Something was… Not quite right, with the boy.
Hades miserably held the tiny, tiny thing in the crook of his arm as Zagreus screamed his little head off, fat tears rolling down his plump, reddened cheeks. Nyx was still working at who-knew-what type of concoction in the hope the boy would finally accept it, seemingly unbothered by the baby filling the quiet with his desperate cries of hunger.
That something was not right with his son had been clear from the start, seeing he came into the world and then left it without having even drawn in a single breath. Still, Nyx had brought him back with much effort, and now… Now Hades had no wife, a son with strange, mortal-like red blood who wouldn’t eat, and no clue about what he was supposed to do.
“There you go, little one,” Nyx sighed as she finally turned with a full bottle, the only sign of her tiredness and worry all but a note in the background of her voice.
She gently coaxed the baby into latching to the bottle, Zagreus hiccuping around it before he started to ravenously suckle, mismatched eyes still full of tears glancing up at them. They waited, almost not breathing, as the little boy drank half of it, before his small hands closed on the glass bottle. He made a little gurgling noise around it, clumsily pushing away with his tiny finger, before vomiting whatever he’d just drank with a miserable little retch, and started screaming again desperately.
The glass bottle shattered under his small hands as if the glass couldn’t sustain the desperation of the famished newborn, splashing both he and Hades in the sweet smelling concoction, shards flying in the burst and opening a cut on the small boy’s wrist and arm.
“Blood and darkness-!” Hades snapped, frustrated, adjusting his hold on the boy and looking around for something to clean him up, to stop the flow of bizarre red blood from the cut. But Nyx put a hand on his forearm, her eyes fixed on the baby. Hades looked down.
Zagreus had stopped crying, his bloodied hand and arm near his mouth, smearing red over his tiny lips and chin. He was… Was…
“...Is he drinking his own blood?” Hades asked, slowly, unsure of what he was seeing. Nyx stood up straighter, gliding out of the room with urgency. When she came back she had another bottle filled to the brim with thick, slick blood probably taken from the Styx. She offered it to the baby.
Zagreus started drinking, and drinking, and drinking until the bottle had emptied. He even let out a little, satisfied burp, relaxing in Hades’ arm and looking like he was just about ready to get down for a nap, despite being covered in filth, smears of blood on his face.
Hades and Nyx exchanged a look. Blood and darkness, indeed.
For how much neither of them could have possibly been prepared for something like this, Hades refused to feed his son with blood from the Styx. The river was constantly carrying all sorts of wretched things, before depositing into the pool inside the House. It would’ve been like allowing Zagreus to lick the flooring. No, thanks.
That said, feeding his son was no easy matter. They couldn’t bring living things inside, for the nature of the Underworld was that no mortal being could cross its borders without losing all that made them mortal, blood included. And Zagreus could not leave the confines of his realm, for his existence was intrinsically linked with the Underworld, born in it and sired by its ruler. The young thing would succumb to death in no time, out there.
Thankfully, ever capable Nyx worked out a solution, going out to collect fresh blood with her own hands and transport it safely into the House under the shroud of her powers. Bottles of the thing would be stored inside Zagreus’ nursery, kept preserved by the Night herself with the aid of her nature until it was time to feed him. When asked, she candidly admitted that the blood she collected would be a mix of livestock blood and human blood.
“War is raging, out there, as you well know,” she commented in front of Hades’ unexpressed inquiries. “Animals and humans alike, dying one after the other, their blood seeping into the ground. It is not a matter of finding blood, as much as it is a matter of collecting it away from the mortals’ prying eyes.”
In the end, Hades decided to stop questioning as long as the boy was being fed and growing healthy… Even if he had very many questions, the most prominent of which being: What was his son?
But even that would go unanswered, he was sure, and the burning curiosity ended up falling in the background of his many responsibilities. In the end, it didn’t really matter, and Nyx had a point: redbloods died, they would continuously die, and blood would never come to lack for Zagreus to be nourished.
Eventually, even the vague unsettling sensation one could feel upon watching the baby happily consume liters of the thing would come to pass.
Zagreus was hungry. Gods, was he hungry.
His insides were a black hole ready to consume anything. As he stood in front of the closed door on unsure legs, feeling light headed, Charon groaned behind him.
“Yeah, I know, I’m stalling,” he replied with a sigh, turning toward the boatman once more. “Say, Charon, you don’t happen to have a little bit of blood hiding somewhere, do you? No? A single glass?”
“I’ve tried, that stuff’s disgusting,” Zagreus groaned back, letting his head loll backwards. “Seriously. Even when I’m basically starving I just can’t keep it down- And can you blame me? All sorts of gross stuff floats in there! Would you be happy to eat a gyro with vermins in it? Huh?”
“No, your gyros are fine, mate. Just… Not in my tastes, you know that,” Zagreus sighed, tightening the hold on his sword’s handle. Only a few steps away, the Styx rolled by, mocking him. Seriously, an entire, endless river of blood, and Zagreus couldn’t drink it . “S’alright, Charon… Huh, maybe consider starting to carry fresh blood between your many wares?”
“Yeah, I suppose you are too busy to go out and collect some. Well… Thank you anyway. See you around.”
He finally forced himself to walk forward, plunging in the darkness over the last of Tartarus’ doors. Curse father and his smug smirk that appeared whenever Zagreus would come back from another failed run feeling more famished than the last. Who would’ve known that attempting to escape and die over and over again could make an immortal man so fucking hungry ?
Nyx had been… More than a bit vexed when father decided to punish him by vetoing any kind of blood that wasn’t the one from the Styx entering the House until he gave up his ‘childish nonsense’, as he’d put it. And yet, she could do very little, seeing as father was the one whose powers ruled over, inside those walls. If he said no blood was to enter, no blood was to enter, no matter how much Nyx tried.
Zagreus still appreciated her attempts. Too bad appreciation wasn’t enough to stave off the sense of emptiness in his bowels.
