Chapter 1: Prologue
He was present on Olympus for once when the child was brought in. The other gods gave him uneasy glances where he stood in the shadows, wreathed in darkness. He was a blight on their golden home, he knew, but had to be there. The girl was small and dull amidst the bright, towering forms of the gods. Then again, he thought, even the most beautiful of the humans would look dull in the realm of the gods.
Her wide hazel eyes gazed around at the bright splendor in wonder. They lighted on him in the shadow of the colonnade. He expected her to look away or flinch in fear of his darkness, but she held his gaze. She didn’t look away until his mother led her inside the great hall with a gentle hand. The great bearded Zeus motioned him to follow with a flick of his wrist.
Those eyes burned into his vision.
It was many centuries before he saw them again.
She knelt to pick an especially bright flower and held it up to see it better. A smile broke out across her face at the vivid petals.
“Rey! Come on!” a voice shouted and brought her back to the present. She turned to see her two friends coming out of the woods. “This one’s useless,” the woman said, jerking her thumb at the dark man beside her, who rolled his eyes.
“I shot two stags,” he reminded her. The attendants behind them carried eight between them and Rey had also shot two before the field distracted her. Which left Jyn, the other woman who had spoken, with four. Rey expected nothing less from the goddess of the hunt, the one the humans worshipped as Artemis.
Jyn rolled her eyes again. “Good job, half as many. I would have shot more if you hadn’t been blundering through the woods. At least Rey can move quietly!”
Rey grinned and walked up to her bickering friends. She tucked the bright flower behind Jyn’s ear. The goddess stopped quibbling with Finn to scowl at her.
“Rey, why is there a flower behind my ear?” Jyn growled.
“It matches your eyes,” she announced brightly.
“It does. She has a point,” Finn noted. Jyn punched him in the arm.
“Bite me,” she snapped.
“I’ll just take it back then, shall I?” Rey asked, reaching for the flower she’d given Jyn. The other goddess took a step back and put a protective hand over it.
“Don’t you dare. That’s my flower.”
Rey laughed and followed them back to the winged chariots. She bumped Jyn aside with her hip to take her place at the reins. For once, Jyn didn’t protest. She admitted that flying wasn’t her strong suit. Rey shook the reins once sharply and they shot into the air. Jyn shrieked and clutched the side of the chariot.
“Don’t you dare tell Finn about that,” she snarled.
Rey laughed. “Not a word.”
They reached Olympus with wind-swept hair and laughing faces. Attendants stepped forward at once to relieve them of their horses and prizes from the hunt. Jyn and Rey stepped down from their chariot, already talking and heading for the colonnade. Finn pulled in right after and shouted for them to wait up.
“You drive like a madwoman, Rey,” he huffed.
“You’re just mad because you can’t drive like her,” Jyn answered with a snide smile. The two fell into their bickering again. They were always squabbling like siblings, usually with matching bows and quivers on their backs.
“Oh! I told Poe I would see him when we got back,” Rey remembered. She bid her friends a hasty goodbye and ran off to the workshop.
The entrance to the workshop billowed steam and the loud scrape of metal on metal. Rey tied her hair back into a bun as she entered. It was an enormous place full of scraps of metal and various other materials. Way at the back was the lightning that Poe forged into the king of the god’s sword. Poe himself was nowhere to be found.
Rey poked her own way through the heaps of supplies. She had spent too many hours here at Poe’s side to step inside with trepidation. She went to inspect a grand chariot that stood near the middle of the room. It shone with gold and gems, certainly something for a ceremonial event. She laid herself down on the creeper and rolled herself under the chariot. Poe had left his tools scattered around everywhere and she picked one up to tighten the fastenings on the axle.
Poe chose that moment to return. She could see his feet through the wheel spokes but didn’t come out.
“Rey, you’re back,” he said with obvious delight.
“You could get more speed if you changed out these wheels for a lighter wood,” she commented.
“Yes, I’m glad to see you too, Poe. My hunting trip was great. Finn shot himself in the foot. How was your day, Poe?” the smith rambled on in an artificially high-pitched voice.
“If Finn shot himself in the foot, it was after we got back. Are you sure Jyn didn’t do it?” she said from beneath the chariot. “But yes, Poe, my hunting trip was good. You’re so sensitive.”
“I’m not sensitive. And I know I could get more speed if I changed out the wood but her great majesty doesn’t care if she gets more speed out of it. It’s just for a procession,” he said.
“You’re no fun,” she said and launched herself out from under the chariot. He stopped her from rolling across his workshop with his foot and she grinned up at him. He held out his hands and pulled her to her feet.
He shrugged. “What Leia wants, Leia gets.”
“I take it you didn’t want to see me about the chariot,” she said.
“Ah! No.” He wiped his hands on his shirt and beckoned her. Poe was constantly covered in various levels of grease, except when he was specifically told to clean up. If Rey was honest, she was too, although she was a little better about keeping herself clean. “Look! Look at this!”
He wove his way through the maze of chaos and held up a small box of wavy glass. She peered at it curiously. “What is it, Poe?”
“Look!” He snapped his fingers and a flame appeared inside. “I put oil in it and it stays lit all the time! Isn’t that great? I’m calling it a lantern.”
He gave her the biggest toothy grin. “Poe, you can light fire whenever you want.”
“Well, yeah, but you can’t,” he answered and presented the lantern to her.
She couldn’t resist smiling. “It’s for me?”
“Of course. If you want it.”
“Thank you, Poe!” She was careful to not drop her new lantern as she threw her arms around him.
It was several hours later when she left Poe’s workshop. He always liked to ask her opinion on everything he was tinkering with and she could never say no to staying. His workshop was like a second home for her. Her route back to her room passed by an open courtyard. Jyn stood at the center of a dusty circle, still in the clothes she’d worn hunting earlier. Her bow sat off to the side, although several targets at the other end of the space were riddled with arrows. As Rey watched, she pulled stark white light from nowhere and made it glance off the mirrors she had arrayed around the yard. The beauty of it propelled Rey’s footsteps until she stood beside her friend.
“How do you do that?” she asked. It was a question she must have asked a hundred times, over and over again as she grew up on Olympus.
Jyn turned to her and smiled. “It’s just natural to me. I feel the call of the moon as surely as I fell the call of the forest.” She let it sparkle between her hands like stardust. “You ask me that all the time.”
“I wish I could do that too,” Rey whispered, her eyes transfixed by the glittering dust between Jyn’s palms.
Jyn’s eyes grew sad and she rested a shimmering hand on her friend’s shoulder. “I know, Rey, I know. Give it time.”
“It’s been centuries,” she complained. “I’m the only one with nothing. How much more time should I give it?”
“As much as you need,” Jyn answered. She held a bolt of moonlight between her fingers. “You could ask my mother. She knows a thing or two about it.”
Yes, she could ask Lyra. The titaness had a knowing way about her and she had guided Jyn when she’d unlocked her powers. But if Lyra could help her, surely Leia would have sent her there already?
“I’ll think about it,” was all she answered.
Jyn turned her head a bit to smile at her. “You’ll always be one of us, Rey.”
Rey nodded but disagreed. They all had something: Jyn and her moonlight, Finn and his sunlight, Poe and his fire. Even Rose could make anyone fall in love at the drop of a hat…or fall out of it. Yet Rey had nothing. It was only when she lay cocooned in a bed of flowers or grass that she felt something stir inside of her, like a call, but still there was nothing. No matter how many times she had asked Luke or Leia or Amilyn to train her and help her find her power, they always refused.
Rey thanked Jyn and left her to train. Her home felt far from everyone and everything else and looked down the green slope of Olympus. She shut the door and sank down on her bed. As she’d promised Jyn, she did think about asking Lyra. But the idea seemed more and more improbable as she did. Rey flopped back on the bed and stared up at her ceiling. If only she knew who her mother was, then maybe she could help her. At least then she wouldn’t feel so alone. Her friends were wonderful, and they had always treated her as part of the family, but she felt that she wasn’t. Not really. It was the curious glances she got from outsiders and the polite way they shepherded her back to her room when something important was happening.
Like she was a child.
Night crept on and the room darkened around her, but still Rey sat and thought. Finally, she did the only thing she could think of. She went to see Leia.
I posted the prologue and chapter one together since the prologue is short. Chapter Two will be up tomorrow!
Chapter 3: Persephone
"Before she could step into the gloom, Rey lurched awake with cold sweat sticking her shift to her chest. She heaved a shuddering breath. She knew that cave. But where it led, she had never ventured...."
Rey crept through the darkened halls of the Olympian palace. Some instinct drove her to keep her steps quiet and avoid unwanted attention. She passed by the courtyard where Jyn had been practicing earlier and expected to see her there still beneath the full moon, but she was not. In fact, Rey encountered not a single other person on her way to Leia’s chambers. It was only when she stood just outside the door that she stopped.
Leia’s door stood just slightly ajar and warm light spilled out into the hall. Voices drifted out, so quiet that she had to press herself against the wall and hold her breath to hear them. Rey felt a stab of guilt that she had taken to eavesdropping on Leia, but that vanished when she heard her own name.
“Leia, you told me to tell you if Rey started asking questions again. Why?” The voice belonged to Jyn and Rey felt the stab of betrayal deep in her heart.
A sigh. “I’m concerned for her,” Leia answered. “She will not stop searching.”
“Perhaps we should help her find her answers. Why keep her in the dark?”
“That’s enough, Jyn,” Leia said with an air of finality. “There is more to this than you know. Thank you for telling me.”
Rey recognized the dismissal and panicked. There was nowhere for her to hide in the smooth marble hall. Instead, she turned and fled down it and hoped she made it around the corner before Jyn came out of the room. She couldn’t face Leia now. She couldn’t ask her questions and hear the same dismissals she always got.
For not the first time in her life, Rey felt entirely alone.
She crashed back down on her bed and let her thoughts whirl out of her in chaos. Jyn hadn’t kept her secret for even an evening. Leia still wouldn’t allow her to find her power. It was as if everyone knew something except Rey herself.
At some point, she slipped into sleep and dreamt of a cave.
It was dark outside in the field in which she stood but darker inside the cave. The blackness was so complete that she could see nothing beyond its mouth, but she would swear someone was watching her from it. Curls of steam or smoke drifted out of it. Some undeniable force pulled her closer to its deep darkness, but she found that she was not afraid. This darkness didn’t scare her, it met her like a friend. And she felt deep in her bones that she would find answers there.
Before she could step into the gloom, Rey lurched awake with cold sweat sticking her shift to her chest. She heaved a shuddering breath. She knew that cave. But where it led, she had never ventured.
For the next few days, Rey was distant. Every night, she dreamt again of the cave calling her. Beckoning her. Her friends noticed with some concern. Jyn invited her out hunting again. Finn tried to sit and read with her. Poe asked her to race with him. Rose, in her direct way, just asked her what had gotten into her. Rey retreated further into herself with every attempt. Her questions—and the cave—loomed constantly in her mind, not to be denied or postponed.
Rey woke up before dawn with her resolve cemented in her mind. She had dreamt of the cave again. Today, Rey decided, today she would find out what lay inside. She snatched her bag and shoved some spare food into it, wrapped a cloak around her shoulders, and grabbed her staff. She was almost out the door when she remembered Poe’s lantern. She hooked that onto her belt as well.
The halls of the great palace were still silent as she ran through them. Not even Jyn or Cassian had stirred so early. Rey mounted her flying horse bareback. She urged the sleepy beast forward to the edge where they always landed their chariots and launched out into the open air.
She alighted in a quiet field covered in the dew of morning. The scene was eerily like her dream. Soft gray light barely filtered over the mountains and into the valley where she stood. Mist still clung to the grass and made it appear as if she walked on a cloud. The heady smell of spring flowers drenched the valley as heavily as the mist. She left her horse grazing on the fresh grass.
Her focus was wholly on the cave. It was as dark as in her dream and belched more mist to join its brethren on the ground. Rey felt that the sight should frighten her, as it was clearly designed to, but she felt nothing but eager curiosity. There was only impenetrable darkness. She took Poe’s lantern from her belt and lit it. This, she thought, this is my last chance to turn back. But that idea seemed impossible.
Rey took a deep breath and stepped into the enveloping darkness.
Thank you to everyone who has read and left kudos! It makes me so happy that others are enjoying this story too.
Chapter 4: Hades
And...finally some Hades POV and Persephone's descent into the Underworld or katabasis for you classically-minded folks :)
He strode through the halls of his home with the attendant scurrying behind him. “Wait, we need to review the list of…” she huffed in her effort to keep up with his long stride.
“Not now,” he said.
“Not. Now.” His voice was final. She stopped—he heard the ceasing of her footsteps—and huffed again but allowed him to continue on without her. He didn’t pay her and her frustration any more heed. On any other day, he would have gone over the lists with her as soon as she asked him to. But something was off. He had sensed a shift in the Underworld. Something burning, bold, radiant. He went to investigate.
The silence closed in around him as he left his home behind, absolute in its depth. Not a breath of wind, not a shred of sunlight reached these places. The fields of the dead were off in the distance, lit by bright, flickering light. The path he walked took him not among the drifting souls of the dead but through the extensive gardens surrounding his home. These plants grew with him in the depths of the earth, but they too were colorless.
There were several entrances to his realm, all far from the fields of the dead. Only a few of the living had ever succeeded in the journey, but they never made it to the fields themselves. He had always made sure of that. This, though…this felt different. Whatever had disturbed his senses had come in through a small entrance. It did not lead past the Styx with its gruesome ferryman or past Chewie, the monstrous three-headed dog that guarded another path. No, it led just…
Here. He paused. Bathed in shadow and shaded by his colorless garden, he watched the figure that progressed down his path. Its steps were light, cautious, questioning…seeking. Did it not know what it came for? Did she not know what she came for? He saw her clearly then. She held up a light in a box before her, but the glow that suffused her came from no flame. She wore a chiton cut short enough to not trip up her feet, which were clad in practical sandals. But the staff she carried in her other hand caught his attention. It was not until she turned her face towards him that he recognized her.
Hazel eyes. So many centuries. She had aged but only to her prime. He had not seen her since that day on Olympus. Her sun-kissed skin, her dark brown hair, the hard set to her mouth, they were all the same. The eternal goddess of spring, standing in the Underworld. But why?
He stepped forward to approach her and she reacted at once. The boxed light hung from her belt at surprising speed and her staff came to a stop a hair’s breadth from his face. She stared him down.
“Who are you?” No fear shook her voice. Determination. A spark of curiosity.
“I could ask you the same thing,” he answered, resting a casual finger against her staff and pushing it just a few inches farther from his face. “You are, after all, invading my home.”
Her eyes narrowed. “You’re Hades.” She lowered her staff but did not relax.
The dislike on her face was evident. “That’s not my name,” he growled. It bit at him like those damned mosquitoes that invaded the Underworld.
“That’s what they call you. Humans. Gods. All.” She cocked her head at him. “What is your name?” She still had not told him her name. The humans called her Persephone, he knew, though she didn’t need to know that he did. Persephone, the destroyer. The slight goddess before him didn’t look like much of a destroyer. But he could feel the raw power thrumming beneath her skin. He wondered what would happen if it were unleashed.
“Ben,” he answered at last.
“I’m Rey,” she said. It rolled off her tongue like water. Rey. It suited her, he thought. Her hazel eyes still narrowed at him in dislike, but he could see a spark of curiosity in their depths. “I know what they say about you.”
He scoffed. “I imagine they say a great many things about me.”
Rey’s gaze was so direct he felt her stare down into his bones. “You never come to Olympus.”
“Do you imagine I’m welcome there?” he asked. “Why are you here?”
“I dreamt of that cave,” she whispered. “I thought I might find answers here.” For a moment, she looked so unsure and…vulnerable. But then her face hardened again. “But I must have been mistaken. I want nothing from you.”
Rey turned away from him and began to search for the path that had brought her there. A bolt of panic shot through his heart. She would climb that path out into the sunlight, and he would never see her again. This woman who looked at him like no one else had. He hated the part of him that wanted her to stay. This golden wonder didn’t belong in his darkness.
“What about your answers?” Ben called to her and hoped he sounded calmer than he felt.
Rey turned with fire in her narrowed eyes. “What answers could you possibly have for me?”
A valid question. “It depends on the question,” he answered.
She took a step back towards him but didn’t turn around fully. He could see the curiosity simmering inside her. Finally, she turned and marched back to him as if she had come to a decision. Her crossed arms and hard stare challenged him to prove himself. “Fine.” He couldn’t help but think her defiant face was even more beautiful. “Why don’t I have any powers?” she asked. Dared, more like, as if she knew he wouldn’t have an answer for her. He froze, and she smirked, though it was for completely different reasons than she imagined. “All the other gods do. Why don’t I?”
