Apollo pushes his spaghetti around his plate with his fork though his mind is far away from his food. The dining pavilion is full of laughter as the year-round campers eschew the assigned seating and are mostly grouped around the Hermes and Apollo tables. He has no problem with that. The past month since his Oracle has been healed has been a real joy for him, though he does wonder if Zeus knew that he'd love being here and that's why he'd only made him camp director for the off-season. He sets down his fork and pushes his plate away, watching the campers enjoying each other's company.
It makes sense they're grouped around his and Hermes's tables. In all the years he's spent watching the mortal world, and how the Olympian gods interact with it, one of the problems he's noticed is that most of the gods are ashamed of how dependent their powers are on their mortal children. He and Hermes have a small competition going, to see which of them can father the most demigods without Zeus catching on and prohibiting it altogether. So far, he thinks Hermes is winning, but it doesn't really bother him. As a messenger god, Hermes has ample opportunities to sow his seeds, so to speak, but Apollo's pretty sure he's not terribly far behind.
Chiron pushes himself away from the head table, nodding to him before heading back up to the big house. He's spending more and more time in his chair. Apollo wonders if Chiron's old wound is acting up again, even after Hermes had called him back from Tartarus on Zeus's orders and restored him. Back then, Chiron had been accidentally struck by Hercules and crippled with an eternal leg wound. The pain was so great he'd chosen Tartarus to lessen his suffering, and exchanged his immortal life to free Prometheus. As Chiron's adoptive father, Apollo pleaded his case with Zeus to recall him. He'd explained the stipulations Zeus had set for Prometheus's release were now met, and wouldn't it be a great idea if Chiron was restored? It would make Zeus look like the bigger man, and he wouldn't have to worry about the demigod heroes being trained by subpar instructors. Those were the days, back when Zeus had the capacity to listen to reason.
But Zeus's fears have grown over the millennia. His toxic marriage to Hera has sown more pain over the entire world than even the Titans had brought upon it. Zeus has been so afraid of the Oracle, he's crippled himself and his brothers, perhaps without even realizing how badly. Taking the vow not to have demigod children has to be the stupidest thing he's ever done. It goes completely against the nature of the gods, and the children the big three do have – being unable to keep their vow – are more powerful than they would be if Zeus had just accepted his true nature. If there's one thing Apollo's learned from being the custodian of the Oracle and watching over his demigod children, it's that trying to escape your fate because you've heard a prophecy – which might not even mean what you think it means – is the dumbest thing a person could do. It's so much more productive, and seriously, even fun, to just be who you are – to develop your talents, to share them with your children, to pass on your learnings to the next generation.
It's time for the campfire. Apollo stands up and makes the announcement, delighted to shove his thoughts aside and lead the way to the fire pit, guitar in hand.
After leading the sing-along for a few songs, he turns the musical accompaniment over to his kids and sits back to enjoy just being part of the group for a while.
He shivers. It's the oddest sensation. He's always felt the warm weather was drawn to him, figuring it started after he'd adopted the sun gig from Helios, but for the past month – after getting his Oracle back, and figuring out how to do this whole 'camp director' thing – the warmth has been missing.
He spots his son, Will Solace, across the fire, sneaking his hand out of his hoodie pocket and finding Nico di Angelo's hand in the dark. Those two are too freaking cute. He approves of their budding relationship, even to the point of distracting Chiron whenever he starts considering forbidding them alone time in the cabins. Apollo's not an idiot. He knows what's going on with them, but who is he to spoil young love? He pretends to be oblivious to how Will's bed is sometimes unslept in during the morning check. He makes a mental note to clue them in to the fact that they aren't as clever at covering their tracks as they think they are, before Dionysus returns for the spring and summer.
The spring. His mind wanders to the Oracle's spring, now unfettered by the monster, Python. He grins at her new form as part of Will's staff. She seems to be fond of watching the campfire, and of offering constructive criticism to his children on their musical arrangements.
He recalls the last time he'd felt the comfort of a warm breeze had been the moment before Daphne had arrived, and he was praising Will for a quest well led. A warm breeze ... He stands up, realization smacking him like a fist to the face. The singing stops. All the campers turn their eyes on him.
He brushes their concern off with a broad smile and a laugh. "Sorry, folks. I was just hit by a jolt of inspiration and I have to chase it to its finish. Chiron, can you make sure everyone's in by curfew?"
The greying centaur nods, stroking his thickened beard. He's gotta jet before Chiron looks at him too closely. There's a score he needs to settle, once and for all, and the first person he needs to find is Eros.
