jade_sabre: (hercules:  meg swoons)
[personal profile] jade_sabre
again, you can find it in its entirety at ff.net.




He found her again on the banks of the Styx, throwing pebbles at Cerebus. She was kinder than Charon; she only threw one pebble at a time, thus preventing the beast from nearly tearing itself in two trying to pick a target. She glanced at him as he appeared, and then went back to her game. Her throws weren’t particularly enthusiastic, but Cerebus enjoyed it, and he could see the calm working its way through her.

“You know what you’re throwing, right?” he said, summoning up a deck chair and a martini for show more than anything else.

“Hopes and dreams?” she said, rolling a rock between her palms. It crumbled to dust.

“Eh, deathbed wishes, but close enough,” he said, slurping at his tasteless drink. “You really shouldn’t make a habit of wandering around the Underworld unsupervised. There’s a lot of dangerous stuff down here, places for you to trip, and you definitely don’t want to drink the water—”

“I’m not afraid,” she said dryly. “I’ve been here both ways. What’s left?”

“There’s a rock just waiting to be rolled up a hill,” he said. “Eagles eating at your liver, eternally. Chocolate, just out of reach—everything you’ve ever wanted turning to ash beneath your fingertips—”

“I’ve already lost everything I’ve ever wanted,” she said. “That’s why I’m here.”

“Dramatic as always,” he said, but she didn’t return his grin. “What brings you to the scenic beaches of the Styx? No real waves, definitely not the sun—”

“I came here to make a deal,” she said. From the other bank, Cerebus whined; she threw him another stone without looking. “I hear this is the best place to seal them.”

“You want me to swear on the Styx?” He recoiled from the thought. He’d seen enough other gods ruin themselves with such promises, never mind the mortal maids for whom they swore to move heaven and earth by a river that trapped people within its boundaries. He hadn’t even made her swear on it the first time she sold her soul; but then, in his realm, souls were more easily grasped than ideals and actions. “Are you crazy?”

“Are you in this or not?”

“I said I was,” he said. “I gave my word, sweetcheeks. What more do you want?”

“Thanks,” she said, “but I’ve learned not to trust deals from gods.”

He rolled his eyes. “Olympians, sure, but I’m not really a deal-breaker, myself. Why bother? Everyone’ll come back here eventually.”

“So why care either way?” she said, and he laughed.

“Meg,” he said, and part of him savored the way her name tasted, tangled the connection of name to soul as if by saying it he could bind the two together and save her from—well, he had a point to make, “you don’t actually think they care?”

She stood there, draped in black cloth, her skin the palest shade outside the depths of the soul-infested waters, her violet eyes the only vibrant color in his entire realm, and she had the audacity to look unaffected, and beneath that, brave; she feared neither him nor his domain, and perhaps it was simply because there was still breath in her body and light in her soul; and so he took it upon himself to explain.

“Meg,” he said again, and in a moment he was before her, around her, not quite daring to touch her cheeks, acutely aware of the way her eyes tracked his movements, “you’re in the Underworld. Living—if you’ll pardon the phrase—proof of Olympus’s basic inability to remember anything about you mortals.”

“What’re you—”

“There are options, you know. Most mortals go straight into the slimy soup but hey, if Zeus finds somebody he likes, they go to the Elysian Fields. Nice place. Almost sunny sometimes, and you can’t really hear the screams,” as if on cue, someone wailed from the river’s general direction, “from there, and oh, right, you get to remember who you are, and anyone can pop in for a nice chat, maybe a symposium—I mean, you’re dead, so the wine doesn’t do much for the conversation, if you know what I mean, but I’ve never heard anyone complain about it.”

“Really.” But he saw the hunger in her eyes; saw shiny-smooth places in her soul where she remembered forgetting, if she couldn’t quite recall what she’d lost.

“Well, except Olympus keeps electing idiots who can’t string two words together and forgetting all the rest. You wouldn’t believe how many girls I’ve got down here saying oh, but Zeus or Apollo or Hermes—he gets around more than people realize, it’s the speed—anyway, they promise these girls eternal glory and riches, but they never sent me the memo and they don’t show up in thirty days and once you’re judged, that’s it!” He inspected his fingers; he didn’t need to look at her to feel the anger simmering again, and he didn’t want to think about the familiar echoes he felt in himself. “No one else thinks about mortals, after they’re dead. They just send them down to me and forget about them. Let’s face it: you’re only interesting when you’re alive.”

