Thanatos turns his head before Megaera even says a word.
Once upon a time, it would have surprised her, how attuned he is to her. She might have even scoffed. Mocked him for his attachment.
But they are older now, and she knows better.
“Megaera,” Thanatos says, quietly enough that only she hears it. "Is something the matter?"
Despite everything, it still surprises her sometimes how he honors her desire for discretion. The professional distance she insists on maintaining while in the House. Even when they are off duty. Even in this secluded corner that everyone in the House knows is unofficially his.
“My shift just ended.” Megaera’s hand tightens around the handle of the whip, trying to find something to ground herself before she drowns in the tumult of the emotions she’s been trying to keep firmly subdued her entire shift. “I was just passing by, that’s all.”
He glances at her over his shoulder in what would appear to be a careless look to any passing shade, but when their eyes meet, she knows he’s gotten the message.
“I see. Enjoy your break, then.”
At any other time, this would be her cue to make a sarcastic remark – his lips would turn up in a smirk in response, and they would part ways, nothing but work associates exchanging pleasantries in the West Hall after work. But today, she can’t seem to muster the energy to force the words from her tongue. She leaves him in silence, trusting that he would follow her in due time.
Her bedchambers are in the top floors of the House, the entrance to it situated high enough that none would be able to enter if they are unable to fly.
(Megaera is lucky to still be able to fly this high on the strength of one wing alone, but that is no one’s fault but her own, and she prefers not to let her thoughts linger on the sins she had committed when she was young and heedless and far too greedy to explore.)
In her private quarters, the candles burn low with just enough light to see by, the quiet a mercy after the endless screams of the damned whenever she’s on duty. The rug is thick under her bare feet, relief from standing on the cold stone of Tartarus. It is the first moment she has had to herself since Lord Hades summoned her before his throne.
She surveys herself in the full-length mirror. The dim light makes her look younger, softening her severe features. Most of the time, she doesn’t mind it. But today, it’s a cruel reminder of the order she has just been issued.
Her jaw clenches, and almost before she can think, her bright pink whip collides with the glass, shattering it with a crash that makes her ears ring. The impact leaves all but the top part of the mirror intact in its ornate frame, shards glittering like stars on the dark rug. What little she can still see of her reflection is distorted by the cracks, fracturing her face in two.
She sighs, dropping her eyes. She doesn’t want to see Than’s gaze on her.
“What,” Megaera grits out through her teeth, and walks over to pick up the whip from where it’s rolled away, its handle gritty with dust.
Her finger catches on the jagged edge of a piece of glass, and she hisses, the sudden pain interrupting the shame already roiling in her belly at being witnessed at such an unguarded moment. She winds the whip deliberately with her uninjured hand and places it down on the bureau.
There’s a soft rustle of fabric, and she knows without looking up that Than is standing right behind her.
“Just say it already,” she mutters.
She finally turns to face him. “Whatever it is you’re thinking,” she spits out. “You’re so… so silent all the time, do you have any idea just how damn frustrating – what are you doing?”
Than takes her hand and lifts it wordlessly to his mouth, lips closing around the finger oozing ichor from the cut. His tongue darts over it once, his searching eyes never leaving her face.
“I’m not the one you’re angry at, Megaera,” he says quietly.
For some reason, the words shake her to her core. Her rage was an incandescent thing, on the verge of a wave of destruction that would have rivalled even Alecto’s infamous rampages –
(don’t think about them, damn it, don’t)
– but right now, all she feels is an inexplicable desire to weep.
“You’ve heard, then,” she says, her voice barely audible.
“Some of it, yes. But I’d rather hear it from you.”
Megaera takes one ragged inhale, lets it out slowly. Shakes her head. “Not now,” she murmurs, but Than is already undoing the straps and buckles that hold the armor around her neck and shoulders in place.
“Whenever you’re ready,” is all he says, and no more.
“Than,” she whispers, watching him unfastening his gauntlet, his movements quick and sure. She’s trying to hold onto the frayed edges of her composure, but her anger is clawing at her throat, too much for her to ignore. Blindly, she reaches under the hem of her chiton, tugging off her leggings gracelessly. “Than, I –”
She has never been more grateful for how attuned Than is to her, how familiar this dance of theirs is after so many aeons. He hoists her up on the edge of the bureau without further ado, spreading her legs before dropping on his knees between them.
His tongue circles her clit once, twice, before dipping lower, licking with such precision that she gasps. Megaera’s trembling hands push the hood off Than’s head, her fingers winding into his hair to pull him closer. He makes a noise of protest, and her hold loosens, petting his head a little in apology.
(There is only one thing Than absolutely cannot tolerate, and it is to be restrained in any sort of way – she keeps all her toys stored out of sight for the rare occasions that he decides to visit her without an invitation.)
