“All I see is sand,” Bailey grumbled.
“It’s kind of like the beach, but different,” Scarlet commented. “We can build sandcastles.”
“Then we can kick them over and destroy them!” Ken hunched over, extended his hands like claws and let out a loud roar.
“I could think of ten things I’d rather be doing than playing in the sand.” Bailey crossed her arms over her chest. “What are we, five?”
“Hey, hey, hey…” Ethan began. “No negativity. We’re in Egypt! It’s party time, we’re gonna have a blast!”
“Woohoo, party!” Ken threw his arms in the air, forgetting the animosity he had towards Ethan just a few days ago. Without that incessant imaginary voice ringing in his ears, he was much more enjoyable to be around.
“Oh, shut up,” Bailey spat.
“What’s your problem?” Ken huffed. “You heard the man, no negativity!”
“It’s not like he’s my boss or anything,” She smirked.
If Ethan was upset, you wouldn’t know. He hid his feelings well, it was what he had always been taught to do until he met Apollo. Weakness meant that you would go hungry. If you could smile, people would think you were cute and you’d get scraps from their baskets, extra change and sometimes even full meals. Consequently, if you were able to hide your pain, you’d be able to scare away other kids trying to take your food. If he needed something, he’d just ask and Apollo would be happy to give it to him. Hiding his pain was a different story altogether. He hated dragging the focus on himself and even more he hated worrying Apollo. Now, he didn’t want to look like a weakling in front of the kids. Of course, Apollo saw through all of that. He stepped forward and began to speak. “Actually, this was all of Ethan’s idea. It was just supposed to be me and him on this vacation but he thought it would be fun if he brought all of you along. Plus, let’s not forget that he’s your step-father, so show him some respect.”
Ethan was silent, even when Ken began to ask questions. “So, without Ethan there’d be no trip?”
“Who cares? I’d rather be home anyway,” Bailey scoffed. “I never asked to come. If I wanted to come, I’d ask.”
“You didn’t have to come,” Ethan said calmly.
“Yes I did, mom forced me to!” Bailey lowered her eyes.
“Enough of this,” Apollo said. “I know what’ll be great. Let’s go on an adventure!”
Scarlett’s face lit up. “An adventure?”
“Mhm, we’ll be exploring a tomb to find some treasure,” Apollo said.
“That sounds really scary.” She frowned. “On second thought, I don’t want to go. What if there’s monsters, or mummies?”
Apollo leaned down to her level. “Do you really think I’d let a monster touch you?”
She shook her head slowly. “No.”
“Give Daddy a hug, I’ll protect you.” Scarlett reached up and gave her father a hug.
Apollo nodded. “Me too. I’ll kick any mummy who tries to touch my sister!” Ken exclaimed, showing off his karate moves.
“Ok, I’m ready then!” Scarlett psyched herself out. “Let’s go find some treasure!”
“Bailey,” Apollo said. “Put your phone away, we’re in another country.”
“And?” She didn’t even look up. “I told you that I don’t want to be here.”
“But you are here,” He said angrily. “And you can’t go back until this vacation is over. So I’d appreciate it if you were’nt so miserable and bringing everyone else down.”
“You’re only saying that because you think I’m being rude to your husband…” Bailey said snottily.
“You are and I really don’t like that tone young lady.” Apollo placed his hands on his hips. “Stop being a baby and hang out with us. We didn’t plan this to torture you. It’s so that you can have fun.”
“Fine whatever, but I’m not going into some stupid tomb. There’s probably no cell service and it’s dusty and dark. No thanks, I’ll just stay up here and wait for you guys.”
“There’s no way I’m leaving you alone in a strange country,” Apollo began but Ethan held his hand up.
“I’ll stay with her,” he offered.
“Are you sure?” Apollo asked.
“Mhmm.” Ethan waved him off. “It’s no big deal. Why should Ken and Scarlett have to suffer? I don’t mind staying here with Bailey, we’ll go sightseeing or something.”
Bailey lowered her eyes but didn’t say anything. Apollo reluctantly left his daughter and husband behind. He really wanted this to be a family affair and he knew that Bailey was a handful. Ethan looked annoyed enough as it was today, would he be able to handle Bailey? He’d just have to trust his husband.
