"Where do you want to go tomorrow, my dear?" Hephaestus asked softly while his fingers play along her smooth skin while lying on their bed, the night after their confession. The two had some ice cream before they went inside her apartment. The fire god still felt surreal about everything that had happened. And for the first time, he hoped for their future. I-Is this how it feels to be loved? If so, then I do hope the Fates would grant this to last. T-Thank you... Thank you, Esperanza.
Said Latina girl hugged his frame closer to her and murmured "I don't know... As of right now, being beside you is the best place I can think of." He chuckled and kissed her forehead, in which she let out a sigh of content. He could feel the warmth radiating from her smiles and he can't help but feel putty for her. She was the first one who accepted and loved him for who he was, and he was more than honored to return them in kind. This woman, who had been ridiculed by her family, who still persevere in mastering a field that is predominated by men and belittles her, made him feel as if he was someone of importance in this world. All he remember before he met her was pain, suffering and loneliness. All he thought is that it was his purpose.
But, she had proven him wrong. Like a fire in a dark place, Esperanza gave light to his world, showing what it means to love and be loved.
"Aren't you a charmer?" He smiled as she nuzzled her head to the crook of his neck. He shivered at the intimacy they now share. He now understood why many mortals and immortals alike continued to search for it. With her hand now resting on his chest, she gazed at his eyes, which was full of happiness, and grinned "Of course! That's one of the things why you love me." Hephaestus bark out a laugh, which left the mortal woman giggling, before enveloping her in a hug.
"I know. There are so many things about you that I really like, perhaps I could make a novel-sized book just to count them out." the forger said, making his beau's cheeks flush with bright pink. Esperanza Valdez closed her eyes, taking the perfect position to lay down beside him, and whispered "If you could, tell me the things you like about me. I would love to hear them."
Hephaestus rubbed her bare shoulder and arm, making her fall asleep, as he started listing them, as if making it his lullaby "Well, first and foremost, I like how you grin or smile. You are a happy person, Anza, and whenever they curl upwards, I can't help but smile, too. It's too infectious. I also love how you look when you fix things. You would always scrunch up your nose in a cute way and would pout whenever something went amiss. I love it when you gush on sweets before you dig on them. You are happy with even the little things in life, and like I said earlier, when you smile, I smile."
She smiled blissfully as she felt sleep tugging her. Hephaestus smiled wistfully before he continued "I like how you are very determined to get the things you wanted the most. The way you pursue your dreams even though some people don't trust you. I like how you would continue to be happy despite everything around you was chaos. You remained strong to yourself, and I always admire you for that. You would give care to anyone who needed them, even to me." He gazed to her sleeping figure. She looked peaceful from her slumber, a far different look than what he saw earlier. He can't help but stare at her black hair flowing to her back, her angelic face, and her flawless skin. She didn't deserve what her family had done to her. For a time, he felt like she was like him, and the connection the two shared was deeper than anything he imagined. And with that, he kissed the top of her head and whispered:
"You are strong, brave, kind, caring, loving, and even beautiful woman, Esperanza Valdez. The number one thing I love about you is that you are that. You are the first one to show me love and compassion. You showed me that love doesn't have to be full of pain."
You may not be the goddess of love, but you taught me about it more than anyone could. I know I should be guilty because I still love someone besides you, but please know that you became important to my life in a short span of time. I love you and that is all that matters. Hephaestus felt his eyes go heavy with the tears threatening to spill. But, he wiped them before it could, and just sighed while listening to her soft breathing. The god of forges slowly closed his eyes, enjoying the warm sensation he felt from his close proximity with the one who caught his badly scarred heart, and let sleep take over him.
He had lost hope for multiple times in his immortal life. But somehow, this day, he was giving it one more chance.
The palace in Atlantis is a sight to be hold. Though it is smaller in comparison with Olympus, the famed lost city was still godly beautiful in its own right. And on its throne sit one of Zeus' brothers and the god of the seas, Poseidon. Like the sky god, he was renown to the mortal realm since the dawn of man. Many seafarers such as fishermen and sailors prayed to his blessing for a calm sea, although he was notoriously known for creating giant waves swallowing entire communities, thus earning his epithet "Earth-shaker".
