Chapter Eighteen: A Meeting at His Place
On Thursday afternoon, whilst Persephone was at Aphrodite's, Hades was sat his table in the corner of the bar at work, filling out some paperwork. He was getting agitated sitting alone in his room, so he came down to the bar, partially for a different atmosphere, and partially for the pomegranate flavoured ambrosia—it took too long to wait for it to be delivered personally to his office. As established before, Hades was not a fan of ambrosia, but sometimes the occasion was called for, and he would always opt for pomegranate flavour if necessary, as that was the only flavour he could typically stand. Though, sometimes he did fancy a good strawberry if pomegranate was unavailable or if he simply needed a change.
Across from him sat Hecate, leant back in her chair, her clipboard laying untouched in front of her. She may not have been physically filling out forms, but Hades knew her mind was still at work as she blew black bubble gum until it popped. The only sound at their table was the tapping of her long, blood red nails.
That was until: "Hey, fancy seeing the two of you here."
"Hermes," Hecate said slowly, and she remained entirely still as her eyes darted over to him. "Aren't you supposed to be working?"
Seeing as there was no chair at the table, Hermes pulled his legs up so he was sitting cross-legged in the air, and he balanced a full pilsner glass precariously on one knee. "I could say the same to you."
"I was working," Hades said, and he tapped his pen against his paperwork, "until you interrupted. Why are you not at Psychopomping?"
"Sheesh, I'm entitled to a break guys," Hermes said, and he took a sip of his drink. "It's unusual to see you two down here though."
"We're entitled to a break too," Hecate said, and she idly tapped his knee. He wobbled slightly, but not enough to lose balance. Hecate sighed when he was quick enough to swipe his glass off from his other knee before it split.
Hermes took another sip of his drink, then in a low voice he said, "I heard Aphrodite knows."
Keeping his voice as cool as possible, Hades asked, "Knows what?"
"About you and Persi," Hermes said, and he paused to take yet another sip. "And about her trips to the mortal world."
"And how would you know this?" Hecate asked coldly.
"Because she's one of my best mates? I've known her since she was a kid, you know," Hermes huffed. Hecate's eyes narrowed slightly, but she remained silent and simply blew a bubble at Hermes instead. "She's been texting me regular updates, obviously, like every five minutes."
This bothered Hades a little, since he had not been getting regular updates, but he was not the type to get too jealous; Persephone was entitled to text whomever she wanted about whatever she wanted.
"How would you know she's been texting you every five minutes," Hades asked, "if you are meant to be working?"
"For starters, each text message comes with a time stamp," Hermes said, "and secondly, you know I'm always on my phone anyway, but I'm still the best psychopomp you've got regardless, so who cares?"
"I care," Hecate said. "And I'm a better psychopomp than you."
"Hades, mate, you really need a politer secretary because your current one sucks," Hermes said, and he ignored Hecate as she flipped him her middle finger. "Anyway, as I was saying, I hear Aphrodite knows. If Ares and the rest of Dite's family know, I have no idea, but it seems that the whole pantheon might know sooner or later. I mean, I know, Aphrodite knows, Dio knows…"
"Dionysus wouldn't know if you hadn't told him," Hecate said briskly.
"I told him about her name, she told him about her trips to the Underworld," Hermes said, and though he spoke the truth, he was potentially withholding some too. Just because Persephone told Dionysus about her trips to the Underworld, did not mean Hermes had not also done the same.
"All I am saying," Hermes continued, "is maybe you should be a little more careful."
Hades did not hear the last of Hermes' words, for he had sat upright and said, "Hecate, we have an issue."
"I feel it too," Hecate said, and in a blink of any eye, she was gone.
Hermes' gaze drifted across the rest of the bar, and all of the patrons that were still unaware. Slowly, he slid into Hecate's seat, and then he said, "Tartarus?"
Hades only made a slight noise in reply as he focused his attention back on his paperwork.
"You're stressed, then," Hermes said.
