I’ve done something wrong again. It’s clear from the way Clio is glaring at me from where she sits naked at the edge of the bed.
Now it’s just the deadly, dangerous game of trying to figure out what my beautiful, perfect, and easily agitated wife is upset about now. Stepping out of the closet wearing my sweatpants and t-shirt, I raise my hands in immediate surrender. “What did I do now?”
She shoots a lethal glare at me and mumbles something under her breath.
I cut off a groan, walking over to her side, dropping to my knees at her side. “Aren? Use your words.”
Wrong thing to say.
Her jaw drops and her eyes turn a bright red, and I wince, preparing myself for the coming explosion.
“I am using my words,” she hisses at me.
Dropping my head to her bare thigh, my eyes squeeze shut. “Are you going to get dressed?”
She stays silent, and I feel her hand on the back collar of my t-shirt, rubbing the material in her hand. My head comes up, my eyes opening. “What?”
She holds her hand out, snapping her fingers at me. “Shirt.”
The first time I wear a shirt in months, and she wants me to take it off?
I sputter, “There are tons of other shirts?”
She shrugs at me, crossing her arms over her chest. “I want the one you’re wearing.”
She doesn’t answer and glares at me. Wincing in response, I pull off the t-shirt, handing it to her.
My wife suddenly returns before my eyes. Slipping on her shirt, eyes bright, she smiles, and kisses my cheek. “Thank you!”
Stumbling to my feet, trying to figure out what the fuck just happened, I stutter, “Y-you could have just asked.”
She dances towards the bathroom, calling out to me, “You should just know.”
“W-what?! I CAN’T READ MINDS!”
Her voice echoes from the bathroom, “Well, I’m your wife. You should just know.”
There’s the sound of strangling, followed by vomiting. I’m at the doorway of the bathroom in a blink, unsurprised to find my wife on her knees before the toilet, throwing up. Coming to her side, I drop beside her. I rub her back, and I cannot resist adding, “I’m not going to say this is karma…”
She whips off the shirt she stole, throwing it in my face. “You better not.”
Putting the shirt back on, I pull her hair away from her face, slowly braiding it down her back.
“I’m sorry, Aren.”
She vomits again, then glares at me. “This is your fault…your shirt stinks.”
I snort under my breath. Reaching over to the drawer, I pull out one of the hair ties, and wrap it on the end of the braid. “I thought you were going to say it was my fault because I knocked you up.”
She mumbles at me, “That, too.”
Standing, I find some of her clean clothes in the laundry, waiting to be put away. I hold them out to her. “How do these smell?”
Her eyes slowly settle, sniffing the clothes gingerly. “Better.”
Smiling softly, I slowly dress her in her own clothes. “Don’t want you to catch a chill.”
She sighs, leaning against me, her energy sapped.
She nods, moving closer to me. “Yes.”
A knock on the front door makes my ears twitch. “Someone’s here.”
She nuzzles my chest. “Can you get it?”
I kiss her forehead softly. “Of course, Aren.”
Slowly, standing, I kiss her head, still hunched, heading for the door, throwing it open, a little too ready for a reprieve from my…mercurial wife.
Until I see who’s standing there.
My eyes immediately narrow. “Is the Apocalypse come again? I can’t imagine what would bring the darling goddess of witchcraft to my door.”
Hekate gives me a surprisingly tame look. “Not exactly. Is Clio here?”
My hand tightens almost involuntarily on the door, watching her carefully. Something is wrong, deeply wrong. She’s being…polite.
“She might be.”
“Eros, do you think we can go for just one hour without…” Hekate sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose. She looks back up at me, eyes devoid of their usual fire. “I need to talk to you. You, specifically. I was just hoping Clio was here.”
So, what the fuck? This is almost uncomfortable. And that’s coming from someone who has been in more than one uncomfortable situation in my very long life.
“She is.” Slowly, I widen the door allowing her entrance. “Is something wrong, Katie? You seem…off.”
Nice. You seem nice. I’m not a fan.
Hekate walks in, taking a seat on the sofa and crossing her ankles. “Wrong is an understatement. I’m trying to set it right, though. If I can.”
Tilting my head at her, I perch on the very edge of the couch, trying to figure out what’s going on. “Why do I feel like I’m about to have an enema? The unfun kind.”
Hekate mumbles, “Might be more truth to that than you know.” She cranes her neck over her shoulder, looking for Clio.
The distant sound of the bathroom door and flushing can be heard as Clio cleans up. She approaches us, more pale than before. I hold my hand out for her, and she slips her hand in mine, allowing me to pull her into my side. She leans into my shoulder, waving a slow hello to Hekate. This pregnancy is taking so much out of her. Mentally, I’m counting down the days to when it will be over. I hate the effect it is having on my wife. I just want her safe and healthy.
