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Those Who Aim at Great Deeds

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From Persephone’s texts:

Artemis: Are you going to be home in time for movie night? 

Artemis : Stupid brother out of town, don’t wanna watch alone

Persephone: I’ll try. Maybe ask Eros + Psyche to come?

 

Tori: I haven’t seen you around lately. Are you okay?

Persephone: Sorry! My job keeps me really busy.

Tori: Oh, where are you working?

 

***

 

Hades strode along towards his office, looking at his phone. From the corner of his eye, he noticed someone standing at the reception desk, talking to his new PA. 

“Hestia? Is that you?” Hades had an ominous feeling about the reason for this unexpected visit.

“Hello, Hades. I was hoping you could spare a few minutes.”

“Of course, come in.” He showed his old friend into his office. “Can I offer you coffee? Or tea, maybe?”

“No thank you, I don’t intend to take very long,” she replied.

“I haven’t seen you in ages, how are you?” he asked, trying to delay the inevitable.

“I’m just fine. I’ll get right to the point, although it’s a bit awkward. I’m here to ask you to behave with a bit more discretion where Persephone is concerned.”

Hades winced. “This is about that damned tabloid, right? Look, it’s a bunch of lies. Persephone was only at my house because Aphrodite played a trick on us.”

“Yes, that’s what Persephone said, but it hasn’t stopped there, has it? You’ve been out in public with her since then.”

“What about it?” Hades was trying to keep a lid on his temper. “She works here, which was Hera’s idea, not mine. And we’re friends,” he added defiantly.

“Hades, dear, don’t get upset. I’m not accusing you of anything. I’ve known you for a long time and I’m sure you’d never do anything dishonorable.”

Now he was really irritated. Hestia’s tone was distinctly patronizing. “Then what’s the problem?”

Hestia took up an attitude of long-suffering patience. “It’s not just the facts, it’s how things look. My organization is very vulnerable to rumor and insinuation and we don’t need people gossiping about our newest associate member.”

Hestia went on: “I’ve already had to discipline her and it was less effective than I had hoped. Persephone just isn’t very serious about her role with us.”

“That would surprise me very much,” Hades said soberly. “She seems to take both her work and her classes quite seriously.” Discipline? What does that mean?

“That’s a different thing,” Hestia sighed. “I know she’s a good student, that’s why we offered a scholarship. But this is a matter of propriety and carelessness, and I’m afraid the girl is rather lacking. All I’m asking is for you not to make it worse.”

Hestia’s evaluation of Persephone’s character was insulting and wildly inaccurate and the older goddess’s rules seemed absurd. Despite his resentment, Hades was very aware that getting upset with Hestia on Persephone’s behalf would not help at all. I need to keep my mouth shut. “I understand your concern. I’ll do what I can.” 

Hestia looked pleased. “I knew I could count on you! I won’t take up any more of your time. Could you just direct me to Persephone’s office, please?”

Hades politely gave directions and showed her out. As soon as Hestia was out of sight and earshot, he pulled out his phone and called Persephone.

“Hi there,” she said cheerily. “What can I do for you?”

“I just spoke with Hestia, and she’s coming to see you right now. She’s upset about us being seen in public.”

“Oh.” Persephone’s voice went flat. “Thank you for telling me.”

“Do you want me to come down? I will if you want.”

“No, thanks. I’d better just take my medicine.” She sounded grim.

“Call me back when she leaves?”

“Okay. Bye.”

Hades returned to his office, feeling anxious and guilty. This is my fault. I’m the one who asked her to lunch. I’m the one who had a breakdown and needed comforting.

He wanted so desperately to be a good friend to Persephone, someone she could turn to for support. Instead it seemed that no matter what he did, he brought stress and complications to her life, if not outright pain. What the hell did Hestia mean, discipline? I’ll bet that was because of the tabloid . He pondered this moodily, trying to guess what consequences Hestia might have imposed. 

Hades looked at his watch, wondering how long Hestia was going to take in telling off Persephone. Maybe I should go down there? No, better wait. He wished Persephone didn’t have to put up with this nonsense. Why does she want to be part of that stupid organization, anyway? It makes no sense. He took Persephone’s stone out of his pocket and fiddled with it to pass the time. He liked carrying it around with him. When he walked, he could feel it swinging against his leg, a constant gentle reminder of her kindness. He should probably give it back. She could use a little luck right now.