How could he have been so slow to catch on? He thinks back to all the times he and Zephyros have crossed paths over the years. The time before the Hyacinthus debacle, Zephyros had been a breath of fresh air at parties on Olympus. He'd always spotted when Apollo was having daddy troubles and distracted him from them with his flighty antics. He remembers how much he'd felt betrayed when Hyacinthus died; he'd lost more than one friend on that day. And yet, even though he'd held onto his righteous anger for the god of the West Wind, he'd always been there, in the corner of Apollo's eye, never approaching, but always a comforting presence. He's just never realized how much of a presence that had been until it vanished.
"Eros?" Apollo calls out. The ruins of Salona aren't easy to navigate, but after passing through to the courtyard of Eros's concealed palace, Apollo senses his divine presence nearby. He picks his way down flagstone paths, passing beds of flowers and trees that would be past their prime were they back in the States. He spots Eros sitting on a low stone wall, apparently laughing to himself. His golden bow and arrows are slung over his shoulder, and his brilliantly white wings are tucked out of the way.
"Apollo!" Eros calls out. "We've been expecting you. You're late, you realize?"
"I don't know what you're talking about." He looks around. The place is deserted. "I'm looking for Zephyros."
Eros's red eyes flash knowingly. "You're forbidden from hurting him. He's under my protection. But, yes, my brother and I were just discussing the fact that you'd turn up asking about him one of these days."
Apollo freezes at the mention of Eros's brother. As the son of Aphrodite and Ares, Eros has many brothers. Apollo doesn't sense Phobos or Deimos lingering nearby, so this brother must be one of the other love gods, the erotes: Himeros, god of lust, Pothos, god of yearning or – Apollo swallows hard – Anteros, the god of requited love, the only one of them that he has never been able to see. As he can't see anybody sitting beside Eros on the wall, he figures it's him.
"All the same, where can I find him?" Apollo asks, feigning bravery. His sister has always reminded him he's afraid of facing his destiny, but knowing how bad Zeus has it out for him, he doesn't figure she can honestly blame him for that.
Eros narrows his eyes. "What do you want with him? He's not very happy with you at the moment. If I were to tell you how to find him, and then discover you have harmed a single feather on his wings, my revenge will be fierce."
The threat gives him pause. He's already felt the sting of Eros's revenge … for eons. But he must admit that Eros does seem to be offering him another chance. He'd allowed Daphne's heart to soften after all, though now Apollo knows for sure she's not the one he longs for.
"I understand," he says, swallowing his anger at the threat. It won't do any good to push Eros's buttons. "I want to thank you, too, for going easy on me ... with Daphne ... after all these years."
Eros laughs again. The trees and shrubs shake in their beds.
Apollo glares at him. "What's so funny?"
Eros clears his throat and stands up, making Apollo fight the urge to take a step backwards. Strangely, Eros's tone is soft, almost sympathetic. "It wasn't my idea to let up on you; that was Zephyros. He said he was tired of watching you crash and burn, and wouldn't it be charitable for me to even the playing field? I figured you'd crash and burn on your own anyway, so I granted the request." He shrugs. "Walk with me. Let's talk, then I may tell you where you can find our flighty friend."
It's been ages since Apollo's visited the crumbling ruins of what used to be Diocletian's palace, but according to Eros, this is where Zephyros has been slumming. He makes his way under the low archways, down narrow passages, sensing another divine presence in the cavernous room up ahead.
The stripes of sunlight shining in through the barred windows make the room, the cellar, feel more like a prison than a place worthy of a god's dwelling. He spots Zephyros from across the room. Apollo glances down to make sure he's still invisible, and then spends a couple of minutes studying him.
Zephyros is perched on a window ledge, his black hair windswept and tousled. He's dressed in black jeans and a Camp Half-Blood hoodie, his russet wings bent and sticking out under the hem. He rolls an unripe pear with his bare foot atop the dirt-caked floor, humming a melancholy tune Apollo recognizes at once.
Apollo's stomach squirms. The idea that the Hades kid – all right, there's no reason to pretend he doesn't remember his name – Nico di Angelo, had told him: Zephyros is depressed. He'd accepted his punishment, is convinced he deserves it. Apollo can't help think that such a beautiful and normally gentle god shouldn't be so sad. It shatters a small piece of his heart.
"Mad World," Apollo says, finally stepping out of the shadows, sending his light across the dirt-encrusted floor. "Such a sad song for a beauty like you to be singing."
Zephyros narrows his eyes, frowning, but he gives Apollo his full attention, straightening his posture and adjusting his grip on the window ledge. "I wasn't singing; I was humming. What brings the Sunshine King to my humble abode?"
