AUTHORS UPDATE; A dictionary definition of "Parthenogenesis"; a form of reproduction, especially in plants, insects, and arthropods, in which a female gamete develops into a new individual without fertilization by a male gamete. Also very frequent with Greek mythology.
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She'd known it was going to happen – she'd seen it coming. That's the entire reason why she had put on her most wonderful gown, and that was why she had taken extra time plaiting her with gold ribbons. That's why she'd woken him that morning with a kiss, and told him she loved him.
"I'm going out," he'd replied gruffly, climbing out of bed and pulling on the nearest clothes he could find.
She slipped out of bed and wrapped a golden dressing-gown around her body. "When will you be back?" she asked tentatively.
"I don't know," he said dully while examining his reflection in a large mirror.
Biting her lip, she pressed further. "I was hoping we could do something tonight, dear, just the two of us-"
"For goodness sake, Hera!" he exploded unexpectedly, flailing his arms around them dramatically. "I'm going out whether you like it or not!" Thunder crackled outside the window; lightening illuminated the room. "I don't know when I'll be back!"
"But, dear, I just thought-"
"This marriage," he snarled, completely ignoring her, "is more hard work than it's worth. I'm sick of it, Hera, I really am! Don't wait up for me." He stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind him, making everything in the room shake.
So there Hera sat, one hour later, in her throne room. Despite being as rigid as a statue, she looked glorious, with her chocolate-brown hair platted with golden bows, wearing her favourite white dress that shimmered like oil on water. For once, she didn't care how she looked.
She was completely alone, for a change. Not even her most precious peacock, Lysander, was by her side, and he always accompanied her in the throne room. Always.
He was gone. Again.
Off with some mortal woman, no doubt. Hera'd thought they'd been doing well lately; foolishly, she'd thought that all of their marriage counselling had finally paid off, when obviously nothing had changed between them – other than the fact she'd clearly become more gullible.
"I'm sick of it, Hera, I really am!"
Those words sliced through her like an ice-cold, rusty blade. What did that mean? Was he sick of not going out? Hard work? The marriage itself? Her, even? She didn't know. She wasn't even sure if she wanted to know what he'd meant. It was just too much.
The door creaked loudly as the guard satyr peered nervously inside. "Lady Hera?" he almost squealed. "Um, you're Majesty? Your guests have arrived!"
Finally, she moved, blinking herself out of her daze. "Oh. Very well. Bring them in."
The satyr nodded, visibly trembling, pushing the door wide open and letting Hera's guests enter. Usually, they would have entered in order of importance – however, considering the occasion, there was no "most important". So, Demeter entered first, seen as it was her throne room, too, wearing a long dress that draped along the floor behind her, the same colour as a field of wheat.
Next came Rhea – a powerful Titan goddess with long, curly silver hair and soft brown eyes. She wore a baby-pink gown that hugged her modestly; her arms were folded across her chest as she entered the room, looking around with a pleased expression.
Following her was Leto, her eyes wary, for she was not on the best of terms with the host. She had hair that was both the colour of sunlight and soft auburn, seeming to shimmer in the light. Her curvaceous figure was clothed in a teal-blue, silk gown that floated to the ground like a wave of an ocean; it strained against her swollen stomach. She had a heart-shaped, sweet face that would have been friendly, had she not been so on-guard.
Last but in no way whatsoever least, Gaea entered. She had a commanding presence, that was only natural from a woman of her intense power – she was, after all, the mother of the Titans. She was as beautiful as Aphrodite with her smooth, mocha-coloured skin and tumbling, dark hair that fell to the base of her back in loose waves. Her eyes were large and almond-shaped, the colour of moss, framed by thick, curved lashes. Over her tall, curved figure was a traditional, ivory coloured Greek toga, which was trimmed with gold. Around her neck and wrists she wore perfect, elegant pearls. Upon her face she had a friendly smile; she approached Hera with open arms.
"Hera, darling! T'is wonderful to see you again!" she beamed joyfully, wrapping Hera in a friendly embrace.
"A delight to see you again, Lady Gaea," Hera beamed in reply, apparently just as overjoyed to see her. "Thank you ever so much for coming on such short notice."
Hera turned to Rhea, who was standing with her arms folded neatly across her chest, lips pursed. "Mother," she said softly. "It has been far too long."
Rhea put her hands on Hera's face, peering at her closely and assessing her carefully. "You look well enough, daughter," she decided. "How are they treating you here?"
"Well," she replied, turning to Demeter. "Sister! Where have you been? I've not seen you for two weeks!"
Demeter kissed Hera on the cheek politely, brushing her hair out of her face and sighing. "The Underworld, of all the places."
Hera patted her shoulder sympathetically. "I feel for you," she said seriously.
Finally, she turned to Leto and raised her eyebrows. "I trust that is not my husbands?" she said a little sourly, gesturing at her large stomach.
"Of course not," Leto replied curtly, cradling her bump. "Some of us learn from their mistakes."
"Let's hope you have," Hera said darkly.
