As I made my way to the God Complex, I decided to stop at Chloris’ flower shop and buy some lilies for Persephone. I wasn’t sure why I was doing it; flowers certainly wouldn’t lessen the blow of her mother’s disappearance. But, Persephone has a gentle soul, and it felt like the right thing to do.

A few minutes later, I was knocking on her apartment door. When she opened the door, Persephone’s smile sent a jolt of warmth to my heart. “Ares! This is a surprise! What are you doing here?”

“I knew you were back for spring, so I thought I would drop by and say hello,” I replied. “I brought you some lilies; I know they’re your favorite.”

She took the flowers from me and stepped back. “Please, come in. These are beautiful. Did you get them from Chloris?”

“I did.” I waited for her to close the door and followed her further into her apartment. “How are you doing?”

Persephone put the lilies on the dining room table. “I’m…what is it the mortals say…hanging in there. It always takes a while to adjust to fresh air and bright sunlight.”

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it.”

Sighing, she replied, “I know. But I really don’t want to talk about it right now. I hope you understand.”

“Oh, I do, trust me,” I assured her. “Every once in a while, people ask me how I’m doing since Cassie’s death. It can get to be too much sometimes. You start to feel that if one more person asks you that question, you’ll punch them and send them into a wall.”

She laughed. “Well, I’m not sure I’d go that far, but yes, it is overwhelming.” Tilting her head slightly, she said, “That’s not why you’re here, though, is it?”

Shaking my head, I reached out, gently took her hand and led her to the living room, where we sat down on her couch. “There is something I need to tell you.”

“Bad news?”

“I’m afraid so.”

Taking a deep breath, she patted my hand, which was still clasped in hers. “Go ahead.”

“Your mother is missing.”

Her eyes widened in surprise. “What do you mean, missing?”

I reached into my back pocket with my free hand, pulled out the letter Demeter had written to me, and held it out to her daughter. “She left this with Aegis, with instructions to give it to me if she didn’t return on time. He waited a little longer than that, not wanting to overreact to her tardiness. Today, he decided it had been long enough and brought it to me.”

Persephone released my hand, took the letter, and quietly read it. “She never said anything to me about this,” she said when she had finished. She handed it back to me. “I mean, I knew she was working on something, but I didn’t know what it was exactly.”

“We discussed it last fall, but you know how your mother is: she didn’t give me a lot of details. She did say that she might need my help with it later, but then we got busy with Artemis’ Silver Bow Foundation, and then the thing with the Titans. I was so focused on protecting Pops that I didn’t keep in touch with her, or anyone else, to be honest.”

“Have you told Zeus yet?”

“I came here first.”

“What are you going to do? Are you going to go after her?”

“Do you really have to ask me that?”

“Then I’m going to,” Persephone said, standing up. “I’ll need to get a few…”

I got to my feet. “No, Ms. P., you aren’t going,” I said firmly. “You’re staying here.”

“I most certainly will not! She’s my mother! If she’s lost in that place, I’m going to help you find her.”

Gently placing my hands on her shoulder, I gazed into her eyes. “Persephone, you may be the Iron Queen, but this is not something you are equipped to deal with. I have no idea what I’m going to be facing, and I cannot be worried about protecting you and keeping my guard up. I’d like you to stay here on the off chance I need you to go through her notes. You can be the greatest help to me by staying here.”

She bit her lip, then nodded. “All right, Ares, I’ll agree…for now. But if you don’t make any progress, or I’m not happy with the way things are going, I’m coming out there.”

“Then I’ll have to make sure that I find her. I don’t want to end up on the wrong side of the Queen of the Underworld,” I said. Pulling her close, I gave her a hug and held her for a moment. “I promise everything is going to be fine. I will find her and bring her home.”

“I know you will,” she replied before taking a step back. “You better go tell him. Good luck keeping him from going with you.”

“He’s focused on other things right now. I’m sure he’ll give me a token gesture of wanting to go, but he’s not going to want to leave.”

Persephone walked me to the door. “If you need anything, you’ll let me know?”

“You’ll be the first one I call.” I kissed her forehead. “I’d tell you not to worry, but I know it would be pointless.”

“Just bring her home, Ares. Please.”

“I give you my word.”

Stepping off the elevator outside Dad’s office, I frowned at the sight of Hebe. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with her. She looked up and saw me, and a smirk grew on her face. “Well, well, well, look who’s here. The whiny God of War. You know, I don’t remember hearing about you fighting any of the Titans over the last few months. What’s the matter, Ares? Too weak to take them on? I’m sure Herakles would have handled them with one arm tied behind his back.”