Fuck, I should have never knocked her up, I’m so selfish. I didn’t think.
“Hi, Hekate,” Clio murmurs softly.
I clear my throat slightly, whispering to her, “Hekate wants to tell us something, something that apparently made her cross my threshold.” My eyes glow a little, my focus turning back to Hekate. “You’ve never been to my floor. So it must be the end of the world…again.”
Clio ignores my comment, looking at Hekate with concern. “Are you okay?”
Hekate grimaces before nodding a little at Clio, and looks down at her hands folded in her lap. Her smile is private and not altogether…happy. “There are a lot of things I’ve done for the first time in the last few weeks. You’re actually late to the party.”
Snickering wickedly, I add, “You know lube will help with that.”
Clio elbows me hard in my ribs, and I cover a wince. I doubt Clio knows how much force she just used. I think she cracked one of my ribs. This pregnancy is having…unexpected side effects.
Hekate’s eyes flash up. Oh, there we go, that’s more like it. “I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that. This is actually serious, Eros. If you think you can manage that.”
I lean back on the couch, my wife cuddled into my side, though my free hand twitches for an arrow to twirl. My eyes dart to my bow and arrows hanging on the hook by the door. I’d promised Clio to stop wearing them around the floor. She thought they might be dangerous around the baby.
Still not sure why we have to baby-proof the apartment when the baby is not even here yet, but again, I’m not going to provoke the beast currently inhabiting my wife.
“Lykos,” Clio reprimands, and her eyes spark with anger, the rainbow of colors swirling again, edging towards red. She sits up next to me, though she’s still pale from throwing up, and I immediately feel like shit. Think about Clio.
“Serious, right. I’ll try.”
Mostly because I hate the effects that this pregnancy is having on Clio, and I don’t want to make it worse, by being…well, me.
Hekate looks at Clio, her face softening ever so slightly. My wife asks, “Are you going to tell him?”
Tell him? Tell me what? Katie nods solemnly, making a pulling motion with her hand, one of my golden arrows appearing in her hand.
My back snaps straight, my eyes darting to my quiver. “Where did you get that?”
I don’t leave those around. Ever. Well, that’s not exactly true. I did once. But not anymore. It’s like leaving a nuke around, or currently, my pregnant wife.
If you tell her I compared her to a nuke, I will end you.
Katie twirls my arrow in her palm, laying it on the table between us. “I’ve had it for some time. I decided it was time to return it.”
Return it? Like it belonged to her?
Snatching the arrow up in my hand, the familiar hum of power radiating from it travels up my arm. Carefully, I turn the shaft in my hand, waiting for the name of the target to appear on its side.
She’s only been in my sights, once. A long, long time ago.
My grip tightens on it, my eyes slitting on Hekate, and I hold the lethal end out at Katie. “What did you do?”
Hekate’s jaw tightens, her words forced out through clenched teeth, “Me? What did I do?!”
Clio squeezes my hand, relaxing some of my annoyance. “Lykos, let her finish.”
Katie visibly restrains her own anger, the color returning to her knuckles as she unclenches her fists, her steely gaze turning to Clio. “Clio…can you…help me, please? Just show him. I’ll explain after. It’ll be better if he sees.”
My eyes focus on my still pale wife, my entire body softening. “Aren? You know what this is about?”
Clio looks up at me, an apologetic smile appearing on her face. “I do.”
My lips twitch into a responding smile. “My little trickster.”
Kissing her forehead, pulling her tighter into my side, wordlessly lending her strength. She is still so pale.
Clio lifts her hand to my temples, and I catch her palm before she can touch me. “Aren, you’re exhausted. Can’t this wait?”
Clio chews her bottom lip anxiously. “No, I’m fine. We can do this.”
Releasing her hand from my grip, I let her touch my temple, looking into her eyes.
A quilt of memories play inside my head, provided by my wife, and it takes me a moment to understand what brought Katie here. To me.
The more it plays, the more I understand, the more things finally make sense.
The memory flickers then dies, and Clio wipes a tiny bit of gold from her nose, and I frown at the movement, pulling her even closer to me. I’m not sure what she showed me is worth the cost she pays.
“You know, I’ve wondered,” I murmur, kissing Clio’s head absently, but talking to Katie. “I’ve seen you with others, and I never understood the way your back immediately goes up when I speak. But, I suppose, you saw me as the villain.”
“Lykos,” Clio murmurs, even as her head is tucked in my neck, her breathing slowly returning to a slow even pace.
