tagRomanceHades and Persephone Ch. 06

Hades and Persephone Ch. 06


It could be like this, she thought, waking up in the crook of his arm.

Persephone watched the rise and fall of his chest as he slept peacefully. The thoughts were hers, but in her mind, his voice spoke the words. Open yourself to me— love me— be my wife, and it could be like this for all eternity.

Aidoneus had found a permanent place in her heart yesterday. Persephone didn't know if it was love, but she longed to say the words she knew he wanted to hear— words that would bind her soul to him forever. She wondered if the mysterious trees in the garden were blooming just as they were in her dream. She nuzzled against Aidon, tempted to wake him up and walk with him out to the grove. Perhaps her dream matched his once more; the proof would be hundreds of red flowers, their soft petals gilding every branch.

Persephone looked up at his peaceful face. She had never seen him asleep before. He had always waited for her to fall asleep first, and was already gone before she awoke. If he slept as little as he said, she guessed that this was the first time he'd slept through the night in centuries. Aeons, even.

Very carefully, Persephone sat up and looked around, their passion-scattered clothing strewn about the room. She leaned over to pick up one of her sandals by the straps and set it by its mate, then got up and folded her chiton, quietly placing it on the chair next to the table. Persephone saw his himation lying in a heap on the floor and sighed contentedly, remembering when he had placed it over her freezing shoulders in the cypress grove without any hesitation. Its edges were soft in her hands as she stretched her arms wide to unfurl and shake out its long length.

Persephone heard the muffled clink of metal on the floor and glanced at Aidon. He slumbered still, undisturbed by the noise. She turned over the fabric. A long gold fibula was fastened and hidden within its folds— a strange place to wear one. She drew out one side and peered closer. Were those quills? Persephone pulled the other end out and held up a golden arrow the length of her forearm.

What you saw wasn't true love, it was just lust.

She put her hand over her mouth in disbelief. Why did he have this? Her mind spun between her mother's warnings about men and Aidon's whispered declarations of love from the previous night. She thought about the many sweet things the Eleusinian man had said to his wife in the wedding tent after they coupled. Then about her father's many lovers.

They were pricked by Eros, and their love will die someday.

"Never mind about the clothes, Persephone..."

She gasped and turned her head toward his voice.

"Come back to bed, sweet one... I want to make love to you while it's light outside."

Persephone faced him, the arrow behind her back. Aidoneus was lying against the pillows, smiling at her. His hands were folded behind his head and she shuddered as her eyes followed contours of smooth muscle and the line of his hip to the fabric pulled up just above his navel. She saw the unmistakable ridge of his arousal ghosting through the sheet. Unbidden, the coil tightened in her stomach and her thighs squeezed together in response to the warmth that flooded between them. Her response to him yesterday and even now was so sudden and overpowering. Had he pricked her with the arrow?

"What's the matter, my love?"

Persephone brought the golden arrow out from behind her back. Aidon's expression quickly shifted from bliss to his usual mask of solemnity, his eyes wide and his lips pursed together. Of all times, Fates, why did she find it now?! he thought, then closed his eyes and smoothed his hand back through his hair, his forehead etched with frustration.

"What is this?" she said quietly.

"Persephone, it's very dangerous. Please—"

"Answer my question! I asked you: 'what is this?!'" she shouted. "How long have you had this? Is this— is this the only reason you—"

"No! It's not," he tried to cajole her. "Please put it down and let me explain—"

"Explain what? This is a golden arrow, Aidoneus. There's only one being who shoots these!"

He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed, the sheets still pooled at his groin, covering his diminishing hardness. "Before I came to you the first time, I went to Olympus to speak with your father about taking you as my wife. After he consented, Eros tried to shoot me in the heart, but I caught the arrow before it reached its target."

"I know how these work!" she said angrily. "One only has to be scratched—"

"And I was!" he snapped back at her, momentarily raising his voice to her level. He tried to calm himself and regain his composure. "But it doesn't work like—"

"You pricked me with it last night, didn't you?! To make me fall in love with you!" Her eyes widened in panic once the words left her mouth. Persephone froze.

