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Winter Solstice

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Makkari sat away from the crowded dance floor...

She sat by the fire wrapped in her warmest shawl, surveying the newest item in her collection: a small, intricate, bronze statuette in shape of a goddess. It wasn't new persay.

She had actually been looking for this piece for at least 400 years. But the figure was older than that. Far older. The small statuette depicted a young namless goddess and was said to have dated back 4000 years ago to the Elam civilization. Their time spent in Elam was one of her favorites. The last time she saw the small figurine, it laid neatly tucked next to its matching male counterpart. She had traded the pair for the original copy of Plato's Symposium--something Druig had been asking merchants about for centuries. It was a summer solstice gift. 

The Eternals didn't have birthdays in the traditional human sense; So they each chose a local festival or feast as their day. She had been looking for the little pair of gods ever since she made the trade-- hoping to swap something else from her growing collection to get them back.

Now she had the carved wooden box, and the female, but the beautiful petite goddess was still missing her match. Soon she thought excitedly. There remained an indention where its partner had rested. Soon. She beamed outwardly, clearly pleased with her bartering tonight. 

She had barely any time to savour the small victory before a familiar human approached her from the opposite corner of the courtyard. In his hand was a long single stemmed flower. Hard to come by this time of year. 

Her smile tightened. Oh not this one again.

Throughout the years she always tried her hardest not to give any of the merchants or smugglers she interacted with any wrong impression. She was all buisness, often ruthlessly haggling prices down,  with Druig as her interpreter. He knew all human languages inherently. Like he was born with one of Phasto's translation chips somewhere in his brain.

But no matter how blunt and to the point she tried to be, there would always be one. She turned down a handful of proposals every decade or so, and every single time it happened, it was mortifying. She could barely imagine how exasperating it must be for Thena, Ajak, and Sersi to field these advances nearly evey year. From men offering half their kingdom, to others simply declaring their undying love at first sight-- She had seen it all. When word eventually got around to her family she could count on Druig, Sprite, and Kingo falling to the floor with laughter. And she'd have to hear about this one for the next 30 years.

"Good evening, adventurer." Cooed the middle aged suitor. 

"Hello Abrim." She signed smiling politely. 

As he approached, he leaned in to grab her hand. The smell of stale wine and unwashed man invaded her nose. She stood up quickly discreetly moving out of his reach. 

"Did you need something?" She wasn't even sure he knew how to read her signs. She'd only ever spoken to him and the other traveling merchants with Druig's help. 

He ignored her, inching closer. She hated this part. 

"Beautiful traveler. A woman as lovely as you should never sit alone. Would you join me for a dance?" He held out the flower,  bumping it into her face. He held his hand out. Oh for gods sake.

She wrinkled her nose and pushed the flower gently aside. She put her hands up and shook her head side to side, still forcing a smile. It was the universal sign of "No thank you." Please leave me the fuck alone. 

He stepped closer, placing the flower on the table. 

"You mustn't let your youth and beauty go to waste, my dear. You could still make someone a very happy man. " 

She began to shake her head more emphatically, before he cut her off putting his arm above her head, eyeballing her more intensely now. 

"You don't need to be ashamed. Even with your affliction, you could still make me a very happy man."

Her eyes narrowed as she lifted her chin. In a blink she pushed him from blocking her way and he fell on the ground next to another group of festival goers. They laughed heartily at his failed attempts to find his balance. 

"Abrim--you old fool. She can't understand you." They said laughing loudly. 

Makkari, unperturbed, bent to collect her items. She moved at human pace, not wanting to draw any more attention. These humans were very drunk and very drunk humans were never good company for long. 

As she turned to leave, a wobbling Abrim drunkenly removed his sandal throwing it in her direction and spat at her feet. "Ungrateful mute--"

Before he could finish, right as she turned to reel her hand back to slap him across the face, the merchant's eyes glowed deep Gold. 

Druig

At once the man turned around and began stripping off his clothes. What timing. Before she could spot Druig in the crowd to stop him from making more of a scene, Amid, now naked, grabbed the closest barrel of wine and poured its contents over his head. 

Where are you? She looked around trying to discern Druigs heavily lidded, shinning eyes in the courtyard.

Makkari groaned as she saw the man gyrating across the dance floor. Oh Lord. I'm never going to hear the end of this. The groups around him stood and started yelling and gesturing at him in anger and confusion. The musicians stopped their playing to observe the bizarre spectacle. 

The merchant whooped loudly and climed the nearest table proclaiming "I stole my Uncle's inheritance and wasted it all on whores and wine!" The crowd gasped. He pointed at his buisness partner and continued "I fucked your wife! With my poor shrivled dick." He gestured sadly at his groin then laughed maniaclly as he pointed to another man in corner. "Yours too Cleos" he said gleefully recreating thrusting motions. The crowd now laughing, booing, and yelling began to crowd around him. A brawny man, presumably Cleos, pushed through to the front and pulled the drunken man off the table. He grab ahold of his long beard and drug the man out of the courtyard. In one motion he lifted the merchant above his head and chucked him into the large animal pen. Abrim landed with a thud as the music resumed. He continued laying there groaning into the pig shit, too drunk and embarrassed to emerge quite yet. 

Makkari stared for a moment, letting herself enjoy the sight, then bolted immediately to the other gate. 

She found Druig leaning against the city's outer wall, biting into a pear. Without a word he held out the fruit to offer her a bite. Like he just didn't cause the largest scene in decades since Kingo nearly married a princess. 

She flashed over to him slapping the fruit out of his hand poking him squarly in the chest. 

"What was that? You know you can't interfere in human conflict." She signed quickly, emphasizing her words with hard claps. He looked up at her and stepped to the side picking another pear from the abundant tree. 

