Persephone silently trailed behind her husband, Hades, as he stopped in front of a pair of double doors leading to the throne room. As King and Queen of the Underworld, it was Hades's and Persephone's duty to oversee the arrival of incoming souls. Every day was the monotonous routine of sitting on a hard, cold throne, greeting the dead souls and listening to their complaints and moaning about the injustices of being separated from loved ones. To Persephone, staring at each soul was like staring at a mirror image of her own, grieving for the life ripped away from her.

However, there was one thing she did not regret about their marriage. Persephone gazed at her daughter, Althea, in her arms, and the frigid exterior coating her heart melted. Hades insisted that she leave Althea with his servants, but Persephone stubbornly refused. She could never bring herself to leave her daughter with his skeletal guards. Hades reluctantly relented, as it was the only way Persephone would accompany him.

By the time Persephone and Hades entered the throne room, it was filled with a mob of despairing souls. When the crowd saw the King and Queen, they parted, creating a narrow aisle for Persephone and Hades to walk through. Some souls tried to reach out towards Persephone, knowing that she was the merciful one. Persephone cringed as she felt ethereal hands tugging on her robes. Instinctively, she pressed Althea closer to her heart, and the small child burrowed her face into her mother's chest.

One persistent spirit clung to Persephone more than Althea. Persephone tried to disentangle herself from the phantom, but it held fast.

"Please, Queen Persephone!" the spirit pleaded. "I don't belong here. I left behind a child as young as yours."

A chorus of angry voices chimed in, becoming an indistinct jumble of protests. Persephone stared desperately at Hades for help. Unfazed, he sashayed to his throne and regally sat. Persephone perched on the edge of her seat, relieved to have a safe distance between the souls and the daïs. The whispers became subdued as the crowd of souls stared at Hades expectantly. He regarded them with a look that commanded nothing but obedience.

Hades called one spirit forward and instructed the rest to form a single file line. Aversely, the souls complied, making one line that wrapped around the circular chamber. Normally, Persephone never paid attention to the souls that spoke to Hades, but when she noticed it was the spirit that had grabbed her clothes, an involuntary shudder rippled down her spine.

"Come forward," Hades ordered.

The ghost obeyed and stared at him with sorrowful eyes that shimmered with tears.

"Please, Lord Hades, send me back. I should not be here. I am widowed, and I have a daughter who is now an orphan. With no one to care for she will die!"

The soul's voice quavered, and the tears she had been trying to fight back began to fall. Persephone's heart constricted when she stared at the shattered look on the mortal's face. She saw her own reflection in those heartbroken eyes. However, the mortal's words had little to no impact on Hades; his face was a stony mask of indifference.

"I am sorry," he replied unemotionally, "but no one may leave the Underworld after they have entered it. There is nothing I can do."

Persephone watched the spirit staring at Hades with melancholy before it drifted away. The air in the room was almost palpable with desolation, and Persephone could practically taste it. The aura of death and loss made her shudder. Instead of watching the souls, she let her gaze wander around the room. She could not stop her eyes from falling on the massive tapestry of her wedding. Her heartbeat accelerated every time she stared at the portrait of herself wearing a bridal gown standing beside Hades, one burly arm wrapped around her waist and his gaze locked on hers.

Persephone started thinking about her former life on Earth. If she closed her eyes she could almost feel sunlight warming her cheeks, hear the laugher of her nymph friends, and see her mother's smiling expression. Though, as she opened her eyes, all she saw was the face of her captor. A wave of nostalgia washed over her, and a loud sigh escaped her lips.

Hades noticed and swung his head in her direction, staring at her in what appeared to be concern. Persephone cringed when she felt his icy fingers brush against hers. She tried to pull away, but he grasped her hand.

"What troubles my Queen?" he asked. She tried to look away, but his tempestuous gaze fixated on her.

"Nothing," Persephone replied, suppressing the second sigh forcing its way through her lips.

"Persephone," Hades breathed. "If I didn't care, why would I ask?"

She stared silently at her hands folded in her lap. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence before Hades broke it by sliding his hand under her chin, forcing her to stare into his depthless gray eyes. Something inside of Persephone shattered, and a film of tears blurred her vision. The droplets fell, carving a path down her cheek. Hades gently wiped them away with his thumb.

"You really want to know what's wrong?" she asked in a shaky voice. Hades nodded.

