Artemis can feel herself shaking the whole way to Olympus.
She keeps her face emotionless, a blank stare inhabiting her normally bright silver eyes. She tries to forget what has just happened. Tries to forget how at the last few solstices there was someone by her side. Tries to forget how that someone is gone, how they are nev-
She tries to focus on breathing, despite the fact that she does not really even have to do so, but she has grown accustom to it. Zoë breaths, so she breaths as well.
Zoë used to breath, she corrects herself, and that thought alone sends a wave of grief rocking through her body.
She clenches her fists tighter by her sides. This is not the time, Artemis, she reminds herself. Just breath.
But she finds she cannot breath anymore, cannot force the air down her throat and to her lungs. With Zoë breathed, so did she.
Zoë does not breath anymore.
She exhales deeply. One last time.
Artemis has always been a watcher, silently observing at the side. She notices things, like the quiver in someone's hands or the way they lean towards some people and away from another. She likes to watch, she is good at it, and she does so with Zoë. Is constantly observing her, and over the years, Artemis begins to make a list of all of the things she notices and loves about Zoë.
Such as, for example, the way the few little pieces of hair that spring from the front Zoë's forehead always end up falling into her face. They are too short to go in her braid, so they normally end up coming out and moving to frame her face. Artemis loves them, but of course Zoë doesn't, for they always seem to get into her eyes, and she hates having to tuck them away behind her ear. But, of course, Artemis loves that part too.
She loves how Zoë is when around children, or how she talks when trying to comfort someone. She first notices it with Isabelle, and assumes it to be a voice reserved only for the girl, but later finds it popping up in other moments.
Artemis loves how Zoë thinks before speaking, thinks it's adorable when she stumbles over her words, and finds the way her nose scrunched up when she's thinking hard endearing. She likes to watch her eyes ignite when she is angry, and enjoys the way they sparkle when she's happy. She loves how Zoë can always tell when Artemis is staring at her, and that secret reserved smiled she dons when they are alone makes her knees go weak.
She loves how her hands seem to automatically reach for her bow when she is angry, or upset, or in danger, and how her hair flows down her back when out of its braid. Artemis loves how Zoë hugs her, soft and firm, and how she kisses her, sweet or full of passion. She loves listening to her steady heartbeat, and they way they just seem to perfectly fit together.
Artemis knows almost every single thing about Zoë Nightshade, and she loves every single thing about her. She knows her emotions as well as if they were written across her forehead. She knows her past like she has lived it herself. She knows her likes and dislikes as much as she knows her own, and understands her fears a bit more than that.
Artemis has watched Zoë for years, she has loved her for years, and she knows, above anything else, that she will continue loving her until the end of time.
When it comes time to pick a new lieutenant, Artemis's chest hurts so much she is unsure whether she will make in through the rest of the evening. The pain burns her, consumes her, like a raging fire inside her stomach. A fire that won't be put out until it swallows her whole.
But she puts on a brave face anyways. She speaks in a voice that she hopes isn't shaky, and walks as gracefully as she can, though her fists are clenched at her sides.
Artemis looks to the group of demigods and pauses, glancing at Anabeth. The daughter of Athena is a clever girl, and would be a good asset to their team. She thinks that Zoë would have approved of her. She opens her mouth to speak, but stops half way through, silver eyes catching the look on Percy's face.
The boy, whom she has almost come to respect, look uncomfortable, frightened almost, and it dawns on her why when her glances between Anabeth and herself. He loves her. Of course, it's quite obvious, she thinks, now that she knows.
Artemis looks back to Anabeth, and thinks of Zoë. She clears her throat.
"Thalia," she calls, and she can see the boy visibly relax. Zoë would approve of Thalia, she already approved of her years ago.
As Thalia approaches her and says her vows. Artemis steals another glance at Percy, who seems much more at ease now. He gave Zoë some peace, so she gave him some in return.
It's the least she can do.
"Your brother is here."
Artemis turns her head sharply, nearly dropping the quiver in her hands. "What?"
"Your brother," Zoë repeats. "He is here again, he says he would like to see you."
Artemis suppresses a groan. "Why must he always come to visit at the most inconvenient of times?" she questions rhetorically. She runs a hands through her auburn hair, placing her quiver back onto her dresser. "Did he say why he wanted to talk, my dear?"
Zoë shakes her head, nose wrinkling. "Something about 'catching up with my fav little sis' I believe," she says, giving the worst possible impression of Apollo that Artemis has ever heard.
Artemis chuckles, approaching Zoë. "That impression was horrid," she quips, straightening the other girl's cloak upon her shoulders.
"Really?" Zoë questions.
Artemis nods. "Yes. And I'm his sister, so I've heard many." She tucks a stray piece of Zoë's dark hair back behind her ear, her lieutenant leans towards the touch. "Did you inform him that we were preparing for a hunt?"
Zoë shakes her head up and down. "Yes, my lady. He still insisted to see thee."
"Alright," Artemis sighed. "Best get this over with."
"Wait!" Zoë calls before Artemis could leave the tent. When the goddess turns, she's nervously biting her lip in a very un-Zoë like manner. "Does thee think he shall say anything about...us...in front of the others? I-it's just that I..."