“Oh, look who it is!” the sneering voice of Alecto welcomed him as he stepped inside the arena surveyed by the imposing statues of the three Furies. “Redblood! Aren’t you a very unwelcome sight! Even just seeing your face pisses me off!”
Any other day (night?) Zagreus would have replied in kind, snark dripping from his voice as he’d snap back that the feeling was mutual. But not that one. He was so. Goddamn . Hungry .
“Whip got your tongue?” Alecto needled him, snapping her own whip on the ground for good measure. And that was the moment Zagreus’ eyes fixated on her arm, one the inside of her elbow. He could see veins under the skin, blood running in there-
It wasn’t red, he knew that. He was the only one with red blood running in him, in the Underworld. Alecto’s blood must be gold, just like the blood that ran in the veins of all the immortals, major and minor alike.
He hadn’t ever… He hadn’t even dared to think about feeding on the blood of immortals, before, but…
Blood was still blood, wasn’t it?
He gulped down a mouthful of saliva. He hadn’t realized just how much of it had filled his mouth as his famished mind zeroed in onto that thought. He unconsciously ran his tongue along his sharp canines, the tip of them prickling in a promising manner, his body begging for something. Anything .
He was… So… So hungry ...
“If you are just going to stare at me with those dumb eyes of yours we might as well start,” Alecto growled, readying herself for battle.
She hadn’t been ready for the unmatched ferocity with which the prince of the Underworld descended on her, casting his sword away as if it was a useless toy. She hadn’t been ready for the way he disarmed her and forced her on the ground, for the sharp pain of his fangs sinking in her skin, the baffling, disorienting sensation of blood being hastily forced out of her body. She screamed and thrashed under him, and yet he kept her pinned down seemingly without effort, drops of gold blood running down his chin as he ravenously drank of her, eyes darkened and glazed over, as if he wasn’t all there , wasn’t quite in control of his own body.
As the Styx finally claimed her she took in a last gulp of air, ready for when she’d get onto the other side.
“...What the FUCK !”
Megaera jumped on her seat, immediately recognizing the voice as Dusa’s eyes went wide at the furious scream echoing from the depths of the main hall. She immediately rose, running outside of the lounge just in time to see Alecto furiously marching toward Lord Hades’ desk, rudely elbowing shades away.
“What the fuck is wrong with your stupid brat ?!” she screeched, pointing a finger at Lord Hades, who merely glanced down at her with those blazing eyes of his. “He’s fucking deranged !”
“I would appreciate it if you could express yourself appropriately between these walls,” Lord Hades replied, the warning clear in his voice. “What happened, precisely?”
Megaera approached Hypnos rapidly, noticing the way he was looking down at his list as Alecto let out an inarticulate roar of anger.
“How did she die?”
“Oh, um-” Hypnos jumped slightly, looking up at her with vaguely wide eyes. “Well… It says ‘ blood loss ’, that’s… Not too strange, is it?” he asked, sounding unsure of his own words. They exchanged a look, turning toward Alecto.
“What happened? What happened ?! What happened is that that lunatic completely lost his mind!” she was screaming, her arms gesturing wildly. “He fucking descended on me as if he was possesed and- And-”
“...And drank you like a juice pouch?” Hypnos helpfully supplied, voicing (albeit in a dumber manner that she would have put it) Megaera’s suspicion. He made a squeaky noise when Alecto whipped around, pointing her burning eyes on him, and hastily hid behind Megaera.
“...What-” Lord Hades slowly uttered, his voice commanding instant, tense silence into the hall. “-Did you just say ?”
All in all, that might have not been one of Zagreus’ finest moments.
He hadn’t been able to free himself from the fog of rage that had dulled his senses until father literally put him down like a rabid dog, sending him back home and stepping out the pool of Styx with his head spinning slightly from the shock of being finally back in possession of his faculties. He couldn’t clearly remember anything of what happened during that particular run, after he’d started feeding on Alecto’s blood, as if her own anger had moved onto him and was clouding his entire being, if not for the final blow father had landed on him with a disgusted expression on his face.
That one, he remembered very clearly.
The House’s inhabitants had seemed somewhat… Wary of his presence, he could tell. Hypnos seemingly avoided entirely to bestow one of his many sarcastic lines, pretending to be too focused on his list to notice Zagreus emerging from the pool, while Dusa, who had been sweeping around Cerberus bedding, seemed to be in urgent need to relocate herself as she saw him walk down the hall. Even Achilles regarded him with a prudent look as he confusedly staggered in the west wing, before softly asking him “...Are you alright, lad?”
“I feel… Is this a hangover?” Zagreus muttered, carding a tired hand through his hair. His head hurt. “Is this how a hangover feels like?”
“I could hardly say, I’m afraid. I suggest you lay down and rest a bit, maybe.”
“Yeah, I… Yeah.”
Nyx hadn’t been there, as he made his tired way toward his bedchambers. All the better, maybe. A feeling of shame was starting to rise in him, making him look at the floor until he was safely tucked away in his private space.
But at least… Shame or no shame, headache or no headache, his insides had finally quieted down, stopping the constant cry of hunger hunger hunger hunger that had become a permanent fixture of Zagreus’ state of being for a long while, at that point.
After that, while no word was mentioned of the incident between the House’s walls, both Alecto and Tisiphone had been conspicuously taken out of the roster when it came to guarding the last room of Tartarus. After having to fight Megaera six times in a row, Zagreus was almost growing to miss… Well, no, he won’t ever miss Alecto, really, and he had no doubt she’d be happy to flay his flesh off of his bones, after their last meeting- But Tisiphone had even started to call him by name! That was something, right?”
“Sssooo… Come here often?” he teased as the door closed behind him. Megaera snorted, unamused.
“Spare me the pathetic attempts at humour, Zag, and get it over with.”
“Well, one can’t help but wonder, you know? Are your sisters on vacation, or what?”
She flatly looked at him.
“Are you serious?”
