Two weeks later, Eos and I were married.
It was a lovely ceremony. Zeus let us use his receiving hall and Hera officiated. She and Zeus had debated who was going to actually marry us…but at the end of the day, Hera is the goddess of marriage, while Zeus seems to consider marriage vows something of a punchline. Eos and I ended the debate by stepping in and politely asking Hera for her blessing, as it was her domain. Zeus considered that, then nodded approvingly and murmured something about wanting out relationship to stand the test of time.
Eos and I wore our uniforms, feeling they were more appropriate than anything else we could’ve worn. Work had brought us together, after all.
Hedda, Eos’s mother, gave her away, which finally gave me an opportunity to meet her. She was one of Odin’s Valkyries, and built like the classical image of one…slightly over six feet tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed, and made of solid muscle. It also meant that her idea of formal-wear was well-used (but well cared-for) Viking battle armor, complete with helmet, shield, spear and sword.
I found her a little intimidating, right up until she hugged me so tightly that my ribs creaked and welcomed me to the family. I saw her later exchanging a firm warrior’s clasp with my mother, and got the impression that they knew one another pretty well.
Special arrangements were made so that my father could attend and give me away. He spent a lot of time shaking hands and looking stunned. It’s not every day a mortal gets to rub elbows with real gods, after all. Especially ones who spent an embarrassing amount of time singing my praises to him.
Aside from that, I won’t say much about the ceremony, except to note that Eos and I had put it together ourselves, and that it incorporated modern non-denominational, Greek, Norse, and Cherokee traditions. Zeus got a little tangled at one point, which was amusing to see, but it was worth it.
I don’t want to say any more about the ceremony because the reception, held at my father’s bar afterwards, was far more interesting.
Put the Greek gods in a mortal bar, with guests from among the dead (there by special dispensation from Hades and Yahweh, able to interact with the mortal world for a few brief hours), the Norse pantheon, and a few miscellaneous others, and entertaining chaos is almost inevitable.
At one point early in the evening, I watched Heracles and Hedda engage in a drinking contest which left him gasping for breath and her smirking over a table full of empty beer steins.
Odysseus, Penelope, and Circe – who I’d gotten sprung from her island prison for the evening – sitting at a table together in one corner of the bar, talking quietly. Circe actually looked guilty at one point during the conversation, which gave me hope for her future.
Jesus – who had quietly attended the wedding ceremony as a friend of mine – was on hand in case anybody got out of hand and repairs were needed. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that, but he got caught up in the party’s atmosphere of cheerful mischief too…one entire section of the bar found themselves drinking water instead of wine during dinner. I wondered how long he’d been sitting on that particular gag.
Hades’ family took up another corner of the bar, with people constantly coming and going from their table. Hades himself spent a lot of time smiling and looking very pleased with the world, which I was getting used to after seven years of watching him brood. Everyone wanted to talk to Persephone, which resulted in her finally getting so frustrated with not having a moment to eat her dinner that there was a brief noise and an explosion of flowers in every imaginable color and variety which overwhelmed that corner of the bar.
She cleaned most of it up and was apologetic for the mess, but she was given a bit of space after that, to her great relief. There was an unexpected side effect of her outburst though…even years later, horticulturists were baffled by how my father managed to keep a bed of tropical flowers not just alive outside his bar, but also flowering. In the middle of winter, in Oklahoma.
A little while after that, I spotted Melinoë deep in conversation with an unfamiliar man I suspected was Coyote, based on his Amerind appearance, buckskin clothes, and perpetually impish expression. I had no idea how he’d crashed the party – or why – and decided not to let it worry me unless something else exploded. Fortunately, nothing did.
Dionysus took over running the bar so my father could join the festivities. As a result, the bar’s already impressive selection of liquor seemed to become both vastly more varied and unsettlingly bottomless. That wasn’t as much of a surprise as Bacchus, Dionysus’ Avatar, staggering in halfway through the party after having been missing in action for the better part of eighteen years.
He made a few vague excuses, presented Eos and me with a professionally framed original Blues Brothers theatrical poster that had been autographed by the entire cast plus all of the musical guests who’d appeared in it, performed his famous ‘downing an entire bottle of whiskey without taking a breath’ trick, then staggered back out into the night on a wave of cheers and good-natured bewilderment.
We didn’t see or hear from him again for another ten years.
I wondered how many of the signatures on the poster were obtained posthumously and decided that it just didn’t matter.
Late in the evening, I saw Hedda talking to Hera, a combination I feared would be explosive, but which turned out to be quite amicable. Shortly thereafter, Hedda and Zeus disappeared for about a half-hour and returned looking a bit disheveled. I suspected Eos was going to have a new sibling before too long. Hera looked surprisingly unconcerned, and I wondered – briefly – what sort of game she was playing.