Artemis shakes her head, moving to place her hands comfortingly on Zoë's shoulders. "Don't worry, my dear, he shall say nothing of the sort. Though I wouldn't normally believe that he would keep his mouth shut, nor do I suggest you go telling him all of our secrets, I will say this. You can trust my brother regarding this," she assures. "I told him specifically that he is not to tell anyone, and he shan't go breaking his promise anytime soon. Better?"
Zoë nods somewhat shyly. "Better."
"Good," Artemis announces. "Now, let us go. Best to get it over with."
When they exit the tent, Apollo is in the process of flirting with a very put-off young hunter named Darcy, who has pushed her black hair from her face and is turned away from the god in an attempt to ignore him. The rest of the Huntresses stand scatter around the camp, most also shooting Apollo quite dirty looks.
"Apollo," Artemis snaps, and the man immediately dons a sheepish look and turns towards his twin.
"Hey sis," he says with a wave.
Artemis approaches them with her hands on her hips. "Darcy, why don't you prepare for hunt," she suggests, ushering the young girl away, then turns angrily to Apollo. "I will not have you come here to harass my Hunters. Now, what do you want?" demands an angry Artemis.
"Now, little sis, I'm sorry," defends Apollo, hands up in a surrender.
"We are the same age," Artemis corrects.
"Yeah, whatever," he says with a wave of his hand. "Now, I really must tell you something, could we go somewhere more private?"
Artemis looks around, most of the hunters have dispersed, apart from herself and Zoë. "You may speak to me here," she informs him, tone leaving no room for argument.
Apollo's nostrils flare. "Fine," he mumbles, leaning closer to his sister and lowering his voice. "I just wanted to warn you about father."
Artemis tilts her head to the side. "Why should I be wary of him?"
"I just want you to be careful, that's all," Apollo says. "You'll find out soon enough, I'm sure Hermes will send a message for a council meeting anytime now," he explains. "Just wanted you to look out for anything weird, gotta take care of my little sister, don't I?"
Artemis shakes her head, not even bothering to remind him again that they are twins or correct his grammar. "Why must you always be so cryptic?" she wonders exasperatedly.
Apollo shrugs, grinning. "It's my job."
Artemis sighs. "You should go," she tells him, then adds, quickly, "thank you for the warning."
Apollo nods. "Yep," he agrees. "Good talking to ya sis." He turns to Zoë behind them, giving her a tip of his head. "Zoë. You take care of her, okay?"
Zoë blushes, nodding, and Artemis's nostrils flare, but before she can snap at him Apollo begins to glow. "Look away," she commands, and everyone does so without question. There is a flash of light and Apollo is gone.
Artemis slips away from the party when she can no longer bare the happiness, wandering into Olympus' gardens. She hopes that the fresh air and moonlight can ease her throbbing heart, but find that they give her no comfort whatsoever. It still hurts. Everything hurts.
She moves further away from the celebrations and deep into the garden, sitting on a stone bench under a tree from where she can clear see the stars. But she can't even bare to look at the sky, so she glances at the tight fists she's making in her lap and focuses on the pain she is causing herself by biting her lip instead of the much greater pain in her heart.
There in the sound of movement behind her, and she shoots into a standing position in an instant, reaching behind her for an arrow that isn't there. She relaxes slightly when she sees who it is, not a fellow goddess or a sad demigod, but her brother. Who actually, despite everything, despite how much he annoys her, has always been there. Her face softens slightly, but when he goes to open his mouth her face again hardens into the blank mask that she has been donning recently.
"Artemis," Apollo begins, stepping towards her but freezing when she moves away. His hands fidget in his lap, frightened of what she might do. "I'm so sorry."
Artemis holds her nose to the air in defiance. "Sorry of what?" she questions, challenging him maybe, or maybe just pretending that everything is okay to help the pain.
"Sister," he tries again, and Artemis notices that it is the first time he has not called her 'little sis' in a very long time.
She turns to him. "I do not know what you speak of," she tells him, anger seeping into her voice without her consent. "What loss have I suffered that you must be so sorry?"
Apollo smiles bitterly, and he says the single most poetic and painfully beautiful thing she thinks she has ever her from him. "A great one." Just what she needs to hear, he had always been there right when she needed him.
Artemis breaks then, resolve crumbling, face falling as she crumples to the ground with her bravery, smile shattering on the marble around her. "She is gone," she sobs quietly. "She's gone, Apollo, they have taken her from me."
He kneels beside her. "I know, I'm sorry," he tells her.
"I do not know what to do," Artemis sobs, and it's true. She no longer knows what to do with herself without Zoë around. Her hands shake with the need to touch her, lips quiver with the want of a kiss, voice cracks as she foolishly calls the name of someone not there. Her mind races, a constant battle against the pain, a choice of forgetting or remembering, the pull at her heart of a love now missing.
What shall she do without her dear Zoë? How can she possibly move on?
Apollo reaches towards her, resting a hand on her shaking shoulder. "Shh, it's okay. I know," he comforts.
