Not a single light was on, the room high enough from the ground that only skyscrapers cast shadows. An empty bottle of scotch lay broken on the floor, a second one just feet away while a third sat ready on the bedside table. Storm clouds rumbled noisily outside lightning splitting the sky with vicious intent. Had the news been playing in the background, the anchorman would have been discussing the out of season weather with a harassed looking meteorologist but the figure who sat alone in that room had no need. He knew exactly what was going on beyond the glass and he found it was still nothing in comparison to what he wished could be done.
A single flash of blue light alerted him he was no longer alone but it did not sway him from his spot, instead slinging back the contents of the crystal tumbler he held in his hand. He reached for the bottle next to him and poured another drink. Whomever had joined him did not speak, merely gazing upon the broken man still gazing out at the brewing storm.
"Is she alright?"
The being was mildly surprised at his gravelly voice. "Yes, as much as she can be. I left her so she could adjust."
A pained laugh answered him. "Adjust. Pleasant choice of words."
Silence reigned again but the figure who had joined took a step into the room and closer to the one on the bed. "Brother,-"
"Please," the man breathed out, his voice almost breaking. "I know what you think of me, Hades. I know what all of creation thinks of me. But I cannot. Not tonight. Not after what has transpired-" but the words broke off as he threw back another drink, struggling to compose himself. "Leave your judgement for another day and return to your wife."
Had anyone else spoken these words, Hades could have accepted them. But it wasn't anyone and never before had he witnessed his brother brought so low by this kind of pain. No one caused this type of reaction. Instead of listening, he walked forward, grabbing a second tumbler and poured himself a drink, noting the symbol of Dionysus on the label. No wonder the man was drunk. Then again, it was no man that sat just a few feet away from him. Hades took a seat on an available armchair and gazed at his brother.
His dark hair was styled as it normally was but it now looked disturbed, like the god had been running his fingers through it. His white oxford was partially unbuttoned, his sleeves rolled up to the elbows. His slacks looked as though they had been worn for more than the day and his feet were bare. Perhaps this would have been normal on someone else, but again, not his brother. And when you looked upon his face, you could see two day worth of stubble and the dark shadows he had never seen before on this visage. But what worried him even more were the well defined tear tracks that ran down his cheeks.
Shock was not something Hades felt often, not now any way but this shook him.
"Sweet Khaos, I had no idea."
The dark-haired god merely shrugged, fiddling with the tumbler in his hand. "I suspect no one thinks I am capable any more. Not with my extensive history proving otherwise."
"I knew you cared for them in your own way but this is more than that."
The god shrugged again. "It does not change anything, does it?"
Hades sighed heavily. "No, no it does not."
The two were silent for a few moments, each lost in his own thoughts.
"You know, last night was the first time she ever let me into her bed." Hades' head snapped to his brother. "For the longest time, she kept me at an arm's distance, especially once she figured out who I was. Oh, she figured it out quickly too. Sometimes I wonder if one of us gave her a bit of inspiration, hoping to end anything before it began. Lousy luck on theirs." He let out a humorless laugh. "I still do not know why I kept going back after the first time she rejected me. I do not even know why it bothered me but I had to prove her wrong, that I was more than what she assumed, what everyone else assumed. I earned every bit of it, I admit, but she was different.
"She owns a Cafe not far from here. Owned. Kore's Corner. Yeah, I thought you may like that."
Hades nodded, slightly surprised.
"She loved spring and Kore fascinated her. The various myths and legends surrounding the fertility goddess that was not. Defended the crap out of you, by the way. Always said a goddess like Kore, no matter how young, would have made a much bigger scene if she did not want to be where she was." He snorted. "I guess she was right about that. Seph can throw a tantrum if she so chooses and may the gods help whoever pisses her off."
Hades let out a small laugh. "Indeed. Thanatos is still scared of her after their last confrontation a few decades ago."
The god sighed and took another drink. "She reminded me of Kore in a way. Same spirit wrapped in an unassuming visage. No one knew how hot the water was until it was too late. Her eyes would almost blaze when you got her going and damn if it did not make her hotter."
Hades snorted at this.
"But when she was calm and she looked on me with happiness, it took everything in me not to fall to my knees and beg the Fates to freeze those moments so I would never know anything else. I would have given her the world seven times over just to be on the receiving end of her smile. But she would not fall for any trick, she did not want the grand gestures. I had no idea what I was doing those first few weeks but for whatever reason, she saw something in me and allowed me to keep trying."
