Disclaimer: Quite obviously I am not the creator, and nor do I own the Greek myths.
"It is with great regret that you cannot love me, as well."
Persephone scowled. "Yes. But perhaps, had you not stolen me from the place that I so adore, my feelings for you would not have escalated into anything beyond indifference." She leisurely picked at a leaf as they brushed past a tree.
Hades stopped walking, and all around him the gardens of the Underworld swayed. The lands were bleak and pathetic when the greenery of the earth was thought of, but somehow, it was still beautiful in its own way.
Though, of course, Persephone would never admit this aloud.
A frown crawled slowly over the dark god's handsome features, and he looked up to the sky of his domain. There was no sun, but a dim grayish-blue light that provided sufficient illumination across everything. And when night fell, the darkness was almost suffocating. Swirling, mist-like clouds covered the source of light, so there was never an overabundance of brightness. There was never a time when any inhabitant of the Underworld would decide that all they wanted to do was laze about and bask in the brilliance of everything. "Tartar is…" he began slowly, gazing fondly at a tree near the left side of the worn path, "your home now. Sooner or later, you must accept this."
She scoffed and folded her arms, suddenly cold in the drab scenery. Her bare shoulders quivered.
Hades turned toward her curiously, an expression of either amusement or concern—she really couldn't tell—painting his face. "Do you find this thought chilling? Or are you merely cold?"
"A little bit of both," she replied honestly, though her tone was so sharp that Hades blinked and turned away. Finally, she couldn't take the tension in the air anymore, and she tugged on his sleeve for the fifteenth time that hour. "Hades, why do you keep me here? Why?"
He didn't shrug her off, nor did he make any sort of effort to meet her eyes or avoid the question. He was always so straightforward—always got right to the point; even though she knew he was much cleverer than that.
"I do not quite know myself," he said, and he took a step toward the tree. Burgundy fruit dotted its pale green depths. He chuckled a little and pulled a fruit from the tree, half-smiling. "Love at first sight?"
"No," she spat, stomping one of her feet. "That's a lie! You're just after me because you want to shame my mother!"
He looked at her with a slightly shocked expression from where he stood under the tree, and then Persephone noticed that they had both deviated from the path, though she refused to stand beside him. After a few moments he shook his head and cracked open the fruit with ease, displaying rows of beady red seeds inside. "What reason do I have to shame fair-wreathed Demeter? She has done nothing for or against me, and therefore, my intentions are nothing but neutral."
Persephone threw her hands up in exasperation, causing several slumbering owls in the foliage to shriek and flutter off. "Then what is it that you want from me? What could you possibly gain from keeping me here?"
Hades smiled gently and lowered himself to the grass, sitting neatly on the ground. He motioned for her to join him, one halve of the fruit in each large palm.
The irate, earth-loving goddess scowled but marched over to him, and then promptly disobeyed his request by sitting directly in front of him instead of beside him. She clenched her fists atop her knees.
He outstretched one hand to her, holding the fruit halve tight within it. "This is a pomegranate."
"I know that." She took it from him, glaring at the little red seeds.
He picked a few of the ruby splendors from their spot and set them on his tongue, and then chewed and swallowed them. "They're quite delicious. One of the gardeners, Ascalaphus, makes certain that this particular tree is well tended to."
She tossed the pomegranate over her shoulder. "I'm not hungry."
Hades chuckled. "All is well. All is well."
"All is not well," Persephone declared, her beautiful face down-turned into a furious pout. "I am still stranded in this forsaken wasteland, without the treasures of delicate flowers and sprawling grasses! I am without my mother, for whom I would die."
Hades' dark gaze did not leave her form as she stood and threw a tantrum, pacing between her husband and the pomegranate tree.
