Chapter 9: Hide-And-Seek
"Close your eyes," he rumbled into her ear, a smile touching his lips as he wrapped one arm around her waist. His other hand went over her eyes, and his heart sped up a little as she reached up and covered his hand with both of hers. He could feel her smiling beneath his fingers.

Persephone leaned back obligingly against him, a small giggle escaping her. "Come on, I want to see what kind of adorable pet the almighty Hades keeps in the Underworld," she coaxed impatiently.

Complying with he wishes, Hades brought his fingers briefly to his lips and whistled above her head, the sudden sound making her flinch in surprise. Would she like him? Women liked dogs, right? Well, Cerberus was a giant, three-headed guard dog with teeth larger than her head, but the puppy was still more or less a pet dog.

Just when Hades was starting to sweat because the dog seemed to be playing disobedient, the pounding of those giant scrabbling paws clicking against the marble caught his attention. A few moments later, the giant puppy appeared, his big, black floppy ears bouncing as he bounded over. He skidded to a stop before them, sitting obediently, but just before he could open his mouth to bark, Hades laid a finger to his lips, then beckoned the creature closer.

"Open up your arms to him, Sunshine. He can be friendly," Hades assured her, smiling as she did as he'd requested. Cerberus lowered its heads, the middle one nosing her fingertips, and then her cheek as she reached around his head to feel out what he was.

"Wet nose," the goddess began, a smile still on her lips. "Wet nose, soft fur… and floppy, velvety ears. You have a dog?" A whine from one of the other heads, impatient for the attention of their new friend, interrupted her chain of thought. "Two dogs?"

Hades let his hand over her eyes fall, allowing her to view his rather large and intimidating puppy. "No, just one."

There was a moment of silence where Cerberus nuzzled her, begging for her attention, before the goddess smiled, and then laughed. "This is just like you, Hades, to have a pet like this! Big and intimidating, but really so sweet. It's so cute."

Hades coughed, glancing down at her. He'd left one arm around her waist, and he used the other to push back her chin so she looked him in the eye. "Sweet and cute?"

Grinning, Persephone reached up to pull his head down for a kiss. "Sweet and cute," she repeated decisively, kissing him again as he responded with an exasperated sigh. "See? Cute."

"Cute. Uh-huh. Your definition of that word seems to be a little skewed, if you don't mind my pointing out. Most people flee Cerberus before they even realize he has more than one head," Hades pointed out, offering her temple one last kiss before he released her. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have some work to do now that you're occupied."

She cocked a brow at him as he walked over toward his black marble dais before she smiled at him, and even though she said nothing he had the feeling she knew why he'd been unable to work. But it was her fault, really, that he had to worry about her being occupied and taken care of while he was away.

Sitting down on his chair, he picked up his scrying bowl again, looking over his realm and ensuring things were running smoothly. Every once in a while, though, he would find himself looking up to sneak a peek at the pair playing together on the marble floor. Each time he found himself smiling, he would quickly rub the expression from his lips and look back down to his bowl, forcing himself to concentrate. It was a peaceful way to work, though not as efficient as before, but he didn't feel so much like all the responsibilities were dragging along behind him, weighing him down. He felt almost light-hearted, as if the life contained inside of the goddess rolling around with his dog on the marble floor was contagious.

Unfortunately, Hades suddenly found himself jolted from his work and quite musings as a great knock threatened to burst down his door. Sitting up straighter and trying not to be appalled by the fact that he'd been slouching, he barely had time to brush the wrinkles from his robes before the doors opened and Demeter stepped in.

With those dark waves cascading around her toned form, Demeter truly was a beautiful goddess despite the wrath her eyes spelled out. He could see hints of his sister in Persephone, but she lacked her daughter's fluidity. Demeter's movements were strong, and she was obviously a goddess of the working man, of the farmer and his bounty. Where her mother would stand firm against the wind, unyielding like an old oak, Persephone would bend gracefully, like a willow, and dance with the breeze.

