This time when I push the 69 button it remains lit, and the elevator opens on my floor. I hiss with relief when I spy my door across the short hallway. The nerves I had momentarily forgotten, suddenly return in full force. My palms are sweaty, rubbing them repeatedly on my jeans has little effect, so I give up and enter my home.
There’s an eerie stillness lingering in the air, and I’m not sure why. I roll the item in my pocket, giving my fingers something to do and helping me to focus. Before going any further, I knock on my daughter’s door.
Hedone answers, her headphones around her neck. Unsurprisingly, Din, Las, and Duck all bump against her legs, desperate for her attention. It took less than a week for the animals’ loyalties to shift to our daughter, and it makes me breathe a little easier to know that she has such fierce guardians around her.
“Thavsma, I wanted to ask you something,” I murmur.
My daughter opens the door wider, and I’m unsurprised to see Sesame Street on the television. From the moment she had arrived, Hedone has been on a quest to learn to read and write. It was Thea that turned her onto Sesame Street, and I can see her notebook lying open on the bed, filled with her attempts at the alphabet.
“Pater? You wanted to ask me something?” she reminds me gently.
“I…I want your blessing,” I murmur, trying to focus, “I want to ask your mother to marry me.”
Hedone’s light brows come down in confusion. “Wait, you are married.”
I laugh lightly, hugging her tightly for a moment. “It’s not common knowledge, but I’ve never actually properly asked your mother to marry me before. Never gotten down on one knee for her, and she deserves that from me. She deserves that and so much more.”
Hedone’s smile flashes brightly up at me, her kaleidoscopic eyes – identical to her mothers – shine. “So you want my blessing to do right by her?”
I laugh again, my daughter is clearly enjoying having me by the balls. “Yes, I want to officially ask her to marry me.”
She steps back, smiling softly up at me. “Well, are your intentions noble towards her?”
I laugh, clearly, her television education has expanded into popular culture as well, “My intentions? They are distinctly ignoble, and I intend to ravish her at least four times a day for the rest of our lives.”
Hedone’s brow furrows, “Ravish? What does that mean?”
“I’ll tell you when you’re at least thirty thousand years old. Maybe.”
“Paterrrrr!” she whines, but I turn back towards the door.
“Sorry, my darling daughter, I have a goddess to propose to, don’t have time to explain the Immortal birds and the bees. You know what? Ask your uncle Dinlas to explain it to you, and do your dad a favor? Film his reaction.”
I sail out the door, my daughter laughing as it closes behind me.
My eyes drift to my bedroom where I know my wife is still sleeping. I’d worn her out on purpose to make her sleep longer, so I could get my errands accomplished.
I push open our door and as I suspected Clio is still asleep in bed, though she must have gotten up sometime in the night to put on one of my shirts, because when I left her earlier, she had been thoroughly ravished.
“Aren?” I softly call and she slowly stirs from my voice, looking over her shoulder at me.
“Lykos? What time is it?” she whispers, looking around for the clock.
“It’s almost noon,” I answer, coming to her side of the bed and sitting on the edge, looking down at her.
I laugh lightly, stopping her from jumping out of bed. “You don’t have anywhere to be, Aren, the museum is closed because of the virus remember?”
She sighs heavily, “You’re right. I forgot.”
She sits up, allowing me to fluff her pillows behind her, so she can lean back against them. Her nose scrunches immediately and she giggles nervously at me, making me wipe my hands on my jeans again.
“Are you okay, Lykos?”
Fuck, am I that transparent?
“Me? I’m fine, how are you?”
Rhea preserve me, who am I, fucking Han Solo?
She laughs lightly again. “I am doing much better now that you’re here.”
Reaching forward, I swipe my thumb across her lower lip in thought, murmuring, “I’m not whole without you, Aren…ever.”
She reaches out, placing a hand on my cheek, my hand drops from her face as she leans in to kiss me deeply. She pulls back to whisper against my lips, “All those years we were apart…I felt a hole in my soul. Now I know why. I am so happy to be with you again, to be whole again.”
My throat is flexing and I have to clear it a couple of times to croak out, “Aren.”
She mimics my serious voice when she responds, “Lykos.”
I wipe my hands on my pants again. “Aren – Fuck I said that already.” I run my hand through my hair. “Okay, hold on.” Taking a deep breath, my eyes locking on hers, “Clio. Psyche. Princissíka. Aren. My muse. My love. My life. My soul.”
She giggles again, “Yes?”
“I wanted to do this right. Once.” Fumbling with the ring box in my pocket, I pull it out dropping to one knee next to the bed. “In every life, in every form, it’s always been you. You for me. Me for you. Never have I loved another, never will I love another. I married you twice before, once as a mortal and once as a goddess. Yet, neither time, did I actually ask you formally to marry me. I figured the third time would be the chance to fix that.” I thumb open the box, revealing the ring that took me eighteen stores to find, a massive oval diamond surrounded with a halo of kaleidoscope gems, forming the same rainbow that sparkles in her eyes, “Will you marry me?”
She gasps, her hands covering her mouth, her eyes well up with tears, and it’s an agonizing couple of minutes before she nods her head.
My eyes glow with excitement, freezing, needing to know that I heard her correctly, “Yes? You will?”
She nods quickly once more, “Yes, I will. Eros, Lykos, Husband…my love.”
She lunges at me, throwing her arms around my neck, and I can barely catch the ring in time to keep it from falling.
With the ring in one hand, I wrap my arms tightly around her, standing, “Oh, the ring, I wanted to show you…”
She stands on the bed, pulling back as little as possible from me as she can, and without words I know she’s as loathe to let go of me as I am of her.
I hold the ring out, pulling it out of its box and throwing the box to the side, waiting for her to slip it on.
She slips her hand through it, tears flowing down her cheeks, “It’s beautiful, Lykos.”
There’s the sound of a tiger whining at the door, and I kiss Clio hard, before calling over my shoulder, “You can come in now, Thavsma!”
Clio smiles at me, her lips twitching, wiping her tears from her face, “What did you do?”
Hedone throws the door open, a blur of blonde hair, leaping onto the bed, Din, Las and Duck all right behind her, and when the two massive cats make their way onto the bed, I immediately protest, “Off the bed!”
All of them – including my wife and child – ignore me.
“Let me see the ring!” Hedone squeals at her mother, bouncing on the bed with her.
Clio laughs as Duck paws at her leg, begging to be picked up, and she holds her hand out to Hedone and my daughter coos, “Soooo shiny.”
“Your pater picked a good one.”
“He came and asked for my blessing to ask you.”
Clio’s gaze snaps to mine, “You did?”
Smiling at them both softly, “Of course, I couldn’t propose without your daughter’s blessing.”
“I made him tell me about his intentions,” Hedone giggles.
Clio laughs, “And what did he say?”
“I said they were distinctly ignoble, and that I intended to ravish you at least four times a day for the rest of our lives.”
Clio blushes deeply, “LYKOS!”
I only laugh, because there, with my daughter and wife/fiancé, there’s little I can think of needing, except maybe, the ability to sleep.