"I am stressed for Persephone," Hades said, for he saw no reason to lie.
They sat in silence for a while, and by the time Hecate strode back into the room ten minutes later, Hermes had finished his drink and Hades his paperwork. When Hecate came back to her seat, Hermes got up without a fuss.
"I suppose I should be going back to work, then," Hermes said, his hands behind his head. "Though, I did finish all the tasks I was given already. Maybe I can go home early if Thanatos has nothing else for me. I am an Olympian, after all; I've plenty of stuff to do that isn't babysitting chthonic gods and their not very secret secrets."
"Like stealing my pen?" Hecate held out a hand.
Hermes sighed. After pulling her own from his hoodie pocket, he placed it firmly into his palm, waved goodbye, then left without another word.
Hecate sighed next, and she stole a sip of Hades' pomegranate ambrosia. "You cannot let your control of Tartarus slip."
"I will not let my control of Tartarus slip," Hades said. "I cannot when you are here. I was simply worried about Persephone, that is all."
"Worry a little less about Persephone," Hecate said. "She's an adult. If she trusts Aphrodite not to spill secrets, so should we."
Hades only nodded, and the pair returned to work.
In all fairness, Aphrodite kept to her word and set up a distraction for a later date. Hades had been in his kitchen, boiling water for a hot chocolate, when Persephone called.
"I did not think you would call so soon," Hades said as he held the phone up to his ear. "You were only here a few hours ago."
"Yeah, I know, and I had a great time on our date earlier," she said, and Hades' heart sunk slightly as he expected a but. "But… Mother's gone out for the evening! Aphrodite convinced her to go clubbing. Aphrodite also said they won't be back until late tomorrow morning, so we could do something this evening if you want."
"Oh, I was actually making plans with Hecate. She wanted to watch a new show this evening," Hades said. "Something about a haunted house and some creepy children."
"Oh," Persephone said, and there was a long pause. "Well, would you mind if I watched with you?"
"You would like to watch a horror show?"
"I mean, it's not my usual cup of tea, but if you and Hecate are there to keep me safe, I won't mind!"
Hades smiled slightly. "I am sure Hecate would love you over for the night."
"And what about you?"
"I would love you over for the night too."
"Great!" Persephone said, and she giggled. "Oh, I should call Hermes, though he might be a little annoyed that he has to take me back to the Underworld."
"Tell Hermes he has no choice," Hades said. "And, tell him to be quick. I'm about to make hot chocolate and I am sure you do not want to miss out."
"Hermes is always quick. Well, Eros might disagree. Oh my gods I can't believe I just said that! Ew! Anyway, will do! Love you, bye!"
Before Hades had a chance to reply, she had hung up. His heart swelled just a little at her last few words.
Soon, before even Hecate had returned from work, there was a knock at the front door. As Hades went to answer it, Cerberus bounded after him. It was quite rare that there was a knock at the door, after all. Hades and Hecate never got guests, not even chthonic ones. If they were meeting up with family, it was always around Nyx's.
When Hades opened the door, he was greeted by a beaming Persephone, and a frowning Hermes. Persephone had a small bag hung over her shoulder.
"Good evening, Persephone," Hades said.
"Good evening," she said in reply, and she giggled. Her eyes were a bright, vibrant green that day.
Hermes groaned. "I've said this once, and I'll say it again, and I'll probably say it again-again later, but just remember that secretly meeting up behind the whole pantheon's back isn't going to go well. Though, at this rate, the whole pantheon will know with how badly you two keep secrets."
Not wanting to be belittled by Hermes, Hades said, "If Persephone is ever in trouble with the Pantheon, Hecate and I can handle it."
"Really?" Hermes' eyebrows rose. "I distinctively remember you being so stressed the other day your hold on Tartarus almost slipped."
"Your hold on what?" Persephone asked. Hades simply stared at Hermes.
"Okay, I think that's enough talking from you," someone else said, and a long, blood red nail tapped Hermes on the shoulder. He opened his mouth to reply, closed it, then frowned. Hecate gave him her usual deadly smile, then gave Persephone a softer one. "Oh, Persephone, my dear, what are you doing here?"