“Gee, Hebe, I thought you were the one who wore the pants in the family,” I retorted as I strode toward the office door. “I can’t believe you’d let him out of the house to do any type of fighting. Have you finally decided to loosen the leash and let him out?”

Her eyes flashed with fire, and she got to her feet. “How dare you…” she began.

“As much as I would love to continue this ‘discussion’, I have something more important to deal with,” I said dismissively. “Don’t you need to file your nails or something?” I knocked on the door, opened it, and quickly closed it behind me before she could say anything else.

Pops was sitting behind his desk, reading over some papers. He looked up when the door closed. “Ares, this is unexpected.”

“I’m sorry for busting in on you, but I have something important to discuss with you, and I didn’t want to tell Hebe what I wanted. It’s none of her business.”

He leaned back in his chair. “This sounds serious.”

“Aunt Demeter is missing.”

He jumped to his feet and walked over to stand in front of me. “Tell me everything.”

I pulled out the letter and let him read it. “I knew she was researching something last fall, but I didn’t realize how deeply she was involved. When the Titans escaped, I was so focused on protecting you that I didn’t talk to Aunt Demeter or anyone. Her secretary didn’t notify me right away, as he was told. He thought that she would show up a day or two later, even though he hadn’t heard from her at all.”

“So she’s probably been gone longer than two weeks or so,” Pops replied.

“That would be my guess.”

He paced the floor for a moment. “You will go out there, of course.”

“Of course.”

“When are we leaving?”

I shook my head. “You aren’t going. This is where you need to be.”

“She’s my sister; two of us searching for her would be better.”

“There is too much going on here right now, Pops. I need you here. If something comes up and I require help, then I’ll call you. If a man can disappear without a trace from a moving bus, who knows what other things have happened? After everything that has gone on the last few months, we need you here to get things under control. Now is not the time to traipse off. This could turn out to be nothing. Maybe she met a man and took off on a well-earned tryst.”

He laughed with me, but it wasn’t heartfelt. We both probably had the same uncomfortable feeling in our gut: that something had happened to Aunt Demeter, and it had nothing to do with a man. He put his hand on my shoulder. “Ares, promise me you’ll be careful.”

I looked at him, surprised by the concern in his voice. At some point, I was going to have to ask him what he had gone through while he was unconscious. Whatever had happened, it must have been life-changing. “I promise, Pops.”

He gave me a hug, slapped me on the back a couple of times, and pulled away. “Do you have a plan?”

“Not exactly. I’m playing it by ear. I was thinking of talking to Clio first. Hopefully, she’ll be able to provide me with some information about the Bennington Triangle.”

“Definitely a good start,” Pops agreed. “So you’ll be leaving in a day or so?”

“Probably. I’m also going to go through Aunt Demeter’s notes, find out what she learned that made her go to this place. Whatever she learned, it must have been pretty important.”

“Have you told Persephone yet?”

“I talked to her before I came here. She’s okay, but I would appreciate it if you would look in on her while I’m gone.”

“That goes without saying.”

“I need you to make sure that she doesn’t take off on her own and come after me. She wanted to go, like you, but I told her it would be more helpful if she stayed here.”

“I’ll do what I can.”

“Well, I better go. I’ve got things to do.”

“Safe travels, my son.”

“Thank you, Pops.” I started to turn to leave but stopped. “You know, you had us all worried while you were in a coma. You’re a royal pain in my butt, but I realized that I would miss you if you didn’t make it. I mean, who would I have to verbally spar with?”

He laughed. “We do have some good arguments, don’t we?”

“There’s no one I’d rather argue with more than you, Pops.”

“Same here, son. I love you.”

Surprised, I didn’t say anything for a moment. It was rare for him to say those words first. Man, we were really going to have to talk when I got back. “I love you too, Pops.”

I quietly walked over to the door, then jerked it open. Hebe fell face first to the floor. Kneeling next to her, I said, “If you say one word of what you heard, I will hunt down your husband and destroy him. Then I will destroy your home and leave you with nothing. It won’t bother my conscience one damn bit. Do I make myself clear?”

Wide-eyed, she nodded. 

“Don’t worry, she won’t say anything, especially if she wants to keep working here. I only hired her because I was cajoled into doing it. It wouldn’t bother me at all to kick her out of the building, but I’d never hear the end of it if I did. It would upset me greatly, however, if you did anything to Herakles.”

Standing, I replied, “Don’t worry, Pops. I won’t harm a hair on the golden boy’s head.” Stepping over Hebe’s prone body, I made my way to the elevator. Next stop, the muse of history.

2 thoughts on “Giving Bad News is Never Easy

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