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Second Summer

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Hermes left her in the garden Hades had given her when she was last there. Somewhere above, the sun had just set on the last day of spring, but she couldn’t see it. Wouldn’t see it again for four months.

She had said her goodbyes and managed not to cry. After all, this was her choice. Not that she could explain that to anyone. Everyone had assumed that the story behind her eating those seeds was that Hades had forced her or tricked her, or that she’d had a moment of airheadedness and just not thought about the ramifications of what she was doing. It had been too difficult and awkward to correct them, so she had let them believe what they wanted.

She had known what she was doing. She had done it on purpose, in a moment of impulsiveness she still wasn’t sure she didn’t regret. It had seemed like the right thing to do at the time. She and Hades had shared a connection, she thought. He had shown her kindness. He had given her space. And when they had come for her, he hadn’t stopped them from taking her back. He had not forced her to eat the seeds. He had not tricked her. She had made the decision herself.

You can do this and come back to me, or you can leave and that will be the end of it.

And here she was.

But eight months stretched between that moment and this. And in that time, she’d had the chance to realize how much she had missed home. To remember how terrified she’d been when he’d taken her from that field. On Olympus, she felt warm and safe and loved. She had her mother and her sisters and sunshine and flowers. Here it was dark and cold and lonely. Those eight months had been time enough to make her wonder, just a little, if maybe he hadn’t really tricked her somehow, and she’d been too stubborn to notice it.

In some ways, it didn’t matter. The end result was that she had eaten the seeds. That meant a part of her was bound to the Underworld forever now.

But in other ways, it made all the difference in the world. She wanted to believe that she had done it of her own free will. She wanted to recapture the feelings that had made her decide that was the right choice. She wanted to remember that spark she felt, that dangerous and exciting feeling that she was on the cusp of something new and radically different from all she’d known up to that point—here, away from Olympus, away from her mother, with Hades.

She stood in the garden and tried to conjure up those feelings, but all she felt was scared and alone.

She’d said her goodbyes before Hermes had come to get her. Her mother had held her and stroked her hair and whispered how much she’d miss her, her beautiful Kore, but that they’d be together again soon.

No, Mother, Persephone hadn’t said. Not Kore. Not anymore.

“Welcome home,” a deep but gentle voice said behind her.

She spun around to face her new husband. Something in her expression must have startled him, because the hint of a smile that had been forming when she turned instantly melted into a look of concern and uncertainty.

She quickly tried to rearrange her features into something she hoped was more neutral. “H-hello,” she stammered. It came out way less smooth than she’d hoped before she’d said it.

“I’ve taken care of your garden in your absence,” he went on, and she had to acknowledge that it looked pretty good, for a garden mostly full of weird plants that didn’t need sunlight, anyway. He held his hand up to the low-hanging red fruit of a short tree. “Look, pomegranates,” he said with a smile, as if it was a private joke they shared.

Her breath caught in her throat.

“I’ve been looking forward to this for so long,” he said, crossing to her. He took her hands in his and studied her face with apprehension. “You look unwell.” He brushed a strand of hair off her face, his fingers cool and sending shivers down her spine.

“I’m a bit tired,” she said.

“Ah. It is rather late,” he said, fully aware of the fact that it was not at all. “Shall we go to bed?”

She couldn’t stop her hand from clenching around his. It was a reflex action at the last word.

“Persephone,” he said. “Are you… afraid of me?” He looked wounded as he said this, as if he expected it.

“Not of you,” she said quickly, but she wasn’t entirely certain that was true. She squared her shoulders and tried to sound more sure of herself. “This is just… all so new. So different. I’m afraid I’m a bit nervous. I don’t… I don’t want to disappoint you, you see.”

As soon as that lie was out of her mouth, she was startled to realize it was actually truth. She was scared and uncertain, but she wanted, badly, to please him. She didn’t want him to know what was going on in her mind—maybe a little because she was afraid of him, but mostly because she was afraid of hurting him.

