A/N: Hi! Yes I am still alive and still writing this fic. Never fear, I WILL finish this one day :) Reviews have been fantastic guys - I havent forgotten you!
'Umm, you can come in a bit if you like,' Persephone mumbled awkwardly. Hades was still standing at her doorway as though he was afraid she might bite him. Considering the way she had acted earlier, Persephone thought this was not unlikely.
'You wish to talk about what happened today?' Hades walked forward slowly until he was almost three feet away from her. 'What did you want to know?'
'What do I want to know?' Persephone echoed with surprise. 'Everything! You just did this strange thing and suddenly there was that man. No explanation. Nothing. Who was he? Where has he gone now?' She blurted out. She was also anxious to ask Hades what had happened to her – why the world had suddenly vanished and she couldn't remember things clearly – but she was afraid of the answer she would get. Had Hades done it on purpose? Was he keeping other secrets from her still? Or was she simply losing her powers down in the dead depths of this place?
Hades didn't seem concerned, but appeared hesitant. Where could he begin to explain to her what had occurred? 'Persephone,' he rumbled, 'Do you mind if I sit down? It is not easy to explain.' He worried that she would immediately begin to scream at him as she had done the day before, but surprisingly, Persephone nodded and patted the space next to her on the edge of the bed.
Hades felt his heart waver momentarily. This was the closest Persephone had ever allowed him to be, aside from the first evening he had brought her down and confessed that they were married. Persephone had collapsed and he had held her close, caressing her skin, feeling the soft dark hair –.
Hades forced himself back into the present. Persephone was sitting next to him, concern etched into the lovely face he ached to touch. He smiled. 'Thank you. Now, begin your interview Persephone. But just go slowly – I can only answer one question at a time!'
Persephone blushed, embarrassed at being so quick to blurt everything out at once. A part of her worried that Hades might think she was pathetically ignorant. Another part worried over that fact that she found this worrying. She took a deep breath.
'Okay. Let's start with…' Hades noticed that she seemed to be talking to herself rather than him.
'Let's start with what you did to the room.' Persephone looked at him expectantly.
Hades nodded. 'As I mentioned before, I opened up a portal between our realm here and a place in the Underworld where Shades await their judgement.'
'Where is that place? How do you get there?'
Hades smiled softly. 'There is no exact place. You will not find it on any map, not even the ones in your room. As to how you get there: there are an infinite number of ways. Most are unpleasant.'
Persephone raised her brows. 'You mean the only way to get there is to die?'
Persephone pursed her lips in thought. 'So there is no way for me to get there?'
Hades looked genuinely surprised. This was not what he had been expecting. 'Why would you want to?'
'Why not?' She shrugged. Hades stared at her so long that she started to feel uncomfortable. She decided to move on. 'So that man, then…' When this failed to produce any response from Hades, who was still looking at her as though lost in deep thought, Persephone waved a hand in front of his face. 'Hades?' He blinked and recovered.
'Hmmm? Sorry, what were you asking?'
Persephone smirked, almost without realising it. 'I'm sorry. I'm boring you, aren't I?'
Hades shook his head slowly, still looking dazed. 'No, of course not. I'm just surprised.'
'At you wanting to go down amongst the mortals in judgement.'
Persephone frowned. 'Well, what's so surprising about that?'
'I don't know.' He looked a little lost for a moment, and then suddenly his dark eyes were on hers again. 'That man?' he echoed.
'Er…yes. That man. What exactly happened?'
'I judged his life,' Hades answered simply. It was clear from Persephone's expression that this was not the answer she sought.
'I read his life, what he had done whilst he was alive.' Persephone was staring at him blankly.
'But how do you do it?' She asked. 'I mean, there has to be some method behind it.'
Hades sighed. Trying to explain how to judge souls was like trying to explain how to breathe. He'd being doing it so long it was natural. 'It's difficult to explain that,' he admitted.
Persephone pressed on, 'But where has he gone now? Back to the same place?'
Hades shook his head. 'No. Once a soul is judged it moves on to the Elysian Fields, the Asphodel Fields….or to Tartarus.'
'Depending on how you've judged them?'
'That's correct, yes.'
Persephone moved closer to Hades, convincing herself that it was only to see his expression better. 'How do you decide where they go?'
