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There and Back Again

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Mount Olympus' Throne Room is silent. The gods and goddesses who occupy it hardly dare to breathe for fear of invoking the wrath of Hestia. Hermes sits cross-legged above his throne, the soft sounds of his winged sandals keeping him aloft not enough to distract from the ringing in his ears. In this still, calm moment, he can count Apollo's breaths, hear the click of bobby pins against the silver amaryllis in Aphrodite's hair. It's not enough, and as he drags a hand through the messy brown curls of his hair, it's too much. He can feel something thrumming below his skin, anxious and hyperactive; he can feel words begging to spill out of his throat and into the air. His nails drum a spastic rhythm into his biceps and he can hear that too and suddenly all the not sounds are rolling into one undecipherable cacophony that tugs at the edges of his mind like static and that's when Apollo grips his hand, and squeezes it hard

He's staring toward the centre of the room, and there is...another room, and in this other room, their uncles and father sit around a table in silence. Their faces are young, too young for their usually preferred guises but some things have stayed the same. 

Zeus' eyes are the same unnervingly bright blue, but it's the unimpressed smirk playing around the edges of his mouth that gives him away. It's the superior arch of his eyebrow and the uncompromising set of his jaw that make him unmistakable. 

There's the bluish-green of Poseidon's, clear as the most gorgeous of ocean waters, and that hasn't changed. Neither has the small mischievous grin on his face, save for a slight hardness that taints the expression of carefree nonchalance and speaks of a quick, destructive temper waiting to be unleashed. 

Hades looks between them impassively, midnight blue, almost black eyes flicking back and forth between Poseidon and Zeus. His arms are crossed, and his fingers tap against his biceps steadily as he patiently waits. He clears his throat lightly, and Poseidon looks over at him for a second before leaning back in his chair and shaking his head. 

"Alright," he says. "Okay." 

"Good. And you?" Hades asks, raising an eyebrow at Zeus. 

Zeus scowls. "I don't see what the point of this is." 

"You don't need to. Just do it and we'll be able to move on with our lives." 

"Yes, of course," Zeus says. "In about a month, sure." 

"Better a month than a year. You know that Hestia is capable of keeping us like this for as long as she pleases. Perhaps even permanently if she has help." 

"She would never." 

"Oh? Who's to say?" Poseidon asks. "I wouldn't blame her. Why leave the majority of the Earth in the hands of spoilt immortals who can barely rule themselves? At this point, we likely deserve to be left like this." 

"It's Hestia," Zeus says, incredulous. 

"Yeah, it is. And she's made us an example. Sure, she's given us a chance at redemption, but do you think for one second that any of the others will step out of line anytime soon?" 

Zeus says nothing. 

"Well?"

"I agree."

"Good." Poseidon pushes his chair away from the table, and stretches. His joints crack. "Let's go, then." 

The other two rise as well, and Zeus takes to pacing while Poseidon disappears out of view for a moment. Hades leans against the table, arms crossed. 

Poseidon reappears, a small backpack in hand, and he upends it over the table. He picks up the piece of paper that falls out, scans it and then huffs, a small smile in his face. "An instruction manual." 

Then, he slides the black credit card over to Hades, along with the black jewellery pouch. He keeps the green one for himself, absentmindedly tossing it up and down, and he passes the blue one to Zeus. 

"What are these supposed to be?" Zeus asks. 

Poseidon opens it, shows them what was in the little pouch. A tiny bronze trident, curved to form a ring. 

Zeus' mouth drops open. "That's not--There's no way..." 

"Let's see, shall we?" Poseidon says, and tosses the ring into the air. He grins when it comes down as his signature weapon, laughing as he idly twirls it in one hand. "Oh, wait. It is." 

"Then, that means--" Zeus holds the pouch tightly, and grins when his lightning bolt tears through the bag and into his hand. The grin fades when it stutters for a bit and the sparks die until all that's left is a golden sword. "...What?"

"They draw off our powers, which we currently don't have...hence why she decided to let us have them at all. We'll need whatever we can get, whether we like it or not." 

"Fine," Zeus says through gritted teeth. "Great." 

"Let's go, then," Hades says, and the scythe in his hand shrinks back into a sturdy black chain that he fastens around his throat. 

They replace their weapons on their persons, and after grabbing the backpack, now empty, they stride out of view. 

The room disappears, and the Olympians are left staring at Hestia, waiting to deliver her ultimatum. She doesn't need to ask for their attention, she has no need to gesture or to insist. They look at her, ready to listen. The silence still reigns. 

"You have reputations to uphold. Duties to carry out, and yet, you argue and behave like petty. Little. Children. You've had millenia to settle differences, millenia to remind yourselves of why you exist and you've squandered them by quarreling amongst yourselves and completely--foolishly--disregarding the fact that you are family and that you have all made mistakes. Make an effort. Please, make an effort. Understand each other. Try to uphold the values of harmony, balance, order. All the things we try to  influence on mortals...please, remember them. Enact them amongst yourselves. Do it, or you face the same fate as they did." 

She disappears, and Hermes lets his head fall back. The ringing in his ears returns. 

Chapter Text

Hades sighs, looking out into the streets of New York. No powers, no immortality, and no mission. Just what are they meant to be doing? Thunder rumbles above him, and the sun is beginning its descent over the horizon, though it's still pretty high in the sky. 

"C'mon," he hears, and Poseidon tugs at his wrist, prepared to drag him out and about. "Let's go see if we can organise someplace to stay for the night, at least. We can't very well sleep in the lobby of the Empire State Building. And we'll definitely need some new clothes." 