“What do you want to do?” Ethan asked Bailey.
“Go home,” Bailey mumbled.
“This has nothing to do with Amelia…does it?” Ethan questioned.
“So what if it does? Why do you hate her so much!” Bailey shouted. “She didn’t do anything to you!”
Ethan sighed. “I don’t hate her. I hate what she’s doing to you. Look at you, you’re getting angry and upset when you’re in another country. So many people would love to be in your position. It’s only for two days. Amelia can survive without you!”
Bailey looked up with as much intensity. “You’ll never be my dad so stop trying to be.”
“Listen to me,” He leaned down to her level, anger flashing across his eyes. He was finding it increasingly hard to keep calm. “I didn’t have a dad growing up, or even a mom. I didn’t get to go on vacations with my family. I never had a mom, or a dad ,or brothers and sisters. The closest thing I had to a friend was a dog who died because I didn’t have enough money to feed him. You have an amazing father and mother, a brother and sister who love you immensely and uncles, aunts, grandparents…” Ethan stopped and looked away from the girl, not wanting her to see the tear he was trying to force back.
“You don’t have to accept me as your father, but you shouldn’t be so hard on your dad when he’s trying to make you happy. You can be cooperative for two days.”
He felt a tugging on the hem of his shirt. “Sorry,” Bailey mumbled.
“It’s ok Sweetheart.” She looked up at him with confusion in her eyes. How had he forgiven her so easily after all of the negativity she had thrown his way?
“Are you coming?” Apollo asked.
“This doesn’t look like a tomb,” Ken said skeptically.
“It’s for beginners, we can’t just go into a pyramid. We’re not qualified yet,” Apollo said.
“How many adventures until you’re qualified?” Scarlett asked.
“As many as it takes for you to feel confident in your abilities,” Apollo confirmed.
“How many adventures have you been on, dad?” Ken asked.
“Only one, in France.”
“France!” Scarlett gasped. “Do the crepes really taste amazing?”
“Unfortunately I didn’t have time to eat Crepes, I was sleeping in the tomb and eating these dried up instant meals,” Apollo told them.
“Instant meals?” Ken scrunched his face. “The ones you add water to?”
“Gross,” Scarlett commented.
“When you’re in the middle of an expedition, you eat what you have,” Apollo instructed. “Now come on before it gets too late, let’s head inside and explore.”
“Where did you learn this trick?” Bailey asked in between mouthfuls of food.
“It’s not really a trick,” Ethan admitted. “Everyone does it.”
“Sticking meat on a stick…really?” Bailey asked in shock.
“Yeah.” He nodded.
“Why do people do this?” Bailey asked.
“It’s easy to cook food like this when you don’t have a stove around. Wait for this, you’re going to love this.” Ethan reached behind him and pulled out a bag of marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate. “Smores.” Bailey took the stick from Ethan and pushed the marshmallow on it. her face lit up as it darkened above the fire pit. Ethan grabbed her hand and lifted it a bit from the fire. “Not too close otherwise it’ll burn.”
“Do we eat the hot marshmallow?” Bailey asked.
“You smoosh it in between the crackers and out chocolate on it. It’s delicious. Heres a cracker, stick that on there and put a piece of chocolate on it.”
Bailey’s face lit up as she tasted it. “This really is good!”
“Of course it is,” Ethan agreed. “Anything that has chocolate tastes good.”
“We’re trapped!” Ken wailed. “We’re gonna die here!”
Scarlett looked hysterical. “No, daddy!”
“Guys, relax. Nobody is going to die. See this panel over here? Watch this.” Apollo stood on it and a staircase opened up.
“Woah, just like in the movies!” Ken exclaimed.
“So cool!” Scarlett grinned.
“I told you guys, I’m not going to let anything happen to you, you have to trust me,” Apollo said.
“Sorry, daddy,” Scarlett apologized.
“No, don’t apologize.” He shook his head. “it’s ok to be scared once and a while, but I’m always here for you. Always. Remember that.”
“Do you guys sell cameras?” Ethan asked the guy behind the counter.
