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Who You Once Were

Chapter Text

Persephone stood outside of Hera and Zeus’s idiotically huge mansion. She tried not to search for his sleek, black vehicle in the cars parked around their circular driveway and down the street. She made the blossoming urn in the centre of the driveway bloom afresh, full of blue wildflowers, when her eyes fell on his car. I shouldn’t be here. This is stupid.

 

“Persephone! Is that you, darling?” Hera called from the doorway, watching the blushing young goddess on her doorstep. She was in a lovely, cream summer dress dyed with pale pink flowers. They grew up the bodice on pale green stems, the flowing skirt falling to mid-thigh. Her thick, pink hair looped her head in a crown braid and her little white pumps were adorned with little fabric blooms across the ankle straps. She held a parcel in her hands, wrapped immaculately in navy blue wrapping paper, tied with a perfectly symmetrical white bow.

 

“Hera! Hi! Hello!” the pink goddess stammered, stumbling back on one heel. “I just arrived!”

 

“Okay,” the immaculate elder goddess quirked a slightly amused eyebrow, “please come in, darling, we’re still having cocktails,”

 

“Oh, I-“ Persephone began, but Hera was already sweeping down the hallway in a cloud of white chiffon. The younger goddess could do nothing but follow her helplessly into the sitting room. She spotted him immediately, even with her eyes downcast, and she eventually forced herself to look up at him shyly. The other guests seemed to hush around them as their eyes met. 

 

“P-Persephone?” Hades grinned breathlessly, stunned to see her, “I didn’t think… I didn’t know you were coming,”

 

“Sorry, I… Hera invited me so I thought-“She stammered, tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear.

 

“I am so glad you came,” He said earnestly, reaching out to take her small, warm hand in his. The mutual electric tingle of anticipation shot through their forearms.

 

“Yeah?” She smiled shyly as his large navy thumb brushed over the back of her hand, leaving a stripe of tingling flesh in his wake.

 

“Yeah,” He grinned at her, unwilling to yield her hand as if he was afraid she would disappear if she did.

 

“H-happy birthday,” She mumbled, holding out the box to him. She hoped he wouldn’t be able to tell that the immaculate wrapping job was the product of three obsessive re-wrappings.

 

“Oh, Kore,” His words caught in his throat, “You shouldn’t have,”

 

“Well, open it before you say that,” Persephone bit her lip, urging the box into his hands with self-effacing urgency.

 

He tried to still his trembling hands as he tore into the parcel, trying to be as delicate as possible with her elegant wrapping job. A few interested guests crowded around to see what the guest of honour was being given by the diminutive goddess of spring. The dark blue paper fell away from the box beneath, and Hades looked at it with wide, awe-struck eyes. “Kore, it’s beautiful,” He breathed, “thank you, so much,”

 

She had given him a polished cigar humidor made of burnished Yew wood. Carved in the curved lid of the box was an elaborate Yew tree, the twisted branches creating a lattice of dark and pale wood. The latch was a tangle of twisted metal vines. Hades cracked open the box, finding several rows of cigars and a heavy silver lighter inset in a notch in the box, lined with velvet. On the top of the neat stacks of cigars was a small, cream envelope that Hades lifted and toyed with reverently.

 

“Y-y-you’re welcome,” Persephone twisted her fingers against her belly nervously, “Hephaestus helped me. I still think you should cut down but… I thought you might as well do it in style,”

 

“You don’t think I do it in style already?” Hades teased softly, enjoying her blush, moving to open the envelope. She stilled his hands, her brow wrinkling.

 

“Not here, please,” She muttered softly, “I don’t want to be publicly teased,” She laughed a soft, nervous laugh, and he squeezed her hand reassuringly even as his heart raced. What has she written on such a tiny card that is to intimate for public consumption? Don’t get ahead of yourself, Old Man.

 

“Of course, sweetness,” he reassured her, tucking the cream envelope into his breast pocket. “I really am so glad you came,”

 

“No pups?” Persephone asked breathlessly, trying frantically to change the subject.

 

“Oh, uh, no,” He grinned. She was the first to ask about them, “Hera doesn’t like them,” He shrugged, “I’m probably going to cut out early. You could pop back with me and see them, if you wanted…” Too forward. Far too forward. Stop drooling, creep.

 

“You’d leave your own birthday party early to party with me and the pups?” She practically beamed at the thought, inching toward him minutely.

 

“Without hesitation,” He grinned back, reaching up to brush his fingers across her face.

 

“I’ll grab the presents, you pull the car around,” She smirked, only half-teasing. His heart was in his throat and he seemed tempted to take her up on it.

 

“Dinner time!” Hera called, clinking a silver fork Persephone was certain could have paid off her scholarship if she’d pawned it. The crystal of the glass rang out across the room.

 

“We’ll duck out after dessert,” Hades winked at her, tucking her hand in his elbow and escorting her into the dining room. Hera, being Hera, had placed Persephone’s delicate place card in front of the plate beside Hades’ assigned seat.

 


 

“Aidoneus, you must tell Persephone about that hysterical night in Athens…”

 

*

 

“Remember the night before the ambush in the Pindus mountain range? Now that was a rush...”

 

*

 

“That first night, after the final battle, when we sat in that meadow in Olympus all night, sleeping and talking and… catching our breath…”

 

“That meadow, Persephone, is where we built our house, Zeus and I. We decided that night,”

 

“It’s also where Ares was conceived, the night before,”

 

“Zeus!”

 

“I suppose it makes sense; you know?” Zeus sniffed, slurring his words. “My boy, God of War, conceived just before the biggest fight in history!” He snorted delightedly at his own virility.

 

“Wow,” Persephone mumbled, toying with the stem of her glass. It had been about three hours since the war stories began. She and Hades had joked about leaving after dessert and Hera, like she knew two guests intended to bail on one of her social events, had stretched the gap between dinner and dessert until almost midnight. Hades was a little flushed and merry, his cheeks flushed and his tie and top two buttons undone in a very attractively rakish way. Persephone wanted to drag him home, birthday cake be damned.

 

Zeus was drunk out of his head, touching every inch of his wife that he could reach. Poseidon – who Persephone liked, she was surprised to find – was tipsy and vivacious. His exceptionally cool wife, Amphitrite, had been blowing smoke rings from an ornate, blue-glass bong for several hours. Offering it, gently, to everyone else with a mellow smile. Hera was so stupid with drunkenness, the alcohol dissolving away her disdain for her husband and his antics.

 

“Should I help you with the cake, Hera?” Persephone asked softly.

 

“Oh! Yes, darling! Would you believe I completely forgot?” Hera giggled helplessly, leaning into Zeus as he whispered something about handcuffs against her jaw.

 

“Aha I’ll just… get that then.” Persephone pushed her chair back and walked into the neighbouring kitchen, watching the lighted room through the arched doorway. She sighed in soft disappointment, turning to the refrigerator to pull out the cake box. The box was easily found, and Hera’s idiotically expensive forks with ornate handles were discovered in a moment, but the plates… the plates were a challenge. They were on the very highest shelf of the cupboard and Persephone found that a little gin made the whole levitating thing very difficult. She reached up on her toes, trying to reach the shelf to no avail.

 

“Can I help?” Hades’s soft, gravelly voice murmured in his ear, his palm flattened against the kitchen counter beside hers. She could feel the long, lean line of his body ghosting against her back, and her heartrate picked up.

 

“Oh, uh, thank you,” She panted, leaning back experimentally against him. His thumb crossed over her pinky as his other hand reached above her head to draw down the pile of plates. He set them down in front of her, his soft, rapid breathing fanning across her ear. She turned slowly between his hands, leaning the small of her back against the kitchen counter, her hands behind her back lightly touching the cool ceramic edge of the plates. She hesitantly tilted her head back to look at him.

 

“Hi,” He whispered, looking down at her with such tenderness in his eyes.

 

“Hey, birthday boy,” She smiled sweetly at him, “How have you enjoyed your party?

 

“It’s been… the best birthday I’ve had in a while,” He grinned that rakish grin, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. She looked down, mesmerised by the little triangle of muscular, blue chest visible in the parted collar of his shirt. She reached up with trembling fingers, toying with one of his opened buttons.

 

“I’m so glad,” She whispered, urging herself to be brave. “Would you like your present now?”

 

“You already gave me a present, sweetness,” His breathing hitched nonetheless. “That said…” He grinned wolfishly, “I won’t say no,”

 

Their lips were millimetres apart, their warm air shared between their parted mouths.

 

“Did you…uh…” Hades whispered, his hand lifting from the counter to drift up her hip and slide across her waist, “did you still want to come and see the dogs… tonight?”

 

“Oh,” Her fingers on his button flattened as her hand pressed into his chest. Her chin tilted up, “the dogs, yeah. My good pups. I’ve got to see them,”

 

“Oh, good,” His voice was whisper soft and edged with anticipation, he lifted his palm to cup her jaw, “They’d be… they’ll be excited to see you,”

 

“I’m excited too,” She whispered, reaching up to touch his wrist. His thumb passed over her cheekbone.

 

“Hades, love,” Hera purred from the doorway, breaking the intense moment. “We were wondering where you’d got to!”

 

“Here, bunny,” He said ruefully, staring at Persephone’s lips with barely concealed want for a moment before resigning himself to socialising. He stepped away from the young goddess hesitantly, taking the plates from behind her.

 

“Remember that cake I made for you for your first birthday back out in the world?” Hera asked sweetly, wrapping her arm around Hades’s bicep as the turned back towards the dining room.

 

“Yes, bunny,” He said, indulgently, glancing over his shoulder at Persephone with a rueful shrug. “Honey,”

 

“Honey and yellow peaches,” Hera purred, “your favourite,” She leaned up to him and kissed him softly on the lips, pulling back before anyone but Persephone could see. “Happy birthday, Aidoneus,”

 

Persephone looked down at the yellow cake - the wisps of white frosting punctuated with golden wedges of fruit and amber drizzles of honey - and gritted her teeth. Stupid, as if he’d ever want a stupid little girl… She wanted to punch a hole through the centre of the cake.

 

Instead, she opened the container and pulled off the blue candles taped to the lid. She lit the three candles and carried the cake into the room. Hera was hanging off Hades’s arm and Zeus was looking on with drunken fury. He was livid, but had no sense of object permanence, forgetting his anger every time he looked away from her preening. Persephone, unfortunately, was not drunk enough for that. In fact, the image of her touching him flashed behind her eyes like sunspots.

 

“Make a wish?” Persephone said, shy and burning with jealousy. Hades closed his eyes and wished, extinguishing the candles. Persephone didn’t realise it, but she was wishing too.

 

When the light of the candles extinguished, Persephone found herself blinking in the sunlight of a world thousands of years older than her.

Chapter Text

Persephone had been looking for new experiences when she came to Olympus. Having her own mother hold a knife to her throat had not been high on her list.

 

“Who are you?” The dizzyingly young Demeter hissed, pressing the knife under her jaw so hard she almost drew ichor. Persephone had never seen her mother look so wild before, so… feral and violent. Her hair, usually scraped back into a punishing bun, was half up half down, pulled away from her face in a tangled, frizzy braid. Her arms and legs were streaked with clotting ichor, the edge of her chiton torn and muddy.

 

“Titan spy,” Hestia hissed, a similarly young and savage version of the typically prim woman Persephone had known her whole life.

 

“Wrong size, geniuses,” A young, bratty Hera pointed out, leaning against a tree. She was something that Persephone had never seen the Queen of the Gods be; grubby. Her knees and forearms and face were streaked with dirt and blood. Each goddess carried a heavy knapsack over their shoulder, full of supplies. Hera was nicking the ground in a bored manner with a broadsword.

 

“Hmmm, could be a trick?”

 

“Could be a flower nymph,” Demeter used the knife to tilt Persephone’s head, inspecting her rounded ears with suspicion.

 

“What are you, pinkie?” Hera asked, leaning on her sword.

 

“You’ll make it blunt doing that,” Demeter warned.

 

“Shut up, Deme,” Hera groaned, “Kill her or let her speak. I’m hungry and tired and I need a bath,”

 

“Fine. Speak, girl,” Demeter sneered, leaving a golden line against Persephone’s jaw. The blood trickled down the column of her throat and pooled in her collarbone, staining the edge of her pale summer dress.

 

“I’m a goddess, like you,” Persephone stammered, “I can’t… I can’t explain it, but I’m just like you,”

 

“Sure,” Demeter hissed derisively, “Who’s your mama, then? If you’re like us,”

 

“Um, well…” Persephone hissed as the knife bit harder into her neck, “this is going to sound strange and it’s complicated but… it’s you, actually,”

 

***********************************

 

“I’m telling you Hecate,” Hades hissed, “She just disappeared,”

 

“Are you sure she didn’t just, you know, leave?” Hecate examined the party carnage in the darkened dining room. “I had the good sense to leave before Hera got up to her old tricks,”

 

“What does that even mean?” Hades huffed in annoyance, re-buttoning his top few shirt buttons and wishing he was somewhat less casual for this emergency situation.

 

“Aidoneus, you know what it means,” Hecate rolled her eyes, “She passed from touchy feely drunk to her classic tug-o-war between fawning all over Zeus and using some dope to make him jealous,” She quirked an eyebrow at him.

 

“I’m the dope?” He demanded, “I’m the dope?? I’m not the serial philanderer! I was just sitting there,”

 

“Exactly, my dear idiot,” Hecate rolled her eyes, crossing her arms.

 

“Look, she didn’t leave. She stayed way longer than I thought she would… well, that she came in the first place…” He shook his head, grinning slightly despite himself. “But she didn’t leave. She was standing right there, and then there was this bright light-“

 

“Candles, Hades, those are called candles,”

 

“Shut up!” he rolled his eyes, “an otherworldly light, and this sort of humming sound, and then she was just… gone,”

 

“Okay, so she disappeared. That didn’t just happen. There was probably a trigger,” Hecate turned to face him, “what happened, just before the light and the… humming?”

