Winter had come to the Peloponnese. Snow covered the land, sparkling bright beneath the weak winter sun. Yet the heat of summer had returned to one estate in a remote area of that rugged, beautiful peninsular for a single day; the gift of an Olympian who, though he had his differences with his brother, was oddly attached to the bloodline from which that brother was taking a wife.
It had been a whirlwind of a couple of weeks. With Ares' promise in place to let her at least pretend that they were normal and everything was just a little bit rushed, for the sake of his staff and the village not so very far away, Ayden had thrown herself into preparing for her own wedding. Food, decorations, clothing ... they were all under her remit, and to her surprise, she found that Ares' own staff were more than happy to throw in their lot and help her. Despite the fact that she didn't speak a word of Greek, they had taken to her, delighted that their villa would have a mistress for the first time, and between her determination and their broken English, the preparations had all been made to her satisfaction.
Out of deference to male relatives who genuinely despised wearing full suits, as well as a fiance who had certain opinions about the very idea of a tuxedo, she'd allowed for shirtsleeves, so long as the shirt was clean and ironed. Her female guests, however ... that was a different story. Ayden was determined to wear a wedding dress, but at the same time, she didn't want to be the only person there in a ridiculously long formal gown. So Ellen, Jo, and Sam's new girl, Becky, had all been strong-armed into being fitted for formal gowns themselves, and had indulged her with surprising grace. That had been an education in itself - between Ellen's startling understanding of fabrics and complimentary colors, and Becky's hitherto unknown gift with Greek, both ancient and modern, Ayden didn't think she'd forget the day they'd spent at the villa with Ares' dressmaker fussing over them.
Finally, the day arrived. Ares' impatience for it had become more and more marked over the days that brought them closer, until Ayden had actually had to put her foot down and banish him from the area of the garden where the ceremony and resulting party were going to take place. That might not have gone so well for her had Hebe not chosen that moment to show up with her eternal children, but it was the first time that Ares actually did what Ayden told him to, so she was going to hold onto it as a victory.
But, at last, the day was here, and to everyone's surprise, the sun rose over the villa, melting away the snows, drying the earth, warming the chilled air. A gift from Apollo, to celebrate his brother's marriage, even if he wasn't expected to attend personally. Ares and Apollo may have had their differences, but it was time to start setting those differences aside. The war demanded it. Though no Olympians had actually officially RSVP'd the invitation that had been extended to them, there was reason to expect at least some of them to come to Ares' nuptials, and they did not disappoint, arriving on foot or by car, none of them drawing attention to themselves as Ares allowed them to cross his boundary line for one day and one day only.
Hebe was there, naturally, her effervescent good humor bubbling over as her eternal boys played around her feet; Eros and Psyche made themselves known, dressed appropriately, their own small Cupid having had his wings clipped for the day so he didn't startle the natives by flying through the air at random; Dionysus showed up, purely because it was a party, and he was one god who could never resist a party. It was no surprise that Aphrodite chose not to attend, and though Ayden thought that absence might have hurt Ares, he showed no outward sign of it.
An odd ceremony, then ... the groom's family attending what was a new and intriguing oddity; the bride's family alternately proud of their girl and itching for weapons in the presence of so many supernatural beings. Odd, yes, but strangely fitting. The bride was radiant in a gown she'd actually designed herself, a sweet mix of the ancient and modern; the groom a little nonplussed in his formal shirt and pants. The ring was set with a fiery ruby, Ares' stone, the color of passion and blood, the color of life and death, fitted perfectly to the slender finger it was laid upon. There was a wobbly moment when Dean had to actually give his sister away, but they survived that with the minimum of reluctance, just about.
It was merely a formality, after all. In a few short months, Ayden would be presented on Mount Olympus, and her acceptance into the ranks of the Olympians would mark their formal acceptance of this union with Ares himself. This wedding was to please her, more than anything, and to try and curb Ares' own impatience to have her entirely to himself. And, of course, it was a sop for the staff, who were delighted each in their own way to be a part of their master's wedding day and the official welcoming of the new mistress to the villa.
But formality or not, it was binding, and as Ayden looked up at her new husband, acutely aware of the new life within her womb that had yet to make itself known, she knew she'd changed her own destiny. From this moment on, she was the wife of the God of War, soon to become an Olympian herself. And if she had her way, no one would ever harm her family again.