My eyes open slowly, a rush of anxiety blows through me when I find I’m alone in bed. My hand slides over the sheets, and a harsh little exhale comes out to find it’s still warm.
So it wasn’t a dream. Sitting up at the sound of Clio in the bathroom, my brows furrow. Stepping out of bed, I slip into a pair of sweatpants left on the floor.
Strolling to the bathroom door, I find Clio hunched over the toilet, one hand is gripping her hair, the other tight on the porcelain. Dropping to my knees beside her, I take her hair, keeping it out of her face. She shoots me a grateful look before hurling again.
“Aren?” I murmur to her, rubbing her back soothingly.
She waves her hand at me. “I’m okay.”
She promptly vomits again.
Reaching for the closest drawer, I pull out a hair tie. Brushing her hair from her face, I braid it down her back. Don’t judge me, yes I know how to braid. I do have a sister if you’ll remember.
I smirk to myself, imagining Adrestia’s face if I ever tried to braid her hair now. She’d punch me in the face and shave my head after she knocked me out.
“Did you eat something bad?” I murmur to her, tying off the braid at the bottom.
“N-no,” she stutters, and I kneel to fill a glass of water from the sink, holding it out for her.
She takes the glass with a slightly shaking hand, scooting to lean back against the wall. Her forehead wrinkles adorably in thought, before she looks at me. “Maybe we should go to a pharmacy?”
“A pharmacy?” My mind goes blank at what she could possibly need at a pharmacy. Gods don’t get sick. “I can have Thea go. What do you want her to pick you up?”
I just got you back, I add silently in thought, and I try to cover that. For some strange reason, my palms are sweaty again.
She shakes her head, nibbling on her lower lip like she always does when she’s nervous. Using the wall to steady herself, she stands. I rise too, though cautiously, my gaze locking on her every slight movement.
“I want to go,” she whispers, walking out of the bathroom and leaving me alone.
I follow after her, finding her in the closet, pulling on some yoga pants, and one of my t-shirts over her sports bra.
“I’ll go with you.” I search for an extra t-shirt to pull on. I swear Clio wears more of my clothes than I do.
She sits down on the ottoman in the middle of the closet, pulling on some shoes. “It’s okay. I won’t be long.”
A little secret I’ve been keeping from my wife? I can hear you groaning. This one isn’t that bad. I’ve had a little trouble—a lot of trouble—letting my wife out of my sight, even for a moment.
Finally, I find a shirt, yank it over my head, and then look around for my shoes. She always knows where I put them.
“What do you need?” I ask, shifting from foot to foot, searching the closet for my shoes.
She shakes her head at me, walking back into the bedroom. “I just need to get something.”
It takes me another minute to find my shoes, hidden under a pile which apparently Duck has made into a nest. There are teeth marks on the sides of my shoes where he has nibbled, and if I weren’t trying to figure out why my wife was acting so weird, I’d be pissed.
What is wrong with her?
Coming out of the closet, I try to cover my anxiety. “I’ll go with you.”
Clio pauses, glancing at me worriedly. “A-are you sure?”
The fuck is going on?
“Do you not want me to come?”
She looks at the door then back to me. “I do…”
“Okay, well, then let’s go.”
We’re silent for the entire journey, and I constantly clock Clio out of the corner of my eye, trying to glean her need to rush down to the pharmacy.
“Are you going to tell me what all this rush is about?” I ask her, my anxiety rising.
She turns towards me, looking everywhere but my eyes. My panic escalates the more evasive she acts. “It’s nothing…could y-you wait outside?”
My hand reaches out, gripping her arm hard before I realize what I’m doing. I loosen my grip. “Aren…you’re scaring me. Is everything okay?”
She gives me a small smile, going on her tiptoes to kiss my forehead. “It’s okay, Lykos. Trust me?”
“Always…this, this is very difficult,” impossible, “for me.”
It entails letting you out of my sight for a period of time. Unfortunately, I don’t have cameras inside this pharmacy, so the second she’s out of my eye line, she could disappear.
Get your shit together, Eros, you can do this.
“I promise to be super quick!”
I close my eyes, bracing myself. “You have exactly ten minutes. A second longer and I’m coming inside.”
She doesn’t even let me finish my sentence, bolting away, leaving me at the front of the pharmacy to mentally spiral out of control.
What could she need?
Is she meeting someone?
Did she already go missing?
Is she sick?
Is something wrong?
What if she never really forgave me for what I did during the nightmare?
What if she can’t forget what she saw in there?
She makes it back to me in less than ten minutes, but I’ve spiraled hard in her absence. I snatch the bag out of her hand, looking inside it. “You know we do have lube…”
The sight of the contents inside makes me freeze, my smart remark and my panic drying up.
She grabs the bag back from me, practically sprinting back to the GC HQ, leaving me behind, rooted to the exact spot. My mind goes completely blank for the first time in…well, ever.
I’m not sure how long I remain there, standing like a simpleton in front of the pharmacy, but I think it’s longer than is considered socially acceptable. Numerous people shoot me strange looks on their way into the pharmacy, and an employee comes out, their voice softly breaking through my shield of shock, “Sir? Sir, is everything okay?”
My eyes snap to their concerned ones, and I nod, my face still pale. “It will be. It will be.”
My walk back to the GC is slow, and stepping into the elevator, my finger hovers over the 69th button. Something stops me from pushing it. Instead, I lower my finger to the two and press the button.
Stepping off on the second floor of the GC, I knock and wait for the owner to answer.
My mother swings open the door, her golden hair ruffling lightly at the air, her bright blue eyes shining.
“Eros!” she announces delightfully, reaching up to grab my face, kissing my cheek.
“Miteras,” I murmur, a little more of the shock ebbing away.
“You don’t come by nearly enough to see me,” she says, pulling me inside, closing the door behind me.
There’s the flash of guilt.
“I’ve been a bit busy, with Aren and Thávma .”
My mother cannot cover her sneer of disgust at the mention of my wife, and I remember exactly why I don’t come by to see her more often.
“So, she’s stolen you from me again?” Her eyes well with tears, and I bite the inside of my cheek to keep from openly scoffing at her dramatics.
“Miteras…” I begin, preparing to console her, but I pause, breaking off. Looking at her now, tilting my head, her ploy for attention slides off me. “I came here to tell you something…” Instead of completing my sentence, I move past her, going to the box of precious treasures that she keeps in the living room.
“Eros! What are you doing?” she demands, trying to stop me from taking one of the small items from the box.
“I’m doing something different for my family,” I murmur, coming to my mother’s side, kissing her forehead. “I will always love you, Miteras, but I won’t make your choices, your mistakes. Things will be different for me, for Clio.”
My mother gapes at me, frozen by my words, and I stride past her, the tiny treasure tucked under my arm.
A little exhale of contentment slips past my lips, as I leave my mother behind. Stepping back onto the elevator, I press the button for the 69th floor.
Now for my wife.