"Mother's going clubbing with Aphrodite until, like, six in the morning," Persephone said. "And Hades said you were going to be watching this new scary show, so I wanted in."
"Oh, this is going to be exciting," Hecate said, and she pushed Hermes aside as she took Persephone and led her inside. "And the first time around ours, my, my."
Hecate had been about to swing the front door shut, when Hades gestured to the scowling Hermes. Hecate rolled her eyes.
"But I do quite like him being silent," she said as she waved her hand through the air.
Hermes took a deep breath. "For the love of Olympus, I like none of you. Anyway, I actually have things to do on Friday evenings besides chauffeuring you around, like parenting my kid brother. I can tell none of you have any kids. And don't expect me to be here to pick you up in the morning. I'm sleeping in."
He pointed a finger at Persephone, who smiled sheepishly as Hecate said, "I can handle the trip back, you know, even though it will physically pain me to step on to Olympus."
Hermes grunted and turned to leave, and Persephone called out, "Thank you!"
"Yeah, whatever, you owe me, Persi," Hermes said, and he waved goodbye before he took off into the sky and disappeared.
Hecate kicked the front door shut. "Thank the Underworld. I thought he was never going to leave."
"You know, Hermes isn't as bad as you think—" Persephone said, and then she yelped as Cerberus tackled her feet. When she got her feet free, she giggled and knelt in front of him so she could pat all of his heads. "I've missed you too, Cerbie."
When Persephone had stopped fawning over Cerberus, she stood up and smiled at Hades. Then she gasped when her gaze fell upon Hecate, who's stiletto heels were now dangling off the ends of her fingers.
"You're not so tall anymore," Persephone said as she looked down at Hecate's bare feet. "I mean, you're still tall, but not as tall."
"Yes, darling, that's what happens when one takes off one's shoes," Hecate said with a smirk, then she strutted over to the shoe rack to one side. There were plenty of shoes in the rack, but mostly they were the same pairs of black work shoes and heels, encrusted in diamonds and rubies. "Now, be a gentleman and take her bag. Honestly, Hades, one would think you're not used to having guests."
"We're not used to having guests," Hades corrected, but Hecate was already strutting down the corridor.
"You know, your place isn't as big as I thought it would be," Persephone said as Hades led her through the house, pointing out the most noteworthy rooms. "I mean, it's still big, especially for just two people, but even Nyx and Erebus' house is bigger than yours."
"Nyx and Erebus do have quite w lot of children," Hades said. "And they are primordial gods with nothing to do, so the large house keeps them occupied. I may be the god of riches, but I do not see a need for a large house myself when I do not need it."
"But you do need diamonds on your waistcoat buttons?"
"I have no defence to that," Hades said as she chuckled. "I spend frivolously in some regards, though not as much as I used to. Decades ago I used to spend money with a lot less care. I had nothing else to spend it on. Thankfully I have mellowed our and take more care in my finances."
Mellow was the term he used. Hecate accuses him of simply growing too sad and too lonely to bother keeping up pretences that he was a greedy, money hoarding god. He had only been so frivolous in the first place to prove a point to his brothers, that he had more than them.
"Well," Persephone said, "there's always charity."
"Thankfully, I learnt that myself a while back," Hades said. "I give away as much as I can, but Zeus says the gods are not to give too much charity to the mortals. We're only supposed to aid when they give something in return."
"Zeus is awful," Persephone said, and her bright green eyes darkened slightly. "Who cares if we help the mortals? I mean, Aphrodite spends all her money on sex workers to help them out and he doesn't care."
"Do not quite me on this, for I might be mistaken, but I believe Aphrodite works through loopholes," Hades said, recalling what Hecate had once told him, since she was the one with all the gossip from Olympus. "She gives money to the workers in exchange for something, usually photos, so it does not count as donations. Plus it is a part of her domain, so Zeus cannot stop her from doing her job."