 

Hades thought quietly for a moment and then shrugged, helplessly. “I… I made a wish,”

Chapter Text

Persephone stumbled along behind Hestia. Her hands were tied in front of her in a clumsy knot. She could easily have broken her bonds, but she wanted their trust and so walked along, trailing on the other end of a rope that Hestia wrapped around her wrist and forearm. Hera trailed, bored and tired, at the rear.

 

Demeter walked alongside the pink goddess, though, cutting her eyes curiously at her every few minutes. She hadn’t believed Persephone, of course, not even when she revealed that her given name was Kore, the title Demeter had always secretly harboured as the name she would give her child one day. Nevertheless, Demeter felt a strange familiarity, not dissimilar to the feeling of déjà vu, a kind of unnameable magnetism. Had someone burst out of the woods and attacked them, Demeter felt strangely, calmly certain that she would defend the small pink goddess, only a few years her junior, to the death. How odd, she thought, to think of a war prisoner so…

 

“Do you really think she’s from the future?” Hera said in a haughty, mirthful voice, using her broadsword to strike at the branches overhead.

 

“Ow! Idiot,” Hestia hissed as a branch bounced off of her forehead, “Of course she isn’t. We just have to figure out why she’s lying,”

 

“Metis and the others will know,” Demeter said calmly, looking curiously at their captive again, “If she is from the future, at least it means we survived the war,”

 

“That you survived the war, you mean,” Hera huffed. “Oh! I was going to ask! Did you see the boy?”

 

“Aidoneus is hardly a boy, Hera,” Hestia chastened softly, and Persephone lost the train of their conversation momentarily, her heartrate speeding up. The boy… Aidoneus… they were talking about Hades. Young, wild, recently freed. Two thousand years younger than the man she knew and yet… her heart soared at the possibility of seeing him. Whatever form he took, no matter how scared and scarred and traumatised, he was still Hades.

 

“… caught a glimpse,” Hera was saying, when Persephone regained her composure, “Gave me the creeps,”

 

“Hera! That’s very unkind!” Hestia hissed, “It’s not his fault,”

 

“It’s Kronos’s fault,” Demeter said bitterly, “Titan bastard,” She spat into the dirt in a most unladylike manner. Persephone’s eyes widened; she’d never heard her mother curse like that.

 

Neither of the other goddesses corrected her and they walked in silence to the edge of the forest and came to a small, seemingly empty clearing. At the line of trees, there was a subtle blue shimmer in the air. You wouldn’t notice it if you weren’t looking for it. Hera grabbed Persephone’s shoulders, the contact allowing her to pass through the glamour that protected their camp from prying eyes. Persephone gulped.

 

“What is it, titan?” Hera laughed, “worried about what’s on the other side?”

 

Persephone opened and closed her mouth once or twice, taking in the encampment. Canvas tents dotted the stretch of grass, and the peaks of the ancient trees were tall enough to hide even the tallest of their Titan allies. Rhea was standing beside Metis, discussing something heatedly, and Persephone was struck by the enormous, gorgeous women.

 

“She’s worried we’re going to kill her now that she knows where our camp is,” Demeter sighed.

 

“She’s not wrong,” Said Hera nonchalantly.

 

“Who are they?” She breathed, too mesmerised by the enormous women to notice the death threats.

 

Hera rolled her eyes, nudging Persephone forward, “Don’t play dumb, Kore,”

 

“I don’t think she’s playing,” Demeter retorted, half a snide insult, half a little too genuine.

 

Hestia yanked Persephone’s rope towards the two towering Titan women, “Come on,” The goddess of the hearth hisses, “They’ll know if she’s lying,”

*************************

Hades was trying, unsuccessfully, to focus on work. He couldn’t focus on anything and his work was infuriatingly inefficient and laced with errors. On the other hand, his stomach ached at the thought of going home, rattling around in his own head for hours, wondering where she was, if she was safe…

 

“Hecate! Any news?” He said, too eagerly, jumping to his feet as she walked in.

 

“Down, boy,” Hecate muttered, gesturing to his seat and taking her own. She looked tired, more dishevelled than the sleek goddess ever looked. “I’m worried too, okay?” She growled as he stayed standing, defiantly. He reluctantly took his seat again, his knee bouncing anxiously. “Okay, so here’s what I know… I read the aura of the room and the wishes you both made-”

 

“She made a wish, too?”

 

“Yes, if she hadn’t… some weird alchemy happened when you two joined forces, even accidentally, like that. I’m still trying to figure out why. The fates are being infuriatingly unhelpful. Some mystical bullshit about a double circle and tangled threads woven backwards,” She rolled her eyes, “I’m working on it. I also tried scrying for her but the crystal got all confused. It kept dropping on part of the mortal realm on the map and then sort of… spinning,” She gestured with her finger, “counter-clockwise and very fast. It burned a hole through one of my best maps,”

 

“So, she’s in the mortal realm but also… not?” Hades huffed in frustration, putting his head in his hands. “and the fates are giving us weaving tips? Brilliant,”

 

“I’ll let you know if I find anything else,” Hecate raked a hand through her typically-immaculate bob, “I’m trying my best,”

 

“I know you are,” Hades sighed, smiling wanly at his friend. “I know. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be-”

 

“I get it. She’s my friend, too, I’m worried about her,” Hecate grimaced, “It’s frustrating when magic refuses to do what I want,” She groaned, “I’m the godsdamned goddess of it, you know? And it won’t tell me what I need to know,”

 

“Perhaps you’re asking the wrong questions,” A voice came from the doorway. Demeter was standing there, frazzled and poorly dressed. Hades hadn’t seen her so dishevelled since they were youths at war. She was wearing an ill-fitting t-shirt and long skirt, and Hades could see an odd pair of sneakers peeking out from the hem with every step towards his desk. She rolled her eyes at the aghast looks on their faces. “I got dressed in a hurry,”

 

“Ah, no, you look great,” Hades tried, acutely aware that he was not merely speaking to an old friend but the mother of the woman he… cared about very much.

 

“Shut up, Aidoneus,” Demeter huffed, the ghost of a half-smile crossing her face at his obvious lie, despite herself. “We need to talk about my daughter,”

 

“I left you about 40 voicemails,” Hecate muttered, “Your nymphs – when they managed to work out how to use the phone – they told me you were gone,”

 

“I had a vision, or a memory, or something,” Demeter’s skin paled to a sickly yellowish-green as she remembered it, “but it was all wrong. It was during the war, around the time you joined us, Aidoneus, but…” She wrung her hands, “Kore was there,”

 

“No,” Hades’ face was filled with horror, his skin darkening imperceptibly to his primordial shade. “Oh, Gods, no. Please…” the edge of his desk crumbled into sawdust in his hand.

 

“Hades, please,” Hecate looked horrified, too, but she was trying to hold it together. “We don’t know… it could be a glamour or… or something. Did these memories replace the ones you had before, of the war?”

 

Demeter shook her head, “They ran parallel. The same but different, somehow,”

 

“Did they both seem real? Or did one seem murky, ill-defined? Did she look like she’d been, I don’t know, badly photoshopped?”

 

“They were both crystal clear,” Demeter worried her lip between her teeth in a way that reminded Hades achingly of her daughter. “Exactly the same, just… different. Like she was there,

 

“Hecate,” Hades whispered desperately, “We have to get her out of there. I wouldn’t… I wouldn’t wish that… no one should have to do what we did. If she’s there, then-”

 

Hades’ panicked voice tailed off as his eyes turned glassy. He seized his head, groaning in pain, the desk chair sliding out from beneath him.

 

“Hades!” Hecate rose and moved to his side, “Hades! What happened? Are you okay?”

 

“Oh, Gods,” Demeter whispered, covering her mouth in horror, “That’s… that’s what happened to me. He’s… he’s remembering her,”

 

Hades’s head lolled back on the floor as his unfocussed eyes stared at the ceiling. Foreign memories flooded him, different memories layering themselves over the originals.

 

I am lying in a dark room.

 

I am in pain. The low cot I have been given is a cloud compared to the years I have spent in dark, acidic solitude. The light burns my under-developed skin as someone opens the door. It is merely a counterpoint to the searing pain I feel all over my body. Soft footfalls cross the room and I blink open my good eye.

 

I see the most beautiful goddess I had ever seen, golden and lovely, with a defiant set to her mouth that warms me. I imprint on her like a newly-hatched duckling…

 

I see the most beautiful goddess I will ever see, pink and gorgeous with soft, full lips and large, gentle doe eyes. My heart begins to thud, and I wish myself whole and strong. I wish I had the voice to ask her name. I wish I had the voice to ask her to marry me. She looks on me and she smiles, no fear in her eyes, only worry, and I would follow her to the ends of the world, broken as I am, if she asked me.

Chapter Text

“Who is this?” Metis asked with cool amusement, quirking her eyebrow at their diminutive and oddly dressed captive. “A flower nymph? Hardly worth kidnapping, girls,”

 

“Look at her ears!” Hera exclaimed, grabbing Persephone sharply by the lobe. The Spring goddess yelped in pain, stumbling closer to the immense red goddess. “I’m tired and I’m hungry and I just want this Titan spy dealt with,” Hera stomped a dainty foot but paled and stumbled back when Metis lowered her giant form to the ground before her.

 

“Hera, let go of the pink one,” Rhea advised coolly over Metis’s shoulder, lowering herself to her knees to better see the young women before her. Persephone gasped in relief as Hera let her go, finally seeing the two Titanesses in all of their glory. She had seen them in drawings and paintings, the odd tapestry, but seeing them, now, in the flesh, before her? Their size and glowing beauty astounded her.

 

“You’re Rhea, aren’t you?” Persephone found herself saying, astounded by her own courage. Rhea exchanged a look with Metis, wrinkling her brow in that same dubious way her son always did. Persephone was struck dumb by their resemblance, by the reminder that this… this was the mother of the man she adored, the woman who had hidden him for years and lost him to darkness.

 

Rhea tilted Persephone’s chin up with the very tip of her finger, inspecting her small face at all angles. “And who are you?

 

“She claims to be my daughter,” Demeter crossed her arms, as tired and agitated as Hera was whilst also contending with a mysterious supposed daughter who was, by the looks of things, her own age or older.

 

“That doesn’t quite add up, does it?” Metis laughed a short, curt laugh. “Not unless Zeus-“

 

“No!” Demeter scoffed angrily, blushing a deep, dark green. “Besides, how would she be grown up already?”

 

“We don’t know enough about your biology yet, young ones,” Metis shrugged, glancing at Rhea. She was still inspecting the spring goddess who looked on the verge of weeping. “Still, it does seem unlikely… Come girls, go rest and clean up and eat something. Rhea, watch her? I’m going to speak with Themis,” Metis held out her hand to Hera, Demeter and Hestia, lifting them up on the soft pillow of her red palm and striding across the clearing.

 

Persephone watched, agape, the delicate press of Rhea’s finger against her chin disappearing as the Titaness sat back on her heels. An hour ago, I was at his birthday party, and now I am sitting opposite the mother he never talks about, 2 thousand years before I was even born! She groaned internally, this is why we don’t socialize on school nights.

 

“There is something strange about you, young one,” Rhea said softly, reaching out with the very tips of her fingers to break the rope bonds around her wrists. Persephone rubbed her aching flesh gratefully, sitting down in the grass beside the gargantuan pink woman.

 

“I’m perfectly normal,” Persephone muttered, this whole “time travel” thing is really starting to piss me off… “Well, mostly normal. It’s just… wrong time, wrong place,” She groaned, flopping back on the grass. To her surprise, the Titan at her side laughed musically at her annoyance.

 

“The middle of a war is certainly the wrong time and place to appear out of nowhere, I agree,” She chuckled, tilt of her smirk reminding Persephone again sharply of her son. Persephone blushed, remembering the last time she’d seen him. Would he be here? Now? Was he free yet? Persephone tried frantically to remember the timelines of her history. She flung herself forward, sitting up suddenly and bounding to her feet.

 

“Is Hades here yet?” She asked frantically. Rhea quirked a brow in confusion. “Aidoneus. Is he here? If he’s still inside that Titan bastard, I’ll tear him open myself-”

 

Persephone caught herself, thorns growing wildly from her head, her eyes turning scarlet as the air crackled with her power. Vines had forced themselves up through the dirt around her feet, and she had begun to grow towards her immense, wrathful height.

 

Rhea was staring at her with wide eyes, her lips turning up into a protective scowl, baring her teeth at the goddess who now stood at around half her standing height.

 

“How do you know my son?” Rhea snarled, her skin taking on a dark pink hue as she clutched at the smaller goddess’s forearm.

 

“W-w-we’re friends,” Persephone managed – am I allowed to talk about this? Does this go against the rules of time travel? What if I mess everything up? What if I change the future?

 

“Hello, Bringer of Death!” A soft young voice chirped at their feet, tugging on the hem of Persephone’s dress.

 

Rhea and Persephone looked down to find three pairs of identical golden eyes staring up at them. The three small girls stood barefoot in the grass, their skin a dazzling turquoise and their chitons each tied in a slightly different way. They even seemed to blink in unison.

 

“They are just children, Themis,” Rhea said in a low, warning voice to someone standing behind the children. Persephone looked up to see yet another stunning, statuesque Titaness looking down at her with interest.

 

The woman was a pale heather grey, a shade or two lighter than Athena’s skin, with pale silver eyes that sparkled in the waning afternoon light. “They are not just children, Rhea,” Themis said with serene seriousness. She knelt on the ground beside the three blue girls, thumbing their turquoise curls one at a time with affection, “They are my daughters. They are the Morai. And they are going to tell us just who this girl is,”

 

Persephone swallowed hard as the three young goddesses joined hands and began to glow.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

“Hello Ha- I mean,” Persephone blushed, “Aidoneus,”

 

He was staring at her, his one good eye blown wide, his nostrils flaring and the bandaged arm on his chest rising and falling rapidly with his breathing. Persephone’s brow furrowed, mistaking his utter enchantment for fear.

