The war had ended just as Hercules had insisted but peace was far from established. It felt as if they were in some kind of limbo, a fragile truce that would shatter at the first cross word and so they said nothing.
Their return to Olympus had been triumphant, his children and the lesser gods had been shaken by Atlas's attack yet the sight of their King, his Queen once more by his side, had calmed them quickly. His pride in his wife had swelled as she quickly began to organise the others, there had been significant damage to the Olympians lofty home and repairs needed to be made. Hera threw herself into the work, determined to see the palace restored to its former glory or was it just to avoid him? In the past week she had not spent more than a scant few minutes in his company and then never alone. She had not returned to their bed to sleep, so either she was working all hours or she had found herself another bedchamber.
What was a god to do?
Zeus was perplexed he had never encountered a problem like this before. So perplexed was he that he found himself darkening the doorstep of Aphrodite, who despite her flighty appearance and attitude was after all the goddess of love, who had several words of wisdom for him.
"If you wish for her trust you must prove yourself worthy, if you wish to be bestowed with her favour you must first do something to earn it. Have you sought out her company?"
"No I felt it best to give her time to adjust...I..."
"You were afraid...Yes you were daddy, of being rejected." Aphrodite insisted. "However you must act soon before this avoidance becomes habit."
"I know flowers... Jewellery I could ask Hephaestus..." Zeus broke off under Aphrodite's disapproving frown.
"This is Hera we are talking about here daddy not some naive little princess, you've already been around the temple once before so I think it's going to take something a little more special than a new diadem or bracelet. No you have to be more original than that, give her something that you haven't given anyone else."
"Now my dear you have lost me."
"You...Not just the normal attention you would bestow on one of the mortals but plan something, spend some time alone together. Do something fun!"
"Fun?" Zeus asked his immortal brow rose in disbelief.
"Fun!" Aphrodite insisted popping another chocolate into her mouth before shooing Zeus out of her chambers.
- - -
Tugging nervously on his robes Zeus paused to compose himself before striding confidently into the main hall. There Hera had Hephaestus assembled as she detailed the next stage of repairs.
"Father." Hephaestus greeted Zeus politely yet warily, his eyes darting between the King and Queen of the Gods as if waiting for the other shoe to drop and the pair to suddenly start flinging fire balls and lightning bolts.
"Zeus." Hera added, hesitantly accepting the hand her husband offered in greeting. "I understood you were down on earth." The statement was simple yet both could hear the underlying question, 'with who?' Hephaestus also picked up on the tense undercurrent and excused himself quickly.
"I was indeed...I have something to show you my dear, however you will need to change." Zeus replied and with flick of his fingers his wife's normal elaborate outfit of silk and feathers transformed into a simple but elegant blue dress that poured over her slender body. Conjuring a light shawl he draped it decorously over her shoulders allowing himself the luxury of trailing his fingers down her bare arms.
"Where are you taking me?" Hera asked perplexed by her husband's sudden attentions.
"Close your eyes."
"Trust me." Zeus cajoled catching her hand and pulling her close.
"Humph...I have work to do."
"We have others to do that for us."
"Who need to be supervised."
"One day Hera...One day out of a millennium can you not give me that?" Zeus asked a hint of exasperation and longing in his voice that even his wife could not deny.
"Alright, one day!"
"Now close your eyes." Zeus insisted. "No peeking." He added, placing his hands over his wife's eyes before transporting them away. "Now open your eyes."
"Oh...Oh Zeus it's beautiful." Hera gasped her eyes widening as she took in the rolling hillside, covered in sweet grasses, poppies and gladioli, where blossoming fruit trees sprang up out the ground and daisies formed delicate little fairy rings.
"I am glad you think so." Zeus muttered softly his hands still resting gently on his wife's shoulders. "Come." He added guiding his wife over to a relatively flat spot before snapping his fingers once more and a blanket appeared. Lowering himself down onto its soft weave Zeus patted the space beside him and reached out for his wife.
Yet this romantic gesture seemed to have quite the opposite affect than the one he intended for Hera backed away as if struck, her eyes flashing angrily. "I should have known this was all you had in mind when you dragged me here! Are you incapable of thinking of anything else?" Hera demanded her eyes flitting between her husband and blanket before returning to her husband's confused face.
"A picnic." Zeus replied snapping his fingers and revealing the tempting spread.
"Oh." Hera gasped, her pale cheeks staining pink with embarrassment. "I thought...Oh well it doesn't matter." She bluffed before lowering herself to sit on the very edge of the blanket as far from her amused husband as possible.
Suppressing a smile Zeus caught his wife's hand pulling her closer to him as his other hand captured her chin forcing her to meet his gaze. Stroking her cheek he leaned closer until her heated breath tickled the strands of his beard. "Perhaps we will have the chance to explore your idea later?"
Leaning back against the smooth bark of a supporting cherry tree Zeus closed his eyes and enjoyed the warming rays Helios cast down from the sky. For the first time in more than millennia he felt completely at peace, his stomach was pleasantly full of the best of Demeter's bounty and he had been lulled into a contented doze by the sweet wine Dionysus had personally selected for the outing. Yet Zeus knew the real reason for his contentment was not more than ten feet away indulging in a very private passion. Chuckling under his breath he wondered what Hercules would make of this, the mighty goddess Hera scourge of unfaithful husbands and lovers pausing to sniff the flowers.
"What prey dear husband is so amusing?"
"Nothing wife." Zeus replied yet he was unable to suppress the laughter in his voice.
"You are laughing at me?"
Opening one eye at her curt tone, just in case she was preparing to throw a fireball, Zeus retorted gently. "Not at you my dear, just at our situation, I was wondering what certain people's reactions would be if they could see us like this?"
"By people I assume you mean your son." Hera snapped yet for the first time there was no real venom in her verbal lashing, clearly Hercules saving Evander had had a greater effect on the goddess than Zeus had realised.
"Yes." Zeus replied honestly. "I was thinking of Hercules, I think he would die from shock seeing you like this."
"Really you mean that was all it would have taken? And to think I wasted my time constructing all those damn monsters and ruining my reputation when all I needed to do was to be nice to the dratted whelp." Hera quipped before returning her attention to the flowers she was coaxing to full bloom.
Suppressing a smile Zeus rose gracefully to his feet, stalking silently over to his wife he surprised her by sliding his arm around her slender waist and pulling her to him, so that her back moulded into his broad chest. "So wife where should we go from here?" He murmured into her ear unable to suppress his delight at her playful reply. "I'll leave that to you dear husband."