He’s always slightly taken aback by the sun when he splits earth open. It’s all too bright, too alive, grasses and greens and small flying creatures. But he ventures unperturbed, his resolve clenched between his teeth along with his sanity, barely hanging on despite the chirps of ugly little feathered things.
He finds her loitering between her maids, dressed in the colors of blossoms and the trinkets she brings back to their realm when she returns. When she feels his approach she turns to him, a gasp preceding his name as it leaps from her throat. She hurries, smiling, and he finds happiness in her eyes, glimmering beneath sunlight before she throws her arms around his neck. It takes all he has not to give Demeter a demeaning look, and instead he only whispers a greeting into Persephone’s ear.
“I’m here for my wife,” he tells Demeter. Then, dryly to taunt her, “Mother.”
“Perish the thought,” she replies.
‘Perish yourself,’ he scoffs under his breath.
Persephone has flowers in her hair; daphnes. She told him about them when he last ascended to take her back, a story about the girl who was yearned for, so desperately desired that she had to be saved from it, turned into a flower with curved petals. He considers his position as his wife slowly tears away from his arms, the loss he feels again though she’s coming back to him after; that frailty, that fickleness, far more suited for mortal than for the King of the Dead.
“Do you really have to go,” Demeter pleads, and before he could say anything, his wife finds his eyes with hers and glares.
“Oh, Mother,” Persephone chimes, releasing herself from him after a pout. She goes and, dragging her hands down her mother’s forearms, “You know I’ve no other choice.”
Demeter’s sorrow brings down the flowers around them, and his wife winces as the ones in her hair turn crisp and brown and black. He could tell they were the ones she liked the most, and that she wanted them alive to take home.
“Now,” she continues, tender (she may be feigning, or not; he’s never sure, never understood why anyone would coddle Demeter willingly.) “You know I shall be back before too long.”
And she is going to, when the time comes; his entire affair with her is a practice of reaching out then letting go, a burden of restraint that he’s taken upon himself. It’s never mattered to him what Demeter thinks, how she twists her curses around her tongue and spits them out at him— it doesn’t bother him the slightest that Persephone’s attachment to the world below is sewn to his name, the lord and his realm.
But wasn’t it she that called? The memory wanders sometimes inside him; her soft hands as she knelt to earth and ripped the grasses and flowers by the root, then whispered to the blot of carnage she left, “Hades, King of the Underworld, would you ascend and claim me yours?”
He’s never been one to be called often, his name too damning to leave cowardly mouths. But she’s a tender thing, too delicate for the demand she breathed— so when he tore earth open he waited for a fright, but he was only met with awe— her eyes round and surprised, and her lips parted.
“Well,” he said to her then. “Come.”
She stood and shook the dirt from her robes, breathless with soft laughter. “This was… unexpected,” Persephone said.
“It’s not often that I hear my name whispered from your world,” he told her. “Let alone so blatantly called.”
“And you heeded in a beat,” Persephone teased. He was walking her down the dark steps, the path extending because he willed it to. “Are you lonesome, Lord of the Dead?”
He felt her eyes on his back as they descended, and tried not to let her gaze irritate him. “I like to think that I am accommodating,” he professed, and the sound of her amusement caught him off guard; she’d noticed the quip enveloped in his words, and laughed for him without fear.
So she barged uninvited into his realm and his being, and she seeped into him, washed over him, became his, and she was so unlike him, all soft curves and waxen features, so sweet it sickened him; the flutter of her skirts when she sat on the wretched ledges of the underworld, the trail of flowers she left in her wake.
“I’m tired of it,” she told him once, after she’d learned how to disappear from Demeter, slandering him with the sin of stealing her away. “Being in my mother’s shadow, always.” Then, when he said nothing back, she raised her head from where she’d tucked it on his shoulder, and reached for his jaw to turn his face towards her. “I want more, power and freedom, and to rule. I want to be Queen.”
“Is that why you called on me?” Hades asked.
“It was,” she replied in honest, drawing her face closer, closer, until she nudged it against his, her eyelashes quivering across his skin. “Do you feel betrayed?”
“You assume too much of what I feel,” he said, bluntly.
“Will it be too bold to assume that you want me, too?”
