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Coming to the Sacrifice

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What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstacy?

John Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn"

Ah, Meg. My little Nutmeg. My darling, succulent little mignon.

I know they say not to dip your pen in the company ink, but believe you me, that hot little number tempts a god without even trying. And I know from tempting. I've seen her zero in on a mark and really turn up the heat, too and it's all a guy can do not to take a dip in the Lethe and cool off. A bad move, sure, but tempting.

I've never been one over-inclined to share my thoughts with the class, and I'm usually content to let others, herself included, think Meg's inclusion into my dysfunctional work-pool was a purely calculated Human Resources move. And it was. Hey, I'm nothing if not calculating; I'm the deal-maker, and just between you, me, and those stiffs in the Styx, those deals are designed to benefit ol' numero I. I've got no time for altruism – you feel me, right? I mean, I've got an Underworld to run and a pantheon to conquer. I'm a very busy god – don't let the easygoing demeanor and the fiery good looks fool you. But that doesn't mean I haven't got hobbies. Side-interests, if you will.

Having a thing for the humans seems to run in the family. Oh, Zeusy likes to play the doting husband, sure, but that Hera... woo, you do not want to get on her bad side. When that broad goes on a tear, she makes me look like a pussy-cat. But back to my point – humans. The gods in the family just seem to have a yen for those tasty little mortals. My guess is a lot of it's got to do with the fact that they're not too bright. Only a human would have an intimate run-in with a swan – a swan, for crying out loud – and not think twice about it. But Meg's got a little bit more between her ears than space for rent. Granted, that doesn't do me a whole lot of good, but, let's be honest here: it's not her brains I'm interested in.

Okay, yeah, her soul. Let's put a pin in that – as long as I've got her soul, I've got her. The hardest part's in the bag. Right? Right. Now, the fact that she's a knockout goes without saying. O Attic shape, those hips are gonna be the death of me – you know, metaphorically speaking.

But that's not even the best part. I know, I know; hard to believe.

Her misery is the sweetest wine I've ever tasted. Her pain lingers on my lips and when I think about how easy, and how magnificent it would be to break her completely, it's pretty hard not to embarrass myself. Her soul is a thing of beauty, torn, bruised and bloody like it was handled by a master. I can't take credit for all of it – she was in pretty impressive shape even when I found her.

See, the thing about Meg is that she's all about layers. You got cool indifference on top, hiding all her best parts. You've got to finesse that off of her, and it takes some work, but it's worth it. Once you're able to slide that off, toss it aside and you've got self-deprecation and all those other little defenses she wraps around her. But one thing about Meg, she's pretty fast for a human – you unfasten one defense mechanism, she's got another one in place, quick as you please. Distraction's the key. Once you catch her off guard, it's a little easier to pull it all away, and it slides off of her, one layer closer to stripping her completely, deliciously bare.

Next comes bravado, and it's almost cute to watch her pretend that what I'm doing to her doesn't bother her in the least. It's a dance, a play, an act, after all, and even as she tries to cover herself, I really don't have to do anything. The harder she tries, the more she bares. She really ought to know she can't hide anything from me – I always get in, one way or the other. But I'm kind of glad she makes the effort. Keeps it interesting, you know?

Once that pesky bravado's gone, scraps of shame cling to her in tatters, and now's when things start to get interesting. My little Nutmeg is mouth-watering that way, everything but her shame stripped away, all of those interesting cuts and bruises showing through, seeping through that shame like blood. Once I've gotten that far, she can't even bear to look at me.

I like it that way.

Shame doesn't hide anything, and just accentuates all that self-loathing. This is the part I like to savor – letting her soak in her shame, letting her feel it cling like wet linen. She thinks this is the part that hurts the most – every time we play this game, she always thinks this part is as bad as it can get. I can't hurt her any more than this. I used to think she'd learn, but like I said, humans? Not that bright.

Under everything, all the little defense mechanisms, the bravado, the masks, Meg's soul is a canvas of pain, betrayal, and self-loathing; she's been cut and burned by the worst that humans inflict on each other. She's a work of art, the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, and each nick and scratch and bruise I've added to the collection just highlight what was already there. I pick the scabs and open her scars and as much as she protests, as much as she begs, I know she thinks she deserves it as much as I do.

And then, when I'm done adding to my masterpiece, I send her away, her pain, her misery tasting better than any vintage of Dionysus', and let her wrap herself in layers again, letting her believe it when she thinks she won't let me do it again and again. Because that's part of the game too – delusion fuels the best afterglow, and makes for a great candy-coating I'll get to chip away and crack through next time.