By the time Anteros found his way back to Ellectra it was already fast approaching dawn. Trying his hardest not to disturb her he carefully closed the door and fell back against it. For the moment he remained where he was. Just staring at her. At the woman who had long since become his entire life and couldn't even begin to imagine what he would ever do without her. Suddenly needing the comfort he knew he could only find in her arms he made my way to her. As he approached he pulled off his shirt, uncaring of where it landed he threw it aside and slipped under the covers. Almost instinctively he reached out for her, arms automatically finding their way around her as he sidled closer to her and the warmth he knew he would find.
"You know if I didn't know exactly what she means to you I would be jealous," he heard her say.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you," he was quick to apologize.
"You didn't," she assured as she placed her hand over his. "Is she okay?"
With a deep breath he buried his face in her hair and in a muffled voice answered, "No. I don't think she is."
There was a pause.
"So she knows?"
"She knows," Anteros confirmed.
For moment not a word was said and though he knew she was going to ask he still couldn't help but clutch at her upon hearing, "Everything?"
"No," he slowly replied, the word coming out in a shaky breath. "Not everything."
"Are you going to tell her?"
Conflicted he released a tired sigh.
"What would it achieve?" he asked, unable to help the bitterness of his tone as he thought of how truly unfair it all was. "She's barely coping as it is."
"It won't change anything Ellie," he was quick to argue in an attempt to get her to drop it. Wanting nothing more than for her to forget everything. Maybe then he could continue to pretend. "It won't change a damn thing."
Without a word she brought his hand down to the swell of her stomach, to where their child was growing within her.
"I would want to know," she replied with feeling. "If it were my child I would want to know."
No longer able to contain himself he let out a choked, "I can't. I just can't."
Turning in his arms she stared at him for a long moment before running her fingers across his cheeks, gently wiping away the wetness he hadn't even realized was there before wrapping her arms around him. Aside from Aphrodite she was the only one who knew. The only one who knew the truth of why he could not return. Why he refused to go back to the lie that was his life before her. While it was easy to allow everyone to think Ellectra was the sole reason for his refusal to return and his choice to live as a mortal there was more to it than that. There was a reason why he was chosen to look after Thera, why it was left to him to guide and protect her. While at first he was certain it was because he was the only one who didn't know, who hadn't been a witness to what happened and therefore wouldn't connect the two he soon discovered that there was more. Much more.
"What do I even say to her Ellie?" he questioned hopelessly. "How do I even begin to tell her that the child she only recently had the opportunity to mourn, the child she never even knew existed, the child that isn't even really hers to begin with is still alive?"
At that he shook his head.
"I don't even know if I want her to know. For either of them to know. What good can come from it? That life is over for them. What would it accomplish other than to cause them more pain?"
Unlike the others Anteros did not grow up alongside Eros. In fact he grew up not knowing very much of anything. As the youngest of them all he did not even know of the infamous Erotes until they found him. Hidden from them under the watchful eye of the Goddess of Love and her faithful servants. Though growing up he was never left wanting for anything he soon came to realized the truth of his existence. That despite being given all of his heart's desires he remained a virtual prisoner within the utopia Aphrodite saw fit to create for him, a utopia where he was entirely dependent on her for everything. It was something he did not understand. Not until they found him. Not until Eros demanded he be allowed to join them, to fly free by his side along with Himeros, Pothos and Hedylogos. At the time as nothing more than a mere toddler both physically and in the eyes of the gods he barely understood what was happening. Nor did he know why his 'mother' was so upset his newfound 'brother' wanted to spend time with him. All he knew was that from that day forth he no longer only looked forward to the few moments he had with his 'mother'. Instead he found himself counting the days, down to the very last seconds, to when he would next see Eros and the other Erotes, to the times they would spirit him away.
Suffice to say the moment he came of age and was named the God of Requited Love Anteros didn't even have to think before making the choice to join his brothers. And while he never regretted his decision the fact that he was so much younger than the others meant there were many things he was not privy to, many things that he did not know. Like save for Eros the mere mention of Psyche seem to unsettle them so completely. Even as they tried to laugh off the very idea of her existence. While there were still many things he did not know. Many things he still couldn't even begin to explain there was one thing he did know and that was why a silly little myth disturbed them so. Upon discovering the truth and confronting them with it Himeros, Pothos and Hedylogos, Eros's brothers in all but blood, reluctantly confessed to him all that they knew. They told him everything, of how Eros became a victim of his own spell, of Aphrodite's denial and the tragedy that came to be because of it all. Although they tried to help, going as far as to openly defy the goddess by helping Psyche with every impossible task she was assigned, in the end their efforts proved futile. In the end Eros still lost everything. His memory. His love. His child. Only not in the way they thought. Not in the way any of them were made to think. For as much as Aphrodite hated Psyche the child she carried was still a part of Eros, a part of her beloved son and that part of him was enough to be worthy of saving.
"How am I to tell her when she refuses to even accept Psyche?" he questioned with an anguish he thought himself long past. "How is she supposed to accept this when she can't even accept that part of herself? How can she even begin to accept me?"
Tightening her grip Ellectra assured, "She loves you Anteros. They both do."
"As their brother," he bit back. Unable to help the bitterness of his tone. With a shaky breath he repeated, "As their brother Ellie. They both love me as their brother. For Thera I am the strong older brother that always looked after her. Someone she could always depend on. For Eros I am naught but the younger brother he always felt the need to protect. That's all I am to them. All I could ever be."
Despite realizing the truth of his own words it still hurt. Like a stabbing pain that refused to abate even now he couldn't help but feel the loss. Even if it was the loss of something he never had to begin with. Never even dreamt of having, at least not until he found out, not until he discovered the truth that tore his whole world apart it still hurt like hell.
"I hate what she has done to us," Anteros admitted. Filled with self-loathing he added, "Yet even now I find I am unable to find it in myself to completely hate her."
"You spent most of your existence thinking of her as your mother," she reasoned with a gentle stroke of his cheek. "Despite everything she's done, everything you now know of her, she was such a great part of your life. She saved you Anteros and no matter her intentions she still raised and cared for you. It's okay to be grateful to her for that. Not being able to hate her does not mean you are betraying the memory of your parents. Nor does not mean you approve of what she's done to them. It doesn't mean anything. It doesn't have to mean anything other than you are and will always be a much better person than she could ever be."
Leaning forward he gently touched her lips to his, holding her as if he feared she would disappear if her were to ever let go. One lifetime with her may not be enough, never even be close to being enough, but it was all he had and he was determined to ensure he made the most of it. At the thought of his parents, of how they were so cruelly torn from each other and how even now they suffered, he couldn't help but think of how lucky he was. How truly blessed he was to be living the life he was. But while he hated everything she has put them through the reason why he couldn't completely hate Aphrodite was not simply because of the love he still felt for the woman he until only a few years ago thought his mother. No. The reason he couldn't truly hate her was for the simple fact that if it weren't for her, for all her machinations and manipulations he would have never found Ellectra. The thought alone felt like betrayal.
"I don't care if they can ever only know me as their brother. If that is all I can ever be to either of them then so be it," he found himself saying. "I just can't lose them Ellie. Not now. Not after I've only just found them."
"You won't," she tried to assure him.
Far from comforted by her words he closed his eyes and took a deep breath, wishing he could believe that. Wishing he could believe that they could truly be together. That they could be happy. Even if it did come a lifetime too late.