apollo stumbled through a thick haze of drunkenness as he followed his beloved onto the train. Holding himself upright on a nearby pole, he watch as she found a seat and settled in for the long journey home. Sweeping back her short crimson hair she gently placed headphone buds into each ear before removing a worn paperback from her handbag. Apollo ignored the disgusted looks he received from the other passengers as he unsteadily made his way down the carriage. His eyes no longer saw their disgusted faces or their hands reaching to cover their noses from the foul stench that clung to his body. Nor did his ears hear their objections and whispered criticisms of his appearance and odour. Those senses were now trained solely on her. His bloodshot eyes projected a faint halo of light surrounding her face, while his ears listened to the gentle rhythm of her lonely heart beating without him.
The old god smiled to himself as he watched her lips move silently along with the music flowing through her head, and her eyes track quickly across the pages of her book. He could tell these quiet, secret signs were for him. His heart broke in two as he began to realise that she was living in pain without his warmth and presence beside her. Those lips were whispering his name over and over again while her eyes searched hopelessly for his face. She needed him. He needed to be with her. Pushing against the drunken stupor clouding his mind, the once proud god willed himself along the carriage and slumped heavily into the seat directly opposite his new love. Quickly though, sleep’s tight embrace began to wrap around him and attempted to pull him down into sweet slumber. He struggled wearily against the crashing tide of unconsciousness, his head lolling to the side as he swiped hard at Hypnos’ influence. Mentally, he cursed his brother for giving him the wine and swore an oath of sobriety for the fifth time that day. Pushing hard against the waves of drunken slumber flowing over him, he leant forward and addressed his beloved for the first time. ‘Heyprincesshowwouldyaliketoseemymoutolympus...ah heh heh heh.’ He slurred heavily, before collapsing even further forward and his laugh turned into a coughing fit.
The woman tried her best to ignore the proposition and continued to hide away in her private world, hoping against hope that she was not the centre of this man’s attention. The only outward acknowledgement that she had even heard the drunken god speak was the fact that she clutched her handbag closer to her lap. Apollo liked this. The game they played. He would confess his undying love for her and she in return would spurn his efforts. It was a game they had played many times over, and it always ended the same way. He could hear the sweet dulcet sounds of her voice as she pleaded for salvation, begging the gods for help, and mercy. Even now he could hear her voice screaming out to his father, pleading for him to save her. The old fool would help alright, he laughed to himself. This time it will be different he thought, no one will stop our love tonight.
Without warning and with an inhuman speed, Apollo took to his feet and stood solidly before his new queen. He reached out and ran his rough fingers through her soft red hair. He watched, mesmerised as the strands flowed along his hand like streams of blood.
‘To the hunter the spoils.’ He said out loud. Oblivious to the horrified expression on her face, the ancient god let his hands wander down her head until he held her neck firmly in his grasp. In one fell motion, he pulled the terrified woman to her feet and held her against his filth covered body. His Olympian arm locked rigid around her neck as her earbuds hung lifelessly down her chest as they were torn from her ears. Apollo smiled softly as he cradled his beloved’s head in his hand. He began to feel the warmth returning to his cold heart, each beat thumping rhythmically with her panicked breath. Soon. Soon they would be together forever. His smile grew wider as he reached up to remove the sunglasses covering her perfect eyes.
Despite his drunken, love-struck state, the god still noticed the disruptive presence at the back of the carriage. He looked away from his beloved and down the busy carriage, failing to acknowledge the horrified faces of the other passengers through his blurred vision.
‘You should know better than to hunt a hunter, Gladius.’ His voice boomed clear and steady down the length of the train. The lack of response angered him. Did they not know he was a GOD?
‘Show yourselves!’ He bellowed, pulling his beloved’s face towards him and slowly dragging his tongue along her tear stained cheek. An unseen fog that had somehow dulled his senses lifted from the carriage exposing a woman and four men, all clad in heavy urban assault gear, all armed. Their night black uniform carried large white letters across their chests exclaiming EX GLADIUS. All but the eldest man carried heavy assault rifles, all of which were pointed directly at the god and his hostage.