His phone buzzed with an incoming text from Persephone: She’s gone now. Hades rose and dashed from his office, stuffing his phone and the rock back into his pockets.

When he arrived at her office, Persephone was staring off into space, tense, her arms closed tight across her body.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“Yeah, I guess. I’m getting pretty tired of her telling me what to do.”

“I am so sorry. I feel terrible.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong.” Persephone shook her head.

“Maybe not wrong , but I’m still responsible for making things tough for you. Again.”

“No,” she said firmly. “It’s Hestia who’s responsible for this. May I ask, what did she say to you?”

“She more or less said I shouldn’t be out in public with you any more.”

“Oh.” Persephone’s eyes were big. “Did you agree to that?”

“Not really. I was pretty vague.”

“Good,” she replied. “I didn't either.” There was a trace of fierceness in her voice now. Hades wondered how she’d gotten away without giving Hestia exactly what she wanted. She’s angry.

“Are you upset with me?” he asked.

“No, I’m upset with that--” Persephone’s mouth closed on a syllable, but she didn’t give it breath. Hades waited eagerly, to see if she’d go on, but she didn’t.

“Busybody?” he supplied, smirking.

“That will do.” Her ferocity was increasing,

“You are angry.”

Persephone sighed. “It’s clear that someone told Hestia about our lunch last week. And from the details that she mentioned--I’m pretty sure it was Minthe.”

“You see? I’m definitely responsible for that.” I knew it had to be my fault in some way.

“If it’s true.”

“Right. Well. I have an idea. I’ll mention this to Alecto and have her check it out. The Furies are good at this sort of thing.”

Persephone took a moment to consider. “All right. That works for me.” 

Hades decided to switch to a lighter topic, to cheer her up a bit. “Is Cerberus not visiting today?” he teased gently.

Persephone’s cheek twitched in a tiny hint of a smile. “He was here when you called but I sent him away. I didn’t want the temptation to tell him to bite Hestia.”

 

***

 

From Persephone’s texts:

Eros: Please tell me you’re coming to yoga tonight. If you miss again I’ll be pissed.

Persephone: OK, don’t be mad if I’m a little late

Eros: Dad says hi. I dunno why he can’t text you himself.

Eros: He also says you better show up for target shooting or you’re in trouble. What the hell does that mean?

Persephone: Yeah yeah I’ll be there. Seriously, why can’t he text himself? Are his thumbs broken?

 

***

 

“Good morning, Persephone. Come in and sit down.” Hecate gestured to her guest chair. “How’s the project going?” 

“It’s going really well. There were a few initial snags, but the basic contractors have just finished, and the landscaping can begin.” 

“Excellent. I’ve been meaning to ask you, can you write up a manual for the work you do with the shades? Especially how you write the summaries and recommendations, and a separate procedure manual for the rebirth process.”

“Sure, I’ll do that. Can I ask why you want a manual?” Persephone felt a knot of fear in the pit of her stomach. This job was very important to her. I can’t mess this up!

Hecate smiled kindly. “You’ve completely streamlined the whole judgment process, which frees up a lot of time for Hades. But I’m thinking that with the Elysium project you’re massively overloaded and we should get someone else to take over the lower-level parts of your job.”

Persephone’s anxiety was not soothed. All my plans depend on this job! “Have I been messing up? I’ve tried really hard not to let anything slip!” She bit her lip nervously.

“Persephone--you can’t fool me. You’ve been working twelve-hour days and coming in on your days off. Plus all your classes? You’re doing stellar work but you’re gonna crack up at this rate.”

“Some of the time I spend here is studying and homework. Is that okay? I like it here. It’s really quiet and no one bothers me.”

Hecate’s smile this time was smug. “I’m very glad you like it here,” she purred. “However, you’re working too hard and offloading some of your job makes sense.”

“But Elysium won’t take that long!”

“It’s supposed to run for ten months,” Hecate raised an eyebrow, inviting Persephone to state outright what had only been hinted at before.

Persephone took a deep breath and plunged in. “I told you. I don’t need the budget and I don’t need that much time. I can do most of the work myself. With my powers.” Now you’ve done it. You were supposed to keep quiet about that until you were sure! “I’ll still need a job to do when the project is over. The handbook said if I ‘exceed expectations’ I might get a permanent job offer. I really want that.”