A half-formed hand groped blindly about on the bank; he shot a flame at it, and it recoiled back into the river. He grinned. She crossed her arms and said, “Hercules is different.”

“Oh, really.”

He’d forgotten how much he hated hearing about Wonderboy, how much any mention of the kid’s name filled him with a Zeus-level rage—like father, like son (he wouldn’t know; his father had been thrown into Tartarus before they ever had a chance to properly meet, and he’d never had a son), and it irked him to see mortals just as enamored of their freakishly strong demigod as they were of his divine progenitor. It especially irked him to hear Meg buying into the myth.

“—promised godhood at his death. He’ll—”

“What, go up to Olympus, and join his mommy, and remember you?” He couldn’t not laugh. “He’ll have the whole cosmos in his head! By the time he’s sorted that out you’ll be nothing but the small speck of warmth that used to be the memory of a smile.”

It was nothing less than the truth—he’d seen it happen more times than he could count. And he wasn’t cruel—at least, he didn’t think of himself as cruel—but he was the lord of Death, and death tended to bring out people’s worst fears, and he watched as her soul curled in on itself in denial. “He wouldn’t—”

“Oh, because his mother, who, by the way, absolutely hates you for taking her baby boy back to the mortal world—” and he hadn’t known that for sure, but it was such a Hera-like thing to do, and anyway Meg’s expression confirmed it “—isn’t going to make sure it happens? He’ll spend the rest of his days seducing mortal women and wondering how he, omniscient and omnipotent, could have the feeling of having forgotten something.”

“He’s not omnipotent,” she said, with shades of old arguments in her voice.

“Or omniscient, but it always takes the new guys a few millennia to sort that out.” She did flinch at that, and he resisted the urge to—what, pat her on the head and say it would be all right? Lord of Death, not of Comforting The Mourning. “Hey, babe, at least it won’t be intentional, right?”

And she looked at him, and he’d been expecting something like pure venom or hatred or anger and instead she was resigned, and her soul was curious. He called up another martini and sipped it and finally said, “What?” when her stare became—well, not too much, because he was a god and the gaze of mere mortals wasn’t enough to—

“And you?”

“What about me?” he said around the drink. Apples, he thought, and the taste came but too sweet and he was going for tangy—

And then she was Meg, hand-on-swung-out-hip and lips turned up in a sweet sneer of a smile and eyes alight with a challenge, and she said, “Do you ever feel there’s something you’ve forgotten?”

And for a moment he was fully settled into the form he’d assumed, jaw dropped, wrist slack and nearly spilling his drink, the obvious answer on the tip of his tongue, and warm; but she couldn’t see that, and so he tossed back the drink and refused to feel anything and said, “I told you, I had all the time in the world—literally—to work it out in Dad’s stomach.”

“And?”

“I just haven’t met anyone worth remembering.” Before she could reply, he threw aside the martini glass; it dissipated as soon as he forgot about it. “What’s so big about this, anyway? So Wonderbreath left you, boo-hoo, you’ve survived that before, your kids are dead, kids are like the number one customer down here, not much of a surprise—” The light in her eyes was murderous, but what did he fear? “—so, really, what’s going on that you want to swear on the Styx?”

“Oh, right, because I should just trust that a coward like you won’t turn tail and run at the slightest hint of displeasure from Olympus.” He saw sweat beading on her brow from the increased heat of his flame, but there were sparks in her eyes and she kept going. “You can’t afford to anger them again.”

“What do you know of the gods?”

“Plenty,” she said. “No one—mortal or god—bothers to hide things from their pets.”

He could, if he wanted to, know exactly how many times he’d called her pet (as opposed to sweet or darling or sugar or pocket pita stuffed with extra olives). He didn’t want to know.

“So,” she said, “forgive me if I don’t think you’re just going to help me waltz up the mountain and—”

“Whoa, whoa,” he said. “Who said anything about storming Olympus? I thought you just wanted your boyfriend back.”

“He’s my husband,” she said, and then her shoulders sagged and she sighed. “Look,” she said, “if I tell you the story, you have to swear you’ll help me.”