Gaea stepped between them, where the tension was thickest. "Calm, daughters, calm! We are not here to dwell on past matters."
"Technically," Demeter butt in, "We are."
"You know what I meant," Gaea told her bluntly.
"Why don't you go sit yourself down, dear?" Rhea asked with a smile. "Take your place on your throne, eh?"
Hera nodded. Whether she was a goddess or not, she would still listen to her mother. She walked back to her throne and took seat, waving her hand so that four comfortable, black leather chairs appeared just in front of her. "Take a seat."
They did as she asked, seeing as she was the host. For a moment, things were quiet.
"I suppose you know why I've asked you to come here?" she asked.
"Vaguely," Demeter replied.
"A little," Leto said.
"Of course!" Gaea beamed.
Rhea nodded, her hair bouncing.
Hera managed a smile. "Good. Things haven't improved with Zeus, and I fear they're actually getting worse."
Leto made a strange sound in the back of her throat, but disguised it with a cough, before replacing her hands on her bump and rubbing it affectionately. "Continue," she said when Hera's eyes turned coldly onto her.
"As I was saying, they've not improved. He's most likely with a mortal woman now, and I'm tired of it, I honestly am. I'm faithful to him, and he throws it back in my face. So I have a plan."
"Don't you even think about having an affair, young lady!" snapped Rhea immediately, standing up and stomping forward with her finger pointing. "I did not raise you to be a cheater. Your brother- I mean, your husband- on the other hand is a different case and I blame your father for that, but you are different and don't even think about-"
"Mother!" Hera exclaimed, offended. "I'd never do that! Good grief, I've been the victim of cheating long enough to know it gets you nowhere. And to be a mistress," she glared directly at Leto, who turned her eyes away immediately, "Would be an even bigger offence."
"Oh, sorry, dear," Rhea said, shaking her head and replacing herself on the leather chair. "Old age, it's getting to me." She only looked like she was in her twenties, but she was countless centuries old.
Gaea, always optimistic, seemed to brighten up the room every time she spoke. "Of course you're going to stay faithful. You're the most faithful goddess I know, Hera. Now, what's your plan? I'm dying to know why you called us here."
With a sly smile, Hera kept talking. "I have many children, all of whom I am proud of and love."
"With the exception of Hephaestus!" Leto almost squealed with delight. "You threw him off of Olympus because he wasn't good enough at the first chance you got-"
"Thank you, Leto! Now, as I was saying, all of whom I am proud of and love. Ares, Hebe, Eris, Eileithyia, Enyo, and my own son Hephaestus. I have, for a long time, been considering having another child. I thought it would bring myself and Zeus closer, if the time came to need. But now, I'm thinking that perhaps Zeus does not deserve another child."
"Here, here!" Gaea called. "That boy needs to learn some respect for his woman!"
Hera gave her a nodding smile. "My thoughts exactly. However, I still want a child. A baby of my own, one that I can care for and look after. That is what I truly want right now."
Rhea nodded, tapping her chin with long fingers. "Then have one."
Her smile grew even more wicked. "If I have a child, the same way I bore Hephaestus, the child will not need caring for. Us gods are strong; we can fend for ourselves, even at a young age."
Leto narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "What are you insinuating, Hera? You don't want to adopt a mortal, do you?"
"Oh, Zeus, no. I want a half-blood."
"But you need a mortal man for that!" Leto accused. "Don't try and wriggle your way out of this one, Hera – you want to have an affair and you know it!"
"For goodness sake, Leto," Rhea snapped. "Will you lay off and here her out?"
Gaea patted Leto on the hand softly. "Quiet, daughter. Hear her out. I know what she is thinking, and we must listen patiently."
Gaea, being the mother of the Titans, called everyone "daughter" or "son". Leto turned her nose up, but said no more.
"Parthenogenesis," Hera said coyly. "The same way I bore Hephaestus, I plan on bearing a demigod child. I believe this is something I can do. But, I wish to received each of your blessing. Each and every one of you."
"So you wish to conceive a child of your own – a demigod child. I see no problem with this. But, daughter, how does this affect Zeus?"
"Mother Earth, if I'm honest, it does not directly affect my husband. I'm not a spiteful person," (Leto laughed at this, which she chose to ignore,), "Therefore I do not do this spitefully. I want a child of my own, that I can nurture and help. My husband will not like this, but there will be nothing he can do about it. I admit his anger may please me – perhaps he will finally realize how much I love him, perhaps not, - but I do this soully for myself."
"Again, I see no problem. I do not need to know any more. You have my blessing, as Mother of the Earth, to bear such a child."
Hera smiled and turned to Demeter, who had kept suspiciously quiet the entire time. She raised her eyebrows, and Demeter let out a sigh.
"I do not want a war," she said simply. "I don't want tension in our family, either. But I think that Zeus has had this coming for a long time – everybody deserves a piece of happiness. If you have the chance to have a child, seize it and take it. I wish I had more time with my dear Persephone..."
Hera's eyes narrowed, very slightly, at the mention of Persephone, who was also one of her husbands unfaithful children.