“Oh honey,” replied Hecate, shaking her head. “You are already so far beyond that, it’s ludicrous to mention your name and ‘intern’ in the same sentence. You do realize it’s not normal for interns to run huge projects like Elysium? There’s no question you’ll get a permanent position here.”

 

***

 

From Persephone’s texts:

Megaera: Lunch today?

Persephone: Sorry, no time. Tomorrow?

Megaera: Nope, it’ll have to be next week.

 

Hades: [picture of Fudge and JP playing]

Persephone: Awwww! More please!

 

***

 

Persephone hurried down the hallway. She’d spent all morning working in Elysium, and now had just barely enough time to grab a bite of lunch in her office and change before court. She sighed. Maybe Hecate had a point about getting another person to work on the court summaries. She’d had to stay quite late last night to make sure she was up to date. 

She turned a corner and noticed a door opening ahead of her. She could hear voices coming from the space beyond. Ugh, is that Thanatos? I don’t want to talk to him. Quickly she sidestepped into an empty conference room, and peeked back out. Thanatos was speaking with an olive-colored satyr with curly horns. Persephone vaguely recognized him: Avin, from Security, I think?

“Don’t forget, I’m depending on you,” said Thanatos.

Avin snickered. “Don’t worry. It won’t be a problem.”

“Good. I’ll see you tonight in Vathia.” 

The two went off in separate directions.

What’s Vathia? Persephone wondered. The deep place, she translated. Huh. Maybe a nightclub? She left her hiding place, curiosity driving her to check the room the two had emerged from. A supply closet? That’s odd. She resumed walking back to her office, entertaining herself with speculation. Maybe they’re lovers! Persephone couldn’t really believe even Thanatos would do that in the office, but it was an amusing idea. He just better hope Hades doesn’t catch him.

 

***

 

From Persephone’s texts:

Persephone: Have you ever heard of a club called Vathia?

Eros: No why is it new? Tell me more!

 

Artemis: I never see you anymore! Can we have dinner or something?

Persephone: OK, but I won’t be home until 8. Want me to bring takeout?

 

***

 

Persephone surveyed her work, satisfaction bringing a wide smile to her face. She’d just completed laying in the broad strokes: shaping Elysium into a semblance of hills and valleys, streams and ponds. It was nearly ready for her to start creating the vegetation that would make it lovely. She yawned and stretched. It was very hard work, much different from the usual things she did in Spring, which amounted to little more than gardening with her powers. This is something completely new, and I made it myself! She grinned in delight.

Well, time to finish for today. It was only late afternoon, but Persephone had promised Artemis that she’d be home in time to be sociable. Her housemate was growing increasingly exasperated over Persephone’s long working hours. At least there’s little chance that he will be there. Lately he had been off somewhere in the Mortal Realm. Artemis said he was looking for something. Persephone was pretty sure she knew what that was, and was vindictively pleased.

She exited the portal and checked that it was properly locked. There were very few people who currently had access, but Persephone felt a bit protective of Elysium, and wasn’t ready to show it to anyone yet. For the moment, it was hers alone, to shape and arrange as she pleased. The freedom she felt in this project, the sense of power it gave her, was enormously exciting and addictive. I could get used to this.

As Persephone turned to leave, she could hear someone approaching. She frowned, and stayed put, guarding the portal. After a moment, Hermes appeared around the corner of the corridor leading to the elevator bank. Oh, Hermes, she thought. What’s he doing here?

“Hey Perse!” he called merrily. “So is this your big new project?”

“Yes. What are you doing here?”

“I had some free time, so I thought I’d come check it out. How about you show me around?”

He’s just curious , she told herself. Be nice. “Thanks for the interest, Hermes. I’m not ready to show it to anyone yet, though. Besides, there’s not much to see right now.” Persephone exerted herself to be polite, even though she felt quite defensive of her work. “Come on, I’ll walk you back to Tower One.”

Hermes laughed, and went along, with a show of reluctance. As they walked together, he teased and cajoled, trying to get Persephone to agree to show off her project.

