It was magical, those two hours it took to cook my meal. He taught me first how to light a fire, “You have to strike harder, Artemis, push really hard...there you go!” How to prepare the meat, “Rub the spices right in, stop being so soft, you've got to rub it right it! Do I have to do everything for you!?” and how to pick the mushrooms, “No, not that one, that one will kill you, and how am I going to tell all the other gods I've killed one of their family, hmm?”. By the time everything was cooked, the sun had already set, and we made a fire outside so we could see to eat.
“Right then, Mr. Clever, I give you, garlic venison with mushrooms and fennel. I am now officially a true woman!” Laughing, we sat and ate. The meat was delicious, there's nothing quite as moreish as fresh meat! The sauce wasn't quite as nice as his cooking, but I was proud. I felt, for the first time, that I was useful. We both agreed that I maybe needed more practice in the kitchen before I became a proper cook, but I knew he was proud of me. When the meal was over, we laid on the ground and gazed at the stars.
“Look, Artemis! It's Orion. He was a hunter like us, wasn't he? Mother used to read me the story of him. I can't remember all of it, but I remember he was in love with a goddess, and when he died, he was put in the stars.” At the mention of Orion, my insides squeezed tight.
“I knew Orion. You're not the first man to hold my hand. He was. Orion was my first love. My only love. And I killed him. My brother, my stupid brother, was so jealous, because I loved someone as much as I loved him, and challenged me to a shooting match. He bet that I couldn't hit a floating object in the sea, and I bet I could. I hit it. I killed it. And it turned out to be Orion. My brother had made sure he challenged me just as Orion was swimming out in the sea. I hit and killed him, Actaeon and I have to live with that.” There was silence, except for the cracking of the fire. I felt the tears stream down my cheeks as I remembered. Beside me, Actaeon saw my tears and slipped his warm hand into mine.
“ I suppose we have both killed the ones we loved the most, even if by accident, we are haunted by the scars we must carry til we die.” he murmured softly.
“But I will never die. I can never forget.” I turned on my side to face him, and his features, flickering in the light of the fire, seemed to perfect to be true. Those multicolored eyes were locked on mine, but in the dark, they were only one colour. Black. I felt myself get lost in the shadows of his eyes, swim in their darkness. His hand left mine and began stroking my cheek.
“You know, I'm so glad you saw me bathing, Actaeon. If you hadn't been there, I wouldn't have just had the most beautiful day in my life.” I smiled at him, my hands finding his warm, scarred arm.
“Artemis...” He whispered, his voice so quiet but the word seemed louder than any other he had ever said. Because it was my name. And it came so sweetly from his lips. I watched his dark lashes as he blinked, the way they moved, gently, so innocently. Those moments, they were an eternity. They were the silver fish that danced in the oceans, the birds that circled in the skies. Those moments were a lifetime, and yet, they were nothing at all. His thumb ran over my lips as his hand cupped my face. My arms wrapped themselves around him, and he pulled me on top of him.
“Actaeon, I thought you said,”
“I know what I said.” He murmured. “Forget what I said, Artemis.” I watched as the fire cast shadows on his face, darkening his freckles and causing his eyes to sparkle with it's reflections. “You're so perfect, Artemis, so perfect. Don't ever leave me.” he breathed. His voice sounded somehow desperate and his hands gripped me tighter. I felt tears prick in my eyes.
“I promise, I will never go, I'll never leave you.” And, as slow as before, he leant down until our noses were touching. Then, he kissed me. His lips were warm and needy, pushing against mine in an impossible dance. And the way they felt against mine has never left me. In that moment, I realised he needed me. Someone needed me. And I knew then I could never leave him. It would kill me. His body pressed against mine and I could feel his warm muscles through the material. My hands wound up onto his back, and I felt his angel wings moving. I traced them with my fingers and in my hands, I was so aware of his mortality, of how strong yet breakable he was. And I wanted to protect him. Slowly, we lost ourselves in each other, lost ourselves, but found what we both craved. We found comfort. As the last sparks of the fire died out, he picked me up and, now in the cloak of darkness, took me back and into his house.