WAY BACK THEN
The story was wrong from the beginning.
The moment Rufus Humphrey growled and shoved his wife up a wall to ravish her senseless in the middle of the night, it was a done deal. Allison’s cravings for salty chips and endless coffee runs during her pregnancy just made it worse.
Which was why the three-millennia-old midwife took one look at the wailing baby boy and just sighed, as if she had expected this to happen. “Brooklyn, we have a problem.”
: : :
Needless to say, William van der Woodsen was anything but pleased. After all, everyone knew that Demeter was supposed to birth a daughter that would follow in her footsteps.
“You cannot be serious,” he says, rubbing his temples. “Your firstborn cannot be a boy.”
Allison stands in front of the Father of the Gods, biting her lip as she rocks her sleeping newborn. “But it happened…I’m not sure why.”
Lily snorts, bouncing a hyper Erik in her lap. “Maybe because you slept with a human, Demeter? They always ruin the natural order, anyway.”
Allison glares at Lily, clearly upset. “Not everyone is lucky enough to have Zeus as their consort, Hera. And besides, maybe my second child will be a girl-”
“Doesn’t matter,” William’s voice booms, and both women are reminded of how dangerous he can be, how mellow he’s become over the years. “If your firstborn doesn’t receive his powers, none of your children will. It’s how it goes, Demeter. You know that.”
The baby in Allison’s arms wriggles in his sleep, as if he senses William’s displeasure, and Allison clings to him tighter. “In that case, let’s hope everything turns out okay.”
: : :
Kronos Academy for Boys is clearly the worst place Dan Humphrey could ever be in. Not only does he stick out like a superbly sore thumb because he lives in freaking Brooklyn while all the other boys live in the Upper East Side, his lineage is apparently not pure enough, either.
Well, at least that’s what Chuck Bass tells him.
Chuck Bass, son of Bart Bass – also known as Hades – and generally the most mysterious boy Dan has ever met. He supposes having the God of the Underworld as your father kind of does that to you.
“Who’s your Dad?” Chuck asks on the first day of school. “I only know your Mom.”
Dan blushes, scratching his head. Of course everyone knew his mom, whenever she got angry there would be a tornado in Texas. “My dad’s just a musician. He’s not a god or anything.”
Chuck looks half disgusted, half intrigued. “You can’t be serious. Demigods usually don’t get into Kronos.”
Dan shrugs. “Well, I did.”
A tall, lanky senior whacks him on the head. “Your mom probably slept with Zeus to get you in, man.”
Dan has barely gotten the time to be pissed when a large purplish ball appears above the senior’s head before bursting, soaking him in purple liquid. “Oh, for Zeus’ sake!”
“Screw you, Tripp,” Erik van der Woodsen shouts from across the courtyard. His friends take one look at the drenched boy – Tripp – and laugh. “I heard that, you bastard.”
Tripp sputters, glaring. “You can’t take a joke, Dionysus?”
Erik tilts his head upwards proudly, and yeah, Dan can see some similarities between Erik and his dad. “Not when it’s about my father, Hephaestus.”
Dan’s pretty sure that fight is going to break out – and how cliché is that, a fight on the first day of school – when the bell rings, and everyone rushes for class, Tripp included.
: : :
All his classmates are laughing at him, and Dan can’t really hate them, because if he were in their shoes, he’d be laughing at himself, too.
Miss Selene looks a little confused, herself. “It’s what it says, Daniel. I’m sorry, but that’s your gift. You are the… god of spring growth.”
“And fertility,” a voice hisses behind him, and the class erupts into another round of laughter.
“That’s enough, Chuck,” Miss Selene says softly, but they know a veiled threat when they hear one, so the class settles down.
Dan clears his throat. “So, I’m…I’m Persephone?”
Nate Archibald, who is two desks away, is obviously trying his best not to laugh out loud. He’s pressing his lips together and looking at the desk intently. Dan likes Nate; at least Nate doesn’t judge him for being a half-human.
“Yes, Daniel,” Miss Selene sighs. “You’re Persephone.”
