Since millenniums, men have always dreamed of Olympus; refuge of all gods, crib of all heroes. This place, where no mortal could ever set foot, had left mankind with many wonders, various secrets and umpteen questions.
Yet, even though he was aware of all that, Cupid was forced to admit that the place was simply a vast, bright and tedious patch of clouds where rose a few columns here and there.
As he walked along an unending path, the red-head realized how dull and tasteless the place had really become to him; Spotless clouds and blooming garden he had grown weary of as the centuries had passed.
Cupid let out a heavy and drowsy sigh, causing the silver-haired man walking alongside to draw his attention back on him.
"What is it ?", he asked in a still voice, not quite intent in the matter, yet not impervious either.
Cupid shook his head apathetically, his curly crimson locks whipping the air and softly beating his cheeks.
"Nothing", he answered languidly. "This place is just boring."
The taller man blinked a couple of times, then chuckled and ruffled the kid's hair.
"Don't frown", he said with a mischievous grin. "you'll be busy soon"
"Yeah", Cupid nodded, forcing a sheepish smile on his face, "thank god you're there to back me up, Hermes."
The man smiled back and they silently stopped walking. They had reached a large golden door, craved with numerous symbols that had lost their meaning with time. Neither Cupid nor Hermes dared to move of an inch, waiting patiently for someone to invite them in.
After less than a minute, the door opened with a smooth rustle, and someone slithered out. A lean woman, with delicate features emphasized by smooth chestnut brown hair falling down her back, glanced towards the two men and showed an elegant smile. She was wearing a long dress and golden fineries creating an aura of refinement and delicacy softly glowing around her.
"Good morning, boys", she said with a maternal and gentle smile. "Zeus will talk to you in a minute."
Bowing in assentiment, Cupid watched as she left and disappeared around a corner.
"Hera is wonderful", he pointed out with a childish grin. "she's kind, smart and pretty. Zeus is a lucky husband."
"Probably", Hermes shrugged. "Unfortunately he's always randomly hitting on every living creature around."
"Man, woman or… plant" he added, stretching a finger at every name he listed.
Cupid hid a stifled laugh with a cough. Hermes had always been exceedingly bitter when the topic came to Zeus, and his resentment was a secret to no one. Respect was a different matter, however; His dislike towards the god didn't affect his esteem in the least bit. Zeus was frivolous and idle, but efficient nonetheless.
Cupid brushed off his smile, the muffled sound of his laughter subsiding to be succeeded only by a heavy silence. Staring at the enormous door, he felt his self-confidence flicker like a flame, and wondered if his fluster was obvious enough for Hermes to be conscious of it.
"He's mad, I bet.", he whispered, biting his lip anxiously.
Before Hermes could react in any way, the large door opened again and they both stepped inside, followed by a silence loaded with disquietude. The room inside sprawled extensively, yet was about as clear of any pieces of furniture as it could be. Bathed in a beaming light, only stood a few fountains, their water gliding along the marble stone, glittering under the vivid beams.
In the exact centre of the room, erected in front of a large stained-glass window, was a large golden throne where was seated a tall blonde man, with crystal blue eyes and charming features, two exquisite women –Cupid assumed they were nymphs– sitting at his feet, heads resting on his lap.
The man's grin widened as the two boys walked towards him, their steps echoing on the stoned floor. When they reached a decent distance from him, a few feet away from the thrown, Cupid took a step forward and bowed ceremoniously.
"Zeus", he said, lowering his voice.
"This serious look doesn't suit you, Cupid", the man chuckled. "Don't be so nervous, I won't eat you."
"I only wanted to inform you of your next mission", he added with a grin.
The red-head jumped, startled by the god's last words. Tilting his head on the side, he asked cautiously;
"By 'next mission', do you mean that I can keep my job ?"
"Of course", Zeus nodded.
Cupid opened his eyes widely. When he had entered the room, he had prepared himself to get fired, be demeaned of, or endure whatever else sanction the god would have found for him. He had certainly not expected that outcome. Zeus chuckled.
The red-head's eyes narrowed. There had to be a 'but'. There was always a 'but'. Why did there always have to be a 'but' ?
"You keep your job", Zeus followed, looking away in boredom. "But, from now on, you're doing it without your gun."
His voice had been firm. There was no other possible issue in the matter and even Hermes, who had been staring from aback all along, had understood that. Yet, the simple thought of obediently agreeing and keeping his mouth shut didn't appear to cross Cupid's mind. He slightly drew back, genuinely jolted by the demand he was hearing.