"Dear, is something wrong?" A voice rang behind him. Poseidon turned around and saw his wife, Amphitrite,who was donning a necklace studded with the finest pearls the seven seas has to offer. He smiled before kissing her cheek and asked "Nothing, my dear. Why are you here? I do believe you have a small gathering you should be?" Tethys planned their small gathering of her Oceanids and Poseidon can't help but agree to them, not that his wife was pouting in a way he was being hypnotized, mind you.
"I know. Is it wrong that I visit my husband whenever he's alone, hmm?" She asked while playing with his hair. Poseidon just huffed, allowing the queen of the seas to giggle. Underneath that hard exterior, Amphitrite knew that her husband is a big marshmallow when it comes to people he loves. Though not as big as his sky brother, his pride would not let them see his 'weakness', as he puts it, in public. But when in private, like the sea, he is unpredictable such that he would surprise her with presents or plan a date right off the bat.
"Would you stop playing with my awesome hair like that in public?" Poseidon tried to stop her, which only urged her to continue playing with it. He tried to glare, but the light flush on his face made him a lot less menacing. The daughter of Oceanus laughed when he settled with a pout before yelping when she felt his strong arms enveloping her lithe frame. Poseidon stood up, swoop her, and gave a big kiss on her unsuspecting lips. When she recovered, she leaned to him and return the intimate moment with her own fervor. The two were entranced by the meeting of their lips when a loud cough emanated from behind them.
"Hey Dione! I think you shouldn't worry about Amphie anymore." The two stared at the grinning figure of Tethys leaning on the doorway. The sea couple blushed and glared at the 'intruder', but the titan mother of the Oceanids just laughed. Dione arrived at the scene not long after, and joined her when she, too, saw the predicament. "Thetys! Why must you always call me that?" Amphitrite said, slightly embarrassed that the elder woman still insisted on calling her like that.
"Come on, Amphie, it's a cute name! Although back to the original matter at hand, I never thought you can't live not being beside Lord Poseidon for one hour." She practically sang as the queen of the seas continued to furrow her eyebrows at her. Poseidon just chuckled at them, although he was a bit miffed to the titan who interrupted their intimate moment. "Say... If she was like this when in public, imagine when they are alone in their chambers..." Thetys whispered to her companion loud enough for them to hear.
"Oh yes, I could imagine what... fun they must have." Dione giggled, much to the couple's embarrassment. Amphitrite continued to glare daggers at the two, unconsciously crushing her husband's hand in the process. The two were laughing when they heard a loud cough coming from a very flustered god of the seas "Thetys... Dione... Would you stop teasing my wife? I think she broke my hand more than enough... You still have that gathering to enjoy, am I right?"
The two bowed "Of course, my Lord. We will be on our way. We were just checking for your wife due to her absence. We will return to our gathering." The immortal females started walking out, still giggling like schoolgirls. Amphitrite sighed before rubbing her temples "And I thought that those two are older than me..." Poseidon laughed and lead her to their chamber. The king of the seas laid his head back to his pillow while his wife puts her head on top of his shoulder. "S-Stupid sisters..." She muttered while thinking back at the two children of Oceanus.
"Now you know what I feel when I'm with my brothers and sisters." He lightly joked as he wrapped her with a fierce hug. "Actually, they were just looking out for you, my dear. Though they may sometimes act like Apollo and Hermes, I assure you, they still care for you. They love to tease you because it is a sign of how important you are to them." He saw her smile a bit, and can't help but be mesmerized by it. Amphitrite nodded before speaking.
"I know they are. But... Can't they stop treating me like I'm some babe? I'm thousands of years old!" She pursed her lips, which Poseidon noted made her look cute. Amphitrite snaked her arms over him, enjoying the warm sensation his body is radiating while he replied, with small mirth evident on his voice "Well, if you're going to pout like that, who wouldn't want to? You look too cute, to be honest." He then proceed by acting as if he was pondering "Well, what if I invite the two of them here every-"
"NO! You will not." She gasped, making the sea Olympian to laugh. She narrowed her eyes before glinting mischievously "Well, if you want it that way, I guess you wouldn't want to play Capture The Trident with me anymore. That's fine with-" And without another second later, His eyes widened like saucers and began to sputter "It was only a joke, my love! Come on. I was just teasing." The wife just giggled before lying back on top of him. He narrowed his eyes slightly before returning back to his smile.