He smiled at her gently then, and bent down to kiss her temple. “You could never disappoint me. All I’ve wanted for all these months was to be able to see you again, and… here you are.”

“Here I am.” She tried to keep her chin up and her voice steady, but she couldn’t help but be vividly aware of how much she did not know the man in front of her—she did not know him at all, but she had already pledged to share her life and bed with him.

“We don’t have to do anything tonight,” he said softly. “Just sleep, if that’s what you want. It’s only the first night. It can wait a day.”

“No. I’m ready.”

She hoped the lie would turn out to be true again, but this time it remained a lie.

It started out well. She was pleased to discover that she liked kissing, and as far as she could tell, Hades was good at it (but honestly, she had no frame of reference—all she knew was that whatever he was doing, it felt pretty good). She almost started to relax, his presence sure and steady on top of her.

And then he started to undress her. Her heart beat like a rabbit’s. Everything she’d heard from her mother and sisters was coming back to her. This is private. This is sacred. Men are dangerous.

A part of her wanted to flee, to wrap herself back up and get away. But she stayed put. She was his wife. He was her lord. She could only delay the inevitable and make him angry in the process.

She had made her choice (hadn’t she? hadn’t she?) and now she had to follow through.

It hurt when he entered her, but she had been expecting that; she had been expecting it to be uncomfortable and painful and not pleasant at all. Still, she couldn’t stop a cry from escaping her lips. She fisted the covers and bit down on her lip to keep quiet, but there was nothing she could do about the tears forming in her eyes.

If Hades noticed, he made no mention of it.

And then, something she hadn’t been expecting happened: it was strange and it hurt but a part of her… almost enjoyed it. Even more unexpectedly, she was beginning to suspect that Hades was almost as nervous as she was. She wanted to ask, but something in her suggested now was not the time.

So she lay there and let him do what he needed and wanted to do, tiny shocks of pleasure rippling through her body intermittently like the disturbances made by stones skipped across the smooth surface of a lake.

After, Hades rolled off of her, and both of them lay staring up at the ceiling overhead.

Persephone turned over onto her side and tried to figure out what she was feeling. Happy? Sad? Overall, had she liked it? Had she hated it? She knew there were answers to each of these questions, but she had no idea what any of them were.

Hades reached over to stroke her hair. She closed her eyes and pretended to be asleep. In actuality, he genuinely fell asleep long before she did. He snored—nothing loud or heavy, just a light, steady noise that she might have found endearing if her mind weren’t such a tangled mass of confusion at that moment.

She spent a long time looking for answers in the dark quiet of the bedroom, but that night, she found none.

She couldn’t remember dozing off, but she must have, because it was suddenly morning. When she turned to look at Hades, she found the bed empty.

Feeling somewhat empty herself, she got to her feet and pulled on the clothes she’d been wearing the night before. She would find something different to wear later. For now she felt compelled to find her husband.

She padded through the palace barefooted, but the only sound she heard was from her own footsteps. It seemed completely deserted.

For a palace, the place had always struck her as fairly spartan. There was only the barest furniture, most of it not terribly comfortable-looking, and almost no decoration. She hadn’t thought about it the last time she was here, but now she realized she wanted to change that. She wanted to make it a home.

Welcome home, he’d said before.

It didn’t feel like her home. Olympus was still her home. But a part of her wanted this to be her home, too. She wanted to feel like she belonged here. She didn’t want to feel like a stranger, a visitor, which was all she felt now.

“My queen,” a voice said, startling her out of her reverie. A pale woman with hair the color of a moonless night appeared before her.

“H-Hecate,” Persephone said, placing the woman after a moment of thought.

Hecate gave her a smile that was half-smirk. “It has been a while, my queen.”

