Hades was no stranger to sleep deprivation, but it had been a long time since he entertained infant twins in his bed chamber, and those had not been his progeny. While the nymphs kept vigil around the clock, Hades insisted on helping whenever he could. Lexi needed attention too, and as the sky lightened to lavender, a medicinal bath was run and Lexi fed the babes from there.
"I take it there has been no word from Olympus about Rhea?" Lexi asked Hades as he shaved at the basin.
"No, my love."
After a moment of silence, she questioned him again. "Have you given any thought to names?"
"Some, but I would like to hear your thoughts first."
Sella scuttled in carrying a stack of towels and set them on the chair next to Lexi's bath. She seemed interested in the conversation and paused to listen.
"Well, a girl's name came to me during the tree lighting ceremony last summer – Elm."
Sella gasped, clutching her neck with outstretched fingers. "Wasn't it an elm tree and Zeus' temper that caused your unfortunate accident, Lady Lexi?"
Hades rinsed his razor in the basin as he watched Lexi react. She pursed her lips but she didn't scold Sella. "Yes, Sella, but I refuse to let my mind dwell in places that don't serve me. The babies and I are here now, and I love the name Elm."
"It's settled then. Our daughter will be known as Elm," said Hades. "What about the boy?"
"I would like for you to name him, Hades. Take as long as you need. I know it's an important decision."
"I have already given it some thought. Taking into account the unusual circumstance of our twins' birth, I thought we might name our son Ely, as in Elysium, the place he took his first breath."
Lexi smiled. "How very fitting."
"Elm and Ely are lovely names," Sella said, her demeanor improving as swiftly as time. "May I share them with the other nymphs? They have all been distracted by speculation."
Hades looked to Lexi and she nodded her assent. "Of course, Sella."
Lacy sprang into the room. "Elm and Ely. How wonderful!" The two nymphs met in the center and performed a spritely dance before Lacy stopped suddenly. "Oh, goodness. I almost forgot. Poseidon is waiting to speak with you on the scrying mirror, your lordship." She bowed apologetically before skipping over to admire the babes.
"I trust you were expecting to hear from me," Poseidon said as soon as Hades stepped in front of the mirror. Despite Poseidon's apparent growth in the area of relationships, Hades could think of many other gods he would rather see early in the morning.
"I was expecting to hear from someone. Do you have news for me?"
"I could ask you the same thing. I hear you and Lexi have welcomed the babes. I trust everyone is well." Poseidon looked past Hades' shoulder as Sella walked a wailing bundle to a crib. That would be his son.
"We are all quite well, thank you."
Poseidon nodded, his gaze still distracted behind Hades, then he appeared to remember his original intent. "If you and Lexi are able to host our mother, I am arranging to have her body brought to Elysium this morning."
"I will be at the gates within the hour," Hades said. "Who can I expect to accompany her?"
"Hermes and myself."
Hades' eyebrows rose, prompting a shrug from Poseidon as he went on. "I take it the underworld has not changed since my last visit."
"I don't know. I cannot remember the last time you visited."
Lacy entered the room with an infant in her arms, gesturing to the bathroom with a nod of her head. "I'm afraid I must excuse myself. I will see you and Hermes at the gates. May you and your cargo arrive undamaged."
"Spoken like a true father. Before you go... Will you tell Lexi her friend Odessa is eager to visit with her and the twins?"
"I will carry the message to her now."
Hades tapped the glass and returned to the bath to find Lexi pushing up from the tub and conjuring a breeze to sweep a towel to her waiting hand. Rushing to her aid, Hades swaddled her body with the towel, admiring the mark on her shoulder, the Ouroboros. It was a simple yet beautiful symbol depicting a serpent eating its own tail, a symbol the gods attributed to Gaia, among others. But despite its beauty, seeing it brought on an ominous feeling in his gut. Of course, omens were not always bad.
"You need to let others help you, Lexi. Just until your strength is back."
"But, I do let others help me. You and the nymphs have been at my beck and call since the babies arrived. I'm a mother not an invalid."
Hades kissed her forehead as he helped her step out of the tub. "A stubborn mother." The sentiment had come without forethought, and Lexi turned her piercing blue gaze on him, prompting him to continue. "But exceedingly just and loving."
Appeased, Lexi submitted to having him dry her hair with a towel. "My stomach looks like the hide of an elephant, but with better hydration."
"The temporary side effect of something miraculous."
"I just hope my body will be back to normal by our wedding day. My plan is to look like the goddess you fell in love with, but with a bigger rack."
Hades nuzzled her lemon verbena-soaked hair. "You have no idea how much I love your rack."
Hades walked Lexi into their chamber, and Cerberus bounded over, leading them to the cribs where the babes slept. Was he worried about the silence coming from Ely's bed? Hades and Lexi spent a moment staring at their newborns while Sella and Lacy bustled around the room, tidying up.
"Poseidon and Hermes will be at the gates to deliver Rhea within the hour," Hades told Lexi "I plan to meet them and see they are properly welcomed, but I will return for you. We will travel to Elysium together."
"I will be ready," Lexi replied, her face awash with emotion.
"If you are not, that will be fine too. There is a line between duty and self-preservation, and I would like you to err on the side of the latter."
"That should not be difficult," she said. "I am immortal, after all."
"The most humble of them all." Hades stepped aside to let Lacy dote on Lexi. "Oh, Poseidon wanted me to relay a message from Odessa," he went on. "She is eager to visit with you and the babes. I expect you should extend an invitation to her."
"They are sending messages through each other, huh?" Lexi remarked as she slipped on her nursing bra. "Should I count that as a good sign?"
"I couldn't say. Before now, Poseidon has never cared about passing on a message of this sort."
Lexi smiled. "Then I'm counting it."
YOU ARE READING
Let's say you found true love. And say you had eternity to spend with that lover. So what if he was the god of the dead and you had to manage his dysfunctional family. You would still count yourself lucky, right? Join Lexi and Hades in the third and...