“Gods, you are serious… I cannot believe how stupid you can be,” Megaera tiredly pinched the bridge of her nose. “Why do you think I’m the only one appointed to work here, now? Could it possibly be because your father knows you’d never dare to try and drink my blood?”
“Oh. I- Oh .”
“Yes. Oh. Now draw your weapon, stupid.”
Zagreus ended up losing against her for the first time in what felt like ages, too perturbed by the realization to be really able to focus on his aim, Coronacht falling from his hands as the Styx claimed him.
Or maybe, what perturbed him the most, was that in the last couple of attempts he’d started to feel the hunger stir in his guts once more, like a big beast yawning lazily as it rose on dangerous claws.
And he wasn’t sure that he’d be able to hold himself back, if he reached the point of starvation again.
Another one of Zagreus’ not so fine moments arose, when he looked at the small vial of blood Lord Ares had gifted him as his stomach grumbled. It was a ridiculous amount but… Maybe it was self refilling?
He uncorked it before he could doubt himself, and threw his head back to drink the content. It tasted stale, unpleasant, and was not even a mouthful of blood, even as he drank it to the very last drop.
He stared at the vial for long seconds, but sadly, it did not refill.
“...What exactly are you doing, boyo?” Skelly asked from behind him, clearly puzzled. Zagreus groaned.
Thankfully Lord Ares hadn’t asked too many questions when Zagreus had evasively told him that the vial now lied empty, at the first occasion, merely chuckling when Zagreus said he’d accidentally dropped it. The vial filled once more, but Zagreus didn’t bother. It was not worth it, to possibly permanently anger Lord Ares over such a paltry amount of stagnant, unpleasant, unfilling blood.
He shouldn’t have armed himself with Malphon. Why did he arm himself with Malphon? Megaera was right, he was an idiot.
Sliding the twin fists over his own hands for the upteempth run, when he was venturing into the spiraling bowels of the Underworld possibly even hungrier than he had felt when he’d lost control with Alecto, had been a stupid idea. He was so famished he couldn’t even crack a joke with Charon anymore, merely keeping his eyes pointed forward.
He needed… He needed to make it out, this time. If he didn’t- For how long would he last? Getting out of the Underworld meant freedom. And freedom meant being able to finally sink his fangs into something alive.
And he had to go and choose Malphon . The smell of Megaera's blood was overpowering even after only a few hits, with barely a line of gold dropping for her nose and lips after the uppercut he’d managed to land.
He had to go and choose a low-ranged weapon . Idiot .
Fuck . He was so hungry .
His back painfully slammed against a pillar and he crumbled down, when Megaera’s whip coiled around his neck and she pulled with immortal strength. His sight went black for a few seconds, just long enough for Megaera to have approached him, looming over him.
“Tsk. It’s not even any fun, like this,” she muttered so softly Zagreus wasn’t sure if she’d meant for him to hear that. Her hand painfully gripped his jaws, nails pressing in his skin, as she forcefully tipped his face up. “Are you still there, Zag?”
She had gold blood smeared on her knuckles, probably when she had unconsciously cleaned it from under her nose. The scent of it was stronger than her hand, than her arm, than her entire being, fogging all of Zagreus’ senses but his sense of smell, which felt as if it was getting incrementally amplified every single instant.
It took all but a moment.
Megaera released a choked grunt as her back hit the ground, her hands pinned at the sides of her head, Zagreus straddling her waist as he now loomed over her, panting heavily.
She winced, trying and failing to move her face away from the drops of saliva dripping from Zagreus’ semi-open lips. He couldn’t help it, his mouth was literally watering out of his control, just as his body moved out of his control, only driven by an ancient, primordial need to be fed -
“Shit, that’s disgusting, you are literally drooling - Get off of me!”
The kick arrived swiftly, cutting off his breath as he tumbled backwards with a choked noise. Megaera’s hand closed around his throat, dragging him backward and slamming him against the pillar once more.
“Gods, that’s pathetic,” she angrily hissed, looking at him. He looked back at her with darkened eyes, not even really conscious anymore, a beast with no master and no drive but hunger. “What does Lord Hades think all of this will achieve?”
Zagreus didn’t reply, weakly fighting against the grip with an animalistic, low cry. She sighed.
“Give me your hand. Not… The hand, idiot. Stay ,” she growled in frustration, searching for Malphon’s sharpest edge with one hand as she kept him helplessly pinned with the other. Once she found it, it was all but a matter of finding the right angle, and sinking.
The cut wasn’t too long nor deep, but it started dripping blood nonetheless. With a scowl she offered her wrist.
The offer was accepted.
“Slow down… No biting , moron! There you go, slow and steady. Play nice, now.”
Zagreus would remember absolutely nothing of all of it, at a later time. His consciousness had long left, leaving space to nothing but base instincts. But Megaera… Oh, Megaera would be remembering this for a long, long time. Zagreus’ eyelashes fluttering over his flushed cheeks, the burning warmth of his soft lips on her skin, his tongue like a flash of fire lapping with shameless abandon to not let a single drop go to waste as he drank and drank. The single minded focus as he fed on her blood under her gaze, not reacting even when she ran her free hand through his hair, down his neck and shoulder, on his bicep, solid and contracted as he kept both hands (now free of Malphon, as if he’d recalled the weapon back unconsciously, out of sheer need to feel her pulse under her skin under his fingertips) closed on Megaera’s arm. He was all but climbing in her lap, completely lost, like a sweet, beautiful little pup of monstrous origins, trustily abandoning itself in the hands of the first living being it met.
“...That is enough,” she murmured when her head started to feel light, pulling her arm away. Zagreus breathed out, trying to follow with his mouth, lips full and stained with gold. He glanced at her when she stopped him, his eyes still so far and yet burning like the eyes of a proud, fiery beast. He slowly licked his lips.
Something stirred in her lower belly. She’d always liked the wild, untamable side of this strange little god. It was almost too bad he’d mostly keep that hidden under a whole lot of dumbly earnest, affectionate sincerity.