Hecate kept calling her that—“my queen”—but she didn’t feel very queenly. She felt like a girl, lost and alone in a strange place. Queen was a word reserved for people like Hera, people who not only belonged but who commanded. Persephone couldn’t have commanded a daffodil at that moment.

“Where’s Hades?”

“He has gone for a walk in the Fields of Asphodel with Cerberus,” Hecate explained. “It’s something he likes to do when he needs to think.”

Persephone wondered what Hades needed to think about. Maybe she wasn’t living up to his expectations. Maybe he wanted to send her back.

The thought made her angry, and that surprised her. She would have expected to feel some combination of relief and sadness. But no, she definitely felt angry. It wasn’t just the idea of him thinking she was flawed, or of him using her and then returning her when he found her unsatisfactory. It was those things, too, but also it was the idea that he hadn’t even given her a chance. Did he expect her to show up like Aphrodite, stunning and sensual and knowing exactly how to please him? She wasn’t Aphrodite. She was Persephone, and she was his wife, and there was no way he was going to give up on her that easily.

“Hecate,” Persephone said, filled with a sudden fire. “Will you help me with something?”

When Hades returned to the palace later that day, it was decidedly not as he’d left it. Shades of artists were constructing a mosaic on one wall of the throne room (Hades thought he saw the shapes that might have been flowers). The furniture was completely rearranged, some of it not even in the same room it had been in that morning, and there was a lot more of it. Persephone stood in the middle of the chaos, Hecate at her side taking notes.

“Do you think we could get a lighter color on these walls? It’s so dark in here.”

“Persephone,” Hades growled.

Her head snapped up at the sound of his voice. She stared at him steely-eyed, determined not to be intimidated or afraid. “Hello.”

What are you doing?”

“Redecorating,” Persephone said. “This is my home now too, isn’t it? You said so yourself.”

“It’s still my palace,” he said.

“And I’m your queen.” She gazed at him as if daring him to deny it.

“You could have at least consulted me first.”

She wanted to shout at him, to tell him he may be her husband but she was his wife and she wasn’t going to consult him every time she took a breath. But all she said was, “I could say the same of you.”

That genuinely startled him. Either he had no idea what she was talking about or he was a marvelous actor. “What?”

“You had to go off to think,” she said. “What did you have to think about?”

Hades blinked at her, then glanced around at all the other occupants of the room. “Can we discuss this in private?”

Persephone’s stomach did a somersault. Here it came. He was sending her back. He didn’t want to do it in front of everyone so she couldn’t make a scene. She wanted to stand her ground, to force him to turn her out right there, to not let him be a coward about it.

But then she realized she was a coward, too.

“Yes,” she said finally. “Somewhere private.”

Upstairs the bed was being replaced by a four-poster with curtains. Hades angrily chased everyone out. At last there was silence.

He took her hand and sat them both down on the edge of the half-finished bed. “I was… worried.”

She blinked. “Worried?”

He held her gaze steadily. “Yes, Persephone, worried. I’m not one of Hephaestus’s automatons.”

“I didn’t think you were.”

“There’s something I didn’t tell you, that I should have told you before.”

Her hands involuntarily clenched around his again. She had no idea what he was going to say next, and she waited breathlessly for him to go on.

“I’m… not like my brothers.”

In spite of herself, Persephone laughed. She really laughed, deep guffaws that shook her whole body.

Hades stared at her with a mixture of confusion and hurt.

“I’m sorry,” she said once she’d managed to get a hold of herself. “It’s just… I know that! Everybody knows that!”

Hades looked a little angry now. “Listen to what I’m trying to say!”

She wiped the tears from her eyes and took deep breaths. “Okay. I’m sorry. Go on.”

“What I wanted to say was, I’m not like them—when it comes to… you know. Sex.”

Persephone tried very hard not to laugh all over again. Everybody knew that too.

“I haven’t been with… very many others.”

“About how many is ‘not very many’?”

“Not including you?” He hesitated. “One.”