Poseidon wrinkles his nose at their attire, pulling his very oversized Hawaiian shirt away from his chest. The look he shoots at Zeus' too large pinstripe suit and Hades' leather jacket easily conveys his distaste. "Actually, clothes first." 

Hades looks at Zeus and they both shrug. It's not like either of them have any better ideas. 

The trio duck into the first clothing store they find, ignoring the strange looks they get on the way. 

"How much clothes do we really need? I mean, I know I don't plan on looking like this for very long," Zeus says, looking at a pair of jeans. 

"Better to have too much than not enough, anyway. Grab some spares, just in case." Hades doesn't even look up from where he's comparing two shirts. 

"Besides," Poseidon cuts in, "it's not like the card has any sort of limit. So just go all out this time, and we won't have to do this again." 

Zeus shrugs and he heads off to the changing rooms with two sets of T-shirts and jeans. By the time they leave, Hades and Poseidon have amassed a small collection of hoodies, T-shirts, jeans, sweatsuits, socks and underwear while Zeus just has the initial options he's picked up along with a few jackets, socks and underwear. 

The cashier's eyes light up once she sees the black card, and she ignores them in favour of punching in the numbers. She cheerfully bids them a good day, and after ducking into a McDonald's washroom to change, they slip in and out of a random shoe store to acquire footwear and then move on to finding a place to stay. 

They've just purchased a newspaper from a convenience store when Hades' stomach growls.

Poseidon shrugs. "I could eat." 

"Same," Zeus says, and that settles it. 

Suppertime finds them in a Starbucks tucked away on a side street, munching on paninis, sipping coffee and scanning the classifieds. 

"We should buy a house," Poseidon says, and Zeus nearly spits out his coffee. 

"For what?" 

"To stay in, obviously. I mean, we don't know how long exactly we're going to be stuck like this, and I'd rather not have to deal with some random nosy landlord bothering us." 

"Yeah, but..." 

"It makes sense to me. What do you think, Hades?" 

Hades makes a noncommittal sound into his coffee. 

"See, doesn't make a difference."

"You're telling me we should buy a house that we're going to stay in for barely a few months? Fates, it figures you'd have an idea like that." 

"A sensible idea? Yeah," Poseidon scoffs. 

"No, an idea that was the first thing that popped into your head, and that you couldn't be bothered to properly think through." 

"I shouldn't need to think it through; it's obvious. A blind man couldn't miss it." 

"This is just like you! Always rushing to do the first thing that comes to mind and then flaking when someome calls you out on your bullshit," Zeus hisses, nails digging into the edge of the table. He's not sure when he dragged his chair closer to the table. 

"What does that have to do with anything?" Poseidon looks genuinely confused. 

"It has everything to with this! If you hadn't argued with me this morning, we wouldn't be in this mess!"

"Oh, so it's my fault Hestia finally got sick of us pulling dumb stunts and talking shit at each other?" 

"Yes, it's your fault. If you had just accepted that I was right, then we wouldn't be in this situation."

"Look, Zeus," Hades sighs, "I understand that you're upset, but there's no reason to take it out on Poseidon."

"Yeah, right, and it's not like you have any place to talk. You're not even a real Olympian. Nobody'd care of you disappeared for some undetermined period of time. I have a kingdom to rule." 

"Oh, and we don't?" 

"Ah, yes, dead people and fish. So very important." 

The coffee Zeus is holding onto starts bubbling, and all three of them stare as steam starts rising rapidly toward the ceiling. With a muffled curse he lets it fall to the floor, as some of the liquid spills over into his hand. 

Poseidon goes to say something, possibly apologise, when he catches the eye of the boy sitting across from them, looking horrified. As though he's heard the entirety of their conversation, and saw exactly what just happened. "Time to go," he says instead, already halfway out of his seat. 

The three all pick up whatever bags couldn't fit in the backpack, including Zeus, whose jaw is still clenched, and who is still muttering curses under his breath. As they hustle, Hades sees a young woman ducking out of a building that proclaims it to be an apartment for rent. 

"Excuse me!" he calls. "Is this available?" 

She fumbles her keys for a minute, before looking at the trio. "Um, I can let you have it for a week, or at least 'til next Tuesday, I have a mum and her son who'll be taking it after then." 

"That's good, great, even. We just need it for a few nights." 

"Oh. Okay. Just, um, transfer the cash into this account--" she pauses to rummage around in her purse and scribble down some information on the pad she she comes up with, "--and it's yours for the week. And you are?" 

"I'm Aquarius," Poseidon said, remembering the names Hestia had written down in the little instruction manual she'd made for them, "and tall, dark and mysterious is Azrael, and tall, miserable and pouty is Rian. Last name Archard, all of us." 

"Great. Have that money in there by sunset tomorrow, please and thank you. Unless you wanna give it to me in cash, in which case, here's my number. Also, you'll have to figure out who's sleeping where 'cause there's only one bedroom. Enjoy your night!" She hands him the keys, and then walks away, almost tripping on the few stairs. 

"You too!" 

"Seriously? Tall, miserable and pouty?" Zeus is still seething, it appears, evidenced by the way he drops the clothing bags at his feet and then gives one a vicious kick. 

"I know you're upset, but--"

"You don't know anything! Gods, it's as if all the damn pollution is affecting your brain! Not only is it proof that no one gives a damn about you, it's also an excuse for you to behave like a dumbass and get away with it!" 

Poseidon opens his mouth, and then shuts it with a click, turning away from his younger brother and heading into the hallway. 

"That was uncalled for," Hades informs Zeus, eyes narrowed. 

