Some days, no, most days, Hades really wondered what in the Underworld he’d been thinking. It had seemed such a good plan! To be fair, it had worked exactly as he wanted. Kidnap the beautiful young goddess, get her to eat something in his realm, and presto! One wife. Of course, her mother had been less than pleased and managed to get Zeus involved, which had ended with him losing his wife for three-fourths of every year. At first he’d hated that, but now he counted down the days until Persephone left to visit her mother. Today, it was fifty-seven left to go.
This whole week his wife had nagged him into doing various chores she felt couldn’t wait another minute. Most of them had to do with redecorating the palace – again. Why she just couldn’t do it herself was anyone’s guess. But today was going to be different, he was done. No matter how many so-called ‘headaches’ she would have after this to ward off any romantic advances he made, he was not going to spend even one more minute changing walls from pink to lavender and back again so she could decide between the colors. So while Persephone had been in the bathroom – guaranteed to keep her busy for quite a while – he’d quietly climbed out of their bed, donned some clothes, and snuck out of the bedroom.
“Honeeey! Honey, where are you?” the voice of his wife – and was it more shrill than a couple of centuries ago? – sounded far closer than it would be if she were still in the bathroom. Hades cursed his luck. Of all days she had to be done in less than ten minutes she chose the day he intended to sneak out. She would never be done this fast if they actually had to be on time for something, but when he was counting on at least an hour before she was done, she was out already.
“Oh, honey, there you are,” Persephone said as she spotted him.
Resigned he turned around, hoping to smooth things over, but it was already too late. She’d seen him dressed and ready to go. She frowned unattractively and from the look in her eyes, he’d better come up with a good explanation, fast.
“Did you forget that we were going to be redecorating the fifteenth guest room today?” his wife asked in a pleasant voice that made the warning bells in Hades’ mind ring full tilt.
“No, of course not,” he answered truthfully. He’d, after all, been very aware of that fact. He just ... neglected ... to tell her he’d had no intention of staying around for it. “I was just going to walk the dog first. Poor dear must be feeling neglected, I haven’t done it personally this week at all.”
That did it, all the fight went out of Persephone at the mention of Cerberus. Hades was certain that his wife actually loved their dog more than she did him most days. Then again, he loved Cerberus more than her most days as well, so it wasn’t like he could say anything about it. Unless she wore that little black dress she had hanging in her closet, then he definitely loved her more. She could easily compete with Aphrodite and Helen of Troy when she wore it.
“I’ll just be going; I’ll come find you when I get back,” Hades said, all the while planning on taking longest route he possibly could without looking like he was dragging his heels.
Before his wife could lodge a protest or – Olympus forbid – suggest a short route, Hades made his way out of the palace. In the forecourt Minos, Rhadamanthus, and Aecus were already setting up to start the judging of that day, a long line of souls waiting to be processed. The judges gave him a knowing look as he passed them, which he manfully ignored. The pitying looks of the souls waiting in line were harder to ignore, but it became easier when he reminded himself that for the next few hours he was a free man again.
As expected, Cerberus was overjoyed to see his master. Though that could have something to do with the treat Hades gave him, he preferred to think of it as a sign that the dog loved him more than he loved Persephone. After clipping a leash to each of the three collars, they headed for the Elysian plain. The weather was always nice there, there was plenty of room to play ball with Cerberus, and – most importantly – it was about the furthest place from the palace while still being in his realm. What more could a man want?
The Elysian plain was as different from his palace as could be. Where the palace was drab and dreary, despite Persephone’s valiant efforts to bring some light and softness to the building by redecorating it, the Elysian plain was all light and happiness. A nice ocean breeze blew around Hades as he settled himself under a tree filled with golden blossoms, while Cerberus lay in the sun, lazy after the game of fetch he’d just played with his master. The weather was so pleasant that Hades felt his eyes drift shut even though he knew that falling asleep was not a good idea. He had to get back soon.