Persephone sighed before blurting out, "I want to see my mother, and Althea is one and still has never met her grandmother."

The tension in Hades's shoulders relaxed, and he replied cautiously, "Dearest, it's only a few months until springtime. You only have to wait a few more months before you can leave the Underworld and return to Earth. Can't you wait a bit longer?"

Persephone looked away, but not before Hades saw her discontent expression.

He sat unmoving, letting his wife's words sink in. He did not understand why it was important for Althea to meet Demeter. Hades preferred not to mingle with the Olympians, especially his mother-in-law. All Demeter did was criticize him, and she never forgave him for stealing Persephone from her. The Underworld was the only place he could escape her "helpful suggestions."

He turned to look at Persephone, noticing the small glimmer of hope shining in her bright eyes.

"Demeter cannot come here, and Althea cannot leave the Underworld. The law of the Fates decrees that anyone who has eaten food from the Underworld is bound to it."

He stared at her pointedly.

"I can leave the Underworld once a year," Persephone countered, "so why can't my daughter do the same?"

Hades inwardly winced when he noticed she said "my daughter" instead of "our daughter."

"That is true," he agreed. "However, she is a child of darkness, heir to the Underworld. She has never been a part of the Upperworld, so she cannot cross boundaries between the two realms. You are the only exception."

A fire ignited in Persephone's eyes, and Hades knew she would not yield.

"She should be able to experience life on Earth, where there is sunlight. No one should be forced to live in this sunless place," she Persephone added quietly before staring at her sleeping daughter.

Hades knew she was not talking about Althea anymore. He was aware that Persephone still resented him for whisking her away from her old life. No amount of explaining that he was lonesome and detached from the rest of the world could justify his actions, at least not to her. Instead of trying to vindicate his motives, he chose the three simplest words he could say.

"I love you."

Persephone tried not to flinch when she heard those dreaded words. She knew he wanted her to say those words back, but she could not force herself to feel something she could not. Instead, she just turned her head.

"I know you don't believe me," he continued softly, "but I love you, and I love Althea."

Persephone nodded, not knowing what to say in response. "If you love me then what harm is there in letting my mother visit? Maybe we could have her over for dinner-"

"No," Hades interrupted gruffly, a frown settling on his face. "I already told you; Demeter cannot come." He gave her a warning stare that said "end of discussion."

Persephone felt her face heat up with anger. "For once could you do something for someone besides yourself?" Her voice shook with fury as her eyes brimmed with livid tears. Hades stared at her in shock.

"You claim you love me, but everything you've done for 'our relationship' has really been for your own benefit. That's the reason I'm here in the first place. You took me away from my own life and forced me-"

Her voice broke in the middle of the unfinished sentence. Hades knew what she had wanted to say was that he had forced her to have a child before she had been ready. Staring at their daughter, he immediately felt remorseful for his selfishness. His wife deserved better.

Before he could open his mouth to say something, Persephone yelled, "You never do anything to make me happy. Is it too much to ask to allow my mother to meet her granddaughter?"

Without waiting for a reply, Persephone balanced Althea on her hip and stormed out of the room, her skirts swirling around her angrily.

Hades found Persephone sitting on a bench in the courtyard. Her head was bent and a long curtain of hair covered her face. When Persephone heard his footsteps, she stared at him blankly, her expression guarded. He noticed her eyes were rimmed with red and her cheeks were tear-streaked. Her pensive green eyes sparkled brightly with tears, and jab of guilt stabbed at his heart. He was, as always, the cause of her pain.

"Persephone?" he questioned tenderly. "May I talk to you?"

"What do you want, Hades?" she replied coldly. Her icy tone bit into him, but he knew he deserved it.

Hades crossed the courtyard, slowly closing in the distance between them. He took a seat on the opposite side of the bench, careful to keep a comfortable space separating them.

"You were right. I've been selfish and inconsiderate of your feelings, and I'm sorry. That is why I am going to invite Demeter over for a dinner so she can meet our daughter. When Hermes comes to bring the new souls here, I will tell him to send a message to Demeter."

Persephone stared at him, frozen in shock. "You really mean it?" she asked softly.

He nodded. "Yes, I do. If it will make you happy, then it shall be done."

Slowly, a smile decorated Persephone's mouth. Hades' heart skipped a beat when he saw her grin. It was the first genuine smile he had seen in months, and he wished time could freeze, just so he could stare at her glittering smile forever.

