He could see her so clearly from the open window, like the sun shining through the clouds. He could not help but be drawn to her. He could not resist, no matter how hard he tried. He had been drawn to her from the moment of her creation. Her voice, her smile, the pink in her cheek, her quick wit, her curiosity, her mind, her beauty, all gifts from the Gods. She was named for those gifts, Pandora, the ‘all-gifted’. But she was so much more than the gifts bestowed upon her; she made each gift her own. But it was not only those gifts that made him fall in love with her. Her kindness, her strength, her quick use of words, and her light are what he fell for, all of which were of her own creation. He fell in love with her, a deep, unabiding love, but a love never to be fulfilled. The Fates would not allow it, neither would the almighty Zeus.
She was created for a single purpose, to show the mortals what it meant to defy the Gods. Prometheus stole fire from Olympus and gave it to the mortals and he paid dearly for the transgression. Zeus did not believe it was enough, mortals had to be a taught a lesson, and so he created her. Pandora was to be the bride of Epimetheus, Prometheus’s brother. Zeus gifted her a box, a present he said, that she must never open. But they had imbued her with an unquenchable curiosity, and so she opened the box. He tried to warn her, he tried to save her, but it was all for naught, for within the box was all the evils of the world. These evils ravaged the Earth, creating death and chaos in the wake of their path. It took all of them to contain those evils in the box once again. To ensure that those evils would never be unleashed again, Zeus threw the box into the Four Winds to be carried off to the ends of the world.
But he lost her. The evils that she unwittingly unleashed stole her from him, dragged her into the pits of the Underworld. Grief overtook him, grief that no Gods could shake. So he retreated. He hid himself from the world, from his family, and from his duties. He tried so desperately to remember every look, every touch, and every conversation that they had ever shared together. He let the darkness consume him. Never since had he wanted to reach beyond the walls he had erected around himself. He lost his light, so he must live in the darkness.
He sat as he sculpted another piece of metal yet another mask. The intricate nature of the metal work allowed his mind to be completely free of thought. In these moments he allowed himself a brief moment of peace from her. He missed her almost every waking moment. He had lived so long without her, the curse of being an immortal, to love but only to see that love wither away. He had remained in the dark for so long that he could not remember the feel of sunlight upon his skin. His hearth was the only source of light in the dungeons he called home.
He heard the knocking upon the gates of his home. How long had it been since they had come looking for him? He could not remember. Nor did he care. They were part of the reason she was gone, they gave her the gifts that took her away from him. And for that he would continue to ignore them.
“Really, Hephaestus, you’re going to ignore us for how long,” questioned Zeus.
“Hello, father,” Hephaestus replied clinically, “to what do I owe this invasion of my home?”
“You’ve ignored your duties long enough, Hephaestus? You’ve continued to ignore your mother, your sister, and myself. Do you remember Aphrodite? Your wife? You’ve ignored her for far too long as well. You have locked yourself away in your dungeons long enough, Hephaestus. It is time you retake your rightful place on Olympus.”
He chuckled, his voice displayed no emotion.
“I wager that mother, dear sister, and you, father have missed me little. And my wife, dear Aphrodite, and the marriage that you pushed us into that neither of us wanted. I suspect she’s been having a splendid time with dear old Ares. And my duties, exactly what duties do you speak of father. There is no need for new weapons or cages or sculptures. My duties seem obsolete, father. Tell me the true reason as to your presence.”
“You’ve hidden yourself away for so long that you have not bared witness to the changes that have occurred. The mortals on Earth have flourished and are now in a moment of relative peace. And peace means no chaos or destruction. Something that Hades thrives on. He has been searching for the box, son, and I believe that he has found it. There is only one person capable of opening the box, and that is Pandora.”
“Well isn’t it good for you that she’s dead then, father. There is no way that dear old uncle Hades could open the box.”
“That is where you are wrong, my boy. Pandora has been reincarnated. She lives among the mortals of the Earth once again, oblivious to her true nature and power. You must find her, Hephaestus. You must protect her from Hades and his minions, for I am sure that he will try and lure her into opening the box. As I hope you will remember, only she can open the box and only of her own free will. She cannot be forced into opening the box. I fear that Hades will find a way to trick her into opening the box somehow. You must find her. You must protect her at all cost. I feel a battle brewing, Hephaestus. Hades’ powers are dwindling. He is desperate and will do whatever it takes to ensure that he regains such powers. You remember the last time that those evils were unleased upon the Earth and mankind? Do you? It was near total destruction. We cannot allow it to happen another time.”
“Why me, father? I’m sure you or any of my other brothers and sisters could find her if you wanted to. I’m sure that you would be more than capable of protecting her from Hades and his minions.”
