I felt Artemis stir as the early dawn rays shone through the window. Inhaling her scent, I pulled her closer and kissed her on the nose with a grin. She turned her head up and returned the kiss. Her soft, warm lips touching mine on such a cool day sent shivers through me, and I pulled the covers over us.
She smiled up at me with a deep, contented sigh. “Morning, Seli. We need to get up. The boys will be here soon.” Nodding, I pulled her closer still as I nuzzled her neck, running my fingers through her hair.
“Mmm, now Seli, I don’t know about you, but I would be embarrassed if my brother walked in on us.”
Chuckling, I kissed her again. “I would be more embarrassed about your mother than your brother, Akti.”
Her face turned crimson as she buried her face in my chest. “Oh, gods. I would die!” She huffed out a laugh.
“You would? I have known her most of my life. Imagine how I would feel?” My hand still tangled in her chestnut locks as I caressed her.
“Have you heard from Hyperion yet?” She gazed up at me, searching my face.
Father had been out on parole for a few months now, and I had yet to see him. We had extended an invitation to him to visit Christougenna but had not had a reply until recently. Nodding, I took a deep breath, indicating he would not be joining us.
Oh, Seli, I’m sorry, my love.” She snuggled under my chin, comforting me as she rubbed her hand along the small of my back.
“Akti, I am not upset at him. There will be countless other holidays for him to be present. You have to understand something. Titans are not exactly welcomed home with open arms. Remember when I arrived? Just before the rising. Everyone, and I mean everyone, looked at me like I was a mole, a spy. As though I had an ulterior motive. This is your home. It always has been. Be it the mount or the mortal realm. For us…it is a place of bad memories and heartache. A place we oft’ do not feel we belong.”
She went to speak but held her tongue, allowing me to continue.” Father is not ready to face that scrutiny yet, and I, for one, understand and support him. Helios and I will see him soon, when he is ready. As for finding a home here in the GC, that may take quite a bit longer.”
She kissed my collarbone, then stretched. “I understand. Now, let’s move.” She jabbed a finger in my ribs and I recoiled, enticing a giggle from my lips.
“You cheated!” I laughed as she scooted out of my arms and from under the blanket. Artemis was the only person to have ever gotten my tickle spot. “Go start your stew. I will be out shortly to start the bird.”
Watching my beautiful fiance waltz out of the bedroom with an intentionally sassy sway of her hips sent another wave of fire to my core. She knew exactly what she was doing, and I threw a pillow at her. She squealed and ran out of the room, robe ties trailing behind her.
Reluctantly throwing back the covers, I donned my robe and quickly made the bed. I joined Artemis in the kitchen and began helping her cut the array of vegetables we would need for the day’s meal. Before long, the aroma of venison stew and roasted vegetables filled the apartment as Artemis and I returned to our room to dress.
“I am going to head to the rehabilitation floor and get Helios. We will take Yoru and Eechee out for a run so they can get their sillies out. You can wait here for Apollo and Leto.” Nodding with a smile, she leaned over and kissed me softly.
“See you soon.”
The pups and I made our way across the SBF office and to the main doors. As I opened them, I gasped. Apollo was standing there, hand poised to open the door. When I stopped short, we were standing nose to nose. Chuckling, I gripped my chest.
“Apollo! You scared the shit out of me.”
“Me? I thought you were about to knock my teeth in.”
We stood there, chuckling a moment, before I excused myself to go get Helios. I was still smiling when I arrived at his apartment door.
“Luna!” Kneeling, he ruffled the kits’ fur in greeting before standing and kissing me on the cheek after a warm embrace. “Taking them for a run?”
“That flat will be crowded enough without two mischievous foxes running amuck.” Chuckling, we headed out to ONP. As soon as we reached the entrance, they took off like bolts of lightning. They knew not to run too far, so Helios and I meandered slowly behind them as we talked.
“Will Apollo be there?” Helios nervously played with his bracelet as we walked. The last time they had seen each other, they had not been on good terms.
Nodding, I took his hand in mine, squeezing it tenderly. “He already is. Leto and her boyfriend, Jacques, will be there as well. Sol, please behave. You can share your thoughts with me, but please do not start anything with him today. It is Christougenna, after all.”
“It is quite a momentous Christougenna, Luna. I will do my best.” He squeezed my hand in return, kissing me on the forehead with a smile.
“Thank you. You are correct. Between you being home and Leto coming—”
“And your first Christougenna with Artemis,” He finished for me, a sly smile playing on his lips.
I elbowed him playfully. “Yes, that too. So please, keep yourself in check around Apollo, okay?”
“Of course, Luna.”
The pups came running back to us, and we made our way back inside and up to the flat. Leto and Jacques had arrived. Leto greeted me with a smile and a hug. Apollo glanced at Helios, giving a small nod before we all sat down around the fireplace to exchange gifts and catch up.