“There you go, that should tide you over for a time,” she said, even knowing it was but fruitless, for Zagreus could hardly understand anything in his state. “I’ll make you pay your due, later. But now go, idiot.”
She rose on unsteady feet, her head light with the loss of blood. When she left, Zagreus didn’t follow.
She’d find at a later moment that Zagreus had almost made it out, that time. But then again, he was almost making it out more and more often, as of late.
“Oh, um… Hello.”
Megaera tilted an elegant eyebrow at him as she sat on his bed, a long leg thrown over her knee.
“You’ve been avoiding me.”
“We… We literally fought to the death a handful of hours ago.”
“That doesn’t count, and even then you barely spoke two words. You’ve been avoiding me .”
Zagreus sighed, finally moving away from awkwardly standing by the door frame to awkwardly stand in the middle of his carpeted floor.
“I literally blacked out due to sheer hunger while fighting you, and when I awoke I was in Asphodel, not hungry anymore. I don’t need to get spelled out the reason why.”
“Evidently, you do,” she stood, towering over him, making something funny swirl in his belly. He’d always found… Somewhat exciting, how much taller than him Megaera was. “I bet that in your stupid little brain you are oh-so very conflicted by the terrible thing you’ve done. Hasn’t crossed your thoughts, at least once, that I might have given my blood willingly?”
He hadn’t been… Conflicted, exactly, (or so he told himself) but he certainly felt less than comfortable at the idea of approaching Megaera in the lounge as if nothing had happened, after that. He blinked three times in rapid succession.
“It’s no fun, fighting you when you can barely stand on your feet,” she snarled, hands on her hips. “I don’t know what Lord Hades thinks he will achieve by starving you, other than reducing you to a shell of your former self. He should have known how stupidly stubborn you are… Exactly as he is.”
“I, uh,” Zagreus stupidly replied, still trying to let the information sink in properly. “...Thanks?”
She still glared down at him, yellow eyes burning.
“You really don’t remember a thing, do you?”
“Not at all,” he confirmed with a shrug. “Although… I felt far more lucid when I finally came back to in Asphodel, even if I… Developed a bit of a taste for seeing the shades suffer, for a time,” he cleared his throat softly. “It hadn’t been like that with Alecto’s blood. I was still more or less conscious but moving on autopilot. The rage- It was overwhelming. Like trying to see through a thick fog.”
“Huh,” Megaera replied, her voice shifting into a tone of mild interest. “Are you usually this influenced by your meals?”
“Not really? Not with red blood, that’s for sure. But I suppose- I suppose immortal blood is different. More powerful. It certainly seems to be able to hold the hunger back longer than red blood ever does.”
“...I see,” Megaera replied after a moment of pensive silence. She put her fingers under his chin, tipping his face up as her thumb slid between his lips, pressing against one of his sharp fangs. A disturbing little grin pulled at her impeccably groomed lips.
“Well… Next time you get hungry, let me know. It wouldn’t be a fair fight if you can barely stand on your feet, after all.”
“Have you ever thought about what would happen if you drank my blood?”
“Hypnos,” Zagreus replied, after having almost dropped the bottle of nectar he had approached the sleepy twin with. “What the fuck , mate?”
“What? The walls have ears, you know,” Hypnos airily replied. “It hasn’t gone unnoticed, how… Swayed in certain directions you’ve been upon drinking blood from two of the three Furies. I was curious. Aren’t you?” his eyes lit up, when he noticed the bottle of nectar. “ Ooooh , is that for me ?”
“Not anymore!” Zagreus replied, unamused. “Seriously, what the fuck? Why would you think something like that? That’s disturbing !”
“Is it any more disturbing than you and Meg trying to kill each other and then chatting in the lounge?” Hypnos replied with a shrug. “Or you dying over and over again while trying to escape from here?”
Zagreus rose a single finger, mouth open, ready to reply. He then closed it, frowning.
“Alright, point taken- Still, I really don’t want to make a habit out of thinking about drinking the blood of my family and friends-”
“But you are curious to find out what would happen with my blood, right?”
Zagreus pouted at him. Hypnos replied with a sleepy grin.
“Well, I certainly am, now that you put the idea into my mind.”
“Awesome!” Hypnos clapped a single time. “Trade you that bottle for a glass of my blood?”
What happened was that Zagreus felt so violently drowsy, only mere minutes after emptying the glass of Hypnos’ strangely sweet blood, that it was a blessing they’d decided to go along with the stupid trade in Zagreus’ bedchamber rather than in the lounge, because he barely had the time to fall backward on his bed with the sound of Hypnos’ snickering in the background before he was out cold.
To be fair, when he woke literally days later, he felt more rested than he’d ever done before in his entire life.
“Have you ever thought about what would happen if you drank mother Nyx’s blood-”
“ No , Hypnos. I draw the line at that .”
“Alright, your loss!”
Thanatos finally came back to the House after a long, long, long absence, desperately longing to spend a few hours of quiet with those he cared for, and also highly confused.
“My Lord,” he said, hovering just in front of Hades’ desk. “Has something… Changed? I have returned with some bottles, but they seem to have emptied on their own-”
Lord Hades scoffed, not even looking up from his work. “Your diligence is appreciated,” he then said, before adding with an undertone of sarcasm in his voice, “alas, no blood shall enter these walls until that stubborn son of mine will learn his lesson and cease his foolish struggles.”
“I suggest you speak with your mother, she shall explain,” Hades replied, uninterested, before adding, slower, “...And rest for some hours.”
Frowning and feeling even more confused, Thanatos approached Nyx, who was seemingly patiently waiting for him. By the time she’d finished explaining the entire situation to him, Thanatos had been ready to blink out for minutes , which he did instantly the moment she was done, directed to Elysium.
When he appeared in his usual green hue Zagreus seemed to be tense, warily eyeing him. He looked tired, something almost haunted in his gaze.