Hades seemed to hesitate again. Persephone was quite close now, and she was gazing at him with intense curiosity. He swallowed. 'It depends on many things, Persephone. Their station, their age, any crimes they may have committed or money owed. Lewd or drunken behaviour will count against them, but loyalty and bravery may grant them a better afterlife.'
Persephone leaned forward in interest. 'But how do you decide? One man's bravery might be greater than another's. Or what if a man committed a crime when he was drunk? Where do you draw the line?'
Hades smiled. 'Very rarely do you need to. Understand this Persephone, that most men are not brave and few commit crimes only when drunk. However, to really explain the rules for judging a soul in detail, I would need several mortal men's lifetimes to do so.' He looked down into Persephone's young face. 'The rules are complicated and ever-changing.'
'Why?' Persephone asked. 'Wouldn't it be easier if you kept it always the same?'
Hades laughed and his eyes sparkled for just a moment. 'Easier? Of course! But I think you have things confused. You see, I don't make the rules here.'
He was right, Persephone was confused. 'What?' she said.
Hades grinned. 'I don't make the rules here. I don't decide what is right or wrong. My task is to oversee that life takes its full course. To guide it on. To make sure the journey is fulfilled.'
Persephone gaped. 'But surely– surely– I mean, if you don't make the rules than who does?'
'Why, the living do, of course,' he replied. 'Ultimately, it is their decision as to what is right or wrong. And those decisions change all the time. After all, what one king may decree, another will destroy.' He shrugged at her shocked face. 'Only the living can decide how to live their lives, unless we directly interfere of course,' he added wryly.
Persephone sat in silence. She was too stunned to make a reply just yet. There were too many thoughts streaming through her mind. This meant something, she knew that. She just didn't know what.
She wished, suddenly, that she could ask Hades more about this. She wished he could make things clear to her. But somehow she knew that he wouldn't have the answers she was looking for – that he wouldn't understand the questions she needed to ask. There was only one person who would.
Persephone covered her face with her hands for a moment and groaned. When she lifted her head again, Hades was looking at her worryingly. She noticed that although his hand was near hers, there was a deliberate gap between them. He hadn't forgotten his promise.
She stood up to face him.
'Hades,' she started, then had to close her eyes and breathe to steady herself. She knew that this time when she asked him, she couldn't cry or get angry. It wouldn't work.
'Hades,' she tried again. 'I need to go home. I need to be with my mother. She will be looking for me and worrying that I am safe.' She looked him in the eyes. 'You must understand this. She needs me.'
Hades shook his head, but sadly. 'No, Persephone. I understand that you love her, but I have already explained that you cannot yet.'
'You don't understand! She needs me. We need each other! It is not a bond that you can simply shrug off, or break. I am an extension of her. Everything that she is, I am too.'
Hades stood up. 'Were, Persephone. Were. You were Kore, remember? Now you are Persephone. You are not the same.'
'I still am Kore!'
'Kore wouldn't have made that flower in the forest,' Hades said quietly. Persephone froze with her mouth open, unsure of herself. Hades went on. 'Kore wouldn't have wondered about death, or where things go when they die. Kore wouldn't have asked me what happened to the old man.'
Persephone shook her head. 'I– I–.'
'Persephone,' Hades said softly. 'You need to face the truth. This is who you are. This is where you belong.' He held out a hand but Persephone didn't take it. Instead, she walked to the other side of the room where the perfumes she'd seen earlier sat in glittering bottles on an elaborately carved table. She picked up one of the bottles and for a moment, Hades thought she was going to throw it at him. She didn't.
She opened the lid and pressed some of the liquid on her skin. Closing her eyes, she inhaled the floral scent. When she reopened her eyes she spoke. 'Did you know that when I first saw this, I had no idea what it was? A Shade had to explain it to me.' She put the bottle down, unsmiling. 'When I close my eyes, the scent is almost exactly like the flowers it's made from. Almost. But not quite.' She looked at Hades directly. 'Why did you give this to me?'
Hades looked upset, his expression similar to when he had seen Persephone destroy the room on her first night. 'It was a present, Persephone. All of this,' he gestured to the lavish room, 'was a gift. For you.'
'Yes, but why the perfume?' Persephone pressed. 'Was it to remind me of home?'
Hades said nothing, but gazed at her in silence.