"Of course you'd side with him! You're evil and he's irrelevant. Perfect match." 

"You know what?" Hades asks. "You have until tomorrow to work this out and get your head out of ass. We're all in the same situation here, and acting like a little bitch isn't going to help, especially when that's what got us into this mess in the first place. Come talk to me and apologise to Poseidon when you're over your damn temper tantrum." 

Zeus growls, storming into the hallway. He opens the door to the bathroom, and slams it behind him. He clenches his fists, frustrated, and as he splashes water on his face and takes a minute to breathe, he feels his anger drain out him. It's with dread hanging over his head that he notices the hollow feeling in his chest. He sighs. 

He leaves the bathroom, and the next door he opens is the bedroom. He opens his mouth to say something, but his pride forces him to shut it. 

"I'd like the bed, please," he says, instead, and Poseidon's brushing past him and out the door before the sentence is over. 

"I'll share with Hades, then," he says, and Zeus is left alone to collapse onto the bed into a restless, dreamless sleep. 

Poseidon emerges into the small living area to see Hades still going over the classifieds on the couch. He sits down next to him for a moment, and picks up the red pen on the table. The two of them mark off possible options until only two or three remain. He leans back and fiddles with the pen until Hades plucks it from his hands and sighs.

"I don't like this." 

"No, really? I couldn't tell." The reply is soft, and probably meant to be scathing, but it just comes out as weary sarcasm. Poseidon folds his arms and leans back against the couch. It's quiet for a while before he speaks again. "Sorry. This is just very...not ideal. And stressful. Also, worrying." 

"Atlantis?" 

"Not so much, but yes. I trust Amphitrite to rule well, and I should, considering half the reason I married her was because I needed someone competent to help me, y'know, rule three-quarters of the Earth and all, but...I just feel like I should be there. Things have been happening; creatures that haven't moved in centuries are suddenly agitated, and someone left through the Sea of Monsters, recently. There's signs that they headed there from the Trench, but nothing to show that they went back, or that they're going to the other oceans. It's not good, Hades. It's not necessarily world-ending, and hopefully, it's not war-causing, but it's definitely not good." 

Hades listens to the spill of information, looks at Poseidon who is looking at the ceiling, and as the words register, he sits up. 

"Forget not good, this is definitely bad." 

"What do you mean?" 

"Tartarus. The old gods and monsters are protesting. Whatever isn't protesting is rioting. It's chaos to the highest degree. Persephone and I had a handle on it, so nothing has managed to get out so far, but they're definitely trying."

Poseidon breathes out a tired, incredulous laugh, and drags a hand through messy, black hair. "And what a time for us to be in a state like this. No powers, no immortality, no nothing. Just a single weapon each to defend our entire livelihood and possibly even the world, it sounds like." 

Hades tilts his head. "As we're talking about no powers...what happened with the coffee?" 

Poseidon's lips thin into a flat line. "I was pissed, not even thinking about it." He sighs, kisses his teeth. "Don't get your hopes up. I tried it again in the bathroom, and it didn't work. Couldn't access anything intentionally." 

"So they're still there, just only available during high stress situations." 

"It really sucks, having to deal with this." 

"He didn't mean it, Donny." 

"Don't call me that," comes the automatic response, "The only person that calls me that is Demeter and that's because she knows I hate it." 

"Posey, then?" 

"That's even worse, and you know it," he says from where he's leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. "I wasn't even talking about Zeus being an asshole, though. I'm used to that. I'm an asshole back most of the time anyway. Nah, what I don't like putting up with is being cold." 

"Cold?" Hades raises an eyebrow. "You live at the bottom of the ocean."

"Yes, and? Right now, I can regulate my body temperature as well as I can well as I can cause an earthquake, which is to say, not at all. So, therefore. I am. Cold." 

"Come here, then." Hades gently manhandles Poseidon into a position where he can card his fingers through Poseidon's hair, and lets out a breath as he feels Poseidon relaxing against him. He takes a deep breath before he talks again. "He's just stressed out. Just like us. He'll get over it."

"Like when he "got over it" and banished you?" Poseidon mumbles into Hades' stomach. 

"No, like he's going to have to so that we can survive this." 

"I guess," Poseidon says, and they sit in silence for a while. "This is nice," he murmurs through a yawn, "We haven't done this since we got out of Father's stomach and we slept outside for the first time." 

"Yeah, we haven't," Hades agrees, "It's really been a while..." 

"I should come visit you more often. I missed this." Poseidon sounds sleepy, and Hades can hardly blame him when his own eyelids are drooping and he feels comfortably warm. 

They adjust their positions so that they can both fit comfortably on the couch, shifting until Poseidon's arms are pressed against Hades' chest and his head tucked under Hades' chin. Hypnos takes them no less quickly than he did Zeus, but their sleep is far more restful.

Chapter Text

Zeus wakes up alone. He's not surprised. He and Hera share a bed, but by the time he's properly conscious, she's always gone. He sits up, scrubs tiredly at his eyes and ignores the heavy feeling in his chest that threatens to push him back down onto the bed. 

The thought of his comments the day before makes him cringe, and it turns into a wince as he remembers the steely look in Hades' eyes. 

"Come talk to me, and apologise to Poseidon when you're over your damn temper tantrum.