 

“It’s okay, I promise,” She soothed softly, sinking to her knees slowly so as not to startle him, “I’m Persephone. Your mother sent me to change your bandages, see?” She lifted the box of medical supplies up, rattling it gently. “You can trust me. You and I are going to be great friends one day,” Her heart ached to see him like this, bandaged and scared and silent. Her heart ached at the double meaning of her words. One day, when you are a very different man and yet, it seems, very much the same, she thought as he watched her with curious tenderness, a cautious smile crossing his lips, I am going to fall in love with you…

 

“P-p-per…” He stammered, the strain on his voice obvious. “P-p-persssssss-” He huffed out a sigh of frustration, jerking his head away to look at the wall.

 

“Persephone’s a bit of a mouthful, I know,” Persephone reached out to touch the tiny strip of blue skin at his wrist, rubbing her thumb along it soothingly as she always did when they found themselves holding hands back home. He inhaled sharply and turned hesitantly back towards her, watching her thumb on his wrist with great interest. “Why don’t you call me Kore? It’s an old name, kind of embarrassing, but I have a feeling I won’t mind if you say it,”

 

Her heart lurched, remembering the Hades she knew, smirking at her as she sauntered into his office. Now, what can I do for you today, Ms. Kore?

 

“K-k-kor-e,” Hades stammered out, and her heart pounded, “K-k-Kore,” He beamed at her, reaching out to grip her hand with the hand not pinned to his chest with bandages, and she returned his smile with the full brilliance of her own. “K-kore,”

 

“You’re a marvel,” She smiled so sweetly at him, squeezing his fingers. “You can always practice talking with me, you know,” She muttered conspiratorially, moving closer to him. Her pink hair, grown long in the traumas of her afternoon, brushed his face and it was so long and soft and sweet-smelling, he couldn’t help but release her hand to bury his fingers in it. She squeaked in surprise, then laughed at herself, loving the feeling of his large, strong palm against her skin.

 

“S-s-so… s-s-s-s-sor,” Hades tried, reluctantly moving to remove his hand, but she caught it and pressed it closer to her scalp, guiding the warm press of his thumb to caress her cheekbone. Floom! His long, white hair, lying unheeded across the pillow, filled with blue flowers, and a crown of cobalt Forget-Me-Nots twined around her head. He gasped softly, his pupils blown wide, surrounded by the smell of flowers. “K-kore,” He breathed.

 

“Aidoneus,” She whispered softly, reaching out to touch his face in return. He moaned softly at the press of her palm against his cheek, so starved of gentle touch, so instantly addicted to hers. “Can I change your bandages for you? I promise I’ll be gentle,”

 

And he nodded, because he believed her, but nudged her to the other side of his small bed. She looked at him puzzled as she rose and moved to his other side, realizing the moment she settled why he had asked her to move there. She was within easy touching range of his free hand, on this side, and he raised his hand as if posing a silent question.

 

“You can touch me, Aidoneus,” Her heart broke for him at the tender gratitude that filled his eyes. He had been so alone and now… she wasn’t looking at him like a monster or an invalid. She wasn’t getting the bandages off and on as quickly as possible so she could leave. She was smiling tenderly down at him, tendrils of her soft, sweet-smelling hair trailing over his skin.

 

He stroked her arm softly as she worked gently on his bandages, now and then tangling his fingers in her hair and stroking the silken strands or threading their fingers together and staring at their joined hands in wonder.

 

“S-s-soft,” He ground out, running the tips of his fingers down her arm in a way that made her irrational, hormonal teenage brain short circuit.

 

“Thank you,” She blushed, tenderly replacing the last of his soiled bandages, “There you go! You’re all done!”

 

DONE?? He usually felt every agonizing second of this sort of thing. Being bared and embarrassed and touched in all the painful places by people who resented having to take care of him. Stroking her soft, plump skin, touching her while she worked, it had felt like seconds. He was suddenly gripped with longing and panic, and a deep, melancholy; she had done her service, with more kindness and grace than his other reluctant nurses, how could he possibly ask her to spend more time with a broken creature, barely a man, when she had already done so much.

 

“So… do you mind if I stick around?” She asked softly, tucking her legs up underneath her and holding out her arm, an invitation for more touch. His heart soared, hardly daring to hope that she truly wanted to stay with him. He gratefully ducked down, tracing the topography of veins visible beneath her soft pink skin. “Those girls – Hestia, Hera and Demeter – they scare me,”

 

Aidoneus let out a soft, strained chuckle and pointed to himself and nodded. Me too. She giggled with him.

 

“So, is it okay if I stay? You can say no if you want to rest or whatever,” She decided to reciprocate his gentle touch now she had no task to split her focus, trailing her fingers gently over his hypersensitive flesh.

 

He sighed in pure, unadulterated delight and traced some shapes on her forearm that she didn’t comprehend at first. Suddenly, she realized what they were. He had slowly and carefully traced one word against the soft skin of her inner arm, over and over again: STAY

Chapter Text

“Hades?” Hecate shook him by the shoulders, leaning over him. “Hades, are you with us?”

 

He blinked blearily up at his friend, feeling the weakness in his limbs begin to fade. “Hecate?” He spoke unsteadily, trying to lift himself up. “What happened?” the ceiling and the lolling edge of his desk chair swam dizzily into view as his eyes opened.

 

“You collapsed on us, old man,” Hecate let out a relieved half-chuckle, “as for why… you’ll have to tell us,”

 

“Us?” He repeated blearily, pushing himself up on his palms.

 

“Slowly, there, friend,” Hecate eased him up, helping him to shuffle his deadweight into the desk chair. He collapsed heavily into it, his head lolling against the back. “Fates!” He huffed in shock, groaning as the spasm of surprise that shot through his belly. “How long have you been standing there?”

 

The look of reluctant concern on Demeter’s face melted into her usual expression of disdain. “The whole time, Hades,” she muttered, crossing her arms and cocking her him. Hades had to fight back a delirious giggle at the hideous outfit she had scrambled together. His amusement died, though, when he remembered the reason for her haste.

 

“Kore,” He mumbled, “Where is she? Where is Kore?”

 

“How do you know my daughter?” Demeter hissed. Hecate stepped forward, opening her mouth to smooth over the situation in her own cool style. Demeter raised her hand, dashing away furious tears with the other. “Spare me your explanations, Hecate. I know how skilled you are at spinning on his behalf. A regular weaver. I am asking you, Aidoneus,” She hissed.

 

“I know all about the sham of an internship, I know she has been here more than any creature of life ought to have been. What I do not fathom,” Demeter placed her palms on his desk, leaning menacingly towards him, “Is how you know my daughter? She is a child, and a lowly member of staff in your kingdom,” She hissed, “So, how do you know her true name? And, what is more, why do you CARE so much?”

 

Like flashes from a photography bulb, Hades saw her. His hand in her sweet-smelling hair, her fingers working deftly and delicately over his bandages, their hands mapping each other’s forearms as she spoke softly to him for hours, as she coaxed soft words out of his aching throat. It ran parallel to the memories of Hera, crouching at her bedside, yellow as sunshine and the inner flesh of peaches. He thought guiltily of which memory of that time he favoured. He burned with an odd mixture of delight and jealousy seeing his younger self touch her so freely in the violating space of his own memory.

 

“We are…” The words escaped him, a fat tear blooming in his eye, “She’s… my friend, Demeter. You know as well as I do how kind she is, Sito. She can’t help it,”

 

“Yes,” Demeter said sharply, in the tone her wartime friends and her daughter knew well enough. It was the tone that said, swift and brutal, I am going to do my best to hurt you now. “Yes, she is always stupidly kind to even the most hateful of creatures. It is her cardinal flaw, and one I always feared a man like you would take advantage of,” She sneered, sweeping out of the room. “No wonder she disappeared,” she threw over her shoulder.

 

“Hades-” Hecate reached out to him, fathoming deeply the blank and glassy look in his eye.

 

“Go,” He rasped, not unkindly, patting her hand, “m-m-ake sure she doesn’t set fire to the place, I’ll… I’m fine,”

 

They regarded each other as only two old friends can. She knew him well enough to know he was lying, and he knew her well enough to know he had a 50/50 chance of her listening to him.

 

“Fine,” Hecate said in a gently, warning voice, “We will talk about this later,”  

 

“Sure,” He lied again, settling back against his chair and closing his eyes. Flashes of tangled pink and gold span dizzyingly behind his eyelids, before they resolved into pink and nothingness, the tender sweetness of her both in the past and the present.

 

*************

 

Persephone had helped him into sitting position against the wall, the ache of the lancing wounds across his ribs nothing in comparison to the joy of being able to sit up beside her like a real person. He was dressed from the waist down, and gathered the blanket up around his hips, conveniently hiding the growing arousal he was trying desperately to ignore.

 

He didn’t understand it at first, unfamiliar as he was with anything to do with adulthood, anything to do with pleasure. As had Poseidon, young as they were when they were pulled from the world. Zeus had taken it upon himself to educate his elder brothers on the pleasures of the world, drawing obscene diagrams on wax tablets and with white stones against paving slabs. Hades had responded with distaste, his repugnance matched in volume by Poseidon’s enthusiasm. Still, he was silently grateful to understand the feelings stirring within him since he had been healed enough to feel anything more nuanced than pain.

 

Now, sitting beside the most beautiful creature he would ever see, sitting at her side, he was grateful he understood the feelings thundering through his veins, though he had never felt them to this degree before. Here, with her, their bodies pressed close to each other from shoulder to calf, where her small foot rested against the underside of his knee, small as she was.  He would ignore these feelings, he decided, for what good would they do? Besides, he was so grateful just to have a friend. He would not risk pushing her away.

 

“P-p-pink,” He said in his raspy, underdeveloped voice, “p-p-p-pink n-n-next,”

 

“Hmmm, but I like the blue on you!” She teased softly, obediently winding a pink flower into the braid she was making out of his white hair.

 

“I…” He blushed, taking her hand, “I l-l-l-l-like…” His raspy, deep voice was growing stronger, and she ached to hear it. This boy was so different to the confident man she knew, the man who spoke with authority and confidence. That was, unless he was talking to her. She shivered a little at the thought. “I l-l-like p-p-pink, K-Kore,” Aidoneus lifted her fingers to his lips and kissed them softly, she giggled and flushed bright magenta at the press of his lips.

 

“So, you’ve always been a flirt and a scoundrel,” She teased, ignoring his furrow of confusion. He soon forgot his own puzzlement, though, when she took his other hand and returned his kiss. Gaia above, he was sure his heart would stop at the tender press of her lips against his skin. “Can you read and write, Aidoneus?”

 

He blushed, shamefaced at the question, and held out a wavering hand, turning it one way and the other. Kind of. So so. The Titanesses had been teaching them slowly, reacquainting them with the things they had learned and forgotten in the darkness. He was more hurt than the others, though, and had missed out on days of their informal schooling when his body wouldn’t cooperate. Still, he was smarter than Poseidon, and a fast learner. He could write.

 

“Well,” She said, returning to his braid, her soft breasts pushed up against his arm as she worked on looping the hair together. He breathed deeply through his nose, feeling himself harden beneath the blanket. Fates, stop being such a pervert! So what we hit puberty in a dark, dank hellscape and we’re basically going through it all at once right now and she’s so beautiful and soft and she smells divine…

 

“I want to get to know you better. I know… I have a feeling, anyway, heh, that you’ll have some wonderful things to say,” His heart fluttered against his ribs. “Let’s find you a wax tablet or something later, huh? In case you want to say something and you can’t find the words,”

 

“I w-w-w-w-want…” He felt his throat burn, closing up around the words as he tried to force them out. His heart soared though, the edges of his eyes burning with emotion. He squeeed her hand in gratitude  “t-t-t-t-t-t-t…” He sighed, almost giving up.

 

“It’s okay,” Persephone soothed, growing a vine around the end of his braid to secure it. “Take your time, I’m not going anywhere. Besides,” She grinned, moving closer to him, her sweet, warm breath fanning across his face, “The sooner you can talk, the sooner you can tell me not to practice my braiding on you. That will truly be a dark day for me,” She smiled softly at him and he let out a choked little chuckle.

 

“W-w-w-where…” he choked out, pointing at her, “c-c-c-c-c-come f-f-f-f…” He coughed hard.

 

“Where did I come from?” she chuckled nervously, “It’s a long story,”

 

He gave her a sardonic look that she didn’t need words to understand. He lifted the hem of her skirt a few inches, making her gasp. He shook his head, trying frantically to communicate that he wasn’t trying anything nefarious. “N-n-no, I…” He swallowed hard, “d-d-d-dress…” he tugged at the fabric again, more gently this time.

 

“Why don’t we…” Persephone’s mind raced to get ahead of his questions, not sure what she was allowed to tell him, not sure what would impact things in the future, not sure how to explain to this lovely not-stranger how she had come to be here. “If you have a question, maybe you could… show me. With, like, a gesture or something. Then you only have to say the words that relate to what you want to know,”

 

He paused for a moment, rubbing his chin softly, absentmindedly, as he pondered it.

 

“See! Like that!” She laughed, he looked like a cartoon puppy confused by the disappearance of his tail. “If you rub your chin like that, or touch it, I’ll know you’re asking me a question!”

 

He nodded delightedly, squeezing her hand.

 

“And that! If you squeeze my hand, or I squeeze yours, it means; we’re okay. It means, I’m here. Is that okay?” She asked softly.