“...Thanatos,” he said, slowly, before looking on a side with a frown. “Tsk… I suppose I should have imagined it was all but a matter of time, before father sent you to do his dirty work.”
Thanatos felt something jump under his eye, his hands tightening around his scythe.
“Do you really think that is why I’m here?” he asked back, feeling more hurt than he’d like to admit. “I just came back- Spoke with your father, and my mother. What are you doing , Zag?”
“Well… I’m pretty sure you know already, if you’ve spoken with the both of them.”
Thanatos finally landed on the soft grass of Elysium, approaching slowly. Zagreus still avoided his eyes.
“Do you intend to starve?” Thanatos asked flatly, a frown settled on his face. “How long has it been since you last ate something?” maddeningly, Zagreus shrugged. “Zag, you can’t-”
“Than, please,” Zagreus interjected, firm, if not unkindly. “My mind is made up, I will get out of here and find my mother. Don’t waste your time- And I’ll be fine, anyway. I can’t really die, can I?”
“That’s not- You can still starve yourself! Why would you do such a thing?!” Thanatos snapped back, frustrated. “We don’t know what would happen if you-”
“I’ll be fine, Than. You have to trust me.”
Thanatos couldn’t explain exactly what, but he felt as if something got misplaced in his chest, a keen pain behind his breastbone seemingly settling to stay.
“Trust you? The same way you trusted me by not even saying goodbye before trying to leave forever?”
Zagreus winced at that, finally turning to face him fully, nervously rubbing his arm in an unconscious gesture.
“I… I thought of you, when I made the decision,” he then said, softly. “And I hoped… I hoped you would understand.”
“Fine,” Thanatos replied, grabbing his scythe as he rose a few fingers off the ground once more. Zagreus eyed him warily again. “If you won’t say it, I’ll say it. Goodbye, Zag.”
And with that, he was gone.
“They told me you were sulking in here, but wow, I did not expect for it to be this bad.”
“I do not sulk,” Thanatos replied, sulkily. Megaera sat down at his table, propping her elbows on top of it. He grimly took another sip out of his glass, as she stared openly.
“So you spoke to him, then,” she said, as if continuing a discussion that was just paused. “Let me guess: ‘ I have to leave, Thanatos, find my mom! You can’t change my mind, yadda yadda ,’” she added in a mocking tone that was probably meant to sound like Zagreus. “I’ve heard that spiel many times, by now. You can’t convince him to stand down, so don’t waste your breath.”
“Does he not understand the consequences of what he’s doing?!” Thanatos finally snapped in a low-voiced annoyance.
“It’s Zagreus. When did he ever think about the consequences of the things he does?”
“But this is different- This is more than just- Just doing something stupid in the House and then get yelled at by his father later!” Thanatos replied, unconsciously dragging both hands through his hair. “He’ll end up starving! Doesn’t he understand that none of us know what will happen, in that case? No immortal had ever needed to eat, before, and he-”
“He didn’t tell you, then,” Megaera interjected with a frustrated groan. “Of course he didn’t tell you, what am I saying. Look… You have all the rights to be frustrated with the rest, but at least I can tell you not to worry about him risking starvation. Not too much, at least. We’ve worked on a solution- Or, better, I’m trying to work on a solution with him, and he keeps playing hard to get until he’s literally forced to give in.”
“...What do you mean?”
Megaera took a look around the lounge, before leaning in, voice lowering.
“I’d rather not… Talk about it out loud. I don’t think Lord Hades will be happy with it, if he’s to find out,” she said pretty much in his ear. “Go to his room and stay there, out of sight, make sure he doesn’t notice you- I’ll show you.”
It didn’t take long for both Megaera and Zagreus to get into the room, once Thanatos had deposited himself on the couch in the corner Zagreus somehow had decided would come in handy, even though he basically never sat down himself until forced. Being the god of death had its perks, namely the ability to be completely invisible until he decided to let himself be seen.
And so he waited for a handful of quiet minutes, looking around Zagreus’ space. Not much had changed since he’d last been in there, Thanatos was sure. Mostly there was just new stuff, like the couch Zagreus would never use, and the solid gold lyre Thanatos couldn’t imagine him even touching-
“...Really? And how did this last attempt go, then?” the voice of Megaera approached, full of sarcasm. Zagreus stalked into the room with a full blown pout, the fury on his heels.
“I was rather close, I’ll have you know,” Zagreus replied, tipping his chin up impertinently. He then added, muttering. “Cursed father and his cursed fire-spear-lasers of doom-”
“So very close, huh?” Megaera replied with an eyebrow tilt, crossing her arms. “I wonder if you could have actually won, this time around, hadn’t you been so needlessly stubborn.”
At that Zagreus turned on his heels with a frown, facing her. “Don’t you even start. I’m not-”
“You are ,” Megaera interjected firmly. “You will , exactly as you did the last two times. Stop making this needlessly difficult and just be a good boy, for once .”
“Meg, I’m not going to-” Zagreus immediately retorted, only for his sentence to be interrupted by a loud grumble coming from his stomach. Megaera spluttered an inelegant, rare laugh.
“You were saying?” she then asked as Zagreus avoided her eyes, clearly mortified. She approached Zagreus’ bed, making herself comfortable on it, back against the pillows. “C’mon, stop being so stubborn. Just come here .”
With a deep sigh Zagreus’ shoulder dropped, and he quietly followed, climbing on the bed to kneel between her legs. He hesitated there.
“Stop making that face, gods, I’m not asking you to skin me alive.”
“This doesn’t stop feeling incredibly disturbing and uncomfortable every single time, just so you know.”
“It only feels like that because you make it so for yourself. I won’t partake in your pity party, Zagreus, I made that plenty clear already.”
Zagreus groaned, but then advanced on all fours until his nose was mere fingers away from Megaera’s, hands pinned at the sides of her hips, even though he was still avoiding her eyes.