"Oh?" Aidoneus said quietly. He hadn't even entertained the idea of pricking her with the arrow. After Eros had loosed his bow, he'd kept the cursed thing with him so the emotions that had tortured him ever since wouldn't befall anyone else. But Persephone had just admitted she loved him. Aidon held his breath and waited.

Persephone looked away, unable to breathe as she realized what she had just revealed. Every moment she stood here saying nothing would just confirm his suspicions. She tried to look at anything in the room but the man sitting on her bed.

He watched as she twisted, knotting his forehead. Why couldn't she have just said something, anything, during their tender moments last night? Maybe she was scared and looking for the right moment to tell him. A hopeful, vulnerable smile teased the corner of his mouth. "Is that what you feel for me, then?"

"Just answer my question!"

"The answer is NO, Persephone!" Her anger sliced through him, and he felt something constrict in his chest. "I thought I'd already made it clear to you by my actions that I would never use trickery to have you." Surely she remembered how he had refused her advances when her memories had been washed away by the Lethe— when the girl that was Kore told him that she loved him...

"Then why were you carrying it this whole time?!"

"Because it's dangerous! Just hand it over."

"You didn't answer my question!"

"I just did. You think I carried it with me to bend you to my will? The exact opposite is true! The only reason I carried it with me is because I didn't want you or anyone to be accidentally influenced by its power."

"Then you admit that you only... love me... because of this?"

"No! That's not how it works. It only made me aware that I've loved you since..."

"Since when?"

He stayed silent, searching his memory for the moment that he first felt anything for her. Nyx and Hecate may have persuaded him that it was time to claim her on the night of the full moon, reminded him that she'd been a woman for many centuries. But Aidoneus had thought about her, felt something for her long before he'd ever visited her dreams in Eleusis. Despite there being a few dozen Lampades nymphs in his kingdom who, thanks to Thanatos' philandering, had proven themselves very willing to take lovers, he'd never so much as glanced at one of them. He had always attributed his avoidance of them to his somber self-control, and to his own pretense that unlike the other gods, he operated above the level of baser instinct. But the truth had always gnawed at him— he was a man with needs as much as anyone else. Leuce, a nymph that once lived amidst the white poplar trees in his garden, had tried to seduce him early in his reign, only to be immediately rebuffed. He could have used her body in a moment of lust, or kept her as companion to ease his self-imposed solitude. She had even suggested as much. Yet, he didn't want anything to do with her. Nor any of the others who saw his place in the cosmic order as a prize to be claimed, or regarded his celibacy as a challenge to be conquered.

Aidoneus only dreamed of Persephone. Demeter, joyous in conceiving a child by Zeus, had once grabbed Aidon's hand and placed it on her womb to feel the tiny life move about within her. He remembered drawing back in surprise as a jolt traveled up his arm, filling his mind with an augury of a future he couldn't begin to comprehend and a startling vision of the three Fates pointing at him. Before she was even born, he'd beheaded Iapetos to save her. When he stood in Demeter's home at the end of the war to remind her of their agreement and the infant Kore started crying, he had only wanted to comfort and protect her. He'd felt love for her swell in his chest, though he hadn't known what had struck him so profoundly that day until now. Aidoneus had left his kingdom for the first time since that night to be gawked at by the Olympian gods in order to ask for her.

The string of epiphanies hit him so hard he sat awestruck, almost forgetting that this same woman, whom he had loved and would love forever, was in the room right now. And she was very angry at him.

"You can't even answer me," she scoffed, frustrated by his silence. "All you've done since the beginning is evade my questions."

"The beginning of what, exactly?" he said, snapping back into the moment, alarmed. He was losing her...

"The moment I met you! When you came to me in the dream, I asked you who you were. You turned it around and asked me who I thought you were. It angered me then and it angers me still!"

"You know I couldn't have told you then, and you know the reason why! Demeter would have hid you from me if you told her, no matter how innocently, that Hades had come for you. I was trying to introduce myself to you slowly. Would you rather I just took you below the earth right then and made myself known to you for the first time once we arrived?"

She stood tall and narrowed her eyes. "Well, isn't that what you ended up doing?"

