By the time Crystal had finished, Ryan and Athena had settled back into their chairs. “So, that’s where I am, loves,” she said, shrugging off the last of the weight the secret had left on her shoulders. “Nanoverse corrupt, strange impulses, and I don’t know if it’s going to kill me or drive me mad first, yeah?”
She looked expectantly at them, and Ryan spoke first. “Neither. We’ll figure this out, Crystal.” Athena nodded empathically.
“No,” she said, biting her lip before continuing. “That’s exactly what I didn’t want you to do. We’ve got the whole bloody world to save! You don’t have time to save me, and that-”
“Bullshit.” The interruption made Crystal’s head jerk back, and Ryan admitted it startled him too. Athena didn’t swear often. “An absolute pile of the stuff,” Athena continued, her voice showing the most emotion Ryan had heard in it since she had talked about Bast killing Tyr – but instead of hatred and sadness, it was rock solid determination.
“But,” Crystal said, and Ryan moved to interrupt her this time.
“No buts, Crystal. We’re going to end the world while saving it, and we’re going to figure out how to fix your nanoverse before it eats you alive, and,” he looked at Athena, “we’re going to free the rest of your pantheon from Tartarus, and we’ll probably cure cancer while we’re at it. We’re going to do all of it and more,” he felt himself grinning at the end, and it only widened at Crystal’s confused look.
“How can you be sure?” she asked her voice uncertain. “How can you both be so sodding confident?”
“Because,” Athena said, “We won’t give up until it’s all fixed. You saved me almost three thousand years ago, and Ryan would have been completely lost without you just weeks ago.”
“Hey,” Ryan said his voice full of indignation. “I wouldn’t say that. I would have been completely dead without her.”
“Fair,” Athena said, and continued before Crystal could try to object further, “The point is, Crystal, we’re going to do everything we can to help you. And considering the things we have managed so far, I refuse to believe that our best effort won’t prove sufficient.”
“So you’re stuck with our help,” Ryan added, smiling at her, “like it or not.”
Crystal glanced back and forth between them for a moment, and then let out a momentary laugh. “Bloody hell; is this how it feels when I put my foot down?”
“Basically,” Ryan said, at the same moment Athena gave an overly firm “yes.”
“Okay, alright. You win, you can sodding help me. But how?”
Athena took this one. “I know where we can start, at least. You have to go into your nanoverse; try to cleanse the corruption some.”
Crystal took a deep breath. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I don’t like the bloody thought, love.”
Athena gave her a sympathetic nod. “But it’s still the best option. If nothing else, it might buy us some time.” She took a moment to look at Crystal’s face before adding, “I’ll go with you.”
“No,” Crystal said, much more firmly than she had refused help. “Athena, this could go badly. It could make the corruption worse, or kill me outright. Either way, you’d be stuck there with me.”
Athena’s brow furrowed and her face turned stubborn, but Ryan stepped in. “Athena, she’s right. We don’t know what we’re dealing with here, and we can’t risk both of you. One of us can be there for when she comes out.”
“I…” Athena sighed. “No, I suppose it has a logic to it. Then I will wait for…oh, wait. That won’t work, will it?”
Ryan and Crystal both nodded in agreement with the last sentence. “I’ll stay behind,” Ryan said, “You take our new friends and see if you can’t pinpoint Moloch’s location now that you have backup. Besides, I’ve got to fulfill a promise to Anansi that I had to make to get him to join?”
The two goddesses turned their full attention to him. “What did the trickster make you do?” Athena said every word slow and carefully chosen.
“Nothing bad, promise,” Ryan said, before Athena could draw some terrible conclusion. “He said a bunch of stuff about how I’m going to lose sight of the world I’m trying to save if I don’t focus on why, so I kind of promised him I’d go check in on my friends and family.”
“Oh.” Athena thought for a moment, and nodded. “I think he may have the right of that.”
“Too bloody right there is,” Crystal said her voice a bit harsher. “Ryan, I kind of assumed you didn’t have a life.”
“Thanks,” he muttered, but she continued as if he hadn’t spoken.
“You’re immortal, you nob. Or, you will be. You’ll live for thousands and thousands of years, and unless you help them find nanoverses of their own, your friends and family will die and that’ll be the last you see of them. If you have them, you should be spending time with them.” Ryan was taken aback by the heat in her voice, and by her face Athena was as well.
“I will,” Ryan said, holding up his hands in a placating gesture. “Promise.”
“Oh yes, you will. I’m going to make sure you’re at their door before I go into my nanoverse. This is important, Ryan.” There was a fire in Crystal’s eyes, one Ryan hadn’t seen in a while. He could only nod in agreement.
“Good.” The fire dimmed, although embers remained of it. “And…Thank you. Both of you. Sorry for waiting so bloody long to tell you what was wrong with me.”
“Think nothing of it,” Athena said in a calming voice. “If it had been me, I likely would have done the same.”
“Same,” Ryan said, then paused. “Actually, no, but that’s because when things go weird my default reaction is find one what one of you have to say about it. Give me a century and I’ll be able to say same then.”
That got a laugh out of Crystal, and they all shared a hug. “Alright,” Crystal said, breaking it. “Athena, can you brief our friends on the plan? Ryan has a rendezvous with family, and I need to go at least try to tidy up the mess I left in my nanoverse.”
Athena nodded and turned to go talk to the others. Ryan turned towards Crystal and gave her a shaky grin. “I’ll be honest, Crystal, I kind of wish I was going with you.”
“Even though I could go crazy and kill you?”
“See, that’s the thing.” Ryan sighed, and they both started walking towards their nanoverses. He gave Anansi a thumb up to let the other god know that he was upholding his end of the bargain. “You could go crazy and kill me. But after everything that’s happened so far? My sister definitely will.”
To that, Crystal could only give a sympathetic smile.