 

Instead of answering, he squeezed her hand tightly. She laughed and squeezed his back. They squeezed back and forth a few times, giggling with each other. Aidoneus couldn’t tell if it was his imagination, but suddenly he was feeling so much better. The aches in his muscles were ebbing away, the cuts streaked across his body dulling from their original sharpness, his limbs feeling stronger.

 

He touched his chin. “You have a question!” She grinned, delighted at their new system. Aidoneus tugged at the other side of his hair, still unbraided, and pouted. “You want me to finish my excellent styling job?” She grinned, and he nodded. “You asked for it!”

 

She stood, clambering over his legs, to sit on his other side, gathering up the remainder of his thick, white hair. “Hmmm, colours will be tricky, but you can always show me pink,” She pointed at her own forearm, “or blue, I suppose,” She tapped his forearm, “And I remember learning that a lot of people tap their nose if you’ve got something right. Should we try?”

 

Hades gestured for her to begin braiding his hair. He pointed to her skin. “Pink flower, first?” She asked. He tapped his nose twice.

 

“T-t-t-t-thank y-y-y-y-y-you,” He managed, his eyes glistening with unshed tears. He pointed at her, his index finger right over her heart, prodding gently. “K-k-kind,” He pointed to himself.

 

“Of course, I’m kind to you, Aidoneus,” She made swift work of his braid, weaving pink and blue flowers that she summonded from the ether according to the gentle presses of his index finger on her skin or his. “We’re friends, aren’t we?”

 

He tapped his nose twice.

 

*****

 

“I heard there’s a new goddess in camp,” Zeus said conspiratorially, poking idly at the food on the tray across his lap. “Pink and voluptuous, if you catch my meaning!”

 

You’d have to be thick not to catch your meaning. Hades had found that, because he was silent most of the time, his fellow Gods assumed he was docile. Little did they know how bitter his internal thoughts often were, and how often he utilized the curse words his brothers had taught him within the confines of his own mind.

 

He was feeling stronger today, after Kore’s visit the day before. They had sat together, devising their secret language, for hours until she’d fallen asleep against his arm. He stayed still and stiff for at least an hour, just letting her rest and nuzzling his head against her soft, sweet smelling hair until he too fell asleep. Rhea had found them, sliding the metal panel on the side of the hut away so that she could peek inside. The spring goddess was curled against his chest, his good arm around her, his long shock of white hair braided with colourful blooms.

 

Oh, my Aidoneus, she’d thought, lifting the small girl in her palm and carrying her to the small tent they’d pitched for her on the edge of the clearing. I don’t care what the Morai said, she thought, he will fall in love with anyone right now. I had thought he and Hera… but, still. He’s so tender and fragile and he needs to be protected. You will not win my trust so easily.

 

Aidoneus had asked to be brought out to lunch with the other Gods that afternoon. He’d woken alone, and a little hurt, wondering why she would have absconded in the middle of the night. He knew she was at combat training with the other girls this morning, and lunch was the only time he was going to be able to see her all day, if his mother’s brutal scheduling had anything to do with it.

 

Poseidon and Zeus had helped him up and supported his weight as he limped to a tree near the hearth that Hestia manned, brewing a fragrant broth full of vegetables and meat. He sat up against the trunk of the tree, trying not to look to obviously for her amongst the bodies of Titans and Gods and their allies, satyrs, nymphs, gorgons, and demons of every description. Every goddamn flower nymph that he saw almost sent him reeling.

 

Then Zeus had started. Aidoneus had not known his brother long, and he felt a discordant lack of kinship with someone he was supposed to be close to in so many ways. Posiedon, who lounged opposite them in their informal little brotherly triangle, picking at his food, he could get on with better in most ways. He had been where Hades had been, albeit for far less time, and he knew trauma and darkness and fear. Zeus had been raised to be the saviour of his kind, and he glowed with the sort of confidence only someone raised on tales of their own great destiny could possess.

 

“Yeah, I saw her wrestling with Hera today,” Poseidon grinned wolfishly, “too many clothes for my liking, though,” He and Zeus cackled with laughter, and Aidoneus rolled his eyes, kicking his middle brother with a surprising amount of force. Oh, yes, he thought, I’m definitely stronger today.

 

“Ow! What’s your problem?” Poseidon rubbed his calf in annoyance, shuffling away from his brother. Zeus was cackling at Poseidon’s misfortune, so Hades kicked him too, lashing out with greater force now he knew he was capable of it.

 

“Ouch! Gaia, that hurt,” Zeus groused, “what’s your problem?”

 

Hades rolled his eyes, leaning back against the tree. Posiedon was a sweet boy, Aidoneus knew, and Zeus was merely a puffed-up idiot, and maybe things would be different if he were as virile and strong as them. But things weren’t different, and he resented Poseidon for falling into step with Zeus, showing off to impress him, did stupid things and said stupider things just to earn the golden boy’s approval. It rubbed him up the wrong way before, but he couldn’t deal with them talking about her like that. He closed his eyes, tuning out their inane chatter.

 

Gods, Aidoneus, you are a love-drunk fool…

 

“Hey,” A soft voice whispered beside him, warm breath fanning across his ear. He grinned, opening his eyes to look over his shoulder at her. He noticed, vaguely but with no small amount of smugness, that the two idiots had fallen silent. “Mind if I sit with you?”

 

He nodded eagerly and patted the grass beside him. “I’ll go grab some food first. Do you want me to get you some?” She asked, taking his hand and squeezing it softly. We’re okay. He nodded again and touched her chin softly between his finger in the thumb. Thank you.

 

She hopped up and walked over to Hestia, chatting to the dubious yellow goddess briefly before she began filling their bowls.

 

“What the fuck was that?” Zeus asked in a disbelieving and deeply accusatory tone.

 

“Yeah, Aide, you’ve got to tell us what’s going on,” Poseidon was similarly slack-jawed, “When did you get so cosy with the new girl?”

 

Hades smirked, for once grateful for his habitual silence, and shrugged his shoulders.

 

“You’re such a holdout!” Zeus grumbled, the tell-tale signs of jealousy in his features. Why are you so obsessed with every woman you meet being in love with you…

 

“You didn’t screw her, did you?” Poseidon grinned like a smug cat, “You got her to play nurse and then she decided to make you feel better in a special way, hm?” He waggled his eyebrows.

 

“Of course, he didn’t,” Zeus scoffed, “Look at him!”

 

Aidoneus closed his eyes again, willing away the sting of his brother’s words. He wished Kore would come back, and he wished to be in their quiet little bubble again, developing their own language once more. He wished his idiot brothers, so unfamiliar and raucous and grating, far away.

 

“I come bearing stew,” Kore announced, trotting neatly between his brothers to sit beside him, nestling into his side. She balanced his bowl in his lap, and put the spoon in his good hand. He was grateful, in the company of these two idiots, that she didn’t offer to feed him. In private, he mused, he would allow her anything, but here, now, he wanted her to know he could do things by himself. Wanted them to see that he wasn’t a hopeless invalid.

 

She was wearing a chiton today, something borrowed from one of the girls he was sure. It was simple and white, something Hera wouldn’t be caught dead in. War or no war, Hera would dye or embroider her garments late at night, after training, determined to look good even if the world was ending and they were going to die. She nestled against Aidoneus’s shoulder, putting all her weight on the tree but still maintaining contact with him. Aidoneus noticed, with no small amount of amusement, his brothers’ mouths hanging open.

 

Zeus recovered first, clearing his throat and offering Persephone a devious grin. His eyes sparkled with a cruel sort of zealous confidence. “So, Aidoneus, aren’t you going to introduce us?” he asked in a slick, Aidoneus cleared his throat, scowling at the smug purple God. “Ah, sorry, I forgot, you can’t,”

 

Kore looked at Aidoneus’s downcast expression and decided that she hated Zeus. She reached down to grasp Aidoneus’s hand, crossing her arm against his stomach and carefully avoiding his lunch. She squeezed his hands softly. We’re okay.

 

“K-k-k-k-Kore,” He forced out, lifting up their joined hands, leaving his brothers aghast once more. “Z-z-z-z-zeus,” He gestured to his purple brother, who waved meekly. Aidoneus swallowed down the pain, determined to finish, “P-p-p-pos-s-ie,” Close enough.

 

Kore squeezed his hand again. “Actually, you guys can call me Persephone,” She nodded smartly, “Kore is just the name Aidoneus uses,”

 

Aidoneus flushed with pride at being treated preferentially by this gorgeous goddess. Sure, she probably felt sorry for him. He could deal with that. Everyone felt sorry for him, but only Kore was pitying him whilst actually being fun to be around. Only Kore looked like a dream made flesh, all sweet curves and large doe eyes and soft skin… Stop it, you’re being just as bad as them!

 

“Ah, okay,” Zeus was disgruntled, he could tell, and it pleased him to see it. He rebounded quickly, the way Zeus always did, full of bravado after a moment of self-doubt. “Persephone,” he drawled, “I like that name,”

 

“Thanks,” She said shortly, cutting her eyes up to Aidoneus in a subtle flicker. He stifled a laugh. They hadn’t discussed that one, but he was pretty sure he knew what she was saying as clearly as if she’d spoken it aloud; who does this guy think he is?

 

“Have you been around here long?” Zeus inched closer to her, stretching his bicep up behind his head in a way he thought was enticing. “These woods can be treacherous, you know, you might someone big and strong to show you around,”

 

“Good point,” She smiled sweetly at him, and Aidoneus’s heart sank just a little. Stop it, he scolded himself, she isn’t your property, you possessive idiot. So what if she is charmed by Zeus? She wouldn’t be the first. “Aidoneus, would you accompany me into the woods when you’re feeling a bit better? I would be happy to wait for you to regain your full strength,” She touched his arm softly, rubbing her thumb over his sling.

 

He rubbed his chin softly; what are you playing at? But he nodded anyway, and she squeezed his fingers again.

 

“Thanks for the tip, Bruce,” She smiled gamely at him, setting aside her empty bowl and nestling closer to Aidoneus.

 

“It’s Zeus,” His purple brother groused softly, thoroughly put out at her disdain. Poseidon was watching with a sort of half-worried amusement.

 

“Have your powers manifested yet, Persephone?” Poseidon asked, the familiar innocent, gentle lilt of his voice returning as he saw that Zeus’s bravado was failing him.

 

“Yeah, some of them,” Persephone smiled, grateful, not for the first time, for the terrible twist of fate that had brought her here. Did she miss home? Did she worry about the people she had left behind? Did she feel conflicted about the growing warmth she felt between herself and Aidoneus, each and every time she remembered his older, short-haired counterpart in a crisp, pressed suit? Of course. But to sit here beside Aidoneus, his hand holding hers, amongst these soon-to-be kings, and know she was mostly older than them, more experienced in using her powers than them? It was intoxicating. “I’m still learning though,”

 

“Show us something, then, princess,” Zeus challenged, reclining on his elbows and raising an eyebrow. He had seemingly decided that sauve flattery was not going to work and instead adopted the Hera-seduction-strategy or annoying her into being attracted to him. Aidoneus couldn’t restrain a raspy chuckle.

 

“Okay,” Persephone shrugged, and with a soft floom she had crowned all three brothers with a thick garland of flowers. Zeus’s long hair was filled with nettles and Amarylleis and Columbine. A yellow hyacinth twined with a blue forget-me-not at the crown of his head. Poseidon’s green hair was filled with Southernwood, white hyacinth and Fern fronds, twined through with coriander. Hades’s was full of the blue forget-me-not flowers that crowned her own head, with a few pink carnations dotted throughout, and a twining bundle of Aster.

 

“Neat! What do they mean?” Poseidon touched his blooms with wonder.

 

“Well, I just chose them because they’re such pretty colours!” Persephone batted her eyelashes, “But, I think, Zeus’s mean… pride, folly and the inner strength… of women, and jealousy mixed with something blue,” She smiled sweetly, enjoying Aidoneus’s short laugh against her hair. “Posie’s mean constancy, humour, humility, and the hyacinth means “things I wish for you to have”” She smiled softly, “And Aidoneus’s are for rememberance, and, um, affection,” She blushed a little, losing her nerve. Her new friend nuzzled the hair above her ear softly, inhaling her scent as subtly as he could.

 

“Nice trick,” Zeus rolled his eyes, trying to pick the flowers out of his long hair with difficulty. He yelped in pain as his plucking fingers touched nettle. Poseidon couldn’t help but snort a laugh. “It’s a shame it won’t be much use in the war, though,” He groused, “Pretty useless for fighting,”

 

“Yeah,” She shrugged, her pupils and sclera turning red as she smiled, “It’s a shame, all right,” A vine twisted around Zeus’s leg and tangled up to his thigh, digging its thorns into his flesh.

 

“What the fuuuuuuu-“ He yelped in pain as the vines shot upwards, looping themselves over the lower bough of the tree and hanging him there, suspended, his long purple hair swaying in the breeze.

 

Hera and the girls, eating near the fire, caught sight of Zeus hanging upside down, shouting curses with a crown of flowers woven into his hair. Hestia sat with her mouth agape, but Demeter and Hera couldn’t help but laugh as the ichor flooded his face, turning him dark purple.

 

“Oh dear,” Persephone covered her mouth in mock alarm, “How on earth did that happen? Well, I wish I could help but I’m afraid my powers serve no practical purpose!” She shrugged helplessly with a playful pout.

 

“E-e-e-ev-v-v-il,” Aidoneus whispered softly in her ear, nuzzling her hair with his nose. She tapped her nose twice and grinned at him.

 

“Aidoneus, would you walk a helpless flower maiden back to her tent?” She batted her eyelashes at him and, well, what else could he do but say yes, accepting her shoulder to help him balance. He wrapped his arm tightly around her, relishing the feeling of her body next to his.

 

“You know, it’s a lot less scary to bully him when he’s not the King of the Gods,” Persephone muttered, glossing over Aidoneus’s look of confusion by leaning into his shoulder and gently nuzzling his collarbone.