Now that wasn’t the answer she’d been expecting. She waited for him to follow it up with “hundred,” but he seemed genuinely to mean “one.”

“I’m not… suave or handsome or charming like them,” he said, letting out a shuddering breath. He gave her a small half-smile as he added, “My courtship abilities leave a little something to be desired.”

She pursed her lips, but her eyes lit up with the smile she was trying to suppress. “I hadn’t noticed.”

His look turned serious again. “What did you think I was worried about?”

Oh, right. That. “I hadn’t had anything in particular in mind.”

He arched an extremely incredulous eyebrow.

She sighed. He had been honest with her. It was only fair if she was honest with him as well. “I thought… I did something wrong. That you realized I wasn’t what you wanted after all, and you were going to send me back.”

He stared at her in total bemusement for a long moment, then reached up to cup her cheek in his hand. “You are everything I could have ever wanted. I thought you knew that. I… guess I hadn’t made that as clear as I thought I had when you were last here.”

There were a lot of things she wanted to say. She wanted to tell him about her insecurities, her fears, but the words wouldn’t come. She leaned forward and kissed him. It was the first time she’d ever initiated a kiss. She didn’t know what to make of it, nor what he made of it.

At least when she pulled away he was smiling. “Let’s see to our guests, shall we?”

In the end, Hades agreed to most of her changes, but he convinced her to leave the walls the color they were and to move the flower mosaic to a room where he didn’t do all his intimidating.

After that they fell into a kind of a rhythm. Hades was busy during the day, which Persephone usually spent in her garden. She was alone most of the time, save for occasional visits from Hecate, whom she began to consider her only friend in the Underworld, though it was a little hard to get too close to someone who insisted on keeping her at arm’s length and calling her “my queen” all the time.

At night she and Hades would go to bed, where they would make love. She was glad to discover that it didn’t hurt every time, but she still wasn’t sure if she liked it very much overall. It seemed kind of strange, if she thought about it; the whole thing was basically two naked bodies rubbing together. Hades seemed to enjoy himself, at least, and she supposed that was probably the important thing. Though he’d always fall asleep afterward, leaving Persephone alone in the dark, staring at the ceiling and hoping there was still a part of herself left, that she hadn’t given all of it to him, leaving herself with nothing.

One morning she woke to an empty bed, as usual. She sat up and stretched her arms overhead, trying to think of what she was going to do with herself for the day.

“Good morning, sister,” came a voice from the foot of the bed.

Persephone shrieked, grabbing at the bedding to cover herself. It was a reflex action, one born of a lifetime of warnings about men.

Hermes chuckled. “Don’t worry, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before. I mean, not on you, but—seen a thousand tits, seen ’em all, am I right?”

“What are you doing here?” she demanded.

“Happy first day of autumn,” he said. “Time to go home.”

Her eyes got wide. Was summer truly over? She was going back to Olympus now, until next summer. Back to her friends and family.

Hades appeared in the room as well, melting out of the shadows. “Hermes, what are you doing in my bedroom?” he snarled.

“I’ve come to take the lovely lady back to Olympus,” Hermes explained. “Them’s the rules, remember?”

The look on Hades’ face was unreadable. His gaze stayed fixed on Hermes, never once flitting to his naked wife sitting tangled in the bedding just a few feet away from where he stood. “Indeed. I… had forgotten. Forgive me. A little warning next time would not go amiss, however. You may be an Olympian but this is still my palace and I am still king here. I expect you to show me the courtesy I am due.”

Hermes held up his hands. “Whoa-kay, buddy, whatever you say. Just trying to expedite the process here. I’ll be waiting downstairs while you two ‘say goodbye.’” He waggled his eyebrows in lieu of airquotes, then disappeared in a light rain of feathers from his sandals.

As soon as he was gone, Persephone began to dress hurriedly. Her hands were shaking and she couldn’t have said why.