"That was not how I wanted to—"

"But you did! You did, Aidoneus! You abducted me from Nysa and took my maidenhead on the way to the Underworld! I don't care how much you wanted it to be different, that was it!"

He winced, knowing she was right. He couldn't give back what he had taken from her. And when his thoughts lingered too long on their first time, he didn't want to. He tried to resist the memories of the moment he'd made her his, finally feeling whole and complete when he was within her.

"That's what happened," she continued, fighting back her own memories, "and it stands as another example of how you can't ever speak plainly to me about why you did it."

"I can't answer that for you. We've been over this!"

"And why not?"

"Because any answer I give might harm you as much as it will harm our marriage."

"Oh, speak plainly to me, Aidon! I am not Charon; I am not Hecate. I am your wife! And I am tired of riddles and partial truths and evaded questions even as you continually ask me to trust you. You make it impossible for me to love you!" She saw his eyes flash with hurt and anger.

"You want me to speak plainly, my lady? Fine! If I didn't take you, and take you in every sense of the word, your mother would have eternally rooted you to the earth to keep you from me!" Persephone gaped at him in shock. He paused, but it was too late to take it back, and his voice hitched as he continued. "The only way she could have done it is if you were still a virgin. You would have lived the rest of your days like the nymph Daphne unless I acted. Is that what you wanted to hear?"

She clutched her hands around her naked body, backing away. "My mother would never— you're a liar! I can't believe I ever let you touch me! You're a liar!!"

"And now you know why I didn't tell you!" he bellowed back at her, matching her volume. Any urge to hold her and comfort her was overridden by anger— anger at Demeter, at his wife's obstinacy, anger at the destruction of any chance he'd ever had to begin their life together peacefully. "Honestly, Persephone! If I was going to fill you with lies, wouldn't it have been easier for me to do so from the start? Instead of suffer through this?!" he said gesturing at her.

Persephone's mouth was dry, her eyes wet and aching as though acid were about to spill out instead of tears. She blinked them back again.

"Let me speak plainly to you again." His voice wavered. "I did it because I love you! I've cursed myself every day for how it had to be done. But if I hadn't, you would have been lost to me forever."

Unwanted heat flooded into her again at the memory of him whispering in her ear, her legs twined around him in the dark. She turned her anger at her traitorous body back at him. "If that's the truth, then you weren't afraid of losing me, Aidoneus! You were afraid of losing your claim over me. All I am, all I ever was to you is a fulfillment of a contract."

"Listen to me again very carefully, Persephone. I. Love. You. Whatever oath I made with your parents has nothing to do with what I feel for you!"

"But you could have had these feelings for anyone as long as they were already bound and betrothed to you! The only reason you took me here as your bride was to perpetuate your eternal pissing contest with my mother!"

He gritted his teeth. "You don't know what you're saying."

"Yes I do! And how exactly do you know what you're saying anyway? You're under the golden arrow's spell! Without it you would have never felt anything for me, you wouldn't have fallen love with me, or... whatever it is you feel right now! Eros needed to shoot you with this before you'd even contemplate bedding me, much less loving me," she said, thrusting the arrow before his eyes in her clenched fist.

"How can you even think these things," he shouted at her, his face reddening, "when I bare my soul you time and again? When you know what is in my heart?!"

"THIS was the only thing that ever found its way into your heart!" she screamed back, throwing the arrow at him. It skipped across the floor and spun, coming to a stop at his feet. Aidon threw the sheet off and stood up, stepping over the golden arrow. She shrunk toward the columns next to the door.

"Enough of this! I am tired of scraping for your affections, Persephone. What more do I have to say before you will believe me?!" Aidoneus strode toward her quickly and deliberately until he loomed over her. "And tell me this, wife— why do you give half a thought to whether or not I truly love you in the first place? We wouldn't even be having this argument if you didn't love me! Tell me!"

"Well, my lord husband," she said chewing on the last words, "that's rather presumptuous of you, don't you think?"

He narrowed his eyes and smirked at her. "Now who's evading questions?"

"As you evade mine in the same breath!" she said, balling her fists.