"I wonder how's Percy doing right now." He mumbled to himself, not realizing she heard him. It had been no secret, at least for the two of them, that he had a son from a mortal woman. Poseidon thought she would never forgive him, if Zeus and Hera's rocky relationship was an example of that. But to his shock, Amphitrite just put her hand on top of his shoulder, smiled, although he noticed the tears that were threatening to fall and the look of betrayal, and forgave him. She loved him so much that she was willing to forgive them. She knew that it was in his nature to love many things. And as much as she wanted him for herself, Poseidon was one emotional god, thus he would always feel love towards others.
She never blamed the countless children he had sired over the course of their relationship. She never blamed him for his infidelity. Amphitrite just took all of it in and still welcomed the god with open arms and big smiles. Poseidon was lucky to have her. Though she never believed at his promise from keeping it to himself, she was sure that she would still remain loyal to him, because despite how many times he had bedded others.
The sea cannot be contained. Oh, how true those words are to her. She couldn't stop him because it is in her nature, but she kept sharing her love to him. With that, she then replied to the unsuspecting sea god "He would be fine, my dear. If he was your son indeed, then I believe he would have your thick skull of yours." Poseidon just pouted at the light jab, yet still smiled at her. The two were sharing a peaceful and comfortable silence before the sea god nudged and then winked at her.
"Hey, Amphitrite... Wanna see my big, badass trident? I want to play our game again."
The two did not leave the chambers for a long while.
"My beautiful Aphrodite, truly you are the fairest of them all." The love goddess just giggled at one of the mermen's call and continued attending the gathering. She saw the lines of males who desperately want her attention. She smiled flirtatiously when one handed her a drink. She could hear some nymphs whispering, probably jealous of the amount of attention she had garnered, but she paid them no mind. They're jealous of my beauty and attention... Hmph!
The goddess of doves began surveying the area, looking someone interesting to talk to. She then spotted a man with a chiseled figure standing beside the banquet table. His eyes gave him away as the son of the Big Three: Poseidon. He was eating while looking around the party with a small smile on his face. Ooh! Looks like Little Triton is now all grown up. And boy, he did grew up in all the right places. He looks like a younger version of Lord Poseidon. Hmm... She then saw his eyes staring at hers. She inwardly smiled when she realized that she had caught his attention rather easily, thus she sauntered her way towards him, adding a bit more sway on her hips.
"U-Uh... Wow... The myths are really true bout your beauty, my Lady." He quickly knelt down and kissed her hand. Aphrodite giggled and flashed him as charming smile "Such charm, you are definitely a son of Lord Poseidon. It is a pleasure to meet you, Triton."
"N-No, the pleasure's all mine, Lady Aphrodite." He smiled before leading her towards the table. He would graciously serve her and Aphrodite just giggled and smiled on his way. She could see the see nymphs glaring at her back with jealousy and she can't help but laugh. It wasn't her fault when he was entranced by her appearance. She was just accommodating any attention she gets. When they settled to their chairs, Aphrodite started "So... Tell me your life here in Atlantis."
After munching on his food, he spoke "Well, I currently help Father in running his domain. He usually tackles the highest priority problems while the rest is up to me. I really learn a lot whenever I come with father whenever he is on a trip to the seas.I admire the way he handles them. I hope I could make him proud." The love goddess patted his back, surprising said son of the sea god, and showed him a smile "Don't worry, Triton, I am sure your Father is very proud of you right now."
He smiled at her, unconsciously staring at her. The dove goddess mentally smirked at her small feat and felt the time is now to act on it. She puts her face a bit nearer and made her eyes glazed. Aphrodite then asked him "Is something the matter?"
Triton snapped out of his stupor as panic began to rise "A-Ahh... No, nothing's w-wrong! I... I am sorry.. I'm sorry I was staring at you. I-It's just that I can't believe.. I can't believe you're really beautiful. I-I've never seen anyone like you, my Lady. The words they say are really true... You really are extremely beautiful." She saw his blush and smiled. Aphrodite knew she got the boy around her finger and with a few more push, he will be with her. With that, she replied:
"Thank you, dear Triton. You look dashing, too, if I may say so myself." He blushed at her praise before Aphrodite continued "If I may say so, any girl would be like lost puppies, trying to earn your attention." She then went near to him, which made the son tense slightly. He could smell the intoxicating smell coming from her. He can't help but be attracted to her. She parted her lips slightly, drawing her hot breath out which made him shiver, and whispered sensuously "If you really find me beautiful, why won't you show me how sincere you are."
