They stand before the court, a pair of lovers doomed. Persephone clutches desperately at his arm as Hades stands tall against the hysterical Demeter.
True love, Hera observes, is very strange indeed. She sees Persephone trace soothing lines into her husband's muscles, discreet and so subtle but it is enough for Hades to strengthen his resolve. He does not falter against Demeter's rage or Zeus' displeasure. Hades will have his bride.
Hera is oddly proud of her brother and though his intended is one of her husband's many royal bastards, Hera decides they deserve her blessing.
A tingling warmth spreads through their joined hands and Hades and Persephone snap their attention to her.
"It's a twisted form of revenge!" Demeter cries flinging herself into Zeus' arms, "She's punishing me and our daughter!"
In front of the Olympian court, Zeus strikes down his queen.
Hera is confined to her bed for two months. She is immortal but so is Zeus and his hand had not been light. The wound reopens at the slightest movements and she bleeds red on to cotton sheets. Iris tells her that Hades and Demeter were forced to compromise. Persephone refuses to speak to her mother and Hera is just a little gratified.
She receives no visitors save loyal Iris but she is not surprised. Her own husband had forsaken her; she expects no sympathy from anyone.
A letter of thanks arrives from Hades and she is again reminded of what love looks like, how it should be.
Zeus does not love her.
The solution comes to her over night and just like that Hera makes the decision to escape her eternal prison.
Zeus spends six months with Demeter, comforting her over the loss of Persephone. Her self-pity persists and growing tired of her angst he returns home. He expects Hera to throw a fit and the thought is enough to have him irritated before he even walks in the door.
Hera is strangely quiet, pouring over pages of parchment, answering prayers, granting blessings. She greets him absentmindedly. Zeus says nothing to her and goes to sleep.
Her absconsion is a slow one, she spends time with Hestia and Iris, lavishes attention on her children, bidding farewells they do not recognize. She visits dear Hades and they spend the day reminiscing the past, good and bad. He kisses her forehead in tender goodbye and she thinks perhaps he knows, but he says nothing.
Zeus notices the change in his wife when she stops inquiring for his whereabouts. Jealous Hera with her vengeful tendencies would have hunted him down and dished painful comeuppance upon his unfortunate mistress, but the woman sharing his throne does not even bat an eyelash.
She doesn't love him anymore.
He is terrified.
She stops rising to Aphrodite's taunts, neglects antagonizing Athena, Hera is on a deadline and she spares not even Zeus an extra glance. He is quietly frantic, has taken to sleeping with his hand wrapped tightly around hers and still she does not respond to him.
He goes with her to lunches with Ares and Hebe, watches her easy interaction with their children. They speak of memories and childhoods of which he has no knowledge, and the king of gods is ashamed.
Her conversation with Hephaestus is full of pain and regret and he is still so very angry, but relents and folds himself into his mother's tearful embrace. Zeus stands apart from them, unreasonably jealous of his wife's son.
"I love you." He tells her, arms constricting her waist, she only nods and he feels his heart cracking.
She's gone in the morning.