Second Thoughts

Diarmuid shot her a knowing glare, and Abigail already know what he was thinking.

He was angry. Diarmuid was always angry. Even when he smiled, or he was teasing, even when he was laughing, he was always furious. Her ancestor's spirit stood where Achilles once stood, holding her in place with his glare. She hadn't seen him in nearly a year, thinking when he vanished that she was in the clear. But he sure didn't waste any time after Achilles left.

"What do you want? I'm so disgusted with myself I could puke."

"Well, it's a start."

"Leave me alone. Please," she sighed, burying her forehead in her palms,"I just can't deal with you right now."

"And if I did? What, you gonna go do something productive with your time? Gonna go to a meeting? Or straight back to the cabinet. No, Abby, my darling. Everyone else may have abandoned you forever ago, but I'll always be here."

"Shut up! No one's abandoned me. I'm alone because I choose to be."

"Oh please! You don't even believe it yourself. Elsewise you wouldn't have gone crying to a god you knew wouldn't care about how 'there's no one to listen.' If you were choosing aloneness you wouldn't have taken a protege in the first place."

"Feck you." She'd intended to sound defiant but only managed to show how wounded she was. She hated that maybe most of all. He was always listening. Even when she couldn't see him or sense his presence, she couldn't even partially block access to any part of her mind. And he'd thus far managed to completely evade detection from all kinds of mediums and sorcerers—to anyone who wasn't Abby Aensland he might well have been an imaginary friend.

"Even if I did go, like this? I'd just be a liability."

"Based on what?"

...

By the look on his face she knew that Diarmuid really expected an answer. Determined son of a bitch. Most of the time it was hard to believe this asshole was her ancestor, the legendary figure of Gaelic mythology. All he ever seemed to do was encourage her worst impulses and reiterate all the things she hated about herself. And she was stuck.

"I could barely stand when Achilles told me what happened, how do you expect me to fight anyone?"

"Just like you've done for years. Depressed, blinded by your own fury, having just had your eye cut out? Whatever the circumstance, it's what you're good at."

"Am I, though? Christ, how many times have I 'retired' now? It's like every time I come back there's something. Someone's trying to tell me to stay gone and I'm just too bloody stupid to take the hint!"

She heard a noise and turned, expecting to see her mum, but it was just him standing over her. He was a spirit without a body, but when he laid his hand on her shoulder it felt as real as her own clasped together."Or, you're resilient," he said, and his smile was actually...warm. "And that's why they worship you. That's what makes you a legend."

Abby couldn't help blushing, shifting her awkward gaze to the floor. "It's nice to hear you finally say something nice for once, but if you were listening when Achilles was here then you know. When I look at me, I just don't see what they see. I'm not Alexander. I don't chase greatness for the sake of greatness. I don't see a 'great destiny' for myself. And I can't take on the world anymore. It's just not in me."

"But it felt good, you can't deny. To hear him say those things. Abby Aensland, in the same breath as Alexander the Great. Not just regarded but revered as a hero by the gods themselves, they appreciate you more than your own 'man upstairs.' And you may not appreciate it, but you liked it."

"I..."

She didn't have anything to say. He was right. She'd worked so hard for so long—thanklessly, for so long. Who wouldn't want to know that their efforts were meaningful?

"And you know what's coming next. He didn't notice but I did. How you were seething at that last bit."

Right again. She could still see Achilles' backside like he was still standing in the doorway. Could still hear him.

"You've been through a lot. And the world's asking too much of you, and I made a mistake to think you're built for it, because you need saving just as much as everyone else you've saved. You need time away. Go speak to my father if you really want a god's take on all of this shit. Because me? I'm just a warrior. And I'll take care of this as warriors do.

"Sorry to have bothered you"

Abby tried not to look at Diarmuid. After so long with nothing but trouble, it felt wrong to have his approval. Wrong to like it. But she knew what he was getting at and he was right. Achilles' words hurt all on their own, but watching his opinion of her crumble right in front of her was devastating.

And even more than that...

Diarmuid's smirk was practically audible. "There she is, there's my girl! This close to punching a god in the face for slighting you, even though he's just agreeing with you. You might be one of mine after all."

"I wasn't—"

"No, but you wanted to. Like this? You're not a liability, this is you at your most dangerous! Ivana disrespected you, you gave her a heart attack. Satar put Kelly in the hospital, you dropped the city on him. Butchered him like no one else could!"He'd thrown himself into a manic fit, pacing excitedly around the room. Thank God no one else could hear him.

"This is what the world needs. Not for you to shut yourself in, but for you to open up more. Don't get me wrong, the humble hero thing works for you. I'm not asking you to change your whole personality. Just to...maybe embrace certain elements more, ya know? Stop bein' in love with defeat. You are a descendant of the gods. It is within you to make the impossible not just likely, but certain. The power of miracles is in your hands even without that rock. You have a seemingly inexhaustible capacity for forgiveness, but a wrath fit to bring even the world's greatest legends to their knees.

"Abigail, you have an inherent strength that the masses lack, and you truly care." There was a rare, almost kind sincerity in his voice, and as much as she wanted to convince herself that this was a reason to be even more on-guard, this kind of encouragement from one who'd been thus far impossible to please felt damn near intoxicating, even if a little embarrassing. "You've carried the burden of man for so long because you're one of the few who can. You know that if you tried to share your pain with those who don't have the strength to bear it, they'd crumble. And even if you could make it happen, you wouldn't wish for all of mankind to be suddenly given the same strength. You are all too aware of your own selfishness and your pride."

Despite what she was fairly certain was a backhanded compliment, it didn't feel quite so bad acknowledging his point there. But it wasn't just resilience that drew her to Chance. It was her strength of character.

Abby'd met countless heroes who've all acted for their own reasons. Fame and glory. Vengeance. Loyalty to a set of principles. Utilitarian ethics, and countless other reasons. She'd called some of them friends, and respected the risks they all took even if not their motivations or personal traits. But Chance was one of the only ones she'd met who she could say, unequivocally, struck her as good. Without a shred of self-interest or pride. Even going so far as to reject the role of family Matriarch despite the influence and power it carried. She deserved better.

"You're really gonna leave her affairs in the hands of someone who's just following orders?" Diarmuid spat on Achilles' motivations with the same contempt Abigail felt in her heart. She couldn't rightfully blame Achilles. He was trying as well as he could, given his unique origin and position. At least he was trying. But Diarmuid was right. Abigail should've been there too.

She buried her face in her hands. Deep breaths. Picked it back up. A deep inhale and exhale.

"Fine. Okay, fine. I'll get back in touch with Achilles. But I'm not there to show anyone up or prove a point, for spite or to kill. I'm just there to do right by Chance." The least she could do is see this through to the end for her sake. But first she'd have to figure out how to apologize to the 8th Wonder.

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