Hades stood stiffly by, still not looking at her. “Well. Goodbye, my queen. I shall see you again after spring has ended.” Before she could say anything, he faded back into the shadows and was gone.

Persephone stood there beside the bed, jaw slack. “Goodbye,” she muttered absently to nothing.

She went down to meet Hermes in the parlor where he stood inspecting the flower mosaic. “Your touch, I suspect?” He turned as he spoke, and one look at her face told him all he needed to know. “All right then. Next stop, Mount Olympus.”

The sun was brighter than she remembered it being, though she only caught a glimpse of it before a dark shape that appeared out of nowhere enveloped her.

“Oh my sweet Kore,” Demeter sobbed, tears splashing down her face and onto Persephone’s. She relaxed her iron grip on Persephone to look into her eyes and cup her cheeks in her hands. “Was it truly awful? Did he hurt you? I’ll never forgive that man for ruining you!”

Demeter went on, but Persephone was finding it hard to focus on what she was saying anymore. She was stuck on the idea that Hades had “ruined” her. She was ruined? She didn’t feel ruined.

That wasn’t to say she didn’t feel different—but it wasn’t in a bad way. She felt older. Maybe a little more mature. She understood things a little better, she thought. She wasn’t suddenly a wise woman of the world or anything like that, but she felt a step closer than she had been before.

Demeter bustled off, promising to see to a feast of all her favorite foods in honor of her return. Persephone let out a breath she hadn’t even realized she’d been holding.

She took a stroll through Olympus, reacquainting herself with its marble columns and crystal-clear fountains. She waved at some of the gods and nymphs who were frolicking around. It was almost as if she’d never left.

She stopped short when she spotted a redheaded girl hitting a satyr over the head with his reed pipes. He ran off, a fistful of torn chitoniskos raised over his head like a prize.

The redheaded girl threw the reed pipes after him as hard as she could, nailing him in the back of the head and sending him sprawling. She turned away huffily and that’s when her gaze fell on Persephone.

“Hello,” Persephone said somewhat nervously. “It’s been a while, Artemis.”

Artemis said nothing. She looked Persephone over critically, and Persephone had a sinking feeling in her stomach. She had hoped it wouldn’t matter—the fact that she was no longer a maiden. She thought perhaps all the years they had spent together as sisters would count for more than that.

Persephone fought against the urge to wring her hands. “Want to… um… race?”

Artemis’s nose wrinkled very slightly, as if she could smell the sex on Persephone (which was probably not true; Persephone bathed regularly and always smelled of fresh flowers). Then, without ever saying a word, she vanished, leaving behind only the pungent odor of wet dog.

Persephone stood there feeling upset, frustrated, and confused. Why was everyone suddenly treating her like she was the manticore? This wasn’t fair.

She would have almost been happy to avoid everyone for the rest of the night, but Demeter insisted on the feast. Persephone sat in a place of honor, food heaped on the long table before her, and she couldn’t touch a thing.

Hades’ brief and formal farewell. Artemis’ chilly reception. And her mother, saying she’d been ruined.

She had expected to be happier about this day, but instead, she was miserable.

“Kore, you’re not eating,” Demeter said, hovering over her. “Is there something in particular you want that’s not here?”

“Pomegranates,” Persephone muttered.


“No, nothing, thank you. I’m just not very hungry.” She tried to smile up at her mother, but it must have been wan, because Demeter instantly started feeling her face to see if she had a fever.

“Are you feeling unwell? Did he do something to you?”

“No, Mother, I’m fine, I promise.” Persephone put her own hands over Demeter’s to push them away, but gently. “Just a bit tired.” She tried to smile more genuinely then.

With a start she remembered she had said almost the exact same thing to Hades when she’d gone back to the Underworld. Was this to be her life, then? Would transitioning like this ever get any easier, or would it forever be a series of upsets? She had wanted to belong in the Underworld the way she belonged on Olympus. Now she felt perhaps she belonged in neither place.