“Yo, Hades, man, long time no see,” a cheery voice pulled him from the light slumber he’d falling into despite his vow not to fall asleep.
Hades opened his eyes and looked up in the grinning face of Hector. Grumbling about arrogant Trojan heroes, which only made Hector laugh out loud, he accepted the hand held out to him and allowed Hector to pull him to his feet.
“Figured the wife wouldn’t be pleased if you slept the day away,” Hector said, clearly enjoying Hades’ plight.
“Infuriating woman and her bright ideas,” Hades grumbled. “I can’t wait until she’s back with her mother.”
“Oh, stop complaining,” Hector said. “When she’s gone you’ll be moping nonstop until she’s back. Let’s focus on more important things. We’re having a poker night tomorrow, you coming?”
“Depends on who you mean by “we”, ” Hades said. “If that twat Perseus is going to be there, no. The guy keeps losing and then whining about it.”
“Hell no, he ain’t gonna be there,” Hector answered. “Although, it would be funny if only to see Heracles keep his word and punch the guy’s lights out.”
Both men snickered at the mental image that evoked. Hero he might have been back in the days, Perseus had turned into quite the wimp after centuries of living the good life. The two men talked for a while, arguing over who was bringing the dip and chips and which brand of beer to get, and unnoticed time got away from them. The Erinyes landing in front of them brought both men up short.
“Persephone requests your presence back at the palace,” Alecto – at least, Hades thought it was Alecto, he was forever forgetting his wife’s friends' names – said with a nasty smile on her face that belied the rather polite words.
Hades shared an ‘uh-oh’ look with Hector, but dutifully called Cerberus to him.
“Tell her I’ll be home as soon as I drop Cerberus off with Charon,” Hades said.
Alecto flew off instead of replying, probably going back to report to his wife exactly what he’d been doing. There was probably going to be hell to pay when he got home, as he was sure that talking to Hector had not been on the approved activities list for today.
Hector said goodbye with a knowing smile on his face – the little rat bastard didn’t even have the decency to fake pity – and Hades vowed to clean him out at the poker game. Hades set off with Cerberus at a much faster pace than he’d taken to get to the plain.
Luck was at least partially with him this time, as Charon was on this side of the river, unloading a group of souls from his ferry. The ferryman tipped his hat at Hades and gave Cerberus a quick pat on each head, but maintained his silence. Charon followed the old style, finding it improper for an employee to chit-chat with his boss. Hades sometimes thought it a pity since the ferryman could tell good tales when he was so inclined, but today it was better that he wasn’t held up any longer than he had to be.
Cerberus stood proudly at the bow as Charon started on his journey back across the river, while Hades felt a longing to go with them to escape. Maybe visit one of his brothers. But Zeus was always such a stick-in-the-mud and his sister-in-law would not take kindly to Hades coming to visit to get away from his wife. Hera always had such rigid view of married life. Poseidon was more fun – last Hades had heard from him was that he was busy making all the mortals panic by making the sea level rise a few meters during the coming decades. And his wife Amphitrite threw a pretty good party. But no, the resulting fallout was just not worth the brief respite. He’d learned as much in the past centuries.
He made his way home, not quite dragging his feet, past the three judges who were by this time too busy to throw him any knowing looks. The moment he set foot within the palace, Persephone accosted him.
“Oh, honey, finally,” she exclaimed. “I’ve been thinking while you were gone. Those rooms we did yesterday? I really think lavender might not be a good color after all. Maybe we should see how blue looks, with gold accents perhaps.”
She was already walking away, clearly expecting him to follow, as she debated with herself about what other colors they could try out. Hades dejectedly followed her. He’d known she would make him pay for dallying, but surely this constituted cruel and unusual punishment?
“Are you coming, honey?”
“Coming, dear,” he called, then grumbled under his breath, “Yes, dear, whatever you say, dear.”
With a big sigh he joined his wife. Only fifty seven days before she was due to visit her mother. By Olympus, he was going to miss her when she was gone.