It wasn't necessarily cruel, just...cold. Matter-of-fact. He and Hades had never gotten along particularly well, Hades' cool, composed demeanour never really meshing with Zeus' own brashness. It had taken him a while to get used to his other siblings as well; Hera's fierce temper, Demeter's fussiness, Hestia's steadfast presence, and Poseidon's unpredictability all clashed with his own personality traits--some more than others. They were set in their ways, and Zeus had never been able to change that. Despite accepting Zeus as king, Poseidon had never bent to Zeus' will. Neither had Hestia, for that matter. He had lost Hera the first time he cheated on her, and Demeter did as she pleased. Hades, however, had seemed detached from it all in a way that made Zeus seethe. 

He'd never officially banished Hades, but when Hades had finally become tired of Zeus' bullshit and refused to return to Olympus, Zeus' anger had culminated into a tangent against his brother. By the time word had gotten out, his pride kept him from correcting the misconception, leaving him as the only god who knew the truth. 

Zeus sighs. He can imagine Hestia lecturing them about the importance of family and how he could use this inconvenience to better their relationship, but the fact of the matter remains. He and Poseidon are always seconds away from a head-on collision, and he and Hades are an unstoppable force versus an immovable object. He and his siblings are simply incompatible, and besides, they've always been disconnected on a level. All six of them. It simply isn't noticed as they all have more important things to pay attention to. 

Hades and Demeter's dislike for each other had festered long before Persephone's marriage to Hades. She cared too much about most things, and Hades didn't seem to care enough. Hera and Poseidon's tempers are quick and destructive enough to rival each other's, and Hera prefers that everyone see things the way she does, rather than adjust her own perspective. Poseidon and Demeter's conversations are always stilted, their interactions are awkward. She can't quite forgive him for the crop failures during the Dust Bowl. 

Shaking himself out of his thoughts, he puts his feet on the floor, stands up. Then, he takes a deep breath and exits the bedroom. He recalls Poseidon saying something about sharing with Hades, but given the size of the couch, it would've been difficult. Granted, Poseidon had a leaner, more lithe build than him or Hades, and was a bit shorter, but still. Hestia had sent them all back to around twenty years old, meaning two mostly-grown men, one of whom was 6'4, had to fit on one couch that didn't even have a pull-out bed. 

He stopped wondering when he crossed the entryway into the living room and saw the pair tangled together, seemingly comfortable enough to have fallen asleep that way. He stares for a moment, impassive, considering. He thinks about his earlier spiral of thought, he thinks about his sister and her disapproval of their dysfunctionality. His gaze remains focused on his brothers, and he realises that although he'd never gotten along particularly well with either of them, he'd never paid much attention to their relationship with each other, save for the obvious. He keeps walking. 

He steps lighter than he usually does, though, and he makes it to the kitchen with relative success. He opens the fridge, not sure what he's expecting, and finds his thoughts straying. Why should it be so easy for them? They are kings of their own realms, sure, but why do they so rarely carry the stresses the he himself does? Why can they find comfort where he finds none? Why, why, why? What right do they have that he isn't entitled to? 

Zeus closes the refrigerator. There's not much in it, anyway. He turns, and almost chokes on the startled chicken noise that gets caught in his throat. Hades is sitting up now, and their eyes meet over the island that separates the living room from the kitchen. Hades raises an eyebrow, and the breath Zeus was holding sticks in his throat. He doubles over, heaving coughs shuddering his frame, and when he finally catches himself and straightens up, Hades is staring at him. Zeus can just barely see where his mouth is turned up at a corner. 

"What?" he asks, torn between being defensive and choking on air again.

"Nothing." The smirk disappears. "So, have you come to your senses?"

"Considering I was planning on avoiding you both for as long as possible, that's a no."

"Look, I don't know if you've realised yet, but Hestia isn't going to have mercy until she decides we've gotten our heads out of our asses. Civility alone isn't going to cut it, and not interacting at all will get us nowhere."

Zeus' fists clench without his permission. "Everytime either one of you opens your mouth, it's to criticise me." His voice comes out as a growl. "Why should I bother to be nice to you?" 

"I don't get you." Hades eyes him for a minute, and then scoffs. "You don't want to be in this situation, but you don't want to even try to work on the solution either. What's your real problem?" 

"What do you care?" 

"Hestia's whole point was that we need to quit acting like children, and start being better towards each other, both of which, might I add, you're doing terribly at. If we figure out what on Earth your problem is, that might be a good place to start." 

"Not even because you actually give a shit?" Zeus slides out from behind the island. "We've always been dysfunctional, but it only matters now that Hestia's had a hand in it? You don't want to know what my deal is because you care about me. And I don't want to know yours because you're just as bad of a fuckup as I am. It doesn't matter how hard we try, we're all selfish dicks and that's all we'll ever be, so it makes no difference even bothering! Just fuck off, already!" 

"No, I don't think I will." 

"Great, just great. Normally, you being an antisocial prick pisses me off, but the one time I'm counting on it, you decide not to be. Of fucking course." 

He glares at the other god, hoping that his powers will miraculously kick in and electrocute Hades where he sits, but nothing happens. He switched tactics, thinks about how hard it would be to beat him in a simple fistfight, of maybe a wrestling match. Zeus has more muscle on him, but Hades is taller, and Zeus has no idea of what his skills are like when it comes to hand-to-hand. Fuck. 

"And why should my being an antisocial prick affect you? The only person you care about is yourself, anyways." 

"Of course I only care about myself! It's not like any of you do. Or like your opinions are even worth anything! You think I care about how easy your jobs are? Or how you can make yourselves happy? You think I care about how you aren't destroying yourselves? I don't! I don't care, I don't care, I don't care! I don't care about how none of you spend time with me anymore! I don't care at all!

He's...crying, now. He's not sure when he started crying, but he is now. 

"Sit down, Zeus. Come on, take it easy. Sit." 