Anger bubbled up his throat. Who had told this brazen, strong, beautiful woman that she had no power? He could feel it rolling off of her in waves. “But you do.”
Whatever she had expected him to say, it wasn’t that. Rey froze. Her eyes widened, and she shook her head. “You’re lying.”
“Why would I be?” he asked. “What possible reason could I have for lying to you?”
She didn’t have an answer to that. “I don’t have any power.”
“You do,” he answered. “Easily as much as they do. More.”
“How do you know?” she whispered. Her eyes begged him but for what, he didn’t know. To tell her that it wasn’t true? That the gods who had raised her and befriended her hadn’t lied about something so fundamental? To tell her that she did have power and wasn’t as out of place as she felt? He could do nothing but tell her the truth. It was owed to her, even if she shouldn’t have been the one to tell it.
“I can feel it,” Ben answered. “I can feel it rolling off you this very moment. You have so much power, Rey.”
“No.” She shook her head. “They would have told me. If they could feel it, they would have told me. Helped me. Why wouldn’t they?”
He felt her fear and pain in his heart. He understood this betrayal. It had gripped him before. “Rey,” he said, and she looked up as her name fell from his lips. “They’re afraid of you.”
She shook her head and took a shaking step backward. Her staff hung limp at her side. “They wouldn’t have. They’re my friends.”
Her tension built to a dangerous level, as sharp as a string about to snap. He took a step closer to her and she held up her hands. “Rey, calm down.”
She didn’t. Couldn’t.
I posted two chapters again today because Ch. 3 just felt a little short...
Tune in tomorrow for more Reylo/Hades & Persephone! I'd love to hear what you think so far.
Chapter 5: Persephone
Rey may or may not discover she has power.
Ah! Life escaped me yesterday and I forgot to post even though I promised I would every day! For your patience, two chapters today. Thank you to everyone who has left comments or kudos!
Rey felt herself losing control. Betrayal and anger and distrust all bubbled up inside of her. She had never felt so overwhelmed and so utterly alone. Ben watched her with concern in his eyes, a hand extended to her.
“Rey,” he said, his voice a low rumble that shook her to her core. “Take a deep breath.”
She couldn’t understand what was going on around her. She was a cyclone, an earthquake, a volcano. He took a step closer to her. “Don’t touch me!” She wasn’t sure if she thought it or yelled it, but he stopped a few feet from her. “You’re a liar,” she spat at him. “I know what you are. I know what you’ve done.”
But what was she? What was this thing that was falling apart inside of her? Was she shaking or was it the ground?
“Rey, you need to control it,” he said. “Breathe. Control it.”
Control what? She could barely see past the dark blurriness closing in on her vision. The only thing she could make out for sure was Ben. He stood solid before her, one hand still extended.
Some time, she didn’t know when, she lost consciousness.
Rey woke up on a couch. It took her a long moment to open her eyes, longer to remember where she was. All she could remember was a lot of shaking and her overwhelming anger. She still felt it simmering beneath her skin, but it didn’t overwhelm her anymore. She sat up.
She no longer was in a garden but a house. Numerous flickering torches lit the room with bright and wavering light. Slender columns supported the ceiling, each carved with plants and animals and clouds in the marble. It was not Olympus, of that she was certain. This house—or palace, she thought by the size—was less opulent than Olympus, more comfortable. She had been laid on a spacious couch before a roaring fire. Her staff rested against the couch beside her, her pack and lantern by her feet. Care had obviously been taken to make her comfortable with a pillow placed beneath her head.
A sound behind her made her sit up. A lance of fear shot through her. Ben sat in a chair nearby, facing her but with his head bent over a thick tome. She was in his house. What did he mean by it? Surely, he couldn’t keep her there. The other gods would realize she was gone sooner or later and come looking for her.
He looked up and his dark eyes met hers. He didn’t look as menacing in his armchair as he had in the garden, shrouded in the darkness of the Underworld. What had brought her to follow that path? She hadn’t known it would lead her to Hades himself, but really, what was she expecting? He closed the book with a sharp slap.
“How do you feel?” he asked. She marveled at his ability to shake her to her bones with the rumble of his voice. The torchlight lit his face much better than the lantern. He was eerily handsome for the Lord of the Dead. Of course, she thought, all the gods were handsome.
“What happened?” She put a hand to her head. It throbbed lightly but nothing terrible.
Rey picked up her things and scurried after him. He led her at a brisk pace through the halls and colonnades of what she assumed was his house. No one passed them as they walked. His dark cloak billowed out behind him as he strode ahead and left her feeling very small. In a moment, they were out in the garden. Did anyone else even live in the Underworld? Was he here alone? A thought struck her. He must have carried her to the couch. He came to a halt and she almost crashed into him. His back was so broad that she had to go around him to see where he had brought her.
It was a mess. Thorns had burst from the ground and covered an area thirty feet in any direction from a clear center. They crept up the trees and choked out the plants around them. Large, jagged, angry thorns. A great fissure split the ground. When she looked closer, she recognized the tree. Ben had emerged from behind it. And the clear center…
“Did I do this?” she gasped.
Ben’s face, when he turned to her, was unreadable. “You have to learn to control it.”
She shook her head. Her mind wouldn’t comprehend it. She didn’t have this power. She didn’t have the power to split the ground and cover it in thorns. She had none at all. “It’s not possible.”
“It is, Rey,” he said, and she thought he almost sounded angry. “You’ve always had this power and if you don’t learn to control it, it will destroy you.” He turned to her. “We’re the same, Rey. I understand your power. I can help you learn it.”
“We’re not the same,” she snapped and backed away from him. She thought she saw hurt flash across his face before he schooled it. “I’m nothing like you. I know what you are. You’re a monster. And I’m nothing like you.”
He let her go and didn’t call her back when she ran up the path to the surface. She was breathing hard by the time she reached the cave again. Gods damned cave. Gods damned dream. He held nothing for her.
When the light hit her face, it startled her to a standstill just inside the cave. The sun was high in the sky. The mist, the dew, the soft gray light of the morning had all gone. Rey blinked out at the bright world. Had it only been a few hours? The sun on her face, the soft grass swaying in the breeze all felt foreign to her. Was it really possible that all that had happened in only a morning? She stepped into the field in a daze. Her horse looked up and stamped his hooves in excitement.
“Falcon,” she murmured, burying her face into his mane. “What have I done, Falcon?”
She had to think this through and sort out the chaos swirling inside her before she returned to Olympus. It was early enough that she could pass off her little trip as a morning ride. They would be worried, of course. They didn’t like when she went out alone. They’re afraid of you. Ben’s words came back to her unbidden. She pushed them out of her mind. What did he know anyway?
And all those thorns. There was no way she had done that. She’d lost control of her emotions, sure. That was understandable when he’d suddenly started telling her so many lies. But no, he must have conjured that up to trick her. But…why? He hadn’t known about her questions before she came there. He had even looked surprised to find her there and, if she wasn’t mistaken, a little taken aback at seeing her there.
Rey shook her head. Standing in this field wasn’t helping her clear anything up. She would go back to Olympus. She would tell no one that she had been to the Underworld. She would tell no one that she may or may not have discovered her power. She would tell no one that she had spoken to Hades himself. Everything would be normal again.
With these thoughts in mind, she pulled herself onto Falcon’s back and turned homeward.
Rose came running to meet her as soon as Falcon touched down in the courtyard. She grabbed his bridle. “Where have you been? We’ve been looking everywhere for you.”
Rey schooled her face into happy confusion, although she felt a stab of guilt for lying to her friend. “Why? Gods, Rose, I was only out for a morning ride.”
“Leia and Jyn were concerned when you didn’t show up for breakfast or lunch. We all were. We’ve been looking for you all around Olympus,” Rose said. “Even Poe left his workshop once we made sure you weren’t hiding under any chariots.”
Rey felt a stab of something very different than guilt. Leia and Jyn. Leia and Jyn had been the first ones to worry about her. Was it worry or fear? Did they fear that she had run off and done something reckless after her questions? She shoved those thoughts from her mind. Her friends cared about her, that was all. And Rose made her feel happy to be home again, with Poe and his workshop and everyone else. Rose smiled up at her.
“I was only out riding, you didn’t need to worry so much,” she said and smiled at her friend as she slipped down from Falcon’s back. Together they led him into the expansive stables. Poe ducked inside and threw an arm over each of their shoulders.
“So, we found the runaway at last,” he announced. “Good work, Rose.”
Rose made a face at him. “She landed in the middle of the courtyard. You could have found her too if you weren’t so blind.”
“Me?” He placed a hand over his heart and gaped at her. “Blind? You insult me, dear Rose. Just wait until I tell Finn.”
She waved him off. “Tell Finn whatever you want. Like it matters to me.”
Rey felt some of the chill that still clung to her from the Underworld melt away. Poe steered them inside with an arm around each of them. This, she thought, this is where I belong. Not with some reject god in the Underworld who tried to convince her she had some sort of power. Her friends didn’t care if she had power or not. They’d love her anyway.
Chapter 6: Hades
Some new characters this chapter and some more of Ben.
Ben looked up when someone knocked on his door and called for them to enter. Mitaka, his eternal assistant, appeared and pushed the door shut behind him. He held a thick scroll in one hand and a stylus in the other but waited respectfully by the door until Ben summoned him with a flick of his wrist.
“What is it?” he asked without looking up.
“The roll of souls, sir,” Mitaka answered. He waited as Ben reached for the scroll and unrolled its top portion with a sharp jerk. He read the unusually high number there and his eyebrows scrunched.
“Is there a war going on? A plague?” He glanced up at Mitaka.
“No major wars reported, sir,” his assistant answered. “Only a few skirmishes on borders, nothing unusual there.”
“Plagues? Famines? We haven’t seen this many in a day in years.”
“I don’t know, sir. I’ll have the lieutenants check on it,” he answered. “A plague could be in its beginning stages. Unless a famine has wiped out the crops, the people shouldn’t be starving in spring.”
His thoughts flashed unwillingly back to the goddess. Could her power have…he shook his head. He had contained her outburst to the Underworld, he was sure of it. There must be something affecting the humans, though. Mitaka still stood patiently and waited for his master to puzzle through the latest report.
“Send the Knights of Ren. Tell them to not intervene but observe and report. Get Maz and Phasma in here now,” he ordered Mitaka. The man bowed his head and left the room to do as his master ordered.
The door opened without a knock and a tall, cloaked figure entered. She tossed off her hood with a flick of her wrist and Ben’s gaze met the smirking face of Phasma, her white-blonde hair pushed back from her face. She leaned casually against the plush sofa that faced the flickering light of the fire. Ben’s glance was drawn for the barest moment to that couch. He could almost see Rey lying there still. He shook those thoughts from his mind.
“Can I help you, master?” she purred.
He stood up from his desk. He never liked to stay seated for long around Phasma. It always made her feel so much taller than him and she still smirked at him sometimes like he was a child. “Play nice, Phasma,” he chided. “You haven’t been causing any mischief in the human world today, have you?”
She rolled her eyes. “Now, now, master. You know I never do anything without your permission.”
“I know that’s what you’d like me to think. And you’ve kept your pets on a tight leash?” he asked.
She inspected her nails. “What’s all this about? You usually let me have a little bit of fun. Is something going on, master?”
“We’ve had an unusual number of souls come in today,” he told her.
That caught her attention. “More humans dead? And you think I did it?”
“I’m asking if you know anything about it.”
She stood up straighter, mollified. “They’ve been calling to me all day. Hecate, Hecate, help me!” She frowned. “But I don’t know anything more than that. I was going to check with you, actually.”
He frowned. If Phasma hadn’t been wreaking havoc on some town that had gotten on her bad side and her pets were still on a tight leash, he was no closer to finding the answer. Her smirk had disappeared too. For all her bravado, he knew she cared about the humans and their petty problems. She always listened when someone begged for her help.
“What do you think it is?” she asked.
“I don’t know.” He frowned. He didn’t like not knowing. He could usually count on some information leaking down to him before the roll of souls came in for the day. “I don’t like this.”
“I could go and find out, if you wanted,” she offered.
“I’ve sent the Knights of Ren.” She snorted, but he ignored her. “If they fail to find out anything, you will go. Until then, I’ll need you here to settle in our abundance of souls.”
She nodded and cocked her head at him. “You look tired, Ben.”
“I’m fine,” he answered.
“Is it the girl?”
He growled, but she wasn’t deterred. She so rarely was. “What girl?”
Phasma gave him a bored frown. “The girl that was here yesterday.”
“You know perfectly well who she is,” he snapped.
“Yes, I do,” she said, undeterred by his foul mood. “Rey, Persephone, goddess of springtime. The last person you’d expect to find in the Underworld. Yet she was here.”
“The last person I’d expect to find in the Underworld is our great lord Luke,” he snarled. Phasma waited out his anger for a better answer. “She wandered down here. Call it curiosity.”
“Hm. I wouldn’t call it that. At least not only that.”
He glowered at the blonde woman. “Why are we talking of this? It’s inconsequential. She wandered down here, we talked, she left. She’s not coming back.”
“Very well.” Phasma turned to leave but she wore the kind of knowing grin that never failed to infuriate him. Thankfully, a knock at the door relieved him of any further questions.
“That must be Maz.”
Phasma was instantly distracted. She sniffed. “That’s my cue to exit, then.”
She did but not by the door. She vanished in a puff of smoke. Ben shook his head at her dramatics and went to answer the door. The woman who entered was the opposite of the one who had just left. Where Phasma was tall, youthful, and brash, Maz was small, ancient, and quiet. She hobbled inside, her cloak trailing too long on the ground, and peered up at him through her enormous lenses. She moved with surprising speed and planted herself on the sofa. Ben had no choice but to sit in the armchair beside it.
“Ben.” She smiled at him. “It’s been a while.”
“It’s been a week,” he reminded her.
“Yes, yes, a week in time, but a busy week in your mind,” she answered. Ben gave up trying to puzzle that one out. Maz never made much sense. Instead, he turned to the small, orange woman.
“Do you know what is happening in the human world?” he asked.
She smiled at him again. “A great many things are always happening in the human world. There are so many of them, all with different paths, different destinies.”
“Yes,” he said impatiently. He was sure she knew exactly what he was asking. “But why are so many of them dying?”
“Fleeting lives. You of all people should know that.”
“But more than usual.” Ben was quickly losing patience with her cryptic answers. Could the woman not just get to the bottom of things faster?
She squinted, and he thought that he had perhaps gotten his urgency across to her. “I see no wars, no plagues, no famines,” she said. He couldn’t help the sigh of relief that left him at that last. Despite his self-assurances, he had been afraid that unleashing Rey’s power yesterday had somehow disrupted the human world. “It is dark, murky. I cannot see its cause.”
That in itself was concerning. Maz could see almost everything. Something sinister moved among the humans if she truly could see no cause behind these deaths. He opened his mouth to press further.
“I see a girl,” she said, and he shut his mouth with a snap. “A woman. Afraid and lost and alone.” Maz looked at him—or rather, through him, for he felt as if she could peer into his mind and heart. “She needs you, Ben.”
He rolled his eyes. Would no one leave him be about her? “She made it quite clear that she does not.”
Maz nodded. “We all say things in anger and fear. We do not always mean them.”
“She called me a monster, Maz,” he said. His voice, he could hear for himself, sounded pained, and he wished he could shove those words back down his throat. “They’ve brainwashed her just like they have everyone else.”
“Rey can think for herself,” Maz yelled at him, shaking her finger in his face. “And she will. She calls you a monster because she fears that she herself is one. She fears the power living beneath her skin. You should understand that.”
He looked down, away from her piercing gaze. Yes, he had feared his power too. They had all feared his power and still did. “Without your help,” Maz said. “How will she learn balance? How will she understand what she is alone?”
“I have to get back to work,” he interrupted her and stood from the chair. “Thank you for your insights.” He turned his back on her and walked towards his desk.
“Two sides of the same coin. Life and death. Light and dark. Two halves of a whole. Fate moves all around us, Ben. You and Rey are bound by it and you cannot run from your fate.”
Ben turned around to ask her more, but she was already gone. He shook his head and cursed his mysterious companions. He sat at his desk again but the numbers on the roll blurred before his eyes. She had looked so small lying on his couch, her brow creased and worried even in sleep.
After a few minutes of trying to focus, he gave up and stalked to his bedroom instead. Sleep called him. Blissful, ignorant sleep, where maybe he could forget about the unusual amount of souls streaming into Erebus and Rey’s terrified face as her power exploded around her.
He stripped off his shirt and sank into sleep.
But he did not forget Rey. Instead, he dreamed of her.
