When the growing is near done and the harvest not quite started, there's a short while where Persephone doesn't have much to do with her time. The fields are green and the fruit is fat and ripe on the vine, and even her mama's gone off somewhere for the day, not here to hover and think up any other errands to keep a body busy.
So, she sits herself down beneath the wide-reaching branches of her favorite willow tree, enjoys the sun and shadow dappling the grass around her, and hums a quiet melody as her hands work idly to bring fresh picked flowers and stems and blades of grass together in intricate little patterns. A peaceful way to wait. And when she hears a set of cautious footsteps followed by the soft groan of the garden fence under hands leaning heavy on the wood, Persephone smiles.
She can always tell without even looking when it's Hades come calling, just by the high and long creak of the gate swinging in. It only whines on its hinges like that when someone's opening it real slow, not banging and bustling on through like everyone else around here, someone hesitant to come in 'til they know they'll be welcomed.
'Til he knows Persephone is alone, that is.
It's not like her mama's the kind to run off any of Persephone's invited guests, but she can sure make it clear when she ain't happy with someone. And she ain't been happy with Hades for a long time.
It's a story Persephone can never quite decide if she wants to ask either of them about.
"Come and sit with me in the shade," she says, her eyes still on the chain of flowers growing steadily across her lap, because she also knows without looking that Hades is squinting his eyes nearly shut, holding a hand up to his furrowed brow to block out the hot light of the sun. She always wonders if she'd be squinting the same way trying to peer through the dark of his underworld if she ever got the chance to see it.
Whatever hesitation Hades was feeling at the gate apparently disappears with her invitation, and he comes on over and sits down nice and close to her, hip to hip and knee to knee.
Persephone scoots forward so he can slip his arm between her back and the rough bark of the tree's trunk, and then she gratefully leans into the soft, warm bulk of him. She tips her head back against his shoulder and grins up at him. "Nice of you to visit and brighten up such a boring day."
He huffs a little laugh, returning her smile. "Boring?" he asks, glancing over the deep green fields all around them. "It looks like you've been working too hard for that."
"We sure have. But now the work is done, and there's nothing much to do. A little rest is nice, but I hardly know what to do with myself after a while." She puts a hand on his knee and leans back a little to better meet his eyes. "I'm hoping you brought more of your interesting stories of home to tell me."
"Stories are all I have this time," he says, sounding a bit apologetic, and that makes her cluck her tongue.
He brings her gifts from below the ground sometimes, pretty bits of glittering rock and gleaming metal, carved and bent and twisted into something far beyond anything that works its way up to the surface on its own. And she coos over them plenty when he does, is happy to wear them dangling at her neck and wrists and fingers for his appreciative looks and the envious stares of others, but she's much more interested in the man bringing it all than the gifts themselves.
"Such a generous king," Persephone says teasingly. "You know some good company is more than enough for me."
He smiles again, looking down, almost shy, and happily lets himself be prodded into storytelling. His rumbling voice weaves together the tapestry of his world, its rivers and caverns and fledgling mines, its harsh fires and golden fields, its beasts and gods and lonely souls.
She takes his hand in both of hers as she listens, feels the roughness of his fingertips against her palm, traces the lines across his knuckles where dark stains of oil and dust have settled, like the soil ever beneath her own fingernails. The signs of good, hard work from the both of them, as different as it must be. Curiosity always hums at the back of her mind when she's with Hades, but lately she finds herself burning with it, and as this story comes to an end, she says with a suddenness that almost startles even her, "I'd like to go down and see it for myself sometime, where all these nice gifts and stories come from."
He does not answer right away but stiffens up beside her and looks off to the side. "I… I worry you won't much like it," he eventually replies.
Persephone laughs. It's the first time she's made the request so directly, and he always evaded her more subtle gestures in that direction before. It's funny to finally figure out why and have it be such a silly reason. "Maybe so, but the only way to know is to make the trip. And you and I ain't going to be getting very far together with me always up here and you always down there except when you decide to visit." She gathers up the string of flowers in her lap and rises up onto her knees to toss it over the back of his neck, smiling at the way it drapes down over his shoulders and chest. She likes seeing him in the colors of her domain, the same, she imagines, as he likes seeing her dripping with gems from the underworld. "Besides, I might just love it. You don't know me that well, yet."
He stares up at her, eyes gone a little wide, and wets his lips with his tongue before speaking. "No," he agrees. "Not yet."
And Persephone lets her hands slip down over his back, pulling herself closer until she can kiss him. His own hands find her hips, fingers pressing into her skin, and she settles herself fully into his hold.
It feels like hours pass in an instant in that kiss. She half expects to see the moon and stars when they part, to hear her mama pacing and tutting far in the distance, wondering when her dreaming daughter will finally drag herself back home. Instead she sees Hades in the flickering sun and shadow beneath her tree, awe in his half-closed eyes.
"Come home with me," he says, quick and low and breathless.
The fields are green and the fruit is fat and ripe on the vine. The work is done, and they hardly need Persephone here to coax them along anymore.
She smiles and leans back, watches as Hades stands up real tall and stretches his arms out to her, beckoning, begging.
"Sure took you enough time to ask," Persephone says, and she takes both his hands.