“So tell me about Helios’ first day.” Artemis scooted forward on the sofa, pulling her blanket around her bare shoulders, and reached for her mug of coffee.
I emanated a slight glow as my heart soared. It had been a few months since Helios’ blood oath ceremony, Sayeh was back to her old fire-breathing self, and Artemis and I spent most nights together.
“I’m honestly not sure when you left, filtering out Helios was quite a task after being apart from him for so long. Plus, the ceremony and voices were a bit overwhelming that evening. I’ll start when we left Mount Olympus, how’s that sound?”
She sipped her coffee, eyes twinkling in excitement as I began.
Helios, Nike, Eris, and I walked out of the throne room. Helios and I took a deep breath as the sun hit his face for the first time in centuries, and the reality of freedom sunk in. We made our way down Mount Olympus and into the God Complex. He glanced around at all the shops and buildings, his mind on overload as he took it all in.
“It’s so different,” he said simply.
Nike and Eris ran ahead of us in their excitement as I waited to let him process all the changes and advances he had missed. We spent the next hour or so walking around the compound, talking about the different shops and who ran which one.
“Dark Sparks, where I work, is over there, Helie!” Nike shouted down at us, pointing across the courtyard as she flew above. “And that’s Ares’ gym, Clio’s museum. Oh, and all the different businesses inside the OA building, too.”
Eris took Helios’ hand and smirked up at him as we walked into the massive building. Nike landed and joined us again. Helios abruptly stopped as we entered the lobby, gawking at the sheer massiveness of it all. After a few seconds, he started towards one of the shops, chattering the entire way. I couldn’t help but laugh as he reminded me of the children in the Whole Latte Love daycare. He wasn’t young, by any means, but his time away made the mortal’s world so new and refreshing to him.
We took a seat at a little table outside Dark Sparks. Nike told us to stay there, and she’d be right back. She took Eris’ order and mine, then rushed inside. She returned and gave us all our drinks, sliding Helios a hot cocoa.
“I figured we didn’t need him hyped up on caffeine his first day out,” Nike said thoughtfully and grinned as she watched him. The faces he made as he saw new and strange things and tried to figure them out were amusing.
I looked over and giggled at Artemis. She was completely covered in the blanket now, only her face and her hands holding the cup to her lips were showing.
“Are you cold, Akti?” I asked as I got up from my seat and joined her on the couch, wrapping my arms around her.
The blankets fluffed as she nodded from within the pile. I rubbed her biceps in an attempt to warm her. I took the cup from her and set it on the table before pulling her into my arms and lying on the couch with her.
“So, back to the story, eh?” The blankets moved again as she nodded, and I continued.
Persephone had spent quite a bit of time with him as part of his rehabilitation. Gods only knows how tremendously I love her for it. Because of this, he had a grasp on how different things were. However, to see it with his own eyes is a different thing altogether.
“Any questions yet?” Eris asked him as they patted his hand, sitting beside him at the table.
“No, not yet. It’s everything she said…just not quite how I pictured it. Wait, what’s a Zaco?”
I chuckled and said, “Hang on, I’ll go get us some.” As I got up, he took a sip of his drink. His eyes widened as the sweet liquid hit his tongue.
“Ok, this is better than the cocoa we used to drink!” he exclaimed with a hard laugh.
I joined him in laughter and shook my head in reply. “Nope, not at all. This has sugar in it.” I sighed deeply and felt the need to pinch myself. The emotions of the day ebbed and flowed between us, and he began to understand why I had made the choices I had. Maybe forgiveness was closer than I thought…but I dared not hope for such a quick turnaround. I quickly changed my thoughts and attempted to guard them from him.
“You think this is easy?” he asked me through our link. I shook my head.
“I can’t imagine any of this is, honestly,” I answered him audibly, so our friends didn’t feel excluded. I leaned in and kissed his forehead before walking off to get us some Zaqueria zacos.
I leaned down and kissed the top of the blanket pile. “Getting warmer yet?” A muffled giggle rose from the blankets in my arms, and we laughed together. “We haven’t even gotten to the best part yet. You better not fall asleep on me yet.”
