The first time Theseus meets Asterius in the Underworld, it is entirely by accident.
Elysium was everything Theseus had hoped for; and more! He’d experienced a true king’s welcome; Hades himself making an appearance (a brief one, true, but an appearance nonetheless!) to commemorate his arrival. Suddenly, being thrown off a cliff felt much less devastating when surrounded by fellow heroes, eager and itching to add him to their ranks. There was feast and battle aplenty.
(Though, quietly, Theseus noticed the absence of a certain Achilles he’d rather been hoping to test his strength against. But it seemed rude to comment on it, when there were so many others to engage with.)
For what he could only assume were weeks upon weeks, Theseus wrestled and sparred with the most renowned heroes Elysium had to offer. Trusty spear and shield in hand, he fought with a spryness and vigor he’d not had since his younger days; and drank like it too. The clash of metal and ring of laughter was all he knew. He felt young again. He felt at home again.
And for a time, long enough that Theseus had long lost count of the days, that was enough.
But then somehow, it began to lose it luster. The wine that ran endlessly tasted bitter and over ripe. Weapons no longer felt right in his hand. The lush greenery around him was now cloying and suffocating instead of comforting, and even the battles he’d so longed for had become repetitive and grating. It was strange. This had been everything Theseus had ever wanted; glory, fame, reward, all of it! And yet, surrounded by it all, he still felt… Empty.
Theseus was bored.
It was this that led him to Erebus, truthfully. If asked, he’d claim it was a further search for glory; an adventure much like those he’d led in his life! And, technically, it would not be a lie. Theseus didn’t tell lies. It was simply… An embellishment! After all, no one would want to hear that he’d stumbled across the glowing entrance beyond a rushing stream and quite literally fell into it.
The sleek blue tile and glowing red embers of the place were… Quite a change from Elysium. And the monsters! Oh, the monsters! Despicable things, amalgamations of crystal reflecting deadly beams of light against his shield, tiny scampering things masquerading as pots, great hulking beasts of orange muscle… It was exhilarating! For the first time in what felt like years, it was almost like blood was once again pumping through his veins, adrenaline coursing through him, sweat on his brow! His spear and shield were a part of him. This was what he lived for. (Or, well, died for.) Chamber upon chamber he traversed, vanquishing anything that dared to stand in his way; less for any sense of reaching an end, and more for the hope that he’d never find one.
And then he reached him.
It was the déjà vu that tipped Theseus off. The memory of the same hunched, sloping back thick with muscle and fur facing him, the silhouette of two great horns curling around an impossibly large skull. It was like he was back in the Labyrinth once again. A beast in front of him, endless confusion behind. With a mighty war cry, Theseus drew back his spear, readying his aim to take what was once again rightfully his--
“Oh. It’s you.”
That wasn’t supposed to happen.
The Minotaur didn’t speak. He’d never spoken! He was a beast; snarling and roaring like a deranged animal, not—Not calmly sitting and speaking like Theseus was some sort of un-announced guest!
“Hark, beast!” He declares, brandishing his spear. “Turn and face me, so I might look you in the eye as I once again banish you to the depths of Hades where you belong!” Okay, he can deal with speaking. Speaking is fine! Now he can engage in the heroic pre-battle taunts as is traditional.
However, the Minotaur is, unsurprisingly, uncooperative.
“Wh—” Theseus splutters, battle stance faltering. “No! I most certainly shall not, not until I have slain you!”
“Ugh.” The beast slouches even further, which Theseus is surprised is even possible. “Was once not enough for you?”
“Certainly not!” Theseus crows. “I shall defeat you time and time again, as is my duty as the Athenian Ki—Where are you going!?”
The beast does not look back as he hauls himself up from the ground, all gigantic knots of muscle and mass that seems to make the entire room shake as he stomps away. “Elsewhere.” He grunts simply.
“Get back here and face me you coward!” Theseus shouts, furious. He flings his spear at the Minotaur, aiming for between his shoulder blades. How dare he walk away from him! How dare he, a simple beast, worth nothing more than to be slain as was right, refuse him the pleasure! How dare he--
The spear clatters against the tile floor as it bounces from his back as though it had simply hit a wall. The Minotaur does not flinch. He retreats into the darkness of Erebus without another word.
