He was busy with paperwork and didn’t immediately acknowledge me as I entered, though I knew full well he was aware of my presence. I stared at him, realizing he hadn’t changed a bit, other than that he’d exchanged the robes and laurel wreath for a smart Italian suit and tie, and that my feelings for him hadn’t changed, either. Yes, he intimidated me; I’d be lying if I said he didn’t, but I also admired and respected him greatly, perhaps even loved him. Though he’d never been any father to me and had left me, both half-God and a bastard, in the hands of a cuckolded king, he’d nevertheless given me the means to save my brother. There was no way of ever repaying that debt.
He finally deigned to look up.
“Pollux. It’s good to see that at least one of my sons has the presence of mind to arrive in a timely manner. I half expected you’d make a fuss like everybody else seems to have.”
I didn’t know what to say to that, so I said nothing. He raised a bushy eyebrow and his lip twitched. “Still playing diplomat, I see,” he said.
I shifted uncomfortably beneath his piercing scrutiny. I swear he could see right through to every damn cell in my body and separate the pieces into their micro-components. A disconcerting bead of sweat tickled my hairline and Castor, for once, was silent. Of course he was. Father would probably have heard him.
“I’m here,” I agreed. “I’m wondering why exactly.”
The thought hit me unbidden, out of nowhere (from Castor’s fear?), side-swiping me and leaving the room suddenly spinning around me, my body turning clammy with cold sweat and sticky-footed millipedes marching fear down my spine. Was he regretting his decision to vest Castor with a gift equal to mine? Had Hera found out and coerced him into revoking it? He’d not be setting any precedents if that was what this was about. I felt physically ill and bile burned in the back of my throat.
Shut up, Castor said loudly, his presence resonating between my temples so loudly I barely stopped myself from clamping my hands to them. He said ‘one of my sons’. You’re not the only one.
Castor had a point and I cursed myself. How unlike me for it to be Castor to see reason before I did. I swallowed the bitter taste of my reaction and focused on Father, who was smiling with clear amusement, his eyes twinkling.
“Your brother seems to have a better handle on this than you do, Pollux. That’s not like you.”
Heat rose from beneath my collar and I could feel flame in my cheeks. Damn it. I wanted to repeat my question, but didn’t have the courage. Another damn it. How difficult could it be to ask? I twitched, at a loss as to where to put my hands or how to stand so I didn’t feel quite so much like a recalcitrant student in front of the headmaster.
Hell, yes, I was nervous! Could he not get on with it already?
He chuckled and threw up his hands. “Enough. It’s no fun playing games with you; you take it all too seriously.”
Of course I did. He was Zeus. He had lightning bolts and a temper and a Hera. What did I have except for a great deal to lose? I bit my tongue and continued to say nothing.
“Come back,” Father said, the words hitting with all the force of one of Hephaestus’ forge hammers. “I know you’ve got a fairly lucrative operation going already. Set up your main office here, in the OA.”
“What?” The single word slipped from my mouth, scalding my tongue as I tried to absorb the implications of his request. “You want me to do what?”
He shrugged, his broad shoulders rippling beneath his immaculately tailored suit.
“Everybody else is coming back, Pollux. And unlike many of the others, you’re already established. This shouldn’t be too difficult a task for you. In fact, I believe a couple of my own companies have worked with yours already.”
I stared at him. They had? We had? Father had interests in the film industry? And for what purpose? Is he planning a global coup? Castor whispered in a distant corner of my mind. And yes, he can whisper in there and it tickles like spiderwebs on the brain. I refrained from either cursing him or commenting. Not really worth the risk, all in all.
“Who is everybody else?” I managed to ask instead, of Father and not of Castor.
Again he shrugged, his eyes not leaving mine, gauging my response, amused by it.
“There’s me, of course. And Hera.”(Of course, there was Hera). “Ares, Demeter, Hestia, to name but a few.”
“Why me? Why now? You know I go nowhere without Castor. And,” I couldn’t say her name, couldn’t get the threat she implied past my lips. My stepmother scared the living shit out of me, no lie. Pussy. Easy for you to say from where you’re sitting right now! I ignored Castor as best I could, more vested in getting some kind of answer worth the words from Father, and continued. “…and how does herself feel about all of this?”
There were a few other family members I had no particular desire to meet either, but Hera topped the list, so it was her opinion I was definitely most interested in.
“Herself?” Did Father chuckle? I shifted my feet and the trickle of sweat which had been beading on my brow slid down my cheekbones and dripped down my chin. I rummaged in a pocket for a handkerchief, put out to discover I didn’t have one. I wiped my face with a hand and Father unexpectedly threw me a box of tissues.
“For pity’s sake, Pollux, I’m not about to undo you. Can you take a seat already? Have a drink. It’s bourbon, isn’t it?”
My mouth fell open.
“I’ll keep it simple for you,” he continued, pouring me a Jack into a heavy cut-crystal glass and sliding it across his desk towards me. I picked it up and sank into one of the leather chairs before Father’s desk, gritting my teeth in frustration as I noticed the tremor in my hand. Embarrassing much? Father ignored it, I knew better than to think he hadn’t noticed. “Come back, work from here, join the family. It’s about time you stopped hiding and started at least pretending you’re grateful. I’m asking. Nicely.”
The threat was there, subtle but unmistakable. Not that I had any intention of denying him. I mean, I don’t know about hiding so much, we’ve been nothing but out there with what we do, but he didn’t need to suggest I was anything less than grateful. I’ve always been grateful. For Castor. For the life I never thought he’d have.
“When?” I asked, managing to somehow keep my voice from catching and turning into an unseemly squeak. “How long do we have to set up office here? And are you asking me to close down our New Zealand base? Because that’ll lose us a lot of traction, not to mention we won’t be able to maintain the same facilities here as we have there.”
He studied me a moment, his eyes locked on my face as if assessing my words and then threw back his head and roared with laughter. It startled me, and Castor. Rollicking shit balls! he exclaimed in my head. I closed my eyes and dipped my head, smacking myself across one temple. Castor! Seriously! He mumbled in contrition. Sorry.
“You really haven’t changed any,” Father observed. “Take your time, just not too much time, if you get my drift. And no, don’t close down any of your subsidiary branches or your main base. For one, I don’t really think we need Castor trotting around here any more often than is absolutely necessary and for two, why give up the best part of your business? All you need to do is set up an agency here.”
My eyebrows rose high into my still sweaty hairline. “I can come and go?”
“There’s room for accommodations. Take your pick how you wish to manage yourself, keeping in mind I’d appreciate some discretion, which is more than I’m getting from some of the others.”
His eyes shifted into some inner space for a moment and I wondered who he had in mind. There’s a couple, Castor murmured. He could read Father? Actually read that mind, of all minds? I could feel Castor’s shrug, it’s like a mental hiccup and always makes me twitch, and he mumbled something which sounded far too close to an affirmative. We’re going to have to talk about that later, I informed him. Silence. Definitely going to have to follow that one up.
I tossed back the bourbon and stood up. “Is till the end of the month too much to ask for?” I asked.
Father came back to the present and gave me a dismissive smile. “Perfect. I’ll get someone to send you the details and arrange a time with you to take a look around and decide how you want things set up.”
I knew it was time to go and I turned away.
I stopped, caught on the edge of my toes.
“It’s good to have you back, son.”
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