She sat in a misty, open field, her head in her hands. Trees, plants, and all manner of things exploded out of the ground around her as she clutched her head. He took a step closer to her and heard her constant chant. No, no, no, not again. No. He felt a pang in his heart that had nothing to do with her calling him a monster. He longed to reach out to her but felt that he couldn’t. Or shouldn’t. Rey rocked herself back and forth and tried to take deep breaths and calm herself. She looked up in terror as thunder crashed overhead, and he understood what she feared.
Ben jolted from sleep, his chest bathed in sweat and breathing hard. It took him a long moment to realize that what had woken him was not the dream but a presence moving at the edge of the Underworld. He threw a loose tunic over his head and ran on bare feet through his empty halls, the garden, the quiet night of the Underworld.
He found her sitting in the middle of the thorny circle she’d made, pricking her own finger on a thorn at her side until it dripped golden ichor. He stopped when he was still a good distance from her. Had she even planned to end up there? Her hair was wet as if from rain and disheveled and she wore pants and a shirt that were soft and rumpled with no shoes on her feet at all. Her hazel eyes met his.
“I did this, didn’t I?”
I think Phasma and Maz ship it. Another chapter tomorrow!
Chapter 7: Persephone
Rey and Ben finally have a conversation.
New day, new chapter. There's a lot going on here, so let me know what you think. Thanks to all who have commented, left kudos, bookmarked, or just read!
Ben still had not moved from where he stood on the outside of the thorn circle she’d made, and she didn’t know what she had expected. It had been a foolish decision to come back anyway, fueled by her fear and another burst of power that left the ground around her shaking. Rey couldn’t deny anymore that she had some sort of power and it was no longer content with remaining quiet inside of her. She felt tears welling up in her unwilling eyes. It took her a long moment to realize that the trembling around her was the ground and not her own shaking.
“No!” She wrapped her arms around her head. “No, please, not again! No!”
A soft touch against her arm. “Rey.” It was Ben, his deep voice soft and unafraid. “Rey, look at me.”
She obeyed him, and he was closer than she’d thought, his face filling her vision. He had stepped carefully over the thorns with his bare feet to meet her. “What have you done to me?” she asked as her world shook.
“Nothing.” His voice was as gentle as his touch. “You can control this, Rey. This is your power. You own it. It doesn’t own you.” He put his hands on her shoulders. “Breathe. Focus.” His hands were like grounding weights on her trembling shoulders. “Find your power. Do you feel it overflowing? Rein it in. Calm yourself and it will calm too.”
She took a deep breath and felt the shaking subside. When she opened her eyes, the thorns were still there but so was he. Ben cleared his throat and dropped his hands from her shoulders. She thought he’d be angry. He had every right to be after what she’d said to him last time. But his face was soft, his hair endearingly mussed from sleep. He didn’t look like the monster they’d all said he was, king of the Underworld, creator of death itself. He looked…young.
“Why are you helping me?” she asked him.
He looked away and pressed his lips into a line, and she thought he would get up and leave her, but his eyes were still open and kind when he met her gaze again. “Because I understand,” he answered. “My power…it’s not so very different from yours. I was afraid of it at first too.” He swallowed. “You need a teacher.”
Rey shook her head. “Luke and Leia won’t teach me.”
“No,” he agreed. “They won’t. But I will.”
She blinked at him and processed what he had just said. Before she could consider it, she found herself agreeing. “When…when can we start?”
“Are you tired?” he asked her. She shook her head. There was no way she could sleep now. He held out a hand to her. “We’ll start now.”
“Where?” she said, looking around at the strange shadowy garden and the wide circle of thorns and fissures she’d left in the middle of it. Rey felt a small pang of guilt for ruining his garden because of her lost temper.
“This way.” He dropped her hand as soon as she stood and led the way deeper into the Underworld. She considered his back for a moment before following. It was still possible that he would try to trap her down here. The stories she’d heard from the gods on Olympus allowed room for such a thing. But the man in front of her did not look like Hades. He was Ben in a loose shirt and breeches and with no shoes at all. Rumpled, sleepy, and completely unbothered that the only time they’d met she’d yelled insults in his face. She followed before he could notice that she had hung back for even a second.
Deeper into the Underworld. It occurred to her that she’d only seen the barest part of it. They walked through some sort of garden where the plants were dark and didn’t need sunlight. Up ahead, she could see the outline of an immense building lit with flickering torchlight. Had she really entered the Underworld so close to his palace? She had been inside there, she remembered, though could remember little of it, so blinded by rage and pain and fear at the time.
They skirted the outline of the torchlight and passed close by the walls of his palace. Did he live there alone? It was such a large building to inhabit alone. She did not even see servants. They came to a stop in an open place near his palace but far enough away that she couldn’t do any damage to it, she assumed. She looked back at him, unsure.
“What do I do?” Rey asked.
She thought she saw a flicker of a smile cross his face, but it was gone as fast as the shadow from the nearby torches. He strode around to face her, his hands clasped loosely behind his back. “Your power thrives off emotion, but it is not in itself emotion. When you lose control, lose your self-possession, you open a door for it to flow through without your guidance. You need to learn how to open and close that door at your will.” She nodded. The metaphor made sense to her, if only she could do it. “Close your eyes.” He did so, although he was instructing her. “Take deep breaths. Sink into yourself.”
Rey eyed him skeptically for a moment. Meditation? When he didn’t open his eyes or say anything else, she obeyed. She closed her eyes and took deep breaths and allowed the calm to settle over her until the only thing she could hear was the rush of breath in and out of her lungs.
“Can you feel your power?” Rey couldn’t. It was as quiet as a sleeping beast. “Search for it.”
How? She stretched inside of herself, searching, seeking. She was about to ask him how she was supposed to find something when it had no physical space when she stumbled into it. Like a great pool. Experimentally, she dipped a toe into it and felt the immense power bubbling beneath her skin, beneath the calm surface of the pool. It all hovered under the surface, the thorns, the destruction, but life too and the warmth of spring. She placed her hand inside of it and then another, all the way up to her elbows and above, and felt the warmth and raw power wash through her. So, this was what they were so afraid of.
The deep pool pulled her like a magnet. One moment she sat on its edge and tested the water. The next, she fell into its depths.
Rey plummeted, and it felt bottomless. Nothing to catch her, nothing to stop her. She cried out and fell. A hand caught her shoulder, but it did not stop her from falling.
“Rey.” Ben’s voice, far away. “Rey, control it.”
“I can’t,” she gasped. It was endless and overwhelming and drowning her. What had she done? No wonder they were afraid of it. She couldn’t master it. It was too much for her. It was…
“Rey, control it.” An order, but a kind one. “It’s not bigger than you. This is inside you, Rey. Control it.”
“Breathe.” She opened her mouth and air rushed in. “You’re not falling. You’re standing on the ground. Feel it.” She did. The ground, solid and real beneath her feet. “Move with it, not against it. You can order it to do your bidding. You’re falling because you’re afraid of the power, afraid of shaping it.”
Rey felt it then, what he asked of her. She felt its ebb and flow, not like an endless stagnant pool at all, but like a river. Natural, like the wind. And she wasn’t falling anymore. It remained the same, still immense and powerful and almost enough to overwhelm her, but it did not. How could a part of her overwhelm the whole?
“Do you feel it?” Ben asked. She became aware that he stood just behind her, his hand still on her arm.
“Yes,” she whispered.
“Your power isn’t stronger than you, Rey, it’s strong because of you. Let some of it out.” Her eyes flew open. She had only just learned to calm it and now he wanted her to shape it? Impossible. He moved to stand in front of her. “You can do it, Rey. It doesn’t control you, you control it.” He pointed to an empty spot on the ground. Something flickered in his eyes. “You’re the goddess of spring. Your favorite flower. There.”
Her favorite flower. She could do this. Only one flower. She had grown an entire grove of thorns after all. Surely, she could conjure up a flower. Rey focused on that spot. A part of her still touched the pool of power and felt its flow.
“Find the door,” Ben said softly.
There was no door. Perhaps it was more like a volcano and simply erupted…there. She knew, instinctively, that if she opened the door too wide, she could get a whole field of flowers instead of just one. She creaked it open just slightly, and a flower popped out of the ground. One solitary daisy. She snapped the door shut and turned to Ben with a wide smile on her face. He smiled too, the first she’d ever seen from him. It changed his face, lit it up somehow.
“I did it!” Rey said.
“Yes,” he muttered. “You did.” He seemed to shake himself after a moment. “Daisies are your favorite, are they?”
She gave him another small smile. “Yes. They’re so clean and beautiful. When they cover a field in the spring it’s all white, yellow, and green.”
“Try a tree this time, right there.” He pointed to a spot a few feet away from her daisy.
It was easier this time to open the door just the right amount to send a full-size shooting from the ground. She smiled again. Her tree, her daisy, it all felt so right, like a natural extension of herself. Ben had her grow a few more trees and a neat square of flowers and even some more thorns. The empty area filled with an odd array of plant life. Her plants were such a contrast to the colorless ones of the Underworld.
“Now,” he said and pointed to her first cypress. “I want you to kill it.”
“What?” she asked and turned on him. “No!”
“Pick a different one, if you’ve become attached to that one.”
She looked between her trees and her plants. “But I grew all of them.”
“You can just grow some more.” He sighed. “Your power is not only about life and growth, Rey. You can’t have one without the other. It’s about balance.”
She didn’t like it, killing the things she’d just created, and it must have shown on her face. “Sit down.” He gestured. She did so in the nonexistent shade of her cypress, because at least she didn’t have to kill it. He pressed one hand flat to the earth and gestured for her to do the same. “Reach out. The power that flows through you is connected to the earth. It’s all one. Our world exists because of balance. Feel it. What do you feel?”
Rey did as he asked and pushed out with the same force that had pushed in. “I feel the turn of the earth,” she said. “Light…Darkness…Warmth…Cold…Growth…Decay. Life and Death. Balance.” And then it made sense to her. The power that she felt thrumming through her veins was the same power that tied the earth together. She opened the door and was not afraid of it. The stone beneath her fingers cracked. Trees sprouted from the soil only to wither again at her command. The tremors of the earth were at her beck and call.
Rey felt Ben take her other hand. She could feel the same power thrumming between them, the same balance. Life and death. Light and dark. Not opposites. She was not one and he was not the other. Both dwelled in each of them. And with that came clarity.
Her eyes snapped open. She found Ben already looking at her with his mouth slightly open. She looked down at their joined hands. “I understand now.”
“What do you understand?” he asked.
“Luke told me you created death itself. That the humans could not die before you created it. But that’s not right, is it?” She looked up at him again and saw the same painful clarity on his face. “You didn’t create death. You created balance.”
Ben swallowed hard. When his voice came out, it was a little broken. “They did not understand what I had done. The other gods, Rey, they balance each other. Sun and moon. Pieces made whole. War and peace. But we have to balance ourselves. Life and death. Light and dark. Growth and decay. I need you to understand balance because you have to keep it inside yourself.”
“I understand,” she said. She glanced over at her small garden. She knew it had changed while her eyes were closed. Only the daisy and the cypress still stood. “I’m still not going to kill my tree or my flower.”
He laughed, and the tension of the moment dissipated.
Ben stood and pulled her up with him. “How about some breakfast?”
Her stomach rumbled. “You eat breakfast in the Underworld?”
Chapter 8: Hades
Rey and Ben have breakfast.
Wow! I'm so sorry! I went out of town and didn't have a chance to post. Thank you to everyone who's still keeping up with the story. I think you'll appreciate Chapter 9 if you're enjoying Ben and Rey so far.
Ben was slightly offended that she would ever think he didn’t eat breakfast in the Underworld. He made sure she knew how well they ate breakfast. He was satisfied when her eyes widened at the spread of food laid out for them and not just them. The buffet was laid for all of his servants and officials every morning. She picked up a bright red round fruit.
“What is this? I’ve never seen it before.”
He imagined it must be a novel concept for the goddess of spring to not know every fruit she came across. “It’s a pomegranate.” She split it open easily and peered at its red coated seeds. “Legend says if you eat it, you can never leave the Underworld.”
Rey looked up alarmed. “Is that true?”
Ben laughed. “Not even close. Not for a goddess anyway. Human souls never leave here once they’ve entered.”
She plopped a bunch of seeds on her plate and gave him a challenging look. “We’ll see.”
He’d never seen anything more beautiful in his life. He was sure she caught him staring several times as they ate, but she only smiled and went back to her food. She was so radiant it was hard to look at her, like the piercing sun on a bright spring afternoon. His home seemed lighter just because she sat inside of it.
He checked himself. What are you thinking, Ben? She’s not yours. She belongs on Olympus, not here. Never here. He didn’t stare as much anymore.
“I thought your house was empty,” she said, glancing around at the small clusters of lesser gods and beings that came and went. “But it’s not, is it?”
“I don’t like to have an empty house,” he answered. “Many stay here, many have their own homes elsewhere in the Underworld. Phasma would never be caught dead dwelling under my roof.”
Rey turned to look out between the columns behind her. This room had a nice view and he dined in it every day because of that. The gaps between the columns looked out on the edge of his gardens and farther into the thriving city of souls that lived in the Underworld. Beyond that were the less palatable parts of his realm, but the city and his palace were shielded from their screams. He still visited the pits around Tartarus every day.
“What is that? All those lights?”
“The City of Souls,” he answered. “Elysium. It’s the city of the dead.”
“They all live here?” She turned her astonished face towards him. “All the dead? All the souls? They’re here?”
“Many choose to be recycled back into a new body, to forget their memories and their former lives, but usually they stay here for some time and await their relatives,” he answered her.
“It’s so beautiful,” she said. Rey didn’t seem to be able to keep her eyes off the light and color of the city.
“You’re welcome to explore it,” he found himself saying before he had really meant to. Why would she want to explore the city of the dead? Why would she want to do it with him, as he hoped? “They’ll stare though.”
“Why?” She turned back to him.
Why wouldn’t they? he thought. But he said, “they don’t often see goddesses.”
She flushed slightly as if he had given her a compliment. “I’d like to see it.” He opened his mouth to offer to take her to see it, but she continued, “but I have to go back to Olympus.”
Ben’s heart sank, and he chided his own foolishness. What did he expect? That she would stay? She had no reason to. He had expected her to say so sooner or later. He nodded once. “Of course.”
Rey looked sad, and that confused him. “They’ll wonder where I am.”
“Of course,” he answered again. “Stay here. One moment.”
He strode out of the dining room and left her sitting confused at the table. When he returned, she had turned in her chair to look out at the city again as if she were committing the sight to memory. But when she heard his steps, she turned around again. He stepped past his chair and beside hers. He held out a necklace to her. It was spun of delicate gold and the end held a disk containing the symbol of the Underworld.
“This will bring you back whenever you want to return from wherever you are,” he said and hoped he wasn’t overstepping his bounds. “So you don’t have to leave your horse outside every time,” he added to lighten the implications.
Rey took the delicate symbol in her hand and looked up at him. “I can come back?”
His brow knitted. “Why would I forbid you?”
She looked down. “I said terrible things to you and I know you’re not fond of Olympus.”
“Do you still believe me to be a monster?” he asked quietly.
Her hazel eyes met his solidly. “No.” She took a breath. “If you’re a monster, then so am I.”
Then he didn’t believe that he was a monster either. He couldn’t. For she certainly couldn’t be. This bright, beautiful, kind goddess, the only one to ever look at him and see him. He gave her a small smile. “You’re always welcome here.”
“Will you still train with me?” she called as he turned away from her.
“It would be my honor,” he answered.
“Ben.” He felt her hand on his arm. “Thank you.”
And then she was gone.
Ben went about his day. After all, his duties still needed to get done, and the Knights of Ren were due to report. They had gleaned nothing. Nothing unusual seemed to be plaguing the human world, yet for a second day an unusual number of souls entered his realm. He frowned at the roll.
Phasma sauntered through the door to his office for the second time in as many days. She leaned against it and gave him a feline grin. “Your goddess was here again,” she said.
“Yes, Rey was here.” He sighed. She wouldn’t let this go.
“It’s not like that, Phasma. Do you have anything useful to report?”
“You haven’t let me out yet, master,” she reminded him.
“You have other arts besides sight.” He sighed again. “Very well. The Knights have found nothing. Go and see what you can find.”
She gave him a mock bow and vanished to work her magic in the human world. Ben put his head in his hands. His sense of his realm tripped a second before there was a timid knock on the door.
“Ben?” Her soft voice carried into his office and the door creaked open a crack. When he beckoned her inside, she stepped through the entranceway.
He stood. “Rey.”
He was about to ask her why she’d come, but she glanced around the room at the soft, flickering fire, at the couch pulled up close to it. “You brought me to this room.”