 

Fates help me, he thought, I’m in trouble.

 

Chapter Text

Kore sank down onto the cot in her small tent. She had wanted, badly, to let Aidoneus come in. To let him hold her while she rested. To use the warm, familiar-strange comfort of him to lull her. The smoky scent, the warmth of his touch, his gentle kindness all too familiar. His halting words, the youth in his face, the fresh vulnerability in his eyes, all too alien.

 

It wasn’t fair, though. To allow this… thing, whatever it was, growing between them, to continue without…

 

He’d only asked her once, in all the time they sat and found their ways to communicate, just where she had come from. What’s more, she’d given him an extremely half-assed answer, and he’d just… accepted it, calmly. She wondered if he felt the same kinship that she felt, instantly. He had no future-memory of her, no grounding upon which to build his trust. But she remembered that first day after the Panathenaea, after he had discovered her in his house. Their rapport – despite her rampant nerves – had been instantaneous. She wondered if he felt the same now, if Aidoneus felt as drawn to her as Hades seemed to be.

 

Earlier, with the Fates…

 

The three girls held hands, their skin and eyes beginning to glow. Persephone watched with awe, the blue light reflecting back at them from the unshed tears in her eyes.

 

“Oh,” Persephone said, the tears flowing freely as she watched what they were showing her, “Thank you,”

 

They were showing her a scene from her time, the time she had left behind her. Simple as it was, ordinary as it seemed, it brought her a greater peace than she could imagine. It was one day, sometime in an undetermined future, and she saw herself, in a flash of the same light that had brought her here, appear, standing on a familiar doorstep. It was raining, and she was soaked through, the white chiton she wore soaked through and clinging to the vibrant pink of her skin. She watched Hades answer the door, watched his tired features resolve into pure, incandescent joy.

 

“Oh, Kore,” She heard him whisper to her future-self, pulling her into his arms. “Persephone. Oh, I’ve missed you,”

 

“I’ve been with you,” She heard her future-self gasp in between sobs, clinging to him as the rain soaked them both, “I’ve been with you all this while,”

 

She faded slowly back into the moment, gasping out a ragged breath.

 

“Thank you… for showing me that,” She managed, rubbing the tears away with the heel of her palm, “So, I will go back, then? Soon?”

 

“You will go back, Bringer of Death,” the three glowing children said in unison, “When the time is right,”

 

“When will that-”

 

But the young Fates had turned away from her to face the Titanesses and young goddesses. Rhea, Themis and Metis lounged on the grass between the young girls, like beautiful tricolour mountains, their flowing dresses seeming merely fortuitous snow patterns on the slopes of their knees.

 

“She is who she says she is,” the Fates chorused, “treat her as one of your own, as she will one day be, or this war is doomed to failure,”

 

“You’re telling me the fate of the war depends on this little pink b-” Hera scoffed, cowering into silence as the Fates all fixed their glowing eyes on her. Persephone could not see what she was being made to see, but the look of terror and horror that mangled the golden goddess’s features made her shiver.

 

“Fate was woven one way once,” the Morai told her in eerie unison, “It was a fine tapestry but imperfect; we are only children, now, and we have learned much in the years ahead. The Bringer of Death is our opportunity to correct what we will do the first time.”

 

With that, the girls ceased to glow. They rocked slightly on their feet, before collapsing together to their knees. Persephone recognised the familiar exhaustion of a young immortal overextending their powers.

 

“Themis, you push them too hard,” Rhea shook her head, watching the grey titan gather up her daughters in her palm.

 

“You are mistaken,” Themis said smartly, cradling her daughters as she stood, “If you think anything, I have to say makes the slightest impact on my children. Sometimes they listen to Nyx. Sometimes. Me, though? I may as well speak to the breeze,

 

Rhea and Metis exchanged a glance.

 

“Such is the way,” Rhea sighed wistfully, “Such is the way with Godlings,”

 

“Speaking of,” Metis said thoughtfully, “Kore, I have a job for you. Hera, fetch the box of bandages from the medical tent,”

 

“You called to us, Death Bringer,” Atropos was beside her cot when Persephone’s eyes blinked open.

 

“Oh, Fates!” Persephone clutched her chest, startled from her memory of the three small girls by their very real appearance in her small quarters.

 

“Literally Fates,” Little Clotho giggled, crawling on to Persephone’s cot and kneeling beside her thigh. “Can I sit on your lap, Ms Persephone?”  

 

Lachesis was climbing up on to the bed too, her little legs dangling as she tried to pull herself up. Atropos skipped over to the grass beside Persephone’s bed and tumbled down in a mess of tiny limbs. It was so strange to see these wise and ancient creatures as small girls, torn between their growing, incredibly powerful Godheads and their childlike desires. It was hard enough, Persephone thought, for her to come to terms with her powers and she was just a little flower deity, not the goddess of things past, things to be, and the great arbiter of mortal lives. She felt a wave of affection and pity for the strange, gambolling children.

 

“Of course, you may, Ms. Clotho,” Persephone opened her arms and the little girl snuggled against her chest. Atropos rolled on to her stomach, kicking her legs in the air. Lachesis leaned against Persephone’s side, and the elder-younger pink goddess wrapped her arm around the little girl, toying with the silky lengths of her blue hair. “You know, you guys are going to be far too intimidating for cuddles in the future,” She teased gently.

 

“We know,” the girls giggled in unison.

 

“You are always welcome to cuddle me, Ms. Persephone,” Clotho grinned up at her, “It’s nice. Just ask me first, okay?” the blue child said seriously.

 

********************* TW: v brief allusion to sexual assault **********************

 

“Of course,” Persephone nodded, “consent is important,”

 

“Oh!” Atropos said, her eyes glowing blue momentarily. Her little mouth turned up in a scowl, “Yes, yes it will be. I’m sorry, Ms Persephone,”

 

Persephone felt like she’d been punched, wondering if the girl was seeing that night, Apollo’s smirking face swimming behind her blue eyes.

 

“Oh! Oh, but he will pay,” Atropos grinned, the blue light growing more intense, “Look, Ms. Persephone, he will pay,”

 

Apollo’s face contorted in agony. Ichor, soaking his violet skin. One of his sister’s own arrows, pinning his hand to the bark of a tree. The white-gold, silken substance of his Godhead being drawn from his mouth and nostrils and eyes, for what purpose, Persephone could not be sure.

 

********************* TW: v brief allusion to sexual assault **********************

 

“Thank you,” Persephone said, allowing Clotho’s little hands to wipe away her brimming tears, “For showing me that. You know, you three aren’t this forthcoming with your prophecies in the future. What gives? Why are you telling me all of this?”

 

“We have made you our champion, Bringer of Death,” Lachesis said seriously, looking up at the pink goddess. “We have pulled you from your time and your life, to do our bidding. It only seems fair,”

 

“Why me?” Persephone asked helplessly, trying desperately to stave off the panic attack that always bubbled up when she thought of where she was, what she faced, and… what she had left behind. “I’m just some dumb village girl. I’m no champion,”

 

“Because you wanted to escape,” Clotho said.

 

“Because you are strong, and brave, and good,” Lachesis said, “And our King trusts you, loves you,”

 

Persephone blushed and tried to protest, but the little Fates would not allow it.

 

“Besides,” Atropos added, “This is what you wished for,”

 

************************

 

“Again!” Metis cried harshly, “This is a war, girls! Stop fooling around,”

 

Persephone panted, sweat dripping down her face as she returned to the default stance Metis had taught them, sword in one hand and shield in the other. She was facing off against Hera, while Demeter and Hestia faced each other on the other side of their small sparring ground.

 

It felt so wrong to strike the proud, poised, future-Queen of the Gods but Persephone had learned the hard way - a golden slash of ichor across the skin above her hip glowing like sunlight through a broken blind – that if she did not hit the Queen, the Queen would hit her. Hera wiped a trickle of ichor from the corner of her tense lips, produced by the brutal application of Persephone’s shield against her face while their swords were locked against each other.

 

They circled each other cautiously, the dust of the sparring ground blown into the wind by their shuffling feet.

 

“Come on, petal,” Hera taunted, “Hit me,”

 

Persephone knew that she was trying to taunt her into lunging first, trying to draw her into the offensive move that might give her the upper hand. Hera had been assigned to spar against Persephone because, though she had been training for the same length of time, her swordswomanship was not up to the standard of the others. Demeter and Hestia clashed on the opposite side of the ring, their adamant blades clanging like distant thunder, their violence swift and intentional. Demeter, Persephone noted with a strange air of pride, was the best.

 

“Kore! Do you want to die on the battlefield?” Metis roared, crouching low beside the two girls, “do you want to be killed by a Titan or one of their allies because you are too afraid to strike?”

 

“N-no, Metis,”

 

“Then hit her!”

 

Persephone tightened her grip on her sword and lunged for Hera, who met her strike with a clash of metal, the vibration buzzing up their forearms. Persephone drew back and allowed Hera to lunge, knocking her blade away with a hard slash and shoving her back with the large round dome of her shield. Hera fell back into the sand, growling in frustration, and pushed herself back on to her feet, advancing on Persephone. Her ploy had worked, Hera was angry, and when Hera was angry, Persephone had discovered, her tactical brain went out of the window.

 

Hera darted forward, lashing out savagely and at random, her blade coming down heavy against Persephone’s and glancing off her shield as she attempted to hack at the pink goddess. Quickly, the brutality of her movements tired her out and Persephone took advantage of her panting and slackening grip to strike at her wrist with the edge of her shield and knock the sword out of her hand. Hera yelped in pain, lunging for her fallen blade as Persephone kicked it away and put the point of her blade under Hera’s proud, upturned chin.

 

“Fuck this!” Hera scowled, holding out her hand. Her sword dematerialized under Persephone’s foot and reappeared in Hera’s hand, and she used it to bat Persephone away.

 

“Enough!” Metis roared, her voice booming across the clearing. “Hera, you know you are not supposed to use your powers in these sessions,”

 

“I know,” Hera said petulantly, “I’m just sick of losing. And my powers are part of me. It seems unnatural not to use them,” She kicked at the sand.

 

“Why do you think I make you girls learn hand to hand combat? Without the use of your powers?” Metis pressed her hands together, looking attentively from girl to girl.

 

“We are young,” Hera offered, “our powers aren’t always reliable,”

 

“Good, what else?”

 

“Um,” Kore tried to remember their lesson from the day before, so dazed by the situations she found herself in that she wasn’t sure whether to pay attention or to expect to be catapulted back into the future at any moment. “Because our powers are tied to our emotions and we are… um… “hormonal little shits”?” She quoted.

 

“Precisely,” Metis nodded smartly, “but it is also because I have seen Gods and Titans become so reliant upon their powers, so lazy and entitled and full of hubris, that it kills them or destroys who they are in the end. Would we have a war on our hands, now, if my Titan brothers and sisters had not become stagnant over time? Turned into paranoid relics, threatened by anything they can’t swallow or transform or incinerate with a flick of their hand?”

 

Metis leaned back, sighing quietly, “You must be better than us, and that means using your mind just as much as those wonderful gifts you possess. It means not allowing yourself to stagnate and turn into stone, do you understand?”

 

“Yes, Metis,” They said in chorus. Hera looked at least somewhat shamefaced.

 

“Good, go on, take a break now,” She smiled knowingly at them. Kore blushed at the look of smug foreknowledge in the Titaness’s eye, the look that told them both that each young goddess’s plans to visit one of two brothers were not as secret as they might have hoped. “Kore, tell Aidoneus I hope he is feeling better. Hera, tell Zeus he needs a haircut,”

 

“Yes, Metis,” Kore laughed. Hera merely scowled. Ah, Kore thought, recognizing that same look from the older features of her golden friend, she doesn’t like people knowing that she lets Zeus anywhere near her. She hates that she likes him, despite how he acts.

 

“We will be back here at dusk to practice a group manoeuvre,” Metis warned softly, “Morale is important, but it does not come before training,”

 

Kore nodded quickly, returning her sword and shield to the equipment rack and beginning towards Aidoneus’s little shed-tent. Half-way there, though, the wind shifted direction and she flinched in embarrassment, realizing just how awful she smelled. Gods, I miss indoor plumbing. Kore hesitated, weighing her desire to see Aidoneus against her desire to be… attractive? Presentable? Eventually, her desire not to smell like the bottom of a gym bag in front of the boy she liked won out and she scuttled off to the hot spring, collecting her bar of soap and a towel from her tent.

 

She hung her towel over the low hanging bough of a tree near the hot spring and unclipped her Peplos quickly, glancing around the thick woods around her before she let the fabric fall. Clutching her bar of soap – made by Hestia from animal fat and scented with the lavender Kore and Demeter helped her to grow – Kore stepped hastily into the warm water of the spring. The hot water was instantly soothing, her muscles, aching from combat training, relaxing in the natural steam. She ducked her head in the warm water, soaking her tangled, unruly hair with water for the first time in days. She sighed in contentment, resolving to float for a minute or two before beginning to scrub.

 

“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?” A familiar voice, full of exuberance resounded across the clearing, though she couldn’t yet see the green God it belonged to. Kore suppressed a groan, tucking herself behind a boulder to watch him approach. “You know I love water,”

 

“P-p-p-private,” She heard Aidoneus’s harsh, strangled reply, barely audible over the gentle lapping of the water. “P-p-private, p-p-please,” Her heart began to thud painfully. He’s here. He’s here, and I’m naked, and I think he wants to bath too – Fates, I don’t want Poseidon to see me naked… or Aidoneus! Obviously! No naked Kore for anyone.

