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Work? Azem's home, I think not!

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It was deep into the night when Hypatia returned to Amaurot. Late enough that the streets were nearly empty; the few people she did pass gave her a respectful nod or perhaps a soft greeting. “Welcome home, Azem,” said at least one, and she smiled and gave them a little wave of acknowledgment. She did not stop to chat - her mind was on home and to the people waiting there.

The door opened quietly, and closed behind her with a soft thump. Only when it was closed did she sigh and remove her mask, scrubbing at her face with her free hand. She set the mask down on the table in the front hall, beside the masks of the house’s other two occupants. Judging from the order they’d been placed, Hythlodaeus had come home first. She suspected Hades had kept a longer day than usual dealing with his duties as Emet-Selch.

Hypatia removed her boots, kicking them haphazardly under the table, and padded toward their bedroom, the cowl of her robe slipping down as she moved.

A soft glow of light from beneath the door told her at least one of them was still awake, though it was really even odds on who. She opened the door as quietly as she could, a soft smile curving her lips.

Hythlodaeus was sprawled on the bed asleep, his head pillowed in Hades’ lap, his loose braid messy with sleep. Hades was propped up, a book in one hand while the other rested on the sleeping man’s shoulder. He looked up as she entered, the wrinkles in his brow smoothing out as he gave her one of his faint, gentle smiles. “I thought I heard the door open,” he told her, voice low.

“And you didn’t bother to check?” she teased, moving to settle beside him on the bed. His scoff was answer enough, nor was she surprised. There was little need to check physically, and she doubted he’d bothered to use his sight, either. This late at night, someone entering their home could only mean she had returned.

“How long are you back for?” Hades closed the book and set it aside, wrapping his arm around her waist.

She leaned against him, head resting on his shoulder, while one hand reached down to brush some of Hythlodaeus’ hair out of his face, smiling when he gave a contented sigh. “A few days at least. Maybe longer, depending how long it takes Venat to return.”

His grunt was meant to sound annoyed, she knew, but she could feel his smile all the same. “And just what are the two of you planning, then?”

Hypatia chuckled softly, turning her head to nuzzle against him. “Our presence has been requested in a village we spent time in, when she was still Azem. A friend from the village has decided it’s time to return to the star.”

He relaxed slightly, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. “So I need not worry about the trouble you’ll cause this time.” A pause, and softer still, “I’m sure Hythlodaeus will be glad to have you home for a stretch.”

As if Hades himself wasn’t glad. She grinned, and snuggled against him for a moment longer, acknowledgment of what he hadn’t said, before she sighed and pulled herself away to get ready for bed. Hypatia left her braids in and her hair tied back for the moment; with one of their number sleeping soundly, their ritual would have to wait.

In the time it took her to get ready, Hades had managed to shift Hythlodaeus out of his lap, making room in the bed for Hypatia to join them.

She liked to travel, to see what their beautiful Etheirys had to offer, but she had to admit, coming home to the loves of her life was just as wonderful a thing.

———————————————————————

She was awake before the both of them, as she often was, and even so they had managed to sleep in. Far enough into the morning that the knock at their door was not as surprising as it should have been. Hypatia had just enough time to don her robe, not even bothering with her mask as she opened the door, grinning broadly to see Lahabrea, of all people, standing there.

He stood for a long moment, simply staring at her, before he gave a heavy sigh. “I see. I suspect the three of you will be occupied today. Please inform Emet-Selch that I am requesting his assistance when he is… available.” He turned to go, but paused, looking briefly over his shoulder. “Welcome back, Azem. I trust we shall have your report soon as well.”

“Of course, Lahabrea, just as soon as I’m finished writing it,” she promised with a broad grin, waiting until he gave another long-suffering sigh and walked away. She swore she could hear him muttering under his breath.

The door closed, and she padded back to the bedroom. For a long moment, she simply stood in the doorway, leaning against the frame, and watched her partners. It was Hythlodaeus who stirred awake first, having gone to bed earlier. She suspected he’d been awake a while now, himself, but neither of them had wanted to wake Hades.

Of them all, he got the least amount of rest, it seemed.

This time she settled down beside Hythlodaeus, who tugged at her robe until she was laying down half on top of him. They lay like that for some time, idly caressing each other.

Hades stirred to wakefulness only because the light had begun to hit his face. “You should have woken me,” he grumbled, fighting back a yawn even as he spoke. “I have-”

“Absolutely nothing to do today. Lahabrea came to visit earlier this morning,” she replied with a smirk. “You’re not expected today. Or tomorrow either, I’m sure.”

His brows furrowed, but she managed to pull him over so she could plant a kiss on his forehead, earning herself a fond sigh and a smile. It didn’t take long for her to be sandwiched between the two of them, arms and legs a tangle as they each tried to get as much contact as they could. Hypatia’s visits home were often far apart, owing both to her nature and to her seat on the Convocation.