Artemis grows angry then. She snaps her head up to look at him, silver eyes ablaze. "How can you possibly know?" she wonders. "You don't. It is not okay, Apollo, not in the slightest. It shall never be okay again," she spits at him. "How can you possibly dare to tell me that?" The vibrating in her hands quickens. "Thou hast no idea, brother," she growls, hands curling into deadly fists. Apollo withdraws from her, yet she remains on the floor, staring up at him with grief-fueled fury. "She is gone. She. Is. Gone!"
"I'm sorry," he repeats. Apollo is not mad at her accusations, his eyes are filled with sadness, and pity. And she hates it. She hates him for it, she hates his pity. She hates his understanding, she does not deserve it.
"She's gone. She's dead and gone and she isn't coming back," she continues, tears now flowing down her pale cheeks, but there is a numbness taking over her body that causes her to hardly register it. "And it tis all my fault. All my fault!" she yells, slamming her fist into the marble with such force that the stone cracks beneath her.
"It isn't your fault," Apollo assures her, moving closer to her now as she calms from her outburst.
"It is," she chokes out, but the words are washed away by a sob. "It is my fault that she is gone," she tries, but it comes out as a painful gurgle.
Her brother sits down next to her, wrapping his arms around Artemis's shaking form. She does not pull away this time, but instead buries her face in her shoulder, attempting to will her cries away but to no avail.
The two siblings sit there in the middle of the garden for the remainder of the night, Artemis's sobs echoing around the empty face. The moon shines down upon them, casting grief-filled shadows, and high above, a Hunter in the stars watches them.
Fear grips her heart. "No."
"Artemis, darling. Wake up."
"Zoë," Artemis shoots upright, back rigid, eyes wide. With heavy breathing she attempts to regain control of herself, silver eyes trying to pierce the darkness.
"Shh, it's fine. I am safe, everything is fine." Zoë is at her side, one hand placing comforting pressure on her abdomen, the other rubbing reassuring circles on her back and shoulder. She pushes her back down on the bed. "Lay back down."
Artemis paws at Zoë's nightshirt. She slowly lowers herself back into a laying position and curls herself to use Zoë's chest as a pillow, breathing deeply as to control her rapidly beating heart.
"They took you," Artemis whispers once she can trust her voice not to crack, and she can feel Zoë's grip tighten on her.
Artemis' fear deepens. "I don't know," she chokes out, becoming upset again. She feels like a child in the way she wants to cry, in how much she is clinging to Zoë. "But they took you and they were hurting you...and, and there was nothing I could d-do about it." In the back of her mind she silently scolds herself for seeming so weak. For she is a goddess, and this is not what they are suppose to be like. If anyone saw me now...but then again, this was only Zoë.
"Shh, it's fine, love," Zoë comforts her, rubbing circles along her tense back. "I am right here, and I know that you shall always protect me."
Artemis desperately wishes for that to be true.
"Oh, good to have you back, my lady."
"Are you alright, Lady Artemis?"
"How was the Solstice?"
"What happened to you?"
This is how Artemis is greeted when she returns to camp after the Winter Solstice at Olympus. She is tired, and tear-stained, but nobody seems to notice too much, and she likes that in a way. All seems well until:
"My lady...where is Zoë?"
Artemis's heart shatters once more. She had forgotten about having to tell the Huntresses about thier loss. They all love Zoë so much, she is the best Hunter, as well as lieutenant, that they have. Had, a voice in the back of her head reminds, but Artemis pays no attention. Zoë will always be present in her life, she will not refer to her as a had, or a was, or a used to.
Alice's voice brings Artemis back to a painful reality. "Girls!" she calls, and all of the Hunters immediately quiet and turn to her voice, coming close. Artemis tries her best to keep her voice from shaking. "I have some bad news," she informs, throat going dry at the look of terror on the girls' faces.
She can see the reality hit some of them before she continues speaking. She can see the horror blossom on the features, and she can see the denial.
"My lady, shouldn't we wait for Zoë?"
Breath, she reminds herself, but the air does not come. It takes everything Artemis has not to sob violently, and she thanks the heavens that she had cried herself out for the moment back in the garden with her brother. She shakes her head solomley. "No, Lucy. Sadly, Zoë shall not be returning to us."
"Zoë has-" Artemis's voice catches. "Passed on," she manages to choke out.
Silence falls over the group of girls, and the Goddess can hear the sad sniffles of a few on the younger girls. Lucy's hand flies to cover her mouth, Alice is biting her lip to muffle her cries while Phoebe has one hand on the other girl's shoulder and the other clenched tightly into an angry fist. In the front, Darcy bows her head in a moment of silence, the other girls follow.
After a minute, Artemis takes a deep shaky breath. "Our loss is great, and I know that. Zoë shall be dearly missed," she tells them all, swallowing the lump of sorrow forming in her throat. "But she will always be here to watch over us, we only have to look to the stars." She gestures to the constellation of her lover in the night sky.
She of the Hunters gasp in surprise, a few let out breaths of awe, and one points to the stars in excitement. Discreetly, Artemis wipes a tears from the corner of her eye. If she wasn't so sad she might ever smile. She knows Zoë is smiling down at her.