“Do you want me to swear that I’ll swear on the river too?” She glared at him. “So, should I pull up a chair? Is this going to be a long list of everything—”

“Hera put a rage on him.”

Hades thought about his sister, and her rages, and waited. “I don’t know why—something about the boys—he’s always so careful with them, because they’re so little and he’s so strong but he doesn’t realize how delicate he can—” She stopped before he had to say anything, and glanced at him with amusement on the corners of her lips. “But they were just children, and mortal children wouldn’t be able to go to Olympus and face the gods. They just…can’t.” He privately thought that with their parents—a demigod and a woman who’d been little more than a girl herself the first time she came into the presence of a god—they would have been just fine. “And Hera was furious, of course, accused me of not wanting her grandchildren to know their heritage—I just don’t understand,” she burst out, suddenly, her hands clenched into fists and pressed against the sides of her head.

“You’re not supposed to,” he said, and when she leveled her glare upon him again, he shrugged. “Mortal and ignorant, remember?”

“You’re not omniscient,” she countered.

He rolled his eyes. “So Hera got angry—”

“—and put a rage on him and he killed the boys.” She blinked, but if she had tears in her eyes, they didn’t fall. “He picked the youngest up and threw him against the wall, and he pushed me aside when I tried to stop him from wringing the oldest’s neck—”

“Do they have names?”

She was quiet for a moment, and then she said, “They’ve forgotten them by now.”

It wasn’t a question, so he didn’t bother to nod.

“So I hit the wall and passed out, and when I woke up, my sons were dead, and my husband was gone.” Her lips curved wryly, without mirth. “The neighbors disapproved, but they told me he’d gone into the town square sobbing and sworn to leave and never return, and he’s doing a very good job of it.”

“And you want him back,” he said.

“What he did wasn’t his fault. I’d be the first to admit you can’t help what a god makes you do.”

You could, he thought, watching the only being who’d ever told him no and gotten off without even so much as a scorch on their toga. “But that’s not what you really want,” he said, watching her face for a twitch and her soul for ripples in the pain she refused to allow to consume her. “You’ll just look at him and remember that time he killed your kids and hey, wasn’t that awful. The word you’re looking for, sweetcheeks, is revenge.”

“Is it,” she said, her eyes tracking him as he came closer, swirled around her.

“You want Hera to suffer as much as you’ve suffered,” he said. “You want to make her hurt.” She didn’t nod, but there was a dark light in her soul. “You do realize you’re mortal, right?”

“That’s why I need you,” she said. “You said you would help. Swear it.”

Meg was hurting and Meg was defiant and Meg would capture hell to storm heaven; it was the very least he could do, handing her the keys. “All right,” he said, his grin pointy and insincere, “I swear upon the Styx that I’ll help you get your revenge on Hera.”

Words such as those were not spoken without ripples, and he felt the promise wrap itself around his essence, the strength of an unending river of primordial stuff flowing over and around him, folding him in its depths, binding him to her.

Of course, it would come full circle like this.



“So,” he said, and it felt like an eternity but might have been a mere second; time was not his strength, “what’s the plan?”

“Hm?” She was staring into the river, and he thought he knew what she was searching for; he could direct the currents, if he so chose, but he did not.

“The plan? The big idea? How do you actually plan on getting revenge? What’re you going to do, kill her?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “Haven’t gotten that far. But that’s for me to figure out. You just need to find—him.”

“What, am I supposed to wander all over the earth—which, strictly speaking, I’m not supposed to do—”

“Never stopped you in the past.”

“Zeus wasn’t paying attention in the past, but you can bet if I show my head aboveground I’d better have some excuses planned, and I haven’t quite worked those out yet.” He rubbed his forehead. “And what will you be doing? Gathering an army to march on Olympus?”

“You’re the expert on that,” she said. “I don’t want Olympus. I just want her to pay.”

He rolled his eyes. “Yes, I got that. But how, exactly?”

She finally tore her gaze from the river and gave him a measuring look; he waited for the sparks in her mind to fly, and she finally said, “What would she hate the most?”

“What, am I an expert?” He knew the answer immediately; really, it was the same for any of them, and they wondered why he hated his job. “Being prisoner. Captive. Trapped somewhere wet and dark, away from her precious Zeusy.”

