Chapter Thirteen: When A Bad Day Starts to Get Better
"So, if you don't mind me asking, how long have you been girlfriends?" Persephone asked as she was led down the streets of the Underground, sandwiched between Eris and Harmonia.
"Oh, we're not girlfriends," Eris said.
"But I thought you said…?"
"I said Harmonia is my girlfriend, but I'm not hers," Eris said, and they grinned at Persephone's confused expression. "Though I am many things to Harmonia, depending on our moods. Lover, partner, consort, unmarried spouse, something more gender neutral, y'know?"
"Eris, darling, you are Strife," Harmonia said. "There's nothing about you that's neutral."
"That's why I like being unmarried spouse, because the oxymoron really confuses people and I get a good laugh out of it," Eris said, and they cackled whilst Harmonia giggled.
When they'd quietened down, Harmonia said, "As for how long we've been together, how old are you, Persephone?"
"Um, twenty-three?" Persephone said, phrasing it more like a question due to her confusion of how her age related to Eris and Harmonia.
"Then we have been together for twenty-three years," Harmonia said. "I specifically remember Demeter was pregnant with you at the time."
Dear Olympus. Harmonia barely looked older than Persephone, but she'd been dating Eris for longer than Persephone had even been alive. Not that Persephone should be surprised by the ages of literal immortal gods. Even Hermes, who Persephone was closest too out of the pantheon, was over a decade older, and she forgot about that a lot since he also looked roughly her age.
She sighed. But that was life as a young goddess. At least she wasn't the youngest; that honour went to Dionysus, whom she had never met, even though he was literally being raised by her best friend.
It didn't take long before they were stood in front of a large, gothic house, with a star and a moon engraved on the front doors. Everywhere about the Underground and the Underworld was dark, and Persephone was accustomed to it by now, but something about this place seemed a tad too dark, and she gulped as they approached the doors.
"Mother!" Eris cried as they kicked open the front door. Persephone squeaked, but Harmonia only smiled. "I come with guests!"
As the three of them made their way into the large, dark entrance hall, with Harmonia closing the front door behind them, someone called out, "That's excellent, my little nightling. We're in the drawing room!"
Of course, Persephone thought, a place as fancy as this would have a drawing room.
Eris and Harmonia led her to the drawing room, which was just as large, gothic, and dark as the rest of the house, and they ushered Persephone over to the two people who were playing chess by a purple stain glass window.
The first was a frighteningly beautiful woman, and she had pure white skin that blended with her pure white dress. Her hair was completely out of the ordinary and didn't look like hair at all. It was midnight black and floated around her, with tiny wisps constantly breaking away. Not to mention the constellations of twinkling stars decorated the strands.
The next was a man who was also frighteningly beautiful, and he had charcoal grey skin, darker than even Eris'. He wore a black suit, with white highlights, and his hair was so dark there weren't any highlights on it at all. In fact, it was as if his hair absorbed the light, and his hair even blurred around the edges slightly.
The woman, who had been sat on the white side of the chess board, beamed as she stood up. "Oh, you must be Persephone! I am Nyx, and this here is my consort, Erebus."
Erebus smiled and nodded. "It is good to meet you, Persephone."
"A-and same here," Persephone said, and she thought she might faint. So, these were Nyx and Erebus, the primordial gods of night and darkness. That would explain the strange hair; Nyx was said to have hair of literal night, and Erebus had hair of literal darkness.
"Oh, dear, you look like you need to sit down," Nyx said, and she waved her hand at her empty seat. "Please, feel free."
"Oh, no," Persephone said, and she adamantly shook her head. "I can't. I shouldn't even be here. I'm no one and you're a primordial! I'm really sorry for intruding!"
"A no one? Do not be ridiculous," Nyx said, and she cupped Persephone's face so she could kiss her, and when she pulled back, she smiled. "You are family now, yes? Beloved of Hades and Hecate. There always comes a day when one is to meet their partner's parents."