“You—You—You--!!” Theseus splutters, gaze flicking between his spear and the void where the monster had once stood in wordless rage. Face red with shame and blood pumping with determination, he stalks after the beast with spear and shield once again in hand.
He fights through Erebus until he can’t. Even in death, it seems, his muscles can still ache, his hands still shake as he desperately tries to keep a hold of his weapons. He is overcome. Monsters flow over him like crashing tides, and when he opens his eyes, he is back in Elysium. He did not find the Minotaur.
It is mere days before he is heading back into Erebus.
This time, he finds the Minotaur in a rather… Different state of affairs.
“Once again, I have found you, beast!” Theseus declares, recognizing that distinctive slope of his back. “Now, face me in battle--
“Quiet.” The monster’s rumbling voice demands, sending an icy shiver down even Theseus’ spine. But he is not one to be daunted by such strategies!
“Nay!” He continues. “You may have escaped me last time, but today I shall be victorious over—”
“I said quiet.” The Minotaur speaks louder, silencing him. “You are scaring them.”
“Them?” Theseus asks. Silence falls over the two for a time; the Minotaur seemingly absorbed on whatever it is he holds and Theseus unwilling to break against his dastardly schemes. Clearly, he is trying to goad him into a sense of curiosity to get past his defenses! He will not fall for it. But, if he just so happens to shift his weight and peer over his shoulder to catch a glance of his activity, well, that is simply a coincidence!
It’s one of those awful pot creatures, Theseus recognizes. Though this one looks… Rather worse for wear. A great crack runs down its facade, splintering and splitting off in places to create an intricate webbing of battle damage. Clearly, it’s survived something it shouldn’t have. And the Minotaur appears to be… Comforting it?
Theseus watches in numb disbelief, completely forgetting he’s meant to be on guard as the Minotaur almost tenderly slathers something like a wet cement into the cracks. The pot monster trills under his touch, seemingly to wiggle like it tickles. The Minotaur huffs something like a laugh through his great nostrils as he finishes up and sets the creature down, gently patting it on the head.
“There you are.” He says softly. “Go on, then.”
The thing lets out a happy sounding chirp, spinning in a circle before it scampers off to do… Whatever it is monsters do when they’re not terrorizing heroes, he supposes.
The Minotaur watches as it goes, figure oddly still and… Almost soft looking, from where Theseus is standing. His shoulders seem to smooth out a little. His stature is suddenly much less imposing, and somehow more comforting.
Theseus hates it.
“On your guard now, fiend!” He bellows, regaining his battle stance and refocusing himself. “You and your dastardly machinations shall have no effect on me!”
The Minotaur scoffs then; or as much as a bull-headed thing can scoff, he supposes. “Not everything I do is for your sake, fool.”
“Fool!?” Theseus’ blood boils at the insult. “Face me and say that again, cur!”
“No,” The Minotaur says, once again lumbering off into the darkness. “I think not.” Once again, Theseus follows. Once again, he falls before he finds him.
Once again, Theseus enters Erebus.
The third time, as Theseus has been led to believe, is the charm. But evidently not, in this case.
He meets the Minotaur again in Erebus; again with his back turned, and again, unwilling to stand and face him like a man—er, monster. Theseus is really beginning to tire of this. It is like the beast doesn’t even want to face him in battle! Which is absurd. He is a monster; battling heroes is what they do. Just… Not this one, evidently.
Until the fifth meeting, at least.
This time is different in how Theseus finds him not in a solitary rest, but seemingly at odds with more of the dastardly beasts Erebus holds. Some of the casters, it appears, as their sickening spheres blast away at the Minotaur’s thick hide. Their numbers are many, and the beast is tiring against the constant barrage. He is fighting a clearly losing battle.
But Theseus has never been one to back down from a challenge.
With a mighty war cry, he leaps into the fray with spear clenched in hand and shield ready. The casters startle, trying to dart out of his way, but a great spin if his trusty weapon soon puts an end to that. The others scatter, formation broken, struggling to deal with the sudden arrival of a new challenger. The Minotaur seems equally so.
“Have at thee!” Theseus shouts, losing not a moment of time before he’s back in the fray; aiming and skewering his spear through several of the fiends like lightning. The Minotaur follows his lead, bellowing a frankly terrifying roar as he slams his fists into the ground and reduces many of their numbers to mere dust.