“I think calling you a villain is, perhaps, a bit far,” Hekate says softly. “But angry? Yes. Blaming you for everything? Yes. I’ve kept that arrow all this time as a reminder. Something to prick myself with every time I started to soften. To remind me why I am the way I am, why it’s better this way. Why I had to be this way at all.”
No, there’s a reason I’ve stayed out of this till now, Katie. A reason you’ve kept this from me, because you know I have one calling. And I can be the villain.
So long as you find love.
“The past is irrelevant. The question is, what are you going to do now?”
Her eyes narrow, flames burning brightly. “Nice, Eros. I come here to try to make things right, to apologize for hating you all this time, to tell you congratulations, you’ve won, I love him. And suddenly it’s all irrelevant? Fuck you.”
Clio audibly winces at the curse, even as Katie stands up, shooting her an apologetic look.
“I accept your apology. I never hated you, hate’s not really my jam. But I am curious.”
Let me take this moment to remind everyone listening, that there is nothing worse than the words: But I am curious, when they come from me. It’s a death knell, a battle gong, an explosion in the distance.
It’s a challenge to all who hear it.
Clio’s grip on my hand tightens slightly, and she knows me, my perfect, glowing pregnant wife. So she knows what’s about to happen.
“How long are you going to hide behind it?”
“I’m not hiding behind anything. I chose to keep what happened a secret because I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I’m making it right with you because, well, you obviously don’t give a fuck.” She takes a deep breath and pushes a tendril of hair behind her ear with a shaking hand. “Things can’t go farther with Hades. They stand where they stand. The choice is the same. Hurt another for my own gain. I can’t and won’t do it.”
She takes another deep breath and looks at the floor.
“Just… be satisfied, Eros, that I fell in love, okay? Without the arrow. Without any of it. I know what it feels like. It will have to be enough.”
My eyes ignite with annoyance, carefully moving away from Clio, standing. “Coward.”
“Lykos!” Clio snaps, but I can’t hear her right now, the cost is too high.
Hekate steps closer to me, still has to look up, even in those heels. She’s considering what to say. She’s taking so long, it’s got to be good.
And…she lets her fist do the talking.
My face whips to the side with the hit, my eyes watering from the force, my lip splitting, the taste of ichor flooding my mouth.
Clio jumps to her feet, putting herself between us, but I’m not done, far from it.
“You want to make things even, Katie? Tell him. Love him. Stop using the past as an excuse. You would be surprised how forgiving and giving people can be.”
“Eros!” Clio snaps, and at the moment, I hate that she knows me so well. She knows that’s one of the few things that will make me get control. No matter the height of my anger. If Clio ever says my name, not Lykos, not husband, not Sir, I know that I’m crossing a line.
I squeeze my eyes shut for a moment, before snapping them back open. “We will be even when you tell him.”
Hekate sighs in exasperation and grabs her coat, heading for the door.
“I don’t know what I was thinking, coming here. You don’t get it, Eros. Even after everything you’ve been through with Clio, with Psyche, all those years when what you thought was real wasn’t real. To tell the truth, means unmaking something real for two people I love. And I. Will. Not. Do it.” She lays her hand on the door and jerks it open. “If that means I owe you instead of you owing me for the next forty thousand years, then I guess it’s fair.”
The door slams shut between us, and I shout at it, even though I know she can’t hear me, “There is no love without truth!”
You want to be stubborn, Katie? Fine, be stubborn. Any other god would back away. But I’m not every other god.
I’m the God of Love.
Time to earn my trickster card.
Or rather, time to respond to the lethal glare my wife is shooting me with. “Really, Eros? You think that is going to get her to tell the truth?”
Tilting my head, I stare down at my wife, cupping her face in my hand, trailing my thumb along her cheek. “Can I ask you something?”
She sighs, though she presses her cheek into my hand. “Yes?”
“What would you risk for me?”
I would risk anything for you.
She frowns in thought. “I would go through hell and back…why?”
My lips twitch, and I kiss her gently, wincing slightly from my broken lip. “We’re about to send Katie through the wringer in the name of love. Do you think it’s worth it?”
She chews her bottom lip. “I do.”
I kiss her again. “Get her to the gardens on Olympus. I’ll take care of the rest.”
She stands on her tiptoes, kissing me harder. “Okay, Lykos. Be careful.”
“I love you, Aren.” I call out to her, even as I pull out my phone, shooting out a flurry of texts.
“I love you, too, Lykos,” she answers, heading out the door, closing it quietly behind her.
Tick-tock, little witch queen, tick-tock.