"Parents?" Persephone asked as she blinked up at Nyx. Olympus, she was pretty tall. And her midnight black eyes were distracting; one had a star in them, and one had a moon.
"Not literally," Nyx said. "But Erebus and I consider Hades and Hecate our own."
"Didn't I say he was like an annoying brother?" Eris asked.
"Actually," Harmonia said, "you referred to him as your dorky brother."
"Harmonia, it has been a while," Nyx then said, and she kissed Harmonia, then she kissed Eris. "You do need to bring Harmonia here more often."
"Yeah, I would, if a certain someone was a little more welcoming of her," Eris said, and they rolled their eyes. "Well, Mum, we found Persephone out here on her own, and she was like kinda crying so we brought her here, to cheer her up!"
Persephone's cheeks burned. They really didn't need to tell Nyx, of all the gods and goddesses, that she had been crying.
"Oh, my little nightling, we cannot have that," Nyx said. "How about you tell us what has upset you over a game of chess? Chess is an excellent way to relax."
"I, um, I've never played chess," Persephone mumbled. She didn't play many games back at home, apart from the odd solo card game.
"Then we will have to fix that," Nyx said, and she made a shooing action at Erebus.
"But," he said, "we have not finished our own game."
"Nonsense," Nyx said, and she rearranged the pieces on the board. "Tada! I win! Now, Erebus, be a dear and fetch us some ambrosia."
"I don't really drink ambrosia," Persephone said. Dear Olympus, could she get any more awkward? "But I wouldn't mind some pomegranate juice if you have any."
"Of course, we have some pomegranate juice, it is Hades' favourite, after all," Nyx said. "Come on, Erebus, dear. The pomegranate juice cannot wait!"
Erebus rolled his eyes, in an almost identical manner to Eris, and stood up. "Yes, Your Majesty. Pomegranate juice coming right up."
As Erebus left, the room brightened a little, and Nyx ushered Persephone down into Erebus' seat as she took her own again, and Eris and Harmonia pulled up their own chairs so they could watch the game.
Whilst Nyx taught Persephone the rules, Persephone went over what had happened at Cassie's Coffee, and how Arachne had every right to be made with the gods, but Persephone had gotten upset anyway, and then she had run away without explaining anything. She possibly couldn't even go back to work now, and her heart ached at the thought. The girls there were some of her only friends, and she might not be able to see them again.
"I thought about talking to Hades, I guess because he's kinda involved," Persephone said as she moved one of her chess pieces. "But I feel bad about bothering him. It's not like we've been dating for long, and I can't just demand a king's attention when he's working, right?"
"Don't be silly," Nya said as Erebus returned with a tray of pomegranate juice. "Erebus, please be a dear again and fetch my phone so I can text Hecate. I left it upstairs."
"I see I am the errand boy today," Erebus said, and Nyx blew him a kiss as he left the room again.
"But I said I didn't want to bother them!" Persephone squeaked.
"You said you didn't want to bother Hades, actually," Harmonia said.
"Harmonia is right," Nyx said, and despite being the literal night, her smile was rather warm. "Now, my little nightling, let us drink our juice and finish our game of chess. We cannot cheer you up if you are too busy dwelling on misery now, can we?"
"Oh, alright…" Persephone said, and she managed a tiny smile of her own.
It turned out it was fairly difficult to beat Nyx at chess. But Persephone refused to let that stop her, and she persevered until she could throw her hands up in the air with glee.
"I won!" she said.
Nyx smiled. "I said you would get the hang of it in the end."
"For a beginner, you've done super well," Eris said, and they rocked back on their chair. "Only Dad, Hades, or Hecate can ever beat Mum."
"It is because Nyx went easy on you that you won," Harmonia explained. "I saw her deliberately make a few wrong moves."
"Harmie, I love you," Eris said, "but your schtick of telling the truth can be irritating."