The ensuing battle is without a doubt, the greatest moment of Theseus’ afterlife.
He has battled with the heroes of Elysium, sure; but never side by side. No, those had only ever been matches against one another. And they’d been fun, yes, but nothing compared to the feeling of being back to back with a fellow comrade, reading their movements within split seconds to seamlessly fall into step with them. Enemies crumble under their joint onslaught. Reinforcements come streaming in like a waterfall, but the pair prove more than capable at fending them off. It is easy; but exhilarating. Theseus can feel his entire body thrumming with adrenaline, muscles aching with strain in a way that he has missed oh so badly. His easy precision makes the Minotaur’s close-range deadly blows much more effective; where he lacks, Theseus excels. Likewise, he knocks back many an enemy who get too close to behind the shield.
It is like a dance; Theseus thinks distantly as he skewers a string of stragglers after a particularly vicious slam from the Minotaur; and he has found his perfect partner.
He hopes it never ends. But it does; as all things do. Soon enough the enemies are little more than dust, and Theseus is left panting and exhausted, high on adrenaline and eagerly looking for the next target. When none appear, he sighs and lets himself relax. He loosens his grip on his spear, muscles slackening and resting. He turns to congratulate his comrade on a battle well won but freezes when he sees him.
It is his first time seeing the Minotaur up close in many years. The hulking height of him seems so much larger than he remembers, all thick muscle and matted fur. His hair, if Theseus can even call it that, is overgrown and shaggy, near dread locked in places where it’s clumped together. His breath comes in great huffs from giant nostrils, horns winding and sharp against his scalp. Tattered robes cover his human half in some attempt at modesty, it seems; but only just. He is dirty and terrifying, every bit the monster Theseus remember him to be.
And yet, while fighting, he had not felt like one. He’d simply been another comrade. A damn good one, at that. His monstrous size has been an asset, not a deformity, and Theseus had trusted him to have his back as easily as he would have any of his fellow heroes. Hell, probably easier.
Theseus isn’t sure what to make of it.
So, he says nothing. Torn between his instincts of raising his weapon and demanding combat, and his feelings of… Comradery? The Minotaur watches, eyes strangely human and filled with indecipherable emotion before he sighs and turns to leave.
“Good battle, human.” He says.
And then he is gone.
Theseus remains for a time. And then, for the first time, he returns to Elysium willingly.
“Do you think a monster can be a man?”
Patroclus blinks from his misery induced haze to shoot Theseus a bewildered look. “…Philosophically, you mean?” He asks, voice low.
“Oh, no, no!” Theseus assures him, laughing merrily. “I mean literally.”
Patroclus blinks slowly, expression only further furrowing with confusion. “I… don’t follow.”
The two are seated in Patroclus’ usual choice of clearing to sulk in. While Theseus has never been one for the whole lounging about in misery aspect of Elysium, he does come down occasionally to invite the man to their feasts and battles; though he hardly ever accepts. It is a courtesy, nonetheless. And somebody must make sure he’s still there! Though he is more of a gloomy sort, Patroclus is as much a hero as the rest of them, and Theseus makes it a point to come down and chat with him every so often. Otherwise, he’s sure Patroclus would simply become part of the scenery. He thinks Patroclus appreciates it. He hasn’t told him to stop, at least, so that’s a good sign!
“Well, say… Say you met a beast you had once bested in combat.” Theseus continues, gesturing wildly as he speaks. “A great, big, monstrous thing! But when you met him, he refused to fight you again! And then, once, when you walked in on him mid battle, you fought side by side, and… He felt like a comrade. Like a man.”
Patroclus is silent for a time, gazing at Theseus curiously. “And this is hypothetical, yes?”
“Oh, completely!” He replies with gritted teeth. Gods, how he hates lying. But surely Patroclus would call him mad if he knew the truth of the situation! It is a necessity.
“Well.” Patroclus muses, turning his gaze back to the stream flowing through the clearing. “If he fought alongside you and didn’t take the chance to turn on you, he’s not much of a monster.”
“But—” Theseus persists. “What if he was one? A real beastly thing?”
“Men can do monstrous things too.” Patroclus answers. “Does that make them beasts?”
“That is entirely different!” Theseus protests.