Megaera moans and arches her back, rocking her hips against the two fingers buried in her to the knuckle. Than’s lips close tightly around her clit, sucking lightly, his tongue lapping at her as he withdraws and thrusts back in, hard, curling his fingers just so.
The edge of the bureau is biting into Megaera’s thighs, and she’s glad for the distraction of the pain, keeping Than on his knees for her just a little longer. But he knows her far too well, has memorized the exact permutations that always, always have her hurtling to the edge faster than she realizes – a few well-placed flicks of his tongue in tandem with the steady rhythm of his fingers has her hips bucking helplessly as she keens, loud and long, riding out her pleasure against Than’s mouth.
He doesn’t let up, not even when she weakly tries to shove him away – Megaera is shaking from head to toe when she finally wriggles away from him, pulling his fingers out of her with a gasp.
“Enough,” she manages, her voice rasping from crying out. “Thanatos –”
She tugs on his arm. There’s the most irritating smile hovering around his mouth when he gets up, when he leans in to rub her thighs, soothing the trembling of her limbs.
“Will that be all?” Than says, raising an eyebrow at her. She swears and swats at him, her palm colliding with the bare skin of his chest, and he winces slightly with a laugh.
Megaera’s hand slips beneath the folds of his chiton, and she lets the pads of her fingers brush lightly over the bulge of his cock, already damp and straining against his leggings. Her nails dig in just the slightest bit, and he gasps. But to her surprise, he grasps her wrist, stilling her hand. When she looks up at him, there’s a question in his eyes. Her throat tightens –
(not yet, not now, I can’t)
– and she’s reaching for him, unclasping the hood with its elaborate golden chain in one practiced motion, her breath shallow and fast in her chest. The winged pauldron falls with a soft thud against the rug, but Than’s eyes are so intent on her that he doesn’t even take notice. He only leans in, tilting his chin up as she fumbles with the buckles of his gorget, lifting it off and setting it on the bureau next to them.
She’s relieved that he does not tease her today about how her fingers can’t seem to loosen their grip on his chiton, even as he rolls his leggings off and steps out of them, leaving them on the floor next to his fallen hood. Than has always been so meticulous about his clothes, but today his searching gaze hardly leaves her face, focused on her. Only on her.
(It catches Megaera off-guard sometimes, just how well Than knows her. She thinks sometimes that he knows her even better than she knows herself. Perhaps it might even occur to her to be frightened, were it anyone else but Than –)
“Meg.” Than’s thumb is rubbing circles into her hip. “Still with me?”
She nods. Her fingers curl tighter into the grey chiton, its silken folds so familiar to the touch. Than will forgive her this moment of weakness, she thinks, and she presses her cheek against his shoulder and breathes in his scent with her eyes closed, all musk and spice and something that reminds her faintly of cedarwood.
Than hums. “Feeling better?”
“A little,” she says, her voice muffled against his neck.
“Well, we can’t have that,” he says, and she can hear the smile in his voice – she scoffs, but pulls him closer, her hand slipping back under the hem of his chiton to feel the firm muscle of his thighs under her palms. She scrapes her nails down the curve of his hipbone, just to hear him gasp, before she closes her fingers around his cock. He’s flagging a little now, but she knows all it takes is a few strokes before he’s hard and ready for her once more.
“Touching yourself while you were on your knees, were you?” She kisses the divot of his neck and collarbone hard, worrying the skin between her teeth as he lets out a moan. “Aren’t you impatient today?”
Than huffs out a laugh, lifting his head slightly, just enough for her to see his eyes through the fringe of his hair. “Didn’t want to keep you waiting, is all.”
He says it lightly, but it has the force of a whip crack – Than, always anticipating what she needs, even before she knows it herself – the noise that escapes her when he finally presses into her sounds suspiciously like a sob, even to her own ears.
“Than,” she says, her voice thready with want, pulling him closer, wrapping her arms around his neck. She moans as he sheathes himself in her to the hilt in one smooth motion, until everything is full and tight and wet but still not enough. “There, right there –”
He pulls out slowly, until just the head of his cock is still in her – when he thrusts back in, it punches all the air out of her lungs.
“Like this,” he says, his voice nearly a growl in his throat, hoarse with desire. “This is what you wanted?”
“Yes – yes, ah, just like that –” Megaera’s words, pushed out of her in between Than’s steadily building rhythm, trail off into moans as he wraps his arms around her waist and lifts her an inch off the bureau, holding them both suspended off the ground. She gasps, limbs tightening around him, fingers scrabbling for purchase against his shoulders at the sudden loss of balance, her single wing beating angrily.
“It’s alright, I’ve got you,” he interrupts, letting Megaera adjust to the sensation of hovering in midair, holding her securely against him. “I’ve got you,” he repeats, more softly this time, his piercing gaze a steady golden glow in the half-light.