: : :
“Why am I the god of spring growth?” Dan demands as he paces the living room. “It’s not fair! Nate gets to be the god of War, Carter is the Messenger of the Gods, and even Chuck has a cooler position than me – and he just produces mists when he feels like it!”
Allison sighs, and the plant next to her wilts a little. “Sweetheart,” she says kindly. “There’s so much more you can do as the god of spring growth! You can reduce all those storms I cause when your father pisses me off. You can bring the flowers back to life, you can grow trees wherever you want to – don’t look at me like that Daniel Humphrey. You’ve always loved nature.”
Dan frowns. Yeah, he likes nature, but he doesn’t want to do a girl’s job as a god. “Why can’t Jenny be the goddess of spring growth?” he asks lamely, even though he knows the answer. Jenny cannot be a goddess, not after she trampled on Hera’s prized petunias and the enraged woman cursed her so that she would never receive her powers.
Allison’s heart aches for her son, and she pulls him into a hug. “It’ll be better, sweetie,” she promises. The plant perks considerably. “You’ll see. It’s going to be amazing being Persephone.”
: : :
So Allison lied. It is not fun being Persephone. Well, at least for a living entity that has a penis.
“Mom may enjoy reviving dying potatoes, Jenny, but I don’t,” Dan sighs as he leaves the bustling train station. “You know what Nate did yesterday? He dropped by some part of the Middle East and then Africa. And that was before he went to meet Serena.”
A feminine hand waves in front of his face, and he stops dead in his tracks, smiling. “Hey, Jenny, I’ll call you back, okay?”
He ends the call despite his sister’s protests, and engulfs the owner of the hand into a massive hug. “Vanessa! I haven’t seen you in ages!”
Vanessa Abrams giggles shyly and squirms when his hand goes slightly past her waist. “It’s only been three weeks, Dan. But I can tell you miss me.”
Dan raises his eyebrows. “Really?”
“Yeah, the trees seemed so sad this month.”
“Ass,” Dan mock punches her in the arm. So maybe Vanessa was right – he did miss a lot of his friends from Kronos Academy and the Rhea Girls’ school. It was like a safe haven, where they could use their powers without getting into trouble. Out in the open, Dan had to struggle not to get mad at a person so that a tomato would not launch itself at the culprit.
Turns out that while being the god of spring growth was still unhip – and “freaking girly ass”, if he were to quote the elusive, misty Chuck Bass – there were other opportunities to make good use of his gifts. He’s saved Kansas at least four times this year. Rufus and Allison’s relationship were on the rocks, and their constant arguments – who should keep the Bob Marley records if they divorce, why they should divorce, which divorce lawyer to go to – led to nature going haywire. And there’s something very wonderful about going to places like Sudan and seeing the joy on people’s faces when their crops flourish.
“Coffee?” Vanessa suggests, looking at him hopefully. “I’ll whip up a mean omelette, too.”
Dan rolls his eyes, already agreeing as he falls into step with her. “You always whip up a mean omelette. You can’t create yucky things.”
: : :
Dan and Vanessa met during a school field trip in junior year. Vanessa had immediately spotted him amongst the Kronos crowd. While all the other Gods were standing tall and proud, Dan was shrinking away at the back, looking anything but pleased. After all, there was nothing to be proud of when your Greek name was Persephone.
Dan, on the other hand, didn’t notice Vanessa until they literally rammed into each other on the way to lunch, because he was too busy staring at Serena van der Woodsen, also know as Aphrodite. The Goddess of love and lust, Serena was the most eligible Goddess – not only was she beautiful, she was the daughter of Zeus and Hera. Of course, it only made sense that she would fall for Nate, because they will obviously produce the most beautiful children Olympus would ever see.
If only all stories had a happy ending.
: : :
“Did you go for Hades’ funeral?” Vanessa’s question breaks his train of thought.
Dan swallows. “Bart Bass? No, no I didn’t. I was in Inner Mongolia then, busy fighting the frost that was my mother’s anger when she found some g-string in my dad’s bag that wasn’t hers.”