"My lady, I'm not sure I belong here," Zoë argues, as she has done since Artemis suggested bringing her to Olympus. She fidgets with the belt wrapped around her waist, holding up her silver dress. "Perhaps you should bring be back to camp."
Artemis sighs. "For the final time, my dear, you are fine. I am not taking you back," she insists. "I've brought you here, you are my guest. Besides, the Winter Solstice is by far the best here on Olympus."
"But, my lady," Zoë protests, leaning closer to Artemis. "I am the only mortal here," she mumbles.
Artemis shakes her head. "That can't be true," she responds, searching the crowd. "See, Apollo has brought a girl, surprise," she adds sarcastically. "Also, Athena has a young girl here, demigod maybe, her daughter? Hm, I wonder what she's doing with her," she muses, veering slightly off topic. She turns to look back a Zoë. "It isn't only you, my dear." She places a hand upon her lieutenant's shoulder. "Now, please, try to enjoy yourself a bit."
Zoë doesn't look that convinced. "Alright," she says after she receives a pleading looking from the goddess. "I'll try."
"Good," Artemis decides with a nod, the moves away from Zoë and towards the middle of the room, where a group of the other party-goers have gathered. She pauses to turn back towards the girl. "Come, let's dance."
Zoë's dark eyes widen. "Pardon me, my lady?"
Artemis suppresses a sigh, there she goes, all formal again. "I said we should dance," she repeats despite the fact that she is fully aware that Zoë heard her perfectly the first time. "Let us go."
"I don't dance," she argues.
"Well you do tonight," Artemis shoots back.
Zoë shakes her head. "Let me rephrase that," she says. "I can't dance."
"I'll teach you," suggests Artemis.
Zoë glances around the hall, apprehensive. "But what shall people think?" she asks, insecure.
"I do not care," decides Artemis firmly. "And nor will anybody else. But even if they did, it still wouldn't be a bother." She reaches a hand out, offering it to Zoë. "Please, my dear, I only wish to dance with you. I'll lead."
Zoë cracks a tentative smile at that. "But I'm taller," she counters. "Doesn't the taller person lead? Or the man, I suppose, but he would usually be taller..."
Artemis resists and eye roll, changing her form so she is now a young adult, -a form she normally takes while at Olympus anyways- and a couple inches taller than Zoë. "There, better?"
Zoë is still hesitant. "I fear that I won't be that good, my lady."
Artemis shrugs. "No bother," she says, still holding out her hand to Zoë. "You must try, my dear, or you shall never know."
Zoë looks apprehensive, but takes Artemis's hand anyway. They dance for the remainder of the evening.
Zoë is right, she isn't very good. Artemis loves her anyways.
Artemis looks up for a moment. "Ah yes, Darcy," she greets, standing, looking back down at the book in her hands, flipping through. "How are you?"
"Um, good, my lady," responds the girl.
"Good," replies Artemis, short and business-like, head still down in the book. "Now, how are you liking Thalia? Is she working well amongst you girls?"
Darcy nods quickly. "Yes, my lady. She is fitting in quite nicely."
"Good," she repeats. "What is it you needed, then?" she asks, pages of the book shuffling in her hands.
"W-well, my lady," Darcy stammers. "I-it's about, um, about Zoë," she finally admits.
The flipping of the pages stops immediately. Artemis looks up for the first time since greeting the young Hunter. "What about Zoë?" she questions thickly.
Darcy bites her lips. "W-we, the other girls and I, just wanted to say th-that we were sorry," she stutters. "Um, about what happened to her."
Artemis doesn't understand. "That is very kind, Darcy, but it is I who should be sorry," she says.
"Oh, no, Lady Artemis," begins Darcy, but the goddess continues to speak.
"I failed to protect her," she admits, trying to keep her voice strong as she does so. "I know it's been hard on you girls, but do not worry about me, just remember th-"
"We know that you loved her," Darcy blurts out suddenly.
Artemis freezes. "Pardon me?"
Darcy swallows, cheeks red. "We know. That you and Zoë love, loved each other. We would've had to be blind, to not see how you two looked at each other, I mean, it was kind of obvious," she rambles, a small chuckled escaping her lips. "T-that's why we were worried, and, um, sorry, because we knew h-how much she meant to you. You meant a lot to her as well, we knew this too and...my lady?"
Artemis clears her throat. "Darcy, I-" she pauses, taking a breath, her voice softens. "Thank you," she says finally. "Thank you. Tell the others that I thank them as well." Darcy nods. "Now, while I appreciate the concern, I can assure that I am...fine," she pauses again, thinking. "You should worry about yourselves instead of me. Is that clear?"
Darcy almost looks like she is going to argue, but bites her tongue instead. "Yes, my lady," she answers politely.
"Good," Artemis says with a sharp nod. "You are dismissed."
Darcy gives her a sharp nod back, turning quickly to leave. Artemis pauses, then calls out, "Darcy, wait."
The girl turns to face her. "Yes, my lady?"
Artemis swallows thickly. "Zoë would have been extremely proud."
The pain of speaking her name is worth the look on Darcy's face though. Darcy -who is young, and smart, and always looked up to Zoë- smiles, she beams with pride, and with a quick and thankful nod, leaves the tent.