She was distracted from her misery by Apollo making a toast to her health. “And may she somehow survive these many long months without her husband. I’d say she’s had a lot of practice from all that time she spent with my sister, but let’s face it, that’s pretty irrelevant. Once you’re popped, you can’t stop!”

Most everyone laughed at that. Demeter was on her feet and chasing him out the door in an instant, though.

Everyone was, predictably, using the occasion as an excuse to drink more than was strictly necessary, and Persephone felt like joining them. The food stayed untouched but she had cup after cup of wine. It was good wine, probably made by Dionysus himself.

The feast was winding down, the revelers mostly having passed out or gone off to continue celebrating in private. Persephone stumbled over furniture, prone bodies, and empty air, all of which were equally tricky to navigate, cup of wine wobbling dangerously in her hand, before she finally made her way over to a kline against one of the walls. She plopped down on it and found herself between Dionysus and Apollo. Hermes was nearby, passed out with a half-naked nymph draped across him like a fashion accessory.

“Well, well, if it isn’t the guest of honor,” Dionysus hummed drowsily, raising his half-full cup to her. “To your health and all that… whatever.”

“So Persephone,” Apollo said, draping an arm around her shoulders. “How does it feel to join the ranks of the sexually-awakened? Much better on our side, right?”

It wasn’t really a serious question, but Persephone considered it seriously anyway—a bit difficult given how all the wine was making her head swim. “I don’t know,” she said at last, because it was the most honest answer she was capable of giving at that moment.

Apollo raised an eyebrow. “You don’t know?”

“I don’t know,” she mimicked him. “I feel like I don’t know anything anymore. I thought I was more grown-up, less sheltered, becoming an adult, developing my own life, but now I just feel like… like…”

“Like a ship without anchor?”

“Yes, exactly!”

Dionysus put a hand on Apollo’s arm. “That was beautiful, man.”

“How did you know?” Persephone asked, turning her head to look Apollo in the eye (or at least the eyes she thought were his; focusing on his face wasn’t as easy as she felt it probably ought to be).

He shrugged nonchalantly. “You had that ‘anchorless ship’ look.”

“My mother says I’m ruined, and I’m like, what does that even mean. And Hades got all formal and weird when I left and he wouldn’t even look at me. What am I even there for? It’s not as if I even really like the sex thing…”

Apollo and Dionysus both leaned forward to exchange glances around her.

“Don’t like?”

“Sex ‘thing’?”

“I don’t know how it is for men, but it’s kind of boring if you ask me.” She took another sip from her cup, which she had still somehow not managed to spill, despite all her gesturing. “I just lie there while he does… whatever…”

“Oh, Persephone.” Dionysus shook his head.

“Oh, honey, no.” Apollo gave her shoulder a little squeeze. Both of them were clearly trying not to laugh.

“What? What do you mean?” She’d had far too much to drink to understand their subtle jibes and looks, though if she was honest with herself, she wasn’t entirely sure she’d understand them even if she were stone-cold sober.

“What do you guys do, exactly?” Apollo asked.

“As if you need to ask,” Dionysus replied before Persephone could. “Lights out, covers on—”

“Missionary position,” both of them finished together.

Persephone could feel her face flushing, but it was possible that was just the wine. “Isn’t that how it’s done?”

“If you’re boring,” Apollo said.

“It’s not like there are rules,” Dionysus told her. “You’ve got hands. And tongues. And more than one hole.”

No, she was definitely flushing, a hot, full-body thing that creeped up her torso and along her arms and legs, like someone was shoving her towards a fire. Was she about to get burned?

Dionysus noticed. “I think we’re going to need more wine. Where’s Hebe?”

“Also diagrams!” Apollo added eagerly.

“Actually, I have a better idea!” Dionysus said, his eyes lighting up. He kicked Hermes where he lay. “Wake up, we need you and your friend for something!”