Triton was about to answer when they heard a particular voice coming from the other side "Aphrodite!" Their heads turned around and saw Dione running towards her. The love goddess inwardly cursed at her timing but nonetheless, smiled and greeted her "Mother!" The two gave the other a big hug. Dione really missed her daughter and was extremely happy to see her again. She could tell that she had grown into a beautiful woman and she can't help but feel happy for her.
When the two broke the hug, the beautiful goddess took notice on the fellow she was with. Tethys gazed at her with cold steely eyes, far different from what she usually has. Aphrodite stared back at her with equal intensity. The goddess of doves didn't know what was wrong with her, but she can't help but be hostile against her. When Dione noticed them, she broke their trance and said "Hey, Tethys, this is-"
"I know her, my friend... So I finally meet the famous goddess of love, Aphrodite." The titan goddess said laced with venom. Aphrodite was taken aback from her cold greeting, but nonetheless, she didn't back down just yet. With false sweet voice, she smiled at her "Yes, that is who I am. Would you kindly share with me yours?" Tethys narrowed her brows but relented "My name is Tethys. Titan Goddess of the Oceanids." The two continued to stare the other, each as if they were baring their fangs.
Dione easily saw the building tension between the two. She didn't understand what was the reason behind them. Tethys was not the person who would be hostile to people. And to see her baring her fangs to her daughter, even, made her confused. Trying to break the ice, she nudged her daughter "So... When did you arrive? I am so happy you came here.. Ooh, I would like to hear your stories about your life in Olympus!" She guided the two to their seats, hoping they would stop it.
"Hello Artemis," Athena called to the goddess of the moon who was happily munching on Lady Hestia's cookies on the Hearth. The female of the twins was surprised to see her out of her temple. The hearth goddess smiled at Athena, offering her the baked goods, in which she accepted it with a smile, and went near her. After a successful hunt with her hunters, a plate of her aunt's warm cookies really calmed her down. Thank the Fates that we still have you, Lady Hestia.
"Uh... Athena, why do you wish for my presence?" Artemis quirked her eyebrow upward. Athena sighed and began "Artemis, you are the only one that I can confide this with. You and I had some similarities and truth to be told, if there was anyone here that I can trust, then that is you."
To say that the goddess of the hunt was surprised is definitely an understatement. Athena was the most cunning and intimidating of all Goddesses in Olympus. Her intellectual prowess is unmatched. Many battles she won not because of brute strength like Ares, but with skills. She was the last person she expected to be burdened with troubles. But, to hear her say that she was the sole person in Olympus she truly trust speaks volumes to her. She was extremely flattered and happy that her favorite person would bestow such trust to her. "Uh.. Thank you for the trust, Athena... So, how may I help you?"
"Well..." She began with the first encounter she had with a certain god of fire. Artemis listened raptly as Athena shared what had transpired between them. The moon goddess had thought about the forger and was also feeling a bit guilty for neglecting him. Although their interactions were rare and short, she could not feel any ill will from him. Now that she thinks about it, she had never heard any news from him for a long time. He had always been there in the council, listening silently while rarely voicing his opinions.
She would always champion the voice of women, but for this special event, she felt sympathetic to the male forger. As much as she hated men, she hated women who would act like the scum she hunts more. When the wisdom goddess shared what Hephaestus feels about Aphrodite, she couldn't help but mutter "That lucky harlot. There were very few men who are loyal and caring like him and she treats him like..." Athena just sighed and continued.
"After that, I began to think of him frequently. I would always remember his sorrowful face whenever he enters the council chambers. Then when I visited him again to repair my armor, he brought out the past. He asked for my forgiveness when he tried to force me to himself. You and I know what happened and we found out the real culprit, but I never thought that Hephaestus would carry that sin he thinks he caused. I... I really don't know anything anymore." Athena let out a loud sigh, staring randomly around the Hearth. The goddess of the hunt, on the other hand, was trying to process everything that she shared. After a short while, she drew her breath and asked "What do you truly feel for Hephaestus, Athena?"
The wisdom goddess stared at her and began analyzing the question. As much as Athena prided herself with the vast knowledge she has, she din't have a conclusion to her question. There were things that she didn't know that was out of her domain. She didn't know why but their first encounter sparked something she thought was dormant to herself. In the past, she would always look as cold and calculative, planning a hundred ways with every motion one takes. But with the god of fire, she was on a persona she never knew existed inside her.