“It’s my study,” Ben answered lamely. In truth, he’d felt a little guilty carrying her unconscious form through the halls of his home. His study seemed too impersonal, like he had too much work to do to take care of her, but a guest bedroom seemed too personal, too suggestive. He had settled for pulling the couch close to the fire.
“You have such a beautiful home. It’s so cozy,” Rey said, glancing at the painted ceiling and the shelves lining the room.
“It’s nothing like Olympus,” he said and then wanted to kick himself. Of course, the Underworld was nothing like Olympus. They weren’t even in the same realm.
She smiled at him almost like that was a good thing. “You’re right. It isn’t. But I always thought all that gold looks a bit impersonal.” She glanced at his desk which, he was ready to assure her, had some order to its chaos. “I apologize. I didn’t mean to interrupt your work. I can leave…”
“No,” he said too quickly and cursed himself. “No, please, stay.”
Rey smiled at him a little and nodded. And she did stay. And she came back the next day and the next day and the next. Ben didn’t even mind that she only came in the dead of night and kept him as quiet as her deepest secrets.
He realized sometime during her fifth visit that any part of Rey, even her leftover time, was better than nothing at all.
Chapter 9: Persephone
Some sweet moments for our lovely pair in this one.
They had just finished dinner on Olympus, and Rey slipped off to her chambers, claiming a headache. She saw the look Rose had shot after her with narrowed eyes and winced inwardly. No one was excited to have a headache. But Luke had ordered some entertainment for the night and dinner had run late and she knew Ben would be expecting her.
It had become a sort of routine for them over the course of several weeks. She went about her day on Olympus, he carried out his duties in the Underworld. When her day was done, and they had both dined, she touched the necklace she always wore now, tucked beneath the hem of her chiton, and appeared in the same hall. The first time his servants had recognized her on sight, she had blushed, but they always greeted her now.
They trained at night when no one expected anything from them and then they trained again in the morning. Her power grew every day. She had more mastery over it. She had never felt more comfortable in her own skin. Sometime after the first week, she had taken to sleeping in one of the guest rooms of his home since they would just train again in the morning. It made more sense that way.
She told herself it made more sense that way.
Rey had to slow her steps to keep from running to her chambers. As soon as the door swung shut behind her, she touched the symbol on her necklace and the familiar hall grew around her. This time, no servant waited for her. The master of the house himself stood in the hall. She looked into his eyes and saw the relief there. It made her knees feel a little weak.
“Waiting up for me, were you?” She settled for teasing him to cover her own blush that she feared had spread across her face.
“I thought you wouldn’t come,” he said so quietly she almost couldn’t hear. “You know, slacking off from your training for even a day could set you back.”
She smiled. The lord of the Underworld had learned to jest with her. “Luke had some ridiculous dancers. He wouldn’t let anyone leave the hall.”
“It must be such a trial, the pleasures of Olympus.”
“Oh,” she sighed and threw her hand up against her forehead dramatically. “You have no idea. All the food, all the wine, it’s more than I can bear.”
A smile flickered across his face, and his shoulders relaxed. As he turned to head for their usual spot in the garden, she considered his broad back. Did he fear that one day she would not return? That she would give up his dark halls for the pleasures of Olympus?
She couldn’t imagine it. He’d given her a second home here, though she only trod it at night. She couldn’t give it up anymore than she could forsake her friends on Olympus. She hurried after him into the garden.
“I noticed you righted my garden,” he remarked and glanced at her from the corner of his eye. “The thorns are gone.”
“It’s about time you’ve gone walking in the garden, oh great Hades. I did that weeks ago. I haven’t been back to that part of the garden since you gave me this necklace.” She held it up for his inspection, and he smiled into the light that glanced off it.
“I’ve been too busy to go for strolls in the garden,” he said. A small crease appeared between his eyebrows, and she wondered what had been bothering him. It smoothed out again in a second as if it had never been there at all.
“I think,” he said as they entered the clearing they used for practice. It was a different one than their original one, which was still graced with her cypress and daisy. “I think you should fight me today.”
Alarm shot through her, sending every bit of her being on edge. “I don’t want to fight you, Ben,” she said at once.
“No,” his voice was soft. “Not really fighting, just sparring. For practice.” He took a step closer. “You won’t hurt me, Rey.”
“How can you be sure of that?” She curled her hands into her chest, and his eyes darted towards them.
He stepped towards her and reached out to pull her hands from her chest and take them in his. She looked down at their joined hands and felt something lurch. “Rey,” he said and waited until she looked up into his face. “Trust me. Trust yourself.”
He had never flinched at her power before, even when she made the ground tremble and split open. Even that first time she lost control and ruined his garden. Even then, he had never looked at her with an ounce of fear. She swallowed her own fear and nodded.
Ben stepped away from her and shrugged out of his cloak. She liked that he was casual around her. She had arrived early enough several times to see him striding through his home with a great black cloak billowing behind him. He still wore black but with his sleeves rolled up to his elbows. She shook her head. No distractions now.
Ben planted his feet into the dirt some distance from her. With a lazy flick of his hand, he shot a bolt of power at her. He’d shown it to her before when she’d asked, and she always thought it was beautiful. He worked in light and darkness and shots of pure energy that looked like something she couldn’t describe, something between intangible light and the blazing crack of a lightning bolt. She countered his power with her own. As she dealt with more and more of his attacks, he sent stronger ones her way. It felt odd, using her power against him, though she would never aim to harm him. It felt like a dance. He stepped around her, and she had the bright idea to try to root him in place. The surprise that crossed his face when he found himself ensnared in her roots was well worth it.
He let her off easy, she knew. He had centuries of practice and she only a few weeks. And he would never hurt her. But still she felt his power hit the shields she threw up harder and harder each time. She watched him closely. Several times, he threw up his hand and they stopped so he could give her some pointer or ask her to try something different.
“Move more,” he said. “It’s easier to root you in place if you’re never moving.”
She nodded and tried to match his circling pace. Once she got used to focusing on where she placed her feet and also countering his attacks, she changed her pace to throw him off. She even learned to recognize the flick of his wrist before he tried to ensnare her and stepped off the ground. He gave a huff of frustration that made her laugh.
He sent a short bolt of pure energy at her and, on some buried instinct, she plucked it right out of the air and threw it back at him. He barely got his hand up in time to block it. He lowered it slowly, his wide eyes fixed on her.
“Do that again.”
He threw it and she caught it again, even holding it in her hand for a moment before sending it back again. The air crackled around her and the edges of her hair lifted. It was thrilling. It was disorienting. It stretched her newfound boundaries to their limit and past it. She felt a grin on her face as she met each one of his attacks.
Her foot slipped as she stepped, and he sent a beam of pure energy straight towards her. Rey held out her hands to protect her face. She expected pain when it collided with her outstretched palms but there was only heat and the crackle of electricity and an odd feeling on her skin, like she could leap out of it if she tried.
The space between her hands glowed blue. As he shot the energy at her, she gathered it and rolled it in on itself. She could feel the tension building in the empty air between her palms. Finally, he stopped, but her hands continued to glow and pulse. It was alive. Tingles danced across her skin and small arcs of electricity connected. She took a breath and released it.
The air exploded. Rey stood unmoved as if only a light wind had brushed past her. Ben flew backwards with the force of the explosion and landed hard on the dirt. She forgot their fight and their training and everything else to run to him. He sat up and shook his head as she slid to her knees beside him.
“Ben! Are you okay?” Rey reached out for him without thinking, to his shoulders, his chest, checking for signs of injury. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to…”
He grabbed her hands in his just as he had done before their fight began. “How did you do that?”
“I…I don’t know. I hoped you could tell me. I just…caught it.” Wonder at the feeling of the energy in her hands overtook her for a moment, but she quickly remembered her fear for him again. “Did I hurt you?”
“No, Rey.” He tightened his hold on her hands just enough to be comforting. “I’m fine. I was only knocked off my feet.”
She freed one of her hands from his and ran it over a small cut on his forehead leaking gold ichor. “You’re bleeding, Ben.”
“It’s nothing,” he answered.
“You’d say that even if it were something,” she laughed and leaned in to inspect the cut. It did look shallow, and he would heal in minutes.
Rey suddenly realized how close they’d gotten. His face was only inches from hers, his soft eyes locked on her and the hand she extended to his forehead. He still held the other. She couldn’t breathe. He was so close. A drop of his ichor rolled off her thumb and splashed onto his trousers. She knew she should pull away. The minutes had drawn on too long for this to be excusable. But she couldn’t. Instead, Rey did the only reasonable thing and leaned in to capture his lips with hers.
Ben stiffened and sucked in a breath, and she had what felt like an eternity to contemplate how badly this could go. She wasn’t ready to leave the Underworld and its master behind if she had misread his signs. But he didn’t leave her waiting long. His hand curled around the back of her neck and he kissed her back. Ben, the lord of the Underworld, kissed her back. He released her other hand just so he could pull her into his lap and wind it around her waist.
She sighed and wrapped her arms around his shoulders.
Ben. Ben kissed her back. Ben was in her arms.
Everything else melted away into the night.
Finally!! At least they got their act together a bit. Thanks to all for reading, leaving kudos, and leaving such nice comments.
Interactive event time! If you'd like to guess the mythological/character pairing in the comments (ex. Rey is Persephone, Phasma is Hecate), please do so! I said some explicitly earlier, but some only have hints. I'll tell you if you're right and give shout-outs :)
Chapter 10: Hades
Ben and Rey just really can't get much alone time, can they?
If Maz and her mysterious Fates had told him that morning that he would have Rey in his arms by midnight, he wouldn’t have believed her. But then Rey had kissed him, and all rational thought had gone out the window. She felt so small in his arms, but he thought that he could feel the power beneath her skin even more than usual. Rey. Rey. It terrified him how easily she had made her way into his cold heart. It had only been weeks and he would go to Tartarus and back for her.
She sighed against him, and he took a risk. He brushed his tongue against her lips. She parted them immediately, and her searching tongue found his. He knew, somewhere distant in his mind, that this would never end well. It was only a matter of time before she had to return to Olympus or risk the rest of the gods searching for their favorite. He pushed that thought out of his mind. He would think of that later. But now…Rey in his arms, the taste of her against his tongue, the feel of her lips on his.
She pulled back and broke the kiss and he didn’t want this moment to end but she only smiled down at him and brushed the small cut on his head again. He thought he would take a thousand of those cuts if it would bring her this close to him again. That thought terrified him. He had never considered himself the sappy sort.
“We should take care of this,” she whispered.
“That is the farthest thing from my mind,” he said and brought their lips crashing back together again. She twined herself closer to him again.
He lost all track of time while they were wound together, their lips never parting for more than a second at a time. Until someone at the edge of their training space cleared their throat. Rey jerked away from him and would have tumbled into the dirt if it weren’t for his arm around her waist. Her face flushed red. Ben glowered in the direction of the tall, blonde woman who towered over them. She wore a knowing smirk.
“Can I help you, Phasma?” he growled and pulled himself to his feet, taking Rey with him and setting her easily on her feet.
Phasma’s eyes glittered at him with humor before shifting to Rey. Her face broke into a wide smile. “You must be Rey.”
“Phasma, I suppose,” she answered and shook the blonde’s proffered hand. He didn’t know what Rey had expected from his goddess of witchcraft, but she looked surprised to be greeted so warmly by her.
“I’ve been hoping to meet you, but Ben likes to keep you all to himself,” Phasma said with a wolfish grin.
“Phasma,” he warned. He did not keep Rey all to himself. They were training, that was all. “What do you want?”
She turned her gaze and her grin back to him. Rey glanced between them. “There’s a disturbance in Elysium, sir,” she said, although that was nothing to grin about. “It requires your attention. I can take Rey…”
“No,” he snapped. He had no intention of leaving Rey with Phasma for whatever interesting occupation she had planned. “Rey can come with me. If she would like to,” he amended.
Rey’s face broke into a smile. “I’d love to see the city.”
“But, sir, they’re a bit unruly. Shouldn’t…”
“Rey is more than capable of handling herself against some humans,” he answered, his eyes trained on Rey’s bright face rather than Phasma’s.
Phasma pouted. “I didn’t mean anything by it.”
Ben patted her shoulder as they passed. “Cheer up, old friend. You and Rey will have more than enough time to get acquainted.”
Phasma grumbled something that he couldn’t hear. He felt Rey’s eyes on him as she half-ran to keep up with his long stride. He slowed to make it easier for her. “Why won’t you let me alone with her?”
“Why?” He was a bit stung by the question, though he shouldn’t have been. “Don’t you want to see the city?”
“You mean, you’re really taking me with you?” At that moment, he could have slapped Luke and Han and even his own mother. Had they really kept her so locked up?
He gestured to the lights ahead of them. “Where do you think we’re going? Why wouldn’t I take you, too? You’re more than capable of handling yourself.”
“But why didn’t you want to leave me alone with Phasma?” she asked again. Holy Zeus, she wasn’t going to let that go.
“I’m sure you’ll have plenty of time alone with Phasma.”
“Do you think she’s too much for me?” she asked.
He chuckled. “Phasma is a handful, to be sure. I’m sure you two would get along swimmingly. Which is why I’ll give myself a bit more time before you two go cavorting through the city. She had that mischievous glint in her eye.”
Rey laughed outright. “You think we’ll destroy the Underworld in one hour?”
“I think it’s a distinct possibility. You’re curious. She’s mischievous. I’m sure you two could get up to a lot of trouble and it would seem I have enough of that for one night.”
She kept up with him and practically skipped ahead as they entered the city. Although it was perpetually dark in the Underworld, he had ensured that the city was constantly lit with a haze of yellow light. All the buildings too were painted bright colors, each different from the last. She looked around her in wonder.
“Where does the light come from?” He looked around the city too as if seeing it for the first time. The light, the colors, the people who leaned out of their windows to see the lord of the Underworld and the goddess of spring pass beneath their windows. Some of them waved as the gods passed below, and Rey waved back.
“Everywhere,” he answered. “I enchanted the entire city to provide its own light. It comes from the buildings, the street, everywhere you look.”
“They look so…happy,” she said and smiled back at a woman who leaned her whole upper body out of the window to throw a daisy to Rey.
“I hope so,” he said. He felt like a black blight against all of this light and color. His usual cloak trailed behind him and danced around his polished boots. “But why wouldn’t they be? They live in comfort, they have their family with them, their friends, or will see them soon. They have nothing to fear here, no pain or heartache or death.”
“You made this for them.” She turned her wonder-filled eyes on him. “You built all this for them?”
He met her gaze. “They’re my responsibility.”
Rey looked like she wanted to say something else, but at that moment a commotion reached them from down the street. Ben ran forward, his boots slapping against the pavement with every step, and Rey ran with him on quieter feet. They reached the crowd at the same time, and Ben frowned. They yelled and screamed at each other with fingers jabbing in red faces. A few threw punches.
“These cursed clans again,” he growled and strolled into the middle of them. Those who saw him left off their arguing and scuttled back against the walls in an effort to not be seen. Rey followed in the ghost of a path he left behind. When he reached the center of the seething crowd, he wrenched two screaming figures apart, throwing each against opposite walls with irrefutable power. The rest of the crowd scattered back like seeds in the wind, leaving Rey, Ben, and the two men alone in the center. “What is it this time?”
Despite the angry set to his face and his power holding them back, Ben sounded bored. One of the men strained against the force of his power but only succeeded in winding himself. “He bloody well insulted my daughter, that’s what!” he cursed. “I’ll kill him! And his whole family!”
“You’re already dead,” Ben reminded him. “I could throw you into Tartarus, though, if you like.” That shut him up. “Now, let me make this perfectly clear. Both of you and your families will leave off fighting. I’ll move you to different houses if I must, but you will cease and desist, or I will banish you to Tartarus and think up some incredibly creative punishment for you. Understood?” The first man grumbled while the other just silently fumed. “Is that understood? Rest assured that you may be dead, but I can make your existence infinitely worse and I will to keep the peace.”
“Understood,” they both grunted.
“Good,” he grunted and released them. “Go home.”
He waited in the center of the street until all of them had dutifully filed back into their respective homes. He turned to see Rey eyeing him. He motioned for her to follow and led her through Elysium, the most beautiful part of the city, before they returned to his home. She scurried along beside his long stride and eyed him out of the corner of her eye until he couldn’t take it anymore.
“What is it?” He knew he was being curt with her, but the clans and their warfare never ceased to put him in a bad mood.
“Would you really banish them to Tartarus?” she asked. She didn’t sound angry or disappointed as he expected her to, just curious.
He snorted. “Of course not. They don’t merit Tartarus.” She nodded like he’d said exactly what she expected. “I might stick their leaders in one of the hovels around its edge. Preferably together. That’s probably worse than anything I could think up for them. No human is ever banished to the actual pit of Tartarus. That holds hells only suitable for the worst of the gods.”
