Chapter 20. Hades

All was well.

The final words of The Deathly Hallows weigh on my mind as I close the book. I've read this one many times by now, yet the thought still haunts me the same as it did the first.

A bit of sadness lingers. It doesn't quite bring the satisfaction one would think to the close of the wizard child's story. Not when there was so much loss throughout the series.

I place the book on the shelf next to the rest of Harry's young life and let out a heavy sigh as I turn and walk away from the novels. Then I begin my regimen for the day.

Minutes, years, centuries. They're all the same in the underworld.

Before my hiatus, which may have been eons ago for all I know, there were stretches of time where the tediousness of my life filled me up and swallowed me whole. After all, aside from ensuring the souls that arrive in my domain are where they're supposed to be and properly restraining ones it's deemed necessary to, what else is there to do?

Now, though, I often find myself settling in to read for days at a time to break up the monotony. Or listening to music from an old favorite. Or painting murals as the mood strikes me, wherever I happen to be.

And then, sometimes, when I allow myself an indulgence, I think about her.

Isabella.

And how for a very brief moment in my miserable existence, I felt quite content. Happy.

Loved.

I submerge myself in thoughts of the first time we met and how she danced with me to the voice of a musician that would forever remind me of her smile.

The first time our lips touched. And the second.

Talk to me?

I'd much rather kiss you again.

The days just after as I watched her from afar, learning her habits, her preferences, her movements. And then I take extra care to recount every moment of time during our weekend at the beach, even the tiny miniscule grains of sand that I will forever despise.

The kiss on our balcony.

I said no expectations this weekend, Isabella.

But I didn't.

The way she taught me the truest meaning of the word love that night. How it felt to be inside her. The warmth, the gentleness. The not so gentleness.

Kiss me again.

The gift of the universe that she gave me at the planetarium. And how she allowed me to take her under the stars there.

Tell me about Cassiopeia?

She was a goddess, like you.

I try not to tarry too long on what followed when we arrived back home.

I don't enjoy dwelling on the pain I felt leaving her. The pain I still feel, to this day.

I suppose I'm glad, mostly, that she was able to find her way to Edward. And that he kept good on his promise of loving her while making the most of his second chance at life.

Mostly.

Still, there's a small part of me that wishes there had been a way to keep her for myself; to give her sunlight and darkness somehow.

Practically all of me.

Every fiber of my being, actually.

But only when I allow myself an indulgence.

It happens more and more since Edward Cullen passed through my realm, years ago.

It turns out, one of the many downsides to being human is cancer.

When he arrived, I nearly expected Isabella would be with him. Imagine my disappointment when I realized he was alone.

His memories of being a vampire faded once I returned his soul to his body. They returned upon his introduction to the underworld.

It was good to see him, if I'm being honest. I've never had anyone anywhere close to a friend before. I assume sharing a body and will with someone, understanding him on infinite levels, constitutes a thing such as friendship.

Never mind the fact that once upon a time he stood up to Poseidon in my defense.

We spoke of sailing and music, his paintings and our favorite books. How he got out of the nightclub business long ago, about Earthly matters of the rich and poor alike. Sickness. Disease.

I didn't dare ask about Isabella. I wouldn't have been able to bear the void of not being a part of her life all these decades, or be forced to imagine what might have been, had I chosen a different path.

Edward spent much of his time in the Elysian Fields for quite a while. He was taken aback by the fact that he was allowed there, but I wasn't surprised at all. Even in his vampiric state, at his core, he was good. As a human, he was more than exceptional. He was extraordinary.

There came a time, though, that due to the innate integrity of his soul, and the tremendous work he'd done on earth, fate had him sent back reincarnated, once she found the perfect role for him to play.

And so, once again, I was alone.

And Edward Cullen, the once vampire, was to become a priest.

Ironic.

I'll see him again someday, but not for many many years. And this time around, he won't know me as anything other than the god who rules his afterlife.

Yet another loss for me to tuck away into the recesses of my memories.

"Same as any other day, Cerberus." I scratch the hound behind his ear and he follows me as I glide throughout the underworld, taking note of the new souls and where they settle.

We stroll next to the Acheron river, appropriately, and I embrace the sorrow and pain I feel.

I stare out at its vastness for a moment, imagining it as a different body of water. One with a sun lit sky and blue green waves, where I sat next to a women with a soul lifting gaze, a beautiful laugh, and soft lips.