It was difficult to do her job, after all, if she was always in Amaurot.

—————————————————————

The primary reason they ended up leaving the bed was a need for food, but even before that, they took their time to attend to each other. Hythlodaeus took his time unbraiding her hair, turning enough that Hades could work at his own braid. Hypatia occupied her hands with Hades’ hair, combing it out and gently massaging his scalp.

With no plans to go anywhere, there was no need to fix their hair. Wearing it loose around their home was part of their ritual, and each took advantage of the time to run their hands through long locks, winding strands around fingers and giving playful, gentle tugs.

Food should have been easy, and usually was for her lovers when she was not at home. But Hypatia had always been a little eccentric, and the act of cooking was one such quirk. They indulged her this, though it took more time and patience, but in a way it was also something for the three of them. She would offer them tastes as she cooked, teasing and flirting. They would help her, sometimes, handing her things when she asked for them, or with small tasks like stirring a pot. Sometimes she would tell them where she learned the dish, who had taught her, why certain ingredients were used above others.

Her words were always soft, but she would gesture in ways that spoke volumes, emphasizing with her movement rather than her voice.

When she was done cooking, they settled in together, pressing against each other. Food was always served from the same plate or bowl, shared between them, often feeding each other at random. This was usually Hythlodaeus’ time to speak, to tell stories from his work, the concepts he’d recently approved or denied, which ones stood out to him the most. Humorous anecdotes and complaints couched in sarcasm.

Cleaning up after eating was always a much easier task, especially when they turned expectant gazes to Hades, who huffed out a sigh but caved anyway with a wry smile.

They ventured out only to go to a nearby bathhouse, the masks of Azem and Emet-Selch both guaranteeing no one bothered them and that they were able to claim a private bath with ease. They took their time in the bath, soaking in the warm water, allowing the gentle current to wash over them. Hythlodaeus washed her hair for her, commenting on how much longer it had gotten in the time she’d been away; for his part, Hades kept largely silent, but he pulled her legs into his lap and massaged her calves and feet.

Once Hypatia had been tended to, she turned and together with Hythlodaeus began seeing to Hades. She washed his hair, gently teasing him with small braids that she undid as quickly as she’d made them; Hythlodaeus massaged each of his hands, admonishing him for working too hard.

And then it was his turn, Hades washing his hair and Hypatia so, so gently massaging his temples, brushing her thumbs gently around his eyes, smoothing away tension. She teased them both: “You don’t want wrinkles like our Hades, do you?” she asked with a smile. Hythlodaeus felt the cooling touch of her healing magic as she worked, easing his eyestrain as she worked.

Jars of ointments and lightly scented hair oils waited for them when they were finished, and they took their time here as well, carefully selecting for each other. A stronger scent for Hades, rich and earthy; for Hythlodaeus a more woodsy scent; the gentlest, lightest of all for Hypatia, faintly floral and clean.

Hypatia used the tiniest bit of aether to hasten along the drying of their hair, and then it was time to apply the oils. Wooden combs assigned to each jar were used to smooth it through. Task complete, they donned their robes and masks once more, cowls up, concealing loose hair as much as possible.

They could have returned home immediately, but instead they chose to walk around the city, her arms tucked into theirs. It was Hypatia who set their pace and their journey, wandering at a leisurely stroll. They went to a nearby park and meandered for a time, and then back into the city. Sometimes they would be greeted by passersby; most of the time they were left alone by the Amaurotines who had grown accustomed to their habits when Azem was home.

The trio found themselves back at their abode late into the afternoon. Hades insisted then that they return to bed; he was tired still, and they looked tired as well. With soft laughs they obliged him, piling onto the bed, robeless and teasing.

Rest was a while coming; they spent many long moments reacquainting with each other’s bodies, remapping every ilm. Only when all three were fully sated did they finally doze off together.

———————————————————————

They managed three days in a similar pattern, unbothered, before Lahabrea returned and reminded them firmly that they had work that needed doing.

Venat had not yet arrived, and so Azem went with Emet-Selch to participate in Convocation matters, of which she was ostensibly meant to do anyway. She finished her report, handing off the paperwork to the appropriate parties, Lahabrea included.

It wasn’t all bad, of course. While she found meetings terribly dull, it was nice to catch up with Elidibus, who listened to her stories wholly enraptured. 

They were well into her second week home - the longest stretch in quite some time - when Venat returned to the city.

One last night together, then. A last night of their little rituals, brushing hair, little touches, soft kisses. In the morning, they took their time with the braiding, aware that they might not see each other for weeks or even months. Hypatia drew each of them in for deep, lingering kisses before she settled her mask over her face and pulling up the cowl of her robe.

And then, as quietly as she had arrived, she was gone, back out to her wanderings.

But at least she had a friend at her side, and the two who remained behind could ask for nothing better.