“Is anyone imprisoned there now?” she asked.
“No. Kronos is off somewhere else. I assume Luke didn’t think I could handle that responsibility or didn’t trust me not to switch to his side,” he scoffed. “Prometheus was there for a while until they chained him to a rock. No, I have no special prisoners now.”
They had reached his halls and for that he was relieved. He loved the city, loved its beauty and its light, the happiness that thrived there among the dead souls. But his home was always a comfort to him after a long day and now Rey was there too…
“You know,” she said, thoughtful. “You’re not as bad as they say.”
Ben didn’t know whether or not he should be offended by that. “Figured that out, have you? Brilliant.”
She laughed at his sarcasm despite herself. “What I mean is, they make the Underworld sound like such a nasty place. Luke told me you invented death itself. But the people here, they’re happier. Happier than a lot on earth. You make that happen for them.”
He stopped outside the door to her room and turned to face her. His insides melted at her words. “It’s all about balance, Rey. That’s what Luke doesn’t see. He thinks it should all be one way, his way, but he doesn’t see that it’s unbalanced. Yes, I invented death, if you’d like to put it that way. The souls that reside here have lived and died and yes, they’re happy. They have sorrow on earth, they have happiness here, and many will one day choose to return to life and lose their memories. Balance.”
She smiled softly, sadly, and leaned up to kiss his cheek. “Thank you.”
“For what?” he asked, his eyebrows disappearing beneath the fringe of his hair.
“For helping me. For teaching me that balance can and should exist. For not giving up on me.” She took a breath, and he thought he saw tears in her eyes. “For caring enough to correct my perceptions.”
Ben watched Rey as she smiled at him, turned her back, and entered her room. Her room. Yes, he indeed thought of this guest room, the best one he had though so rarely used, as her room. And he couldn’t deny that he wanted it to stay that way. Or, even better, for his room to become her room. He growled and shoved that thought out of his head. Useless, these hopes. Useless, all his wishes. He would never take her from Olympus, never ask that of her.
He would cling to whatever sliver of her time she would give him. And if that made him pathetic, so be it.
Ben did not sleep well that night.
He woke early, as he always did when Rey dwelled beneath his roof. There was a kind of energy coming from the direction of her room, and he vaulted out of bed. He tugged on some pants but did not bother changing out of the soft tunic he wore to sleep. Perhaps she had loosed control of her power accidentally in sleep. Or something could be wrong. Before he could knock on her door, a mere curtesy before he entered anyway out of concern, she opened it. Her beaming face grew puzzled upon finding him there, arm still raised as if to knock.
She blinked sleep out of her eyes and her grin widened again.
No magic stirred behind her. No danger. She stood safe, whole, and…
He realized that the energy he’d felt had not come from her magic. It had come from her. Pure, sweet excitement. That was what tugged him from sleep and brought him mussed to her door. He didn’t have time to contemplate the full ramifications of that because she had reached out and laid a hand on his arm.
“I’ve been thinking,” Rey said, her eyes alight and fixed on him. He was so thoroughly relieved that she was safe and balanced that it took him a moment to catch up with her words. “I’ve been thinking that they have such a wrong idea about you and that blinds them to everything. How much good you’ve done in the Underworld, the balance you bring to the world, even my own power. Everything.”
The reality of her words crashed into him like an out of control chariot. “Rey…”
“But I could show them that they’re wrong.” Her voice rose with excitement, and she pushed past him and out into the hall. He noted that she already had her necklace released from where it usually lay beneath her neckline. “Once they realize that balance is good, that we’re all meant to be balanced and that this is balance for us, they’ll understand. They won’t fear my power.”
Dread seized him as he understood what she suggested. He stumbled after her on legs that wouldn’t seem to work and caught her by the elbow. The obvious worry on his face did nothing to diminish her excitement, but it was like a stone in his stomach. “Rey.”
“You could even come back to Olympus,” she continued. “If you want, I mean. And they could visit Elysium and see how happy the people are here…”
“Rey,” he said more firmly, pulling her gently to a stop. “Stop. Just think.”
“I have been thinking,” she said and lay her hand on his chest. “I know you’re concerned, but just trust me. They’ll listen.”
“Rey, this isn’t going to go how you think it will.”
“It will, Ben,” she said and then she vanished. He stood in the hallway and stared at the spot where she disappeared, praying she’d come back and tell him that it was all a joke.
That stone remained in his stomach, dragging him down with it.
Oh, Rey...always the optimist. Lots to come in the next few chapters.
Chapter 11: Persephone
Things don't go exactly as planned...
Rey appeared in her bedroom and immediately knew that she wasn’t alone. Slowly, she turned to face her bed and Rose’s glare. Her friend had clearly been there for some time and still wore her clothes from yesterday. And she was clearly displeased. Rey bit her lip. The goddess rose from the bed and crossed her arms in a good imitation of Leia.
“Where have you been?”
“Rose, listen…” Rey began, but her friend interrupted her.
“Where have you been? I came straight after dinner actually finished, and you weren’t in your room. Your staff was here, your shoes…I looked everywhere for you, Rey. And then I decided to just wait and talk to you when you got back, but you didn’t. And now you just appear in the middle of the room? What’s going on?”
Rey sighed. This wasn’t how she imagined this day going at all. “Rose, sit down. This is going to take a while.”
She narrowed her eyes and looked for a moment as if she were going to object before she plopped down on the bed with a huff. Her back remained ramrod straight and her arms crossed over her chest. The flipped ends of her hair bobbed as she heaved a sigh. Rey sat tentatively next to her and turned to face her friend. First thing’s first, she thought and pulled the necklace from where she’d instinctively stashed it beneath the collar of her dress. Rose leaned in to see the symbol worked in delicate strings of gold and her eyes widened.
“That’s…that’s the symbol of the Underworld.” Her eyes shifted back up to Rey’s face. “Rey, tell me you didn’t.”
“Let me tell you everything before you lay into me.” Rose nodded, and Rey could see that her curiosity had won over her anger. She took a deep breath and began, “I had a few days recently where it just hit me how much I felt out of place here.”
Rose opened her mouth, probably to reassure her that she belonged with them, but Rey held up a hand to stop her. “I couldn’t shake the feeling,” Rey continued. “I had so many questions and Leia and Jyn were actively keeping the answers from me.”
“What questions?” Rose whispered.
“Who were my parents? Why don’t I have any power like everyone else does? Why does Luke think I need protecting? I just couldn’t shake them. And every night, I would dream of a cave.” She was sure she sounded insane. “You know how Lyra is always telling us that dreams have meaning? I saw that cave every night. So, one morning, I went into it.”
“And it led to the Underworld,” Rose said for her. “Rey, you can’t just go wandering through the Underworld. Hades…”
“Ben,” Rey interrupted her. “His name is Ben.”
“You…met…Hades.” Rose gaped at her. “Rey!”
“You promised you’d let me finish.” Her friend hesitated, then nodded. It was harder than she’d anticipated, telling this tale. Would Luke even believe her if she told him? She had to try. For herself. For Ben. “I met Ben. He found me as soon as I stepped foot in the Underworld. And I had the same reaction as you did. I knew the stories. But, Rose, he’s not like that at all. He helped me.”
Rose was skeptical. “Helped you how?”
Now came the difficult part. Rey didn’t know how to describe it, so she showed her instead. She held out her hand and a daisy sprouted from it, grew straight and tall and sprouted leaves and petals. Rose’s eyes grew wide. She lifted a gentle finger to touch it, stroke its soft petals, and gasped.
Rey smiled. “It’s my power. I had it all along. Ben just helped me find it, control it.”
Rose shook her head and sat back. “Hades…” Rey frowned at her, and she corrected herself with a frown of her own. “…Ben…can’t even control his own power. He created death, Rey. He’s the reason the humans die, the reason there is an Underworld to begin with. He couldn’t keep his powers in check and he let the darkness consume him.”
It was Rey’s turn to shake her head. “That’s not it at all, Rose. Ben and I…our power is the same. He’s not darkness, he’s light and dark, life and death. Same as I am. Growth and decay.” She crushed her daisy into nothing but dust. “Life and death. It’s a cycle, Rose, not a curse. Balance.”
“Balance,” Rose whispered as if testing the taste of the word on her tongue.
“Luke talks of balance, but he doesn’t understand it. He thinks balance is only the light, only life and growth and joy and light. But one cannot exist without the other. There cannot be life without death, there cannot be growth without decay. The world would cease to function. Ben didn’t invent death, he balanced the world. And the souls in the Underworld, they’re happy, Rose. Like they haven’t a care in the world. The city is so bright, so pure. That’s him too, don’t you see?”
Rose looked at her in a very different way. “You’re trying to change my mind about H…Ben all in a few minutes?”
“He’s been banished from Olympus for what he did, but what if his actions were good? Consider it. The humans couldn’t die, but they could age. They would grow older and older with each passing year, but no stronger. Soon, the world would be too full for anyone new. But now they live in peace in the Underworld with their families and with everything they need and, when their time comes, they abandon their memories and reenter the world. If all I ever did was make things grow, the soil would be barren, and nothing would grow at all. But because things live and die and decay, they can grow anew every spring. It’s a cycle, Rose. Balance.”
Rose had a furrow between her eyebrows as if she were puzzling through an especially difficult riddle. “All I’ve ever heard of him was cruelty. The only time I’ve ever seen him he was wreathed in shadow and darkness.”
“Darkness doesn’t mean evil. It’s a part of him, yes, but Ben is kind and generous and soft and patient. I know. I exploded at him several times before we found balance,” Rey said.
Rose’s mouth hung open, her eyes wide. “You love him.”
“What?” Rey gasped. “I wouldn’t go that far. I mean, I kissed him, sure, but I don’t know if love is the right word.”
“Maybe not. Maybe not yet. But I can feel it.” She took her friend’s hand and pressed it. “I can feel it as clearly as I can feel your power now. How did I not see it before?”
“You must be mistaken. I think that’s a little extreme.”
Rose gave her a pointed look, and she laughed. She had, after all, just suggested that the goddess of love had sensed affection when it wasn’t there. “Fine,” Rey admitted. “I may have some…feelings for him.”
Rose’s face broke out into a shining smile, and she squealed before regaining control and pressing her lips together to keep quiet. “Rey, I’ve always wanted you to fall in love!”
“You want everyone to fall in love.” Rey rolled her eyes. “Just because you and Finn are head over heels doesn’t mean everyone else has got to be.”
“I know but…it’s just so romantic. I mean, the goddess of spring and the lord of the Underworld. There’s something poetic about it, isn’t there?” she breathed.
“So,” Rey hesitated. “You’re not angry with me?”
Rose’s eyes refocused on her face. “I’m a little put out that you didn’t tell me about your little rendezvous before, but I can see why you didn’t. It’s not easy to overcome that much working against you and I understand that.”
Rey breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps Rose’s support would mean something to the others, perhaps not. But Rose was not the one she needed to convince.
Rey searched through the palace on Olympus for Luke. The king of the gods could be elusive at times, off in remote locales that even Leia didn’t know. She hoped this was not one of those times. She found him talking with Han just outside of the Great Hall. Either Han noticed the urgency written on her face or had reached the end of his tolerance for Luke, for just as she reached them, he gave her a paternal smile and darted away on winged sandals. Luke sighed but smiled when he saw her.
“Rey, darling, it’s been ages since we’ve spoken. You’ve been busy recently,” he said.
Her words struggled to escape from her. What should she say to him? What would convince him that Ben wasn’t all bad? That keeping her power locked inside of her wasn’t good at all? He sensed her hesitation and his face grew concerned.
“Rey, whatever it is, you know you can tell me,” he offered.
Did she know that? Hadn’t they kept her origins from her for so long? She didn’t know that yet, though, she reasoned. She had to give him a chance. “I found my power,” she blurted. She’d meant for her words to be more elegant, persuasive, but she sounded like a child.
The change on his face was instant. The smile dropped away, and his eyes hardened. “What do you mean?”
“I have power,” she insisted. “I thought I didn’t, but I do. Look.”
Rey stretched out her hand to him and grew her flower as she had done for Rose, hoping it would have the same effect. A hint of fear flickered across Luke’s face. “How?”
Her momentary confidence faltered. It was true, what Ben said, though she hadn’t wanted to believe it. They had been hiding this from her. “I…I don’t know. It just called to me. And Ben, he helped me learn…”
“Ben?” Luke snarled. He advanced on her, and she skittered back a few steps. “I warned you about him, didn’t I?” Others had appeared from nearby rooms. Over his shoulder, she spotted Leia and Rose exchanging worried glances. “I warned you never to go there.”
“He’s not what you said. Please, just listen…” This had gone the wrong way so fast.
“I’ve heard enough. You were safe, Rey, balanced, and you threw it away, for what? A few charming words from the king of the dead?” His power crackled around him. Lightning, wind, rain. She retreated a few more steps, but he advanced on her as if she were the enemy.
But no. She wouldn’t yield before him. She was no longer the frightened child who did what she was told. She planted her feet and stood her ground even as he pushed forward. “You knew,” she accused. “You knew I had power and you said nothing.”
“I had my reasons. You don’t get to question…”
“No,” she lashed out, and he paused, considering this side of her he’d never seen before. “I do get to question. You made me believe I didn’t belong here. You let me wonder, question, feel alone while the rest of you flaunted your gifts. I’m not a child.”
“You don’t know what you’re playing with,” Luke answered, a dark look in his eye. And suddenly she understood how he had locked Ben up in the Underworld and banished him from this bright house. This bright mountain that seemed nothing more than a façade, a gilded, rotten shack.
“You think I’m playing?” she hissed. Roots sprouted around her feet, and she heard several gasps from around her. “You’re so afraid of me you didn’t even bother to help. I was drowning under the weight of it all, and you would have let it consume me alive to keep your precious safety.”
“I’ve seen it before,” he yelled. “I’ve seen your kind of power. So raw, unchecked. You could have destroyed everything.”
“You’ve seen it before and you didn’t understand it any more then than you do now.” Her voice had raised to match his. “All you have to do is listen to me. But you won’t. You’re a fool, Luke Skywalker.”
“Enough.” His hand sliced through the air and a bolt of lightning skewered the ground beside her feet. The fear, anger, betrayal roiled inside of her, but she had perfect control. She wouldn’t hurt her friends, her family, no matter how much they now hurt her. Unbidden tears welled in her eyes.
“I trusted you,” she whispered.
“You betrayed me when you ran into his arms with no thought for the darkness that lurked there,” he yelled back in his primal rage. The walls of Olympus shook.
“Luke,” Leia called, but he did not heed her.
“Very well,” she said, her head held high despite the tears rolling down her face. “I’ll leave.”
Rey turned from him, but he growled a single word at her. “No.”
A blast of wind closed in around her. She thrashed against it, looking to Leia or Rose or anyone for help, but they all just watched as Luke swept her along the hallways in her prison and back to her room. The lock clicked behind her.
Rey ran to the door and fought against it, but it wouldn’t budge for her. The world had narrowed to that single room. How long would he keep her locked up in there? Forever? Or would they move her to a prison? Not Tartarus, for they wouldn’t trust Ben with her. But did it matter what prison? A gilded cage, the pit of Tartarus, weren’t they all the same in the end?
Trapped. They’d trapped her. Rey felt utterly alone. None of them had even lifted a finger to help her.
Trapped. Alone. Imprisoned. Alone. Betrayed.
What she wouldn’t give to be in the Underworld.
The Underworld had become her home.
The…the necklace. Would it work now, when Luke had boxed her inside this room? She pulled it from beneath the collar of her shirt. Before she tried, she decided, she’d take her things. She shoved clothes haphazardly into her bag and snatched up her staff. Her gaze fell on Poe’s lantern, lying by the foot of her bed where it had been ever since her last trip down the cave. No, she would leave it. The memory hurt too badly.
Wishing, wishing, she wrapped her hand around the necklace.
A familiar breeze ghosted across her face.
Poor Rey. Our girl's coming into her own. Sorry to all Luke fans. I love him too, but he's just a bit misguided...
Keep the comments coming! I love to hear what you think!
Chapter 12: Hades
Lots happening in this chapter, but we finally get some more information on Rey's past.
Ben slid into the hallway, his cloak billowing out behind him, and froze. Rey looked so small before the backdrop of the enormous pillars that supported his colonnade. She looked even smaller with her arms wrapped around themselves and her chin tucked down against her neck. He hurried towards her and placed a hesitant hand against her elbow. Now that he stood before her, he saw that she had squeezed her eyes shut and still hadn’t opened them.