It's true though, Zoë would be extremely proud, were she here. Oh, how Artemis wishes she were here.
Zoë kisses her. Hard.
It takes Artemis by surprise, truly, but that doesn't hinder her ability to respond, arms going around Zoë's neck and bringing her closer.
Zoë pushes Artemis back against the dresser, bracing her arms on either side of the other girl as to trap her there. She spreads Artemis's legs, putting one of her own in between, causing the goddess to gasp -because Zoë is hardly ever so forward and gosh is it wonderful- which in turn gives Zoë entrance to her mouth. Artemis tugs on Zoë's bottom lip with her teeth, extracting a moan from the taller girl.
Artemis pulls her arms away from Zoë's neck to grab the dark haired girl's wrists and forceabley move her hands from the dresser to Artemis's hips. Zoë wastes no time, easily hoisting Artemis up unto the dresser's top, breaking the kiss for a second to breath. Artemis groans angrily at the lose of contact, but Zoë kisses her again, then kisses her way down her jaw and to the goddess's neck, causing Artemis to moan in pleasure when she finds the spot she knows her goddess likes best.
Artemis gasps. "Zoë," she breaths, hands tangled in the younger girl's dark hair. Zoë picks her up again, taking her from the dresser to the bed, still kissing down her neck the whole time. With a frustrated groan, Artemis pulls Zoë's head up and connects their lips once more. Zoë kisses her deeply, and Artemis can't help but think that she is the luckiest person in the world, to have Zoë. And so very happy.
Artemis moans as Zoë continues to kiss her. Yes. She's very happy indeed.
Zoë enters the tent with a loud groan, setting her bow down with a harsh bang.
Artemis looks up from what she's doing. "What ever is the matter, my dear?" she questions, setting her papers aside to focus on Zoë.
"Phoebe is positively furious with me," she begins, peeling off her gloves and moving to unzip her jacket. "And I have no idea why. I do not believe I did anything out of the ordinary that would anger her," Zoë continues. "But what type of lieutenant am I if I can't even keep my, pardon me, your-"
"Our," corrects Artemis.
"Our hunters happy," she finishes with a frustrated sigh, pulling off her coat and tossing it aside without a thought.
"You are certain you can't think of anything that would anger her?" Artemis questions. "You do know that Phoebe is quite the hot-headed."
Zoë shakes her head so vigorously that Artemis fears her silver crown may fall off for a moment. "No," she responds. "I only stated how I was coming to see you and she turned quite red before storming off."
Artemis laughs. It's a light twinkling, full of air, and the closest thing to a giggle that has escaped the goddess in a long time. Zoë turns to her. "What?" she questions, confusion creeping into her voice. "I hardly find this funny, Artemis, Phoebe just stormed off, and I-"
But Artemis laughs again, head thrown backwards as she does so. It all makes sense, really, when she thinks about it. "Do you truly not know, my dear?" she questions.
Zoë's brows furrow. "Know what?"
Artemis's silver eyes sparkle. "Oh. You are quite adorably oblivious, aren't you?"
Zoë groans in frustration, but the reddening of her cheeks gives away her true feelings. "Would you just tell me what's so funny already? I've no idea what has got thee like this."
"Phoebe isn't angry at you," Artemis begins.
"I beg to differ," comments the other girl under her breath.
Artemis ignores her. "She's jealous."
Zoë's eyebrows furrow further. "Jealous?" she repeats.
"Yes," confirms the goddess. "Quite jealous, actually, by the sound of it."
"Well, why ever would she be jealous?"
Artemis resists an eye roll. "She's jealous of you, my brave one, or, well, of myself, I suppose," she explains, but Zoë still doesn't get it. She can be quite adorably oblivious at times, and Artemis will never become tired of that trait. "Phoebe likes you," she states.
"Well, I'd hope so. I am her commanding officer," Zoë replies somewhat indignantly.
Artemis shakes her head. "No, Zoë, not like that," she sighs. "She's infatuated with you."
Zoë pauses, nose wrinkling in thought, then her eyes widen in realization, and she turns a deep red. "Oh," she breaths.
Artemis nods. "Yes."
"But, I'm with, I mean, we are..." Zoë stutters out, gesturing between the two of them and blushing even deeper.
"Yes," repeats Artemis, standing. "We are." She moves towards Zoë and wraps her arms around the younger girl, pressing a kiss to her flushed cheek. A marking. Mine. "And don't you ever forget it."
Zoë tilts her head to the side absentmindedly. "Maybe I should go speak with Phoebe..."
Artemis lips are at her ear. "Don't you ever forget it," she says again, voice low.
Zoë turns to her then, smiling. She places a quick kiss on her lips. "I shall not."
Artemis has to take a moment before she calls out, breathing deeply and gathering herself. She sighs. "Enter," she calls.
Thalia Grace comes into the tent slowly, and Artemis thinks that she has never seen the girl look so nervous. She bows her head. "My lady."
Artemis raises a brow. "Is there something you need, Thalia?"