 

***

 

Hades left the elevator and turned toward the portal to Elysium. He was pretty sure that Persephone was still working there and hadn’t left for the day. I really should have come to see her work before now. I hope she doesn’t think that I don’t care.  

He stopped short when he heard Hermes’s voice approaching from around the corner.

“Aw, c’mon. I’m good at keeping secrets! I never told anyone about the stuff we’ve done. Y’know. Making out and all that?” Hermes made some revolting smacking noises to back up his statement.

“Would you knock it off? I said no already.” Persephone’s voice. Hades went cold all over. For a moment his vision blacked and his ears roared. When he came back to himself he was no longer cold, but extremely hot. He fought down the urge to let his skin darken, his teeth sharpen. Stay calm. Whatever you do, don’t scare her.

She was speaking again. “Did you go to that party at Naxos? I heard it was really amazing.”

The pair turned the corner together, and stopped suddenly upon seeing Hades.

It was Persephone who recovered first. “Oh, hello Hades. Were you looking for me?” she asked brightly. 

Hades nodded, not trusting himself to speak yet.

“Okay then, I’ll see you later,” said Hermes, and took himself off. Hades followed his departure with a vicious glare, and did not notice Persephone’s relief. When he looked back, she was waiting patiently.

“How can I help?” she asked.

Hades’s earlier mood of pleasant anticipation was completely gone. He felt wretched. He wanted to be the one sneaking off with Persephone, kissing in corners. He wanted to be the one she kept secrets with. He spoke haltingly: “I was coming to take a look at Elysium. I meant to--that is, I didn’t mean to leave it this long.”

“I was actually going home for the day--” she wavered.

“Well, never mind then.” He turned and retreated rapidly, certain that if he stayed any longer he would lose self-control and embarrass himself. He did not see Persephone’s expression of hurt confusion.

 

***

 

From Persephone’s texts:

Persephone: I’m happy to show you Elysium any time you want. 

Persephone: I didn’t mean to be balky about it. I’m sorry.

Persephone: I mean it, any time.

Persephone: Are you upset with me?

Hades: Of course not. Just busy. I’ll talk to you soon.

 

***

 

Persephone was wrapping up an expenditure report that needed to be sent today. At the same time, she was absent-mindedly listening to Megaera, who was seated on Persephone’s desk, playing with her phone and waiting for the other goddess to be ready for lunch. 

“Can I just say how thrilled I am that you’ve given us an excuse for spying on Minthe?” gloated Megaera. “I’ve wanted to rip that nymph to shreds for years .”

“Um? You’re welcome, I guess.” Although she had cautiously been making friends with Megaera for some time, Persephone had shied away from the whole topic of Hades and Minthe. She was a little surprised now that Megaera brought it up.

“Yep,” Megaera went on cheerfully. “You know how I used to have a thing for Hades? Minthe liked to flaunt it in my face. She is such a bitch.”

“Wait, used to have a thing?”

“Oh yeah, I’m so over him. I think it was sometime after they went official that I woke up one morning and said, who needs his dumb ass? And I threw out my scrapbook and that was that.”

Scrapbook? Persephone wasn’t sure what to say. She was relieved, but at the same time, she felt deceitful for not sharing her own feelings with Megaera. On the other hand, maybe it was best to be careful around one of the Furies.

“So…” Megaera went on in a playful tone. 

“So?”

“Oh come on, Persephone. You’re not fooling anyone. Everyone knows you’ve got a crush on Hades.”

Everyone knows?” Persephone wailed.

“Okay, calm down, not everyone. But my sisters and I do. And it’s okay, I’m not mad. As long as he makes you happy, I’m good with it. If he doesn’t, I’ll kick his butt for you.” Megaera grinned and Persephone was again reminded that her friend might be small and adorable, but she was still a Fury.

“Thank you? I mean, you do know that it’s not at all a real thing, right?”

“Yeah, I know. I’m just saying, you should go for it.” Megaera went back to her phone and Persephone went back to her report, in mutual agreement that the conversation needed a cooling-off period.

As she continued to enter numbers in the spreadsheet, Persephone found her mind wandering to other topics. Like Hades’s strange behavior the other day. It’s almost like he was upset with me. I shouldn’t have waffled, I should have said of course I’d show him Elysium. 

