The day at Nymphaeum had been hectic, and I felt the need for some tea. I hadn’t been into Dark Sparks much, and I felt poorly about that. Nike had done an excellent job taking over the company, and I wanted to make sure I supported her. I had a song playing in my head and didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings as I walked in. I made my way up to the counter and ordered a hot tea with milk.
I heard a gentleman talking with a waitress about not getting a froo-froo drink, just a coffee, and I couldn’t agree more. Some of these coffees and lattes were too much. I came from a time and place of simple elegance, and I enjoyed it. Something about the man’s voice nagged at the back of my mind, but I just shook off the sense of familiarity. That was until I sensed a presence behind me. I turned around and was confronted with Nereus.
“Dad?!” I exclaimed, a little more surprised than I should have been. I knew he’d returned, and I cursed myself for not seeing him sooner.
“Ah, the fairest fish in the school finally makes an appearance. It’s good to see you, Amphitrite. Do you have a minute or two to spare?” His voice was sparkling, like the Aegean in sunlight, and I leapt into his arms.
“I’ve missed you!” I felt like a kid again, back when my pater was my whole world. I clung to him tightly as Nereus spun me around.
“Ah, it’s so good to see you, too. Your mother’s been pestering me to get in contact with you ever since she heard I was coming here,” he commented as he set me down. I was surprised my mater was back and expressed that. “She’ll be here in a few days. Some of your other sisters took her to Fiji for a vacation. She’s flying back as we speak. Come, I have a table over here.”
I joined him at his table, the memory of my trip to the Trench floating to the surface. “Fiji, I was near-ish there recently.” Nereus chuckled, commenting how Mater and my sister ran into a bit of bad weather, but they made it work. I only felt worse for it. The hurricane I had caused affected more than I realized. “I had no control. It’s been so long since I was that…loose, that wild. It took everything I had to contain it.”
“The sea’s a part of you as much as you’re a part of the sea. Mercurial and mischievous. It goes hand and glove together. And speaking of mischievous, I heard your grand opening went pretty well,” Nereus stated, mischief sparkling in his eyes.
The waitress brought my tea, and I smiled at her in thanks. “Yes, that is one word for it. I spoke with the Monterey Otter Pod. They said you were going to stop by. Why didn’t you?”
His answer caught me by surprise. That seemed to be a theme here. “Poseidon showed up a few minutes before I did. Saw him going in and thought you probably didn’t need him and me on top of everything else going on. Especially since I could sense Eros, Ate, and Eris in the vicinity. The void knows what the three of them could stir up. So, I took the path of least resistance and waited. However, he seemed to be there for the long haul, and I knew I’d catch you eventually.”
I gulped and fiddled with my cup. Nymphaeum was everything I had hoped for, and the fact that it was still standing after my dramatic family had shown up was impressive. “He was only there until dinner was finished. We had some talking to do, and honestly, I was still a little raw from my trip into the Trench. If you had arrived on top of seeing P again and then the Erebus blow-out, I would have lost my shit. Oh, and Ate tried, Eris enjoyed some long pork, and Eros broke one of my closets. Those three are a menace together.”
Nereus did a double-take and laughed. We gossiped a bit about Erebus and Ate and Clio and Eros. However, I couldn’t give him too much information since all of it started or ended while I was stuck in the foam. I knew if we were discussing gossip, that the otters would have told him. He confirmed my suspicion when he asked, “I hear there may be someone new in your life?”
I bit my lip and nodded. “Yes, there is.”
He smiled broadly at me, reminding me of the much younger Titan who raised me. “I’m glad to hear it. Look, while I was proud that you were married to Poseidon, we also knew it was as much a political marriage as it was anything else.”
“It wasn’t a marriage, we never…” I sighed.
Nereus nods, his smile tinged with sadness. “If this new person makes you happy, then my dear, I’m overjoyed and can’t wait to meet this young buck.”
“Even if that person is Dionysos?” I asked, holding his gaze.
“Well,” he looked me over, “Amphi, you haven’t looked this happy in years. While he might not have been my first choice, it’s not me who’s choosing. And if he treats you well, who am I to object?”
I smiled. I couldn’t help it. I didn’t need his blessing, but it was sure nice to have it.
“In fact, your mother wants me to invite both of you to dinner on the Aegean Star as soon as she gets back,” Nereus said, returning my smile.
“I would love to go to dinner with you two. I will have to check with Nisos, though. And you don’t have to worry, Pater. He treats me like a queen.”
Nereus and I spoke of my mater and sisters, laughing as we imagined their reactions. They would all have a thing or two to say if Dion didn’t treat me well, but I knew it wouldn’t be an issue. I sipped my tea before reaching out to touch his hand. “Pater, I need to apologize to you.”
Nereus’s smile faltered a little. “Apologize? For what?”
I took a deep breath. “I didn’t appreciate you, even when I became a mother. I didn’t appreciate everything you and mater did for me. When I was in the Trench, facing my worst fears, you were there. The worst aspect of you and I said horrible things. I’m sorry. I was angry and cruel. I was stuck as foam for two thousand years and then lost in the Trench. I was spiteful. Eighty thousand years old, and I hated you, like a child. And I am sorry.”
My pater patted my hand gently. “Well, I won’t claim to have been the best father either. It was a handful trying to keep track of all of you. You were more self-sufficient than your sisters, so I may have leaned too much on you instead of just letting you be yourself. But, it’s in the past, and I fully accept your apology and offer you one too for maybe not being there when you really needed me.”
