My lip is still bleeding a bit as Dinlas and I follow Nyx out of the bathroom, leading us towards Hedone.
It takes everything in me not to run away from this knowledge. To pretend for a few more moments, that she hadn’t betrayed me again. Just seeing Hedone’s eyes watching me, made me think of the last time I saw her, standing over me with Thanatos’ scythe gripped in her hand, blood dripping from it, feathers everywhere.
As if sensing my mind wandering, Dinlas grabs my arm, snapping me back to the present. Without words, his message is clear: Focus, Eros, you have a daughter who needs you.
Moving in front of Nyx and Dinlas, I sit at Hedone’s side, immediately pulling her into my arms, clutching her to my chest. I…I have a daughter.
She’s stiff for a moment, resisting, but eventually relaxes enough to wrap her arms around me, her body shaking slightly with the release of adrenaline that had been holding her upright.
I stroke a shaking hand down her hair. “Shh, thávma, I got you.”
The endearment slips from me, like they always do, and I don’t miss the significance of my casual use of the term. Because that’s what she is, my miracle.
It takes a moment for her to compose herself, eventually pulling away from me, wiping away tears that had fallen from her eyes. “Sorry, I’m not usually so pathetic.” she murmurs, chuckling at herself.
Making light of an emotionally charged moment? Could she be more like my daughter?
“It’s okay,” I murmur, brushing away a tear she missed, “Neither am I.”
She chuckles waterily, taking a few shuddering breaths, before the determined glint returns to her mesmerizing eyes. “Alright, I had my emotional moment with my father, now it’s time to be gangster.”
The statement was so unexpected, a laugh slips from me, bringing a small smile to Hedone’s face. Nyx and Dinlas come closer to stand behind me in silent support, and the primordial’s commanding, yet soothing voice interrupts the bubble between Hedone and I. “Sweetheart, tell them what you told me.”
Hedone glances at Nyx, nodding her head, tucking a lock of her blonde hair behind her ear. “Let me start from the beginning. I didn’t grow up here.”
I shoot her a no duh look, to which she rolls her eyes in response, yeah, definitely my daughter. “When I say here, I mean this dimension, smart ass.”
“Hey! That’s no way to talk to your father,” I reprimand her teasingly.
“Get used to it, Pater.” The term Pater drops between us like a bomb, both of us paling at her casual use of the word.
“Kind of on a clock here,” Dinlas announces, shifting on his feet.
Hedone narrows her eyes in annoyance at my brother. “I’m very aware of that, theois.”
Dinlas’s mouth drops open at the term, and I keep a look of pride from showing on my face. I’d like to present my daughter, heir to the throne of sass. Any doubts my family is going to have about her relation to me are going to evaporate the second she opens her mouth.
“As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted,” lethal glare at Dinlas, “I grew up in another dimension. One that is outside of time. While the years sped by for you, they dragged for us.”
I swallowed a lump lodging in my throat. “Dragged? How long has it been for Ps – for you?”
She tilts her head at me when I deliberately dodge the name, her eyes narrowing. “It’s been eighteen years.”
“Eight…eighteen years? You were alone that whole time?”
Dinlas grunts behind me, easily seeing through my thinly-veiled question. I can’t help myself. I have to know. Even if the knowing will destroy me. If I’m ripping off all the scars holding myself together, I might as well do it completely.
By the way Hedone’s eyes shimmer at my question, she sees through me, too. Her look of hopefulness spears me through the chest, because she’s so transparent. She’s imagining her parents getting back together, imagining the little happy family we would make, and I hate that I’m imagining it, too. That path lies only in pain and devastation. Steer clear, Eros.
“It was always just us,” she answers, her face alight with hope. “There’s never been anyone else. Ever. Especially not for mitera.”
I swallow another lump forming in my throat, even as relief at the news seeps through me. Before I can ask another thinly-veiled question about her, Dinlas stops me, placing a hand on my shoulder.
“This is going to take forever this way. Hedone, why are you here? Why now?” My brother demands, cutting straight to the heart of the matter.
Her magnificent eyes flash as they glare at her uncle. “If you must know, my mother refused to let me go without her until I was old enough.”
I grab Hedone’s hand almost subconsciously, already imagining her fighting through all the horrors to make her way to me. Her injuries were a statement of all she survived on the journey. She doesn’t take her eyes off Dinlas as she rests her other hand on top of mine, like she moved it without thought as well. Without intending to, my heart links with hers. I barely cover my new connection with a blank look, but Hedone freezes, glancing down at where our hands are still clasped.
“Did you feel that?” she murmurs, her eyes wide as they drift back to mine.
“Y-you felt that?”
She nods solemnly, and moves one of her hands to press against my chest directly over my heart, which skips several beats at her touch, “I-is that you?”
My eyes are as wide as hers, as I cover her hand with mine, my fingers twinning with my daughter’s. “It’s me.” Unlinking my other hand with hers, I press my hand to her heart lightly. “I can feel you, too.”
“As touching as this moment is, you were explaining something?” Dinlas comments, and both Hedone and I shoot him identical glares, as our hands drop from each other. My brother truly knows how to ruin a moment.
“It took years of begging for my mom to even consider letting me go alone. She kept expecting you to show up and save us.”