“Rey,” he said softly and placed a hand against her cheek. A few drops of golden ichor dripped down her other cheek from a cut beneath her eye. The tracks of dried tears scored her face beneath both eyes. “Rey, sweetheart, look at me.”
She did finally pry her red eyes open and look up at him. “Ben,” she whispered. Her eyes watered again, and she buried her head in his chest as if it would help her forget whatever was eating her up inside. He wrapped his arms around her and cradled her head in his hand. He didn’t care if the cut on her cheek bled into his shirt. Her hands fisted in the fabric.
“Rey, are you alright?” She muttered something into his shirt that he couldn’t understand. “You’re bleeding, Rey.”
She didn’t answer, just continued to cling to him, so he swept her up easily into his arms and carried her the few steps to the door of his room. It swung open of its own accord, and he crossed the room to set her down on the edge of his stone tub. She did allow him to release her and watched him cross to the basin to wet a soft towel. He knelt before her and pressed it to her scraped cheek. His other hand covered hers and hoped that he could give her some small sliver of comfort.
“Rey,” he said and waited until she met his eyes again. “Can you tell me what happened?”
She shook her head. “You were right.”
“About what?” he prompted gently.
Her mouth dragged down at the corners. “Rose found me, and I told her everything.” He felt ice spread through his veins at what he thought would come next. “She understood. I think she saw that…that I care for you.” That ice quickly turned into something else. She cared for him? He wanted to ask a little more about that but now was not the time. “And I went to talk to Luke. He wouldn’t even listen to me. You were right. He is afraid of me.”
That explained her tears, then, but not the cut on her cheek. “What happened here?” Ben pulled the towel away and swiped a gentle finger over the cut on her cheek.
“Oh…I don’t know.” Her forehead crinkled over her unfocused eyes. “I guess I hit it on the doorframe when Luke pushed me in.”
That ice and sadness was immediately replaced with white hot fury. Ben saw red. “He. Did. What?”
“He locked me in my room. I fled back here with my necklace,” she answered. The full significance of her words didn’t seem to hit home in her bleary head. At least the cut had stopped bleeding.
Ben took little comfort in that. If he didn’t have Rey perched here with tears in her eyes, he could have marched up to Olympus at that moment and struck the damn king of the gods down where he stood.
“I thought they would listen to me, but he wouldn’t even listen to a word I said,” she continued. “I’ve never felt so alone.”
“You’re not alone,” he said. “You have a home. It’s here.” And he wanted to smite anyone who had ever made her feel this way. Slowly. With a lot of pain involved.
She must have seen the hard set to his face because she reached out and smoothed out the anger lines that had appeared there. Her eyes cleared a little and raked over his all-black attire. She’d never seen him in his daily wear, he realized. She always caught him at the end of the day and he always changed into his looser tunic and pants to train with her. Rey pinched the soft fabric of his flowing cloak between her fingers.
“No wonder they’re so afraid of you, if you only ever wear black,” she said. He almost cracked a smile but couldn’t quite shake the anger that clung to him.
“Sometimes I wear other colors too,” he answered.
“I must be interrupting your work.”
Ben didn’t much care if she was interrupting the most important meeting of his life. With her shoulders slumped like that, he would have gladly put aside every single one of the lists of souls just for a small smile.
“It can wait. What do you need?” he asked her.
“Can I stay with you?” she said in a small, fragile voice. “I’ll just lay on the couch while you work.”
“We can do something else. Lunch? A walk? You’re welcome to sleep here,” he offered. Anything is what he wanted to say. You can have anything.
She shook her head. “I just want to lay on that couch…by the fire.”
Ben nodded and swept her up into his arms again. She only protested weakly. He carried her back through his room again and down the hall to his office. The couch remained where it had been weeks ago when she had first lost control of her power. He set her gently on it and summoned a blanket from across the room.
As he rose to settle at his desk, she caught his hand in hers. “Thank you, Ben.”
He looked down at her, settled on his couch with the fire casting an orange glow across her pale skin, and the anger in him softened. “You don’t have to thank me. You will always be welcome here.”
She gave him the smallest smile and closed her eyes. Ben watched her doze for a moment before he returned to his desk and resumed the work he’d abandoned when she appeared in the hall.
It was several hours later as he sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose in an effort to stave off an oncoming headache, when the slight tug at the back of his mind alerted him to someone crossing the barrier into the Underworld.
Ben stood from his desk and checked that Rey was still asleep by the fire. Her face remained smooth and peaceful in sleep. Relieved, he left the room and marched into his garden.
Out of all the people he expected to find in his garden, it wasn’t her. She hovered at the edge of the cave, picking at her nails, and took in her dark surroundings with wide eyes. A soft, golden light suffused from her, much different than the one that clung to Rey. How had he never noticed that before? She visibly flinched when she saw him.
“Rose,” he said. “What are you doing here?”
The goddess of love bit her lip. “Rey’s here, isn’t she?”
He eyed her. She glanced up the cave several times, as if afraid that someone had followed her. “Did Luke send you?”
“No one sent me,” she answered. “I came to check on my friend.”
He considered her for a moment longer, which only made her fidget. “Yes, Rey is here.”
“In your house?”
“She came to me as soon as Luke locked her in her room,” he growled, deep and low.
Anger flitted across her face as well. “I tried to reason with him, but he’s passed it. I’m glad she came to you. I hoped that she did as soon as he closed that door on her.”
Ben remembered what Rey had said and thought that perhaps she wasn’t as bad as he’d once thought. “She’ll be safe here for as long as she wants to be.”
Her gaze drifted passed him and to the city that stood suffused in light. “Is that Elysium? Rey told me it was beautiful, but I didn’t know if I should believe her. It is.”
He didn’t know what to say to that, but Rose filled the silence for him. “Take care of her, Ben.”
“I will,” he promised her.
“She deserves better than what we could give her.” Rose didn’t seem to know what to say after that. She nodded to him like they had made some sort of pact and started up the path to the cave again. He had a flash of memory of Rey doing the same, but she had been much angrier. And she had come back.
“Rose,” he said, and the goddess turned at the sound of his voice. “You’re welcome here too. Whenever you want.”
He wasn’t sure from the distance, but he thought her face softened, and she smiled a bit before she turned and disappeared into the darkness of the cave. He sent a beam of light up after her to light her way.
Ben returned to his office and Rey’s sleeping form beside the fire. For some reason, the exchange made him even sadder. It was as if Rose had acknowledged that
Rey would never be welcome on Olympus again, at least not as she had been before. He hated that he was the cause of it, though he shuddered to think what would have happened to her if she had never been allowed to discover her power.
Rey sat up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes as he entered his office. The fire had flickered down to mere embers, but he flicked his wrist and it flared up again.
“What did I miss?” she asked.
He wasn’t sure if Rose had intended him to tell her of her visit. He thought not. “Nothing, Rey, just boring bureaucracy.”
She sat cross-legged on the couch and watched him as he sat down on the floor by her feet. He half-hoped she had slept off the dragging tiredness because he didn’t want to return to his duties, pressing as they may be.
“Ben,” she said, and he waited for her to continue. There was a weight to her voice that hadn’t been there a moment before. “You know who my parents were, don’t you?” she asked softly, her eyes darting to and from his face as if this question had been nagging at her for ages.
How had he become her source for all the information on her past? Did they really tell her so little? Leia had told him that they intended to keep her in the dark about her origins for some time, until she grew up, but it had been many centuries since then and she had long since grown. Familiar anger stirred in him again. He pushed it aside.
“Yes,” he said.
“Who? Who were they?” She leaned forward as if to drag the information from him by her nearness.
He couldn’t deny her this. She had every right to know, just as no one should have hidden her power from her. He remembered that day on Olympus when they brought that little girl into the shining halls. Her hazel eyes. They bore into him now, grown up and so much wiser.
“Your parents were humans,” he said finally. “Kind, ordinary humans. They were caught in the crossfire between the gods and the giants. Your entire village burned to the ground. They hid you in the woods and that’s what saved you. My mother only found you after the battle was over, freezing and half-starved.”
“And my parents?” she whispered.
“The entire village was leveled. No one survived. You were the only one.”
Tears brimmed in her eyes again, but she blinked them away. “Are they here? In Elysium?”
Her pain hit him like physical blows. “I checked weeks ago, after you started staying here. They chose to reenter the world and forget their memories centuries ago.
But,” he cleared his throat. “They knew that you still lived.”
She gripped herself tighter, folding into a small ball as if to shield herself from the truth that she hadn’t been brave enough to seek before. “How did I become…” She couldn’t finish her own question. “Why me?”
He wanted to comfort her, to reach out to her, but he didn’t know if it would be welcome and he needed to answer her questions. “The gods took pity on you. A lonely child, no home, no parents, no village. Leia couldn’t leave you to die in those woods. So, they took you to Olympus instead. They made you a goddess and they called upon me to grant you immortality.” He paused. “It’s the single time I’ve stepped onto Olympus since I was banished.”
“You were there?” He dipped his head in acknowledgement. He’d been young then. He remembered the feeling when Luke summoned him to Olympus. He’d hoped that they would allow him to come back home. “How did I get my power then? If I was human, where did it come from?”
“When you became a god, you received your own divine sphere. Springtime. Or, more correctly, seasons.” He paused again, to see if she would make the connections he saw so clearly, but her eyes remained fixed on him expectantly. “And what better power could be granted to a human-turned-god? Spring, new life. Or, more correctly, seasons. Who would understand better the cycle of the seasons? New life, flourishing, decaying, and dying.”
A crease appeared between her eyebrows. “But, then, who granted my power to me?”
“No one granted it to you, Rey. It came from you,” he answered.
He thought she looked relieved. “I think I should feel upset about my parents. But they’ve been gone for so long and I can’t even remember them…does that make me a bad person?”
“No, Rey, it doesn’t.”
“I just wanted to know. For so long, Luke and Leia acted like my parents. All the gods were my family. But they’re not now. I don’t even have them anymore,” she said.
“You should have been told centuries ago. They shouldn’t have kept this from you. Any of it. Your power, your parents, it all belongs to you,” was all he could think to answer.
She thought for a moment. “I think I’d like to go for a walk now. If you can spare a few minutes.”
“Please. I can’t stand reading any more of those.”
She gave him a small, tentative smile and abandoned the couch.
They walked through the gardens and the bright streets of the city, all the way to the edges of Tartarus, but he turned them back before she could hear the screams that haunted him. They eventually sat down to dinner too, and Rey had to chide him for watching her progress on her plate too closely. He tried very hard to give her space after that.
Ben stopped outside her door and the memory of the last night and morning smashed into him. Rey looked up at him with wide eyes as if she recalled the same. Or perhaps she was remembering the last time the door of her bedroom shut on her. She hesitated.
“Ben,” she said and gnawed at her lip. “Will…will you stay with me?”
His brain spun for a moment and he couldn’t answer. He cleared his throat. “My room is more comfortable.”
A flush crept up her cheeks and he thought she would deny him, but she nodded. He had stashed her staff and bag in her room and she bent to retrieve her sleep shirt from it. They walked the few steps to his room in strained silence.
“I’ll just…” He cleared his throat. Rey looked amused. “Change.”
He swiped up his shirt and a loose pair of pants and shut the bathing room door behind him. Inside the cool, marble-coated room, he braced his hands against the smooth stone of the washbasin and stared into the polished mirror. What was he thinking? He took several deep breaths to relax himself and changed out of his polished daily outfit.
When he returned to the room clouded in semi-darkness, Rey had already changed out of her dress and into a simple yet distracting shift that only fell to mid-thigh. Styx, this woman was going to kill him. She offered him a small smile as if she could read the thoughts that flitted through his head. He crawled beneath the covers and assumed that she would take the other side. She did and curled up facing him. The sight of her cushioned in his bed sent his thoughts reeling off course, but he reined them in.
“Is there anything you need?”
Rey gave him a soft smile. “No. Thank you.”
Ben waved his hand and the lights in the room went out. That was worse, lying in the dark with the knowledge that she lay only a foot from him. He heard her shift against the sheets and turn her back to him. A cool breeze drifted through the room and he felt her shiver as it brushed her exposed arm. He didn’t know what gave him the courage, but he slid closer to her and, when she didn’t pull away, tucked her against his chest. She burrowed into his warmth, her legs clashing with his, and sighed. For a moment, he didn’t know if he could move, if he could even fall asleep like this. He felt her hand around his wrist, and she pulled his arm around her waist.
And content with her in his arms, Ben drifted off to sleep.
Ah, Reylo fluff. Swiftly approaching the end of this fic. Thank you all!
Chapter 13: Persephone
How Rey's feeling about all of this
Rey awoke in Ben’s arms. She blinked for a moment and adjusted to the dark. It was always odd, she thought, that the Underworld was perpetually dark. It lulled her to sleep longer than she usually did. Ben still slept behind her, his arm draped across her waist where she’d placed it last night. His fingers had curled against her stomach, though, and he held her closer. She could feel his breath on the back of her neck.
I could wake up to this every morning, she thought and then immediately chastised herself for it. He had made her a home there, but she had no claim on him or his affections. Even if the way he’d kissed her the other day had told her a different story.
As her mind and vision cleared, she realized that she had woken far too early, probably the product of sleeping almost all day the day before. No wonder Ben slept on. She nestled into the warm covers, content to wait for him to wake up on his own time.
“Rey,” he breathed against her neck, and she shivered. For a moment, she thought he had woken up and turned over in his arms to face him, but his eyes remained closed. “No. Rey, no. Don’t hurt her.”
Talking in his sleep, she realized. A nightmare. A nightmare about her? She placed a palm against his cheek, but he didn’t wake. He winced as if someone had caused him physical pain.
“Ben,” she said and then more forcefully, “Ben.”
His eyes snapped open, and his arms tightened around her, but she resolutely stroked his face and soothed him until he focused on her. His arms loosened but didn’t release her.
“It’s just a dream, Ben,” she said. He lifted his hand from her waist to rub across his face before he replaced it.
“It felt so real,” he whispered.
“How often does this happen? Your nightmares?” she asked and moved on to trace soothing lines down the column of his throat.
He was silent for a long moment, and she thought he wouldn’t answer. “Almost every night,” he said finally.
“Is it the same dream every night?”
He shook his head. “Sometimes it’s memories—being cast down from Olympus, Luke when he found out I’d created death, my first nights trapped in the Underworld. Sometimes it’s other things. Recently, it’s been the same one.”
His face was drawn with pain. She smoothed it out with her wandering fingers. “Will you tell me?”
He swallowed hard and opened his eyes to meet hers. “Someone tearing you away and holding me back, so I can’t reach you. And every time I’m afraid they’ll hurt you or…or lock you up again.”
Rey shuddered. The memory of Luke locking her up in her room haunted her at night too, the feeling that she’d never be able to find her way out. “I’m alright, Ben. I’m here.”
He nodded, but the troubled look didn’t leave his eyes, and she had the desperate desire to wipe that pain off his face. So, she leaned in and kissed him. His arms stiffened around her. She wondered if she had gone too far, but he relaxed and pulled her closer to him. She wondered how it would feel to have him turn her over and press her into the mattress. How his hands would feel against her skin…Nope. She shut down that train of thought.
A hard rap on his door sent them pulling apart. Ben growled several curses she’d never heard from him in the general direction of the door. “What?” he roared.
“Matters to attend to in Elysium, sir,” a voice answered through the door.
“Mitaka, I swear…”
“You did agree to them, sir,” his assistant interrupted him. Rey giggled quietly at both the assistant’s boldness and the murderous look on Ben’s face.
“I’ll be there in a moment,” he snapped. His face softened when he looked back at her.
“Why are your assistants always interrupting us?” she asked. He ducked his head to kiss her deeply again.
“Don’t let Phasma catch you calling her my assistant. She’ll never get over it,” he warned. Rey laughed against his lips.
And she realized, there, with Ben’s arms crushing her to him and his laughter in her ear, she felt freer than she ever had before. The absence of her friends and Luke’s words still hurt her heart, but she understood now that she had been as hurt by his rejection of Ben as she had by his rejection of her. It pained her that they couldn’t see the man she’d come to…what? Love? Care for, certainly. She’d leave it there for now.
Ben groaned and released her, rolling over to the edge of the bed. “Do you want to come to Elysium again?” he asked her over his shoulder as he searched for his shoes beneath the bed.
“I think I’ll stay here,” she said. “If that’s ok, I mean.”
He found his shoes and turned to face her. “Rey, I meant it when I said this is your home. You may go and do whatever you wish. Just be careful near Tartarus.”
Rey looked back at him and felt something grip her heart. This was small, what he offered her, but it made her realize what a gilded cage she’d lived in before. He didn’t say don’t go to Tartarus but be careful. He had unleashed the power inside of her and respected that power. And she had allowed herself to be so coddled for her entire life that she had only wondered about it every so often.