“Where have you been all day, dear?” Demeter was arranging dried flowers around the room, the celebration of her beloved daughter’s return clearly not over as far as she was concerned.

Persephone stepped up beside her to help. “With Dionysus and Apollo.”

Demeter’s hands froze for a second, then carried on as if nothing was wrong. “Oh,” she said tightly. “Why don’t you spend some time with your sisters and your old friends? You haven’t seen them much at all since you got back, have you?”

Persephone bit her lip. “I don’t know. Things are too different now, I guess. They don’t seem to want to spend time with me. It’s okay though. I had fun with the boys. Hermes was there too, but then he had to run off for…” She trailed off, processing the look on her mother’s face. “What?”

Demeter looked like she was going to cry all over again. “He’s ruined you!” she wailed.

Persephone frowned, but couldn’t bring herself to articulate why she felt sure that wasn’t the case at all. “Mother, it’s fine. I’m not upset at all. Look.” She smiled. “See? I’m happy.”

Demeter’s lip wobbled, but she tried valiantly to smile in return. “My darling. So brave in the face of such horrors.” She threw her arms around her daughter in a hug and held her tight, as if she planned never to let go.

Persephone hugged her back, but when at last they separated, she felt a small measure of relief.

Hermes left her in her garden as the sun set on the last day of spring, as before. But this time was otherwise different: this time, she was ready. She held her head high and instead of waiting there uncertainly, she went straight into the palace.

Hades was on his way out, and the two nearly ran into one another. He looked startled—by what, she couldn’t say. Had he forgotten what day it was? Had he expected her to wait outside for him? Or was it simply that there was something different in her face and the way she carried herself?

She had realized something: making love wasn’t about giving herself away; it was about sharing herself with someone she loved. And she loved Hades, deeply and completely—there was no question about that now. She loved his awkwardness, his silly long capes, his hidden tenderness. She loved the feel of his hands on her face and body, the feel of his lips against hers, the feel of his weight beside her as she slept. She loved the look in his eyes that told her he loved her too.

“I’m back,” she said, unnecessarily. Then she grabbed him by his robes and pulled him in for a fierce kiss.

Hades was stunned when at last they came up for air. “Oh.”

“I’m not even going to make an issue of the way you acted when I left. Water under the bridge as far as I’m concerned.”

Hades quirked an eyebrow. “And yet you bring it up anyway.”

“Well it kind of pissed me off if you want to know the truth, but I’m just saying.”

He cleared his throat somewhat awkwardly. “I’m sorry. I should explain. I was… worried. That you were glad to be leaving me. And… I reacted to these feelings in an extremely mature fashion, as you saw. I have been kicking myself for it everyday since.”

She stared at him. “Seriously? That’s what that was all about?”

“Mm.” He looked down, thoroughly chagrined.

She shook her head. “I guess I’m just going to have to prove to you that you have nothing to worry about. Fortunately for you, I have just the thing in mind.”

The message arrived on a lazy afternoon while Apollo and Dionysus were enjoying themselves under the hot summer sun. Dionysus was stretched out in the grass, a pair of dryads on either side of him hand-feeding him grapes. Apollo sat nearby playing his lyre and singing a song that was, on the surface, about a mighty battle, but was actually about sex. The dryads giggled and blushed demurely and pretended to be oblivious the double meaning (but then, Dionysus wondered, trying not to roll his eyes, why were they blushing?).

Hermes interrupted them with his appearance, message in hand. “You guys are gonna want to see this right away. It’s from Persephone. She addressed it to the three of us and ‘that lovely lady friend of Hermes’.’” He grinned, handing it down to Dionysus, who immediately read it with an ever-widening smile on his face.

“What does it say?” Apollo asked, his curiosity forcing him to pause his song.

Dionysus looked up at his brother, his grin as wide as it would go. “It looks like our dear sister has just discovered multiple orgasms.”