Vanessa bites her lip, unsure whether to laugh or feel pitiful. “Well, Zeus and Poseidon obviously had a meeting, because someone has to replace the God of the Underworld.”
Dan sometimes wonders how the process works. If Hades died, where would be go? Back to the underworld, or did he have his own underworld? “So who’s the new Hades?”
He chokes on his omelette, wheezing when he’s unable to breathe. Vanessa rushes to his side and thumps him hard enough to dislodge the egg in his throat. “Zeus, you can’t be serious! Mr. I-love-creating-mist? Mr. Douchebaggy McDouchebaggerson?”
Vanessa crosses her arms. “Did you really call Chuck Bass Mr. Douchebaggy McDouchebaggerson?”
Dan remains silent and drinks his coffee; because that is the only dignified response he can give.
“So now he’s in charge of the Underworld. So far he’s been doing a pretty good job. No souls have run out, none have gone in by accident…”
“Cerberus would rip apart a soul if it tries to escape, Hermes aside,” Dan points out. “And I’m pretty sure no soul is stupid enough to want to go to the Underworld.”
“True,” Vanessa relents. “Well, to celebrate his status as Hades, Chuck’s throwing a party at Mount Olympus. We’re all invited. And when I mean invited I really mean forced to attend, because you don’t want Hades to hate you.”
Dan grumbles in his coffee. As if Chuck Bass hadn’t tormented him enough during his years in Kronos, he would also now own Dan’s soul when he died..
His life is one whole joke.
: : :
The party is classy and sophisticated, 99% Chuck Bass. The remaining 1%, douche bag, was not present in the décor.
“Persephone!” Ares calls out merrily, and Dan groans. Nate’s horrible when he’s drunk. He’s too merry, and tries to kiss Serena too many times. And the only time he’s drunk is when Tripp is being a bitch.
Dan waves awkwardly as Nate stumbles his way across the room. “Hey, Ares,” he mutters. “How’s it going?”
“Great!” Nate does a mini pirouette, and manages to look good while doing so. “Chuck’s Hades, man! I’d probably ask for him to let me just stay at the entrance forever. Maybe I’ll make friends with Cerberus!”
“Nate,” Dan says as his fellow God flings himself on a couch that appears out of nowhere. It’s a very god-like thing to do, ordering furniture without a deposit. “Cerberus is a three-headed dog who only knows two words: Attack and Get him.”
Nate pouts. “That’s three.”
Dan rolls his eyes. “Same difference. Now, where is Serena?”
The God of War starts to burn up; Dan can see Nate’s skin slowly turn red. “With Hephaestus, the good-for-nothing bastard. She’s like a prisoner, man. She hates her marriage, her life, her house…”
Because she’s in love with you, Dan thinks as Nate chokes on his slurring words. Everyone knows that Ares and Aphrodite are lovers – even though Serena’s married to Tripp. It’s probably a death wish, but Dan hopes that one day he would get to experience the love Nate and Serena have.
: : :
When Chuck Bass sees Dan Humphrey, something in his mind clicks.
“Persephone,” he whispers, taking a sip of ambrosia. Ares is clinging onto Persephone, probably weeping about how Zeus didn’t let him marry Aphrodite. Or something Aphrodite-related, at least. Nate hasn’t been able to stop talking about Serena for weeks now, and it is getting on Chuck’s nerves.
What’s getting on Chuck’s nerves now is that Nate has his hands on Dan Humphrey. Doesn’t matter that Nate is the God of War, Hades can yank that soul out of him if Nate even breathes wrong in Dan’s presence.
He hasn’t seen Dan in ages, but he knows one thing for sure.
He’s got to have him.
: : :
“You want to date Persephone.” Carter repeats. “Persephone. As in Dan Humphrey.”
Chuck feels his hair flaming. It’s a bad side effect when someone becomes Hades. Apparently his father had the same problem, too. “Which part of that did you not understand, Hermes?”
Carter’s brow furrows. “The entire thing. You hate Dan Humphrey. You made his life a living hell back in Kronos, man.”