She trusts him, she does, but it takes her a few moments to recover her composure, to remember that she can brace herself against him by locking her ankles together behind him – and when she does, it pushes him into her even deeper.
“Than,” she sighs, “fine, this is – ah –”
She cries out when he grinds his hips up into her, the movement pressing her clit against him and pushing his cock against the sensitive spot in her in one single fluid motion that has her seeing stars, again and again and again until she’s shaking with pleasure and exertion. Than is gripping her ass now, controlling the pace, and every time he rocks into her it pulls a moan from her lips.
Megaera is clinging so hard to Than that she’s certain he’s going to have bruises when they’re done – her grip slips inadvertently when he thrusts into her, and her nails dig into his back. He groans, his hips stuttering.
“Gods, Meg, the things you do to me,” he murmurs, trailing kisses down the line of her neck. He's flushed golden all the way down to his chest, lips parted in a moan.
“Do tell,” she says, laughing breathlessly. But when he rolls his hips, it’s all she can do to hold on, her voice lifted in a loud cry, arching against Than as white-hot pleasure burns through her. She sinks her teeth into his shoulder to muffle the embarrassing noises she’s making, already on the brink of begging him to give her a few seconds’ pause, but it’s not long until he’s wrapped an arm around her waist, holding them tightly together, his hips thrusting unevenly as he spills in her, gasping her name in her ear.
To Than’s credit, his grip on Megaera doesn’t loosen for a single moment. Her arms tighten around him, her face hidden against his neck, and thinks that if he lets go of her now, it will break her heart.
She nods. But when he begins to glide across her chambers, she tenses in his arms.
“I’ve got you,” he murmurs again, his voice low against her ear, and lowers her gently onto her bed before settling down beside her. They’re both still mostly clothed, but he unfastens her belt for her and sets it aside, careful not to touch her wing.
Megaera makes a noncommittal noise. The wrath she had carried her entire shift has given way to something heavier, more familiar. Guilt, she thinks, recognizing its bitter taste on her tongue. A wave of sharp regret washes over her when she remembers how harshly she had spoken to Than.
She presses her palm over his chest – his heart does not beat under her hand, but the cool, familiar pressure of his skin is comforting.
“I didn’t…” She bites her tongue, unaccountably anxious. “Look, Than, I didn’t mean to –”
“I know,” he says simply.
The tightness in her chest eases a little.
His hair is in his eyes again, and she brushes it out of the way with her fingers. She wonders if he will ever ask her to cut it again.
“Lord Hades has issued my new orders,” she says reluctantly. “Not only am I to stop Zagreus from breaking out, but I must do so with… with my sisters.”
She hisses the last word, her voice laden with venom. To be made to suffer the indignity of their defiance against her once more, after countless centuries of finally being spared their presence – she could not refuse a direct order from the Master of the House himself, but it doesn’t mean she has to like it. Not after everything she’s had to endure because of them.
(She owes Than for pulling her out of her head, keeping her from spiraling into those memories – but at this point, she owes him so many favors that there’s no use keeping count anymore.)
Than sighs and rolls on his back, staring blankly at the high ceiling. “Zagreus has no idea what kind of havoc he’s wreaking, does he.”
It’s not a question, Megaera thinks, listening to the frustration leaking out in his voice. “He really doesn’t,” she says at last. She feels very small suddenly, unsure in a way she hasn’t felt in ages. “What should we do?”
“There’s nothing we can do,” Than says. He covers his face with his forearm and lets out a breath, slow and ragged around the edges. “We just… we do our jobs, I guess. The same as we always have.”
Megaera knows he’s right, but the truth of it is agonizing. To know there was nothing they could do but let him go – she had Zag to herself for a while, at least, even if it hadn’t worked out in the end. But it pains her to know that Than wouldn’t even have that small comfort when Zag leaves them behind. He never speaks of it, but she would have been blind not to see the way Than has quietly yearned for him all these countless years.
“Than.” Megaera tries to say his name as softly as she can, but her voice breaks anyway. She can’t help herself – she moves closer to him on the bed and tucks herself against his side. “Than.”
He lifts his arm slightly to look at her, just enough for her to see his too-bright eyes. He doesn’t say anything, but he pulls her close, cradling her against his chest. Always, he is careful not to touch her wing.
(She doesn't know how she will ever stop owing him.)
They lie in silence for a long while. Perhaps Than feels the hot tears that fall against his chiton, perhaps Meg feels the way his chest rises and falls more than a few times in hitched, broken breaths, but neither of them ever speak of it – it’s enough, now, for the two of them to hold each other, limbs tangled together so tightly that it eases the pain of letting go, at least for a little while.