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Kathodos

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Later, in the darkness, she says: “I chose you, you know.”

He startles out of his sated sleepiness. With another woman, Minthe or Leuce perhaps, he would have assumed it a jest, or typical female nonsense of reimagining the truth to portray herself less helpless than she had been. He remembers, clearly, her standing in sunlight, arms cast up as he bore her down. He remembers seeing her for the first time, surrounded by flowers, utterly unknowing of his presence. He remembers watching her and knowing she would never belong with him.

But Persephone, he has learned, never lies. He says: “How do you mean?”

She turns in his arms, smiles up at him. “I saw you,” she says, “and i knew you would be the one to bring me home.”

Home, he thinks, must have been green meadows and Demeter’s embrace. “Hardly,” he corrects, shame roughening his voice. “I stole you away from your home. “If it weren’t for Hermes, I would never let you leave.”

Truthful she might always be, but Persephone is no stranger to mirth — her laughter is sharp, though, and cuts deep. “Hades,” she says, when the last of her chuckles fades away. “Who is my father?”

“Zeus,” he says, scowling at the mention of his fool of a brother.

“Zeus!” she repeats. “That blustering—is that what they think of me? Zeus?” She bites back the rest of her scorn. “It would hardly be the first time. I’ve heard he even tries to call himself the sire of Aphrodite herself.”

“That’s what Demeter says,” Hades desperately tries to regain some semblance of order, but Persephone only shakes her head again.

“Demeter—poor Demeter. When she was young, Demeter needed a mother, and when she grew older, she needed a daughter, and through it all, she never quite managed to let go of me.”

“I have,” pronounces Hades with rather more patience than he feels, “not the slightest idea of what you mean, my love.”

“Did you ever imagine that you were the only one to rule the land below? That before the Titans, before Gaia herself, someone else’s hand might have steered creation on its way?”

He has not, until now. But he can imagine it now, the ancient wisdom of her eyes, the stern line of her lips. He can imagine her watching the rise and fall of a thousand gods in silence.

“The Titans were undone by treachery. I was undone by….mercy, I suppose. A mistake I won’t make again. By the time I realized how desperate her need was, I was trapped by my own affection for her.”

As she speaks, he can imagine the scene she describes: Demeter, large-eyed and lonely, hungry for love. That sort of void speaks into the Underworld; Hades knows from experience. It is what he hates most about his kingdom.

His wife continues: “It wasn’t until I saw you that I could fashion an escape for myself. Hard enough to survive in my kingdom alone until I could join you. Harsh enough to serve as my consort. Hard-headed enough to spirit me away when Demeter refused you my hand.” And: “Did you suppose it was an accident that you drew the shortest lot of them all?”

He has hated his brother for millennia for cheating at lots. He supposes he owes Zeus an apology.

“So you see,” she finishes, Dread Queen of the Dead then and forever more, “I chose you, after all.”

He can think of nothing to say in response to that. He kisses her instead.