"I... I honestly don't know, Artemis. I think that my encounter established a deep connection with him. I could feel his hardship with the way he shares it to me. He and I were somewhat alike. Both of us were forsaken with him being thrown out and me being eaten while inside Metis' womb. I would always feel the urge to talk to him again. He is a great listener. I... I really don't know what is happening. All of my knowledge was irrelevant whenever I try to figure out what I am feeling."
Athena felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to the other goddess. Artemis looked at her sympathetically "It's alright, Athena. Can I share to you what I think?" When she saw her nod, the moon goddess took a deep breath and started "I think you are getting closer to him to a level you never expected to reach. There was no one, not even Zeus, that connects to you thoroughly and now Hephaestus is your answer. He would be the one you would wish to have companion for. I don't know where that will lead to, but I know that Hephaestus will take care of you."
"Artemis, I don't intend to offend you, but is this how you feel with Orion?" Athena questioned, which Artemis raised her brow. She shook her head and quickly answered "No, it is not. I admire him for his skill in hunting and his attitude towards women. But it all ends there. I just admire him. I never felt any strong connection between us." The wisdom goddess nod lightly before standing up. She then asked "So... What do you think I should do?"
"I know you might not like this, but when it comes to emotions, Aphrodite is the only one who understands it."
The sun was shining brightly as a certain god of fire and forges groaned to a new morning. Hephaestus rubbed his blurry eyes and waited before his vision returned. He looked around and noticed it was 8:00 in the morning. Although for most people they are already up, the female Valdez beside him is a special case. He softly nudged him and whispered "Anza, get up, it's already morning." She groaned and mumbled incoherent words, which made the god to smile lightly. He shook her lightly the second time, in which she replied sleepily "Come on, five more minutes."
He sighed and let her sleep on top of him for a bit longer. He continued to stare at her sleeping face, and Hephaestus can't help but compare her with an angel. The light snore she emitted before returning to her normal breathing made him laugh mentally. He didn't mind staying in bed like this. He slowly brought her closer to him, relishing on the warmth their bodies share. He could see her lips twitch in a smile before mumbling "H-Hephy... That's so good."
His eyes widened in shock when he felt her pressing herself against him. He could see her eyes are still closed, but she was still mumbling "Oh, Heph! I love it when you do that." The forger was sweating bullets, trying himself to stop thinking possible dreams she was having. I-It seems like... A-Anza... Esperanza, what are you even dreaming about? What in Hades is happening? Damn Hypnos and Morpheus! His rant was cut off when he heard her giggling. He stared at her coal eyes full of mischief when she said "I love it when you look flustered like that."
"Esperanza." He sighed when she laughed and gave him a peck on the cheek. He had been played into her joke for a millionth time, but he didn't mind it. He was just happy that he can make her happy. Hephaestus kissed her in her forehead in return and said "So... What do you want to do today, my dear?"
"Hmm... I was thinking of lying here with you." Esperanza said "But, I think we need to start fixing some papers for the machine shop." Hephaestus smiled and stood up, much to her displeasure. She whined and pouted "I never said I'll do it today! Come back here with me, Hephy!"
The fire god just smiled at her and grabbed her arm "Come on now, Anza. The sooner we finish this, the more time we have to ourselves. It has been your dream to have your very own shop and I don't want you to laze off with me for that. You know how I feel with your dreams, right? Let's go and clean ourselves up." Esperanza sighed before letting him stand her up. She then grabbed her towel and toothbrush and stared at him before entering "So... wanna shower with me, babe?"
Hephaestus nearly choked on his own saliva while the Latina laughed. Reeling on her small victory, she smiled like a Cheshire cat an entered the bathroom. The fire god stared where he last saw her and shook his head. He knew that she would be a bit lot to handle, but deep inside, he knew he didn't care. He can take her teasing and jokes if it meant for her to be happy. Hephaestus went to the window and gazed at the city that is already bustling with mortals . It was a far cry from Olympus, but the godly forger felt that today marks of the beginning.
"WHAT IS LOVE! BABY DON'T HURT ME! DON'T HURT ME NO MOOOORE!"
Her loud voice reach his ears as Hephaestus chuckled at Esperanza's attempt to sing while in the shower.