"Good evening to you too, beautiful traveler. I wouldn't necessarily call that a human conflict." He said playing with the pear's stem... 

"You ruined that mans reputation. He'll never be able to trade in this city again." She signed in frustration. 

This time he was the one to stop her hands. 

" No. Abrim is a greedy, evil bastard who slept with his best friend's wife and left his uncle's family completely destitute. His consequences could have been much, much worse, m'lady." he said firmly, making sure he enunciated well enough for her to see in the moonlight. 

"And--" He began again, this time his tone was softer.  

"And what." She cut him off " You think I've never heard those kinds of insults before? You think I dont notice their stares or their whispers? I've spent millenia living like this. I've never needed anyone to save me." she signed getting close to his face again. 

He stepped foward closing the gap. So close she could feel their breath mingling between them.

"Would you have preferred I throw him into the muck myself then? "

Her intense stare shattered into the slightest of smiles and she rolled her eyes. 

"Or are you saying you would rather have had the pleasure?" He chuckled. 

She huffed, annoyed at his constant habit of making her smile in the worst situations. 

"I'm saying, I can take care of myself."  She signed more firmly but gently. 

"You know I've never doubted that." His eyes sparkled with appreciation. "You could have ran that man to the top of the highest mountain" he said pointing across the desert. "before I even finished my snack. " He bit back into the pear. 

"It's true." She said finally failing to keep her full smile at bay. 

"I'll try my best, for your sake" he said tossing the core over his shoulder. "Amateurs, the entire lot of them, I tell you. Thinking he can romance a living Goddess" A rueful, boyish grin spread across his face.  

She nodded. I guess that's the best one could hope for, coming from Druig.
 
"Thank you for caring." she signed quickly. He was too kind. More kind-hearted than the others knew. She wish she could stay longer but sighed turning towards the desert. "Can't stay. I got to get back home. Ikarus and I have a scouting mission--".  

Before she had a chance to finish he grabbed her hand, gently pulling her back towards him.

"Oh no you don't...My beautiful, beautiful Makkari. Ajak's mission can wait one more night. If my memory serves me correctly, it's still your birthday."

His smile, reserved for her eyes alone, shone brightly in the moon light. 

As if materialized from thin air he produced from behind his back, a small item wrapped in plain cotton linen. 

No. She shook her head in disbelief. There is no way. No way. Her eyes filled with with tears immediately. Smiling she choked out a laugh.  

He continued grinned widely. "Open it.".

She paused looking at him. Her heart squeezed within her chest. She grabbed the item from him, gently pulling back the cloth. 

A small bronze diety. Her missing piece. 

Her match. She threw her arms around him hugging him so tightly she was afraid she'd hurt him. 

She retracted, excitedly pulling the box out of her satchel. Druig carefully grabbed it out of her hands and opened it towards her allowing her to place the statuette in its place. 

She beamed, tears pooling at the corners of her eyes. Finally together again. "Thank you. How did you ever find it? Where did you find it?" 

He put a finger to his lips. "I can't share all my secrets, now can I? But I will give you a hint. Rome."

Her eyes narrowed. She was going to have to get that secret out of him another day. 

She stared thoughtfully at her treasured pair and closed the lid returning the box to her bag. 

"How did you remember?" She signed suddenly. "I stopped celebrating birthdays long time ago." 

"How could I forget?" He said lifting his right hand up to her. "I picked summer and you picked the winter solstice." He paused. 

"And...it was the first time you let me steal a kiss." He bent his head down, bitting his thick bottom lip shyly. 

She put her palm up to him, inviting their fingers to intertwine and nodded. 

"That was a thousand years ago. And hasn't happened again, since." She signed with her other hand. Her mouth screwed into a small frown. 

"Well, that night you did run all the way to Mongolia." A small sadness filled his eyes. "I thought you regretted it. Perhaps you just wanted to stay friends." 

It was her turn to laugh. "Do you think I treat the others the way I treat you? Do you think I sometimes fall asleep in Kingos arms too? Or That I eat breakfast watching the sunrise every morning with Sprite?" How can he observe so much and see so little. 

"Hmmm." He thought for a moment "I suppose you don't." He said closing the gap. So close she could nearly taste his lips and feel his words vibrate into her. 

"May I kiss you, my beautiful, strong, brave, wise, Goddess?" He said each word gently and slowly, savoring each syllable. 

She pressed herself against him and nodded bringing her forhead flush against his. Yes. She mouthed, only for him to see. 

His arms wrapped around her small body, cocooning her within his robe. Dipping his head, he found her lips and kissed her deeply as if he would have to wait another thousand years.

When she pulled away his eyes shone gold and he pressed into her forehead, putting his hands on either side of her temple. 

"I wish I could know what you were thinking." He pleaded, eyebrows knitted together in frustration.  

She nuzzeled his head up, meeting his gaze. His eyes returned to blue as she mouthed the words and signed into his hand. "You don't need to read my mind to know that I'm in love with you." 

He leaned back, placing her hand over his heart; keeping his eyes intensely focused on hers. 

He began slowly reciting in perfect Greek, hands weaving through the air, “Love is born into every human being; it calls back the halves of our original nature together; it tries to make one out of two and heal the wound...” 

Plato. The Symposium. He had read it aloud to her many nights over the years. She would sit, enjoying the rich vibrations of his tone, watching his brilliant mind transpose written word into sign with ease. 

"Do you think that goes for Eternals too?" She asked with a hopeful smile. 

He pulled her in, this time kissing her even more fervently and pulled away, leaving her breathless and smiling. 

"Yes, my love." He mouthed, sweetly. "My match. My goddess. My beautiful, beautiful Makkari. I think it does." 

...