Chuck smiles, adjusting his black shirt. “Kronos was Kronos. We’ve all moved on, man.”
Carter looks skeptical, but he agrees to help Chuck to kidnap one Dan Humphrey.
: : :
It’s embarrassingly easy.
Dan gets drunk on Breezers. He becomes batshit drunk and sings loudly and poorly enough for the bouncer to haul him out of the club, and Carter whisks him away into the darkness.
The next day, Allison, feeling something amiss, searches for her son everywhere, but she can’t find him. He’s not in Poseidon’s realm, and he’s not in Zeus’s either.
Allison weeps, and the floods begin.
: : :
“What the fuck!”
“Persephone!” Chuck yells behind his throne. “Calm down!”
Dan fumes as he grabs another Ming vase and throws it in Chuck’s direction. “Do I look like a damsel to you? You can’t just kidnap me because you feel like it!”
Chuck starts producing mist in a moment of panic. He may have released his official status as Erebos, but the powers still remain. “Just hear me out, Dan. I want you to give me a chance!”
“A chance to what? Draw on me in my sleep? Throw me into the River Styx? Force me to marry Charon?”
Chuck sees red at the last sentence, and his hair bursts into flame. “You will not marry Charon,” he declares, voice booming and sending thousands of souls fleeing as far as they can from Hades’ wrath. “You’re mine.”
Dan takes another vase from Bart’s unusual vase collection and hurls it at Chuck. It hits his head, and his hair stops flaming. “I’m not a woman, you caveman!”
: : :
“I refuse to be your consort!” Dan says, at the brink of hysteria. “Male gods do not have male consorts!”
“You were supposed to be female!” Chuck says, making strange, complicated gestures that Dan assumes would mean female.
Dan shakes his head. “Well, I’m the god of spring growth now-”
“And fertility,” Chuck adds, and another vase gets thrown.
Dan looks out of the window. Everything is in shades of grey. It’s so dreary he wants to cry.
“There’s no colour?” he whispers.
Chuck sighs from the other end of the room. “You’re in the Underworld. It’s not the roaring 60s.”
Dan looks at his hands. They’re starting to lose colour too.
“I hate this,” he mumbles, wishing that his mom had slept with a God so that he didn’t have to be in this position.
: : :
Hermes tries to cheer him up, but Dan never liked Hermes in the first place.
“Chuck really likes you.”
Dan rolls his eyes and feels like a sixteen-year-old girl. “Whatever, Carter. I suppose he also like long walks by the beach and romantic comedies.”
Carter considers this. “I’m not really sure about the long walks part, but he does have a rom-com collection.”
Dan buries his face in Cerberus’ fur, and all three heads of the dog glare at Hermes, as if to say, “You are such an idiot.”
: : :
In the end, Athena and Aphrodite get him to see the brighter side of things. Well, as bright things could be in the Underworld.
“Come on, Dan,” Blair persuades. “It’s really not that bad. Consort to the King of the Underworld – like Consort to Zeus, only that your subjects are more transparent.”
“Because that’s really assuring,” Dan mutters.
Serena flips her long blonde hair back. “Look, Dan, I know you didn’t have the best time at Kronos. Nate tells me stuff, so I know that Chuck always pissed you off. But things change, you know? He’s a changed man. Especially since he became Hades. And he changed for the good.” There’s a pause, and Blair rubs her friend’s shoulder reassuringly.
“Unlike some others,” Serena finishes bitterly.
“With great power comes great responsibility,” Blair adds.
“Wow, Athena,” Serena says, impressed. “That’s such a great line.”
Dan cannot believe he’s taking advice from a bimbo like Aphrodite. “It’s a line from Spiderman, Serena.”
: : :
When Chuck gives him a bouquet of transparent flowers as a sign of goodwill, Dan resists the urge to throw another vase at him. He’s making the effort, and it takes two to tango.
“They look….nice,” Dan says unsurely. “Thanks, Hades.”
Chuck looks pleased, his hair doing a little dance.
: : :
Sometimes, when Chuck is away dealing with mischievous souls, Dan sits at the edge of the river Styx and watches Charon nudge away desperate souls trying to cross over without a coin.