He's not sure when Poseidon woke up, either. He doesn't sit, but he takes a deep breath and leans back against the island. He looks at Poseidon, focuses on him while he tries to remember how to breathe. 

"It sounds like you care a lot more than you realise. Or want to." 

"Fuck off," Zeus croaks. "Just...fuck off." 

Poseidon looks over his shoulder at Hades, sighs, and then, turns back. "Alright. Okay. First of all, we do care about you. Your head's just been stuck so far up your own ass that you couldn't be bothered to see it. Why give a damn about your siblings when you can flaunt your status and seduce people, huh? Pretty hard to spend time with someone when they're always off entertaining themselves alone.

"Secondly, yes, we're all fuckups. We've made mistakes. But, we're working on it, and it'll definitely make a difference if it means getting back to normal. Got that?" 

Zeus stares. 

"As for how easy our jobs are? I'm going to explain this as simply as I can. Are you aware of what an open relationship is?" He waits for Zeus to nod, slow and confused, but a definite nod. "Good. Amphitrite and I married because she wanted a kingdom and I wanted someone capable to help me rule. Yes, we love each other, but this is a mutually beneficial agreement that means that she is fully aware of what I do and she doesn't mind. Because of how this works, I'm not breaking her trust, and she has no reason to break mine. Therefore, we can still work together efficiently. 

"Hades and Persephone have a similar agreement, although they just got married 'cause they like each other. And to annoy Demeter, but that's beside the point. Granted, it doesn't make much of a difference because Hades is loyal anyway, but she and Styx have been together for a while now, and they're very happy. So, again. No breach of trust, no problem." Poseidon stops talking. Runs a hand through his hair. Sighs. Continues. "Happiness, self-destruction... Damn. How do I say this--How am I supposed to even...?"

He looks over his shoulder at Hades again, shrugs, a little helplessly and the other comes over to join them. "I know it's a lot to take in, but what you need to understand is that a lot of things went wrong after you first cheated on Hera. They stayed wrong after you neither apologised, nor stopped. It was just the five of us for so long, and then, there was you. She was happy, you know, and then, you cheated and she thought that you weren't happy with her. After all, what is the goddess of marriage to do when she can't satisfy her husband? We left you alone, but then you didn't apologise and that's how you brought this on yourself. You broke her trust and ours, by extension, and proved a lack of loyalty to your family. 

"Everything went downhill from there, I guess. I suppose that was the wake-up call. Because if you went through all the trouble of rescuing us, married our sister, integrated yourself into our family and still turned your back afterwards, who's to say one of us wouldn't do the same? As for time together...well, you made it explicitly clear you wanted nothing much to do with either of us. Coming for our throats every time we're in the same room together isn't exactly the best way to say you miss us." 

Poseidon reaches out, telegraphing his actions as best he can, and very slowly pulls Zeus into a hug. 

"It's a lot, I know, but once we get back to normal, everything will be okay. We can fix things." 

"Hera..."

"You can apologise to her when you feel better." Hades drops a hand on his shoulder, pats it gently. "For now, take it easy." 

Between the two of them, they get Zeus to the couch, where he falls into a fitful sleep. 

"What time is it? We'd better figure out how we're paying for this place." 

Hades shrugs and grabs a jacket from one of the clothing bags still strewn across the floor. "Stay with him. I'll go take care of all that." 

"You sure?" 

"I can take care of myself. He can't." 

"Point taken. See you later." 

Hades doesn't respond verbally, instead electing to wave over his shoulder without turning around as he heads for the door. Poseidon drops into the armchair, and curls up into a comfortable little ball. After that conversation, a nap definitely couldn't hurt. 

Chapter Text

Poseidon wakes up to someone rummaging around in the kitchen, and when he looks over to see Zeus sprawled across the couch in a manner reminiscent of depressed fettuccine, he figures it must be Hades. 

He doesn't get a chance to greet him, though, because the window flies open and Hermes stumbles into the room, tripping over his own feet. Poseidon opens his mouth, about to make a joke about his clumsiness, but it shuts with a click when he looks--really looks--at Hermes again. He looks exhausted, the bags under his eyes large and dark and screaming that he's been pushing himself. He looks panicked, and everything about him seems bright and wild and urgent. 

Hermes makes a sound at the back of his throat, and his sandals seem to understand it as a command to stop, immediately ceasing to move. Before he can start falling out of the air, he disappears into a cloud of smoke, and reappears on the carpeted floor. He pitches forward despite there being nothing but solid concrete and carpet beneath his feet, and Poseidon rushes forward to catch him before he can fall over. 

He guides Hermes towards the armchair, but Hermes just waves a hand and coughs. "Message." 

"What?" 

"Message. From--it's from Olympus. Athena said...she--she said they're gone, and that, um, that it's happening again. Some giant, black, shadowy, mist thing took 'em, Aunt Hestia, and Aunt Demeter, and Aunt Hera. It, um, it--" he shudders, coughs rattling his frame, "I'm sorry, so sorry, I took so long, I've been flying forever, but it's fine, it's--they, um, ugh. I don't know where they are, but it's bad. Hypnos says they're sleeping, and then, he kind of disappeared so we got Morpheus to--to check, and it's--Uncle, he said he saw his worst nightmare. Said that it's a tactic designed to destroy a being from the inside out using fear. They're coming again. Oh Fates, what do we do?" 

Gently, Poseidon pushes Hermes to sit on the armchair, and he can hear Hermes' heart rate pick up.

"Can't stay, have to warn the others--have to go, let me go!" 

"Not just yet, Hermes, you need to calm down."