“We know that she has been reincarnated as a mortal on Earth. And we know the area in which she lives in. But we are not capable of finding her, Hephaestus. The Fates have determined that you, and only you, can find her. And you must find her and protect her.”
Silence permeated the dungeon as he pondered what his father had ordered him to do. The possibility of seeing her, being near her, being able to touch her, was so alluring. But then he remembered the blinding pain of losing her, the pain that remained within him every day since he had lost her centuries ago, the pain that would pierce him once again when he would be forced to leave her. He knows that losing her again would be the end of him. He would not survive the pain this time. Immortality could not withstand the blades and arrows of his sisters and brothers if he so asked.
His brain warred with his heart. But it was no use. His decision was already made since the moment Zeus had told him she was alive.
To feel the beating of the sun upon his skin after spending so long in the darkness was quite a change.
He had agreed to father’s orders. He would find Pandora and would protect her with his life if need be from Hades and his minions. This time he would ensure that the box would remain closed. This time he would ensure she lived. No matter the cost.
Athena had given him a suit of armour invisible to the naked eye, while Nike had given him a bow and arrows, both were parting gifts to ensure his protection of Pandora. And Hermes, ever the messenger, had directed him to the city that she lived in. But that was as much as they were allowed to do. No one could help him beyond this point.
He had to acclimate to the practices of the mortals. The identity that he had been set up with was quite nice. He was a billionaire philanthropist, trying to help save the Earth and its people one charity at a time. He had gotten himself a cellular phone, as well as a laptop. He’d seen nearly every mortal constantly carrying one, moving their thumbs quickly over the tiny devices. He thought it quite peculiar. He wondered how much the world had changed since his self-imposed exile.
He sat in a coffee shop, like many other mortals, drinking something they called Caramel Macchiato. He thought the drink too sweet for his liking, but continued to drink the blasted thing. He had to look like he belonged, so he took sips from the cups like the others around him.
His laptop was open as he began to push the many buttons upon its surface like the other mortals around him. He had no idea what he was doing until loud sounds began emanating from the thing. He had no idea how to stop it. So he slammed the damn thing shut, hoping that it would stop.
A familiar voice radiated from behind him, “You know that slamming the lid down won’t stop it right? You have to turn the app off. I could show you, if you wanted me to?”
He knew that voice. He dreamed of that voice for so long. It was her. She had found him.
“Hi, I’m Oliver Queen," he said, as he turned around to face her.
“Oh, I know who you are, Mr. Queen. You’re Mr. Queen, billionaire philanthropist, head of the Queen’s Global Initiative organization. I know who you are.”
The smile that spread across his face could not be stopped.
“Oliver is fine. I don’t think my full name is that long,” he joked, “what’s your name?”
She smiled back at him nervously.
“Felicity, Felicity Smoak. Would you still like me to help straighten out your laptop?”
“Please,” he answered quickly.
“I’m surprised actually. A guy like you must know how to work a laptop? I saw you smashing the keys together and it hurt my heart just a little bit. I work with computers, a lot. I actually went to MIT for computer engineering, graduated top of my class too. I actually own my own IT software company. It’s small, but I love it. And I just pretty much told you my whole life story. OMG, I'll stop babbling in 3…2…1. Here let me fix your laptop,” she said as she dragged the computer away from him and took the seat across from him.
While she worked on fixing whatever he had done to his computer, verbally explaining everything she was doing, he could not help but stare at her. It was like looking upon the sun. The light emanated from within her so seamlessly. She was a thing of true beauty.
“There, all fixed,” she said, her eyes meeting his.
“Thank you,” he replied, unable to tear his eyes away from hers.
“Have we met before,” she asks, “it’s funny? I have this feeling that we’ve met before. Weird I know, since you’re like a billionaire and I’m like a nobody. Well not a nobody, but you know a nobody compared to you.”
He couldn’t help but continue smiling at her. He hadn’t smiled in so long. He couldn’t believe that she was the one making him smile. He couldn’t believe she was sitting across from him.
“OMG," she said, as she stared at her wrist, "I have to get going. I’m going to be late for a meeting with a client, and I hate being late. I’ve got to go,” she says, as she hurriedly throws her things into her bag and stands.
“Wait! What if I need help with my laptop again? How do I contact you?”
“Umm, I’m sure you have people that could help you with that.”
“I like how you explain everything when you do it. It’s nice.”
“Well here’s my card then. Goodbye, Oliver.”
“Goodbye, Felicity. Maybe I’ll see you around?”
“Maybe,” she says, as she smiles before exiting through the doors.
He would see her again. Of course he would see her again. It was his job to protect her. Now he just had to think of a way to see her again. He wondered what would happen if he poured his Caramel Macchiato onto his laptop. Couldn’t hurt to try.