A/N: Ack, ack, I know it's been way too long. I am horribly, undeniably sorry. Please forgive me, and I hope some of you stuck with the story long enough to enjoy the update. Thanks for reading! Warning: ample profanity. (Stupid gods… what potty mouths :P )
A milky silence wafted through the waiting room, slowing both brothers' thoughts. They didn't know how to talk about things like this, about their mother or their father.
Usually, when they got together, they talked about football. Poseidon asked about Zeus's kids, and Zeus asked about Poseidon's love life. The answers were jovial and light-hearted without exception. Growing up, neither man had learned how to communicate emotionally. It was a chink that stuck with them throughout their lives, and its dilemmas were more obvious now than ever.
"How's your eye?" Zeus asked.
Poseidon snorted in response, giving the ice pack a shake. "Nothing like getting beat up by your father, huh? In a hospital?" His lips shook when he grinned, and he nodded absent-mindedly. "Our lives are a little too ironic for me to take, sometimes."
Zeus cleared his throat and leaned back, hands behind his head. "He didn't beat you up," he corrected softly, an odd expression on his face. "He just… he was mad."
"Yes, well, you know why he was mad."
Nerves spiked, Zeus turned to land Poseidon with a glare. "No, I don't," he corrected coldly. "He's upset because of M-mom… that's all."
Poseidon sighed and shook his head. "You're too stubborn about him, Zeus. You've never seen that…"
The brothers looked up and stood in unison, making their similarities and differences all the more obvious. They were nearly the same height, and had the same frosty, focused eyes. Zeus's beard was thicker than his brother's, though, and his hair was darker. Other than that, it was clear they were related, but they hardly looked identical, either.
Across the hall from Hades, of course, they looked even more alike. Neither looked a bit like Hades. No one in the family did.
"Sweetheart," Hera greeted softly, floating gracefully over to her husband. She put her hands on his chest and kissed his lips, trying to imbue it with as much warmth and love as she dared. She was pleased when he kissed her back, apparently too worn to deny her many forms of comfort.
"Hades," Poseidon greeted, cordial but wary.
Hades nodded at both men but stayed silent, his face stony. Hera recognized the anger brewing in Zeus's eyes and took his hand, wanting to keep him calm.
"Do you know where Dad is?" Hades asked, after a moment. "I need to see him."
"He's in with Mom," Poseidon said softly, pain only evident in the green irises of his eyes. "But I wouldn't go. He's… he's a little angry."
Hades straightened up. "I don't care. I have to see him. If you'll excuse me…"
"No," Zeus interrupted. Hera nearly stepped away from him, recognizing the altered persona. This was hero-Zeus, the man who'd swept her off her feet. He was strong and invincible, nearly inhuman with his strength and power. "He's having a hard time, Hades. I won't let you go in and make everything worse for him. Not when - not when..." He broke free of Hera's grip, which had become restraining rather than soothing, and let spittle dribble out his lips.
Poseidon went forward to take Hera's place, guiding Zeus a few steps back from their renegade brother. "He's right, Hades," Poseidon said, casting an anxious look at Zeus's stormy expression. "I wouldn't do it. Dad's angry enough at us, and well… you…"
"I don't care," Hades snarled. His mask had snapped in favor of his anger, shiny and sweaty on his dark face. "I… she was my mother too, goddamn it!"
"You Son of a Bitch…" Zeus started, his gnarly fingers fisting.
"Okay, okay," Hera interrupted, unnerved by the haste at which their anger sparked. "Listen, I need to go see him," she said, ignoring the dread that sluiced her lungs," to… to offer my condolences and everything… he won't forgive me if I don't… so…"
"I'll come with you," Hades said. He was making a visible effort, she could see. His breathing was still harsh, his face still glistening with perspiration, but his voice was controlled. The Olympians and their rage, she thought sadly… it was expected at this point.
"Hera," Zeus said. He sounded concerned rather than warning, and she couldn't blame him. Getting in between a grieving, angry Hades and Kronos was practically a death wish. But for reasons that remained ambiguous, even in her own mind, it was a death wish she wanted to bear.
"It'll be fine," she said, squeezing his hand once again. "I promise. And how about - how about after, you and I go out to dinner. To talk?" She tried not to add any pressure to the words, leave them casual. When he didn't answer though, she couldn't help but add incentive. "The kids are fine with Hestia – more than fine, actually – and I think you could use – "
"I don't think so," Zeus said, bristling. Her heart sank, realizing she'd lost her chance at getting him to open up. "Maybe later. Be – be safe, okay?" Then he turned and walked away, towards the car, leaving her hurt. What if something did happen? Was he really not going to be here?
Poseidon sighed and ran a hand over his hair. "Don't worry, I have the keys. We'll wait." He offered a grim smile, which Hera returned half-heartedly. "He's just like this sometimes, Hera. It's nothing to worry about. When something won't get through that stubborn skull of his, he denies it." She nodded; she knew all that. "Anyway. See you soon."
Hera waved and backed away, finding her own way to the room. Hades had already disappeared down the corridor, and she followed quickly in the direction he'd gone. Sure enough, she found him outside a room at the end, his back to the hallway.
"Hades…?" she murmured, coming up behind him.
He responded by lifting his hand, gesturing towards the room's interior. "Look." Before she did, she took in his expression. Anguished.
Well, she didn't blame him. The first thing that she noticed about the room was Rhea's body, mutilated and frail on the on white sheets. She had never seen someone so dead, silly as that sounded. Then she caught sight of Kronos, kneeling on the edge of the bed, and she felt shock zap her out of her skin. He was crying, actually crying! He looked… genuinely heart broken over his wife's death. She watched his lips moving, saying words she couldn't hear from her distance.
All at once, her suspicions began to ebb. He looked so sad for Rhea… he seemed to love her. You didn't murder someone you loved, did you? She found herself too sick to believe it anymore. Her eyes travelled sideways to Hades, wondering if he felt the same. He met her eyes for a split second, then uttered a hollow sigh. Defeated, he turned from her and strode with purpose down the hallway.
When the Olympian boys couldn't deal with something, they ran from it. And most of the time, Hera mused, she found herself running with them. After another glance at Kronos and Rhea's corpse, Hera let herself shadow Hades' path.
A/N: Do you forgive my delay? I swear, I'm trying to improve my sucky track record with stories. I love each and every one of you who actually took the time to read this. Thanks so much, and I would love reviews :D.