Persephone was really of two minds about this. Deep in her heart, she cherished a plan to keep Elysium to herself until it was complete, and then show it to Hades as a complete surprise. She could picture his look of astonished delight when she finally showed him. It would almost be a gift. She smiled to herself. Well, that’s never going to happen if he doesn’t start talking to me . She quickly checked her phone again. No new text, no email, no call. 

She sighed and got back to concentrating on the report. She was just starting the last row of numbers when her desk phone rang. Persephone snatched it up right away, hoping it was Hades.

“Persephone speaking!” she announced.

“Good morning, Persephone, my name is Sorya. I’m a reporter for the Oracle.”

“Oh? How can I help you, Sorya?”

“As a recent hire for Underworld Corporation I thought you might have some insights on their corporate hiring practices. I’m informed that the circumstances surrounding your internship are rather interesting.”

“Ah,” said Persephone. It made sense now. This must be the reporter who wrote the article that Hades mentioned, that day they’d had lunch together. He had been a bit upset over it. “I’m afraid I can’t help you, Sorya. You need to contact HR with these kinds of inquiries. You have a nice day, now.”

She hung up, and shook her head at Megaera. “That was a reporter.”

“Ugh!” Megaera replied. “I hate reporters. They’re the worst.”

Persephone entered the last numbers and sent the report off to Accounts Payable. “I’m done. Let’s go get lunch.”

The two goddesses left the office and went off to the lunchroom together. Megaera began chattering again. “I know all about punishment, that’s my thing. But this idea you have of rewarding the shades, that’s totally new. I really want to hear more.”

 

***

From Persephone’s texts:

Hecate: Can we start 10 minutes late today? I’m swamped.

Persephone: Sure

 

Tori: It would be good if we could talk soon.

 

***

Persephone sat down by Hecate’s desk for their weekly check-in meeting and waited for the other goddess’s attention. Hecate finished typing and looked up. “Sorry about that! I had yet another email that needed an immediate reply.”

“No problem. First off, I wanted to mention that my school term is coming to an end in a couple weeks and I was hoping that after that I could work full time.”

Hecate’s expression showed mild surprise. “Aren’t you already? But it’s fine if we make that formal; in fact I wanted to speak to you about that today. Is college not working for you so well?”

“Well, it’s okay. It’s just not quite what I expected. I thought it would be more challenging, but honestly, studying biochemistry is kind of pointless when I can just do it with my powers.” Persephone waved her fingers, and a blue rose floated over her palm until she let it dissipate. “I feel a lot more challenged here, and more independent.”

“I know that’s a goal for you,” Hecate nodded. “I don’t want to pry, but I had the impression that you weren’t so keen on being in TGOEM.”

Persephone hesitated for only a moment. “No, that’s true. It’s really what my mother wants. I’ve been saving my salary and I’m planning to pay back the scholarship and then quit. Um. Please don’t tell anybody that? I’m not ready yet.”

“Of course. How is Elysium coming along?”

“It’s making good progress. I’ve got the landforms shaped how I want, and with Styx’s help the water systems are functional now. I’m still making some design changes but overall it’s where I expected it to be. I think I’ll need another week or two to bring it to completion.”

“That’s excellent,” Hecate smiled in satisfaction. “So I looked over the manuals you wrote, and they’re just what we need. They’ll serve as guidelines for the new employees. I’m thinking we’ll hire two or three to start, and ramp up from there.”

“Two?” Persephone frowned. She knew Hecate wanted this, but she’d thought it would be only one more person. “I don’t see how two more people are needed to do the job that I can do myself.”

“Well, that’s the thing, honey. You’re going to be needed to function in a supervisory capacity for them, and maintaining Elysium, as well as other aspects of your new role as Director of Shade Resources. Plus I would like you to cut back to working reasonable hours.”

Persephone stared in shock. “I’m sorry, what? New role?”

Hecate watched her calmly. “Yes. It’s past time we acknowledged that the work you’re doing far exceeds an intern’s capacity, and formally offer you a position with the title and salary you deserve. I talked to the board about this some time ago. Here’s the letter of intent.” She took a set of stapled pages from her desk and handed it to the younger goddess. Persephone skimmed through it in stunned disbelief.

“But Hecate--I practically just started here. And this salary? This is crazy!”