“Is it?” He murmurs in reply. “Seems like your monster may not be a monster at all.” His eyes glaze over then, seeing someone entirely not there in a way Theseus has seen many times before. “Would they call me a monster? For what I did? I’d be a monster a thousand times over if it were for you, my love…” Lost to his memories, Patroclus talks to himself. Theseus knows he will get no more conversation from him.
So instead, he goes back into Erebus.
“You!” Theseus shouts when he finally finds the Minotaur again, pointing his spear at his back accusingly. “Explain yourself, fiend!”
He does not reply, save for a flick of his tail. Theseus takes it as a sign to continue.
“You—You did dastardly things! You ate children! Slaughtered many! We fought to the death!” He emphasizes his words with a clang of his spear against his shield, ringing out into the depth of Erebus. “And now, you refuse to even meet my eye! You fight by my side! Explain!”
“What is there to explain?” The Minotaur asks lowly. “We fought. I lost. I do not wish to re-enact it.”
“But were you wishing to simply avoid death, why would you fight with me?” Theseus asks, undaunted. “That was not the act of a monster. No, that was the act of a comrade!”
The Minotaur snorts. “We are not comrades. I am a monster. You are a hero. That is all.” He leaves, apparently fed up with the conversation.
“No.” Theseus murmurs as he watches him disappear into the darkness. “I’m not so sure that you are.”
This continues for a time; Theseus confronts the Minotaur, and he refuses to cooperate. A handful of occasions they fight together, and not once does the Minotaur take his chance to be rid of him more permanently. Well, slightly more permanently, anyway. And so, Theseus’ curiosity increases. This behavior makes no sense! Surely this level-headed, sullen, almost sulking Minotaur was not the same one he’d bested in the Labyrinth. But surely there cannot be two of them walking around the Underworld?
Regardless, the riddle continues to vex Theseus. Patroclus is still out of commission for the time being, and truly, he is the only one Theseus can think of to speak to about this. The other heroes, while truly wonderful company, are not so much about the… Thinking side of things. Neither was Theseus, really, until all this nonsense. So he continues battering away at the brick wall that is the Minotaur until something changes.
And changes it does.
“Hark, Mo—Mino—” Theseus begins, but falters. “Blast, this is absurd! What is your name, Minotaur?”
This makes him straighten. “My… Name?”
“Yes, your name!” Theseus replies, as though it were obvious. “I cannot simply keep calling you beast or monster, when it is clear you are neither of the two! And Minotaur is not much of a name, is it? Surely you must have one!”
“I…” The Minotaur pauses, suddenly seeming rather small. “I don’t remember.”
“What!?” Theseus can barely believe it. “You were born, were you not? To a human mother? She must have named you!”
“I don’t remember.” He repeats, voice harder this time; though he still seems equally as rattled.
Theseus halts at this. Cannot remember? His own mother? He can’t imagine such a thing. Though, he supposes, had the Minotaur not been in the Labyrinth his whole life? The only humans that had ever been in there were sacrifices and heroes. All else were monsters, ravenous beasts that fed on anything with a pulse and unable to win in a fight. Once, he would have counted the Minotaur among their numbers. Now, he isn’t so sure.
“Well, no matter!” Theseus settles. “I shall just call you Minotaur until you do!”
“Its that simple, then?” The Minotaur snorts derisively.
“Absolutely!” Theseus exclaims as if the matter is settled. The Minotaur sighs, shoulders slumping with the effort, but he lets the subject lie.
The next time, Theseus brings him a new tunic.
“What,” The Minotaur asks, low and unsure. “Are these.”
“New clothes!” Theseus beams. The robes in question lie between the two, the Minotaur staring at them as though they might suddenly lash out and bite him while Theseus sits cross legged some way away. He shouldn’t crowd him, Patroclus had said. It would be a process. Theseus didn’t pretend to understand it, but he trusted the hero’s judgement. “Those scraps aren’t befitting of you.”
“This is a trick.” The Minotaur states after a time simply staring him down.
“I would never!” Theseus gasps. “How dare you insinuate such a thing! I am a man of honor, and would never resort to such tactics, especially not against a comrade!”
The Minotaur lets the comrade comment slide, seemingly more focused on the current issue of the robes. Theseus watches as he inches closer, thinking that it is very strange to see such a hulking be—man be so frightened of mere cloth. It takes some time; much longer than Theseus thought it would, but eventually the other man takes the clothes. He cradles them softly as though he is afraid that simply be holding them they will tear or be stained. As if they were too precious to be directly handled.