Leaping from the bench, Persephone strode to where Hades sat and threw her around arms his neck. Startled, Hades tentatively wrapped his arms around her waist, savoring the rare display of her affection. In a moment consumed by excitement, Persephone did the unspeakable; she kissed him. Hades' mouth tingled when Persephone's lips brushed against his.

I should do this more often, Hades thought. Even putting up with Demeter was worth it if it meant Persephone would kiss him without recoiling.

"Thank you," she simply stated.

Hades tried to string together a coherent reply, but he was too focused on the warm feeling of her embrace. A second later, Persephone gently pulled away, and Hades aversely released her. Hades watched as Persephone glided away, a bounce in her footstep he had never seen before.

Persephone walked down a corridor to her bedchamber. Her hand reached for the knob but stopped when she heard the voice of her husband talking to someone else.

"So how are you and Persephone?" a familiar voice asked.

Persephone recognized it as the voice of Hermes. With a jolt of excitement, she realized Hades was going to speak to him about bringing Demeter to the Underworld for a visit.

Hades sighed wearily. "Persephone is unhappy. She misses her life on Earth, especially her mother."

"Doesn't she get to leave the Underworld in a few months?" Hermes replied. "It's almost springtime."

Persephone could imagine Hades nodding in agreement.

"Yes, but it seems she cannot wait. Also, she wants Demeter to meet Althea, and since Althea has never been a part of the Upperworld like Persephone, she cannot cross borders, so she is stuck here. The only way Althea can meet Demeter is if Demeter comes to the Underworld. It is really important to Persephone."

"Are you going to do it? I know you and Demeter hate each other."

"Yes," Hades answered grudgingly. "I promised Persephone, and you should have seen how much it pleased her." His voice softened with love, and Persephone's heart caught in her throat when she heard the note of fondness that crept into his tone. It was almost too much for her to bear.

Hermes laughed slyly. "How does it feel to be tied down? I don't know about you, but I prefer the single life."

Persephone rolled her eyes. Typical Hermes.

Hades replied darkly, "Why don't you tell me once you can stop pursuing any nymph or beautiful mortal you see?"

Hermes sobered. "That is not what I meant, and you know it. Persephone is my sister, and I care about her, and if she is content, then so am I."

There was a long stretch of silence before Hades simply replied, "Good. I have a favor to ask of you."

"As long as it does not involve Hera then I will mostly likely say yes."

"Forget Hera," Hades replied in an irritated tone. "This is for Persephone. I need you to tell Demeter that she is invited to the Underworld as a guest for dinner."

"Alright," Hermes agreed. "Though you know that if Demeter is invited, you will also have to invite Zeus. If you don't, then I will hear about it for another millennium. Please invite Zeus."

Persephone felt her blood boiling with anger. Zeus was the last Olympian she wanted to see. She still resented him for helping Hades abduct her. The thought of having to see him disgusted her. She waited for her husband to protest.

"I know Persephone will not like it, but I don't have a choice. It will look bad if I don't invite him. Also I owe him for…arranging our marriage. I just won't tell Persephone."

"Hades?" Hermes asked uncertainly. "Are you sure that's a good idea? I think you should at least tell her."

"Spoken from the mouth of the god of thieves and liars," Hades replied dryly.

"You sound like Hera," he grumbled. "Speaking of her, I should be going. I have more 'fun' errands to run for Zeus and his lovely wife. Though, I guess I have enough time to say hi to Persephone."

"If you decide to talk to her, do not mention her father," Hades growled.

Hermes snickered. "Why would I do that? As much as I would love to get in the middle of a lover's quarrel, I will pass on that opportunity. It's bad enough every time Zeus cheats on Hera. I have enough drama."

Hermes turned on his heel and exited the room. When he noticed Persephone leaning against the wall, his face broke into a wide grin, and he drew her into a brotherly embrace.

"How is my favorite sister?"

Persephone rolled her eyes, not in the mood for Hermes's childish jokes. She shoved him away. Dragging him by the arm and out of earshot, she stated bluntly, "I heard Hades tell you that he is inviting our dear father over for dinner."

Hermes shifted uncomfortably and gave a small shrug. "I tried to talk him out of it."

Persephone shook her head furiously, sending a wild mass of her curls bouncing. "I cannot believe he would go behind my back like this."