The raven-haired girl looks up. Her eyes go to the silver crown in the goddess's hands, causing Artemis to look down as well. She hadn't even noticed that she was holding it, for she so often clutches it to her chest that it almost feels like it is suppose to be there. Artemis glances back up, she can see that sadness on Thalia's face. "What is it?" she asks, and it isn't angry or annoyed, but soft and curious.
"There is something I've gotta tell you," she says, biting her lip.
Thalia swallows. "I wish to relinquish my position of lieutenant."
It is happening so soon, all again, she is loosing another one. "Thou wishes to leave the Hunt?"
The girl shakes her head. "Oh, no, that's not it, my lady," she assures. "I just don't think I should be lieutenant. You should give it to someone more deserving, or wait until I think I am that person," she tells her, then adds in a quieter voice, "you don't have to pick a new one immediately. Everyone would get it."
Artemis blinks. She feels conflicted. "Thalia, I do believe that you deserve this. Otherwise I wouldn't have picked you in the first place."
Thalia shakes her head. "I know I will never even come close to living up to Zoë," she says with a melancholy acceptance. "You don't have to pretend that I do, or ever will."
Artemis opens her mouth to disagree, but stops before any words come out. She knows that the daughter of Zeus will see past her lie in an instant, and not appreciate it either. Because in reality -or in her heart at least- it is true. Nobody will ever be able to live up to Zoë. She knows that.
So Artemis just gives Thalia a grateful smile, and hopes that girl understands how much the guester means to her.
Zoë breaks the boy's hand in the same second that it touches her. It was one swift motion, a reflex almost, and the snapping on the bone just about extracts a grin from Artemis, and it might have if she weren't so angry.
"Do not touch me," Zoë warns through clenched teeth, though Artemis is sure that the boy does not need to be told twice. "In the future, be sure to keep thy hands to thyself."
Artemis glances at him, about to spit of a calm insult and a demand for him to leave but Phoebe beats her to it.
Again, the boy does not have to be told twice, scurrying away. Artemis turns to the huntresses. "Alright girls. Back to camp."
They do as they are told, Zoë quickly disappearing into their tent. Artemis follows her and without a word wraps her arms around the taller girl, who immediately sinks into her embrace.
"Are you alright, my love?" she questioned softly, stroking Zoë's hair.
Zoë nods, lips at the crook of the goddesses neck. "Fine."
Artemis nods, though she knows it's a lie. She doesn't say anything, just holds Zoë closer.
"How could you just have watched?" Artemis questions, the rage beginning to boil inside her, her fists clench. "How could you watch? How could you simply just watch her DIE?!" she turns on him, shrieking out the last word, voice raising with a sentence until she is screaming, her whole body shaking. Pain, and anger, and hurt bubbling over inside of her until the goddess feels like she's going to explode.
Apollo moves towards her, hand grabbing her arm. "Artemis-"
"No!" Artemis screams, and there is a spark at the contact which blows her brother away from her. "Don't you touch me! Don't you dare touch me!"
She turns back to her father, eyes ablaze. "I cannot believe you," she screams, a for a moment she feels like an angry teenage girl throwing a tantrum, but forgets about that notion quickly. She isn't angry over nothing, she is angry over Zoë. And Zoë is everything.
Her father looks pained. "Please, Artemis-"
"No," she cuts him off sharply. "You don't get to speak," she says, pointing an accusing finger at him. "You let her die. You let me suffer. You allowed for her to suffer." Her lips trembles as she speaks. She allows the rage inside of her to grow hotter with every word. "You knew about the prophecy. You knew about her father. And you protected your child and just sent her away to die," she continues, silver glow pulsing around her form. "You knew she would die. And you knew about u-" she chokes, and her voice suddenly grows quiet. "Us. You knew about us," she whispers.
"Artemis, you've got to calm down," Apollo argues.
"No," she screams, turning on her brother. "What about you, God of Prophecy. You can't tell me you didn't know," she says to him, rage filled venom fueling her voice, causing the tone to be bitter and mocking. "You let it happen too. You. Let. My. Love. Die. You let her just die!"
"Artemis," Zues speaks, voice booming. "There is nothing we could have done."
"Stop!" shreiks Artemis, yell echoing around the hall, and all goes silent around her for a moment. She backs away from the two of them. "You bring her back to me," she growls between her teeth. "Bring her back to me. Bring her back to me or I will cut you to pieces."
But she doesn't really know what she's saying. She knows that her request -demand- cannot be fulfilled. She is just so outraged. Is so desperate from someone to blame. Anyone to blame.
Anyone but yourself.
"Artemis," Apollo speaks slowly, carefully. "You know that that can't happen."
Artemis nods. "I know," she says, and her voice breaks. She looks at the two of them, eyes sad, but does not bother to apologize. They deserved that, and she is not one for apologizes, despite the fact she knows Zoë would want her to. Her cheeks flush, she lip trembles, and with a wave of her hand she is gone.
She cannot let them see her break down. Not again.
Artemis has no idea why she says yes, and looking back on it it probably isn't the best choice, but she thinks they need it. The light in the eyes of her many Hunters has gone dull, she wants to fix that. But to explore New York, it is quite the risk. A big, loud city, but then again, no one would bat an eye at the sight of young girls wandering around. Her Hunters need this.