A woman who cared very deeply for me once.

I move on with focused thoughtfulness and, as we pass the Cocytus river, I attempt to drown out the wailing of the dead there with recollections of constellations and long drives, holding hands while the clean air blew through our vehicle, Prince's lyrics filling the car.

I avoid the Lethe today - the river of oblivion and forgetfulness. I don't wish to allow my thoughts to slip from my mind.

Not yet, anyway.

A ripple rolls through the ground and Cerberus begins howling, then he runs off, quite abruptly. Although I wish just once he would ignore his duties to give me the company I so desperately seek, I know he'll be back eventually.

A hound's got to do what a hound's got to do, I suppose.

As I make my way through the Fields of Mourning, the Asphodel Meadows, the Elysian Fields, and even Tartarus, I sense the beginnings of a familiar boredom of this routine. The same tasks day after day, year after year… the one thing that drove me away so long ago.

Then I remind myself of the chaos that trip above ground caused. The people it hurt. The torment I still endure because of it.

And I force myself to move along.

As I near the end of my rounds, I find myself at the Styx. I'm not quite sure why, really. I generally don't bother with the boat captain. While I'm here, however, I'm sure it couldn't hurt to ensure he's doing his job properly.

It only takes a moment and Charon barely recognizes that I'm there, but when I start to leave something very odd occurs.

There's a shift in the ground. A soft breeze. The faint scent of sunshine.

It surrounds me from out of nowhere, warm and inviting. Captivating even. Such a strange and non-existent occurrence in the underworld.

And then a familiar chill and the sudden knowledge of a soul that's only just arrived.

One I've been waiting on for an eternity it seems, and yet, the blink of an eye.

I smile and breathe her name as easily as the day I met her.

"Isabella."

I turn slowly. My heart races. My pulse quickens. My spirits lift.

I'm nearly unwilling to believe it at first, but when I face her I find - yes. And I smile because she's indeed here.

Finally.

She's as beautiful as the day I met her. Goddess-like as ever, with no thick layers of clothes to speak of anymore. Just a simple white dress that drapes her body, revealing curves and skin, causing a familiar desire to bubble up within me.

Her breath catches when our eyes meet. Her bottom lip is pulled between her teeth. Her legs brush against each other then her body relaxes and her chest moves in such a way that begs me to watch. And she speaks with the smallest of voices.

"Hi."

The hound circles her, playfully, sniffing at her feet and nudging her affectionately before licking her hand. She in turn kneels to pet him. "Hello boy." She laughs as he cheerfully leaps and yips around her, and when she stands again, she meets my inquisitive gaze.

"He literally likes no one, and yet here he is with you, as though you've raised him from a pup."

She shrugs and raises a single brow at me. "Canines like me." Then she steps a bit closer, taking in her surroundings, seemingly for the first time since arriving.

"It's beautiful here."

I laugh. "That's not the word most would use."

"That's because they don't know how to appreciate what's been given to them."

I narrow my eyes. "And you do."

She thinks on what she's going to say for a few moments. "Let's just say I've read up a bit on what to expect in the afterlife. And this is much more wonderful than I had imagined."

Then she appears a bit concerned. "But I'm not really sure how I ended up here and not… you know… I mean, Tartarus."

I shake my head because I, for one, am certain. "The judges know your heart, Isabella. Much like I do."

Hesitantly, she accepts my answer, knowing I'm right and probably feeling as though it's a waste of time to dwell on things like guilt. It has no place here. Her past was long ago, practically forgotten. It was before shades of what could be construed as good and bad were blurred, and the underworld no longer reprimanded humans for evil deeds committed for the purest of reasons.

And then, almost afraid to do so, she takes my hand. She looks up at me with a wonder and an intimacy I haven't known in what seems like forever. "Show me your world?"

I take a breath I feel has been trapped for eternity as I stare down at her, making sure I don't take my eyes off of her for a second. "I've waited an endless amount of time to hear you say that."

xXxXx

The first place I take Isabella is somewhere I've ached to be able to let her see - a secret room where I've done a little creating of my own - without Zeus's knowledge.

For now.

"This is Nyx," I tell her. As she takes it in, she gasps and pulls her hand away from mine to cover her mouth, the full impact of it affecting her just as I had hoped. Tears well up in her eyes but they are not sad tears today.

"What is this?" she asks, taking in every brilliantly shining spec above. They light up the room like her presence. They glimmer as brightly as her eyes.