"I would help you," Hermes, "but I have to deliver Hades's message and run errands for Hera and Zeus. Being their slave never gets old." His normally cheerful face was gloomy.

"Hermes?" Persephone said quietly. "How would you like to put Zeus in his place?"

He stared at her with renewed interest. "Keep talking."

"Well," Persephone continued, "you're the god of pranks, so I think together we could come up with something."

Hermes threw his head back and laughed. "You were always the good girl, but now you want to do something bad? You really are my sister. And I already have the perfect idea."

Hermes held up a staff with two snarling serpents intertwined around the rod.

Persephone eyed it dubiously. "How will that stick help?"

Hermes rolled his eyes, "It's my Caduceus. When I will it, the snakes come to life."

Hermes whispered something, and the snakes hissed in response before turning their blinking eyes to Persephone. The serpents bared their fangs, and Persephone jumped back in surprise with a yelp.

Hermes tittered, causing Persephone to glower at him. "Not funny, Hermes."

"You're right," he replied, "it was extremely funny. Just imagine how surprised Zeus would be to find a writhing snake in his ambrosia?"

"I have a better idea," Persephone replied, a devious smile stretching across her lips.

"And what would that be?"

"You'll find out soon enough," Persephone responded lightly. "Though, you have to trust me."

"As the god of thieves and tricksters, I trust no one," Hermes replied.

Though as he said it, he tossed her the Caduceus and ambled away, whistling a merry tune.

Persephone stood by the gates of the Underworld, waiting for Hades to arrive with Demeter and Zeus. Next to her sat Cerberus, the three-headed guard-dog of the Underworld. As she paced, three pairs of eyes followed her. A wave of dread surged through Persephone. She was ecstatic to see her mother but what would she say about Althea?

Persephone did not have more time to dwell on how her mother would react. Moments later, she noticed a chariot drawn by skeletal horses stopped in front of the large, golden gates. When Hades stepped out of the chariot, the gates opened automatically and Zeus and Demeter followed them.

Cerberus snarled when he noticed Demeter. His heads cocked to the side, and his ears flattened. Persephone knew Cerberus was about to pounce, but before she could stop him, he had Demeter pinned to the ground underneath his massive paws. Cerberus tugged at the hem of Demeter's tunic, ripping the bottom of the fine garment.

"Hades!" Demeter screamed. "Control your beast!"

"Cerberus, no," Hades said halfheartedly. "Bad dog."

When Cerberus did not obey, he shrugged, and said, "I tried."

Persephone stomped over to the dog and whistled shrilly to catch his attention. Growling, Cerberus swung his three heads to stare at her.

"Down!" Persephone sternly ordered, motioning with her finger.

Reluctantly, the dog obeyed. Hades tried to help Demeter stand, but she pushed him away and staggered to her feet.

"You really should learn how to control that thing," she carped. "Maybe a muzzle. At least get a leash."

"Sorry," Hades replied shamelessly. "Cerberus is usually so well behaved." Sorry that he could not eat you because you would give him indigestion.

Under his breath, he added, "Cerberus isn't the only dog that needs a leash and a muzzle."

Demeter glowered at him, as if she were trying to burn holes through him with her eyes. Deciding Hades was not worth the effort, she turned to face Persephone.

Ignoring them, Demeter turned to face Persephone. "Thank you, dear. I hope that beast does not react like that every time he sees you."

Despite herself, Persephone smiled. "No, he is used to me. Mother, there is someone I want you to meet."

Only then did Demeter notice the small child balanced on Persephone's hip.

"Mother, this is your granddaughter, Althea."

"Althea," Demeter echoed, her arms reaching out to hold the little girl.

"Persephone, she looks just like you," Demeter stated softly, fingering a lock of Althea's wispy hair. "Except for her eyes; those are her father's," she added in a subdued tone.

"Yes," Hades agreed sardonically, "I've been told she has my eyes."

With that, he brushed past Demeter, and they followed him to his palace.

Once they reached the dining room, Hades pulled the first chair out for Demeter. She stared at it suspiciously before deciding there was no potential harm in sitting. Persephone settled in the seat next to Demeter, and to Persephone's dismay, Zeus sat beside her.

"I will bring the food," Hades volunteered, anxious to get away from his mother-in-law.

When Hades left, an awkward silence hung in the air.

"You and Hades have a beautiful daughter," Zeus said to Persephone. She merely nodded in reply.