“Thank you.” Theseus hears him whisper. It is soft, quavering, and barely loud enough to hear.
“You are very welcome!”
And he is.
The Minotaur is wearing the tunic the next time they meet; something Theseus doesn’t hesitate to point out and grin over. The Minotaur claims it was purely for functions sake. Theseus begs to differ, but agrees to disagree for the time being.
Patroclus has been surprisingly helpful on the subject of the Minotaur and Theseus’ growing communication. He warns him against moving too fast or being too “him”, as he put it.
“What!?” Theseus had protested. “What is wrong with being me!? I’ll have you know, people love me!”
“People here do.” Patroclus replied, voice ever even and unaffected. “But this friend of yours seems rather more... Sheltered. Unaccustomed to such familiarity. Best to be careful, I think, while you’re getting more acquainted.”
“But—“ Theseus had tried to persist, but Patroclus’ sharp gaze silenced him.
“Go slow.” He’d repeated. Then, with a hint of grief; “You have all the time in the world now, after all.”
So Theseus had listened. It was annoying and damn near infuriating at times, to feel as though he was walking on egg shells around such a powerful comrade. But he sees how he falters and hesitates to face him, shoulders drawing up in fear uncharacteristic on such a large body. Clearly such care is necessary. And so, he doesn’t try to push his luck.
He learns many things about the Minotaur over their time together. He is on good terms with most of the monsters in Erebus, it seems, treating their more severe injuries, and, on occasion, putting them out of their misery when he cannot. He says this rather more quietly and reluctantly however, so he does not push the issue. Otherwise, it... Doesn’t seem as though he does much. Theseus inquires as to how he spends his time, and gets a puzzled look in return.
“Like, for fun?” Theseus asks. “Surely you cannot simply sit and brood until I visit you!”
He means it as a joke, but the blank look the Minotaur gives him has him suddenly sobering.
“Ah.” Theseus remarks dumbly.
“Erebus is somewhat lacking in activity for monsters besides you, as you can probably tell.” The Minotaur replies lowly. He looks... Shy, if a gigantic half bull man can even look shy. Embarrassed, maybe?
“Well,” Theseus recovers. “I suppose I shall just have to visit you more often then!”
The Minotaur huffs something that might be laughter. “If you must.” He scoffs, turning away from the hero in attempted derision. But he catches the smile tugging at his lips as he does so.
It is this that begins Theseus thinking on his new plan.
“So, how would one, possibly, bring someone from one area of the Underworld to another?”
Patroclus stares at him, for once entirely focused; even if it is a clearly bewildered kind of focus.
“Is this another one of your...” He begins, eyebrows quirked. “Hypotheticals?”
“Yes!” Theseus affirms brightly, grin wide and sparkling. Or, he assumes it is. He’s been told it tends to do that!
Patroclus sighs the kind of long suffering sigh that he tends to do whenever Theseus is around and asking questions. “I suppose, hypothetically, one would have to speak to the Lord Hades about the issue.” Then, with a sharp glare. “But one would not mention me in his request. At all.”
“Of course not!” Theseus assures him, waving a hand dismissively.
“At. All.” Patroclus repeats in such a toxic matter even Theseus pauses to take him seriously.
“Of course, my friend.” He says, clapping his back reassuringly. “I look forward to introducing the two of you! I think you will get along swimmingly.”
“I thought we were still talking hypotheticals.” Patroclus murmurs. But he smiles anyway.
All in all, it takes rather less time to see Hades than he thought it would.
The line is practically endless, of course, but everyone seems more than happy to let him through once they realize who he is! Perhaps it’s the sparkling thing again. Patroclus had always said it was very distracting. Distracting enough to let him slip through Tartarus, evidently! It hadn’t taken much to convince Charon to take him there; just a handful of coin earned through his many victories in Elysium and the man was practically salivating over the opportunity!
(Er, if he could salivate, that was. Theseus couldn’t make heads or tails of what exactly he was under that hood of his, as much as he tried to make friendly conversation on their boat ride.)
From there it had been even easier. Shades practically fell over themselves to let him cut the line, shining with excitement to say hello and ask for a handshake as he went. And Theseus was unable to deny them; after all, they were his fans! And he would never mistreat his fans. A trail of happiness uncharacteristic of the dark depths of Hades followed him as he made his way to the extravagant halls of the House, all endlessly curious as to what the king was doing there.