Demeter's eyes flashed with sadness. "I think about it, but I'm much too busy these days. Do you realize how much the mortals harvest? It was so much simpler when they didn't have "weetabix" and "kellogs cornflakes"."
Hera pulled her long plait over her shoulders, and cleared her throat loudly, hinting. Demeter rolled her eyes. "Fine. Have a baby by yourself. Just don't make Zeus cause any floods with too much rain, alright?"
"Fine. And you, mother?"
Rhea blinked slowly. "Why would I object? Of course I give you my blessing."
Hera knew her mother would agree; she knew Gaea would agree, and she'd guessed that Demeter would, too; now, as she turned to Leto, she hoped for the same.
Leto's eyes were frosty. "You embarrassed me, Hera, for bearing my two children."
"You had an affair with my husband. What did you expect? You were in the wrong."
"So? There was no need for you to treat me so violently."
Hera knew she wouldn't give in. "You were in the wrong," she said again. "You know that."
Leto actually looked a little ashamed. "I'm the goddess of motherhood. You're asking my blessing, despite how you treated me."
There was a tense silence; Gaea looked extremely sad, like a child who just lost their puppy. "No time for sour grapes, daughters. This is the present; that was a millennia ago."
Hera took a breath; she could feel what was coming.
"Fine," Leto said. "Have the baby. You've got my blessing, but don't expect this truce to last. Once your demigod is born, I go back to the way I was before."
"Thank you," Hera breathed. "Thank you all."
For a while, they sat discussing things; Demeter even gave her input, and Leto toned down her bitter comments, though they didn't cease completely.
So Hera had the blessing of Gaea, Rhea, (goddess of childbirth, fertility and motherhood,), Leto, and Demeter, (goddess of fertility,), and she herself, (goddess of motherhood, childbirth and family,), gave herself her own blessing.
She had no reasons whatsoever not to go along with her plan; no powerful goddess' would claim that it was an abomination. Nobody would be mad at her – nobody except for Zeus, which she secretly was delighted by.
He'd caused her so much pain over the years. She wanted to see how he'd react to this, whether it be for better or for worse.
"For better or for worse. In sickness and in health. For richer and poorer. Till death do us part."
She'd been the one to create those words; she'd made them when she fell in love with Zeus and introduced them to the mortal world. Did they even make sense to her anymore? How was she, goddess of marriage, supposed to oversee other marriages when hers was falling apart?
She thought back over all the millennia she had dedicated to him; her mind traced over all the women he'd betrayed her for. The divine women: Aega, Ananke, Demeter, Dione, Gaia, Eos, Eris, Leto, Maia, Metis, Mnemosyne, Persephone, Selene, Themis. And what about all of the mortals? There was: Aegina, Alceme, Antiope, Callisto, Carme, Danae, Elara, Electra, Europa, Eurynome, Himalia, Iodame, Io, Lamia, Laodamia, Leda, Maera, Niobe, Olympias, Othreis, Plouto, Podarge, Pyrrha, Semele, Taygete, Thalia.
So many women, and there were so many more. What about Thalia Grace, the Hunter? She didn't know who her mother was. Was it some mortal already in the list? Was it somebody new? And who was he out with now?
It hurt just to think about it.
She knew what people thought about her. Oh, yes, she knew. Jealous, bitter Hera, the one who hated hero's and threw away ugly children.
Honestly, she got so much press over that Hephaestus story. But he had been hideous. That was what "The Hunchback of Notre Damn" had been based on, though not a lot of people actually knew that.
Yes, she could be jealous. Yes, all she wanted was a perfect family.
But wouldn't you?
Think about it.
You marry the man of your dreams, and he cheats on you. You love him so much you forgive him, because you really believe your marriage can work, but then he just does it again. And again. And again. He's the most unfaithful man in the world, but you can't let him go, so you stick by him through his unfaithful cheating. You live on Olympus, having to work and live alongside the children he's had with these other women, despite how much you despise them, having to act as if it doesn't bother you.
Wouldn't you become paranoid? Wouldn't you become jealous? Wouldn't you be spiteful toward them? Wouldn't you want nothing more than a "perfect" family just to please him, even if that meant tossing your very own child, - the only person in the world who is actually just yours -, back to earth? Just to please him? All of this, in the hope that he'd one day disown his unfaithful ways and become the loving, devoted husband you long for?
That's what life was like for Hera. No matter how hard she tried to fix things, nothing changed it. She would always have hope, always, but that didn't mean it didn't make her mad. It didn't mean she wasn't filled with an uncontrollable rage every time she saw people like Leto; it didn't mean she didn't want to cling to his legs and sob when he left Olympus to visit a mortal woman, begging him to stay.
She was strong, but sometimes even the strongest of women fall.
That was why she was having this child. She needed something of her own to bring joy into her life – a rock to dedicate herself to. She needed something to love, to nurture, to care for.
That's why when she went so sleep alone like that night, without her husband to wrap his arm around her, she woke up pregnant.
Pathogenesis is a wonderful thing.