And why shouldn't they?

"They're your stars, Isabella. I'd create entire galaxies. For you."

Her eyes dart from the cluster of illumination to me. And she tries to say something but can't quite finish her thought as blush rises to her cheeks, perfectly matching some of the colors that hang above us.

She looks up at them again in awe and her emotions overtake and overwhelm her as the tears fall.

"They haven't reached Earth yet," I tell her, watching every move she makes . "But they will, when they're ready." Just north of Andromeda.

We may have stayed there for an hour. It could have also been a day. I'm not sure, nor do I care. I simply bask in the beauty of the woman I am with, once again.

Eventually, we leave the room and close the door behind us. And with her hand in mine, I lead her through the same path I took just before she arrived. This time, it doesn't seem boring or tedious. It doesn't leave me with the same heavy burden it has for an infinite amount of time.

This time, I'm not inspecting the souls that inhabit my domain.

I'm gazing at the beauty of Isabella while she walks beside me as though she was born to this world.

At some point during her visit, we end up back in my private room of solitude.

"I'm calling it Sylphium Isabella." My heart.

And I can't help but grin proudly at her reaction to the wall of shelving that lines the back of the room now.

"You've been busy," she says, impressed.

And then she sees them - the complete set of Harry Potter novels I obtained long ago.

She strides over to them, happy that she hasn't lost the ability to surround herself with an archive of stories here.

My copies are worn around the edges and there are place marks for certain passages I found particularly interesting.

She reaches for one and picks it up, leafing through it with an interesting look.

Then she glances over at me with a cock of her brow.

She tries to hide the amused grin she wears now, but quickly decides to hell with it.

"Obsessed much?"

I shrug it off. "There were a few moments I wanted to revisit from time to time."

Her eyes widen and her brow rises even further. "A few?" She holds book five up for me to see. "There's an entire pad of sticky notes used up in this one alone."

She shakes her head but she's smiling as she rifles through to see where I've marked.

"Really, Hades."

My breath catches and my grin is shameless. But I'm no longer frozen with the fear of what her knowledge of me might do to us. What it might to do her understanding of who I am.

She knows me.

She knows where we are. What it means. And she's not running away.

She's embracing it.

"What?" she asks, unsure of why I'm so pleased.

"Say it again," I tell her, lust and want speckling each word.

She tilts her head just so, and the V between her eyes makes me want to take her, right here. Right now.

"My name," I tell her, beaming with anticipation. And with that, she places the book down onto the shelf and steps closer, a knowing smile playing at her lips.

"Hades," she says with a lifetime of love behind it.

I remember once, I was so afraid of her. Letting her get too close. Wanting to drain her body of its life force. But now…

"Hades," she says again, closer. More seductively this time.

And when she's within reach, about to allow my name to float freely from her lips again, I pull her to me and kiss her fully with every moment of every hour of every century I've endured without her.

Immediately, bits and pieces of the life she's lived flash inside my mind.

I see her, with Edward Cullen, laughing easily with one another.

Then eventually, a marriage proposal.

Friendly gatherings.

Her husband smiling down on her with tears in his eyes, as their first child enters the world.

Diana.

She has Isabella's smile.

I see the girl, happily chasing a younger brother, Adrien, through a bookstore laced with first editions and rare collections, who then knocks over an entire stack of them, just for fun.

I can't help but grin. The little devil.

I see a life learning about ancient histories.

And stars, brilliantly shining in the night as she points and teaches others about them. About one cluster in particular that makes her absolutely glow with pride, and … happy memories perhaps.

I break away from our kiss, dumbfounded, peering down at her with curiosity. "You shared my stories."

The sides of her mouth lift and her eyes gleam. "I did."

"But how did you-"

"I thought I'd dreamt you at first." She looks down, breaking eye contact for a brief moment. "Then for a while, I thought I might have lost my mind." She laughs a bit. "But eventually-" she finds my fixed stare again-"I pieced it together. You were real."

I can't bring myself to react. I'm not sure how she could have made this realization. How she could have possibly understood it while still alive, but… somehow. She did.

"There was always something lingering on the outskirts of my heart," she admits freely as I watch her, dumbfounded at the brilliance of her mind. "Something telling me where I truly belonged, despite the great life I had. Despite Edward… the kids… everything that was given to me."