The House is every bit as stunning as he would expect for the Gods, but Theseus doesn’t take much time to stop and admire. He is, after all, on a mission! So he bursts through the doors, striding confidently down the hall towards the smoldering throne of Hades, a procession of owlish eyes and whispering mouths behind him. The line parts like a sea before him. The entire House seems to fall to a deathly silence as he makes his way down, the music once playing screeching to a halt, conversations ceasing, everyone stopping to stare.
“Lord Hades!” Theseus bellows in greeting, kneeling as low as his legs will allow him to before the God. “A pleasure and honor to see you once again!”
The crowds whisper around him at that; he catches a glimpse of a solitary purple hooded figure watching him silently, and a man with a clipboard flipping through it frantically. They look rather important, so he figures they are also Gods. Or employees, perhaps? Ah, no matter. He is focused on their Lord right now!
“Theseus.” Hades greets him in return, voice rumbling through him like an earthquake. Theseus understands why he is the god of riches as well as the Underworld when he speaks; like the earth he is overwhelming and immovable, but deep and rich like the gemstones it hides. “An unexpected visit.”
Behind him, a small pale face peeks out, decorated with matching laurels as Hades. His eyes blink owlishly at him, one green, the other... Black and red, it seems?
Distractions. Theseus focuses back on the subject at hand.
“Yes, my Lord, I come to you with a humble request, should you generously hear me out.” He waits, Hades brandishing a hand for him to continue. “Among your halls of Erebus, you hold a particular person; the Minotaur I once bested in combat!”
The crowds gasp, murmurs rising in volume as they theorize on the subject before the harsh crack of a whip silences them. One of the harpies, Theseus sees, brandishing her weapon to maintain order. The shades all but disappear under her icy glare; Theseus too, feels a chill down his spine, but stands strong nonetheless.
(Barely. But he stands.)
Hades nods to her with silent approval before he peers down at Theseus closely. “And what of it?”
Theseus takes a steadying breath to steel his nerves. “My request,” he says, willing his voice to be steady while it fights to quaver in the face of such formidable opponents. “Is that you allow me to bring him to Elysium, where he belongs!”
If the crowds were gossiping before, they are screaming now. The commotion is deafening; yells of outrage, demands of explanation, disbelief, almost every emotion known to man. The fury cracks her whip once more to try and bring peace, but the shades are undaunted. Seemingly, this is too good of gossip to let slip. The clipboard man is also brought into it, looking as though he’s only doing the bare minimum to be categorized as helping, while the ashen face behind Lord Hades darts his eyes around in wonder. The purple cloaked woman giggles silently. Somewhere else, a scythe glints, and Cerberus, once slumbering at his master Hades side perks up with a start.
It is chaos. A disembodied Medusa head flies about in a state, anxiously trying to help her co workers calm the shades near rioting behind Theseus. Even the harpy seems to be at a loss, frantically cracking her whip at any shade who dares draw too close to the Lord Hades. Theseus almost wants to apologize, but he is determined to see this through! Perhaps if the crowd is on his side, it will--
A deafening slam echoes through the chamber, silencing the room in an instant. Hades fist rests atop his desk, cracks splintering down from where he’s made contact. His expression is stony and furious, embers crackling and sparking from him with tangible rage. Even the employees have shrunk back in suppressed terror, while the shades are near fighting to be closest to the exit in case he starts swinging. Only the pale face behind him seems undaunted, owlish mismatched eyes still blinking at Theseus.
“Silence.” Hades demands; and everyone is helpless but to obey. “Explain yourself, hero.
It takes Theseus a moment to gather his wits and find words. “I--It has come to my attention,” He stammers, suddenly feeling much less sure about all this. “That the Minotaur is not so much a monster as the wretches you have placed alongside him in Erebus. Nay, he is a man! And as such, he is deserving of his rightful place in the Underworld!”
“And what would you know of his rightful place?” Hades sneers.
“I know that he is an honourable man!” Theseus continues on. “He wishes not for pointless violence or atrocities. He has fought alongside me in combat, and I would trust him with my life! Surely whatever misdeeds he was forced to commit in life have been long since paid for by now?”