Hecate laughed. “The crazy part is how much of an overachiever you are, and how much you underestimate yourself. Since you started here, you’ve totally overhauled the shade records, systemized the judicial process, instituted the rebirth policy, and nearly completed a new framework for rewarding the shade workers. Do you know that productivity is up by 8%, with Elysium not even finished? That’s just from the shades hearing about it. I can’t even imagine the implications once this gets out among living mortals. Do you realize this could completely change worship patterns? That’s not something that happens very often.”

***

 

Hades had been anxiously waiting for Hecate’s report for some time. When she finally arrived in his office, he was out of patience.

“How did it go? Did she accept?”

“Yes, she did. With as much reluctance and self-deprecation as we expected. But she wants to hold off on the formal aspects of the promotion until Elysium is complete.” 

“I really should’ve been there!” Hades fretted.

“Look,” Hecate said, with some aspersity. “I agreed to take on managing Persephone and let you focus on being friends with her. I think that’s fine and appropriate, so you need to back off and let me do it. She’s trying to juggle a dozen things at once, and she’s doing it really well, but she doesn’t need you breathing down her neck. Much as she might like it.”

Hades turned baleful eyes on his friend. “Why do you think she would like it? She’s been very kind, but she doesn’t have real feelings for me.”

“Honestly,” Hecate shook her head. “What the hell is wrong with you? Have you got your head jammed so far up your ass that you can’t see what’s in front of you? Of course she has feelings for you.”

Hades started losing his temper. “If that were true,” he snapped, “then she would have left TGOEM by now.” I thought after I broke up with Minthe she might do it, but it’s been weeks and she hasn’t. He sank into a morose slouch. And what is she doing hanging around with Hermes?

Hecate scowled. “Your self-absorption is staggering. Do I really need to spell this out for you? If she does want to leave TGOEM, it’s going to be incredibly hard for her.” Her voice was getting louder and angrier as she went on. “Hestia and Artemis are going to be pissed, she’ll lose her scholarship, she’ll probably need a new place to live, and on top of that, Demeter will come down on her like a fucking sledgehammer. Do you maybe get it why she would want to delay? Not everything is about you!” Hecate finished in a near-scream, her hands curled into claws, her eyes glowing fiercely.

“But I could help with all of that!”

“Agh!” Hecate shrieked. “You are so frustrating! You sit right there and think about it and try to remember that other people have their own needs and goals. Let me know when you have a breakthrough.” She stomped out, leaving Hades sullen and miserable.

What is wrong with me? Why can’t I stop feeling this way? He sat frozen in gloom, berating himself. After a long while, he rose from his slump and sent a text. Need to talk. Can you meet me?

 

***

 

Hades sat in a quiet corner of the least terrible coffee shop in Olympus, gazing into his cup. This was a bad idea. What am I doing here? He startled slightly when a newcomer approached and sat down, placing on the table a tall confection in a clear glass. It was pale pink and foamy, and topped with a mound of whipped cream, bright pink sprinkles, and a cherry.

 Eros stuck a straw into this atrocity and started to slurp it down. Hades was sure that not long ago, he would have felt amused contempt for anyone ordering such a ridiculous drink in a decent coffee shop. Now all he could think was: Persephone would like that .

“I have to say first that Persephone is my friend and I won’t tell you anything she said to me in confidence,” Eros began.

“Good. I wouldn’t want you to.”

Eros nodded. “So what’s the crisis?”

I shouldn’t be doing this . “I was hoping you might share some insight with me. I’m confused about how to relate to Persephone when I’m both her boss and her friend.”

Eros gave him a flat stare. “Look man, you’re free to go on lying to me about your emotional state, but it’s kind of unproductive, you know? I owe you a big one and I’m eager to help in any way I can.”

Fuck. He already knows. “Fine. I’m jealous.”

“Yeah, I got that. Of who?”

I can’t believe I’m admitting this. “Hermes.” Hades avoided Eros’s eyes. “I heard them talking. He said something about how they used to make out.” He finished in a self-conscious mumble.

“Huh. Okay. Let me think about what I can say.” 

Eros worked on his drink for a minute while Hades stared at his own, contemplating the depths to which he’d sunk. Admitting to being jealous of Hermes . Of all people!