He stopped for a moment, burying his face in his unoccupied hand and Hades leaned forward, speechless at the emotions he was witnessing. "She had a brain tumor, inoperable. Would not allow me to bring her to Apollo or anyone else. She just told me that she wanted to live her life exactly how she wanted to and damn anyone would think to tell her otherwise. She collapsed a few weeks ago and she let me stay when the doctor spoke to her. It was growing. She may have had only a few months or a few years left. She cried with me when we went back to her apartment but all she did was apologize to me. She never lamented her fate, only cried because I was in pain knowing how little time she had. The only other mortal woman who ever cried for me in such a way was Semele.
"But she did not stop. She wanted to live as much as she could with the time she had. I finally convinced her to let me take her to a few places she wanted to go and we spent a month just hopping from one place to another. She listened to the stories I knew, the history of the places we went, chiming in with all of the facts she had stored. She seemed to glow whenever we reached the next place but I think she was happiest when we stayed on Mykonos that last week before our return to New York. She just listened and smiled the entire time and not matter how many times I offered to stop, she would only shake her head and ask for another story."
He stopped again and this time, he met his brother's gaze, tears streaming. "I love her," he admitted, his voice ravaged with emotion. "Damn me but I love her with whatever is left of this twisted heart. It would have been over in just a few months but I wanted whatever I could get of her." He swallowed thickly before draining his glass. "She made me promise to try with Hera."
Hades did not think his heart would take much more shock this night but continued to listen with wide eyes. "She what?"
"I had a similar reaction. She just smiled at me and told me that if I married her in the first place, I should at least be responsible for my half of our unhappiness. Even suggested couples therapy at one point. For one moment, I thought we could at least come to an understanding of the pain we put each other through but after what she put into action… I do not know if I can ever forgive Hera."
Hades felt the sinking in his stomach. "What do you mean?"
Zeus poured another glass. "Hera bribed the Fates to cut her line, helped orchestrate everything just enough that she would be there when her shop was robbed, walking in to help open with her employee as the thief lost his nerve. The last time I saw her, I was still lying in her bed, watching her get dressed. She kissed me as we made plans to meet for lunch, enough time to return to Olympus. I left just a few moments after she did but by the time I had returned to my temple, I felt her leave the mortal plane. I did not get to say goodbye."
Hades watched as Zeus fell silent, slowly taking a sip of his own drink.
"Have you heard from Hera yet?"
Zeus shook his head. "I am surprised. She usually makes herself known sooner rather than later. Perhaps she wrapped up in her lover's bed or caught somewhere on Olympus. It does not matter to me. I do not think I would control my temper if I saw her right now. I may kill a few too many mortals with my wrath. And do not worry, I will not be going after her current swain. If nothing else, the mortal deserves a chance to live."
"I did not expect you to be so calm."
"I am anything but calm. I want nothing more than to bring fire down upon the man who killed her, to take my vengeance on the mortals, and declare out right war on Hera but it would change nothing and the thought of disappointing that mortal woman causes me more grief than it should. The king of the gods brought to lay at the feet of a mortal woman. The Titans must be laughing."
Hades said nothing but allowed Zeus to refill his glass. It seemed there was little left to be said in the darkened room where more secrets had been shared between brothers than in the last several millennia.
"Do you want to see her?"
Zeus jumped a little at the question. "No," he said softly but that answer looked as though it pained him greatly. "I promised I would let her go. That I would not cling to her once she no longer walked the earth."
Hades nodded once but paused. "But if she asked?"
"I would deny her nothing."
Hades stood and two flashes appeared in the room, one a soft pink and the other silver. Persephone held an arm around the mortal's form but she quickly seemed to find her bearings. Zeus slowly got up, eyes wide at the sight of her.
The mortal smiled through silver tears and flung herself across the room, Zeus almost sprinting to meet her and wrapping her in his embrace. Hades pulled his own wife close and felt her arms tighten around his waist.
The two gods watched their king clutch the shade close, kissing her face and brushing long black hair back. Hades could see she had been a beautiful woman but it came from a kindness she seemed to radiate. True, she was pretty but different than most of the women they had seen decorating his arms in the past. She was lithe, muscular, almost chin level with the god of thunder.
They could hear her apologizing through her sobs, causing Zeus to cradle her closer.
"I know I made you promise but I thought I would have more time. I thought I'd have time to say goodbye!"
Zeus' response was muffled but the mortal laughed through her tears. "But you love me anyway."
"I do, melia. I do."
Hades glanced at his wife to find her own cheeks were streaked with tears but neither spoke, Hades only pulling her closer.
Olivia stood in the arms of her lover, breathing in this stolen moment as much as she could, feeling the strength and love that surrounded her. "This doesn't mean my other promises from you are void."
"I would never make that mistake, my love but I do not want this to end. Allow me this."
Unable to verbalize her response, she merely nodded and allowed him to pull her even closer, feeling the pressure of lips on her forehead. Everything she wanted to say seemed incredibly trite, and even more so as she stood as a shade in the arms of the king of gods. Some part of her wondered if her tumor had caused this incredibly life-like delusion but as she was still here after feeling the bullet rip through her, she could only hope it was real.