“That is not your place to decide.” Hades growls, and Theseus knows he is pushing his luck. And though he has often been called prideful, he is not a fool.
“No, my Lord, of course not.” He backpedals, once again diverting his gaze in respect. “It is only my place to request that you remedy this, and to hope that you will be generous.”
Hades hums in thought, fist unclenching from its place on his desk to tap against the surface instead. For a while, there is silence in the hall. The only sound is Theseus’ tense breathing, the solitary shift of the shades behind him for fear of speaking, and the Harpy’s whip twisting, ready to be used at a moments notice. Lesser men would concede. Apologise for bothering him and retreat while they still could. And truthfully, Theseus is tempted to be one of them.
But he thinks of the Minotaur. Alone, slumped in solitary misery in a long forgotten chamber of Erebus, with naught but monsters for company. Has he never known the sun, Theseus wonders? To have lived in a Labyrinth, and then thrust into yet another in death; nay, it is too cruel. Theseus will not stand for it. And if it costs him his place in Elysium…
Well. He just hopes someone else remembers to check on Patroclus in his absence.
Thankfully, Theseus is saved from having to think on it further by Hades’ seemingly coming to a decision. “And if I were to grant this… Request.” He says, slowly and with eyes narrowed. “What would I get in return?”
“Why, anything you could want, my Lord!” Theseus is quick to reply. “My undying loyalty would be yours! Anything you need, any monsters to best, any fiends to catch, it would be my pleasure to assist you!” It is not much. But what else has Theseus to give? He has no wealth or possessions to speak of in death; glory is the only currency in Elysium. All he can offer is his service. All he can do is hope that’s enough.
There is another long strength of silence, before;
“Very well. You may escort your… Comrade to Elysium at your earliest convenience.” Hades finally says, waving a hand to signal Theseus may leave. “But rest assured; I will be in contact about that… Undying loyalty.”
Theseus can barely believe it. Suddenly the shades are once again deafening; but now with exuberance. The employees of the house blink out of their surprise to set about silencing them, but Theseus is far too delighted to pay them any mind.
“M--My thanks, Lord Hades!” He stammers, kneeling almost comically low, nose brushing against the cool tile floor. “I cannot possibly express my gratitude, your grace, your--” Hades scoffs, once again gesturing him to leave. And Theseus can hardly refuse, can he? He practically sprints out the door, weaving through the unruly crowds of shades as whips and scythes are brandished to bring order.
The last thing he hears before the hall’s doors shudder shut behind him is Hades demanding the House Contractor to fix his desk.
Theseus reaches the depths of Erebus in record time; though this likely has a lot to do with the fact that he didn’t bother to engage combat with any of the monsters he encountered on the way down. Normally, he would never do such a thing.
But, well, today is hardly normal.
He finds the Minotaur as he usually does; sitting about in an idle misery that has Theseus’ blood boiling. But this time, he can finally put a stop to it.
“My friend!” Theseus declares merrily, bursting at the seams with excitement. “You will not believe the good news I have for you!”
“Let me guess.” The Minotaur plays along, a now familiar small smile tugging at his lips. “You won yet another tournament.”
“Even better!” Theseus replies.
“Patroclus finally attended a banquet with you?”
“Think even better!”
“You won a tournament and Patroclus attended the victory banquet?”
“Oh, I cannot take this anymore!” Theseus cries. His cheeks hurt from how wide he’s grinning, and he cannot help but rock on his heels with barely contained joy. “I shall simply tell you; Lord Hades has accepted my request to accept you into Elysium!” He declares it with a flourish, expecting the Minotaur to light up in equal joy as he is feeling. Thank him, hurry on out the door, something along those lines.
Instead, he gets… Nothing. A blinking stare, and a quirk of an eyebrow.
“Your attempts at humour are getting worse.” He says simply, flicking his tail in discreet annoyance.
What?” Theseus splutters. “First of all, I am great at humour, and second, it is true! I return from speaking with him, and I assure you, it is all taken care of!”
“Theseus.” The Minotaur growls lowly; a warning. “That is enough.”
“No, it is not!” Theseus persists. Third time's the charm, perhaps? “I have worked tirelessly to see that you are given passage to Elysium as you deserve, and I will not have you think it some kind of joke! You and I are heading to your new home post haste!” He stomps his foot just to bring the point home.