“All right,” she said. “I’ll kidnap her and bring her here.”

He stared at her, and her eyes laughed at him; he looked beneath that, and her soul was fixed, sorrow and pain and anger focused into a point, a steel blade waiting for temperance. “Are you nuts?” he said, although at this point—a mortal rolling her eyes at a god, a god sworn to a mortal against another god, a mother descending to the depths of hell not for her children’s souls but for revenge, and a god only too happy to see her—crazy was a bit of an understatement. “And what exactly do you think Zeus will—”

“You get Hercules,” her voice passed evenly over his name, “to un-exile himself, and Zeus’ll forgive you anything. Besides, it’s not like you knew I’d be kidnapping his wife and taking her down here. I know my way around from the old days.” She grinned at him, but she had the decency not to be sweet about it. “Just like old times! You chumming it up while I do all the dirty work.”

“So what, you want me to deliver Jerkules over to his jerk father? I thought—”

“I don’t know if I’ll ever get my husband back,” she said, and her gaze was steady. “I don’t know if I want him back—”

“Will you make up your mind?”

“—but he doesn’t deserve to be separated from everything else he cares about.” There was a glare in her feral smile. “Besides, you said once he’s a god he won’t care about anything anyway.”

It was true, truer than she realized, otherwise she wouldn’t be so blasé about saying it; he searched her soul for love, but he’d never really known what it looked like and if it was there she was doing a fantastic job of hiding it from sight. “All right,” he said finally. “We’ll try it. You’ll need help if you want to abduct her. Allies.”

“I’ll get them.”

“It won’t be easy to reach all of them,” he said. “We’re talking mortal danger on a regular basis, not to mention the ones that live places mortals can’t even go without being roasted, and you’re not exactly the typical paragon.”

She acknowledged this with an impatient nod. “So what can you give me?”

He thought about this for a moment, then waved towards the river and said, “Behind door number one…”

“The river of death? A little hard to carry around, don’t you think?”

“Look,” he said, “if you really want to fight a goddess, you’re going to have to look a little better than you do now.”

She crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow because she was Meg and couldn’t take anything at face value. “What, are you going to order me a new wardrobe? I’m sorry, I didn’t know you had weavers in hell.”

“Cute,” he said, scowling; he snapped his fingers, and they were precariously close to the river’s edge. He hadn’t bothered with legs in years, and didn’t notice; she nearly lost her footing, and he caught her arms and pulled her upright, holding her while she steadied herself. When she finally looked up from her feet, he jerked his head in the direction of the water and said, “Bath time.”

“You want me to bathe in a river of death?”

“Dead people, not death,” he said. “Haven’t you ever heard of Achilles?”

“Isn’t he dead?” He felt his flames turning red, and her lips pursed in a smirk.

“He’s dead because an arrow found the one spot that didn’t get dunked in the water. You want to be invincible or not?”

“Invincible, huh?” She glanced at the river. “You sure about that?”

“Positive.”

“Seriously?”

Deadly serious.”

“What’s the catch?”

He shrugged. “You pick a place that doesn’t get dunked. Wouldn’t be fair for a hero not to have a weakness.”

“I’m not sure I count,” she said. “You planning on letting go anytime soon?”

He hadn’t noticed he was still holding on. She rubbed her arms where his hands had been—had he been so stupid as to have her practically in his arms, without so much as the barest sensation? That’s what came of noble impulses.

She was looking at the river, anyway, and finally she said, “So do I just…walk in?”

“You picked your spot?”

“Yes,” she said, placing a hand in the middle of her chest. He reached out—not on a physical level; the Styx flowed in all dimensions, and he could take hold of her in a place she’d never realize existed, let alone feel. That she twitched must have been an accident.

“So walk,” he said, and she did, grimacing as her feet touched water—cold water, but she was warm, and alive, she’d survive—and then she waded in waist-deep, took a breath, and slipped beneath the surface. He tightened his grip, and waited, aware of the death-and-not-death of the water and the slippery oily ooze of not-mortal mortal soul stuff as it tried to penetrate his shield, trying to sink into her every pore and thus turn her into itself. Flesh and blood would dissipate and soul—what was one more shining light in an ocean that glowed?