"So, may we go? Please, my lady, only for a day," Alice, a quite small and very excitable young Hunter asks her one fall morning.
Artemis purses her lips, and finds herself nodding before she even realizes it. "Yes."
Alice's light brows raise. "What?"
Artemis nods again. "Yes. Go gather the others, I wish to speak with them before we go."
Alice shakes her head up and down, then scurries off to tell Phoebe with exuberant hand motions. Artemis's watches as Phoebe nods gruffly, allowing Alice to bound away and tell the others. She turns to Zoë as she approaches her.
"What's gotten Alice so excited?" her lieutenant wonders. "You haven't let her keep another bunny, have you? You know what happened the last time around."
Artemis chuckles lightly. "No, my dear. Actually, we are going sightseeing." Zoë raises a brow, and opens her mouth to protest but stop as the other arrive.
Alice returns then with the rest of the girls, most of whom look up at Artemis with child-like grins of excitement, like she is their mother and has just allowed them candy before dinner. She almost regrets her decision.
"Now, though I trust you all can handle yourselves in a mature and responsible manner, the city can be a dangerous place," Artemis begins, listing off some rules. "You are to stick in groups of two, at the minimum. Do not take anything from anyone or anywhere, unless you have bought it. Try not to become lost," she pauses, conjuring up some bills and passing them around. "There is some mortal money, spend wisely," she advises. "Don't get caught up in the splendor of the world, it is not as wonderful as you think. And do not become infatuated with any mortal men. You might as well not come back if the happens. Yes?"
Artemis looks around, making sure they all understand. "Good, be back here at camp by sundown," she instructs.
All off the girls nod in agreement, glancing at each other with excitement. Artemis turns to leave, Zoë following closely at her side, then spins back quickly to look at the girls again. "Also, please, whatever you do, do not pull out your bows unless it is absolutely necessary," she looks at them pointedly. "Alright, off you go."
Artemis turns away then and struts back into her tent, Zoë follows her. "Are they really going to explore the city?" she asks.
Artemis nods. "Yes," she says, pulling a silvery-grey sweater over her head as she changes forms into an older girl, probably looking around to age of seventeen. Zoë doesn't even blink at the change, Artemis runs her fingers through her auburn hair. "And we are going to as well?"
Zoë wrinkles her her nose. "Really?"
Artemis tosses her a shirt. "Really," she says. "Put that on."
"Why?" she asks, catching the shirt easily and doing what she is told anyways.
Artemis shrugs. "Looks more human," she says, glancing between the two of them. With Artemis's sweater and shimmering pants, and Zoë in blue jeans along with the button up Artemis had given her, they looked like a couple of normal teens. Artemis moves the stand in front of Zoë, now just a touch taller than her. "Is this form alright? Do I look too old?"
Zoë shakes her head. "You look as old as me."
"Older," she quips.
Zoë smiles, leaning up to press a quick kiss to the other girl's lips. "I like it."
"Good," Artemis says, and her silver eyes sparkle. "Let us go."
New York is a large and grand city. It is loud and filled with people, something that would normally bother Artemis, but she can hold Zoë's hand and nobody gives them a second look, so she figures it's a fair trade off.
Artemis has been to New York before -granted, that was decades ago, possibly even a century- but it does not recall it being like this. Zoë seems to like it though, which makes the whole ordeal worth it, makes everything worth it just to watch her eyes light up with joy.
The spend the whole day together, hand holding, and caressing, and Artemis even is able to sneak a quick kiss before Zoë turns away blushing in fear that someone has seen. For a moment, it's almost as if they are mundane teenagers. Humans. Of course, they are not, for Artemis is a god and Zoë the daughter of a titan, and they are both millennia-old hunters, but for a bit Artemis allows herself to forget it. She feels like a child, giddy and full of love, and she even has reserved Zoë giggling by the end of the day.
It's almost evening, and they have hot drinks cupped in their hands, and Artemis is enjoying the feeling of Zoë's head leaning against her shoulder. The sun is beginning to set, and they must return to camp soon. Artemis is about to make a comment about how perfect the day was when they here the scream.
The two girls glance at each other. "Phoebe," they say in unison, then race off in the direction of the noise without a second thought.
Only later does it occur to Artemis that New York is now her favorite city.
Zoë follows Artemis into her tent. "Artemis," she says with a sigh. "I do not wish for thee to go on this hunt alone."
Artemis turns to her. "I know, my love," she responds. "But I must do so. You have elsewhere to be."
"The other Hunters can take care of themselves," Zoë protests. "Please, my lady, I would feel much better if you would allow for my to come with thee."
Artemis sighs. "You mustn't come, my brave one. You cannot," she tells her. "You know that you cannot."
Zoë's hands curl into fists. "I can handle myself, and my father," she growls.
Artemis approaches her, hands coming to stroke the other girl's face with a soothing touch. "Shh," she comforts. "It is okay. I know you can talk care of yourself, so brave, but I must do this on my own."
Zoë crosses her arms in front of her chest, her bottom lip jutting out in a pout that has the reverse affect as desired upon Artemis, who finds it utteraly adorable, and is not much like the Zoë that everybody else sees. "I do not wish to leave thee."
