Right before the gender reveal, I tap Attie on the shoulder. “Hey, can we borrow you for a second?”
Before coming with me, her dark brows furrow. She shoots a look at Erebus, who’s glaring daggers at Prometheus.
“Who do I need to kill?” she asks, crossing her arms.
Snickering, I shake my head. “No one. We wanted to show you something.”
Her movements are sharper than normal, aggressive without meaning to be. She’s holding it together, but barely. I wonder if she notices. Maybe this will snap her to it.
Clio stands on her tiptoes, kissing my cheek before pulling out the piece of paper and handing it to Atë.
Atë takes it with a confused look. “A birth certificate? They haven’t even been born…”
She trails off, and I know why. She’s reading what it says.
Hedone Atë Amor.
She blinks several times in astonishment, but her voice cracks ever so slightly. “Why?”
Clio smiles at her softly. “Because we love you, Atë.”
Tilting my head to the side, I smile at her, linking my hand with Clio’s. “I know you get…a lot of shit for, you know, the incident.”
Titan jailbreak. Been there, done that, bought the ebook.
“But you did bring us back together by doing so. Some good came from your choices, and we wanted to make sure our daughter was carrying the name of the strongest person we know.”
Atë continues blinking in shock at the certificate, then the sound of trumpets alert me it’s time for the gender reveal.
Smiling, I lightly touch Atë’s shoulder. I try to avoid touching her if possible. The way her eyes glaze over, I know that look. Fuck, I’ve worn that look before.
Don’t like to be touched.
Pointing to the birth certificate, I murmur. “Kids give us a chance to be better, to right wrongs in our own lives, so they never have to face it in theirs.”
The trumpet sounds again. I look back at Clio and say softly, “Ready, Aren?”
She smiles. “Ready.”
Pulling away from Atë, Clio and I take our markers at the lines for the gender reveal. Thea and her wife, Nicole, are holding two massive black balloons. Nicole’s states Raptor 1 and Thea’s Raptor 2.
Two white lines drawn in the grass indicate our stances. Pulling my golden bow and arrows, Clio goes to pick up the extra bow and arrow on the ground.
Artemis steps forward, and my mouth drops in shock when she offers her famous silver bow to my wife. Clio’s eyes mist as she hugs her awkwardly before moving back to her position.
Nocking my arrow, I wait for Clio to do the same. With a shorthand signal, Thea and Nicole release the balloons and sprint away.
When mine is high enough in the air, my arrow shoots through the sky, impaling it, and enchanted fireworks from Hephaestus spill out.
A baby girl. My eyes well a little with tears. Yeah, don’t fucking judge me. I love my fucking kids and my fucking wife. I’m that dad you see in viral videos doing TikTok challenges with their kids with zero shame.
Erebus laughs heartily from behind me. “You’re screwed, Dude!”
Clio’s silver arrow releases after a moment of hesitation and hits the second black balloon.
Fucking finally! A BOY! Someone to commiserate with me about the insane intricacies of women.
Don’t tell Clio I thought that.
To Clio, I murmur, “Damn it.”
She hands Artemis’s bow back to the huntress before coming to kiss me with a frown. “Damn it?”
Wrapping my arms around her, I snicker. “Yeah, I wanted a baby Din and me.”
Erebus chimes in again with a shudder, “The world does not need two more of you.”
Eris shouts, “You can still have that. Just cast Dinlas as the strong female character!”
A round of congratulations sounds from all the deities present, coming forward to shake my hand and hug Clio. When they finally subside enough, I take Clio’s hand in mine, kissing her knuckles.
“We did it!” Clio exclaims excitedly, no doubt happy to have hit the balloon on the first try.
“I love you,” I whisper to her.
Listen. I know I say that to her, a lot. And I’m sure there are people out there who think it has less meaning because I do.
Well, fuck those people.
The reason I say it to her so much…I went two thousand years without saying it to her. Then an extra thousand years with my mind wiped and her being trapped in a dagger. So, yeah, I’m going to say I love her at every fucking opportunity.
Because I never know when I might not be able to say it again.
She presses as close to me as her massive belly will allow, glowing with contentment. “I lov—”
Her grip on me turns almost punishing, and I flinch. I’m sure she’s ground my hand bones into dust.
Fucking pregnancy strength.
Or so I thought.
She hisses out in pain. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Atë grab Eris. Her form weaves into black mist almost on instinct.
What does she know that I don’t?
Clio’s eyes are full of pain. “Lykos, they’re coming.”
Who’s coming? Everybody’s already here.
Then the wave of energy erupts from her. Her bone-crushing hold on me prevents me from flying back. The other deities are not so lucky.
Like a bomb, waves of energy fly out from her, and I’m only spared by the absolutely devastating grip she maintains on me.
The fuck was that?
Immediately, my eyes go to Eileithyia, prepared to pepper her with questions about typical god pregnancies.
But my brow furrows when I notice she’s unconscious. Who am I supposed to ask now?
Clio whimpers in pain, and my mouth gapes repeatedly. What’s wrong with her?
She said they’re coming. Who’s coming?
Denial is not just a river in Egypt.
Falling to the ground with Clio, I look around for help, for someone to explain to me what the fuck is actually happening.
My eyes find the only two deities still standing after that blast.
“Help, please,” I beg.
Help me understand what the fuck is going on. Because there is no way what I dread is happening is actually happening. Not possible. She’s only seven months. It’s not time yet. This is a mistake.
Braxton Hicks! That must be it. She’s having Braxton Hicks contractions.
Don’t judge me. I’ve been reading baby books to get ready.
I scramble for answers in my mind, even as Attie and Eris take control, guiding Clio onto the ground. Attie sacrifices her fur jacket for Clio to lay on. Eris snaps their fingers to get the focus of my pregnant wife.
But there’s a roaring in my ears, one that’s muting everything else.
Has to be.
Though from what I remember, Braxton Hicks are just contractions, but from the dark stain on Clio’s gown, her water broke.
She spilled something on herself.
She must have.
There is no way she’s giving birth right now. It’s impossible.
We’re not ready.
I’m not ready.
We’re supposed to be in Eileithyia’s office, with her explaining to me every step of the process of giving birth to the first gods born in over three thousand years. I’m supposed to have a moment to prepare, to get my poker face going so Clio doesn’t know I’m actually freaking the fuck out.
I’m supposed to have thirty more days to figure this out. To figure out how to be a father for infant children. I lucked out with Hedone. She’s already grown up, so there’s no chance I might fuck her up beyond repair. But babies… I don’t know what I need to know. What do you do when they get sick? How do you take care of them? They can’t speak. How are you supposed to know what they want? I barely survived a pregnant Clio. It was a dangerous game of does she need to get laid, or will she grab a spoon and scoop my eyes out while I’m asleep?
But clearly, the raptors don’t take that into consideration.
They’ve decided it’s time to be born.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. They are my kids. They sensed a party they wanted to be a part of and an opportunity to cause mischief.
Two little tricksters have decided it’s time.
I snap to attention, just as Eris coaches Clio through the first twin. Someone says, “Aurora.”
I don’t even realize it’s me.
Clio insists it’s over, but she’s only halfway. Atë supports her from the back. Eris guides her through the birth. I just sit at her side.
Her grip on my hand is leaving me with nothing but shattered bones.
The second baby comes through with a cry, and again the voice says, “Alexander.”
By the time it’s all done, Eileithyia wakes up, rubbing at her head, and comes to our side.
“Why don’t we check them over at my office?” she murmurs to us soothingly.