He nodded. “We have disposables and polaroids. The polaroids cost more.”
Ethan handed over the money. “Definitely a polaroid.”
“What’s a polaroid?” Bailey asked from behind him.
“Watch this.” Ethan handed her the camera. “Aim at something and take a picture.”
She did as she was told and a photo popped out from under the camera. “What..!?” She asked shocked. “It’s a real photo and it was printed from the camera. You didn’t even need to connect it to a computer!”
“Let’s take a look at it.” Ethan held the photo up.
“This is a rip off, it doesn’t even show anything!” Bailey complained.
“It needs to develop. Shake it a little.” As Bailey shook it, the colors became clearer and a picture was revealed.
Her mouth was agape. “Seriously!?”
“What’s that big box? Is it a treasure chest?” Ken asked.
“I hope it has a key in it because it looks like we’re stuck again,” Scarlett said.
“Not a key, but a keystone.” Apollo held up a heart shaped stone. “Does anybody see anything that we can stick this inside of?”
They all looked around, Ken’s eyes falling on a panel by the door that had just entered through. “Over there, look it’s the same shape!”
Apollo slid the stone into the hole and the lock broke off of the door. “That was like magic,” Scarlett said in awe. Apollo chuckled at the amazement of his two children.
“Ethan.” Bailey looked up at him. “Do you really love my dad?”
Ethan returned her eye contact. “With all of my heart.”
“He really loves you,” Bailey continued. “That’s why he gets mad at me when I talk to you the way I do.”
“Sweetie, if you know that, why do you do it? Do you really not like me that much?” Ethan asked desperately.
“No…” She looked away. “Amelia says you’re hiding something from us, that you don’t belong here. I have to listen to her.”
Ethan tensed up at her confession. He couldn’t let her know about his magical past, but of course her imaginary friend would know about it. She was just like him after all. He looked over at Bailey and forced a smile. “You don’t have to listen to her. She’s your best friend, right? Best friends accept each other’s families. I love your dad and you and Ken and Scarlett. I’m not trying to cause any trouble.”
“I know.” Bailey nodded. “That’s why I’m telling you. I’m having fun and I know that daddy loves you.”
“I promise that I won’t ever hurt you guys,” Ethan concluded. “Never.”
“I don’t want to do this anymore!” Scarlett cried.
Ken kneeled next to her. “What’s wrong, Scar?”
“It’s dark and scary down here. There’s bugs everywhere and look a skeleton is over there.” She cried harder.
“Sweetie,” Apollo began but Ken held his hand up as if to say, ‘I’ve got this, dad’
“That’s probably a fake Skeleton,” Ken said.
“Don’t you see the writing above it? It says he was starving! We’re never getting out of here! We’re going to starve!”
“Scarlett, snap out of it!” Ken shook her shoulders. “Dad said that he wouldn’t let anything happen to us. He promised. Dad never lies.”
“He’s right,” Apollo added in. “I’ve never lied.”
“But…” She looked up. “We won’t starve?”
“I’ve got enough food to last us a while.” Apollo pointed to his backpack. “Besides, we know the way out. We just have to retrace our steps.”
“You guys promise that you’ll keep us safe?” Scarlett wiped a tear from her eye.
“Heck yeah, right dad?” Ken held his hands on his hips. “We’ll conquer this tomb!”
“I’m proud of you,” Apollo whispered as he passed his son. Ken looked up with a triumphant smile.
“Now what?” Bailey groaned. “It’s too late to do anything!”
Ethan chuckled. “No it’s not. Look inside that tent and tell me what you find.”
Bailey crawled in the tent and poked her head out. “I see two pillows and a blanket.”
“Bring out the pillows,” Ethan ordered. “Let’s have a pillow fight.”
Bailey’s eyes lit up. “I can hit you with a pillow? Yahoo! This is the greatest day ever!”
“Alright alright, just don’t kill me, okay?” Ethan scratched the back of his head. Oh, the things he was willing to do for the Gray family.
“This means war!” She shouted as she charged out of the tent.
Ethan put his hands up defensively as he endured the oncoming strike. Chuckling he snuck the pillow from Bailey’s hand and held it above her head.