"I'm sorry," Harmonia said, and she smiled innocently. "I have to be harmonious with myself, since it is my domain, but since chaos is your domain, you can revel in how irritating I accidentally am."
"Oh," Eris said, and they started cackling. "That is a fair point."
Erebus, who had left the room when there had been a knock on the front door, cleared his throat. "Ladies, and Eris, we have another guest."
"Hades!" Persephone exclaimed.
"I heard you were upset," Hades said as he crossed the room. When he reached the others, his gaze momentarily settled on Harmonia, and he frowned.
"Good afternoon, Lord Hades," she said, and she smiled.
"Good afternoon," Hades mumbled.
"Oh, he said good afternoon to me!" Harmonia exclaimed.
"Yeah, only 'cause he wants to be polite in front of his lady," Eris said as they stood up. They picked Harmonia up from her chair and slung her over their shoulder. "I'm sure you can take it from here. We should be heading back home to check Lethe hasn't burned the house down. You know what she's like; always forgetting to turn off the over."
Eris spun around and strode from the room. Harmonia, still slung over their shoulder, giggled and waved goodbye to Persephone. Persephone blinked.
"What was that about?" she asked, recalling when Eris had said that they would have brought Harmonia around more often if a certain someone was more welcoming of her. That certain someone couldn't be Hades, surely?
"Oh, do not worry yourself over that, little nightling," Nyx said.
"Are you feeling better now?" Hades asked as he sat down in Eris' seat.
"A little. I guess I was distracted by Nyx and chess," Persephone said. "Chess and pomegranate juice will do that to you, huh? But really, you didn't have to come. I know you're super busy with the Underworld, and I don't want to distract you from work."
"We are dating, are we not? What kind of partner would I be if I ignored you when you were upset?" Hades asked. "Besides, after the numerous times Hecate lets herself be distracted from work, it is only fair I repay the favour. She is currently covering me."
"That might be my fault." Nyx chuckled. "I do text her a lot."
"You do, please do not…" Hades said, and he sighed when Nyx chuckled again. "That aside, what is wrong, Persephone?"
"You remember Arachne, right?"
"The black-haired one you work with?"
Persephone nodded, and her eyes were already stinging again, not to mention her throat. She had to grab the glass of pomegranate juice Eris had left behind and gulp it down.
Persephone once again recounted what had happened with Arachne, and Hades frowned. "That could be an issue. If you wish, I can get Hecate to erase their memories. They would be none the wiser."
"No!" Persephone exclaimed. "I mean, I appreciate the offer, but I can't do that to my friends… I would rather them refuse to speak to me forever then mess with their—"
Her phone buzzed in her pocket, and she pulled it out to check who had messaged her, and she froze as she read the name.
"Is everything okay?" Hades asked.
"It's…" Persephone gulped. "It's Arachne."
That was how, the next morning, Persephone found herself stood in front of The Dusty Chimpanzee. Arachne had called the day before, asking if Persephone was still cool for their meet up on Friday. As Persephone lurked in the entrance way, she pulled out her phone.
Persephone: Okay, so I'm here.
Hades: Good luck.
Persephone: What if they hate me?
Hades: You said yourself that Arachne sounded apologetic on the phone. She is your friend, and I do not think she hates you. Trust me. I know what it is like to be hated. You will be fine.
Persephone: Okay okay I'm going in wish me luck again?
Hades: Good luck.
Persephone cracked a tiny smile at the kisses, then sent some of her own before she took a deep breath and stepped inside.
"Persi!" Psyche called out, and she waved Persephone over to their usual table in the corner. Both she and Arachne were already there, and whilst Psyche was her typical, perky self, Arachne took one look at Persephone, then looked away, her face bright red.
"Hey…" Persephone cautiously sat down at the table. "Have you ordered yet?
"Nope," Psyche said. "But I have the order ready on the app, want me to press send?"