 

“Sure, bro, there’s a colder pond that’s more my speed on the other side of camp,” They broke through the tree line and Kore ducked her head below the edge of the rock, allowing herself the tiniest sliver of vision above the ridge of rock. “I’ll check on you in an hour. I know you can’t, like, drown or anything but you also can’t call for help, so I’m just, uh, a little worried,”

 

Kore watched him point at himself, “b-be f-f-f-f-fine,” He smiled that heart-stopping smile, trying to be reassuring. “G-g-g-goodbye,”

 

Kore listened to the soft crackle of Poseidon’s careless footsteps retreating. She expected to hear the rustle of clothing and the shifting of water, expected, with burning cheeks, for this gorgeous man she was enamoured with in both iterations, past and present, to be naked in the same pool of hot water as her. Instead, he spoke.

 

“K-K-Kore?” He breathed. Her heart stuttered to a stop and she cautiously edged around the stone, hoping the dark, steamy water, which she ensured was up to her chin, would cover her body. She crossed her arms tightly over her chest, though, just in case, her whole body burning at the thought of him, so close.

 

“How did you know I was here?” She squeaked. He smirked and limped a few steps to the tree, rubbing the corner of her towel between his forefinger and thumb. Hestia had embroidered a little flower on the corner to mark it as hers when it was washed. “Oh,” she blushed, tightening her arms around herself.

 

“S-s-sorry,” Aidoneus blushed hard, trying not to look at her. “I-I-I c-c-ome b-back,” he smiled apologetically, turning to leave.

 

“It’s okay,” Persephone said hastily, barely realizing what she was saying until the words were out, “What I mean is, uh, you can… if you want, I don’t want to keep you from your bath and, you know, maybe I can help if you are…” She groaned, sinking deeper into the water. “I just mean… it’s okay. You can come in. It’s a big hot spring,” She mumbled out her words as a string of bubbles.

 

She watched him consider her offer, grateful to see how his good arm trembled against his thigh. I seem to affect him too, she thought with a guilty little wriggle of glee, and he’s younger and even less adept at hiding that he’s drawn to me than Hades is.

 

He pointed at her, “s-s-sure?” He asked. You sure. He bit his lip and Kore shivered, despite the hot water. I want to bite that lip.

 

“I’m sure,” She whispered. Nothing is going to happen and… even if it does, what’s the harm? It’s a good few centuries before the Godesses of Eternal Maidenhood is even a thing. And it’s not like I’m cheating on… anyone, right? I mean, you can’t cheat on someone you are not in a relationship with and he had a girlfriend until a few weeks ago and… Fates, it’s still him, even though it’s not, and… I can kiss or… you know, anyone I like, thank you very much, and… OH FATES! He’s taking his clothes off.

 

Aidoneus had unpinned his chiton, placing his pin in the apex of a tree, and he’d gathered the material around his waist, tying it in a clumsy knot to avoid immodesty. He blushed all the while, nervous to show his wounds. Kore’s breath hitched, watching his broad, powerful chest and his good arm flex as he unwound his bandages. He looked up at her, blushing cerulean when he realized she was still looking. Her eyes widened.

 

“SORRY!” She gasped, turning rapidly in the water to give him a touch of privacy. This did not help the lick of fear and desire that shuddered down her spine when she heard the whisper of falling fabric. She braced herself for the ripples through the water, the shifting of the hot spring as he lowered his large frame into the steaming pond. She heard nothing, though, except increasingly laboured breathing. Is he having a panic attack?

 

*************** Trauma ************************************

“Aidoneus, I’m going to turn around, okay? But I’m keeping my eyes shut,” She swirled slowly in the water, splashing about a little wildly until she found the edge of the pond near him. “What’s wrong?” She reached out her hand blindly, the water beading and falling down the length of her pink skin, her other arm shielding her breasts. “Is it because I’m here? I promise, you have nothing to be afraid of, I can leave if you like. You can trust me, Aidoneus, tell me what’s wrong,”

 

She heard him collapse to the ground before her, his hand knotting around her damp fingers. She squeezed his hand. You’re okay. We’re okay. This seemed to calm him enough for him to force out a few words between hyperventilating gasps.

 

“N-n-n-not you,” He choked, “F-f-f-f-f-father s-s-s-s-swa-“ He hissed in frustration.

 

“I know what that Titan bastard did to you, Aidoneus,” She squeezed his hand hard, “I want to kill him for what he did to you,” Hades squeezed her fingers back, his laboured breathing softening a fraction.

 

“M-m-m-m-makes s-swimmmm,” He panted, “b-b-b-b-bathe… h-h-hard f-for me,” He managed, his voice taking on the thickness of tears.

 

“Oh, Aidoneus,” She whispered, pulling his hand to her damp lips to kiss, “I’m so sorry. I completely understand. Oh, my wonderful Aidoneus,” She pressed his palm to her cheek, hearing his breathing hitch once more, “I’m so sorry. You don’t have to do anything. I can get you buckets, or… or I can leave, and you can do it in your own time, if me being here isn’t helping,”

 

“I-i-i-is h-he-helping,” He squeezed her fingers as they held his palm to her face, “b-b-b-eaut-t-tiful K-Kore, h-h-helps,”

 

She could feel the heat of her blush as keenly as she felt the tingle of joy and excitement. He called me beautiful!

 

“Do you want to try and come in here with me?” She asked gently, “I promise, I’ll be right there the whole time, and you can get out whenever you like,” She squeezed his fingers harder. You’re okay. We’re okay.

 

“T-t-t-t-try,” He whispered, and she felt him shift his weight, taking her hand with him as he shuffled down the bank and slid his feet into the water. His hand started trembling violently in hers as he eased his calves into the warm water.

 

“It’s okay,” She whispered, kissing his hand with such reverent tenderness, “It’s okay. I’m right here with you. You can do this,”

 

She felt the water shift as he eased himself into the water, standing on the upper slope of the bank so his hips were beneath the surface and his torso was not. His hands were shaking so hard now, as was his entire body, and his breathing was rapid and shallow.

 

“I’m going to open my eyes now, okay?” Kore asked.

 

“O-o-ok,”

 

She opened her eyes, looking at the gorgeous, terrified man before her, his eyes screwed shut as he tried to control his anxiety.

 

“Hey, Aidoneus, can you look at me?” She tugged on his hand, encouraging his gaze downward. The very top-most swell of her breasts peeked out above the water, the rest hidden in the gloom, her modesty forgotten in her desire to help him through this terrible trauma. His eyes slowly opened, and he blinked down at her, tears brimming in his eyes. “Thank you,” She squeezed his hand when their eyes met, “You’re doing so well. You can get out right now if you want. You’re in control,” She soothed, reaching up to place a hand on his stomach. His muscles contracted beneath her fingers, his breathing tightening a touch.

 

She would have blushed to touch him under any other circumstances, but her touch seemed to excite him as much as it soothed him, and both felt like excellent distractions from his anxiety. He took a hesitant step deeper into the water, clinging tightly to her hand, his stomach disappearing into the hot water inch by inch. He screwed his eyes closed again.

 

“Hey, hey, so if you need to close your eyes, that’s fine. I won’t pretend I know more about this than you,” She soothed, kicking her legs to tread water as the spring became deeper. She paddled around to face him. “But I wonder if it might be better to focus on the fact that this may feel a bit like something unpleasant, it’s not. You’re not there. You’re here, with me,” She gently took his bad hand, this bathing trip the first time she’d seen it out of its sling.

 

 His wounds, still raw and oozing ichor slowly, were bare to her for the first time, and she ached to ease his pain. He slowly opened his eyes, looking down at her, a pink lotus blossom in the middle of the dark pond. He breathed out a shaky sigh. She’s right, I’m not there. I’m here. With her.

 

“Hi!” She said cheerfully, and she was so cute he might actually die. He pressed his hand to her cheek, moving them both gently into the water until he was neck height. “You’re doing amazingly, Aidoneus. Just focus on where you actually are. Look how beautiful this place is, so secluded and warm and safe, the trees all around us and the flowers,” She sighed contentedly, drifting closer to him in the water,”

 

“B-b-b-b-b-beautiful,” He arranged softly, looking nowhere but her face. Her breathing hitched and she leaned into his hand, craving more and more of his touch.

 

They floated like that for a while, holding hands, or his large palms cupping her cheeks, anchored and tethered in the weightlessness of the water by each other. Slowly, as his anxiety began to fade, his awareness that he was stark naked, in a warm, inviting hot spring, with the goddess he was enamoured with, who also happened to be naked. His heart began to race for an utterly different reason, trying hard not to eye the ripe, convex slope at the top of her plump, ripe breasts. He tried not to notice how the water droplets from her hair trickled down her face, skating over the inviting curves of her lips.

************************ Trauma ****************************

“T-t-t-thank y-y-you,” He whispered.

 

“You’re welcome,” She grinned, “Hey, we don’t have a sign for you’re welcome, yet, do we?” She mused quietly, “We have you’re okay, we’re okay,” She squeezed his hand, “And yes,” she tapped her nose. “Pink,” He tapped the back of her hand, “Blue” she tapped the back of his, “Zeus is annoying,” She laughed, miming choking herself as Aidoneus chuckled, “Thank you,” She reached out to touch his chin, “and question,” she tapped her own chin. “What should we use for “thank you”?”

Aidoneus thought for a moment before pressing his finger to his own forehead and then touching it to hers.

“Okay, that’s you’re welcome,” She smiled, “I love our little language. My aim is to develop it enough that we can insult Zeus when he’s right there and he’s none the wiser,” She grinned, hardly noticing when he tugged her imperceptibly closer.

 

He touched his chin.

 

“Question?” Kore smiled up at him, concerned by the intensity of the look in his eye.

 

He pointed at himself, then at Kore. Then, with trembling fingers, he touched his lip to his hand, a gentle kiss.

 

Her heart almost stopped. Fates, was he asking…

 

“You want to kiss me?” She asked, drifting closer to him as her blush deepened and darkened.

 

Aidoneus’s eyes were blown wide with want and anxiety. He hesitated for a moment before nodding slowly, tilting his head away bashfully. He thinks I’m struggling because I want to reject him. I wonder how he would react if he knew why I was really hesitating? Oh, Aidoneus, I am worried that if you kiss me I will give myself to you, entirely, but I’m kind of in a deeply complicated thing with a guy – it’s you, from 2000 years in the future, actually – and I don’t know how he’d respond to that…

 

But, ultimately Kore didn’t think of all of the reasons she shouldn’t. She could only think of how badly she wanted to kiss Aidoneus, how badly she had wanted to kiss Hades, how her body ached and pined and longed for the feeling of his skin on hers.

 

“Yes, Aidoneus,” She breathed softly, shifting in the water so her naked body was a breath away from his, “You can kiss me,”

Chapter Text

“There’s no need to punish him, Demeter,” Hecate folded her arms, staring levelly at the dishevelled green woman. “He’s already punishing himself enough. Besides, we know it’s not him that you are angry with, really. He’s not your punching bag,”

 

“What did he do to win your unconditional trust, hm?” Demeter turned to Hecate, her long, purple hair and her rage lashing out savagely. “How can you bear to serve such a man?”

 

“Demeter, Hades did not sent Persephone back in time,” Hecate rolled her eyes at the absurdity of the statement, regardless of its truth. “Why don’t we focus on getting your daughter back instead of… whatever this is?” She gestured at Demeter’s flustered panic, the frizzy hair about her head, her bloodshot eyes, her trembling lip, her clenched fist.

 

“How?” Demeter said in a small voice, a surprising gear shift from her wild, savage rage. “How?” She said, “How?” She choked back a sob, stumbling back, until her knees buckled, and she fell against the sofa in Hecate’s office, her back resting against the seat as she hyperventilated.

 

“Demeter, please, look at me,” Hecate crouched before the goddess of the harvest, who had pulled her legs up to her chest as she rocked, her long, ill-fitting skirt riding up her emerald legs unheeded. “I don’t know how we will get her back, but we will. We will, okay?” Hecate rose, digging through her apothecary shelves until she found the calming herbs she was looking for as well as her mortar and pestle.

 

“What…what is that?” Demeter gasped after a few moments, watching Hecate prepare the concoction, soothed by her steady quiet and the rhythmic scrape of ceramic.

 

“Tea. My own concoction,” Hecate said in that low, steady voice of hers, so soothing in a crisis, “It will calm you,”

 

“I don’t want your tea,” Demeter said weakly.

 

“Oh, I’m sure,” Hecate agreed amiably, “You’ll drink it, though,”

 

“Ah, fuck,” Demeter moaned, holding her head.

 

“Another vision?” Hecate looked up at her, baffled by the distraught woman’s sudden snort of amusement. Hecate began to heat the kettle in the corner of the room, attempting to ignore her bizarre change of heart. “Or a psychotic break?”

 

“A vision,” Demeter sniffed with a watery chuckle, “Zeus, being Zeus. Kore tied him to a tree with a vine,” She rubbed her face with the sleeve of her hoodie.

 

Hecate huffed out a breathy little laugh, “That sounds like Persephone,”

 

“Does it?” Demeter huffed, folding her arms, somewhere between hurt and rage. “I didn’t even know she could control vines like that,”

 

Hecate merely hummed, pouring the steaming water over the tea leaves, their fragrance becoming rich and intense. Once satisfied with the warm lavender-coloured water, Hecate took it over to Demeter who stubbornly refused the cup for a moment, before taking it with a huff. Hecate pulled up a low chair, sitting pensively opposite her friend.

 

“I think,” Hecate tented her fingers, “There is a great deal you do not know. Drink,”

 

Demeter scowled at her, petulantly bringing the hot tea to her lips and taking a sip. Her eyes fluttered closed with pleasure, against her will, and then she scowled once more. She was yet more upset that the tea she so badly wanted to reject was good and warm and comforting. She felt her muscles relax, just as Hecate had promised, and they turned warm and tender inside of her no matter how hard she tried to keep a grasp on her tension and anger.

 

“Some of what you don’t know is because it has been kept from you,” Hecate said coolly, “But a lot of it is because you wilfully ignore what is before you,”

 

“What do you know about it?” Demeter hissed, “What do you know about being a mother? About any of it?”