“Umm unnn,” she mumbled.
“I’m gonna take that as a no, then?” I chuckled. “Ok, so…”
A little bit later, after Eris and Nike had left us, Lady Persephone came by, and his entire countenance changed. He lit up as she spoke. The sun in my life had returned. She kissed his forehead and hugged me, whispering in my ear that Eos was settled, and we would talk about her later. After Persephone left, he looked at me with a devilish grin. “Let’s go see Arty’s Park.”
“Arty’s park?” I laughed. “It’s Olympus National Park, not Arty’s.”
“Not in your head, it isn’t.” He laughed in return. “Care to elaborate?”
“In time, but today is about you, Sol, not me.”
Standing, I offered him my arm, and we exited the back entrance into the park. Artemis had spent the last several weeks since our fight with Ourea working on restoring order and tending to Sayeh. I felt the animals and nature would help soothe his troubled mind, as it did mine. My thoughts drifted to Artemis as a grin crept across my face, reaching my eyes with a twinkle. Helios looked over at me and gave me a mischievous look. Shaking my head, I attempted to change the subject in my mind.
Every time I come out here, I am astounded at how much she has done to recover the space. I showed Helios around and talked briefly about the damage Ourea had done. As we walked through the forest where he had attacked, I instinctively touched my hair then shuddered. Helios stopped me in my tracks and took my face in his hands. “Luna, talk to me. What happened? You love nature, but I feel the tension coming off of you since we got here.”
I tried to pull away from his touch, but not with much effort. I looked up to catch his eyes and showed him the battle. He pulled me into his warm embrace and held me for a while. I didn’t cry, but his warmth filled me, and I felt more whole than I had in centuries. When I pulled out of his arms, we were both glowing slightly. We smiled at each other before turning and continuing our walk in silence. We arrived at the cave and waterfall as the sun completely dipped behind the horizon. One of Artemis’ Nymphs, Iphigenia, came out to see who was near. I bowed to her, and she told me Artemis wasn’t there.
“It’s ok. I was just showing Helios around the park. I’m sure I will see her soon.” We exchanged another bow and were on our way.
“Awe!” Artemis voice came from the heap I was holding. “You brought him by, and I missed it?”
“He did ask about you. So, of course, I did. I was actually surprised you weren’t there. But it’s ok. You have seen him since then.”
The blankets moved again as she nodded. “So, where did you go next?”
“After the tour of the park, we went up to my lab…”
Watching Helios on the elevator for the first time was absolutely hilarious. By the time we stopped at the 25th floor, we were both laughing hysterically. His face, when it stopped, was priceless. The door opened to the hum and bustle of my employees. I beamed in pride as I walked around the lab introducing him to everyone.
We had circled back around to the doorway and my office when he stopped me, placing his hand on my arm and looking me directly in the eyes. “Luna, I am so proud of you! This…this is astonishing, and this is just your hobby?!” He shook his head and beamed. I smiled back at him, my heart racing in my chest. We hopped onto the elevator and headed up to our final stop…the 40th floor, the rehabilitation apartments.
The elevator opened, and we walked to the one with Helios’ name on the temporary wall plaque. We went inside, and his eyes widened. The walls were painted a soft blue, and the furnishings were reminiscent of the bohemian era in deep greens and dark blues to remind him of the rivers and forests that brought him peace. I had paintings commissioned of rivers from around the world, bringing it all together. He walked around in awe.
“This is all mine?” he asked in astonishment. The simple apartment was massive compared to the cell he had called home for the last three thousand years. I stood near the doorway as he walked around, taking it all in. He circled back to me, and the door behind me opened. Persephone entered with a soft smile.
“Selene, Helios, we need to talk and go over some ground rules,” she began. “A plan of parole laid out by my father.”
Helios nodded solemnly as she entered, and we moved to the kitchen together. I put on a kettle and started some tea to share while we went over the paperwork.
A slight rumble came from beneath the blankets, and I chuckled to myself. “My story was so riveting I put you to sleep?” I asked a sleeping Artemis. “Guess it’s as good a place as any to end.”