"Nor do I wish to go to that camp," she complains, "with those half-bloods."
"Yes, I know," Artemis repeats. "When I get back, I shall make it up to you."
Zoë raises a brow. "Oh? And how do you propose you are going to do that?"
Artemis pulls Zoë into an embrace. "Oh, I think I can find a way," she says with a grin that only Zoë can bring out of her.
Zoë leans forwards and kisses Her deeply, and Artemis' hands move to curl in her lieutenent's hair. Zoë hums contently and pulls away, causing Artemis to groan in frustration. "Yes, I do suppose thee shall be able to think of something," she muses, then turns serious again. "Be careful, would you?" she pleads anxiously, sadness creeping into her voice.
Aretmis nods. "I shall be, I promise."
Zoë nods as well, pulling away, and Artemis immediately misses the warmth of her arms around her waist. "I love you," she says sincerely, kindly, with confidence in her voice that Zoë never possessed all those years ago.
"I love you too."
The bed is cold.
Artemis tosses, and turns, and buries herself between mountains of blankets and yet it's still so cold.
It's much too cold without Zoë.
Goddess do not sleep much, they don't really have a need to, but Artemis had gotten used to it. The Huntress don't need sleep quite as often or as much as normal people, but still must do so, and Artemis had become accustom to sleeping when Zoë would.
She misses it. She misses the way Zoë would mold herself into Artemis's side, the way she would sometimes mumble in her sleep. She missed the routine of it, getting ready for bed and then sleeping next to each other. She misses waking up happy. She misses the warmth.
Zoë was always warm, maybe that was why the girl loved winter so much. She had a heat that ran through her, a constant warmth radiating from her body. Artemis is cold without it, she had grown accustom to the heat, had become attached to it, relished in the warmth. She had relished in Zoë.
And now she can't anymore. And now she's cold.
She finds herself sleeping must less often, less then she must as well. She just does not find peace in it anymore. She does not sleep. She sits up at night and stares at the wall of her tent. She walks through the woods and yells into the open air. She moves through the dark like a demon, alone and in pain. And on the nights she does sleep, she finds that she wakes up crying, or with a scream playing at her lips.
Sleep used to be only a necessity, before Zoë, and then had become a comfort and a pleasure, especially with a warm girl by her side. Now, Artemis finds it like a prison. It's not the same.
Nothing is the same.
She's running as fast as she can go, yet she isn't going anywhere. Faceless people with cruel laughs surround her, passing her.
She continues running, she doesn't stop, even when her lungs start burning. Her heart beats in overtime. When was the last time that happened? Since when could she not breath?
Where is Zoë? She cannot find Zoë. That is where she is running. To Zoë. She must get to Zoë.
She runs faster.
She hears a scream. Zoë's scream. Anger boils inside her stomach. Who is hurting Zoë? Who would dare hurt Zoë?
She keeps running, but she is still going nowhere. There is Zoë. She can see her. Right there in front of her. She is crying. When was the last time Zoë cried?
Zoë screams again, slumping against the chains that hold her. The laughing around her intensifies. Artemis continues to run, but she cannot get to Zoë, who is disappearing before her eyes.
Artemis wakes up screaming.
Artemis feels lost.
That's the best way she can describe it without using the words broken or empty. She just feels lost.
The chain around her neck feels like it weighs a much as the sky, pulling at her throat instead of pushing at her shoulders. The pendants burn her skin with broken promises, but always she keeps them tucked against her chest, right above her unbeating heart.
She never takes it off. It hurts, oh does it hurt but she never takes in off.
She holds it close, and for a second it almost feels like Zoë is still there with here.
Artemis tries to forget that she is not.
"The fates gave me one wish," Apollo tells her, and she can see that he is hiding a smile, but why she does not know.
"Why would they do that?" she wonders, trying to keep the bitterness from creeping into her voice. She crosses her arms in front of her chest. Is this why Apollo called her here? "Listen, I've got stuff to do."
"Shush," Apollo waves her off. "Doesn't matter," he says. "Anyways, you remember that girl from Spain?"
Artemis lets out a large groan, rolling her eyes. "You didn't."
Apollo grins. "No, I didn't," he says, and Artemis doesn't have a chance to ask what her twin means because at that moment her steps aside to reveal the dark-haired girl standing behind him.
Artemis lurches forwards and into the other girl's expectant arms. She is shaking, sobbing, -with relief, and thankfulness, and pure joy- and Zoë is too. Everything disappears around them, and Artemis kisses Zoë all over her face, which makes the other girl giggle.
They sink to the ground it each others arms, and Artemis is unsure how long they remain there, but nothing matters. None of it matters except for the fact that Zoë is here. She is here, alive, and well, and with her. And she is never going to leave her again, no never ever. She kisses her deeply, filling the hole in her heart with endless love for the girl before her. She kisses her with passion, and longing, and with all of the things she didn't get the chance to say. But mostly she kisses her with love, and when Artemis pulls away she smiles for the first time in what feels like forever, and Zoë smiles back.
Maybe winter won't be so cold after all.