He drew intimately close to her and lowered his voice. "Fine. I do presume, wife. I know that you love me, Persephone, because I can feel it. I can feel it whenever I'm in your presence. Even now, through your anger, when I look into your eyes— I feel it. I can feel it when I speak to you, when I hold you, when I touch you, when I'm inside you. Deny it all you want, but if you felt nothing, then you wouldn't have shown me such tenderness last night."

"It's not as if I feel nothing for you," she said under her breath, averting her eyes as he came within inches of her. She felt her body shudder at his closeness, her heart beating fast.

"Then what do you feel? Look at me." He lifted her chin roughly. "Look at me! Look into my eyes and tell me you don't love me!"

Her blue gray eyes met his, then filled with tears as she turned away from him.

"That's what I thought," he sneered and stepped back.

"How can you possibly expect me to love you?!" she spat back at him. "You've kept me prisoner here and you'll never treat me as anything more than your bedmate! You say you 'lay all you rule at my feet' but they're just words! Sweet, condescending words to keep me pliant!"

"I meant every word of what I said to you! And at this point I'll do anything to convince you! What is it that you want from me, Persephone? Name it!"

She took a deep breath. "I am She Who Destroys the Light and I want to know why the Hundred Handed Ones knew me by name."

He closed his eyes, realizing too late that he'd walked right into this one. She was about to trap him with the one thing he could never give her. Aidoneus glared at her again and pursed his lips, knowing full well where this was going.

"I want to know why the pathway I opened to the ether was surrounded by the Phlegethon. I want to know what I am and why I am here! I want you to take me to Tartarus!!"

He stood in front of her silently. Unnerved, Persephone inched up to sit on the column relief as far from him as she could get without bolting the room. Aidoneus closed those same few inches with another step forward, his body magnetically pulled toward hers. He stayed there until she looked up into his eyes once more then spoke slowly, his voice rasping in anger. "You have no idea what you ask of me. You think that Tartarus is just another new place to wander into, and that I'll be able to casually rescue you if you get into trouble as I did when you ran into the Lethe. I assure you— it's not."

"Why not let me see that for myself?"

"Why?! To see how fatally perilous it is even for gods?! I'm not taking you there!!" he shouted at her, watching her flinch in fear.

"Then you've proved me right, Aidoneus!" she shot back at him. "Your pretty words mean nothing! All you want is to dress me up to look like a queen, without any power or consequence whatsoever, and lock me away in your palace!"

"If that were in any way true," he fumed, trying to control his anger, "then why for Fates' sake would I have spent yesterday showing you our realm from the Styx? Why would I have gone out of my way to take you to Nysa last night?!"

"You gave me a taste of what I could be, what I am supposed be, and then pulled it away from me! For that, you're worse than Demeter!" She saw his eyes widen in shock as she compared him to his enemy. For that's what her mother was, Persephone realized, if his accusations against her held any truth. She looked up at his clenched jaw, the stone column cold and unyielding against her back, his body looming over hers. And she felt pulled toward him, and knew he felt the same thing. She shivered. Her voice faltered as she continued. "At least my mother had the decency to keep me completely unaware."

Hades gritted his teeth and slammed his hand against the column, the smack of his palm echoing through the room. He narrowed his eyes at her and stilled for a moment before he spoke low, struggling to abate his anger. "Your mother kept you an ignorant girl because she needed the eternal devotion your father could never give her. And once she knew for certain that I had come to you— that she would lose you to me— she decided to obliterate everything that made you what you were. I saved you; I gave you freedom and knowledge, and made you into a woman when I took you here to be my queen. Don't make me regret that."

"You don't want a queen, you want a whore! All you want is for me to lie on my back and spread my legs for you!"

Once she said it, they became acutely aware of their proximity to each other. Persephone looked down at his hips parting her knees. Her breath hitched. Aidoneus looked away, biting his lip in anger, his body responding to her closeness. The air hummed around them, the space between them alive and closing. She saw his muscles tense as he fought to restrain himself. Persephone shuddered, heard him grinding his teeth together as he stood over her, and felt the heat of his cock pressing against her trembling thigh. She was unable to back away any further— and didn't want to. All each could hear was the other's shallow breathing. He stood there, silently cursing himself, cursing her, every fiber of his being screaming to be inside her.

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