He scowled, and yanked her out. She came onto the shore coughing, her hair oddly slick, sticking to her bare skin. She brought up a hand to cover her mouth, but as soon as she felt the ooze which covered her she jerked away, rubbing her hand compulsively on the shore. He watched for a moment, and then called up a wave to wash it all away; she was left dry, standing on the shore on shaky legs, and he waited for her response.

“That was…unpleasant,” she said.

His response was to throw fire at her—not his hottest, and certainly not with all the force he had at his command, but her soul no longer belonged to him and thus she no longer shared his skin. She stumbled back and fell, but when the fire dissipated she was still sitting and breathing, her skin still smooth and perfect.

“Huh,” she said, looking at her arms. “It worked.”

“Of course it worked,” he said, annoyed. Then, because he couldn’t resist—“Why so obvious a spot?”

“Hm?” she said, standing, rubbing her arms again.

“Your weakness,” he said. “It’s the first place people would try to hit.”

Her smile was wan and rueful and she simply said, “I tried to harden it once before, and it didn’t work.” He stared at her. “Better to know you’re weak, right?”

“Gods aren’t weak,” he said, because it really was his last defense.

She snorted and before he could retort she said, “Can you teach me how to do the flames? I’d love to be able to barbecue whenever I feel like it.”

“Oh sure. Why not. Just give all the divine secrets away. Fine. Let’s go.”



It was a few days later when he actually gave her the fire; sure, she was invincible now, but that didn’t mean he wanted to push divinity on her all at once. Mortals weren’t meant for this sort of thing, but that had never particularly stopped either of them in the past.

She’d finally sewed her purple robe back together; it was shorter, and hung differently, and was of very little interest to him, though she seemed to consider her movements easier when not wrapped in an unformed black cloth. She was putting her newfound mobility towards the task looking for a suitable place to keep Hera once captured—he’d suggested throwing her into the whirlpool of souls, or perhaps the river Lethe, and it was there that he found her, staring into its depths.

He merely appeared behind her, noiseless, but she didn’t jump when he said, “Careful. If you fall in that one, I won’t be hauling you back out.” It wouldn’t be worth it; the water would wear away at the individuality in her soul faster than Apollo’s sons drove his chariot. In the Styx it was merely a trickle making up the larger sludge; here, in its pure form, the water seemed clear for infinite depths, as though the riverbed itself had forgotten it existed. Hades had never bothered to check.

“I thought about just coming down here and taking a drink,” she said.

“A little counter-productive, don’t you think?”

“I don’t want to remember,” she said. “I hate remembering.”

Being a god, and remembering everything by necessity (and even some non-things, things that hadn’t happened but simply were, remembering things others had once known because they weren’t around to remember anymore and someone had to do it), he was inclined to sympathize; being Hades, he squished the inclination as best he could and said, “So, you want the fire thing or not?” She glanced at him, this raised eyebrow indicating interest. “It’s better to burn things out, anyway.”

Apparently “as best he could” meant very little. (It always did, when she was involved.) “Sure,” she said. “Hit me.”

He snorted. “Not quite.” He held out his hand, and a little white pilot light appeared over his palm.

She stared at it. “That’s it?”

“What, you think Prometheus brought the sun itself down? It’s called the divine spark, not the divine fireball of death.” He shook his hand at her, careful not to snuff the light. “Take it.”

Her brow furrowed, and after a moment of consideration she cupped her hands and held them out, and he sort of tipped the light into her hands, where it flickered for a moment before holding steady, small and perfectly still in the breezeless Underworld air. “Now what?”

“You’ve got to let it in,” he said, and she brought her cupped hands into her chest, and the spark leapt to her sternum and white light raced along her veins in a flash that illuminated her body as though for the moment between two seconds her soul was fused to her flesh and she burned

And then she was Meg, standing before him, her eyes wide with surprise, a new light flickering in their depths. “Wow,” she said after a moment.

“Oh, made an impression, did it?” he said.

“It feels…” She paused, and then said, “Familiar?”

“Prometheus had to steal fire from somewhere,” he said. “And look where he ended up. This never happened.”

“They couldn’t chain you up for long,” she said, holding out her left hand, turning it over, inspecting it. “No one else would be willing to take over your job.”