“It shouldn’t be,” he told her. “You’ve done,” his voice dropped as he tipped her chin towards him, his touch dark and ardent and barely restrained. She held his gaze until, “Far more insolent things to me,” he continued.
“Did I, now?” She was trying to feign her ease still, but he felt her flutter beneath his touch. “Tell me what I’ve done.”
He didn’t know; there’d never been anything taking more of him than governing his realm. He was a thing of abyss — he was born into it then consumed by it, then it was made his. Her arrival was intrusive, meddlesome, not how her laughter swept him when he forbade her from bringing flowers into the Underworld, and not how Cerberus took a liking of her in seconds, it was something more, an unnamed greed inside him, the desire to consume endlessly, to devour.
“You said my name as it is,” he replied, instead. “With no title or moniker in sight.”
“I thought that liberty was mine to take.”
“It is,” he told her. “And so is this Kingdom, in darkness and death and its long, tired suffering.” Withdrawing from her, he cupped his hand and a pomegranate fell into it. He dug his fingers in and broke it in half, the crushed seeds bleeding down his arms, staining his robes; beckoning.
“Is this your marriage proposal, my King?”
Seven perfect seeds were placed into the heart of her palm. “You know the meaning of this,” he told her, his words sharp and clear-cut.
Her resolve lined the innocence of her irises, and had he allowed himself to, his gaze would’ve turned tender at the sight; but he didn’t, he waited for her to eat all seven of the seeds that will draw her to him for eternity, watched as she crushed them beyond her little lips, and when she swallowed the last of them, “There,” she said. “Does this make us married now?”
Before he could hold back he smiled; an unfamiliar feeling lodging itself behind his ribs, and she took his expression as a yes, and never held back since, not her affirmations of love nor her laughter, and “my stern-faced lover,” she would call him, “would you smile a little for me?”
(Oftentimes he wouldn’t, but she would never let it go, she had her ways and her methods; and before too long he’d yield, her mirth a ghost left on his lips, and she’s so lovely and insufferable, leaving him muttering, “cunning thing,” when he realizes that he’s thoroughly lost this battle.)
Their union hadn’t been received well by anyone, and Demeter’s rage was an unexpected hinderance that killed off the mortals by taking away their crops. And while they’d decided to continue deceiving, (‘How do you like the idea of resuming the act? The naive little girl stolen away by the ruthless King of the Underworld?’ she’d asked), Zeus intervened, asked for Persephone to be given back.
He’d no intention of obeying; he wasn’t beneath his brother, and he wasn’t beneath Demeter, and the realm of the Dead was vast enough for however many mortals she would end up killing in her fits. “Give her back to her mother,” Zeus had told him, and Hades’s silence bore destruction and apocalypse, expanding and knowing no bounds, a vicious hunger to bring the entire world to its feet.
It struck him that there it was, his flaw, clear and glaring, his possessiveness to the extent of gluttony. He wanted no hand in anything that was his, nothing to touch the underworld he governed and its inhabitants, and he had never wanted anything over that, not before she came along. But a shift of shadows in him brought the thought of what she was, and he couldn’t tell if it was the voice of reason or some other thing, but he saw her flesh, so tender his touch could turn her to mist.
So instead he surrendered her to her will.
“Mother had to kill all of my flowers,” she whines, flicking the dead petals from her hair as she skips down the stairs before him. “I hope you’re not rejoicing that I won’t be able to weave them into that hair of yours.”
“I am doing just that.”
She laughs, producing a living flower from the folds of her peplos. “You forget that I am the daughter of life and the harvest.” And the flowers propagate in her hands where she’s cupped them, so much that they spill onto the steps beneath. “Do you know what they spell? These petals?”
“You remember!” Persephone chimes, peals of laughter sinking into the walls of darkness around them.
He’s never forgotten; not the stories she told him about trees and earth and deepening roots, how she’s life’s daughter. He’s never forgotten anything with her— how she’s never been the pure girl all thought she was, and yet she was sacred, his insufferable love leaving him in a trance and ruined, their lives a secret hidden in the soft lines on the corners of her eyes when she smiles.
She gives him a knowing grin, then calls his name.
Hades, let’s go home.
Flower prompt: Daphnes— immortality