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Life, Death, and Something In Between

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Zagreus doesn’t know why he feels so nervous, all of a sudden. This is not the first time that he’s had a serious conversation with Than. And even if his conversations with the ever-stoic avatar of Death can seem rather one-sided, well… he always walks away feeling as though their relationship is stronger for having had them.

He learned his lesson the first time he’d run off to face the hoards of wretched dead without first taking the time to say goodbye. Than deserved more. Than deserved everything. And this… he deserves to have input on this, too.

It’s been about a week since the Queen returned to the Underworld, and despite the fact that she’s now within arms reach (and not a seemingly infinite number of excruciatingly painful deaths away), Zagreus doesn’t think that he’s had more than a few minutes alone with her. And it’s been… difficult, he won’t lie. There’s still so much he wants to ask her about, so much he wants to tell her about, and while part of him understands that they’re immortal and have the rest of eternity to make up for lost time, eternity does not seem quite long enough. He wants to tell her about his relationship with Than, wants to introduce her to her grandchild—

And that is what he wants to talk to Than about. Than is the child’s other father, after all—and he, on Nyx’s advice, had been rather adamant about keeping her existence shrouded from the other Olympians. Hades knew, of course (had known before Zagreus himself had, much to the prince’s chagrin), but the others… but now, Zagreus wants to tell his mother. And he doesn’t know why, but he’s utterly convinced that Than is going to say no. He doesn’t know how they’re going to continue to hide her existence, if that’s the case. The House of Hades is large, true, but it’s not endless. It’s only a matter of time before their paths cross, and then—

“It would be so much easier it you would just tell me whatever it is that’s on your mind.” Than says. He’s currently braiding their daughter’s hair, the silver-white strands gliding masterfully through his fingers.

Is he really that easy to read? “I just… I want to tell my mother about Delphine. With your permission, of course.” He hurries to add. Than’s fingers twitch, then still, and the avatars of Life and Death turn to face him in perfect sync. It’s made just that little bit more unnerving by how similar they are in appearance.

If he didn’t know that there was no way she wasn’t his child, he definitely would not have believed that they were related. Delphine certainly had more in common with her Chthonic relatives than she did with the Olympians. The only difference was that she had red blood coursing through her veins, and something that resembled a heartbeat in her chest. As the avatar of life, it was incredibly dangerous to keep her in the Underworld (they’d found out the hard way that she could imbue life with her touch—the living are not meant to walk freely in the Underworld, and, well… Zagreus was beginning to discover that there were, indeed, some fates worse than death).

“…Alright.” Thanatos concedes after a long moment. “You can… if that’s what you want to do.”

Zagreus reaches out to take Than’s hand, his mismatched eyes examining the chips in his black nail polish. “I want this to be what you want, too. I know that you’re concerned that they’ll—

“That they’ll intrude where they are not wanted and find a way to take her? Yes, I believe that you could say that I am… concerned.” Thanatos says flatly. “She is shrouded from them, true… but the Olympians have already involved themselves in your affairs. It’s only a matter of time before…” He doesn’t finish that sentence.

“My mother isn’t like the others on Olympus. She told me that she left for a reason, and I believe her.” He says. “Our secret will be safe with her, I promise. I just… Delphine is such an important part of my life—of our lives—and I don’t want to hide that from her. I want her to know all of me.”

Delphine turns to Than, her molten eyes wide, “Can Del meet Grandma ‘sephone? Please?” She bats her eyelashes up at him, her tiny lips pulled back into a bright smile.

Than frowns, “Your father has been teaching you his favorite underhanded tactics to win an argument, I see.”

“You’re weak to her smiles and you know it.” Zagreus chuckles, then, “But seriously, Than. If this isn’t something that you want, we’ll find a way to keep it a secret for now, alright?”

Than’s eyes flicker between the two of them for a moment, before he relents, “I… I trust you. And I’m thankful that you actually took the time to ask me before just doing it. So…” he pats Delphine on the back, gently urging her in Zagreus’ direction. “Go now, before I change my mind.”