Apollo pauses. He's not used to being talked back to, except by Artemis, but she's a special case. Though, hearing the thinly veiled contempt in Zephyros's melodious voice bothers him more than he thinks it should. It's not fury he's feeling; it's something else entirely – hurt, perhaps? "Why do you talk to me like that?" Apollo asks.
Zephyros merely raises an eyebrow and shrugs, but he doesn't look away. Apollo can sense Zephyros's heart beating more fiercely, the cacophony of emotions swirling around in his chest. The distant memory of Zephyros's despair when he realized Hyacinthus was dead, fills his mind. Apollo had been too distracted to smite him – looking up too late – discovering Eros enfolding him in his wings.
"You've watched me for a long time," he says, stepping closer, waiting for a reaction from the mask Zephyros has made of his face. He realizes Zephyros is deliberately hiding his emotions, not out of fear, but because he feels he deserves Apollo's wrath. And that's just too sad. "When you fell in love with Hyacinthus …" He gets a small response at the name – a twitch of the cheek. "… Were you in Sparta to see him originally, or did you only spot him after you heard I was there?"
Zephyros's mask slips a little more, his cheeks starting to pink. "Don't flatter yourself. I admit you're easy on the eyes, but …" He makes a funny hand gesture that Apollo guesses means he's only so-so in Zephyros's book, but it's so half-hearted, he sees for what it is – a lie.
"Tell me," Apollo says, voice still soft, stepping closer until only a few feet separate them.
Zephyros glares at him, though his eyelashes are damp. "But, I know when somebody is out of my league, okay? Look, you got what you wanted. I've faithfully served Eros all these years, forbidden from soiling another youth. I amuse myself – flirt here and there in dreams – but I don't take it too far …" He stops mid-sentence, inhaling sharply. There's hurt, pure anguish radiating off him. Apollo doesn't even need his healing powers to sense it.
"Yes?" Apollo says. He's still not rising to the bait. His heart twists curiously. He longs to mend the sorrow he senses, to wipe away Zephyros's tears and put a smile back on the face that was clearly made for smiling. "I won't hurt you," he promises, wondering what is wrong with his own head. A quick self-diagnosis tells him he means what he says. He wonders if what Zephyros has to say may be exactly what he needs to hear. "I won't further your suffering, no matter what you tell me, so long as it's truthful."
Zephyros scoffs. "I know how good you Olympians are at keeping promises. Forgive me if I don't …"
Apollo lifts his hands, surrendering. "I swear it on the river Styx. Please, tell me my wrongs."
Zephyros's mask slips entirely, his fingers gripping the window ledge so tightly his knuckles are white. "I already accepted the blame for what happened to Hyacinthus, but you … you never find fault in yourself when you screw over your conquests. Look what happened to Daphne, to Cassandra, to Coronis, to Castalia, and countless others … It's like you're more angry with them for seeing your true nature and trying to run, than looking in at what's really going on. You take it out on them. It's a real shitty cop-out."
It hurts to hear the aversion in Zephyros's voice, but the anger that normally springs up when he's insulted is just not rising. It's intriguing. He wonders at what he's heard. What is really going on, as Zephyros put it? The fact that he mates with mortals? The idea he isn't able to settle down with any of them? How is that any different than any of the other gods? Again, Nico di Angelo's voice niggles at the back of his mind.
"I spoke to Anteros … He said there was hope you'd meet him one day."
It must be the fact that he's never loved and been loved in return in any of his couplings that Zephyros finds distasteful. Truthfully, he's always found it distasteful as well, but his luck with women sucks. Well, with men too, really. The mortals he'd come closest to finding requited love with were Hyacinthus and Cyparissus, (though, Apollo suspects the latter boy cared more for his stag than for his lord.) Could it be that he's been looking in all the wrong places and missing what was right before his eyes? He approaches Zephyros until only a few inches separates them. "Have you really been watching me so closely all these years?"
Zephyros's face reddens, but even as he appears to shake in anger, Apollo sees through his ruse. He's hit on a truth that's been hidden in plain sight for Hestia knows how long – Zephyros desires him. He'll deal with the rest of his complaints later, but for now, Apollo needs to hear him speak the truth.
"If you keep your wings bent like that, they're going to stay that way."
All right, it's not the most refined way of lightening the mood, but something has to give. He can't stand to see Zephyros in this miserable cellar a moment longer.
Zephyros glares up at him. "What's it to you?"
Apollo moves faster than Zephyros expects. He picks him up and hoists him over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, his wings trapped by his hoodie.