Around two in the morning – the bar had been carefully shielded from prying eyes by Mother to keep the police from showing up – Eos and I decided we’d had enough and sneaked out the back after quietly saying goodbye to our respective families. Which, in my case, included Hades, Persephone, and Mel. They all wished us well and helped us escape without being noticed.
We spent the next few days sprawled in the sun on our private little island in the South Pacific. Mel appeared every day to present us with a fresh hamper of food as planned, but we were otherwise delightfully alone and uninterrupted.
I was stretched on my side on a beach towel, propped up on one elbow, watching Eos apparently dozing in the sun when she said “We’re going to have to go back to work eventually, you know.”
I smiled. “I know. But, barring some kind of problem, we have a couple of days of peace and quiet left.”
She stretched and propped herself up on her elbows, looking out at the sea. “How long do you think we’ll keep doing this?”
“What?” I asked, not sure what she was getting at. “Coming to this little island?”
She looked at me and smiled. “No, being Avatars.”
“Oh.” I sat all the way up, curling my legs under me and looking out at the water too. I thought about it for a few minutes in silence, realizing for the first time – consciously, at least – that I really couldn’t envision myself doing anything else anymore. “I’m not sure, really. As long as we’re able, I’d imagine.”
Eos made a sound of agreement and leaned against me, resting her head on my shoulder. “Especially now that, with the new way things work for Avatars, we’re the next best thing to gods ourselves.”
I had given that quite a bit of thought since Hades shared his power with me. I was still wondering just how deep that went, and what it meant for me. “Mm.”
“You’re worried about how it’s going to change you.”
I blinked and looked at the top of her head. “How…?”
“I know you, love,” she said quietly. “You’re well aware of how power can be abused. So much so that you haven’t really flexed your new muscles yet, have you.”
I blinked again, then laughed softly. “No, I really haven’t. I suppose I’d better ask Hades and Persephone to help me figure out my new abilities and teach me a few things when we get back.”
She nodded against my shoulder. “Good idea. I’ll remind you.”
I kissed the top of her head. “Thank you, dear heart. Anyway, who knows what the future will bring. The important thing is that we have each other. Why, given enough time, we might even replace our patrons if they decide to retire.”
I tried to imagine Hades and Zeus retiring. Maybe sitting on a beach somewhere, or going on a cruise with their wives. Nothing clicked.
“Nah,” Eos and I said together, then we giggled.
“I was trying,” Eos said between giggles, “to imagine Hades and Zeus playing shuffleboard in a retirement village.”
My giggles turned into outright laughter. “Oh my lord…”
When we had calmed down, Eos sat up and smiled at me. “But you’re right. We’ll take life as it comes and meet the challenges together.”
I returned her smile. “Yes, we will.”
We kissed, and as always – and as I hoped it would always be – I seemed to feel that kiss all the way down to my toes. Eos’ kisses were to be savored whenever possible, and I had the time to do so now…so I lingered, and she lingered, and one thing led to another, as it will.
A little while later, we heard the soft pop that marked Mel’s daily arrival. Since we were no longer…busy…and since Mel had long-since demonstrated a total lack of body modesty, Eos and I had given up worrying about our own around her. We just sat up and watched as she hurried down the beach toward us in her uniform, shading herself with a black Victorian parasol.
Her bare feet left a dizzying trail of prints in the sand, as if she had danced toward us in a winding, skipping, chaotically merry route, even though she moved in a straight line. It was rather surreal watching them form, as if an invisible reveler was running riot just behind her. I took it as a sign that she was happy.
Curiously, she wasn’t carrying the usual hamper of food. I had a bad feeling about this.
When she was in earshot, she waved and called out, “Talia! I’m sorry, we have a problem!”
I sighed. So did Eos. But we’d both expected this days ago, so…
“What is it?” I asked, resigned.
Mel slid to a halt in front of us; her footprints in the sand continued to frolic and gambol for a few moments longer. “A minotaur has escaped! Daedalus is hoping you can track it down and bring it back before it gets too far this time.”
I blinked up at her, feeling a profound sense of Déjà vu. Then I smiled. “Full circle, eh?” I rose, my uniform forming out of thin air around my body. Cerberus dropped into my hand, and I slid it into its holster on the back of my belt. “Well, this shouldn’t take too long, at least.”
Still lounging lazily on the beach towel, Eos drawled, “I think you can handle a minotaur by yourself now, don’t you?”
I smiled down at her and held out my hand to her. “I certainly can. But that doesn’t mean I want to.”
She took my hand and let me pull her to her feet, smiling as her uniform materialized around her. “Good. I’d hate to miss out.”
Together, we could handle anything.