The door swung open, creaking on its hinges. "Aidon?"

He didn't have to turn around to know who it was. Aidoneus' intuition told him who had been making her way up the steps, and who would be standing there in their antechamber. That, and these were their private rooms. "Does something require my attention downstairs?"

His stylus scratched across a scroll of papyrus, writing a missive to Hermes, or Mercury, as he preferred to be called these days. He clenched his jaw at the thought of that, betraying his distaste at how rapidly things were changing. It was a different Olympus when he'd visited at midsummer.

Persephone sat down at the opposite end of the divan. "A mortal crossed the Styx…"

The point of the stylus came to a stop and he sighed. "Damnation, Charon…" he said under his breath. "You'd think that after he ferried those two idiots across last time, he would have learned. But every hero has a story to tell and coin for passage, it seems."

He started writing again.

"She's waiting in the throne room."

Hades dropped the reed in the ink pot and raised his eyebrows, giving his wife his full attention. "She?"

"Her name is Psyche. She says Venus sent her."

"For what?"

"That's… what I need to ask you about." She settled in the seat and crossed her legs. Aidon glanced briefly at her exposed ankle and then looked back at her questioning eyes. "Why, pray tell, husband, would Aphrodite think that there is a box of beauty that I keep at my bedside?"

He thought for a moment. Aidon sat up a little straighter when it dawned on him, then pursed his lips sheepishly. "No reason."

She smirked, his fib obvious, and scooted closer to him on the divan. "At midsummer when you were talking to her, you… wouldn't have happened to have said something like that, hmm? And had her take you seriously?"

"…Maybe." The corner of his mouth twitched up.

"Hades Aidoneus!" Persephone tried to stifle a laugh and look serious again, ultimately failing when she saw the mischievous sparkle in his eyes.

"What?" he said in mock innocence. "It was the only way to stop her from pestering me!"

The dam burst and Persephone doubled over laughing. "Aidon, please tell me," she managed through her mirth, "what would possess you to tell a tale like that?!"

He sighed and pulled her close to him with one arm, chuckling low. "Aphrodite approached me uninvited while you were talking with your mother, and asked me how it was that I was able to find such a pretty wife."

"What did you say?"

"That I abducted you," he growled.

"Did you say it like that?"

"Likely. I was too irritated to care."

Persephone shook her head. "And she still didn't leave you alone?"

"No. She kept hovering around me like a gnat. Then she had the gall to ask if we, after a millennium and a half of marriage are still… intimate."

Persephone giggled as his cheeks reddened.

"Well, I didn't think it was funny…" he mumbled. "So I told her politely to shove off. Then she tossed out some back-handed compliment about how surprised she was that you could stay so beautiful whilst having to live in a place like this…"

She shook her head again, then leaned against Aidon's shoulder.

"I may have gotten more offended by that than I should have, and… may have made something up."

"That I keep a 'box of beauty' at my bedside?"

"I didn't think she'd be stupid enough to believe it," he said incredulously.

"You said…" She laughed, cupping her hand over her mouth and fruitlessly trying to muffle it. She was afraid Psyche could hear them all the way downstairs. "At my bedside…" she guffawed, wiping a tear from her eye. "In an ebony box!"

"Oh no, don't tell me…"

"Yes!" Persephone blurted out.

His answering laugh rumbled beside her ear. "This poor mortal girl is here to retrieve it, isn't she?"

"Yes!" she managed, another tear leaking out her eye and her face turning red.

He pulled her close and leaned his forehead down, their noses pressed together, both still laughing too hard to manage a kiss. When their shared laughter finally subsided, Aidon took swift advantage of the moment, his lips capturing hers as he pulled her into his embrace. She melted, her hand caressing his shoulder and sliding up until her fingers looped around her favorite stray curl at the nape of his neck.

"You really are cruel, Aidoneus," she said when she finally pulled away, her pupils wide. She brushed her hand over his cheek.

"Sometimes," he said wickedly, "but everyone above says that anyway, no?"

"What do you suggest we do about this?"

"Well, we have to give her something…"

"…or Venus will punish her. And if we send her on her way with an empty box," she thought aloud, "that will ensure her demise."

"Inevitable though it is," he muttered. Mortals lives were brief, the folly of youth briefer still. "Why is this Psyche running errands to the Underworld for Aphrodite?"


Hades jaw clenched momentarily, remembering the golden arrow and all the trouble it had caused early in their marriage. "Who did he make her fall in love with such that she would be forced to strike a bargain with the self-proclaimed Goddess of Love?"


His eyes widened. "She fell in love with the son of…"

"It was the other way around, actually," she said, resting her chin in her hand. "She told me that he married her in secret. And his mother just couldn't give him up. Especially to a girl whose beauty, mortals say, rivals her own."

Aidoneus thought grimly about his own everlasting trouble with Demeter. He shook his head. This girl was willing to descend amongst the dead, traveling between realms on foot to prove herself, and it was his fault. "What about that jewelry box I carved for you?"

"I love that box, Aidon; it comes with me every time I go back above," she said with a slight whine. Hearing her own voice clearly, Persephone grimaced. What was a trinket compared to this poor girl's life? "I suppose that would work, much as I'd hate to give it up."

"I have a feeling it will find its way back to you."

"And what shall we put in it?"

"Nothing that can satisfy Aphrodite, I fear." Aidon chewed on his lip for a moment. "Hypnos' poppies."

"And that will put to sleep whoever opens the box." She knew as well as he from their sad experience with Orpheus that humans always succumbed to temptation.

"Eros will miss her long before Aphrodite does," Aidoneus said.

"And her loving and valiant husband," she said, squeezing his hand playfully, "will find her before his mother can exact a deadly punishment on his beloved wife for failing to bring her the fabled vessel…"

"...thus saving her life," he finished triumphantly.

Persephone nodded, pleased. She stood and placed her hands on her hips, looking down at Aidon. "Just one more thing, husband."

"What would that be?"

"You're going to be the one to get my jewelry box back," she said.

He sighed and lolled his head back, staring up at the ceiling. "Fates, wife, I would rather carve you a new one out of solid diamond than have to deal with Aphrodite again!"

She said nothing. Persephone folded her arms and cocked her head to the side. Aidoneus stood up, looming over her, his lips curving up into a smile. He threw an arm around her and kissed her head.

"Alright, my love. I will."

"Thank you," she said softly.

He gave her a small squeeze, then offered his arm. "Well, my queen. Shall we go downstairs and tell poor Psyche that we will do as she requests and give her your box of beauty?"

She placed her hand in the crook of her husband's arm. "A fine idea, my lord."