Persephone and Arachne nodded, and Psyche sent off the order with a flourish, then she leant forward against her elbows and stared expectantly at the other two.
"So, um, what did you guys want to talk about?" Persephone asked.
"Oh my gods, was that really your boyfriend we heard you talking to on the phone?" Psyche asked. Of course, her eyes twinkled at the prospect of Persephone having a partner.
"Yes, but I'll get to him in a minute—"
"Oh, come on, Persi. You can't keep us hanging," Psyche said, and she nudged Arachne with her elbow. "Right, Arachne?"
"Right," Arachne mumbled.
"So please," Psyche said.
Persephone sighed and kept her voice hushed as she said, "He's called Hades, okay?"
There was a moment of silence, then Psyche exclaimed, "You mean the Hades!?"
"Keep it down," Persephone hissed when several of the closest tables looked their way. They probably thought her some Hades worshipper, which, to be fair, she supposed was kinda true. "Yes, the Hades."
"As in god of the Underworld Hades?"
"King of the Underworld Hades," Persephone corrected. "But yes, that one."
"Oh my gods," Arachne whispered. "I was trash talking your boyfriend; no wonder why you were upset. He's going to smite me now isn't he…"
"No, he's not. He understands why mortals would hate him, and why mortals would hate gods in general," Persephone said. She paused before adding, "We both do."
"Both…?" Arachne said.
"Well," Persephone said, and she took in a deep breath. "I'm a goddess too."
Arachne stared with wide eyes, whilst Psyche gasped and exclaimed, "You're a—!"
"Please, keep it down," Persephone said, and Psyche clamped her lips shut and nodded. "Let me… let me explain from the beginning, okay?"
With a sigh, Persephone launched into her story. She told them how she was Kore, daughter of Demeter, and no, Psyche, she did not have a mysterious magical father; goddesses didn't need fathers. She told them how she was trapped inside, so she picked up the name Persephone—bringer of wisdom or death, whichever one preferred. Then she came to work at the coffee shop, shortening her name to Persi.
"Oh my gods," Psyche said. "That's why you can't work weekends."
Arachne, who looked like she might start crying any second now, said, "I'm really sorry about trash talking the gods…"
"You don't have to be, the gods do suck, but thank you anyway," Persephone said. "Though you should know that Zeus is the worst, not Athena."
"Unfortunately, Athena is already my arch-nemesis…" Arachne said as she started to aimlessly nudge the menus lying across the table.
"You're still gonna work at Cassie's Coffee, right?" Psyche asked.
"Obviously," Persephone said. "But you can't let anyone know. If Mother finds out, I'm in big trouble."
"Not telling anyone," Psyche chirped.
"But you should tell Merope," Arachne said. "She was worried about you."
"But, all that aside, we've got something more important to talk about," Psyche said, and she grinned as she leant across the table. "You started dating Hades after he visited the shop, right? It's like your own coffee shop AU."
"A little, yeah," Persephone said, and she smiled. "He's really not what you think, either. He's actually a huge softie, and a big dork. He only puts up a persona of being scary when outside the Underworld, but down there he's such an adorable awkward mess."
"Oh wow," Psyche said. "We love to see adorkable scary kings."
"Hey, how about I send him a selfie to show we've made up?" Persephone asked.
"You mean you really don't hate me?" Arachne asked.
"No, silly," Persephone said. "Come on!"
So, they took a selfie, just as their drinks arrived, though they had to retake it several times to get an angle they all agreed on. Persephone then sent it to Hades, who replied that he was pleased that she had made up with her friends. Then he sent his own selfie, asking if he was 'doing it right' only the photo was taken at a pretty terrible angle, which made him look more corpse-like than usual.
"You're right, he's a dork," Psyche said. "Tell him he did a good job."
"You can't lie," Arachne said. "Tell him he did a bad job."
Persephone giggled as the typed out her reply.
Persephone: I'll have to teach you my secrets, but you did alright for a first try x
Hades: Thank you.