 

“Nothing, and perhaps that’s why I can see more clearly than you,” Hecate kept her even temper the way she always did, in a way that always calmed her friends and enflamed those she opposed. “I do not see Persephone as a child, nor a possession. She’s my friend, and a whole person, independent of you,”

 

“And you think I don’t?”

 

“I think you don’t,”  

 

“How dare you?” Demeter cried, scrambling to her feet, “How dare you say that? I love Kore with all of my heart. I have protected my child her entire life. I would do anything for her,”

 

“Anything?” Hecate’s mouth twisted into a slash of amusement across her lips, “Anything? What about treating her like the adult woman that she is?”

 

“She doesn’t know what she’s doing, Hecate, it’s my job to protect her,” Demeter roared, her hot tea sloshing against the sides of her cup, falling in heavy slaps of liquid against the clean, shiny tiles of Hecate’s office floor.

 

“She is twenty years old, Demeter,” Hecate leaned back in her seat, watching the dishevelled Harvest goddess pace, sighing regretfully at the puddle of calming tea on her pristine office floor, “Would you have tolerated anyone telling you what to do at that age?”

 

“I was four years deep in a war against the Titans when I was her age,” Demeter hissed, “She has no idea what that’s like-”

 

“Well,” Hecate threaded her fingers together, “She does now,”

 

Demeter froze for a moment, her face crumpling, before she collapsed back against the sofa once more, her sneakers squeaking in her spilled tea. “W-w-we have to get her back, Hecate,”

 

“And I will do everything I can to bring her back to us,” Hecate stood, brushing the non-existent lint from her sleek black slacks. “In the meantime, try not to alienate the best ally you have,”

 

“I’m not trying to alienate you, Hecate,” Demeter said pathetically, but Hecate held up a hand.

 

“I was not talking about me,” Hecate said with a hard smile, smooth and polished like a stone from a river, “I was talking about Hades,”

 

Demeter’s incredulous response, her face screwed up in pure hatred, was drowned out by the sound of shattering glass and falling metal. Hecate looked to the window just in time to see the panes explode, the wind that swirled around the topmost floors of Tower One whipping Demeter’s purple hair and her ill-fitting skirt.

 

“What…?” Demeter said, her voice carried away by the wind.

 

“Hades,” Hecate replied, her eyes turning yellow as she turned to the door.

 

**********************************

 

Persephone panted, pushing the sweaty hair out of her face. The axe in her hands was heavy and clumsily made, but it was sharp and weighty, and she was determined to master it.

 

Heaving the weapon back up into her grasp, she took a deep breath and went through the manoeuvres the Titanesses had been teaching them. There was a figure mounted on a stake in the centre of the sparring ring that Persephone had made from her tangling vines, stitching it back together when a strike from her blade hit home. She strode towards it, planting her feet like Metis had taught her and doing her damndest to put her body weight behind the swing, the way she had been advised was best for her small stature.

 

Much to her annoyance, the weight of the axe pulled her off balance and she fell, gouging the stomach out of the vine dummy she was using as an adversary as she went over. She groaned, lying on her back in the dirt with no intention of ever getting up again.

 

“Good job,” A familiar and derisive voice snorted, her mother’s young face looming into view over her, “You’ve disembowelled your opponent AND you’ve made it really easy for a Titan to step on you,” The green teenage goddess laughed, “We love a one out one in battle strategy,”

 

“Can I help you ma- Demeter?” Persephone groaned, hefting herself to her feet with intense reluctance.

 

“Nah,” She sniffed, watching the pink girl clamber up and brush the dirt off of her chiton, “I was just on a walk and I saw you making a fool of yourself, thought I’d take a closer look,”

 

Persephone knew her mother pretty well. She always knew when she was lying, always, from the tell-tale tightness around her mouth and the panic in her eyes that betrayed the forced neutrality of every other feature. A young Demeter, as it turned out, was even less adept at hiding a falsehood. She fidgeted as she spoke, tugging at her dress, and she couldn’t meet Persephone’s eye.

 

Oh, mama, Persephone softened immediately, looking into this strange-familiar face, you never told me how lonely you were.

 

“Want to help me instead of making fun of me?” Persephone huffed, keeping up their pretence. You want a friend, don’t you? Persephone tried to keep the bite in her tone, but you will run if I’m kind to you.

 

“Hmm, I don’t know,” Demeter pretended to be reluctant, “You’re not very good,”

 

“My point exactly,” Persephone narrowed her eyes, why do you have to make it so difficult, mama? Always. “learning to fight was never something I was allowed to do,”

 

“See,” Demeter said, handing Kore a lighter sword from the rack, still crude but better balanced than the axe, “This is how I know the whole my daughter from the future stuff is a crock. I would never send my daughter out into the world defenceless,”

 

Persephone raised the sword, shaking her head. “You didn’t want me to fight,” Persephone said firmly, grunting as Demeter kicked her legs into a wider stance, adjusting her position with a tight hand on her shoulder, “you wanted me to be a gentle maiden,”

 

“You’re lying,” Demeter hissed, moving to stand opposite Kore. She advanced on the Spring Goddess with more menace than was necessary for a practice sparring match. She lunged and Persephone dodged it clumsily, batting away her sword. “Watch your footwork, petal. You won’t be any use to us if you can’t swing without falling over,”

 

“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong,” Kore hissed, righting her half-twisted ankle.

 

“Don’t like getting things wrong, hm, Miss Perfect?” Demeter laughed, but the laugh died as Kore’s pained expression became yet more pronounced, “Oh, don’t tell me, that’s my fault too?” the green goddess lunged, forcing Kore to parry, the clang of warring metal almost drowning out her response.

 

“You are… will be a perfectionist,” Kore panted, striking at the centre of Demeter’s blade with more savagery than she had been able to muster thus far, “and you will tolerate. Nothing. But the best. From me,” Kore punctuated each word with a heavy blow, knocking her young mother back with the savage blows.

 

“Seems like you’re pissed at me,” Demeter grimaced, their crossed swords bringing them face to face. “Why don’t you use that?” She hissed, locking her ankle around Persephone’s and knocking the pink goddess to the ground. This time, though, Kore rolled out of her fall and sprang to her feet, moving back towards Demeter with a feral growl of rage. “Yeah, something like that,”

 

********************** CW: Sexual assault, PTSD, Trauma************************

 

“You’re going to smother me,” Kore growled, lashing out violently once more, “you’re going to keep me under lock and key, hide me away from the whole world, and the first time you let me go…” Kore was almost screaming now, the violence of her blows finally starting to knock Demeter off balance, “I will know nothing about the world and I will be hurt by someone who takes advantage of the innocence you forced me to keep,”

 

“Kore-”

 

“Don’t call me that, you don’t call me that,” Persephone was crying now, her tears gasped out between bared teeth. She struck Demeter hard, knocking the green woman to the ground. She landed with a heavy thud and a groan, winded by the unexpected impact. Persephone stood on her wrist, forcing her to relinquish her grip on the sword. Her daughter advanced, pressing the blade beneath her chin. “Why couldn’t you just let me be my own person? Why couldn’t you have told me what the world was like? WHY?”

 

********************** CW: Sexual assault, PTSD, Trauma************************

 

“Persephone,” Demeter panted, lifting her free hand up in surrender, “Please,”

 

Persephone stumbled back, sitting down heavily opposite the woman who would one day be her mother. She threw her sword to one side and buried her face in her arms, sobbing. Demeter sat up slowly, cradling her bruised wrist.

 

“You’ve got some raw talent, when you let loose,” Demeter said quietly, “You’ve just got to balance that raw power with a little discipline, wild thing,”

 

Persephone snorted wetly, rubbing her eyes on the knees of her chiton and looking up, bloodshot and puffy, “You sound like Ares,”

 

“Who?”

 

“Never mind,”

 

“I don’t know if… if I am your mother or whatever,” Demeter picked up a handful of sand, watching it closely to avoid looking at Persephone, letting the fine yellow powder spill between her fingers. “But I don’t think I would ever act that way. I don’t think I ever could,”

 

“The war… it changes things,” Persephone bit her lip, afraid, as always, that she was revealing too much, “and then the years afterwards… you are alone a lot,”

 

“That won’t exactly make a change,” Demeter snorted, “the others… they don’t like me much,”

 

“Do you ever give them a chance to like you?”

 

“Shut up, petal,” Demeter threw the handful of sand in her direction, letting out a little disappointed grunt as it dispersed on the wind in a yellow cloud before it could reach her. “ Why are you out here alone, anyway? Aren’t you and Aidoneus, like, joined at the hip right now?”

 

Persephone couldn’t reconcile this version of her mother, young and brash, making kissy faces at her about Hades, of all people.

 

“It’s complicated,”

 

“I’m pretty smart, you know,” Demeter smirked, intent on needling out an answer. Persephone knew well enough the extent of her mother’s stubbornness and relented, sighing. Fates, I hope you don’t remember this one day…

 

“He kissed me. I said he could, and he did, and it was… good,”

 

“Ha! You don’t blush like that for just good,” Demeter crowed, “He rocked your world, Petal,”

 

“Shut up,” Persephone couldn’t help but grin a little. Fates, it’s nice to talk to you about stuff like this, mama. “But the thing is… there’s this guy… in the future. This man. I… he… I think I might be on my way to loving him, but we’re not… you know… together,”

 

“Wow, petal, you know how to play the field,” Demeter shook her head, “Two beaus in two different milleniums, you dog,”

 

“Stoooop,” Kore groaned, “It’s… the thing is… it’s even more complicated than that,”

 

“Well now I’m intrigued,”

 

“The man I… he’s…” She took a deep breath, thinking of the little Fates. If I’m their champion, and I could ruin things by telling her, surely they would have told me? Fates I miss dealing with the drama of just ONE time period. “he’s Aidoneus, but from the future. He’s older, more experienced, still a bit broken but he’s just… he makes my heart flutter just thinking about him,” Kore blushed, looking down at her hands, “And, seeing him, young like this, it’s so strange. I’m still drawn to him, so drawn to him, and the way he kissed me… Fates, I could do that all day,” She blinked, realizing to whom she spoke.

 

“Wow, Petal, nothing is ever simple when you’re around, huh?”

 

“I just feel so guilty,” Persephone knotted her fingers together, “I feel like I’m cheating on him with himself and it makes feel sick inside. Am I a bad person for letting Aidoneus kiss me?” Kore blinked up at the green goddess, who was regarding her with sardonic concern, “I’ve been avoiding him, since, and I know it’s not fair but I just… I don’t know how I feel,”

 

“Listen,” Demeter leaned forward, “I don’t pretend that I know anything about love and shit. But, it seems to me that they’re the same person so it’s not cheating. Plus, you’re not even in a relationship with future Aidoneus, right?” Kore nodded hesitantly, “Then you owe him nothing. Plus,” Demeter stood, brushing the yellow sand from her skirt, and held out a hand to Kore, “This is a war, Persephone, and you don’t know if you’re ever going back to the present. Some of us aren’t lucky enough to find a right person once and it’s happened for you twice. We might be dead tomorrow, squished by some godsdamned Titan bastard, so why not enjoy yourself while you can?”

 

Persephone took her offered hand and rose.

Chapter Text

“Yes, Aidoneus,” She was saying, biting her lip coyly, “you can kiss me,” 

 

They were naked in the hot spring, and she was inviting him to kiss her. Aidoneus’s young, inexperienced heart beat so fast it seemed almost a continuous hum. His hands trembled as he lifted them to her jaw, wrists against her delicate collarbones. He rubbed his large, rough thumb against her cheek and she leant into his touch. 

 

“K-Kore,” He whispered, “S-s-sure?” 

 

“Yes,” She breathed, moving closer to him in the steaming water. He locked his legs, aching to pull her close and yet hoping desperately that she wouldn’t feel his aching arousal as it grew between them. Just a kiss. He could die happy, he thought, if he just got to kiss those soft, plump lips once. “I’m sure, Aidoneus. Kiss me,” 

 

He lowered his mouth to hers, trembling with fear and excitement. Their lips met - Fates, her mouth was soft and warm and he all of a sudden wanted to abandon his earlier claim. One kiss will not be enough, he thought, as she melted against him, her sweet little tongue sliding against his bottom lip. A thousand kisses would not be enough. Gods, I want her. Could she be mine? If she were mine, I would count myself the luckiest of the Gods, brokenness and scars be damned. 

 

“Aidoneus,” Kore giggled softly, pulling away from his lips, “you should move, you know? Just a little” 

 

He blushed, embarrassed at being exposed for the novice he was. 

 

“I don’t have much experience, either,” She murmured softly, “Perhaps we will just have to practice together?” 

 

His heart soared and he nodded emphatically. Damn the war, damn my destiny, damn it all if I can touch this tiny, pink siren a moment longer. And yet, I know, at the close of each moment I will beg for a moment more. The things I would do to make you mine...

 

She lifted herself up on her toes and sucked his bottom lip between hers, guiding him gently until he was kissing her properly, caressing her sweet lips with his own. She placed her palms on his chest, drawing him in and keeping him at a distance all at once. 

 

She pressed her tongue softly to his bottom lip again and this time he opened for her on a gasp, groaning as her devilish little tongue slipped inside his mouth. Her tongue caressed his in the most intoxicating way and he clumsily followed her movements, enjoying her breathy little pleasured sounds. Her hands slid up his chest until they wrapped around his neck, the fingers of one deft pink hand twining into his long, white hair.  

 

A golden warmth enveloped his body, soothing him where he ached. He felt the wounds over his body tingle and the ichor that dripped from every long, deep slash -  falling unheeded in golden bursts against the surface of the water - slowed to a languid ooze. He felt stronger than he could ever remember feeling before. 