Assuming his usual aloof mien, Hades glanced over at Cerberus casually. He found the puppy to be lying down, two heads down with their eyes closed, the other appearing to be awake but idle. Persephone, he assumed, was hiding from her mother behind the great beast, which was probably a good thing considering his sister's obvious ire. Had they been caught? Was Demeter there to take her back? Though his outside appearance did not change, he readied himself for the attack. The goddess could try, but she would not succeed.

"Brother, my daughter is missing," Demeter began, making him tense inside, "You're the only one I can trust to find her."

What?

Immediately, the goddess began pacing back and forth, running her fingers through her hair. "Our brothers are untrustworthy bastards, unsteady and lusty, but you are undistracted by women. You are the only one I can think of that would have no interest in my daughter." She stopped, looking up at him. "I need your impartial indifference, brother, if I am to save her. I am sure she has been taken by a man. Please, brother, you must help me find her."

Shocked, Hades straightened in his seat. He'd known he was seen as a bit of a cold fish, but he hadn't realized that they thought him so limp that he was not even a suspect in such cases of kidnapping. He supposed his record was fairly clean in respect to flings and affairs, but he was finding that being "trustworthy" was like being accused of being "impotent," especially because he was, in fact, guilty of the crime. He may not have been the whore his brothers could be, but he wasn't chaste. He'd never felt so slighted by someone's trust in his entire life, and thus, he didn't have to entirely feign the coldness in his voice as he replied:

"How long has she been gone?" He tapped his fingers against the arm of his chair as if already bored by his sister's antics, though in truth it was the unintended insult that had him irritated.

Demeter shook her head, waving away the indifference she'd praised him for in her last breath. "A day, but she always comes home. Besides, her nymphs say she merely disappeared, and while they are her friends, they are loyal to me. She may not be aware of it, but if she ever says anything I should know, it is reported back to me."

Had he not been hiding the missing maiden, Hades would have punished his sister for the invasion of Persephone's privacy, goddess or not, mother or not. The Olympian was in his realm, and whether she realized it or not she needed to guard her words more carefully. In the event he and Persephone were exposed, he would make her and those nymphs pay for the betrayal. She was right there, she must have heard her mother's confession. Was she hurting now, or had she always known her nymph friends were spies?

"They said she's been humming and hawing lately over some man, or wanting some kind of romance, and yesterday afternoon she just up and disappeared!" The goddess stopped then, looking over at him and scrutinizing his expression, looking for some sign, any sign, of sympathy and finding none. "Hades, there is none who know where she is."

Standing, Hades stepped from his dais, going forward toward his sister. "She's been gone for a day, Sister, I doubt you need to worry. She is a goddess, and old enough to look after herself. However, if it will please you, if she enters my domain I will tell you, I assure you," he nodded curtly, his tone daring her to insist he do any more. "Now go, you disrupt my work. It will take me longer to finish if you idle here."

She paused then, as if she had to fight herself to resist offering the familial embrace she would offer most Olympians in farewell. She was good to remember that he would have declined her affection, and instead nodded back to him, seeming a little relieved. "Thank you, my brother. I will alert you when I find her so you will no longer need to worry about her stumbling into your realm and disturbing you with her childish games. If you will excuse me."

Hades stood there and watched her go, closing the doors with a thought.


Author's Note

Sorry it's been so long! It's great to be back here. It's been forever since I've had time to sit down and focus long enough to write a chapter, and even then, it is still extremely short. I'm still working to overcome the intense writer's block I've had since trying to pump out this chapter. Thank you to all of those with the patience to continue reading after my long absence, and I'm sorry the plot development here was so minimal. It's been so long, so please tell me what you think, as I worry there might be a lapse in my voice or in the characters since I've last written. I hope you all find it satisfactory. I'll try to get up the next chapter as soon as I can!

xxDusty