Dion leaned in and whispered to me as I stepped down from the dais. “I hope you stocked up the condom dispensers in the bathrooms.”
I choked a little. “What?”
“Well…it is a party.”
Giggling, I smacked Dion’s chest lightly. “Yes. I’m sure the bathrooms are stocked.”
I greeted Nike, glad that she was here and taking a break from all her work. Then I felt a familiar chill and looked up toward the door. Poseidon was here. He walked in, fixing his tie, looking as impressive as he had the last time I saw him. “I…Poseidon, you…made it,” I stuttered, feeling like a total fool.
He smiled down at me, and I could feel my legs go weak. “I did. Um…sorry I’m late.”
I gulped, smiled, and shuffled a little towards the bar. “It’s alright. Please, enjoy your evening.”
Dion was being his classy self and waved at Poseidon. “Oh hello, Poseidon…better late than never.”
Poseidon nodded at Dion. “Yes, well, these ties are more difficult than they look. I don’t know how my brother does it.”
They were very cordial to each other, and when Dion placed his hand on the small of my back, I almost swooned. I knew he was trying to comfort me, and I welcomed it at the moment. I also knew that he wouldn’t attempt to interfere unless I needed it.
I leaned into Dion’s hand and swayed slightly. “I need…I need a stronger drink. I’ll be right back.” I straightened and walked toward the bar, Poseidon following me. I half hoped he’d stay there and talk to Dion, or Eris who had just come over, but no.
I ordered a scotch on the rocks, and Poseidon took a stand beside me. “I love what you did to the place, Trix.”
I drained the scotch in a single gulp and felt it burn all the way down. I didn’t know how Selene did it. “Thank you. It took a lot of work, but I’m proud of it. I’m also pleased I didn’t destroy it.”
“Yes. I’m very proud of you,” he replied. Poseidon smiled softly at me.
I blushed deeply and tried not to look at him. “Thank you again.”
Poseidon cleared his throat and apologized. “I um… I’m sorry.”
I leaned my head slightly to the side. “For what?”
Poseidon fixed his tie anxiously, and I could tell that something was on his mind. “For not replying to your letter. For not coming back to you sooner.”
I stilled again and looked up at him. “Why didn’t you?”
He cleared his throat and began fixing his tie. It was something he did when he got nervous, something I hadn’t seen in so long. “I um…I had to deal with a few things. I didn’t realize it would take as long as it did.”
I turned around, not wanting him to see the hurt in my eyes. “I can understand that we all need to deal with things in our way. But why did you leave?”
He cleared his throat again, but stayed silent for a moment. “Fear. Fear of failure. I felt like I wasn’t the person you needed me to be.”
I looked back and tried not to cry, but I could feel the tears welling in my eyes. “Do you realize how that made me feel, though? And that you never came looking? Did you even realize I was gone from Atlantis?” I got a text from Than with a picture of him in a Santa outfit, delivering presents to children in a hospital. I smiled softly before sending a quick text back.
Poseidon let out a shaky breath before speaking, and I put my phone away. “Trix, I wasn’t even at Atlantis…I thought no one needed me.”
I stared up at him. “I know you weren’t, P, because I was. Waiting for a thousand years, and then I vanished without a trace.”
He closed his eyes. “Yes, and… I’m so sorry. You don’t have to forgive me. You don’t ever have to forgive me. I…I just wanted you to know that I regret not being there for you.”
My mouth fell open, and I stared up at him. “I…I am a long way from forgiving you, Poseidon. I get needing your space, needing to be away from me. But the city, the kingdom, was dying without its king. I couldn’t fill both shoes. And I shouldn’t have to anymore. I know you made Triton regent, and that’s great. Neither of us are around much. But I will be making an effort for the kingdom. Because Atlantis deserves rulers who love her.”
Poseidon nodded and fixed his tie again. “I understand. I am releasing you from your bond to Atlantis. It will be my responsibility from now on, if that is what you want.”
“No!” I felt myself shaking, but I shouted nonetheless.
Poseidon leaned his head to the side. “Then what do you want?”
“I told you, my oath stands, so long as you will still allow me to reign on the throne, I will be there for my home.” I rushed through it, forcing it out.
Poseidon pursed his lips, and I could tell he was thinking deeply about something unpleasant. “Understood. I heard you and Dionysos were getting closer, and I didn’t want to come between you. But if that’s not what you want…”
I sighed and ordered another scotch. I really needed the drink. “I miss you, Poseidon. I can’t, and won’t, deny that. But if you don’t want me down there, tell me now. My duties in the kingdom shouldn’t affect my relationship with Dionysos.”
Poseidon touched my shoulder, and I nearly jumped out of my skin. “Triton and I would love to have you.”
I felt a wave of mischief wash over me and knew it had come from Atë. I smiled softly and looked up at Poseidon. “Atlantis has been my home for eons. To not consider it such…would feel weird. Thank you.”
“You do realize that if you want to marry him, you will lose your duties to the throne. I was hoping it wouldn’t come to that,” he commented almost as an afterthought.
I looked down, sadly realizing just what he meant. “I know. We’re just starting our journey, Poseidon. Anything like that is…I haven’t even thought about it. You want me to abdicate before that happens?”
“No! I didn’t say that. It’s just how it is. If we could allow you to be Queen and marry someone else, I would, but we can’t do that.”
I snorted derisively. “Even when we were never technically married? If it ever comes to that, we’ll have that conversation then. But no, I’m not ready to give up the throne. I wasn’t 2,000 years ago, but I couldn’t physically return.”
“You know how traditional the merpeople are. I want you to be happy, Trix. That is all I’ve ever wanted,” he replied gently.
“I know. I am happy. I just wish I wish you could have been happy with me.” My voice was soft, and I don’t know if I wanted to hear his reply.
“I was happy with you, Trix. I just… wasn’t happy with myself.”
“And that’s why you left?” I heard Dion scoff and tried not to look at him. I knew if I did, my will would break, and I wouldn’t be able to stand on my own here.
“Yeah. It is. I didn’t know who I was,” Poseidon replied softly.
“And you do now?” I challenged.
“I think I’m close to figuring it out.” He nodded while speaking.
I looked back up at him, sighing slightly. “I wish you had let me help with that.”
When Poseidon kissed my cheek, I almost melted. My heart had been beating a thousand times a minute. “You’re helping now. That’s all I can ask for.”
“How?” I heard a ding come from the kitchen and called out before Poseidon could answer. “It’s almost dinnertime for those who plan on eating!”
“By being you while I learn to be me.”
I nodded a little, worried at the answer to the question I was about to ask. “Are you staying for dinner? And were you planning on checking out your room?”
Poseidon smiled down at me again, and for a moment, I had to resist the urge to lean up and kiss him. “I think I’ll stay for dinner. If that’s okay with you.”
“It is. Go find a seat,” I said quickly. Poseidon smiled again and made his way over to a table near the front. I took Dion’s hand and squeezed it tightly for support as we walked to the head table. Dion pulled my chair out for me, helped me sit down, and took the seat beside me.