 

His bad arm, so often in a sling, and the eye that was still bandaged, glowed in the soft shadow of the pool, the tight knit branches overhead creating an artificial gloom. Were they thicker than before? Were the trees creaking and shifting as her powers made them grow? You are extraordinary, he wanted to say. He wanted to test out the newly dulled ache in his vocal chords, but to do that would require pulling away from her sweet lips and that was not something he was willing to do. 

 

Disturbed by the thought of being without her warm, needy kisses, he pulled her close to him, his arm skating from her collarbone to her arm to the curve of her waist beneath the water. She responded eagerly at first, with a breathy little moan and a fist in his hair, wrapping her arms even tighter around his neck. He tried to ignore how this brought her lovely, warm breasts tight against his chest, and how the pebbled points of her nipples rubbed against his skin. He tilted his pelvis away from her as much as he could, but her wet heat and damp curls were agonizingly close, swaying nearer with the gentle currents their bodies made in the water. 

 

Suddenly, an errant movement brought their lower bodies together. They both ebbed at the same time, assuming the other would flow, and found themselves pressed thigh to thigh. Persephone gasped, her legs treading water, becoming tangled with his. His hardness bobbed insistently against her belly and he groaned into her mouth at the bare friction against his head. No-one had ever touched his cock but him, and now it was wedged against this gorgeous, naked goddess and her soft belly was brushing him with every sway of the water. 

 

“Oh,” She whispered, between kisses, “Oh!” She groaned, shuddering in his arms, something electric sparking inside of her at the touch of his rigid cock against her skin. She pressed still closer, her knee sliding up his leg gently; an invitation. He took it, eventually catching on, drawing her legs up around his hips as they floated together. They both groaned into their kiss as this movement brought Persephone’s weight and wetness against his cock, the head pinned between their grinding pelvises. 

 

“K-kore,” He whispered, panting, “W-w-w-hat do you want?” he asked, afraid to hear her answer, and afraid to continue without it. She leaned back to look at him, taking in her breasts, pressed against his chest above the rim of the water, and her legs, a pink blur beneath the surface, tangled around the wavy outline of his lovely blue hips. Her eyes, a needy reddish pink, began to fade back to their normal shade, and the look of desire in them faded to panic. 

 

“I…” She gasped, “I can’t,” 

 

“Kore?” Aidoneus whispered, releasing her as she struggled against him, watching helplessly as she splashed noisily to the edge of the pool. He watched in awe as she grew a long, low bough across the edge of the water, a large leaf unfurling to shield her body as she climbed out of the spring and retrieved her towel. Her bar of soap, long since forgotten, dissolved at the bottom of the pool in a manner not dissimilar to Aidoneus’s hope and desire. 

 

“Bro.” 

 

Aidoneus closed his eyes in frustration, huffing a breath out through his nostrils as he turned to his green brother. Poseidon was standing at the edge of the pool, a sly, shocked grin on his lips, his arms folded. 

 

“What the fuck was that?” He arched a brow. 

 

“I wish,” Aidoneus rasped, touching his throat in shock. It still hurt, sure, and it would still be a long road before he could relearn how to speak properly, he was certain, but… it did not burn as it once had. Did she do that? “I w-w-wish I k-knew,” 

 

Hades watched the scene play out behind his eyelids, helpless to stop it. He tried screwing his eyes shut and blocking his ears, but the vision was coming from inside of him and blocking out the world only brought the infuriating memory into sharper focus. 

 

Her hot, inviting mouth…

 

Her soft, ripe breasts… 

 

Her hot, slick centre pressed against his aching erection…

 

Hades felt rage and jealousy and arousal tangle inside of him, a sickening combination. 

 

How many times had he fantasized about touching her, just like that? Drawing her lush, plump thighs around his hips. Tasting her lips. Pressing her down against his cock, showing her just how badly he wanted her as she mewled and panted into his mouth. Touching those delectable tits…

 

And there it was, as clear as day in his memory. His azure hands pressing dents into her pillowy thighs. Her pink hands tangled in his hair. Lilypads bloomed around them, blue lilies peeling open in the centre of each green oval. Her legs tight around his hips. His large hands pressed possessively against the small of her back. It was everything he had ever dreamed of, and he wasn’t even there to enjoy it. 

 

His younger self, Aidoneus the welp, was tasting the pleasures of her body. He tried not to be a jealous beast about it, but watching himself - a self he was disconnected from through magic and time - have everything he’d ever wanted… 

 

It was like dying of thirst, afloat in an endless ocean, or mistaking the glimmer of sunlight on distant sand for an oasis. It was a beautiful dream, but for Aidoneus… it was real. Flesh and ichor. He could touch her, hold her, groan into her mouth as her tongue caressed his, as her soft, wet petals pressed against-

 

All of the mirrors and windows in Tower 1 shattered at once. 

 

***********

Aidoneus tested the strength of his newly mended body. Yes, he was still in pain, and his wounds still required bandaging, and he walked with a limp, but he was walking, all on his own. He had been able to take his arm out of his sling for the first time in weeks, stretching and wriggling the tender, aching joints of his wrist, elbow and fingers. 

 

It seemed a terrible bargain, though. It had been two days since Kore had even looked at him. She was throwing herself into training, avoiding him as efficiently as she could. He hoped that she did not superimpose his face on the vine dummies she tore to shreds. Just as quickly as she had tumbled into his life, she had pulled away, and he couldn’t help the ache that filled the void she left. For such a diminutive creature, she had made herself at home in his heart and psyche, leaving him gaping for all his newly-healed wholeness. 

 

“How are things going with Persephone?” Poseidon nudged him conspiratorially as they ate lunch together. Aidoneus was sitting proudly propped against the trunk of his usual tree; he had walked to the kitchen tent all on his own today, only needing help to sink down to the grass. Zeus, thank Gaia, was absent, likely sucking face with his new golden obsession. Aidoneus had sworn Poseidon to secrecy about the whole kiss thing, certain it would hardly help his chances at winning Kore’s forgiveness if the kiss she so wanted to forget was suddenly camp news. He only hoped that his idiot middle brother would be able to keep quiet about it for long enough… 

 

“She’s…” He swallowed with a wince against the pain, “i-ignoring… m-m-me, s-s-s-still,” 

 

“I know what we’ve gotta do,” Poseidon jumped excitedly, his stew slopping over the brim of his bowl onto the grass. 

 

“W-we?” Aidoneus raised an eyebrow. 

 

“Look, I know I haven’t been…” Poseidon looked down, absently braiding his long hair. “It’s been overwhelming for me too, being back in the world. I know I wasn’t there as long as you or whatever, but I’m trying to figure out who I am, how I fit,” He twirled a lock of hair around his nimble green finger and tugged firmly, the pain seeming to sharpen him as he hissed in discomfort, “I envy him,” 

 

“Z-Zeus?”

 

“Yeah,” Poseidon said sharply, a darkness flashing across his usually placid eyes, “I wanted to be like him. I know I can’t be, not really, but it was nice for a while, you know?” He unfurled his captive lock, “I know it bugged you,” 

 

Aidoneus shook his head half-heartedly, and the brothers shared a half smile at his abortive attempt at denial. “H-hard for m-m-me too,” Aidoneus reached for his brother, patting his shoulder with a clumsy, unpracticed hand, “Couldn’t p-p-p-pretend to b-be like h-him. T-t-too long, t-t-there. T-too broken,” 

 

Poseidon flicked the back of Aidoneus’s hand, still awkwardly patting his shoulder. The blue god hissed in pain and narrowed his eyes. “Stop that,” Poseidon said, “That’s not true. Stop being dumb before I put you back in that sling,” 

 

Aidoneus let out a strangled little chuckle, enjoying their conversation. It was nice, he reflected with wonder, to have a brother. Something had clicked into place, something in their relationship had solidified. Aidoneus had a feeling he would be chuckling and rolling his eyes at his little brother’s antics for a long time. 

 

“Mind…” A strangled voice said from above their heads. Both boys craned to see Demeter approaching, verdant and proud, holding her bowl of soup like a sacred chalice, purple hair scraped back in a punishing braid. “Mind if I sit with you?” 

 

“Go ahead,” Poseidon said amiably, cutting Aidoneus a dubious look when he was sure she wasn’t looking. Aidoneus fought to chew down his smile, loving this whole non-verbal communication thing yet more now he could talk to Poseidon and Kore…

 

But, of course, she wasn’t talking to him. 

 

“What’s his problem?” Demeter jerked her chin at Aidoneus, eyeing him speculatively as she decimated her bread roll. 

 

“Girl trouble,” Poseidon grinned ruefully, gasping in offence when Aidoneus elbowed him in the side. 

 

Demeter snorted. “Careful with that thing. You’ll put yourself back in a sling if you’re not careful,” She chewed her bread thoughtfully, “So, I heard you and Kore kissed,” She said nonchalantly, her heart thrumming fast. She was in two minds, both pointing her towards the same actions and conclusion. If I meddle, just a little, I will make them both happy and cut through all this bullshit guessing. There may also be the fringe benefit that they are so grateful that they want to be my friend. 

 

Aidoneus choked on his own saliva. Poseidon was practically vibrating with excitement. 

 

“H-h-how did y-y-you…?” Aidoneus asked, aghast. 

 

“Kore told me,” She shrugged, we’re just gal pals like that, trading secrets, trading blows, just girly stuff, ya know? “How was it?” 

 

“I-i-t was…” Aidoneus blushed, suddenly very interested in the straps of his sandals, “e-e-everything,” 

 

Demeter nodded smartly, looking with faint amusement at the look of lovedrunk bliss on his face. Okay, blueberry, I’m gonna help you get the girl. 

 

“I also heard,” She said carefully, taking a long slurp of soup as the boys hung on her every word, “that she’s not talking to you,” 

“T-t-true,” Aidoneus said glumly, his eyes turning dark as he flexed his newly repaired muscles experimentally, pushing to the biting point of the ache, to the angle at which it went from dull to sharp. 

 

“I think,” Poseidon announced, “That he needs to do a grand gesture,” He crossed his arms, sniffing, “I don’t suppose she mentioned something she’s always wanted or whatever?” 

 

“Hmm,” Demeter tapped her chin, “No dice, I’m afraid. She did say…” She paused intentionally, shaking her head. 

 

“W-what?” Aidoneus breathed. 

 

“What?” Poseidon demanded. 

 

“She said… her metabolism basically runs on sugar. Said she went to a medical man in her own… back home, and he told her she needed to keep her sugar up, like a hummingbird,” She waned into silence again, watching their eager faces turn desperate. 

 

“And?” Poseidon demanded, “What are we supposed to do with that information?” 

 

“Well,” Demeter said, slow and deliberate, “she said she’s been struggling to find sweet stuff in camp. Maybe your big quest could be to find her something? Some fruit would be good, some, like, honey or something would be better,” 

 

“T-thank y-y-you, D-Deme...ter,” Aidoneus said earnestly, reaching out to squeeze her hand. Her own fingers tensed under the pressure of his, but she relaxed and shrugged. 

 

“Hey, I just, uh, like seeing people happy,” Demeter shook off his hand, and I want to make some goddamn friends, “Now, what are you waiting for? Go, get that girl some sugar,” 

 

********

“Aidoneus?” Kore’s voice said softly, her brow puckering in concern as she entered his tent, “Poseidon said you were hurt?” 

 

He winced and turned to her, and she gasped at the sheer number of raised, red hives all over his face, neck and arms. 

 

“He sh-sh-shouldn’t h-h-have b-bothered y-you,” Aidoneus winced, shifting on his cot, “It’s n-n-nothing,” 

 

“It’s not nothing, Aidoneus,” She reached up to tilt his face towards her, but he flinched away from her touch. I deserve that, she thought wretchedly. “How did this happen?” 

 

“N-n-neverm-mind,” He looked down defensively, feeling incredibly foolish. 

 

“Aidoneus…” 

 

“K-Kore,” 

 

“Tell me, please,” She sat beside him, producing a little jar from her shoulder bag, one of the concoctions she had made with the local plants and any others she could grow. She began to dab the cool salve on his stings. At first, he hissed and pulled away, but her touch was so sweet and the salve was almost as soothing, so he resigned himself, once again, to be her patient and nothing more. 

 

“I w-w-was…” He rasped, “P-p-posie and I… w-w-we…” He bit his lip and turned away. She was about to protest when he turned back, holding a small jar of his own. Inside, like a wedge of pockmarked gold, was a dripping honeycomb. 

 

“Oh, Aidoneus…” She whispered, accepting the sweet treat, sucking a dribble of honey off of her finger with a moan of relief and pleasure that went straight to Aidoneus’s cock. He shifted awkwardly, looking away. “You are so sweet,” 

 

“D-d-demeter told m-me. S-sugar,” He shrugged, trying hard to not be mortified and failing spectacularly. 

 

“Aidoneus,” She whispered, screwing the lid back onto her honeycomb and placing it to one side, reaching for his hand, “I’m sorry,” 

 

“N-n-nothing-”

 

“No, but there is, so shh please,” She smiled at him, enjoying his little blush and smirk behind the white curtain of his long hair, “I just… I needed time to think. And I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing or not but I just… I can’t stay away from you anymore. I don’t want to,” 

 

He turned to face her, his nostrils flaring, both of his warm, strong hands stroking her hand and forearm. He searched her eyes for the truth and saw that there would still be secrets, and that this would hurt, but that there would, at least, be talking. And kissing. 

 

She pulled him down by the front of his tunic and kissed him, hard and desperate, and he groaned with the relief of it. His hands wrapped around her waist, pulling her tight to him. He chased the honey on her tongue. 

 

Hades was snapped out of the agonizing and arousing memory-hallucination by a sharp slap to the face. He reached up to massage his jaw, blinking his eyes back into focus. 

 

“D-Demeter?” 

 

“How dare you USE ME to SEDUCE MY daughter?” She screamed. 

 

Oh. Fucking excellent.