Lissa wasn’t as bad as Apollo had originally anticipated. He wasn’t sure how her personality would be once she had gotten used to being with him and Meg. He had braced himself for a smaller version of Commodus, acid-tongued and spiteful but just as beautiful and charming. He also had to admit, it made the former deity feel just a little out of sorts, she was almost an exact replica of his former beloved, but her complexion was radiant, an all-year-long tan. He was secretly proud of himself.
Lissa could be playful at times, teasing Apollo about his acne, but for the most part she was quiet. Meg had even eased up to her, the two raven-haired girls formed a bond over their shared trauma. If the girl was a threat, she was doing an excellent job of hiding it. But as far as Apollo and Meg were concerned, they were in no danger. Lissa’s quietness was the only thing that perturbed the both of them. She often seemed somewhere else, constantly dazed. It was not unusual for demigods to zone out, in fact it was completely normal, but the level of detachment Lissa tended to display was eerie.
“Do you think she may have hurt her head when I destroyed that wall in the labyrinth?” Meg whispered as she looked at Apollo before she cast her eyes on Lissa. “If she did, I didn’t mean it. I didn’t know she was there!”
“Neither did I. But I did explain she could have sustained some degree of concussion.” Apollo touched Meg’s back in a gesture of comfort. “Even then, it probably happened before we found her. There’s no need to worry, Meg.”
“She’s pretty alright.” Meg nodded. “Its sort of cool, you know? Finding a long-lost kid of yours.”
Apollo couldn’t help but feel a growing sense of attachment towards his daughter. She seemed genuinely happy to be around him despite his admittedly ghastly mortal body, and she seemed to know everything about him, the old legends included. Heat rose to Apollo’s face as he listened to the girl talk, wondering why Commodus hadn’t planted it in their daughter’s mind that the sun god wasn’t a complete bastard. In return, Lissa listened with rapt attention to the unfortunate tale of how Apollo had been cast to the mortal realm by his own father - her grandfather - for indiscretions.
“Do you think there’s a way to make you immortal again? A quicker way.” Lissa commented. “You probably miss being the so-called self-proclaimed ‘God of Hotness’”. Lissa stuck the tip of her tongue out at the phrase. Meg couldn’t help but laugh at the comment, and Lissa rolled her eyes, feigning annoyance.
“I do!” Apollo’s face burned again. “If you could only see my divine form, you’d be convinced!”
“Well, someone was.” Lissa giggled as she whispered the phrase under her breath, her long tangles of hair falling in her face. “I told you I believe you. I’m sorry.”
Apollo smiled. It was good to see her interacting with them, happy and open. At least, on the surface. He knew very well from Meg that the soul was reminiscent of an iceberg, the darkest parts sometimes buried deep down. He wanted to know more about her, despite the fact she was obviously still loyal to Commodus. Nervousness engulfed Apollo; he didn’t want to see the beautiful face that still haunted him. Other worries concerning her weighed heavy on his mind. He wasn’t sure of what he would find, and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to see.
Apollo’s voice made Lissa groan in annoyance. She was tired and wanted to rest.
“What?” She frowned in displeasure. Sure, Apollo was her father, and she loved him, but that didn’t erase the fact she was allowed to be annoyed by him. She suddenly felt guilty for snapping at him. “I-I’m sorry. I’m just a little tired-”
“That’s fine, apology accepted.” Apollo looked upon her tenderly. “I wanted to speak with you. That scar on your hand, it got me wondering. Has your-has Commodus ever hurt you?”
“You think he gave me…?” Lissa squeezed her eyes shut. “No! How dare you. Mama was nothing but good to me.”
“Are you certain?”
“Yes, I’m sure. What are you trying to be, Child Services or something?” Her lockjaw accent got more pronounced as she spoke.
“No! Gods, no. Lissa, you’re my daughter. Meg and I are a little worried, frankly.” Apollo kept his gaze focused on hers. Lissa bit the inside of her mouth. “Earlier, yesterday, you seemed quite…odd. You didn’t seem to know where you were.”
“I don’t think any of us did.” Lissa admitted, confusion spreading over her face.
“No, I mean…You couldn’t seem to recall where you were or what happened over the past few hours. It’s like you were dreaming.” Apollo stated. “Meg was worried she’d injured you down in the labyrinth.”
“My brain gets weird sometimes. And not the usual weird. Sometimes I just…I go missing, I guess. Nothing feels real. I’m gone, and when I come back to wherever, I can’t really…remember. Sometimes I feel bad after.” Lissa bit her lip. “You think Mama made me like that…?”
“No, not at all.” It was only halfway true. Apollo grabbed her hand, not wanting to frighten her. “Do you think you’d be open to telling me more about yourself?” It had worked with Meg, why not with his own blood?
“If you want to hear, I guess.” Lissa shrugged. “Its pretty boring, I guess. I-I didn’t always have a bad life, I was pretty happy for at least a few years. Mama was all I needed.”
Apollo shut his eyes and took a shaky breath.
An infant looked up from her bassinet in the middle of the ornate solarium sitting room. Lissa’s first clear memory. She squirmed as Commodus kneeled beside the ruffled crib, dangling an item over her tiny face. Her large blue eyes stared placidly at the object above her sparkling from the light coming through the glass roof. The necklace Lissa is wearing now, Apollo realized. Lissa raised a tiny hand up, batting the pendant. It was green stone, backed in pure gold. That’s what was missing.