"Oh," Persephone said quietly, and the darkness faded from her eyes. "I suppose, as the god of riches and the dead, there's not much you can claim under your domain to donate to."
"There is," Hades said, and it had not occurred to him that he had come to a stop until Persephone gently rested a hand on his arm. "I fund a lot of funerals. Hospices too. Surgeries when I can, anything to make the death easier. An easier death means an easier time for their soul. Pain is not easy."
His voice trailed away. Being the god of the dead was not easy, not when it surrounded one with plenty of misery.
"I never knew you did that," Persephone said as she squeezed his arm.
"No one does, because Zeus does not want anyone to," Hades said, and he patted the back of her hand. "Not that I would want them to. Charity is not bragging about how much you give away."
"That is true," Persephone said as she linked her arm through his. "Now, come on. Hurry up and show me your garden before it gets too dark. Though I bet it isn't as big as mind."
"You are the goddess of spring and flowers, so I would expect you to have a large garden," Hades said, and he smiled. "But I have an orchard."
Her eyes brightened once again as she grinned, and Hades smiled as he continued to lead her through the house.
He and Hecate did not have a back garden, not really. There was a small patch of grass with two chairs and a small table, for when they felt like sitting outside, and the rest was full entirely of pomegranate trees. Persephone gasped, then ran forward and squealed.
"You must be in heaven here," she said. "You can eat pomegranates all day."
Hades smiled as he watched her. She was beautiful, with her long hair flying behind her as she danced up to the trees, her grin wide. She was far too beautiful, even for a goddess, and he did not deserve her at all.
"I certainly do not eat these pomegranates all day," Hades said as he came to stand next to her. "I only eat pomegranates imported from your mother's farms, for they are safe for anyone to eat. Not these ones."
"These are your famous Underworld pomegranates," Persephone said as she traced a finger down the closest one.
"They used to be in the Underworld itself, but I had the trees moved when we adopted a more modern business etiquette," Hades said. "People loved to steal a few, anyway, which caused a lot of problems with Olympus. Here in my personal gardens no one can get to them."
As Persephone gazed at the fruits, there was a cough behind them. Hecate stood at the back foot, hands on her hips.
"I said take her bag, Hades, not on a tour of the whole house," Hecate said. "And she still has her bag, honestly. Hurry up or the hot chocolates I just made you are going to go cold."
"You made us hot chocolate?" Persephone asked. "Oh, you're a star."
"Not quite, but close considering who my mother was," Hecate said, and though she played it she off as a joke, Hades was not oblivious to the slight edge to her voice. Hecate acted cool headed as often as she could, but, like with everyone, there were things that bothered her. Being reminded of her parents was one of those things.
Hades beckoned Persephone to follow him inside, and her fingers fell from an empty pomegranate branch. Once they had finished their hot chocolates, Hecate announced it was time for scary shows. Persephone had brought her pyjamas with her, and so Hades led her to the communal bathroom, whilst he and Hecate disappeared to their bedrooms. Hades put on his silk pyjamas and braided his hair, then went to meet the others in the hallway. First, he ran into Hecate, who wore an exquisite black nightgown and no make up. Then they went to find Persephone, who was currently sitting down with Cerberus, playing fetch with a rag doll. She wore tiny cotton shorts with a floral pattern, and a strap vest that kept slipping from one shoulder.
Before Persephone had noticed them, Hecate leant into Hades and whispered, "Aren't you a lucky man? Look at those curves."
"She is certainly beautiful," Hades agreed, especially with how her hair tumbled all across the floor. She had plucked out the flowers and strung them into a crown instead.
"That's not what I meant," Hecate said, and before she could clarify, Cerberus looked up and bounded over.
Persephone also looked up, and first her gaze fell on Hades, and then Hecate. "Gods, I love being bisexual."
Hecate chuckled, and Hades smiled, then they picked up Persephone from the floor, fetched some blankets to cuddle under, and went to go and watch some scary shows.