"I need to help!" 

"If you continue like this, you won't be able lift even a finger by this afternoon. Breathe." 

"I--ugh." Hermes buries his face in his knees, breathing into his hands. He feels the hand rubbing at his back  and leans further forward. He remains as he is, until the world stops tilting and looking fuzzy at the edges. "Thank you. Thank you. I needed that. I should. Go. Now." 

He forces himself to his feet, ignoring the sounds of protest, but then, he stops, pausing when he hears Hades' voice drifting in from the kitchen. 

"Where are you going from here?" 

"Apollo's. Ares got hurt by the whatever-it-was that took them, so we need him. And then, back to Olympus. Hephaestus is making new armour for everyone because that thing tore through Ares' like it was paper. I'll need to distribute that." 

"Do you think Apollo would have noticed if anything was off somewhere?" Poseidon asks.

"He might've. What? Do you think they've set up a base of operations somewhere?" Hades steps fully into the living room, and leans back against the doorframe. 

"There's a possibility."

"Alright." Hades looks at Hermes. "Tell Apollo to meet us as soon as he's done with Ares." 

"Consider it done. Good luck." 

Hermes commands his sandals to take him up, and he's gone in a matter of seconds. 

Taking Hermes' spot on the armchair, Poseidon sucks in a breath and blows it out onto his hands. "Fuck," he says. 

"Yeah."

"Fuck."

"I know. This isn't good." 

"This is extremely not ideal. Fuck. What the hell could've just waltzed in there and taken the girls? We sent pretty much everything back to Tartarus during the last war. The only way something could still be dicking around up here is if they were neutral before, or there wasn't anything left of them to send back." 

"They'd have to be powerful enough to push around even a god. And for that god to be Ares, of all people. So, we're not looking at a demigod here, and not even a another god. The Titans are all rotting and rioting in the Underworld, so that leaves...the Protogenoi. Who've been scattered for however long...so we haven't been keeping an eye on them while we probably should've. Shit." Hades has taken to pacing now, hands clasped behind his back. 

"Okay. Damn. So, black, evil, shadowy mist thing...Chaos, maybe?" 

"Dispersed and collected to form the earth, which is Gaea, who was dispersed during the last war. It's impossible. We're definitely looking at someone else here." 

"Black, evil, shadowy mist thing, black, evil, shadowy mist thing...oh, fuck." He looks up, and finds Hades staring right back at him. 

"Nyx," he says, at the same time Hades says, "Erebus."

"Knowing our history, and our luck, it's probably both. Ugh." 

"I wouldn't be surprised." 

There's silence for a minute, but then it's broken by knocking at the front door. Their visitor doesn't wait for a response, strolling in past a groggy, waking Zeus. He looks grim, and when he takes off his sunglasses, it's easy to see that Apollo has already begun prepping for battle. There is no trace of his usual brightness in his eyes. The bright blue is hard and dull, and his mouth is pressed into a thin line. 

"Good to see you, Uncles. Hermes said you wanted to talk?"

"Have you seen anything unusual lately? Any areas with increased monster activity, strange climate, anything?" 

"There's been a tonne of things coming up from Cincinnati, lately. I dispatched most of them before they had a chance to get far, but they just kept coming. It sort of chilled out after a major blackout yesterday. The mortals haven't been able to sleep either, it's like the whole place spontaneously developed insomnia. One of my kids has been praying like crazy, hoping I'd be able to do something about it." 

Poseidon looks at Hades. Shrugs. "Looks like we're going to Cincinnati, then." 

"What, like that? No. No way. You cannot be thinking about storming the base of the thing that stole my aunts while you're mortal! It's insane," Apollo stresses. 

"It's necessary. They have our sisters, they've attacked Olympus, and our homes are in danger as long as those things walk free. It's insane, sure, but we have to do it."

Apollo sighs. "No one's ready for another war, but I suppose we don't have a choice, do we? Damn. This doesn't look good, and you guys can't do this in your own." 

"We can't. Which is why we'll need help from the others. Hermes is already taking care of that. For now, though, we need to speak with your sister." 

"Artie? What for?" 

"She and her Hunters will be especially critical for defending against their allies so we can focus on getting to Erebus. Or Nyx. Or both. Whichever one of them it is." 

"Erebus, as in the primordial being of darkness and mist, Nyx's husband and one of the most horrifying deities to walk the Earth. That Erebus? And Nyx, narcissistic, fucking terrifying personification of the damn night? That Nyx?" 

With a grim nod, Poseidon notes the way Apollo's face closes. 

"Fuckin'...damn it. How soon do you want to see her?" 

"As soon as possible sounds good." 

"Okay. Okay. Well, grab whatever you need and let's bounce, I guess. I'm ready whenever." 

It takes only a moment to snatch up their few belongings and stuff them into the backpack they started out with and a duffel retrieved from the bottom of the closet. 

"Zeus. Zeus. C'mon. It's time to go." Poseidon says, nudging him. 

"Already?" The response is half-slurred, but whether it's from sleep or residual feelings, he can't tell. 

"Yeah. We'll explain in the sun chariot." 

"The what?" Zeus asks. 

"Sun chariot. Let's go meet Artemis." 

Chapter Text

"Artie's in Cali right now, so buckle up. We've got a long way to go." It doesn't take long to shove what little baggage they have with them into the trunk of the Maserati. Apollo slides into the front seat, and he waits for the other three to figure out seating arrangements, which eventually end up being Poseidon sitting shotgun and Hades and Zeus sharing the backseat. 