Thanatos had to force himself not to squirm uncomfortably in his seat. He’d mostly felt curious at the start, but this was shifting into dangerous territory and he wasn’t quite sure he’d want to witness. Why had Megaera asked him to come and see? Did she want to rub it in his face that she could have Zagreus whenever she wanted?
She unlatched her golden collar and shoulder pieces with ease, setting them aside, her neck now exposed.
“I don’t have all day, Zag,” was all she said. Zagreus sighed deeply, but then he leaned in, his mouth opening, sharp fangs exposed. She only winced minutely when the skin was broken, immediately relaxing as Zagreus drank of her blood.
Oh. Oh .
Zagreus was tense for the first few, long seconds, all limbs locked in position- But then slowly, so slowly he started to relax, mouth attached to Megaera’s neck as he melted against her. She guided him, a hand on his back, the other carding through his hair, until he was pretty much putty in her lap, his breathing coming in soft and even, his throat bobbing as he drank.
“There you go, that wasn’t so hard, was it,” she sighed, fingers running between the muscles of Zagreus’ back. And then she turned toward Thanatos’ corner, tilting an eyebrow. That was, Thanatos supposed, as clear of an invite to show himself as any.
“...I see what you meant when you said you worked out a solution,” he commented flatly, standing by the bed. Zagreus seemingly paid him no attention, looking completely relaxed with his head propped on her shoulder, eyes shut. He’d almost look asleep, hadn’t been for the occasional flash of his tongue lapping at the ruptures he’d caused on Megaera’s neck, the golden flow of blood disappearing in his mouth, that Thanatos could see from this close. “Is he…?”
“You could shout in his ear and he won’t even notice,” Megaera replied, apparently settling herself more comfortably, an arm thrown over the headboard as she kept distractedly running her finger through Zagreus’ untamable hair. “Apparently, immortal blood is far more overpowering than red blood. He’ll be drunk on it for a bit, he usually is, but don’t worry about it. He’ll be back soon.”
Thanatos nodded and then just… Stood there, unsure of what to do. Sure, he felt relieved Zagreus was still getting his fill even if in a… Peculiar manner, but also…
The entire act looked strangely intimate . The way he completely abandoned himself on Megeara’s chest, his head relaxed against her shoulder, one hand curled in her lap and the other distractedly deposited over her breast. His lips never leaving her skin, his tongue lazily darting out-
“Well, I’m-” he turned away, finding himself unable to bear the sight a second more. “I’m glad to know he’s not starving, at the very least. I’ll… Leave you to it, then-”
“Wait,” Megaera softly called. “I didn’t want to show you to… To brag, or anything of the sort,” Thanatos stopped in front of the door, not turning, just slightly perturbed by how transparent he must’ve looked to her. “I wanted you to know that this is a… Possibility. And that I think you should start working on him so you can also… Lend a hand, so to speak.”
“...Why would I- Lend a hand?” Thanatos asked flatly after a beat of silence, just slightly turning. “It looks to me that you have everything under control.”
“Frankly put? This feels amazing ,” she replied with a rumbling chuckle. “I know it seems crazy, but trust me, it does . Let’s not beat around the bush, Thanatos, I know how you feel about him, as I know how he feels about you. No reason for you to deny yourself something like this.”
Thanatos gulped around a knot in his throat, but still turned to face her once more. “...Are you inviting me to, what, exactly?”
“Unlike my sisters, I know how to share my toys,” she replied with a little smirk, running her nails along Zagreus’ back lightly.
“...He’s not a mere- Toy , to me,” Thanatos replied with a little frown. Her gaze softened ever so slightly.
“I know,” she simply replied. “I’m not expecting you to jump into it right away. Just… Give it some thought.”
Zagreus hesitated, looking around at the empty fields of Elysium caressed by the fog and a faint breeze. Thanatos was… Well, Zagreus would define it as glaring , but he wasn’t quite sure that was truly the impression Thanatos meant to communicate. Still, the coast seemed to be clear for now, so he approached with his sword resting on his shoulder.
“Still trying to escape, huh.”
“Yep,” Zagreus replied, tilting his head slightly on a side. “Don’t… Get me wrong, Than, I’m happy to see you, but your goodbye last time felt very… Final. Why are you here?”
Thanatos glanced on a side, quickly, but then he slowly said, “how about a little competition? Let’s see who can kill more of these pitiful shades between the two of us.”
Zagreus tilted an eyebrow. He could see a deflection when one was presented to him, especially one as nakedly obvious as this one. Still, he certainly wasn’t going to spit on a gift. If Thanatos still wished to be friends, after all, Zagreus would be more than happy to just pretend he hadn’t sounded quite so done , during their last meeting.
“Alright, then, it’s on,” he simply replied with a small grin, tightening his hold on Stygius as Thanatos brandished his scythe with a swift motion, and together they moved forward, to face the shades awaiting along the road Zagreus was walking.
There was a strange joy to be found in the fight. Thanatos hardly broke a single drop of sweat, hovering without urgency, his movements minimal as he dispensed death from afar with the simplicity of one’s breathing. In contrast, Zagreus dashed around without pause, launching himself into the thick of the fight, laughing when Thanatos grumbled about him stealing his kills, and booing jokingly when Thanatos replied in kind. They worked as a well-oiled machine, side by side and back to back, until not a soul but them was left on the expanse of the Elysium fields once more.
Zagreus laughed when the tally came to his favor only by a single shade, throwing his arms up in victory. Thanatos arrumped.
“Very well. You… You have grown strong,” he then softly added, landing delicately on the grass. He raised his left arm, distractedly thumbing at a cut on the back of his hand. Zagreus froze, eyes widening just slightly. “I must have grown complacent, instead. One of those arrows nicked me,” Thanatos distractedly commented, wiping away the line of gold blood rolling down his skin.
It took Zagreus a moment, a single instant- There was no way Thanatos would let himself get hit. He was death itself , no mere shade could possibly ever be able to even give him a papercut, unless Thanatos allowed it. Zagreus’ squinted, his mouth pulled in a thin line.