"What the – Apollo! Don't you make me call for my master. Don't forget what happened last time –"
Apollo smacks his ass, smiling at the high-pitched yelp and aroused inhale he gets in response. He chuckles. "Don't be ridiculous. You think I'd come to fetch you without clearing it with Eros first?"
He feels Zephyros relax in his arms – he's still got what it takes to sweep a lover off their feet. They disappear in a burst of gold and rematerialize exactly as he'd planned. He sets Zephyros on the edge of his bed and backs away a few feet, shrugging out of his tank top.
His gamble pays off. Zephyros takes in the roomy bachelor pad Apollo keeps on Delos, eyes finally fixing on Apollo's bare chest, and there's no hiding the hunger in his gaze.
Apollo waves his hand at the stereo system and music fills the room. Zephyros gives him an amused grimace. "Bonnie Tyler, seriously? Are you stuck in the 1980s again?"
Apollo doesn't bother answering. He leans forward and wrestles Zephyros out of his hoodie, revealing his chest – small brown nipples standing erect – his wings free and lifted, pointing back.
"Hey, it's November!"
Apollo runs his hands over Zephyros's chest and down his stomach, exhilarated by the goosebumps rising under his palms. "Would you like me to warm you up?" he asks, shooting him his most charming smile.
"Is that a trick question?" Zephyros raises his eyebrows, his face, a picture of skepticism. "Don't even play with me, Apollo. Tell me you didn't bring me here to –"
Apollo doesn't let him finish. He climbs up Zephyros's body and shuts his mouth with a tongue-filled kiss. Zephyros melts under it, returning the kiss with the sort of desperate hunger that makes Apollo simultaneously want to feed it, and do a private victory dance in his mind.
His arousal stirs, jeans tight, and he longs to get closer, to touch more skin. He's itching to climb over Zephyros until they are joined, and empty his balls into a body that can take his full load. He moans into Zephyros's mouth.
Zephyros gasps, breaking free to catch his breath, his hands in Apollo's hair. "You kiss like a devil."
Apollo grins down at him, meeting his dancing eyes, more relieved than he cares to admit at seeing Zephyros smile again. "I fuck like one too." There's no sense in not making his intentions clear. He's going to pound this beautiful god into his bed and find out, once and for all, if the flames rising inside him are anything more than kindling fire, quick to burn and quick to die.
Zephyros's eyes grow dark with desire. He spreads his wings, feathers trembling as though he wants to pounce, but holds back out of fear. "My ... My master. I haven't ... I'm sworn..."
Apollo runs his hands over Zephyros's wings, down to the join where they sprout from his back, soothing him. "I've taken care of everything. Made a deal with Eros." He drops his hands to Zephyros's waistband, unbuttoning his jeans, massaging his cock and balls through the fabric.
Zephyros drops his head back, his feathers displayed, rocking his hips against Apollo's hand.
"Gods, you're beautiful," Apollo can't help but exclaim.
Zephyros opens his eyes, a smirk playing on his lips. Apollo shivers as Zephyros combs his fingers through Apollo's hair, pulling his hips closer, his legs wrapped around Apollo's ass. A streak of fire runs up his spine, and he can't wait any longer.
He stands and drops his jeans. Zephyros's eyes fix on his erection, burning with anticipation.
He pushes Zephyros back onto the bed, his wings vanishing from sight, and yanks his pants off his narrow hips. He climbs on top of him, pressing their chests together, taking his mouth in another breath-stealing kiss.
"This ... ahh ... doesn't seem quite as devilish as I was expecting."
Apollo pulls back a little, then sucks a couple of his own fingers into his mouth, eyes dancing as the flush on Zephyros's face spreads down his chest. He works his hand between their bodies, tapping gently against Zephyros's hole.
"This more like it?" Apollo asks, but doesn't give him a chance to answer. He claims his mouth again, and works him open with his fingers. He can't wait much longer, breaking the kiss, and working his way down from neck to chest, latching onto a pebbled nipple.
Zephyros arches into Apollo's face, breathing short and fast. "Apollo," he moans. Apollo lifts his head and looks up at him, grinning like the devil he knows he is. "I've never had ... been ... years and years ..." He chokes out, grinding back on Apollo's hand, his body begging despite whatever protests he's trying to make.
But the message finally filters through Apollo's lust. "Never been on the receiving end?" He bites his lip to keep from moaning at how much the idea thrills him. This god, this beautiful, blustery, flirtatious gem of a god is going to give himself over to Apollo in a way no other has had before.
"Yeah," Zephyros says, his voice quivering."Never trusted ... And then ..."
He falls silent.