Persephone turned away, looking into an enormous mirror on a stand. 'You were trying to make me feel welcome here,' she said. This was something she had been trying to suppress, but she knew she had to acknowledge it before she would get anywhere. 'You were trying to show me how you…felt.' She turned around to face him and was a little shocked to see that his expression had softened. Persephone summoned her courage and walked back to the bed where she sat gingerly on the edge near Hades.
'I understand how you feel,' she said softly, and the fire in his eyes was instantly rekindled. She pressed on. 'But I think you're misguided. I think you're wanting something that I can't give you. You don't know me.'
Hades shook his head slowly, his eyes never leaving hers. 'No. I do know you, Persephone. I know that you wanted more from life than what anyone could give you. Now you can have anything.'
Persephone smiled but put her head in her hands. 'Hades, how could you possibly say that? All these things you've given me are utterly useless. Perfumes? Dresses? Even this bed! I've never needed or wanted any of these things before.'
'Then tell me what it is you want,' Hades said. 'I will give you anything, Persephone. Anything.'
Persephone raised her head, annoyed. 'Hades, the things that I want are not yours to give. My mother, my life, my work. Those are all things that I want – all the things that I had – that you took away from me. How about giving me a choice? A fair choice,' she added.
Hades didn't want to ask, but he couldn't bite the words back. 'Why? Have you changed your mind?'
'No,' Persephone said immediately, and Hades' heart sunk. But then she went on, 'Because there's nothing to change. You can't just whisked me down here and expect me to take it. I need to see my mother. I need to do my work. I cannot and will not sit here and try on dresses all day long because it makes you happy. You haven't given me a choice.'
Hades stared at her for a few moments, and then sighed deeply. 'Alright then,' he said softly.
Persephone was immediately suspicious. 'What?'
'I'm giving you a choice. You can stay with me, or you can go.'
Persephone leapt off the bed, gripping his arms. 'Are you serious? Is this a jest?'
Hades shook his head heavily, as though it were filled with lead. 'No Persephone. No jest. But you must do one thing for me. Just one.' He looked up at her.
Persephone's smile faltered. 'What?'
'You must give me one more chance. Just one more chance to prove to you that this is where you belong.' Persephone's arms fell limply to her sides. She bit her lip. Hades' eyes were imploring.
'Please Persephone. All I ask is for one more day to show you how I feel. Understand this, Persephone,' he whispered. 'That I love you more than I will ever love anything. More than I thought I ever could love. My only wish has been for you to be happy: to give you something that no one else has. That was all.' His face was alive with a fire that Persephone hadn't seen before, but he looked terribly sad.
She wanted to laugh. She wanted to walk away from him. But she couldn't. Despite what he had done, Persephone knew deep within herself that Hades had never meant to hurt her. Not once had he attempted to violate her, or even kiss her. He had kept his promises and tried to make her happy.
As she looked down at him, she thought about her experiences so far in Hades – she had slept, eaten and bathed well. She had been given access to entertainment and had received gifts. In return, she had wrecked her rooms, destroyed her belongings, screamed, cried and generally behaved like a child. Had he deserved that? Possibly. But Persephone was feeling less and less sure of herself. So despite everything, despite her longing to go back above, despite the desperate pull she felt for the living she said the last thing she had ever expected to say:
It was Hades turn to look shocked. He stood up so quickly, Persephone took a hasty step backwards. 'Really?' he asked.
Persephone hesitated. 'Can you promise me it will really only be one more day?'
'Yes. I swear on the Styx. I keep my promises.' The fire in his face was burning more fiercely than ever.
'And no tricks?'
'Then…yes. I will stay.'
Hades looked as though he wanted to reach out and grasp her in his arms, but he restrained himself. With the sparkle back in his dark eyes, he gave a small smile. 'Thank you.' And with that, he strode away from her.
Persephone turned around to face him, feeling flustered. 'Where are you going?'
Hades had reached the door. 'I need to get started on the plans.'
Persephone's stomach flipped. 'Plans?'
Hades gave a grin, 'For my last and best gift to you.' And without bothering to open the door, he vanished.
Persephone was taken aback. Not wanting to be outdone, she called out 'It better not be perfume!'
With a sigh, she flopped down onto the bed again. She tried to think about what Hades was planning. She tried to think about the prospect of seeing her mother. She tried to understand why she had given Hades another chance. But it was no use. Even lying face first in a mountain of pillows, all she could picture was Hades' smile.
What's this? Persephone's having a change of heart? I wonder what Hades is planning...
Review if you want :)