He snorted. “So, did it work?”

She cocked her head, and then twisted her wrist and fire appeared, licking the air over her skin—not that her skin would burn, even in the hottest flame—small and rippling and blue. It was unimpressive and inconstant to the untrained eye, but the irony was—and no one ever saw this—red-hot rage was the heat of the moment; blue was hotter and burned beyond ash. There was a temperance and a wisdom in her fire; she met his gaze through it, and for a moment god and mortal were nothing more than an endless mirroring of heat and light.

“I like it,” she said, breaking the moment (and did she, he wondered, count as mortal anymore? It was getting harder to tell). “Very handy.”

“You’re welcome,” he said. “How soon can you be gone?”

“I need a map,” she said, “and I need to plan. Why, nervous?”

“It’s your mortal stink,” he said. “It completely conflicts with the complete lack of odor we’ve got down here.” She laughed, and he said, “Seriously, I spent millennia getting rid of every smell, and you just come down and—”

She laughed and he grinned and for a moment it was spring.



He grew used to her presence. Sure, there was a lot to be done after he’d cleaned his chambers—comb the entire Underworld for errant or overly ambitious souls, count the Erinyes, sort through claims of blessedness and see if the souls in question were still coherent enough to make it worth the effort of moving them to the Fields. And she was busy too, sitting on the floor with his map of the world spread before her, studying the paths to the Amazons, the Hesperides, Diomedes, the boundaries of kingdoms mortal and divine, her fingers pressed together in thought. Occasionally she asked him for information, and he gave it, and she listened. It had been—well. He didn’t want to know how long it had been since someone listened to him of their own free will, and so he ignored the thought and answered her questions and if occasionally he cracked an unnecessary joke and occasionally she laughed, that was life. Whether or not life should have invaded the Underworld was a moot point; it had come, and he enjoyed it.

So of course when she said, “I have to leave,” he was a little…perturbed. Sure, he was a god and she was a mortal and nothing eternal could ever rely on anything transitory, but that hadn’t stopped his brothers from spawning a veritable army of demigods, and it hadn’t stopped him from standing before her and allowing himself the barest touch of the heat her body emanated.

“You have to,” he repeated.

“Yes,” she said, wrapping up her few possessions (cloth, needle and thread, the crumbs that remained of her food). “What’s Hera going to do, walk into my arms while I’m sitting down here? I have to leave in order to get her.”

“Easy for you to say,” he said. “Some of us can’t come and go so freely.”

“Never stopped you before.”

“No one was paying attention before,” he said. “I still don’t know if I’m going to get zapped with lightning the first time I show my face out there.”

“Probably,” she said, tying up her bundle and slinging it over one shoulder. “So take it, and apologize, and then get started with the hunt. How long will it take?”

“Depends on how far he’s gone,” he said, “and in which direction. I mean for all we know he could be planning on just coming down here by the back door, so…”

“All right,” she said. “Keep me posted.”

She stood there for a moment, and he felt…awkward? Was that what this was? There was nothing to say, though, so he waited.

“Well, Hades,” she said, “I can’t say it’s been a pleasure, but I’ll see you around.”

“Likewise,” he said (he lied), and she tossed him a salute with a fondly sardonic smile. He didn’t turn his head to watch her go; he did immerse himself in his form as she brushed by, felt the warmth of her skin and the softness of her hair, and the cool breeze caused by their absence. He forced himself to endure the cold, to remind himself of what it meant to be Lord of the Underworld, to forfeit life and a sky over his head for the power of…what, exactly? Ruling the cosmos, channeled into making sure a few forgetful dead souls didn’t start swimming backwards.

And then suddenly he was on the near bank of the Styx, where she stood watching Charon slowly steer his boat towards the shore, saying, “Meg, sweetcake, you know how to contact me, right? Not that—”

“Knock on the ground three times and say your name. I remember,” she said, giving him a sidelong look. “What, are you going to see me off?”

“Something like that,” he said. “You’re invincible, you can throw fire at other people’s heads—what do you do when you run into someone who eats fire for breakfast?”

“It’s divine fire,” she said. “Doesn’t that count for something?”

“Divinities eat fire for breakfast,” he said. “How’re you going to avoid them?”

