Lykos: Is there something you need to tell me?
Standing with a towel wrapped around my waist and frowning down at my ankle, dripping ichor pools around my foot. Din and Las are at my sides, Duck is off with Hedone and Margaux, and the three of us are glaring at the clear water in my bathtub.
Gesturing to the tub, I say to the tigers, “Why don’t you get in? Hm?”
Both tigers chuff up at me and sniff the water, before backing away. “You guys are useless, you know that?”
Din turns his back on me, deliberately bumping my legs and throwing me forward. I barely catch myself on the opposite side of the tub, preventing me from falling into the deceptively clear water.
I glare after the two tigers as they saunter off. Shimmering and becoming kittens before they disappear from sight.
I straighten my back, careful to avoid slipping in the pool of ichor on the floor. My phone buzzes, and I tousle my hair back with my hand, checking for Clio’s response.
Aren: I’m wearing your shirt?
Lykos: That’s a given. You wear my clothes more than I do. Did you buy any new pets? Of say, the aquatic variety?
With Clio, I can never be sure. It would just be like my unpredictable wife to buy some fish and put them in the bathtub without telling me. She seems determined to turn our floor into a menagerie. Probably doesn’t help that my daughter, the traitor, is allowing the two massive spoiled felines even more leeway.
Aren: Not that I remember?
Which doesn’t help. Clio’s memory is spotty with pregnancy. Eileithyia assures me it’s normal, but I can’t help but be paranoid.
There hasn’t been a child born to the gods in almost three thousand years.
We are painting a target on our back, and after everything with the cult…I pinch the bridge of my nose, and force my emotions to calm. Clio’s bond to me is clouded due to the pregnancy, so she won’t be able to sense my emotions, or for me to sense hers.
How the fuck do mortals do this every day?
Can gods have strokes? Because I’m pretty sure I’m close. Swallowing the ball of nerves in my throat, I take a few gulping breaths before texting my wife back.
Lykos: So you didn’t buy some invisible piranhas and place them in the tub?
Distantly, I hear the ding of the elevator arriving, and my ears twitch. Archer hearing. Archers are required to be listening for even the slightest twig breaking in the woods or the sound of breathing out of tune with the rest of the jungle.
Aren: No? Why would I do that?
Fuck. If it wasn’t Clio, there is no shortage of deities who could put piranhas in my tub. Though invisible piranhas? That is a pretty short list.
Lykos: Who knows? They bit my ankle.
The sounds of the door opening and padding feet rushing towards me, alert me to my wife’s presence long before she reaches the bathroom door. “Show me your ankle.”
I roll my eyes at her even though ichor still drips from the wound.. She grabs my arm, turning me to face her, and points to the edge of the tub. “Sit.”
Scoffing loudly, I say, “I’m fine.”
This is nothing.
Her beautiful eyes narrow on me. “Now.”
No stress, remember?
Perching on the edge of the tub, I hold out my ankle for her, though I keep a wary eye on the water. “I’m more concerned about how we got a piranha infestation.”
Clio grabs our first aid kit from the cupboard and kneels in front of me. Gently placing my foot in her lap, she pulls out bandages.
“What piranhas?” she whispers, wrapping my ankle.
She’s clearly fooled by the deceptively clear water. I stick my hand into the bathtub, and the piranhas appear, heading for me in a frenzy. I yank away a moment before they attack. The water bubbles as they try to get my hand, jumping from the surface, attempting to reclaim their lost prize.
They remain visible for a moment, but as they calm, they disappear. The water appearing clear and safe.
Clio jumps to her feet. I cover a wince as my foot hits the ground and push to a stand next to her. She turns towards me, putting her hands on her hips, demanding, “What did you do?”
Gaping, I lift my ankle, pointing to it. “Me?! Why would I do this to myself?!”
She huffs. “Maybe someone did this to get back at you.”
Crossing my arms over my chest, I raise a brow. “You sound like you think I deserved this.”
