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Lonely In-Betweens

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Hades didn’t mean to kidnap her. He thought he’d worked everything out. It was a miscommunication, that’s all. When he found out how much he’d hurt her, his heart ached in sympathy and guilt. He wanted to make it up to her.

No one that lovely should have to suffer.

It was getting better, though. Persephone seemed less lonely, less miserable. She liked to wander the gardens, bare feet crunching over dry grass, and where she touched desiccated black vines, glowing blue flowers sprang up under her fingertips. She brought beauty and life to everything she touched, to a world long dead.

He wasn’t trying to seduce her. He just wanted her to be happy. He wanted her not to hate him. He wanted to make her laugh, because when she did, it echoed through the halls like a melody.

Slowly, she opened, like a flower under the first rays of the morning sun, and he found a fierce warrior hidden under those petals. No one had taught her to be as hard and cold and unforgiving as iron, but the ore was there, ready to be transformed by a skilled worker. She wasn’t afraid of the dead who wandered the halls, or Cerberus, who guarded the gate. He watched her find her strength, and he found that she could make him laugh, too. It sounded like a creaky gate swinging open, but there were worse sounds to be heard down here.

When she finally allowed him into her bed, he was the happiest he could ever remember being. She was warm and soft and he gave everything he had to her, and in turn, she gave back.

When Demeter stormed the hall, bringing harsh light like fire to scorch away his peaceful darkness, he wanted to throw her out. He wanted to lock the gates and force his queen to stay by his side, where they could hide away from the world together and be happy. But she would not be forced, or controlled, or contained. He thought he would love her less if she would.

The bargain was struck. Six months below with him, six months above with her mother. No one could say it wasn’t fair. And so she left, and his once-comforting darkness seemed to suffocate him like a too-heavy blanket.

He didn’t mention what was growing inside him. Demeter might have seen it as him unjustly trying to sway Persephone from her decision. Though he was surprised that she did not know. After all, everything she touched sprouted life in this cold dead world. Why would he be different?

He did his duties as Lord of the Dead. No one could claim otherwise. And if he was counting the days until his queen returned, well, that was his right. He marked the passing of time by the swell of his belly and dreamed of honeysuckle and fresh grass.

When he heard Cerberus’s joyous barks, he nearly ran to the gates. He saw her before she saw him, had a moment to admire her sun-browned skin and gold-streaked dark hair as three canine heads all tried to lick her at once. She laughed, and it was like rainfall in a desert, like snow melting on a mountaintop, like a down mattress after sleeping on cold, hard stone.

All of a sudden, he found himself shy, self-conscious of the belly bulging out beneath the black robes he wore. Would she still want him in this state? Would she want their child? He thought he might be able to bear it if she turned away from him. If she turned away from this miracle they had made together, it would break him.

She caught sight out of the corner of her eye of him hovering in the shadows, and ran to him, threw her arms around him in an embrace. Her flat stomach pressed against his round one, and she leapt back. Her copper eyes widened.

“How—?” She reached out a trembling hand to touch. “What—?”

“ …Mine?”

“Yes,” he said, clasping his cold white hand over her warm brown one. “Yours.”

She wrapped her arms around his shoulders again, more carefully this time. “Ours,” she breathed into his neck, and she was the sun, bringer of life.

He could weather their separations, if he had this to remember her by.