“No coin, no entry, bitches!” He shouts, flinging a howling woman into the river Styx. “Don’t try to seduce me either, this is not the fucking Titanic! You jump? I stay!”
Other times, he just sings “I’m On A Boat” as he whacks souls with his paddle.
During a rare lunch break, Charon plops himself next to Dan, sighing. “It’s not easy being mean,” he says grimly as he bites into a transparent hamburger. “Like, there are hot chicks out there that I really wanna get on a boat with, but they ain’t got a coin. No coin, no ride. Sexual or not.”
Dan looks away. “I don’t have a coin.”
Charon sighs. “Hades would drown me in the river Styx if I gave you a ride.”
“Sexual or not?”
: : :
Chuck brings him around on tours of the Underworld. Dan has to admit, the hellhounds are pretty cute when you get to know them better.
“So they protect you?” he asks, scratching behind Fluffy, this huge Alaskan breed. Fluffy wags his tail and tries to lick Dan’s face. Behind them, Buddy whines, feeling left out. Dan extends a free hand, and Buddy licks it immediately.
Chuck looks at them fondly. “Pretty much, yeah. They’re usually harmless, but when I’m threatened, they’re vicious.”
Dan is shown just how vicious Fluffy and Buddy can be when a soul tries to escape its torment ten minutes later.
“Well,” he finally says, trying to erase the screams of the soul in his head as he looks at Fluffy nibble on an eye. “That was…interesting.”
: : :
“Is your name really Charon?” Dan asks one day.
“In the past, yeah,” Charon says. His boat is ashore today, because he ‘just didn’t feel like fucking sending people across, Hades. Fucking deal with it.’ “You can call me Chad.”
: : :
Dinner with Chuck is usually more pleasant when he has had a good day, i.e. the Titans didn’t try to wreck havoc again, his dad isn’t pouting and pointing out all his errors, and that Hermes doesn’t come from the living realm with bad news.
Today is not a good day.
“I won’t give you up,” Chuck hisses, his hair flaming high enough to probably send out smoke signals. “Your mother can’t have you.”
Dan looks at his transparent chicken sullenly. Hermes had raced in earlier, when Dan and Chuck were finally having a proper conversation that could have led to better, more horizontal things.
“Zeus has ordered you to return Persephone,” he had panted out. “Demeter is ruining the Earth, and Apollo caught you dragging him down to the Underworld. If you don’t return him, Zeus will come down himself to take Persephone away.”
Cerberus, despite his three-headedness and general dislike towards anything with two legs and two hands, was a real sweetheart who listened to all of Dan’s woes from day one. Sure, he feels very Little Mermaid, but with a Greek name like Persephone, he has the right to do so.
“I don’t know what to do,” Dan says helplessly as he strokes Cerberus’ fur. “I don’t really want to go, now.”
Cerberus makes a pitiful noise that Dan interprets as “I don’t want you to go too, because Hades can be such a boring person when you’re not around.”
: : :
It’s Dan that makes the final decision. Okay, so maybe there might have been some input from Ares, Aphrodite and Athena, but he makes the final decision to drift to Chuck’s fruit garden and pick a pomegranate.
Chad had refused to row him over. “Hades would cut a bitch,” he had said. “And when I say a bitch I mean me.”
He pries open the fruit and looks at the seeds for what seems like forever, before smiling and popping one into his mouth.
: : :
When he goes back to Chuck that evening – or night, morning, no one really knows – Dan snuggles up to him, and the king of the Underworld nearly chokes on his vegetables.
“I’m staying,” he announced.
Chuck sighs, putting down his fork. “Dan,” he says quietly. “You know you can’t do that, your mother is going to-“
“Hades,” he looks at Chuck in the eye. “You’re not listening to me. I’m staying.”
Chuck’s eyes narrow before they widen comically.
Dan smiles and takes out the pomegranate husk from his pocket. “I’m staying,” he repeats.
Chuck’s answering smile is so bright it doesn’t deserve to be in the Underworld.