The engine turns over, and that seems to bring Zeus back into a state of consciousness that allows for proper communication. "Great," he says, although the words are still fuzzy in his mouth. "You can take the time to tell me what's going on."

"He doesn't know?" Apollo asks, as the wheels of the luxury sedan leave the ground. He turns away from the windshield to look incredulously at his uncles and Poseidon nudges him so that he'll refocus his gaze. 

"Why do you sound so shocked? What am I supposed to know?" Zeus' eyes dart between the three other occupants of the vehicle. None of them seem inclined to say anything. 

"Heh, shocked." Apollo chuckles, closing his eyes for a second. "Classic." 

"Focus, Apollo," Hades says.

"No, don't focus, tell me what's happening." Irritation scratches up Zeus' spine, and he rubs impatiently at his still bleary eyes. What aren't they telling him? Why aren't they telling him? 

"Eyes on the...road, Apollo. As for you," Poseidon says as he turns to Zeus, "We'll explain if you just give us a minute."

"Why do you need a minute now? You didn't need a minute to explain how I fucked up the majority of my immortal life so far. And why do we need to see Artemis? Last I checked, she wasn't a marriage counsellor. What--" His eye sockets seem to burn with the formation of tears. 

"Wait, you did what?" Apollo gapes, almost turning around in his seat.

"So, yeah, fun story that has nothing to do with that whatsoever. We might die," Poseidon says. "In fact, we will definitely die, if we end up falling out of the sky."

"Alright, alright," Apollo huffs. "Sheesh."

"Right, so. Uh...Hades, you wanna take this one?" 

"What, you can't tell him?"

"Uh, wait, wait, wait, why might we die?" Zeus asks. "I know that we're mortal now, but why does it sound like we are now in a situation that could actively lead to us dying?" He goes ignored.

"Uh...no? I'm busy regretting sitting in front. Kind of very worried about falling to my death right about now. Because I can do that now. There's a...uh, lot of sky."

"Thanks for that. I hadn't reached my daily quota of fearing for my life, so I really appreciate the help. Ugh, anyway. Zeus."

"Ah, yes, are you finally going to tell me what's up?" Zeus asks pointedly. 

"Not with that attitude," Poseidon says, arms crossed. 

"Oh my fucking--"

"Nyx, Erebus or Nyx and Erebus kidnapped Aunt Hestia, Aunt Demeter and Aunt Hera and right now, it looks like we're going to have to fight another war so we're gonna go find Artie and her Hunters so they can help us go rescue them and also, we need to convince everyone to get ready, possibly including the demigods who might be mad at us because we're kind of terrible parents and were useless for most of the last war so yeah, you guys might die. Damn." Apollo exhales, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. 

Zeus makes a sound in the back of his throat that sounds like a cross between a growl and a whimper and drags a hand through his hair. He leans back in his seat and makes the odd noise again, louder this time. "Why? Why? Why? Can't they just fuck off and leave is alone already?" he asks, and his voice cracks.

Cautiously, Hades reaches to pat him on the shoulder. "For as long as we live, there will be those who view us as unfit to rule," he says. 

"Nereus still calls me an arrogant upstart," Poseidon comments helpfully, rolling his eyes. 

"Hey," Hades says. 

"What?"

"Fuck off," Hades tells him, before turning back to Zeus. "Until we find a way to kill an immortal rather than merely banishing them to Tartarus--from where they inevitably attempt to escape--they will not rest until they've reclaimed authority over the world. Right now, there is little we can do besides defend as best as we can and carry out our duties." 

Zeus makes another despairing sound. 

"Oh, cheer up, Dad!" Hermes yells, and Zeus shrieks, flinging himself backward into Hades. Outside the window, Hermes is flying alongside the car, apparently keeping up with no issue. "We checked with Morpheus again and, as it turns out, they're not sleeping anymore! In fact, I don't think anyone or anything that was within a fifteen-mile radius will be sleeping anytime soon!" 

"What? Why?" 

"What happened?" 

"You serious, bro?" 

Hermes nods. "Dead serious, Polly! Let me in, would you? I've been flying forever and this is my last stop on the Good News, We Don't Actually Have to Fight Another War train!" 

"Oh, yeah, sure, dude," Apollo says, and he unlocks the door. Air rushes into the car while Hermes hauls himself inside and situates himself comfortably. The car bucks a bit as he slams the door behind him, but he shakes it off. "So, what's up?" 

"They pissed off Aunt Demeter," Hermes informs them smugly. He shifts, accidentally elbowing Zeus in the side. 

"Oof," Zeus says. 

"Shoot, sorry, Dad. But, like I was saying. They pissed off Auntie Demeter. I'm not exactly sure how, but I do know that Greek Fire was involved and Nyx was delivered to the doors of the Throne Room in pieces. Erebus got away, but she and Aunt Hera got him pretty good. He's still around, but nowhere near strong enough to start another war. We're good to go unless they have another Darkness-Themed-Extra-Bitter-Super-Old-Immortal Bent on Taking Over the World stashed away somewhere." 

"With our luck, that's probably exactly what they've got." 

"I mean, it's true, but that doesn't mean you should say it. You'll jinx us," Hermes frowns. 

"I can say what I want, thanks," Apollo shrugs from the driver's seat. 

"I swear, if you just doomed us all and I have to make this trip again, we'll fight." 

"I'm sorry, do you want me to throw you out?" 

"Shutting up now." 

"Thought so," Apollo hums smugly, and that's that. 

"Nyeh," says Hermes. 

"Blehh," retorts Apollo. 