“So, is Hyperion coming?” Leto piped up. She sat elegantly on the edge of her seat, Jacques relaxed beside her.
“Not this time, but he sends his best and hopes to be here one day soon.”
“I am glad, in a way, he is not here. I wish to speak to him in private for our first reconnection, if it is at all possible.” Helios said to me telepathically.
“I agree. We all have things to discuss in a much more private setting than this, but it would have been nice to see him, Sol.”
“So? Who’s going first?” Artemis beamed. Despite the conversation between Helios and myself, I could not help but smile ear to ear when I saw her so cheerful like this.
Helios and Apollo spoke at the same time, “I will!” Apollo rolled his eyes as Artemis spoke up.
“Apollo, let Helios go first. This is his first Christougenna in many years.”
“I would be honored to let him go.” Apollo sat back in his seat and crossed his arms.
Sighing, Helios sent me an annoyed groan. I shot him a look and nudged his elbow. “What do you have, Sol?”
For Artemis, he had a handwoven basket made from locally harvested straw. Leto and Jacques received a similar design, only larger for the pastry shop. To Apollo, he gave two intricately carved bookends, one a Caduceus, the other a guitar. He waited to gift me last.
“Luna,” he paused, glowing slightly, “I was not sure what to get you. You have so much already and are such a gift to me—”
I interrupted him, “Sol, just having you here is all I needed. Truly, that is the best gift I could have received.”
“That is exactly what I was thinking, Luna. Just to be here.” He looked around at everyone, landing last on Artemis. “To be welcomed into your home and see you two happy is more than I could ever contend with. I fear I did not make you anything, as nothing I put my hand to was equal to this gift I have from you.”
We embraced for a bit as our collective glows began to fill the room. “Whoa, whoa, there now. You’re blinding us here!” Apollo snapped, covering his face dramatically. “My turn.” Sliding out of his seat, he donned a blue and white hat, then began passing out small portfolios filled with pictures of himself in various positions, some barely clothed.
“POLO!” Artemis proclaimed, closing the book quickly. “Why on earth would I want to see pictures of you like that? I’m your sister!”
Leto chuckled, shaking her head. Helios simply slid his onto the coffee table in disgust as he said to me, “Figures he would pull something so obnoxious!”
Never one to turn down a good form, I perused the book with a sly smile, exchanged looks with Apollo, and slid it beside me on the couch.
“Selene! Did you seriously just?” Artemis gawked as I chuckled.
“What?” I shrugged, glancing over at Leto. “Leto makes pretty children. He is your twin, after all.” I winked at Artemis and ducked as she chucked a throw pillow at me, smacking Helios in the face instead. The room erupted in laughter as Helios sat there awestruck for a moment before joining in.
Shaking her head in amusement, Artemis gathered herself and went to the office to retrieve her gift for her mother and Jacques. I grinned broadly as I heard the click-clack of life across the hardwood floors. A precocious pup rounded the doorway and jumped into Jacques’s lap, licking his face and exciting a whoop from him.
“Thought you could use a little companion, Mother,” Artemis said with a grin as she placed beautifully wrapped packages in everyone else’s laps on her way back to her seat.
Helios opened his with childlike wonder, revealing a potted sunflower with a note that read, To help you remember we will always be here for and with you. “Oh, Artemis! It is perfect! Thank you!”
Apollo ripped into his to discover a compact disc of sounds she had recorded from the forest to help soothe his nights. As for me, I waited to open last, soaking in the others as they took turns.
I took my time, peeling back the gorgeous paper, to reveal a photo book filled with snapshots of the times we’d spent together over the last year as our love grew. From our first kiss, to the one we had taken in Paris near the Eiffel tower where I proposed. Each one held a handwritten love message and a reminder of where we were.
As I sat there, surrounded by family, I knew this was the best present I would receive that day. To simply be there and have a home, a love, and a family. We continued to share gifts and tease Apollo about his for the remainder of the afternoon. As evening approached, we sat down and ate more than we should. Since we would not be able to be together for the coming of the new year, we decided to cut into the Vasilopita Leto and Jacques had brought from their shop in Paris. As it would have it, Helios found the coin and beamed as he proclaimed, “I am already the luckiest man alive. I cannot see how my luck could get better in the coming year.”
Leto and Jacques left first, followed by Apollo and Helios. A resounding smack and a “What the…” echoing through the empty office as they left together, made clear the day was over, and the truce between them ended. Artemis sat beside me with a chuckle, wrapping her arms around me with a sigh. “Kala Christougenna, Seli.”
Taking her in my embrace, I smiled as my glow, and the fire illuminated the apartment. “Kala Christougenna, Akti. S’ agapó.”
She nuzzled into my arms and closed her eyes. “I love you too, Seli.”
Kala Christugenna kai Kales Giortesor. Happy Christmas and a Happy Holidays from Artemis and myself to all you mortals out there.