“All right,” Eros said. “For a long time Hermes was pretty much the only man Persephone knew, yes? Certainly the only one she saw on a regular basis. So I wouldn’t say he’s typical of her taste, just sort of convenient for practicing on. You gotta admit, Hermes is a training-wheels kind of a guy.”

Eros fixed him with a piercing glare. “But I have to ask: why do you care? Did you think if you stole away an eternal maiden, you’d be guaranteed an ultra-pure virgin? Untouched by any other man? Is that what you’re looking for?”

“No!” Hades was horrified. “The maiden thing is not a draw for me! It’s an obstacle, much more than anything else.”

“All right! Now we’re getting down to it. So you’re willing to concede that even a twenty-year old associate maiden from the Mortal Realm with an insanely overprotective mother is entitled to have a past?”

This hadn’t previously occurred to Hades, but Eros was right that it wasn’t important. “Of course. I just want to know if it is in the past.” Hades hesitated. “You’re sure she’s not interested in Hermes?” he asked plaintively.

“I’m sure. He’s not her type at all,” Eros smiled. The faint emphasis in Eros’s statement made Hades wonder: Who is her type, then? He wished he could make Eros tell all he knew. 

"I get the feeling that maybe she isn't so happy with TGOEM,” he offered nonchalantly.

Eros narrowed his eyes. "I won't say your impression is wrong, but I can't discuss this with you."

That's almost a confirmation, Hades thought, quelling a surge of hope.

Eros relented slightly. “In my opinion, eternal maidenhood is directly at odds with… certain aspects of Persephone’s nature. Shall we say, I think it’s not a good fit.”

Hades nodded, understanding perfectly. He was feeling more optimistic. “Thank you for this. I consider your obligation to me to be fulfilled.”

“Pffft. Please! At most this counts for half of what I owe you. You do realize you’re entirely responsible for me and Psyche being back together?”

Well, having Eros owe me favors could be very useful. “How is Psyche? I hope by now you’ve told Zeus about her.”

“Oh yeah. That was not a fun conversation, I can tell you.”

Hades snorted. “I’ll bet. If you want me to talk to him for you, I’m happy to do it.”

Eros seemed touched. “Hey man, thanks. I’ll keep that in mind. Oh, and that reminds me--” He handed Hades an envelope.

“What is this?” Hades asked curiously, opening it. Inside was a card, written in flowing script. “An invitation?”

“Yup. We’re having a housewarming party, next Friday night. I hope you can come.”

Now it was Hades’s turn to be touched. He hadn’t expected to be treated like a friend.

 

***

 

Persephone arrived in her office early, yawning. She hung up her jacket and set down her bag, taking out the files she’d optimistically brought home with her last night. She’d spent the entire previous evening over at Eros and Psyche’s new place, helping them prepare for their party, and had not had time for anything else. Did I remember to tell Hecate that I need to take time off next week for my finals? I’d better check.

As Persephone sat down at her desk, something touched her knees, startling her. She looked down into Cerberus’s glowing blue eyes. “Hello, sweet boy!” She petted his sleek black head and rubbed his velvety ears. 

“Wuff!” replied the giant dog. Then with a small pop , he disappeared.

That was weird , Persephone thought, and turned to her computer. She verified that she had informed Hecate and began reading emails. There was a great deal in her inbox about her new job as Director of Shade Resources. Persephone was just starting to get a grasp on the scope and authority that came with the new title. It was extremely exciting. And a bit nerve-wracking.

After about ten minutes, there was another soft pop , and Cerberus returned. He pushed his big black muzzle into her lap. “There you are, my good boy! I’ve missed you! Where did you go? Did you have an errand to do?” she teased, petting him again.

“Yes, he did,” interrupted a deep voice behind her.

Persephone smiled over her shoulder at Hades. “Hi! I’ve missed you, too.”

“Hi, yourself. I brought you some pastries.” He held up a white bag in one hand. “And a tea.” In the other he held a drink carrier with two cups. “And I wanted to apologize for my behavior the other day. I was in a bad mood but that’s no excuse for taking it out on you. Do you think maybe you could forgive me? Just this once? If I don’t let it happen again?” he rambled anxiously.

Persephone beamed at him, taking the pastry bag he was holding out to her. “Of course I can. Why don’t you sit down and share these with me?”