The unarmed officer took a few steps forward, his arms free at his sides.
‘It’s over Apollo, let her go and come quietly.’ His voice carried a sense of tiredness and yet was still commanding in its direction. The drunken god laughed softly and shook his head.
‘Lavin. Lavin. Lavin. Not even you could take my love from me tonight.’ From beneath the tattered rags he wore, Apollo removed a large arrow and placed the golden point against the heart of his hostage. ‘You see, I’ve finally figured it out!’ He said as his eyes widened. ‘Eros has screwed with me long enough. No longer will I be a tool of his amusement! The little bastard won’t miss this one little arrow now will he?’ Apollo grinned wickedly as his attention turned back to the woman held at his side. Low, guttural sobs sounded from the woman as the god began to slowly push the point of the arrow into the soft flesh above her heart.
The sound of the rifles cocking echoed around the train. Lavin raised an arm to his unit, signalling them to hold their fire. ‘We have Eros in custody Apollo. He’s finished playing with you. Stop this mess now and you can have your life back.’ Lavin moved cautiously down the aisle as he spoke.
‘You, you don’t know what it’s like!’ The god screamed. ‘Loving someone so much it burns a hole in your chest, only to have that love spurned again and again!’ He waved the golden arrow at Lavin, halting his progression. ‘No! No, this time I will have my love returned. She loves me, don’t you Daphne? You love me.’ He began to shake her violently, screaming his demand in her face, ‘Say it!’
‘She isn’t Daphne, son. She never was.’ Said Lavin with an arm outstretched. He looked at the woman, her eyes flush with tears and face red with pain. ‘It’s going to be ok, we’ll have this sorted out in a second. Just hang in there.’ Sadly, Lavin’s reassuring words were lost as the great archer whispered into her ear. Silently she spoke. He urged her to repeat it, over, and over with each repetition becoming louder, and louder. Realising too late, Lavin yelled at her to stop. Her chanting had become the only sound in the carriage, reaching far above the noise of the racing train. Her terrified voice rang out into the world culminating in a final cry of ‘Save, me!’
A piercing scream filled the ears of all the passengers as the woman exploded into a tangled mass of wood and leaves. The transformation from woman to tree was instantaneous. Shooting straight down, the massive trunk penetrated the floor of the train and took root in the solid ground below. The entire carriage jerked upwards as it was bisected by what Lavin knew from experience to be a laurel tree. In seconds the rear section of the carriage came to a grinding stop as it was separated from the rest of the still speeding train in a shower of sparks and screeching metal.
The Ex Gladius commander grunted and pulled himself into an upright position, his ears ringing from the crash. Knowing what to expect had given him and his team a spilt second to brace before the impact. He called out to them and the unit began to sound off one by one. Satisfied that all were safe and accounted for they made their way cautiously down the tunnel to secure the unconscious god intwined in the trunk of his victim. The bloodied bodies of innocent commuters littered the wreckage, some moaned as they began to stir finding metal and glass all around. Lavin surveyed the destruction around him, the smell of burning plastic and blood filling his nostrils. As he walked towards the glint of golden light hidden amongst the ruins of the train, he mentally took note of those in need of medical assistance, and those who were beyond help. The situation made light only by the almost comical appearance of the fully grown laurel tree sitting in the middle of a Tube tunnel, its evergreen leaves falling gently amongst the wreckage as the Ex Gladius team secured a perimeter around it.
The hardened Commander sighed heavily and picked up the broken arrow that now lay at his feet. Lavin turned Eros' weapon in his hands and let his fingers absently stroke the well honed point. ‘Love…’ he sighed. Securing the arrow in his belt he began to walk away from his team and the tree, back towards the growing light coming down the pitch black tunnel.