"What ?", he gasped, eyes wider that they had ever been. "I– That– You– How can I even do that ?"
Leaning back in his throne, Zeus's gaze lazily brushed across the room, but grew quite sterner as his eyes fell upon Cupid. The boy blinked, feeling a shiver of panic climbing along his spine. He made it a personal note to hold his tongue next time.
"Use your mind", the man said. "Find something. I don't care how you do it, but do it."
He showed a mischievous grin. But firmly added;
"Consider this as your punishment"
Seeing the boy's pouting face, Zeus sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"You—", he started. "You know why I'm doing this, don't you ? Do you not remember your last... hitch ?"
Cupid nodded, slightly pulling a face, and stared at his feet.
"Good then" he added, his voice low. "You may go, now."
With a flip of the hand, Zeus informed the boy he could dismiss. Cupid silently walk past Hermes, who stood perfectly still until Zeus called out for him.
"Hermes", he said. "Keep an eye on him, will you ?"
The silver-haired man nodded, and walked out of the room. Outside, Cupid was waiting, kicking the air in frustration.
"I can't believe it", he said. "I can't believe it."
He kept repeating the same thing over and over again for a minute, then turned to face Hermes.
"How could he ?", he followed. "'Hitch' he said ! It was just a small, tiny professional mistake !"
"Isn't that what a hitch is ?" Hermes asked, his face serious as ever.
"Oh, shut up", the boy hissed. "You know very well that it was a stupid accident, you were there too."
"I know", Hermes nodded with a sigh. "But you did make quite a mess, back then. And I had to put everything back in order."
"Yeah", Cupid pouted. "Sorry."
He crossed his arms over his chest in grievance. He couldn't deny that his last mission hadn't turned out quite as planned. The task was simple; he had to shoot two people to light the spark and have them falling deeply in love with each other. But somehow it had come to be rather precarious.
"All because of that stupid bee", the red-head said to himself.
Hermes sighed in despair.
"That's not the point, and you know it", he said. "If only you hadn't started shooting everywhere, it would've been fine. You almost hit half of the town, don't you find that a little exaggerated ?"
The man pressed a finger against his forehead, fighting the headache drilling through his brain like a corkscrew.
"Do you have the littlest idea of how many people there are in New York nowadays ?", he asked in irritation.
Cupid bit his lower lip. As much as he disliked being blamed, he did have the decency to admit that he might have slightly overreacted on the spur of the moment. Just a bit.
He sighed, ready to resign himself to say his farewell to his easy and beloved job. Though he had been in the business for longer than he could recall, he was perfectly incapable to reminisce of a single time where he would've gone on a mission without a gun or any other weapon he could have used to his advantage. From a trite wooden bow to a dazzling silver handgun, not once had he gone working empty-handed, and he was truly ignorant of how he would proceed now that his gun had been taken away.
'Geez', Cupid mentally sighed. 'How tough can it be ? Humans aren't very clever to begin with. It will be over and done in no time !'
However, the boy was slapped out of his thoughts by a shrill voice calling out for him from behind. Less than a second after, he was tackled and thrown onto the floor by a short pink-haired girl, running towards him.
"Cupid !", she shrieked, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck.
The boy gently pushed her away, gasping for air but smiling nonetheless.
"What is it, Aphrodite ?", he asked, standing up and stretching out his hand for the girl to do the same.
She dusted her puffy dress with the back of a hand, but kept the other tightly gripping the boy's own as her loving aqua blue gaze fell back on Cupid.
"I was worried sick !", she cried. "I was told that Zeus had called for you, I thought that he was going to kill you for sure !"
"Aren't you exaggerating a bit ?", the boy asked.
As the pink-haired girl was making as scene in answer, Cupid noticed the boy sheepishly standing a few steps behind and sweetly smiling at him from afar, his ice blue eyes matching the lagoon blue of his hair.
"Delphin !", Cupid sung, cutting short to Aphrodite's blabbing.
He walked past the girl staring at him, dumbfounded, and soon reached the other boy's side. As the two started chit-chatting, Hermes was left alone at Aphrodite's side, who looked as displeased as he was. The girl sighed, looking in Cupid's direction and not giving the other man a glance as she spoke;
"You don't have to act so tense", she said in a surprisingly womanly voice. "I am perfectly aware of your loathing towards me. Suit yourself, I don't like you either."
She cracked a mischievous grin, granting Hermes a quick disdainful glare before adding;
"But if you have nothing nice to say, just shut up and act friendly."
With a satisfied smile to herself, she ran towards Cupid, wrapping her arms around the boy's own while shooting him a sweet and innocent smile.