“Is there a library here? I feel like having a lazy day.”
A small smile lifted the corners of his mouth. “Beside my office. Help yourself.”
Ben disappeared into the bathing room and emerged dressed in his usual cloaked black before she had even gotten out of bed. She thought his eyes lingered on her form sprawled beneath his sheets. “You don’t carry weapons,” she observed as he fished around for something in a drawer.
“I don’t need them,” he answered simply. “My power is enough to keep most at bay. Here, at least.” He opened an armoire and withdrew a sheathed sword. It’s blade, when he unsheathed it enough to show her, glittered black. “I carry this when it’s needed. I’ll be back later this afternoon. If you should need anything, just ask.”
He hesitated, gave her a small smile, and left. She lay cocooned in his bed for a few minutes longer before deciding to start her own day. When she was younger, and Luke had told her the stories about Ben’s betrayal and the Underworld, she’d tried to imagine it. In her mind, it was always a dark and spooky place, a wasteland where mourning souls wandered over gray fields and missed their human lives. Ruled over by a sinister man clothed in black who judged the humans from a throne made of bone and dispensed death with the wave of his hand. But Elysium was a city of laughter and light and life and its king ruled with kindness and a sensitivity that she’d seen in no other.
Rey had once believed that the Underworld was a glorified cage. Once someone went down into it, they never could come back. But she had discovered something very different here. Perhaps, because of his own feelings of loneliness and captivity, he had created a place of freedom and joy.
Perhaps, she thought, the Underworld wasn’t so much a cage as a collection of broken and healing things. And now she was one of them too.
A huge thank you to all who are following this story! New chapter will be up tomorrow and it's a big one for our pair, I promise!
Chapter 14: Hades
Rey and Ben finally clear a few things up.
I'm really nervous about this chapter so I'm just going to leave this hear and go hide for a while. I'm not usually one to write smut, if this even qualifies, since it's pretty mild. If that's not your sort of thing, I think you'll figure out when you can skip, but there's some important plot in this chapter too.
Ben returned from the city later than he had planned. The lunch hour had long passed, and the day drifted closer to dinner. He wanted to find Rey. The disputes he’d had to settle in Elysium had exhausted him, and then Phasma had dragged him away again. He had sent her to spy on Olympus after Rey had appeared in his hall.
Her usual mischief and humor were absent. It was times like these when Ben remembered why he kept her as his chief lieutenant. Her magic seemed to leak from her into the air around her. “What did you find out, Phasma?”
She frowned. “Luke is in a rage. I’ve seen the others try to reason with him, but he won’t listen.” As Rose had said. “Leia has not given up on reasoning him out of his madness.”
Ben winced, though he knew Phasma meant well in mentioning his mother. She wanted him to know that Leia was fighting for Rey as much as he was. “What will he do?”
A heavy pause. “They only discovered this morning that Rey was missing.”
Ben snarled, “what? No one bothered to check on her until now?” Almost a day had gone by and no one had even attempted to talk to her, to comfort her or ask for her side of the story.
“I believe Rose had some hand in that. She remained in Rey’s room as often as she could and told the others that she needed rest.” He felt a moment of gratitude to the goddess who had never seen eye to eye with him. She had given them time, had given Rey time to grieve and heal before Luke’s inevitable outburst. Her warning made more sense too. “Luke has already connected her disappearance to you.”
It was nothing more or less than Ben had expected, but he wanted to know before they came for her. “When will they arrive?”
She shook her head. “They have not planned any form of offensive yet. I don’t think it will be for several days.”
Good. More time to prepare. “Thank you, Phasma. Get some rest.”
The statuesque woman didn’t move. “Ben, I’m sorry.”
He didn’t know what she was apologizing for exactly, but he sighed. “He would have found a reason to invade eventually. At least it’s over something meaningful.”
And now he sought Rey. Not only to break the news about her supposed kidnapping but also for comfort, to reassure himself that she remained safe. He checked his room first, although he didn’t know why she would still be there. He wanted to change out of the cloak that weighed down his shoulders, so it seemed like a good place to start. Once it lay in a heap on the ground, though, the weight didn’t feel any lighter. He checked the library too, but it was empty. The garden. The path to Elysium. The dining room. All empty.
Panic seized him. None of the gods could have come while he was busy and spirited her away. He would have sensed it. He thought about summoning Mitaka and asking him to find her but that felt too much like keeping tabs on her. He had told her she was free to wander as far as she liked, free to leave even, and she was, but that did nothing for his nerves. He knocked on her room out of politeness before entering. And his blood ran cold.
Her things were gone. He had set her small pack and staff on the bed the day before, and she hadn’t been back in her room since, but they were gone. Rey was gone.
The crushing weight of that thought buckled his knees, and he sat on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands. Maybe he would never see her again. She owed nothing to him. And why would she want to stay? He had made the Underworld as warm a place as he could, but it was nothing compared with the light of the surface. Not to Olympus, no, he didn’t believe she would go there so soon. But there was any number of places and sanctuaries that would house her in comfort, give her the freedom to wander.
He wouldn’t seek her out. She deserved her freedom and he would give her that. He would…
“Ben?” The voice came from the door and he looked up to see her framed in it. He hadn’t even realized that a few tears had slipped down his cheeks until the breeze ghosted his face and he felt their coolness. Concern crossed her own face and she stood before him in an instant, a hand pressed to his wet cheek. “What is it? What’s happened?”
“You’re still here,” he rasped, still not trusting in this vision of her.
Confusion mingled with her concern. “Of course, I’m here. Why would I leave? Where would I go?”
“I thought you left. Your things…”
Understanding dawned on her face and her lips pulled down as if she were trying to contain a laugh. “Ben, you fool, did you even check the wardrobe?” She crossed to it and flung it open for him to see. The few dresses and slips she’d brought with her all hung there side by side. “I put them away.”
He blinked at it, trying to wrap his head around this new information. “I couldn’t find you anywhere.”
“I went for a walk,” she said and shook her head at him. “Down by Tartarus. I just wanted to see. I know you said I shouldn’t…” She moved to stand in front of him again, suddenly unsure.
“You can go wherever you want, Rey,” he said, although the thought of her near Tartarus made his skin crawl. He didn’t want her to hear those screams. He didn’t want that to haunt her like it did him. The cloud that had consumed him when he found her room empty still clung to him and her words stuck with him. Where would I go? “Why do you stay here? Would you stay if you had somewhere else to go?”
He couldn’t look at her. Tell me it’s not just desperation. Tell me I’m the reason you stay.
“Ben,” she said and placed her hands on his shoulders. His automatically went to her waist. “Oh, Ben, of course, I would.” Her hand moved to his cheek and tilted his face, so he had to look at her. “Don’t you know that? I’m happy here. I want to stay here. With you.”
“Rey, they think I kidnapped you.” The words were wrenched from him. “Luke thinks I kidnapped you.”
She stilled. She didn’t ask how he knew. Perhaps she had already guessed that Phasma played spy for him sometimes. Her hand continued stroking his hair away from his face. “Will he try to take me back?”
Ben had forced himself to consider the possibility even before Phasma reported to him. “I think so.”
Rey was silent for too long, considering. “Ben, I’ll go back. For you and Phasma and your people, I’ll go back. I don’t want to bring that here.”
His hands tightened on her waist involuntarily. She would go back to that prison to spare him a confrontation with Luke and whatever other gods backed him. “Absolutely not, Rey.”
“I won’t allow them to harm you because I ran away,” she said softly.
“You belong here, and you have every right to run away. When they come, we’ll be ready for them.” He pulled her close and pressed his face into her stomach. He could tell it surprised her, but she twined her fingers through his hair.
“Why did you allow me to stay here?” she asked. “I said such terrible things to you back then. You should have sent me away.”
Ben thought back to that moment when he’d found her in the middle of his destroyed garden again, sitting amongst the thorns. The fear on her face—of herself, not him. It had reminded him of a boy long ago who had looked into his mentor’s face with the same fear and had seen nothing but hatred. “Because I looked at you and I saw myself.” He kept his face hidden from the intensity in her eyes. “I felt so alone before you walked into the Underworld and almost leveled me with your staff. But I saw the same understanding in your eyes.”
“You were right that first day,” she said, and he felt her lean down to press her lips to the top of his head. “We are the same. And I’m not going to leave you.” She slid into his lap, framing his hips with her knees, her hands never leaving his face. “I’m not going to leave you, Ben.”
“Rey,” he said. And there it was. Thrumming in his veins, pounding its way against his ribcage as if trying to escape into the light of day. “Rey, I love you.”
She stilled in his arms again and her breath stuttered. “I love you too, Ben.”
And he thought her eyes would overwhelm him and split him open as she leaned down to kiss him. Everything clicked into place. He had spent too much time thinking that he didn’t deserve her, that he was a dark blight on her light, and perhaps he would always think that. But he did deserve her. Because she understood him in a way that no one else did, and he understood her too. Rey was light and joy and beauty and that was all so easy to see, painted clear on her skin. He was the only one who saw the darkness too, the scars left behind and the fear that still clouded her eyes.
Rey pushed herself against him and wound her hand through his hair. Her words rang through his head again and again and again. I love you. The swipe of her tongue against his lip and then against his own was both softer and more insistent than he remembered. He’ll never let her go, he thought. Damn Elysium and Luke and Phasma and every one of his responsibilities. He’d let them all fall away to keep her here with him like this.
When she broke the kiss, he was afraid it was all over too soon even though no one had interrupted them this time. Mercifully. But she only glanced over her shoulder at the open door. It occurred to him at the same time that anyone walking down the hall could see them perched on the edge of her bed. He still couldn’t bring himself to care.
“Your room is right across the hall,” she said with hitched breath, as if she was still afraid that he could possibly deny her.
He grasped her meaning at once. “We could just close the door.”
A flush crept onto her cheeks, one that he knew was mirrored on his own. “I like your room better.”
That undid any piece of futile resolve he had left. The idea of having her in his bed sounded much better anyway. He stood without waiting for her to get up and took her with him. With a small yelp that he would definitely try to elicit again, she wrapped her legs around his waist to keep from falling. As if he would ever let her fall.
“Ben.” His name fell from her lips, and she kissed him again, as if she couldn’t wait for him to take the few steps across the hall and into his room. Ben almost plowed into a wall.
They did, finally, make it to his room and he placed her on the bed. She reared up on her knees at once and pushed his light tunic over his head. He was glad that he had taken the extra minute to change out of his heavy cloak. He wanted to rid her of her dress too, but it seemed too much too soon. He wouldn’t press her for anything she wasn’t ready to give.
Their lips met again. Ben was rapidly discovering that he loved kissing her. Rey skimmed her hands along his bare skin, and he loved that even more. Her insistent hands tugged him closer, for he hadn’t even made it onto the bed with her yet, and he happily obliged, always careful to keep his weight off her. That dress, more like a shift, slid up her thigh as they tumbled down. He found his hand gripping the smooth skin of her leg, her sighs falling between them.
“Ben, please,” she whispered against his lips.
“What is it, love?”
“Touch me,” she gasped.
That was invitation enough. His hand found the bare skin of her hip and farther to the plane of her stomach. He drew distracting patterns there and relished the way she shivered against him. He knew she must have been able to feel his own arousal prodding her hip, but it didn’t seem to bother her. His thumb traced the curve of her breast and explored the valley between them. Rey gasped as he pressed her nipple between his fingers and twined herself impossibly closer. Ben decided he wanted to hear her make that sound again and again and see what others he could discover.
His hand slid lower, brushed against her inner thighs, and hovered at their apex. She lifted her hips and deliberately grazed herself against his hand. So, he breathed in a shuddering breath and pressed his fingers against her. Styx, she was so wet. Rey broke the kiss at the first brush of his fingers and threw her head back. He knew that he’d found the right spot when she made a small noise at the back of her throat. Her muscles shuddered against him and her nails dug into his back. He had the small, incongruous thought that he hoped she left marks on him.
“Oh, Styx, I’m close,” she breathed. “Ben!” She heaved a shuddering gasp as she climaxed. As soon as she came down from her high, she pushed on his shoulders and turned him on his back.
“Sweetheart,” he tried to protest as she reached for him. “Gods, love, you don’t have to…” His words died on his tongue as her small hand wrapped around him, and she gave him a wicked grin. It didn’t take long. He was already so hard from the feel of her against him, shuddering from her own release. Her name fell from his tongue as he came too.
When his vision cleared, her face was still inches from his, her sharp pants hitting him in the face. Her eyes swept over him and returned to his face boldly. She fused their lips together again.
“Come here,” Rey said as she pulled him on top of her. “I’m not done with you yet.”
Ben didn’t protest. Not even when she kept him up half the night.
Chapter 15: Hades
Things go downhill...fast.
As soon as he woke up, Ben knew something was wrong. Something had changed in the air of the Underworld. No one had tripped the invisible warning lines he had drawn at every entrance, but the wrongness of it all crawled up his skin.
Rey slept on beside him, oblivious, the bare skin of her shoulders white in the darkness where they peeked over the edge of the blankets. His heart softened at the sight of her peaceful face. He didn’t want to wake her, but he did with soft nudges and a kiss on her cheek. She awoke with a soft smile and languid stretches of her limbs.
He could pinpoint the exact second the wrongness hit her too. She jolted up and the coverings dropped away to reveal her bare chest, but he couldn’t focus on that. He had already turned to pull his loose trousers on and stood to fasten them. He tossed a pair at her that shrunk to fit her stature and a shirt followed. There wasn’t time to return to her room for a dress and the one she’d worn yesterday was lost somewhere beneath the covers.
“What is it?” she asked as she tugged the trousers on.
“I don’t know.” Ben had his shirt on already and reached for his shoes in the darkness. Rey didn’t bother with shoes at all. She came and stood before him, her hand on his chest.
“Have they come for me?”
The idea had occurred to him, although he couldn’t feel any trace of Luke or another god in the Underworld. Luke’s power was strong enough to shield himself from his view, though, if he had arrived before Ben had raised proper defenses. Perhaps Phasma’s information had indeed been so wrong. “I don’t know, Rey. You should stay here.”
That was a futile effort and he knew it. “Not a chance,” she snapped. “Where you go, I go. If they’ve come for me, I won’t hide while they harm you to find me.”
He pulled her close and kissed her deeply. Maybe for the last time. “I love you, Rey.”
“Don’t say that like you’re saying goodbye.”
Her face remained determined, but he saw the pain in her eyes. She knew this could be the end for them as well. If all the gods had really mustered against them, they stood no chance. And he wouldn’t ask Rey to fight her friends.
Together, they went out to the steps of his home.
Ben knew as soon as they stepped outside that all his fears had been realized. Luke stood in the wide path that led to Elysium flanked on both sides by the rest of the gods. He couldn’t tell if he had managed to convince all of them or if they had come simply to see if he really had kidnapped Rey. Soft muttering ran along their line when she stepped out at his side. With a determined move and narrowed eyes, Rey took his hand. Outright anger replaced some of the muttering.
“Hades, Lord of the Underworld and King of the Dead, you stand accused of kidnapping and detaining another goddess against her will,” Luke’s voice rang out in the empty air. He felt rather than saw Phasma appear in the colonnade behind him.
“He has done no such thing,” Rey called before he could open his mouth to answer. “Ben did not kidnap me, I left. And you, Luke, are the one who detained me against my will.”
He caught his mother’s eye and noted the inevitable sadness there. She believed he had done it. She thought her own son had kidnapped Rey. More muttering splattered amongst the gods at her words. “Rey,” Finn choked out, his eyes pleading. “Stop this. Please.”
Luke’s eyes glanced over her and slid back to him. “Surrender Persephone or face the wrath of the Olympian council.”
Fury boiled in his veins at his easy dismissal of Rey. Luke had never given a moment’s thought to her wellbeing and happiness, and Ben wouldn’t surrender her. “You heard it from her yourself. I did not kidnap Rey. She came to me.”
“What have you done to her?” Poe called. The broken pain on his face…yes, he believed it too. “Did you steal her mind?”
Rey’s panicked eyes found his. If they believed that he had taken her mind, they would never listen to a word she said. It was clever of Luke to think that up. “I’m not under his control, Poe. I want to be here.” Luke opened his mouth to speak again, but she growled, and her power lashed out in a sharp flash. The gods took a collective step back. “Listen to me, you coward! Ben has done nothing wrong, and you have no right to be here.”
Rose stood in the middle of them, white-faced, her hand on Finn’s arm. “It’s time to come home, Rey. You’re play date in the Underworld is over,” Hux drawled.