Apollo thinks his brain might explode. He nudges at Zephyro's entrance with his cock, distracting him with another searing kiss, and then pushes inside.
He's filled with heat, pure distilled desire fueling his thrusts. He catches every gasp and moan in his mouth, smiling against Zephyros's lips while surrendering to the need, the frantic urge to connect and reclaim the pieces he'd not been aware were missing.
As Zephyros shudders and shakes below him, Apollo crushes him closer still with his strong arms, sweat-slick and needy. His mind explodes in a flash of white, the fire of the sun fed by the oxygen-rich breath of the wind. Zephyros follows him over the edge, coming between their bodies in a messy spill of perfection and it's all Apollo can do to stay conscious. He rests his head on Zephyros's sticky chest, listening to the thundering beats of the heart underneath, content for the first time in what feels like forever when warm arms circle his back, and hands smooth over his sweat-damp hair and neck.
It could be minutes or hours later when Apollo opens his eyes in surprise, buoyed upwards as Zephyros spreads his wings, flipping them over so Apollo is the one being crushed into the mattress. He looks up, the smile still stuck on his face. Zephyros pushes himself up, wings spread wide, fanning a warm breeze across Apollo's skin, so goosebumps rise under the drying sweat on his chest. Zephyros's eyes burn with hunger when Apollo meets them, then shift, following the taut muscles of Zephyros's chest and abs to find his cock fully erect and ready to go again.
A shiver of panic flashes through Apollo's nerves, but the sensation of Zephyros's gentle fingers chases it away like an afterthought.
"I've dreamed of this, Apollo," he says, his lilting voice suddenly strong and sure, determined. "But before the dream comes to an end, I want to drink my fill of you." Apollo squirms under the unfamiliar sensation of Zephyros's slippery fingers working him open.
He's never been on the receiving end either, not, he thinks, because he's never wanted to, but because the way things have always been have dictated that as the more powerful entity, it was below his station. He shifts his hips back, drawing those fingers deeper inside himself, longing, wanting. Zephyros had given himself over to Apollo for the first time; it's only fitting with the changing of the times, with their fresh start, that Apollo would do the same.
"Do it, Zephyr," he moans, biting his lip. "Take all of me."
With a wicked grin, Zephyros does just that.
Afterwards they lie tangled together, faces close, sharing a pillow.
Apollo is pushing his luck with time. He needs to return to camp before his absence starts people talking. The last thing he needs right now is for Zeus to catch news that he's flaunting his punishment. But the warmth he finds in Zephyros's embrace is too good to just leave. He worries his lower lip.
Zephyros quirks an eyebrow at him. "What's going on in that hot head of yours? Trying to work out how to ditch me without sounding like a douche?"
Apollo furrows his eyebrows, confused by the easy smile on Zephyros's face when he suggests such a thing. He's not very good at this at all if Zephyros thinks he's in any way ready for their tryst to end.
He focuses on keeping his eyes serious, controlling his racing heart. What if Zephyros has had his fill and is ready to move on and catch up on all he's been missing now that his enslavement has been lifted?
"No," he says. "I need to return to Camp Half-Blood. Zeus will have kittens if he finds out I've been gone so long." It hurts to see the flash of disappointment cross Zephyros's face, masked just as quickly with practiced ease. "I want you to come with me," he says, surprising himself at how earnest he sounds.
Zephyros laughs, disbelief and sarcasm pouring off him in waves – his defense mechanisms. "What's got into you? Apollo, I've known you for ages. You've never invited a lover home with you before."
Apollo traces the line of Zephyros's jaw with the side of his hand. "Isn't it obvious?" he asks quietly, hoping his eyes are as soft and honest as he's feeling. He's head over heels gone for this stupid wind god. Does he have to spell it out?
Zephyros blinks, then searches his eyes, apparently trying to read the truth in them. They darken with a sort of dominating heat that makes Apollo shiver. After a minute he responds. "Wonders never cease. If I say no, what happens? Do I go back to being Eros's errand boy, the deal's off? Is it an all or nothing offer?"
"No. You're free to refuse me if that's what you want. I've talked to Eros and he's agreed to release you from his service. Your time is served."
Zephyros's eyes widen impossibly as understanding hits him. They soften again into their normal easy state, his lips spreading into a genuine smile. "I'd love to come with you. I've always enjoyed visiting the camp. It sounds like a lot of fun."
Apollo wipes his silly smirk off by kissing him again, pulling their bodies closer, desire rising up inside him all over again. "Let's make a game of it. See if we can fuck in every room of the big house without getting caught?"
Zephyros chuckles against his shoulder. "You're on."