She stopped before him and bent down, taking his face in her palms. His cheeks were cool to the touch. With her line of vision level with his, an overwhelming flood of grief washed over her, and tears pricked behind her eyes, making them shine brightly and sorrowfully. "Hades…"
He let the pomegranate halve fall deafly to the ground, and his hands found their way to cover the tops of hers. Everything about him was quite cold, but Persephone didn't find that she was too terribly disappointed.
She fell to her knees, releasing his cheeks and instead allowing her head to rest in his lap. The extreme angle at which her back was curved stretched every muscle, but she ignored this for the time being, and instead concentrated on sobbing into Hades' dark clothes.
The Lord of the Underworld leaned forward slightly to kiss the nape of her neck, where her hair fell over her shoulders to reveal fragile skin, darkened in the faintest by the light of the sun. "My beautiful Persephone…"
She clenched the bunching fabric at his hips and sneered, her face still buried. "You do not know me."
He frowned and pulled back from her, refraining from touching her. "I am well aware of this."
When she raised her head once more, his eyes were brighter than the sun had ever been. And she then understood that Hades was dangerous in far more ways than one.
The wind of Hermes' arrival stirred Hades' hair, and he turned to face his guest, his expression dutifully impassive and bored with the world and all that lay within it. "I presume Zeus and Demeter sent you here?"
Hermes nodded, and he pointed back towards his chariot, the four deathless horses whinnying and pawing at the dirt of Tartar. "Yes. Demeter requires back the presence of her beloved daughter, your new Queen Persephone."
Perfectly on cue, Persephone burst forth from behind the gates of the Underworld, and Cerberus grunted from his post to their far left. Obediently, he sniffed the dirt before returning to staring across the River Styx.
"My mother and father?" Persephone called hopefully, her hair wild as she bounded toward Hermes. "They sent you? Oh, they really, really sent you to my rescue?"
Hermes paid no attention to her. "I apologize, Hades, however, I must remove your wife. Under Zeus' command, she must return to her mother."
Persephone then rushed to Hermes and hugged him around the neck, and the messenger god blinked in shock before prying the young girl from him and sending her toward the chariot. And all the way, Persephone wept tears of joy at her freedom from Hades' gloom.
"Persephone," Hades called, his voice unnaturally stern, but still gentle as it always had been. He would never wish to scare his dear wife; he only wanted the best for her. Persephone stopped, but did not turn toward Hades.
He stared at her back, and at the curtain of soft hair that fell down it. "You would leave me?"
Apparently, Persephone did not need to give this a second thought, for she answered almost immediately. "Of course. Would you think any different, oh great King of Tartar?"
Hades shook his head, but smiled anyway. "Should you decide to leave, I would request that you face me for my last valediction." He didn't need to glance at Hermes to know that the god was watching the display avidly. "It would make my unrequited love for you that much easier to bear, after all."
Persephone acquiesced grudgingly, turning to face Hades.
"It cannot be described," Hades started, putting one of his palms to rest over where his heart would be, "this love I feel. It is sudden, but that does not keep it from being the most painful—and delightful—emotion I have ever felt." He dropped his hand and frowned, finding himself unable to face her, even though he knew the outcome of this arrangement. "I do not quite understand it myself. Although, I suppose, the best things we can expect from our existences should not be questioned."
The daughter of both Zeus and Demeter frowned, and she, too, looked away from her husband. "Hades…" She cleared her throat and nodded. "I also regret that I could not love you."
A grim smile twisted over Hades' lips. "No. It is I who should be apologizing, fair Persephone. For—" At that moment, Acalaphus the gardener ran onto the scene, still clutching a rake in one hand. Hades' grin disappeared, and he stared in agitation at his servant. "Ascalaphus. Is there something you need so desperately that you would destroy so perfectly this goodbye?"
"Yes, milord," Acalaphus replied in a breath, panting and dropping the rake so that he could hold his knees to support his racking body. "Persephone…she has eaten a pomegranate from the garden."
Hades raised an eyebrow, but otherwise kept solemn and still. "But she did not eat it when I offered it."
Persephone clenched her fists.