I can tell she doesn’t mean for the words to strike at me, but they do anyway. They…they were calling for me, and I was too wrapped up in my own pain to see the signs. I glance back at Dinlas, hiding the devastation in my eyes from my daughter, yet allowing my brother and best friend to witness it, I murmur, “The dreams.”
Dinlas nods in silent agreement, and he and Nyx each place a hand on my shoulders, feeding me silent support, allowing me a moment to compose myself. Turning back to my daughter, any trace of the agony her words caused me, concealed behind a blank mask. “Why couldn’t she come with you?”
“Because the trap is for her, not for me.”
A shiver of foreboding shoots down my spine, and I again imagine my wife calling my name, hoping for me to rescue her. But I ignored her, missed all the signs, left her and my daughter alone. “Trap? Who trapped her?”
Who’s about to taste the bite of my fury?
“It was a Prime, he said he took her to force you to retrieve something for him.” Hedone murmurs, and her breathing shallows.
Tilting my head at her, I pale when I realize why. She’s feeling my rage, my thirst for vengeance through our bond. That’s…unfamiliar. I’m so used to feeling others’ emotions and concealing my own, that I’m a little lost knowing my daughter is feeling my bloodlust.
Control yourself. Think of Hedone.
A few moments pass, and her breathing evens out as I calm.
“Which Prime?” I murmur.
“It’s Chronos, lord of time,” Dinlas answers, forcing my eyes away from my daughter to my brother.
“How do you know that?” Hedone asks, her voice edging with suspicion.
My brother shifts almost imperceptibly under our gaze, clearing his throat, and I catch him squeezing Nyx’s hand. “It doesn’t matter how I know. What matters is that we get Psyche back as soon as possible.”
I flinch slightly at her name, it’s subconscious at this point, but I’m able to prevent any of the pain I’m feeling to pulse through my bond with Hedone. “Why?”
“Because the realm is crumbling,” Hedone answers, drawing my eyes again, though hers are still locked on Dinlas. “Something happened. Every time I went to scout, there was less of the realm than before. It’s why Mom finally let me go, because soon it might be too late.”
“The visions,” Dinlas says aloud. “That’s why we both had visions, Eros. If that dimension is crumbling, it’s becoming porous. That’s how Psyche reached out to us, me in my coma and you in your altered state.”
Hedone throws a glance at Dinlas and asks, “Mitera came to you in a vision?”
“She did. I may be brief on sentimental moments, but she knows I can get shit done. In this case for you.”
Hedone stares at him for several seconds, then turns back to me as I smile thinly and pat her hand.
“Let’s go then,” Hedone murmurs, “We need to save her.”
After Hedone drops this bomb, she tries to climb out of bed, but immediately collapses, and I catch her in my arms a moment before she hits the ground. “You’re too weak to go back, thávma. You have to stay here.”
“I can’t. You don’t know where to go,” she murmurs, still trying to stand, even as I tuck her carefully under the covers, pressing her back. The fight leaks out of her, accepting that she’s not going anywhere, at least momentarily. If she’s anything like me – which I’m sensing she is – she’s waiting for us to turn her back before she slips away.
“I’m serious. You’re not going anywhere. Nyxie?” I glance back over my shoulder at the primordial. “Will you take her to Yaya and stay with her until we get back?”
Nyx’s eyebrows shoot up at the question, no doubt surprised that I would seek out Hera for help. But there was no one who would fight more fiercely for a child, and Hedone would be going nowhere with her great-grandmother and the primordial present. You might be thinking: Hera and Nyx? That’s a bit of overkill, right? I mean, she’s just a girl. But you’re forgetting something, this is my daughter. If anyone could escape under the noses of both Yaya and Nyxie, it would be her. I’m simply hedging my bets.
“Anything you need, mellilla. But your daughter is right, how will you find her?” the primordial murmurs, her starry eyes shining.
Hedone struggles to sit up farther in bed. “See, I have to go. There’s no one else who knows the way.”
I gently push her back down on the bed. “Accept it, you’re not going. And don’t even think about following us after we leave.”
Her eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “How -”
“Where do you think you got that delightful little character trait from?”
She huffs at being outwitted, resting back on the bed with a very familiar expression. She’s plotting.
“I mean it, thávma. You can’t come in. I won’t be able to save your mother if you’re there distracting me.”
Her lips part slightly, and I can tell I’ve won – at least, this time. “Fine. There might be one other person who can help you guys get to mitera.”
A breath of relief escapes me at this news, and I grasp one of Hedone’s hands, “Who?”
Hedone crosses her arms over her chest. “Death.”
The way she said the word it was immediately clear that she thought she had offered a possibility ludicrous that we would have no choice but to allow her to come. My smile stretches slowly across my face, without glancing away from her, I murmur, “Nyxie?”
“Yes, mellilla?” Nyxie murmurs, her smile carrying through her voice.
“You want to call that brooding son of yours?” I ask, refusing to glance away from Hedone as I speak. Some parts of me – okay, maybe all parts of me – are having trouble accepting that this is all really happening, and I worry that if I look away for even a moment, it will have all been a dream.
It’s completely silent between us all as Nyxie types out a message to Skelly, likely summoning him here with only a couple words. One didn’t simply ignore a message from the primordial of night, even if she was your mother. Skelly appears in a plume of darkness, immaculately dressed in a three-piece white suit, and his signature cloak – blanket – with his scythe gripped in one hand.