"Never have I wished to be mortal as much I wish right now." His whispered words sent her into another crying fit, but he continued. "I wish I could be mortal so that I could die and meet you once again on the Elysian Fields and spend an eternity at your side. It would never be long enough to keep you in my arms."
Olivia pulled back just far enough to meet his own watery gaze and tried to smile. "But you are not a mortal, my love. You are so much more than that. I fell in love with the arrogant god who could not understand why I turned him down, who tried desperately to please me. I fell in love with the god who cried for me and made so many of my dreams come true. I never dreamed of being loved so well as I was by you. I hold no regrets, love. Not one."
Zeus' closed his eyes against more tears, reveling in the sweet kisses she laid on his cheeks. "I was never going to be worthy of you."
"But you tried so hard to be and that was more than I could ever hope for."
The two stood, foreheads resting against one another as the storm outside began to gather momentum but the clouds did not burst. Sooner than either of them wanted, Olivia pulled back and pressed another soft kiss upon the god's lips. "It's time."
Zeus looked at Hades who felt himself nod even though it pained him greatly to do so. The god of thunder sighed but nodded, meeting her kiss and holding her ever closer. "Do you want me to bring you to the Gates?"
Olivia shook her head. "I will not let you go if you do."
Zeus nodded in agreement, drinking her in as much as he could in their final moments, watching her storm blue eyes do the same as they blazed with emotions he had not known in centuries.
"Try not to hate her forever, love."
Zeus felt shock run through him at her words. "You forgive her?"
Olivia shook her head, the first spot of anger in her expression. "I doubt that will come for a very long time but I am merely a mortal in the games of gods."
"You were never merely a mortal, melia. Know that."
Olivia merely kissed him again and Zeus pressed her closer again. "My love follows you until the end, Olivia."
Olivia tried to smile but could not as she looked up into his face. "The heart of a god belongs to me, even in this small moment, was more than I ever could have asked for."
Olivia felt the gentle hand of Persephone on her shoulder and she slammed her eyes just, wishing she had more time but she felt herself begin to let go.
"I love you, my sweet one." She felt Zeus kiss forehead and lips one last time before she was back in the realm of Hades, standing in a grove of willow trees. An arm wrapped around her and Olivia was lost to her tears, the ache in her heart consuming her.
Persephone held her close and silently cursed the queen of the gods. Because her time had not yet come, peace would not come easy to this mortal. Instead, she would feel loss and heartache for what she was forced to leave behind.
"I am sorry, Olivia. You did not deserve the fate you received."
The mortal merely nodded but she slowly gathered herself, even blushing as she realized she had been sobbing on a goddess, let alone one she had spent years researching.
The goddess merely smiled and took her arm in her own. "Come, I will be your guide on this journey and you can tell me about your life."
Olivia smiled and allowed herself to be walked down a softly lit path to whatever came next.
Zeus stood frozen in the spot where he had seen Olivia disappear from, Persephone guiding her. Hades had moved closer to his brother as Olivia was guided away and just barely made it in time as Zeus crumpled. Arm going around his brother, he found himself holding on tightly as Zeus cried into his shoulder, allowing his heartbreak to consume him. Hades held on to him just as tightly, feeling like the elder brother for the first time in centuries, doing everything he could to comfort his youngest brother.
In the centuries that followed, that night would never be spoken about directly. Zeus would continue to court mortals and deities alike but this time, there was a kind of peace between him and Hera. It was a hard won understanding but it worked for them. Hades never saw him love another the way he had witnessed in those precious few moments with Olivia but Zeus was never as careless as he had been in the past, allowing each being a peaceful end to the relationship. But some nights, when the air smelled of soft spring rain, Hades would find himself sitting next to his brother, a glass of the scotch in his hand, gazing at the night sky in utter silence not a soul around for miles.
Nights like these were far and few between the brothers and honesty flowed without malice.
Stories of past conquests would be traded, this night being a night of sacred silence once left.
Hades glanced at his brother one of these nights, his tongue loosened by this peace.
"I didn't know you remembered their names."
Zeus snorted and shook his head, eyes never leaving the constellations above. "Most I try to. But the ones that lasted the evening not always. Others are distant memories."
Hades nodded, some surprise in the admission.
"But there are others still that I doubt will ever leave me, their faces mine to have until we leave this plane."
He looked sharply at his brother but Zeus was still gazing up at the sky and as Hades turned his gaze heavenward, he would swear his younger brother was gazing at a constellation discovered not long ago, one that many now called 'the honeycomb'.
AN: This is the first story I have posted. Any and all criticism is greatly appreciated.