"Really, Persephone?" Zeus sighed. "The silent treatment? I see you've learned a thing or two from Hera."

"I'll go check on Hades and see what is taking him so long," Persephone announced.

As Persephone stood, she pretended to stumble over the foot of Zeus' chair. Turning her back to him, Persephone pulled Hermes' Caduceus out of her robes. She whispered something, and the two snakes came to life. Hissing, they circled around her arm. Carefully holding the snakes by their tails, Persephone dropped them down the back of Zeus' robes when he and Demeter were not looking.

"Oh, look," Persephone said, smiling, "here comes Hades."

As if on cue, her husband entered the room, carrying a tray of nectar and ambrosia. He set it on the table and placed a chalice in front of Demeter, Zeus, and Persephone.

Zeus squirmed uncomfortably. "Demeter, stop tickling me."

Demeter raised her eyebrows. "I don't know what you are talking about. I never touched you."

"Persephone?" Zeus questioned, and she shook her head.

"I think….something is crawling down my back!" Zeus reached into his robe and pulled the writhing snakes out, his eyes widening.

Persephone raised her cup to her lips so she could conceal her smile, and she took a huge gulp of nectar so she could not laugh. Her mother looked at her quizzically, but Persephone just shrugged, reached across the table, plucked a piece of ambrosia off the platter, and popped it into her mouth.

Zeus swatted at the snakes but missed, hitting his cup instead. The impact of his hit sent the chalice flying and nectar drenched Demeter.

"Hades!" they both cried.

Hades stood, unmoving, staring at them in a mixture of horror and confusion. Persephone felt sorry for her mother. She only meant to ruin the dinner for Zeus, but she had gone out of control with her thirst for revenge. Though she did not understand why, part of her felt bad for Hades. Now he was going to take the blame for what she did. That was what she thought she wanted, but somehow it did not make her feel better.

"Snakes?" Zeus thundered, lightning flashing in his eyes. "Hades, you are worse than Hera!"

"I should have known this was a setup," Demeter grumbled.

Zeus stormed out of the room and Demeter followed as they exchanged complaints about the indignity of the disastrous dinner. Hades shook his head in astonishment at how wrong everything went.

Running a hand through his hair, he sighed and turned to Persephone, "I am sorry I ruined your night."

Hades expected Persephone to yell or cry, but she shook her head. "Don't be sorry. It was my fault."

He stared at her in confusion. "I do not know what you mean."

Persephone sighed. "I overheard you talking with Hermes. When I heard you wanted to invite Zeus, I decided to sabotage the dinner. I had help from Hermes. He wanted to get revenge on Zeus because of the way Zeus treats him. He leant me his Caduceus, so that is where the snakes came from."

"Hermes," Hades growled. "I should have known those were his snakes. So now that you've had your revenge on your father, are you even now?"

Persephone smiled. "No, I am still mad at him, but I did enjoy seeing him squirm."

Hades could not help but smile back. "It was rather amusing. I am sure it will give the Olympians quite a story to talk about."

"Yes it will," Persephone agreed.

"I seriously underestimated you. I knew you were Athena's sister, but I had no idea you inherited her cleverness," Hades said with a hint of admiration in his voice.

"Neither did I," Persephone admitted.

"Now are you ready to explain to your parents why this dinner was a disaster?"

"Not yet."

"Why not?"

Persephone realized that Hades did not have to go through so much trouble for her. "I wanted to thank you for doing this for me. I know you and my mother have your differences, but you were willing to set aside your feelings toward my mother, just for me. No one has ever done that for me. "

All Hades could do was gawk before he managed to say, "You're welcome."

Persephone responded by planting a kiss on his cheek and a lingering kiss on his lips. Electricity hummed through Hade's veins, as if he had been struck with Zeus' lightning bolt, but at the same time he had never felt so alive. He returned the kiss with extra zeal. Persephone's eyes widened, and Hades was sure he saw a rosy blush reddening her cheeks. He was unsure if that was good or bad, and he hesitated. Persephone gently pulled away, the corners of her lips upturned. They stood there, awkwardly staring at each other before her gaze focused on the door before landing on his face. It was like she was waiting for his permission to leave. Sighing with disappointment, Hades nodded and Persephone turned away with what looked like a small smile before she left the room to confront her parents. Hades silently followed her, cupping the cheek Persephone kissed.