I tried not to cry, really. It wouldn’t do for me to break down in public. “I…I was so lost for years. And when I came back, when I found myself again, everything was different.”
Nereus scooted his chair around and pulled me into a hug. I missed my pater so much, more than I think I realized until now. We were so similar, him and I, and I kept forgetting that the best parts of me mainly came from him. “Maybe if I’d been less selfish, I could have paid more attention to what was going on in Atlantis, and you might not have cast yourself to the foam.”
I leaned into his hug, needing his strength. “I didn’t cast myself into foam. Gods, I wish I had. It may have been easier. I never gave up, Pater; I wanted to be there, for Atlantis, for Poseidon…I didn’t choose to leave, to disappear.”
“They should have named the Mediterranean after you. It’s nearly as big as your heart. That’s why I should have been there. You must have run yourself ragged trying to cover for Poseidon. Some merfolk approached me after he disappeared to retake the trident, but I declined. I said I was keeping my end of the bargain, and since it was the Olympian’s problem, they should deal with it. I didn’t think about how it might be affecting you.”
I shrugged a little. “No one knew. It was the secret Atlantis kept for a millennium. And then, when I disappeared, no one knew about that either. One, only one came looking. Triton held the seat of power when I was gone and he’s been installed as regent. I wish I could go back and change it, never to have gone searching for Poseidon in Rome.”
“Rome seems to be the source of many of our issues,” he commented, his voice a little darker than before.
I nodded, almost hesitant to tell him this next part, but I felt like I owed him. “There was a group of men hunting gods, draining their powers. Apparently, they were using a net based on the one Hephaestus made. If I weren’t who I was, if I didn’t have the skills I was born with, I would have died. That thought still wakes me in the middle of the night.”
Pater’s eyes widened in shock. “I hadn’t heard anything about that. Mortals hunting gods? That almost defies the imagination. Where were the Furies? The Harpies? Hell, where was the Kraken? Wait, skip that one. I think Perseus dealt with him…” He paused, shook his head, and regathered his thoughts. “Surely, someone dealt with those interlopers?”
“I wouldn’t know. I was stuck as foam.”
Nerus visibly grew in stature as his anger rose. “Someone is going to answer to me about this.”
I had started speaking before I realized what was going on. “Father,” I placed my hand on his arm, “calm the seas inside, please. Something tells me I will run into them again. If their organization still exists.”
He breathed deeply through his nose, and slowly he resumed his mortal size. “I can promise you that you will not face them alone the next time. Threatening one of my daughters is introducing yourself to Thanatos.”
I smiled and kissed his cheek. “Thank you, Pater. I appreciate that.”
Nereus looked at me seriously for a moment, and I withered slightly. It wasn’t a gaze I liked too much. “Perhaps you should speak to Ares, my dear. He’s lent me a few of his Amazons for special assignments. Gia and her sisters are quite efficient.” Although, when he’s endearing, it makes my heart soar.
“I have a very skilled fighter by my side almost daily, and I did speak to Ares about some hand-to-hand training. You know I’m not overly skilled at combat on dry land,” I commented.
He agreed with me, and we kept our chat going. I mentioned that I would need to find a way to stock up on salt from the Primordial Sea before my trip to the Underworld, which caught him off guard. I hadn’t planned on telling him that. I didn’t want him to worry. It just sort of slipped out. So I had to explain why I was traveling with Than to visit an estranged group of sea-nymphs. Apparently, they went native, trapped down there. I’m hoping to reconnect with them. Even if I weren’t the Queen of Atlantis and they were therefore my responsibility, I would still have gone.
It was at this moment that Eris and Clio made their appearances at Dark Sparks and joined us. The conversation was fun and playful. There were a few moments when I grew dark inside, as pater made a comment about always knowing where his children were, and I grumbled at that. Otherwise, it was a lovely evening.
A buzz came from Nereus’s pocket, and he looked at it sheepishly. “Sorry, Amphi, I have to head down to the coast. Apparently, the Greek Coast Guard is pulling a surprise inspection, and they want the owner of the Aegean Star there. You’re welcome to tag along, but it’s going to be long and boring.”
I chuckled. “It’s alright, Pater, I understand. I’ve had to rush off to Nymphaeum for similar reasons. And no, I need to feed Mano. He gets peckish when my fingers aren’t there to nibble on.” Clio had disappeared at some point in time, but with the twins, I was surprised she was able to stay as long as she had. Eris said their goodbyes and popped out. I believe they were off to sink a ship, which didn’t surprise me in the least.
I stood and picked up my cup. “I’m on floor 27 if you or Mater care to visit.” It was nonchalant. And yet, I wanted him to know that I was trying to rebuild these connections.
His response came almost immediately, “I’m going to be on floor 41…well, the office is. I’ve talked to your mother, and some of your sisters will come help get the business going. They will either lead expeditions or run the office as they have time. Now, don’t forget to invite Dion to dinner.”
Nereus asked about Nerites suddenly, and I shook my head, not knowing what else to say other than, “You should ask the king.” Maybe Poseidon knew where my younger brother was. The conversation didn’t last long, and we were back to saying our goodbyes.
“Let Mater know that she is welcome to stop by anytime as well?” I paused and smiled. “As are you.”
Nereus pulled me into a hug, and I returned it. “I look forward to it, Daughter. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”
“That we do.”
His phone buzzed again, and I laughed. It felt exactly like how Mathieu would try to track me down. “Good grief, that captain knows how to spoil a perfect moment. All right, I’ll see you soon.” He disappeared into mist, and I laughed out loud before walking out of Dark Sparks and back up to the OA.