“Meg put you to this,” he then said, unamused, taking a step back. Thanatos glanced at him, the personification of calm, detached innocence.
“Put me to what, exactly?”
(Zagreus was right. Megaera had approached Thanatos a few hours earlier, quietly letting him know that Zagreus had been stubbornly refusing to eat again, and could he please do something about it?)
“Don’t try to play dumb, it’s not a good look on you,” Zagreus replied, gritting his teeth. Baring his fangs, unconsciously. “You can go home and tell her to give it a break. I’m done here.”
He turned, angrily stalking away. The usual snap that followed Thanatos’ disappearance resounded in the air-
And then Zagreus painfully bumped into Thanatos’ chest, as Thanatos teleported in front of him. He cursed under his breath, holding his nose.
“Alright, let’s drop the pretenses,” Thanatos said, flatly unamused. “Megaera and I have been… Talking, yes.”
“I understood that much, thank you.”
“...Zag,” Thanatos sighed, lowering himself on the grass once more. “We just want to make sure you are alright.”
“If you are so worried, go tell my father to stop being such a rotten asshole and let me get my normal blood back! It’s not like he’s the one getting it for me, anyway!” Zagreus snapped, throwing an arm out. Thanatos stared at him, and in a second, all his rage deflated out of him. “...Sorry. I know you can hardly do anything, him being your boss and all.”
“No one is happy about this,” Thanatos quietly said. “I wish I had the power to solve the issue between you and Lord Hades, but… I can’t. That is up to you. Still- If there’s anything I can do to make sure you are fed and healthy-”
Zagreus groaned loudly, dragging both hands down his face. “Damn it, Than, I don’t want to drink your blood!”
Oddly enough Thanatos seemed almost offended by that. He recoiled, his mouth curving downward even more than usual. Both his hands tightened on his scythe, kept in front of him almost protectively.
“...Fine. I see how it is,” he then said, voice quite some degrees lower than usual. “I… I get it. I suppose you’d rather be with Megaera, instead, I understand-”
Zagreus frowned at the tone. Why in the world would Thanatos get offended by the idea of Zagreus not wanting to actively chomp on him as if he was nothing but a slab of meat on someone’s plate? That reaction seemed… Disproportionated.
“I don’t really want to drink her blood either, you know?”
“Sure you don’t.”
“What is that even supposed to- I don’t !” Zagreus snapped, frustrated by the confusing turn of this conversation. “Do you think I draw any joy in having to literally suck someone’s life essence out of their body? Do you think I find it funny? I hate it!” the words were coming out on their own, as if a dam had broken in him. Thanatos was looking at him with vaguely wide eyes, now, but Zagreus didn’t stop. “As if I wasn’t enough of an oddity with my stupid mortal blood and my stupid inability to fit anywhere into the Underworld- As if it’s not absurd enough that I’m supposed to be a god, and yet I don’t even know what am I supposed to be the god of ! As if I’m not enough of an anomaly, the only immortal who actively feels hunger! And on top of that the only thing I can eat is fucking blood !”
He could feel his eyes prickle, just a tiny bit. Zagreus looked away, angrily blinking to keep them at bay.
“I don’t know what the fuck Meg thinks I think about all of this. I thought I had made it clear enough I wish we hadn’t needed to come to this point,” he continued, voice lower, rougher. “I know you both just want to make sure I’m alright- But I don’t want to- To- I just feel so wrong whenever I have to feed directly from the source. As if you guys are just plates of food at a feast and not the people I love and care about-”
Thanatos’ hands felt infinitely gentle when they grabbed his, the fingertips of his naked one rubbing the inside of Zagreus’ wrist.
“I’m sorry I haven’t realized that you felt that way,” Thanatos quietly said, his expression having softened, when Zagreus faced him once more. “I didn’t think you felt so… Tormented by all of this. I thought you were only being stubborn.”
“I am stubborn,” Zagreus replied with a little, sarcastic laugh. “But that’s not it, Than, I…”
“I understand that, now,” Thanatos gently interjected when Zagreus trailed off. “And I won’t force you, if you’d rather not do this. But, Zag… I’m not scared. I’m not disgusted, I don’t… I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you. You’ve always been unique, but…” he hesitated for a second, voice lowering that tiny bit. “...But I always loved that, about you.”
Zagreus stared at him, mouth hanging slightly open. He closed it, gulping around nothing.
“So, if you’ll allow me… I would like for you to drink my blood,” Thanatos continued, unperturbed. “It would be a joy and an honor for me, to offer myself to you.”
“ Wording , Than,” Zagreus replied with a tense little laugh, knowing his cheeks must be flushed with embarrassment.
“Maybe my choice of words was exactly the one I intended to use,” Thanatos did not hesitate in replying, the personification of calmness. His fingers stroked with painful slowness Zagreus’ wrist once more, before rising along his arm, his shoulder, cupping Zagreus’ neck and then finally stopping under his chin, Thanatos’ thumb gently stroking his lower lip.
Zagreus’ heart was beating madly in his throat as he stared back, shocked into silence. His tongue unconsciously darted out to wet his lips, brushing Thanatos’ fingertips, and Thanatos shuddered just so, his golden eyes growing murky. And when he leaned in, Zagreus was already there, rising on the tip of his toes to meet him halfway, lips already parted for him.
Thanatos’ skin was cold, but his mouth wasn’t. He licked with intent inside Zagreus’ own, eliciting a throaty moan out of him, and then slowly, torturously, traced the shape of his pointed fangs, arms possessively rolled around Zagreus waist.
“...Do you… Do you really want me to…” Zagreus sighed against Thanatos’ lips, allowing himself to stand thighs to chest flush against him. Thanatos’ rumbly little hum of confirmation vibrated against Zagreus’ breast.