“Haven’t thought that far ahead,” she said, which was strange, because what else had she been doing, but anyway, she was looking at him again, amused curiosity glowing underneath her lifted eyebrow. “Why, do you have something in mind?”

He did, and it was a strange thought, a forgotten thought, locked away in a place where he hadn’t been Lord of the Underworld, but as soon as he recalled it he plucked it out of the air and held it out to her.

“What is it?”

Aside from the fact that she always sounded skeptical (and why accept anything at first sight, when usually first sight was the only glimpse you ever caught of it?), he could understand her suspicion; it didn’t look like much, a reinforced leather cap in his hands, not at all like the imposing bronze helmet he’d seen depicted in mortals’ minds. The Cyclopes hadn’t exactly had an enormous amount of time to prepare his present; they’d been busy with the lightning bolt, and the trident and the helm had been afterthoughts, patched together after the monsters discovered Zeus had two brothers. Still, it did its job, and he didn’t really need it, and it seemed fitting to give it to her, from one usurper to another.

“Put it on,” he said, still holding it out; she accepted it and slipped it over her head and vanished.

She took it off a half-second later, but for a moment the Underworld had been dark and empty; the helm’s power lay in its ability to hide its wearer from sight on every level, and a part of him didn’t like that Meg’s soul had so easily disappeared from his sight. He may not have owned it anymore, but a small part of him still felt as though—well, anyway, she was turning it over in her hands with a thoughtful expression, and he focused on that.

“Well,” she said finally, “that’ll come in handy. Thanks.”

“No big,” he said. “We have a deal, remember?” But for some unfathomable reason, he continued, “I mean, I’ve never given it away before, but if you’re going to be some big immortal hero you might as well—”

“Immortal hero? Me?” She looked at him as though he were crazy.

He probably was. He chose to play it cool and shrugged. “What, you’re on a quest of mythic proportions with the blessing of a god—”

“If you can call it that.”

“—guys have gotten into the Elysian Fields for much less, and hey, your jerk husband—”

“It wasn’t his fault!”

“—is going to be a god despite what he did, so why not you?”

“So, what, you’re going to campaign for me?” Before he could respond, she said, “Why would I want that, anyway?”

“Just a thought,” he said. “Besides, Hera has lots of enemies. Maybe I wouldn’t have to say a word. Just take the helmet.”

“All right, I will,” she said, her fingers tightening on it. Tension flooded the air; not that he needed to breathe, but he saw her nostrils flare before she said, tightly, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

They stood on the bank and watched Charon arduously shake an enterprising soul from his oar before dipping it back in the Styx.

“The weather nice, this time of year?”

She shrugged. “It’s spring.” As Charon’s boat came nearer, she said, “I get it, you know.”

“Get what?”

“You’re lonely.” The boat touched shore, and she climbed aboard and pressed a denarii in Charon’s decrepit hand. He lost sight of her face—all he could see was her soul, bursting at its mortal seams with a lightness beneath the anger and the pain, buoyed with something different—hope, and her hope was infectious. “Don’t worry, Hades,” she said, and he heard the sweetly mocking smile in her voice even as her brightness overwhelmed his senses, drowning him in light. “I’ll be back.”

(no subject)

Date: 2011-01-10 12:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] andromeda3116.livejournal.com
aewiotnaowitoewrhaewrew.

Love.

Love.

Love.

This is amazing and I want more and I'm incomprehensible with how incredibly freaking awesome this is and you have to write more and more and more. And. And. <3

(no subject)

Date: 2011-01-10 03:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jade-sabre-301.livejournal.com
do go on.

:-b

(no subject)

Date: 2011-01-10 04:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xlovelylightx.livejournal.com
Whoot Immortal Hero Meg!

Gah, your characterisation of Meg is too awesome for words. :3
From: [identity profile] jade-sabre-301.livejournal.com
*g* THANK YOU

ALSO

OMG

CAN I STEAL YOUR ICON RIGHT NOW IT IS LIKE MY FAVE .GIF ONLY IN ICON FORM I HAZ NEED OF IT

why are you eight hours ahead of me I CANNOT WAIT FOR YOUR REPLY OKAY I NEED IT NOW GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH /stews
From: [identity profile] xlovelylightx.livejournal.com
Sure, why not? Icons are meant to be used. :)

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