Ignoring the increasingly incoherent sounds in the background, Poseidon twists in his seat to eye his brothers. Hades is staunchly refusing to look out the window, and Zeus remains pressed against him to avoid getting smacked by Hermes as he gestures. "Is this what Hestia means when she talks about healthy sibling relationships?" he asks. 

Zeus frowns. "No, I think she just wants us to be nicer to each other." 

"We've managed to stop attempting murder whenever we're in the same room, which, when you think about it, that's being nicer, isn't it? Because we can actually die now and we aren't taking the opportunity to actually, successfully kill each other?" 

"No... no, I think she'd just call that being civil," Hades says. "She wants us to be nice, get our act together." 

"Yeah, but what really constitutes "nice"?" Poseidon asks, only to be cut off by a choked noise. 

"You guys don't know how to be nice?" Hermes asks, and he sounds almost offended. 

"Not to each other," Poseidon quickly defends. "Sibling-nice is different than family-nice or king-nice or stranger-nice. I haven't done sibling-nice with anyone except Hestia in literal millennia. It's just been sibling-civil or sibling-rivalry, not sibling-nice." 

"Liar," Zeus sniffs. 

"Excuse me?" Poseidon asks. 

"Liar. That's a lie." 

"What part of that is a lie? Please, do explain. I'd like to think that I know who I have and haven't played nice with." Poseidon's arms are crossed over his chest. Fuck, he feels cold. 

"You--you and Hades have been plotting against me!"

"We've been what?" Hades asks incredulously.

"Oh?" Poseidon says icily into the silence. "Is that so? Really, Hades, you should've said something. I might have actually put effort into it instead of just trying to figure how the fuck we're supposed to get out of this."

"Wh--what--" Zeus starts, but his voice cracks halfway through. 

"What could have possibly--" Hades cuts himself off when Zeus starts hiccuping. "Why would you think that?" 

"It's just--I just--" Zeus starts again, but as tears well up in his eyes, he stops. 

"Hermes, swap with me," Poseidon says, tiredly. 

Hermes looks between the three gods, carefully cataloguing Zeus, with tears threatening to fall from his eyes, Hades, who was sighing with a hand on bridge of his nose, and Poseidon, who'd looked near murderous not two minutes ago. "I don't--" 

"Now," Poseidon growls, and then, Hermes is awkwardly scrambling across the centre console and into the front seat. When he's situated in the back seat, Poseidon turns to Zeus and the exhaustion returns full force. "Why on Earth would you think we were plotting against you?" 

"Because--" he hiccups, "because you don't like me as much as you like each other and I was worried and you were being nice to each other but not to me and--and--and--" 

"Okay," Poseidon says, quietly. Slowly. "Okay." He sighs. "Okay." 

"That wasn't us plotting," Hades says, sighing and gingerly wrapping an arm around Zeus, ignoring the literal jolt of electricity that runs up his arm when Zeus startles. "If we were plotting, you'd have no idea." It's quiet for a moment, the only sound being Hermes and Apollo valiantly making an attempt to remain uninterested in the conversation by having one of their own. "I suppose we have been nice to each other," he frowns. 

"No," Poseidon says. "That wasn't nice, that was just normal." 

"No," Zeus says. "That was nice. Normally, you argue with anybody who steps within a ten foot radius of you." 

"That's normal when I'm within a ten foot radius of you and your daughter because neither of you know how to let anything go. Or you just plain refuse to." 

"We wouldn't need to if you'd just not act like a little bitch in the first place," Zeus snipes back. 

Poseidon grits his teeth. "See? Normal. The same way you've jumped on my case every chance you got and continue to jump on my case over the course of the last how-many-ever millennia, is the same way Hades doesn't. That's our normal. Nice would be...I don't know, sending him a fruit basket or something." 

 "A fruit basket?" Hades asks, arching an eyebrow. 

"Doggie basket, then, if you have a problem. Cerberus would appreciate it." 

"He would." 

Zeus huffs, sitting up and causing Hades to retract his arm. "I don't know how this could be anything besides nice." 

"Because you've gotten to used to normal being attacking us whenever you can," Hades tells him drily. 

"Well, when you put it like that--" Zeus starts, wincing. 

Poseidon cuts him off. "It's no wonder Hestia's trying to fix us." 

"That's...not what I was going to say ,but fuck's sake, stop putting stuff like that," Zeus says. 

"Like what?" 

"Like we're...broken, or complete assholes or something. We can manage just fine." 

"I am a complete asshole, though. If I wasn't, chances are Hestia would have just left me alone, but she didn't, so." Poseidon shrugs. 

"You're not that bad," Hades says. "She could just as well have stuck you with us to play mediator." 

"More like devil's advocate," Zeus snorts. 

"I'm the middle brother, I am legally required to play both mediator and devil's advocate, regardless of circumstance." 

"Legally required?" 

"Middle sibling law. It's from before your time. You wouldn't know about it." 

"We're immortal, time has no meaning," Hades says. 

"Usually, anyway," Zeus grumbles. 

"So...being nice, huh?" Poseidon says after a moment. "And it has to be nice enough for Hestia or else we die. But also, not too nice, right?" 

"Is it even possible to be too nice?" 

"I don't know, but what I meant was that if we ever make to Hestia levels of sibling-nice, I would probably do anything for you and I know that neither of you are above exploiting that." 

"You should not have told me that. Now, I'm making it my mission to get us to Hestia levels of sibling-nice and there's nothing you can do about it," Zeus shrugs.

"No, fuck off," Poseidon says. 

"Too late, you're stuck with us." 

"You suck, and I hate you," Poseidon informs them. For the first time in a long time, he doesn't feel like he means it.