“...Please, if you will,” he added, the sheer need unbridled in the depths of his voice. Zagreus took a deep breath from his nose, and released it as a moan. Thanatos must’ve gotten rid of his golden collar at some point without Zagreus even realizing, the ashen skin exposed. He could smell it, the scent of Thanatos’ blood, heady and intoxicating. When he nuzzled under Thanatos’ jaw, his lips following the line of a long vein, Thanatos shuddered with anticipation, tipping his chin up.
“You smell so good,” Zagreus whined damply against his skin, eyes closed. “Gods, you have no idea- I can smell it even through your skin-”
“...What does my blood smell like...?” the rumble of Thanatos’ voice echoed against Zagreus' chest. Zagreus palmed at Thanatos’ broad back, squeezing him even closer, as if wishing for them to melt into one.
“I don’t even know how to describe it- It smells warm, like cinders- But also sweet, pungent, like decaying flowers-” slowly, his tongue followed the faint pulse he could detect under the skin. Thanatos let out a tiny, hitching noise. “Than, are you sure…?”
“Do it,” Thanatos simply replied in a single breath, one hand splayed on Zagreus’ back, rising along his muscles.
Zagreus breathed out through his nose one last time, and then opened his mouth against Thanatos’ neck, fangs sinking in-
When Zagreus blinked back into full consciousness, he felt more sated than he could possibly describe. He also slowly realized they were lying down on the soft, silver grass of Elysium on a side, legs entangled, and he was’ using one of Thanatos’ arms as pillow while death itself lovingly gazed at him, lazily carding a hand through Zagreus’ hair.
There were two tiny holes on Thanatos’ neck, two thin rivulets of gold that were already drying like stardust on his skin, and a small, satisfied smile on his mouth.
“...How long was I out?” Zagreus managed to ask after testing his tongue subtly. He could still faintly feel the aftertaste of his little snack.
“A little bit, I haven’t kept track,” Thanatos replied, sounding lazily content. “Did I taste as nice as I smelled?”
“Better. This has to be how ambrosia tastes like,” Zagreus sighed, scooting closer and finding a welcoming space between Thanatos’ arms. “Mmmh… Can we stay like this just a tiny bit longer?”
“Yes,” Thanatos murmured, placing a kiss on his forehead. “We can stay like this a tiny bit longer.”
Thanatos wouldn’t want to appear full of himself, but he couldn’t help but feel just a tiny bit like he’d played a part in Zagreus’ success, seeing as, once they went on their separate ways with one last, tender kiss, Zagreus had finally managed to break free for the first time.
Granted, a bitter surprise was waiting for him on the other side, seeing as his time on the surface was limited, his body unable to sustain being away from the Underworld for too long. Still, Zagreus had emerged from the pool of Styx hours after Lord Hades himself had, launching a blazing look around as if to dare anyone to say a single word about it, and then resuming his duties in silence, the House suspiciously prince-less.
Unlike his Lord father, though, Zagreus had emerged with a big grin, immediately running around to update every single one of the important people in his life about how he’d found her. His mother, and the Queen of the Underworld. And how he had all intentions to break out over and over again, to finally get to know her better.
In his enthusiasm he might have teleported through the distance between the entrance to the west hall and Thanatos’ balcony to tell him how his escape panned out, under Achilles’ surprised wide eyes. Thanatos made no mention of it, seeing as Zagreus himself did not even notice what he’d just done in his frantic eagerness. Thanatos was sure he’d lose that ability soon enough, anyway.
“Well, isn’t he full of life?” Megaera drawled with clear amusement with her shoulder propped on the lounge’s door frame, as Zagreus disappeared in his room, surely ready to attempt his second escape right away as full of energy as he was. “That’s… Somewhat ironic, considering he drank of death himself.”
“He really is the god of blood, do you reckon?” Thanatos replied with a small smile. “That is what I heard Achilles say, anyway. Seems fitting.”
“If you ask me, he’s the god of idiotic decisions,” Megaera scoffed, but her voice lacked any real bite. “You alright?”
“You were right. It did feel amazing.”
“Ah! Told you,” she shifted her weight on her feet, her nails tracing the line between the two tiny puncture holes on his neck while she smirked. “Well, I suppose I ought to go pretend to try and stop him. Think next time we could share?”
“We can set up a meeting, I’m sure,” Thanatos replied perfectly mildly, a corner of his mouth tilting up. She let out a low, breathy laugh, pulling at his hood almost childishly.
“Go cover your neck, what would Lord Hades think if he noticed you looking so indecent?”
“Not that his son drank me… How did Hypnos put it? Like a juice pouch, I’m sure.”
She inelegantly giggle-snorted.
The return of the Queen marked an occasion for great festivities. Which, to be fair, mostly meant that all the stable presences in the House of Hades got to take one evening off and reunite in the lounge to share a meal, with one of Cerberus heads poking through the entrance and waiting for treats to be thrown his way.
There were hardly many of them, but even then, it was enough to make the lounge feel as if it was bursting at the seams, as the ever efficient cook chopped up fishes caught by the prince and vegetables brought by the Queen from her personal garden, plates soon being served with delicious smells filling the air.
Persephone blankly stared at her son while an entire pint of what looked like blood was gracefully deposited in front of him, garnished with little sugar skulls and a full on straw. Zagreus, seemingly unbothered, took a sip out of it as he nodded at something one of Nyx’s sons was saying to him, and took a long moment to notice she was staring at him.
He looked down at his drink, and then softly cleared his throat.
“Father? Do you want to do the honors of bringing mother to speed for what concerns my… Diet?”
Hades groaned in a long suffering way, and yet, did not refuse to explain.
For the most part, Persephone was only mildly saddened by the fact her own son would never get to try the fruits and vegetables she nurtured and grew herself, upon discovering Zagreus’ peculiarity. When she expressed said feelings, Zagreus rubbed at the back of his neck.
“I mean… I could give them a lick?” he then said, making her full on laugh from her belly.
Yeah. All in all, she did not mind in the slightest.