“You can’t win, Sir Ethan! I shall become Queen of this castle!” Bailey exclaimed.
“Nigh, Lady Bailey. You shall not have my kingdom. I will not go down without a fight!” Ethan played along.
Bailey laughed gleefully as she tried to reach the pillow in Ethan’s grasp.
“Stop!” Scarlett cried as they ventured further into the tomb. “Are we sleeping in here?”
“Mhmm, I’ve packed a tent,” Apollo answered.
Scarlett let out a panicked breath. “Daddy, I don’t want to!”
“It’s only one night,” Ken said.
“It’s…scary in here, we don’t even know if it’s night time or not,” Scarlett argued. The two battled it out until Scarlett began to cry uncontrollably once again.
“Ken,” Apollo began. “How about we spend the night with Bailey and Ethan?”
“Oh yeah, I’d like to see how Bailes is doing,” Ken agreed.
Scarlett wiped her eyes. “Really, its ok? I’m not ruining anyone’s plans?”
“Exploring tombs isn’t for everyone, that’s ok.” Apollo ruffled her hair. “Hold my hand, ok? I’ll get us out of here safely.”
“You’re not spending the night?” Ethan asked Apollo once he was back at the camp site.
Apollo shook his head. “It’s all my fault!” Scarlett burst into tears.
“It really isn’t your fault at all,” Apollo tried to pacify her to no avail.
“Want to talk to me about it?” Ethan asked. “I can tell you about my day and you can tell me about yours. I’d really like to know how things went today.” Approaching Scarlett was a less a daunting task than the other children. She was much more tame and less likely to lash out.
She grabbed Ethan’s hand. “Can we talk over there?” She pointed to one of the tents. “I still love you daddy.”
Apollo grinned. “You can love us both Sweetie.”
“Bailey is asleep in the second tent, I set our stuff up in the first one so can you get Ken and Scarlett situated?” Ethan asked.
“Yes I can daddy,” Apollo teased.
Ethan winked at the now flustered male as Scarlett pulled him away.
“What happened?” Apollo asked quietly. He had just put Ken to bed and decided to check up on his husband and daughter.
“She was afraid of disappointing you,” Ethan answered softly. “You and Ken were having such a great time and she didn’t want to take that away from you.”
“Really?” Apollo asked. “She’s so young. She should be worrying about having fun herself instead of sacrificing.”
“She’s just like you.” Ethan smiled. “She’s got a heart of gold, it isn’t going to hurt anybody.”
“Except for herself,” Apollo said. “I hope she doesn’t let people take advantage of her.”
“I’ll kick their fucking ass if they even try it,” Ethan said seriously.
“Put her to bed please. I’d like to talk to you about something.” Ethan nodded and did as he was told.
“The sky is so pretty,” Apollo said. “The stars are so calming.”
“They really are,” Ethan said as he sat down next to Apollo. “Looking at the stars makes me realize how vast the world really is.” The boys sat quietly, just gazing at the stars above them, until Ethan spoke up again. “What did you want to talk to me about?”
“I want another child,” Apollo said simply.
Ethan couldn’t believe his ears. “What?”
“I want another child,” Apollo repeated. “This time I want to raise one with you.”
“I don’t understand,” Ethan said breathlessly. “Everything is hectic now and-”
“No,” Apollo stopped him. “Things will always be hectic, I am a Gray. We can’t let that stop us. You stayed an entire day with Bailey and you just cheered Scarlett up. You’re meant to be a dad and it kills me seeing how much it hurts you that you think you’re second to these kids. I want to raise a child with you, you’re an incredible person Ethan and I’d give you the world if I could.”
“We can’t have kids,” Ethan mumbled. “It’s impossible.”
“So what? We can adopt a child. There’s so many kids out there, who are orphaned just like you were. We can give them a home, a family that they can love. It’s the right thing to do.”
“That sounds really nice,” Ethan whispered. “I’d love to give a home to someone who needs one. Thank you, for being so wonderful.” Ethan put his lips on top of Apollo’s.
“No, thank you for accepting me, Ethan. You’re truly an incredible human being.”