My breathing quickens. My blood pulses so swiftly I believe my heart may just burst out of my chest.

"I've been here," I tell her breathlessly. "Thinking perhaps I'd lost my mind as well from time to time."

"Like Orpheus."

The joy of hearing her know exactly what Greek ancestor to reference is beyond explanation. "Yes." Then I laugh. "Just like Orpheus."

"After I read about him, I found his lyra in the sky one night," she tells me effortlessly. "Such a simple constellation. But it also said so much."

"Agreed," I confess. The story of the musician and the way he'd lost the love of his life – twice - has always been a sad one. Particularly since I played a part in the latter.

And then, Isabella's entire body moves as though she's getting ready to hand me a gift of some sort that she's excited to share.

"I named a new one, you know?" she tells me, proud of her accomplishment. "It was the first time in history it's been done since the eighteenth century."

I'm quite proud of her as well. "You what?"

She thinks on it purposefully as she holds my stare, and I can see it there, behind her eyes.

Five brilliant lights among the vastness of the universe. It nearly resembles a broken heart.

I find it difficult to react, or speak for that matter. I'm overwhelmed with the significance of what she's done.

"I named them Aidoneus," she divulges. "Otherwise known as-"

"Hades," I finish quietly.

I'm scarcely able to speak beyond that.

"You deserve to be up there more than any of them," she whispers to me with a touch of her hand to my cheek.

My eyes close at the warmth of her touch and I say her name that way I know she wants me to. "Bella. I-"

"I've missed you," she murmurs. There's desperation in her words, the same desperation I felt the moment we met. And every moment thereafter.

I place a hand over hers, slipping the other around her waist. I tug her as close as possible to me, and I can barely seem to utter the words, but still, they are said.

Softly, sincerely, wholeheartedly.

"I love you."

She nods and her eyes become pools of glass. "I never stopped loving you."

With those simple words, ones I've barely allowed myself to hope I'd hear again, I slide a hand around to the crook of her neck, holding her carefully, as the precious creature she is, and kiss her slowly, deliberately.

This room once replicated the office of the Brick and Mortar - a place I considered my home for a short while. I found solace in its familiarity for a time, but eventually, it simply reminded me of the pain of losing Isabella. Now it's scarcely the same. Except for one item - a large white rug, covering most of the floor.

I lower the two of us down onto the thick, velvety carpet and rid Isabella of the intrusive thin piece of material she arrived in. She glows with the flames of my desire for her, restored at full force as I take the entirety of her goddess-like figure. She pulls at my clothing, and in an instant, as though she's willed it away, it's gone as well, leaving me naked before her.

My fingers trail her arms, her breasts, her legs, leaving goosebumps in their wake. Touching her reminds me she's truly here. Her countenance tells me it's where she wants to be.

Isabella lets her eyes close for a bit, and when she opens them again, there's a craving in her expression that says she's been waiting for this moment almost as long as I have.

Almost.

When she slides her hands up, along my torso, urging me backwards to lie down before her - I do it. Quite easily. Because truth be told, I would kneel before her for a millennia if only she requested it.

As she swings her leg over to straddle me, Isabella braces herself against my chest, wasting no time in connecting us once again. She gasps as she allows me to enter her fully. Even after such a long absence of her skin against mine, I find we fit together quite perfectly - as seamlessly as ever.

I'm no longer simply the god of Hell. I am but a man in love with this woman, surrounded by her warmth.

Precisely where I belong.

Where I've always belonged.

Long before we met.

My entire body shakes with the emotions I strive to keep at bay. No matter how far I search in the realms of my mind, there are no words that seem to do my adoration for her justice. As Isabella moves and rocks, whimpers and moans, I can't help but take her by the hips and express my feelings in a more physical way.

I sit upright. I pull and push. I place not so tender kisses along her neck, her breasts, her jaw, her lips. Everywhere. Her fingers are tangled in my hair, her legs are wrapped around me, tight. Her voice whispers a raspy, "Fuck," as I push harder, deeper.

A cyclone of passion wrapped up in my overwhelming love for her grows somewhere inside me, expanding and flourishing from an infinitesimal point to everywhere, all at once. And when I reach the point of climax, the intensity of it all causes me to lose each and every sense of reality… whatever that may be.

The air around us thins, the room evaporates, the heavens are abruptly upon us, and the stars explode in celebration of their queen returning home to them.

I cry out her name and hold on to her for dear life, unable to let go even as I come down from the high of loving Isabella.