She shoots me a black look, mimicking my pose. “Shall I list off what you did this month?”
Holding a hand up to my chest. “Everything I do, I do for a reason.”
“I know that.”
I can’t resist smirking at her, adding, “Sometimes the reason is to see what happens.”
She smacks my chest. “This is what you get.”
Feigning injury, I rub my chest. “Ow.”
She shakes her head at me and drops her arms, staring down at the water, almost mesmerized. “This is what happens when you marry a trickster.”
She leans down, reaching for the water. I yank her hand back, demanding, “Are you insane?!”
She pulls from my grip, scoffing, “No.”
Okay, there was no confidence in that answer. That’s a problem for another day.
“Really? Because it looked like you were just about to put your hand in piranha infested waters.”
“There are no piranhas in there.”
My eyes narrow on her and I cross my arms over my chest again, gesturing to the tub. “Be my guest.”
She sticks her tongue out at me, before thrusting her hand into the water. I bolt forward and grab her wrist, trying to pull it back out. She resists, whispering to me, “Wait, wait…watch.”
The piranhas materialize, but they don’t charge. Instead, a single one breaks from the pack, rubbing its head against her hand, spellbound by her.
I know the feeling.
Sighing heavily, I kiss the side of her head. “So you did do this.”
She laughs, her fingers dancing in the water, the piranha swimming between them. “I did not!”
Releasing her wrist, I put my hand in the water next to her. The piranhas lunge for me, and I yank back just in time.
“Okay, how do you explain that?!”
She continues laughing, another piranha coming up to press against the back of her hand. Its massive mouth and serrated teeth warning me from trying that again.
“I can’t explain it,” she murmurs, before wincing and placing a hand over her stomach. The piranhas slowly fade, the water clear again even with Clio’s hand still in it.
Cautiously, I put my hand back in the tub, and nothing happens. Looking at my wife with astonishment, I wrap my arm around her back and whisper, “What the actual fuck, Aren?”
She suddenly gags, and with the ease of practice, I have her in front of the toilet. Smoothly I pull her hair back as she groans, “I don’t…I don’t…know…”
Rubbing her back, I kiss the side of her head again. “It’s okay.”
She hurls into the toilet, huffing, “Lykos, what is going on?”
Kissing her head, I continue rubbing her back, waiting for her to lean into me. “I’m guessing the twins are getting some powers.”
She turns to look at me, wiping her lower lip. “Already?”
In utero. Fuck me. As if having twins isn’t stressful enough.
“And looks like they’re tricksters like their mother,” I say and then kiss her brow, covering her stomach with my hand.
She collapses against me, like she always does. My arms come around her, my back finding support on the bathroom counter next to us.
Like I said, we’re getting better at this.
“I’m not a trickster.”
Snickering softly, I rock her. “Uh-huh.”
Clio brushes her hair back from her forehead. “I feel so weak.”
Without jostling her, I grab a cloth from the counter and hand it to her. “It’s all the pickles.”
We stock up on them daily. She blows through at least an entire jar in a couple of hours.
She drops the cloth, looking up at me. “The babies want what the babies want.”
Smiling softly at her, I kiss her forehead again. I adjust her in my arms and rise, carrying her to our bed. “Disgusting.”
She twirls the hair on the back of my neck, “You tell them that. It doesn’t taste that bad.”
Scrunching my nose at her, I lay her in bed. “You rest, Aren. I’m going to take a shower.”
And hope that some strange animal doesn’t suddenly appear from the water.
She curls up in bed as I tuck her under the covers. She grabs my hand, holding it in hers, and smiles softly at me. My heart slams in my chest as I look at her, all that worry and anxiety slipping from my body.
She’s worth it.
“I love you, Eros.”
Kissing her head again, I pull the covers to the side to kiss her stomach twice, then tuck her back in. “I love you, too.”
She smiles brightly up at me, her eyes fluttering closed, and a sensation of contentment steals along my shoulders.
But contentment never lasts in my family…