“Oh, my darling. My dear little girl.” Commodus gave her a small smile. “Its the best I can do for right now, little princess.” He leaned in closer and kissed her cheek, making Lissa squeal. Lissa tugged the necklace from his slender yet strong fingers and gummed the pendant with a triumphant smile. “Do you know who that is, my little honeybee? That’s my mama on the necklace, your grandma.” He reached down, stroking Lissa’s halo of downy black curls. Apollo’s heart dropped. He remembered Commodus never knew his mother, for Faustina had died soon after childbirth, the fatigue of labor had been too much to bear.
“It will keep you safe, dear little princess.” Commodus had gazed down at her like he could give her the entire universe. Maybe this was the wrong thing to do, Apollo thought. Lissa had babbled happily at her mother’s words, completely innocent and trusting.
Lissa was now three, outside, a small rudius in her hands. A tiny, proud future gladiator. Commodus was amused by her, and he was playing fairly, this being more a game than serious training. He laughed with delight at his daughter’s ability. The purest sound in the world. Commodus made a display of himself, feigning death at the marvelous defeat.
“For lo,” he gave a croak. “I have died! Long live the victor!” Lissa squealed in delight at this, dropping her toy sword and climbing on top of Commodus, kissing his nose in an attempt to 'revive’ him. Commodus’ arms clasped around her, hugging her close.
“Good job, my little girl.” He whispered.
Have I been wrong about all of this? Was this mortal form messing with him?
Five years old now. Lissa’s eyes widened at Nero’s large frame filling her doorway. His eyes were hard, cold as steel. Commodus stirred from his spot beside his daughter in her bed, sitting up.
“Mama.” She whispered. Nero silently motioned for Commodus to accompany him, all the while eyeing the child like she was some vile insect. “Mama-” Blackness now. Horrible, pained sobs. Apollo’s eyes opened. Lissa pulled her hand from his, backing away from him slowly.
“Enough of that.”
Apollo shuddered. He moved towards Lissa, hugging her close. More memories came to him despite Lissa’s stoic calm. She was looking down in a grand crib, smiling at and talking to a baby that Apollo guessed to be Claudia, her eyes the same blue as Lissa’s, but her hair was pale gold. A shadow then loomed over her, them. Lissa turned around slowly, terror in her eyes. The girl whimpered audibly against Apollo’s shoulder.
She was now the sullen, anxious girl Apollo had come to know. The scar on her hand was a cut, free from blood but still a ghastly red. Hands held on to her wrist and knuckles with care, a tongue slid across the cut. Lips replaced the tongue, pressed against the flat of her palm, lingering. The scene was as tender as it was erotic, Apollo felt a blush rise to his cheeks-
Lissa pulled away from him, taking in a gulp of cool air.
“I’m sorry about that-”
“It doesn’t matter.” Lissa kicked at the ground with her heel. “How about you sleep, Apollo?” Her voice was soft, she seemed anxious. “I won’t sleep tonight anyway. I can’t. Its not your fault.”
“I apologize if I made you upset.”
“It’s not your fault my life got tough.” Lissa faked a smile. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll be okay, you get some rest. I’m used to staying up.”
“Are you certain?” Worry crept over Apollo.
“I was raised to be a gladiator.” The smile was more sincere. “I promise you I’ll be okay.”
The forest brought a calm to Lissa that she’d never known before. She laid on her back, her gaze transfixed on the seemingly endless stars. It was so beautiful; she would never see this in Manhattan. Was this the same sky that was so dazzling eons ago when…? Of course it is, dummy. The sky doesn’t change no matter how much time passes by. People all over time have loved and died under the sparkling canopy. Her face felt warm.
“Are you seeing the same thing I am? It’s wonderful.” The words came to her in an instant, and she spoke them aloud without hesitation. Silence answered back. Lissa felt foolish. The sun would be rising soon, the stars would disappear. It saddened Lissa to think of the loss, because where would this journey take them tomorrow? Would the cosmos be just as spectacular?
Lissa stood up, taking a look at her surroundings. It wouldn’t hurt to wander around for a little while, take in everything. What are you, a nerd?
She’d be able to find her way back to where they were resting easily. Not too far, now. Lissa moved slowly, cautious of the uneven terrain in the dim light. She took notice that beyond the forest just a few yards was flat land, a field?
“Where on Earth are we?”
“Well, you’re close to me, if that helps you any.”
Lissa’s tired mind didn’t seem to register the voice, only the sound behind her. She screamed.
“What’s wrong?” Meg called out as she moved towards the sound. Apollo followed her, his senses heightened. There was no doubt in his mind Lissa was his child, she had inherited quite the piercing scream.
“I’m fine! I think I am!” Lissa answered. Below her, a loud groan could be heard.
“Ah, shit. Damn, girl…” Lissa couldn’t make out the figure yet, the dawn would be breaking anytime soon. “What are you trying to do, break my face?”
“I’m sorry. I-” Lissa sighed as she heard her friends approach. “I got scared, I’m easily startled. Guys, I am so sorry-”
“What are you doing all the way out here?” Apollo interjected, vision sharpening with the change of light caused by the dawn.
“Should be askin’ you two the same thing.” He stood up, hand covering most of his face. Lissa could see now that he was tall and possessing a large physical presence, but not hulking. “Damn, I think my nose is broke…” He turned towards Lissa. “As for you-”
Lissa’s heart skipped a beat. Am I-?
“What the fuck, Princess?” His hands dropped from his bloody face. He smiled. “Gods, you look like shit, babe. I know I’m old fashioned, but I don’t think this is how people say 'hello’ nowadays.”
“And they know each other how…?” Meg whispered in Apollo’s direction. Babe? What?
Lissa took a step back as she looked up at the man in front of her. She smiled and moved forward to where she was only millimeters away from him, and threw her arms around him.
“Oh gods.” Tears threatened to sting her eyes. “I’ve missed you so much, Lityerses.”