And then, as we gather our wits again, there we lay, entwined in each other for moments after. It could be years, for all I care.

Kissing. Touching. Tugging. Pulling.

I worship her body in ways I've dreamt of a thousand times since leaving her.

And when we're completely spent, we stake our claim on that rug and we simply exist.

Blissful and content with just being here with her, I listen to her heartbeat as it quietly thumps away. I feel the rise and fall of her chest. And I take great pleasure in the fact that there is no longer an urge to kill her.

"What happens now?" she asks wistfully, disrupting my thoughts.

Her absence is not something I've been looking forward to, intermittent as it may be. It's a necessity, however, that I cannot say I didn't expect.

Still, I can keep her here, with me, for a while longer.

"You have the entirety of this domain to choose from, Isabella," I tell her as I blindly skim my fingers along her arm. "You need only pick a realm and it's yours. Or if you wish it, I'll create a new one. And I'll take you there myself."

"Do I have to?" she questions.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, couldn't I just stay… here? With you?"

Her inquiry is enough to stop me from thinking clearly. About anything. "You would choose the dankness of this place over the Elysian Fields? Even the Asphodel Meadows are better than-"

"Neither of which is where you are," she says without another thought, lifting her head to look thoughtfully into my eyes with the same acceptance I remember from my time with her on Earth.

"I would see you still." Thank Satan. "I visit every corner of this world daily, Isabella. I have to, it's what I-"

"I don't want to see you every so often," she tells me adamantly. "I've waited too long for this. I don't want time and space to keep me from you ever again."

"But-"

"No." She pushes away from me and sits up. "Hades. Aren't you tired of doing what you think is the right thing? You said I could choose. I've chosen before and you didn't believe me, but I'm telling you right here. Right now. Believe me this time. I choose you."

As she stares down at me with determination and love, I don't know why I didn't see it before.

Why I'd assumed she didn't understand what she was asking that last night.

But I see it now.

In her eyes, her lips, her entire body as it sits before me, open. Willing.

"I'm so sorry, Isabella," I tell her. For everything I put her through. For not hearing her when I should have. For assuming the worst.

But she shakes her head and leans in to me, placing a kiss against my lips. "You sacrificed, Hades. And you gave me a life I never thought I could have, something I didn't think I ever deserved. You showed me a good man who loved me, children I wouldn't trade for the world. And you have nothing to be sorry for."

And once again, she's rendered me speechless.

"But now, you don't get to sacrifice anymore, okay? I'm here. And I'm staying."

I'm stunned silent for a bit. Unable to fully comprehend how I, Hades, Ruler of the Underworld, protector of the dead, could ever deserve such a beautiful, perfect, selfless creature as Isabella. And yet, here she is.

Choosing me.

So I will myself the nerve to ask the question I've wanted to ask her for an eternity.

"Forever?"

And then she smiles and takes my face in her hands, happy that I've finally accepted what she did so long ago.

"Forever."

My heart is consumed with absolute acceptance when she says it. It's so full of everything I've always desired that I fear it might burst as I realize, holding Isabella here, with me, in Hell… for the first time… I am Hades, but I am also truly loved - irrevocably.

It seems as though the child wizard was right after all.

In the end, all truly was well.


Roll credits to a Purple Rain (redux) by Prince (maybe he's in the underworld somewhere, singing this live for these two)

PSA: This story was a little different. Right? Okay. It was. But - it's what drove me to write again so I regret nothing.

Deepest, darkest, sincerest thanks to the god of Hell fans out there who were gracious enough to put up with a twilight fanfiction even though it was absent of Edward for most of the time (sort of)… I'm so stupid happy you were feeling it. Special thanks to our FB group peeps for putting up with our crazy and helping us get through the tough parts. - if you haven't yet, now is a great time to go read belladonnacullen's BELLA POV in Friend of the Devil.

Thanks to Sue for reaching out and beta'ing this bizzaro story. Thanks to Chrisann for saying "post it". And for real, belladonnacullen… (I'm not crying I swear) thanks for saying yes to giving Bella a voice. You make me want to be a better everything. I haven't had this much fun writing in, as Edward would say, "a while". Love you lady. All hail Hades. And the fucking rug.

YO. Don't forget to follow "Belladonna and TheFictionFreak" for some fun 2020 collaborations.

Peace out guys, much love. I mean that.

Jo