He sits there for a moment, staring at his partner in slack-jawed wonder. He’d been so convinced that Than would say no, that he doesn’t quite know what to do with the fact that he’s said yes. But Delphine is bouncing up and down, barely standing still long enough for Than to secure a butterfly clip in her hair to hold her heavy braid up and out of the way. Zagreus knows that Than is really stepping outside of his comfort zone with this—by his own admission, he had known Persephone before she’d fled the Underworld, but they hadn’t been particularly close (how could they, when he’d been a wee godling at the time?)—and he’ll have to thank him for it later.

He picks up Delphine, who chuckles and reaches for his flaming laurels. Than still seems a little uncertain, but he does not move to stop him as he carries their daughter out of his bedchamber and into the Great Hall. His mother is, thankfully, unoccupied. Well… she’s petting Cerberus, but he doesn’t think that the hellhound will mind if he pulls her away for a moment. Delphine, who’d been excited at the prospect of meeting Persephone just a second ago, is now hiding her face in the crook of Zagreus’ neck and mewling nervously. He pats her softly on the bum, reassuring her that everything is going to be fine. It’s definitely going to be fine.

“Mother?” He asks, his voice soft. Persephone turns to him, a gentle smile on her face, “There’s, um… There’s someone that I would like for you to meet. This is mine and Than’s daughter, Delphine… err, Life Incarnate.”

“Your… daughter?” From the look on her face, it is clear that his mother has many questions. He wishes that he had answers for her—but most of Delphine’s conception and birth are a mystery to him as well. One day he’d just… returned to the House to find Than with a baby.

Delphine peeks out over his shoulder for a second to mumble a soft, “Hi…” before sticking her thumb in her mouth.

“Hi, sweetheart.” Persephone’s voice is soft, gentle. “She’s beautiful, Zagreus. I can see the resemblance.”

“Really? I… I don’t think she looks all that much like me at all.” Zagreus says, tucking a stray wisp of starlight-colored hair behind her ear. “Listen, mother, I… I didn’t want to keep her existence from you for so long. But Nyx and Than are concerned about the implications of Life existing in the Underworld—,”

Persephone cocks her head to the side, “As long as it isn’t adversely affecting her health, like being on the surface does to you, I don’t see why it would be an issue.”

“My thoughts exactly.” He catches one of Delphine’s hands before she can burn herself on the laurels, “But the Olympians… I’m beginning to see that they’re not exactly rational. At least, not all the time. I’m thankful for all of the aid they gave me in reaching you, of course, but…”

“I understand, my son.” She places a gentle hand on his shoulder, “Nothing and no-one will take that little girl from you, alright? You needn’t worry.”

He releases a breath that he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, “Thank you, mother.”

“Of course.”

“Grandma ‘sephone?” Delphine reaches for her hesitantly, “…Your hair is pretty.”

That earns an actual chuckle from the goddess of verdure, “Thank you, sweetheart. I think that you’re hair is pretty, too. Someone must care for you an awful lot to take the time to put it up for you like that.”

That seems to be all it takes to get the little girl to start opening up, “Del’s Daddy did it for her! He says that Del has lots and lots of hair, like Grandma Nyx, and we has to take extra good care of it or else it’ll get all tangled and tangles mean owies and Daddy doesn’t like to make owies for Del.”

They talk for a little while longer, but as he’d come to expect, it’s not long before someone else is vying for his mother’s attention. He wishes that he had more time with her, but… this is the first time that he’s seen Than around the House in quite awhile, and he wants to spend some time with him before he teleports off to take care of work. Besides… all he’d really wanted to do was introduce Delphine to his mother—which he’d done—and his mother had promised to help keep their secret. And he didn’t doubt that she would keep her word. He might not’ve known her all that long, but he trusted her—especially with something as important as this.

And, if worse comes to worse… his lord father actually likes Delphine—which is odd, considering that she’s even more of an administrative liability than Zagreus himself, but whatever. The point is that he doesn’t think that Hades would be keen to just let one of his siblings (or nieces and nephews) interfere in Delphine’s life and upbringing without a fight.

“He only likes me because of Daddy.” Delphine says, as if she’d been reading his mind.

Zagreus cannot help but snort, “Yeah, probably.”