The Minotaur stares at him, brow furrowed and eyes hard for a moment, before they widen in shock as he seems to realise that Theseus is serious. Though he still seems unwilling to actually move or do anything, so the hero takes action instead.
“Come now,” He says, pulling the Minotaur to his feet and beginning to walk him towards the exit of Erebus. Normally, he would never be able to throw the man’s weight around so easily; but Theseus suspects the shock has him unable to protest. “I must finally introduce you to Patroclus! The two of you will get along swimmingly, I just know it!”
“Theseus.” The Minotaur finally manages to choke out. “Theseus. I--I can’t do this.”
“What do you mean!?” Theseus laughs, jostling him along the corridors of Erebus that seem to be materialising under their feet. Probably Hades' work, he thinks. Perhaps this is what he meant by sorting out the transfer? “Of course you can! It’s all sorted--”
“No.” The Minotaur interrupts, suddenly digging in his heels and refusing to be moved. “I mean I can’t do this.” Theseus turns to look at him. The man looks the most tense he’s ever seen him, shoulders practically hunched up to his ears as he looks petrified at the growing light of the end of the hallway. Theseus can feel it warm on his skin, a pleasant familiarity of Elysium. But the Minotaur lingers just outside of it’s reach; unwilling, or unable to step into its light.
“I don’t--I don’t belong there.” He continues, ears flat against his skull and tail lashing behind him with anxiety. “Not like you. I’m not a hero.”
“My friend--” Theseus begins, hand poised to reassure him; but he halts when the Minotaur flinches back from him.
“ No.” He hisses. “I’m a monster. This is where I belong.”
“My friend.” Theseus repeats, lowering his hand but refusing to budge from his place in front of his companion. This seems to not distress him at least. Still he looks ready to bolt at a moment’s notice; but at least not quite as much so. “You are no monster. You are a hero; like myself, like Patroclus, like my fellow men in Elysium.”
The Minotaur looks ready to argue, but Theseus does not let him take the chance. “I campaigned to Lord Hades because I believed that this was just; that you deserved better than this. And you do. He would not have permitted it were you not. There is nothing that I wish more than to share Elysium with you; to have you finally know the sun’s rays, the outside, a place that is not a prison. You are no monster. A victim of circumstance, perhaps; but no monster. You are a man. A hero.”
He draws closer to the Minotaur throughout his speech, slow and careful, watching for any signs that he is going too far too fast. And while his companions’ eyes dart across his figure in panic, and his hackles rise, he does not make any move to flee. And slowly, so, so slowly; he lets Theseus take his trembling, clenched hand.
“And you are my friend.”
The Minotaur stares down at Theseu’s hand clasped around his. He is silent; eyes wide and jaw clenched so hard it seems as though it might snap altogether. He stays like this for so long, Theseus is almost ready to give up. Resigned, he moves to leave, when suddenly…
Suddenly his friend’s hand is slackening.
Slowly, his fingers uncurl from their white knuckled grip. He intertwines his fingers with Theseus’ with a care and hesitance that makes the hero afraid to even breathe, lest he frighten him out of it. A slow huff of air comes from his nostrils, warm and damp against Theseus’ hand.
“Alright.” The Minotaur whispers. It is so quiet Theseus can barely hear even while being so close; and the bull-man seems just as surprised to hear it as the hero is. “ Alright. If… If only to prove to you that I do not belong there.”
There is a separate argument in there, but Theseus is picking his battles, and leaves it for another day. As it is, he is frankly ecstatic. Once again, his face hurts with how wide he is grinning, and he feels as though he could skip into Elysium.
“Splendid!” He laughs, already tugging the bull-man along into the sunlight. “Oh, I cannot wait to show you everything, my friend--”
“Hm?” Theseus turns to face him once again. And now, in the sunlight for the first time, eyes squinted and bleary, shoulders tense and set with anxiety, but a small, hesitant smile nonetheless on his face, it feels as though it is the first time the hero is laying eyes on the Minotaur.
“My name.” The Minotaur elaborates. “I remember now. It is Asterius.”
Theseus’ grin grows even wider; something he didn’t realise was possible. “ Asterius.” He says, rolling the unfamiliar name over his tongue with wonder.
And so, Theseus and Asterius stepped hand in hand into the warm glow of Elysium. Not as hero and monster; but as comrades.