Ben fastened a glare on the god of war and his smirk. He didn’t believe that Ben had kidnapped her. Oh no, he knew she was there on her own free will and he didn’t care. Ben would rip him limb from limb for that. His attention snapped back to Luke. Lightning crackled in his palms. Rey took a step in front of him, placing herself between Ben and Luke’s threatening gaze. He saw Finn’s eyes follow the action, saw the hesitation cross his face. Ben tried to draw her aside again, give Luke a clean shot that wouldn’t come even close to her, but she stood her ground and gave him the glare of a century.
“Give her up, Ben.”
“I’m not his to give,” Rey snarled. “How dare you—”
Before she’d even finished speaking, they were torn apart by a sudden wind. Rey reached out to him, but his fingers just barely grazed hers and he was hurled away from her. Ben heard her scream his name. Strong arms and hands wrapped around his waist, his chest, the arm that wasn’t straining for Rey. Hux and Jyn kept him pinned and too far from Rey to reach her.
Poe and Finn held Rey. As if this had all been planned. As if…as if Luke had known that he wouldn’t give her up, and she wouldn’t leave willingly. Phasma lunged towards them from the colonnade, but Luke flicked his hand and glowing bonds lashed her arms to her sides. Rey fought against her friends, reaching for him, calling his name.
“Hades, for abducting a goddess and failing to return her,” Luke pronounced. Ben leaned around him to keep Rey in his sight, even though the pain in her face threatened to split him open.
“Luke, please,” she screamed. “I’ll do anything. He hasn’t harmed me. I’ll come back to Olympus, please, just let him go!”
Luke ignored her. “I sentence you to Tartarus.”
Rey’s scream could have split the sky. The ground beneath his feet began to shake with her power. Finn cast a hand over her face and she slumped in his arms, unconscious. They would drag her back to Olympus, he realized, and lock her in that cage again. Ben thrashed against his captors as they dragged him away down the path that he knew led to Tartarus. He reached for his power, but it slid away again and again. He couldn’t get a hold on it. Jyn must have put something on him to restrain his power.
As they dragged him away, he found Rose in the crowd of gods, tears staining her face. “Rose,” he called out to her. “Take care of her. Promise me you’ll take care of her.”
She nodded, her lips wobbling. And Hux and Jyn dragged him to the pit of Tartarus. The screams of its inmates echoed around him on its outskirts, and he realized that this was the last thing he’d ever know. Ben fought to conjure up an image of Rey. Her face when their hands had connected, and she’d seen what balance felt like. Her lips on his. The way she’d looked just last night spread out beneath him. Rey.
“Don’t worry,” Hux hissed in his ear. “I’m sure little Rey will be lonely, but I’ll keep her company.”
He tried to curse Hux to the stars and lunge at him, but the god of war gave him a shove.
And Ben fell into Tartarus.
Don't worry! I won't leave you hanging for long! Thank you to everyone for your responses to the last chapter :)
Chapter 16: Persephone
Rey throws the temper tantrum of the century.
Alternately...Rey shows Luke exactly how wrong he's been.
Rey couldn’t find her way through the fog. It weighed on her, clung to her, pressed into her chest so hard that she felt like she couldn’t breathe. And she knew, knew that she had forgotten something important. But every time she reached for it, her fingers grazed only empty air and shadow. She fought against the heaviness with all of her might. Searching. Reaching. There was something there in the haze and she would get to it even if…
Rey lurched from unconsciousness with a gasp and nearly fell off her bed. Rose jumped up from her perch on a nearby chair and was at Rey’s side in an instant. She pushed her back down against the mattress with a gentle hand and tried to soothe her panic.
But Rey had finally found what she had searched for in the dark. Ben’s panicked face and his cries as Luke sentenced him to Tartarus crashed into her mind. She pushed back against Rose’s comfort and got up even as the room tilted, and she had to right herself against the table.
“Take it easy. Rey,” Rose followed her as she snatched up her staff and shoved her feet into her shoes. “Where are you going?”
“Where is he?” she rasped, grabbing Rose by her jacket. It didn’t seem to faze her friend at all. Rey swallowed around the hoarseness in her throat. From screaming, she realized. It healed itself now that she was awake. “Where. Is. He?”
“Tartarus,” Rose answered. “He’s in Tartarus.”
“How long?” Her teeth snapped over the words.
“Most of the day. It’s nearly sunset.” Rey growled and launched herself at the door. It didn’t budge when she pulled on it. “There’s no use. He’s barred the door.”
Her power hummed at her fingertips. It had never felt so immediate, so present. Despite the anger fizzling inside of her, she had never felt so in control.
The door didn’t stand a chance.
She unleashed so much power on it that it flew down the hall. The two sentries on either side of it flew away from her when they reached for their swords. Rose skittered after her, eyes wide and staring, always a few feet from her. Rey looked down at her hands and saw that her very skin was glowing, leaking light and shadow and sparks. Good. Let them watch her blaze and burn. Let them see the mountain crumble beneath her feet.
They would regret what they’d done.
The ground shook as she walked and left blazing footprints behind her. She marched towards Luke’s chambers. Lesser gods and goddesses skittered from her path. Hux charged out of a nearby door. He took one step towards her before she saw red and lashed out. He hit the opposite wall and slumped unconscious.
Luke came out to meet her as she reached his rooms in all her fury. Leia followed after him but moved off to one side. Rey ignored her and turned her rage on Luke.
“Rey, that’s enough now,” he said as if that would be enough to placate her. Her footsteps didn’t even pause. He threw a lightning bolt at her and she deflected it with a lazy flick of her hand.
Her blazing eyes fastened on him. “Did you just try to kill me?” she snarled.
“You’re getting out of hand, Rey,” he said.
“You would kill me rather than let me be with him, wouldn’t you?” She advanced on him. He held out his hand and that great sword, the one that she and Poe had spent so long crafting, flew to him. Lightning crackled down it, lighting it up blue.
“He’s a monster. Can’t you see what he’s doing to you?”
It struck her then that he truly believed all of this. It wasn’t spite or bitterness over what Ben had done to him. He believed that Ben was capable of kidnapping her and controlling her. Her staff glowed in her hands as it connected with his sword. Her power pushed him back a few steps. It writhed around her like a living creature, and she commanded it with every movement.
“He’s not a monster. You are.” She parried his swing. “You locked me in my room. You refused to teach me about my power. You never even told me who my parents are.” She flicked her wrist and his sword flew into her hand. She snapped it in half and tossed it to the side. Luke stared at her with true fear in his eyes. He tripped and fell. Rey towered over him with her blazing staff in her hand.
“Rey, please,” he begged.
She paused, cocked her head at him. “You really think I would kill you? You don’t know me at all. But, then again, you never did.”
With a snap of her fingers, he slumped over unconscious.
Rey looked up and met the eyes of Poe and Finn, the latter with a protective arm around Rose. She didn’t look afraid. But they did. Poe’s eyes were wide as he took in her blazing staff and the shadows that leaked from her.
“What has he done to you?” he asked.
“Nothing.” It was Leia who answered. Leia, who pushed off the railing and strode up to him with fists clenched at her sides. “He never tampered with her mind. Rey’s stronger than that. You should know that.”
“Then…” Poe started, but Rey strode past him.
“Where are you going?” Finn called after her.
“Wait, Rey, wait,” Poe called after her. She did not stop. She didn’t care what he had to say. He caught up with her on his own power and offered her the lantern. “It’s dark in Tartarus.”
A peace offering. Rey took it. And went down into the Underworld again.
The pit of Tartarus loomed dark and wide before her. The screams of the tortured souls of the damned echoed around her. Rey strode down the path and ignored everything else around her. Phasma took a noticeable step back at her approach, eyeing the light and shadows thrumming around her. The goddess’ face was drawn with sadness. Rey knew that she did not expect Ben to come out of the pit alive. But he would.
He had to.
There was a fragile, broken thing in Rey’s chest that had cracked when they were torn apart. She felt that cleaved valley to her bones, as if a fatal blow had been dealt to her chest. It remained together just barely and, if she couldn’t bring Ben out of Tartarus again, she didn’t know if it would ever heal. She thought the pain might be enough to kill her.
And so, she strode to the edge of the pit and, without a glance back at the gods who had followed her down, she leapt into Tartarus.
The darkness closed in around her, swallowing up the shadows drifting off her skin. The lantern at her waist flared to life. And she fell. Fell. Fell for what seemed like ages. At first, it was just cold. And then the creatures closed in around her. Rey drew her power into a cocoon to ward them off. A shield of pure light chased them away from her and sent them screeching into the depths of Tartarus.
They had thrown Ben down here. Like he was nothing. Luke had ordered him cast into the depths of Tartarus to rot and die. Except he was a god, so he would probably go mad first.
Rey knew the rumors about Tartarus. That it was reserved for only the worst. Gods, Titans, Giants, those who tried to destroy the world. Some said these creatures were the remnants of those cast into Tartarus before. She didn’t believe that. These creatures had spawned from darkness and nightmare itself to haunt the prisoners of the pit. Perhaps eventually they wasted away into demons like these, perhaps they wasted away to nothing. No one had ever emerged from Tartarus to tell the tale.
When her feet hit the ground, the whole pit shook. The shield around her exploded and turned the demons that had dared to come close into mist. And Rey fought her way through Tartarus. She followed the tug in her heart, as if a string had been tied beneath her ribcage. She hoped it would lead to Ben. Her power and staff struck out at the demons as she forced her way deeper into Tartarus, but her progress never slowed. Some whirled away from her in recognition of a nameless primal fear. Many had forgotten all fear, if it had ever existed.
Their screeching, shrieking cries hurt her ears. Rey understood why they said so many of its inhabitants went mad. Their cries were like nightmares boiled down to a single sound. They made her relive everything she tried to run from. A human on Olympus. Foolish, small, and unworthy. Her power flickered, and she poured her will back into it. Not unworthy. Powerful. It didn’t matter anymore if she belonged on Olympus because her home was the Underworld.
And no one could deny that a human belonged there.
As that thought rang clear in her head, she saw him. Not far now. He blended in with the darkness of Tartarus, but her lantern glanced off the hands that covered his head. He shielded himself from the swarm of demons above him, preying on him. Anger coursed through her and made her flames burn even hotter than before. Thorns crawled up the demons’ bodies and choked them.
Rey threw the shield around herself and crouched before him. Only when she placed a hand over his did he finally look up. His eyes cut her to the core. So pained. And they looked through her as if she wasn’t there at all.
“Come on, Ben.” She shook him. “It’s time to go.”
He shook his head. “You’re not real.”
She placed both hands against his shoulders, her fingers curled in like claws. “I am real, and you are mine and we are leaving. Now.” When he still didn’t move, she drew his glittering black sword from its sheath and shoved it into his hands. “Time to go home.”
“I can’t,” he muttered. “I can’t.”
She gripped his face in her hands. Hard. “You can. Breathe, Ben. Feel the ground beneath your feet.” She grabbed his hand in hers and pressed it to the ground. “Find your power. Control it. Balance, Ben. You taught me that. Don’t forget it now.”
When his eyes met hers again, they were determined. She pulled him to his feet. And they turned back to back to meet their demons.
Rey released a flash of blinding light and saw it melt into shadow. At first, she thought the demons would move in on them, but it wasn’t the darkness of Tartarus. It was Ben. He’d breathed an enormous cloud of shadow before him. That was what mingled on the edges of her light. Thorns snaked up and choked the demons, forced their way down their throats. Ben closed his hand in a fist and demons crumbled to dust before him. Rey tried that. They became nothing but ash at her feet. She became light and shadow, life and death.
And still the demons kept coming.
~ Rose ~
Rose and Finn remained by the pit of Tartarus for what felt like an eternity. Most of the other gods stood there too. She couldn’t bring herself to take her eyes off its darkness, though the very thought of it terrified her. She searched for any sign of life in its depths.
Rey had not faltered. She had marched through the screams and darkness like death incarnate and leapt into the depths of Tartarus. Yet still she had not returned.
Rose couldn’t figure out how she had misjudged her friend so completely. They had been friends for centuries, yet Rose had never seen the pure power that ran through her veins. The darkness. Yes, Rey had never seemed quite at home on Olympus, but Rose had always chalked that up to her human origins.
Until she had seen her in the Underworld.
Rey had been born to be queen of the Underworld. No one else, mortal or divine, had ever willingly leapt into Tartarus.
And so, she waited and hoped and stared at the small, wrinkled woman who watched the pit, but looked more eager than afraid. Rose hoped that meant she had more information than she did. As time drew on, she began to doubt whether she would ever see her friend again. Finn clung to her like a lifeline and gripped Poe’s hand in his other.
When the first tendril appeared over the edge of the pit, she thought the long minutes of watching the empty darkness had caused her to hallucinate. But it had continued to grow until it became the clear top to some enormous plant. It must have been impossibly tall to sprout from the depths of Tartarus. And it grew and grew and grew. A mighty cypress tree. And there, on a strong branch, stood Rey and Ben.
His strength had given out, and Rey supported his weight with his arm thrown over her shoulder. She half-carried, half-dragged him from Tartarus. Light and shadow still poured from her, and she blazed like a newborn god. Her feet touched solid earth again and her fiery eyes found Finn. A silent order. He released Rose and followed her with his healing power thrumming in his hands. Those same burning eyes drifted to Luke where he stood between her and Ben’s home.
The king of the gods gave way before her.
A huge thank-you to everyone following this story. There's only one chapter left, just an epilogue to see how our lovelies are doing after all this mess. I hope you enjoyed watching Rey kick some ass :)
Chapter 17: Epilogue
Rey and Ben after Tartarus
Ben sighed, stretched the taut muscles of his back, and hid a secret smile as the last of the suppliants shuffled away. He hated suppliant days, but they were right to do more of them. It didn’t make sense to leave the poor souls hanging at the edges of the Underworld until someone deigned to notice their existence. As her argument went, it wasn’t their fault that they died without proper passage across the Styx.
Then again, Rey was always right.
He looked over at her throne a little enviously. His queen had chosen much better than he had, and it helped that she had the craftsman of the gods on her side. Her throne, like his, was carved from black obsidian, but it was engraved with all manner of plants and flowers and sunshine. She complemented that with real plants entwined on the armrests and back and a smile on her face.
His queen and wife shifted that smile to him as Hecate announced that the line of suppliants had ended. Ben thanked her and stood from that cursed throne. He really needed to get a nice cushion installed there like Rey had. How he had ever managed to convince her to marry him and rule the Underworld…well, he didn’t have to.
He’d woken from his pain-filled sleep induced by Tartarus and the first thing he’d seen was her eyes blazing with the remnants of her righteous fury. That and Finn who looked less than pleased to be treating the lord of the Underworld. Or perhaps he really objected to the sharp-eyed watch Rey had kept over him.
“You shouldn’t have gone into Tartarus,” he’d told her.
“Yeah?” she’d snapped back. “Well, he shouldn’t have thrown you in there.” And he had seen at once that her anger with Luke had not dissipated with the last of the flames in her eyes. Those flames…he’d been almost lost in Tartarus until he looked up and met her shining vision.
He’d known then that the humans were right when they’d named her the Destroyer. She would have split the world in two to get him back.
But her eyes had softened when they swept over him. “I’m not leaving the Underworld again,” she’d said. “So, you’d better get used to having me as your queen.”
How could he possibly object to that? And she had stayed and now, a year later, she still stayed with him.
“Your face is splitting open again a little, love,” she said as they entered their home again, long cloaks sweeping the floors behind them. She sat him down on the edge of their tub to smear the poultice over his stubborn wound again. It crossed his face and down his shoulder, the single reminder that he’d spent a day in Tartarus. Except it didn’t remind him of the horrors he’d seen there. Every time he saw it in the mirror, he remembered the brilliant, stubborn determination on her face. He doubted it would ever heal completely.
“It was worth it, you know,” he said.
She gave him a small, sad smile. “Don’t remind me. I could still split the sky for what he did to you,” Rey said, but there was no fire behind it. They had long since made their peace with Olympus, even though the first time he’d stepped foot there after Tartarus, a hush had fallen over the entire mountain. It took him several seconds to realize that it stemmed from Rey’s challenging glare rather than fear of his shadows.
“Rose and Finn are coming to dinner,” she reminded him. “And Phasma.”
He groaned. “You invited Phasma?”
There was mischief in her grin. “And Maz.”
“You hate me.”
“On the contrary.” She leaned down to kiss him. “I love you.”
“I know.” He smiled back at her. “Let’s go to dinner.”
She took his hand as they left the room and gave him another smile, the kind he once thought he’d never see again.
He was content to watch that smile grow for the rest of his life.
And that's a wrap! Thank you to everyone who has followed this story from beginning to end. I hope you enjoyed it! And a huge thank-you to everyone for their kudos and especially all the nice comments. Your encouragement keeps me writing! Check back soon for more Reylo stories :)