"Yes, but I witnessed her myself eating a bit later on. Hunger overcame the young queen," the gardener said, flashing a bitter, toothy grin toward Hermes.
Without a word, Persephone fled momentarily away from the group. But when she returned, she held with her a small pitcher filled with the contents of the flaming river. A deep scowl stretching her visage, she dipped her lithe fingers in the pitcher and flung droplets atop Ascalaphus' face. "You have no right to deny me my happiness!"
Ascalaphus dropped to his knees, screeching and cradling his burning face as his features twisted into one of the all-wise owl. His nose became crooked to an impossible angle, his eyes widened so that they overcame his eyebrows, and his arms melted into large wings. His toes curled into talons as an eruption of feathers burst over his body, shedding the clothes from him until he screamed an awful cry and flapped away.
Persephone didn't spare Hades another glance as she climbed into Hermes' chariot.
"But Queen Persephone," Hermes argued, "you have eaten a pomegranate from Tartar. The Fates have decreed that should you consume any food, you shall remain her for etern—"
"I know this," Persephone snapped, crossing her arms and legs respectively. "However, you would surely not disobey the mighty Zeus' order? Please, take me to my mother and father right away."
Hermes sighed and rubbed the back of his neck before looking to Hades for confirmation.
Hades was smiling broadly, his arms folded over his chest as his eyes glowed with pride. "She," he muttered fondly and so that only the messenger god could hear, "will be a fine queen of the Underworld, indeed." He waved a hand at the pair, and Hermes climbed to into the chariot.
The messenger god and the daughter of thunder-bearing Zeus flew out of Tartar, leaving Hades grinning knowingly behind them.
"Your mother…she is sad once more."
Persephone sighed. "I can see that. Her sorrow strips the earthen land of its fertility, and the humans suffer."
Hades nodded as he and his wife strolled through the gardens, each periodically picking the seeds out of their pomegranate halves and eating them. "It has been a very long time since your father declared your fate."
"Yes, it has." She daintily bit down on a seed, careful not to let any juice escape unwittingly. "But I do understand my mother's grief. She and I are close, and I would only feel the same."
Hades gave his wife a confused look, dropping his emptied pomegranate to the grassy floor. "And yet you do not despair your separation?"
Persephone smiled and met Hades' stare, wondering at how beautiful he could be despite the darkness that surrounded him. "I do. Though, over time, I have learned to overcome it."
His eyebrow rose. "Oh?"
She nodded and looked away, instead opting for trying to see through the haze of clouds above them. "Yes. It is what…my father would want."
"And your mother?"
She laughed a little. But just a little. "She would not be pleased."
Hades put a hand to his chin thoughtfully. "I see," he said, bringing upon his voice a mock-serious tone. "Well, we cannot have that, I suppose."
She chuckled. "I believe you're right." She stopped, and her husband stopped with her. "Strange, is it not?"
"That my father occupies Olympus, my mother the earth, and I, the Underworld."
Hades smiled and stepped closer to her. "It sounds to me as if your father knows what he is doing." Ascalaphus screeched and alighted in a nearby bush, watching the pair with wide, blinking eyes and a soft hoot.
"Hm." Persephone cocked her head to the side a bit. "Hades, I must entrust to you a dire secret."
Hades' expression quickly melted from serene to one of imminent brevity. "And what is this 'dire secret?'"
"You must…" Persephone began, looking away from her husband. She smiled to herself. "You must never reveal to my mother that I am willing to make your unrequited love…not so unrequited."
A relieved smile spread over Hades' face then, and he held a hand out to his wife. "Well, then?"
Persephone returned the offer in kind, clasping her hand over his delicately. "With all due respect, my dear husband, I am starting to wonder whether or not you are as cool and unruffled inside as you are out."
He smirked deviously. "I believe that you will need to find that out for yourself."
The two of them walked on, and the garden flowers bloomed and beamed with faded radiance in their wake.