I reached the Underworld, relieved I had coins to pay Charon. Gods forbid he let any immortal pass, greedy bastard he was. I mean, come on, he knew us. I guess I didn’t really blame him, he was the son of two Primordials after all. Nyx and Erebus, to be exact. They had a few kids, not that I blamed Nyx. If I had a husband that looked like that, I’d never get off of him, either.
I stood at the shore as the river Styx lapped near my feet. My skin tingled as the presence of another God soon arrived. I kept my arms folded, looking straight as the tip of a curved silver blade came into my peripheral view.
“Oh, Thanatos, are you trying to sneak up on me?” I asked, turning with a smirk
He didn’t face me as he continued to stare straight ahead. His long black cloak billowed in the wind as he clasped that damn scythe in his gloved hand. The God of Death. The last thing mortals saw before they ended up here. Also a man of few words, too.
“Absolutely not. Remember, Goddess, I work here,” he responded, his voice a gruff, breathy whisper as he turned to me. “You do not.”
I lost my smirk then, knowing he assumed the reason I was here. Like everyone else would think that I was in trouble and seeking a place to hide. Only this time, it was much worse than a simple trick. No, something felt off about this favor. My gut lurched once more as that strange feeling took over. Sighing, I did not respond as I turned back crossing my arms waiting for Charon.
“Awfully quiet, Atë,” Thanatos spoke, raising me from my already troubled mind. “Very peculiar. What troubles the Goddess of Mischief?”
Gods, am I that easy to read? What’s wrong with me?
I rolled my eyes, playing it off with the only thing I knew would not give me away. Aggression.
“Don’t you have souls to reap? You know a job to do?” I remarked dryly, plastering a sarcastic smile across my face.
Thanatos didn’t speak, just grunted and turned to leave.
Shaking my head
I turned trying to catch him before he left. Thanatos didn’t do anything and I shouldn’t be a dick to him just because I was having a shitty day. “I didn’t mean that.” I yelled to his already fading form. “I’m just not.” I paused chewing the bottom of my lip “It’s just not a good day right now.”
“Remember, Atë, what eats away at the mind will also eat away at the soul.”
I wanted to ask him what the fuck that meant, but as soon as he spoke he vanished.
It was only a few minutes later before Charon showed and we left. I laid my head on the side of the boat as Charon rowed. The damned souls groaned from beneath the water, reaching out as we passed, their hands slowly going back under once we moved along. I sat back, facing Charon and sighed, the Death God’s words playing over and over in my mind.
The ride took longer than I expected, but maybe it was just because my brain was going in a million directions. As soon as the boat hit the edge, I practically launched myself out of it. I couldn’t sit any longer, I had to get out of that tiny space.
The moment my sandals hit dry land, my form dissipated and I flew through the air. It would have been so easy if I could have just flown here, but oh no, you had to pay a fucking toll. Honestly, the Underworld was locked up tighter than Hera’s heels and I never understood why. Sure, Tartarus was here, but only an idiot would try to break in there. Besides, who would be stupid or crazy enough to try and go against Zeus or Olympus? It wouldn’t even be a death wish, it would be suicide.
I made it to the front of Hades’ office, not even bothering to knock as I pushed the large mahogany doors open. The inside of his office matched the outside, that’s for sure. The decor reeked of the King of the Underworld, from the dark colors to the etchings on the walls, doors, and furniture.
“Honey, I’m home!” I yelled, making my way inside.
I saw Persephone jump before turning to me. She was standing near the bookshelf to the far right and closed whatever she was reading, shaking her head at me. She wore a long silver dress that almost matched her hair, where it fell down her back perfectly. I always thought the Iron Queen was gorgeous, I mean why else would Hades risk taking her? A wicked thought crossed my mind, wondering how many times he had taken her in this very office.
Speaking of the King.
“Atë, what a pleasant surprise,” Hades said, folding his hands together on his desk, the surface of which was covered in scrolls and paperwork. Gods, does the man ever not work? “What have you done now?”
His question caught me off guard, and less than gracefully, I tripped over my feet, half flopping, half falling into the chair closest to his desk. What is wrong with me? There was no way he knew. No one knew. Well, except Hera, and she wouldn’t tell him.
“Me? Nothing. Can’t I just come visit my best friend and his super hot wife? Besides, Olympus is having a party and you guys aren’t going, so I figured I’d crash here.”
Deflection, Atë. You’re good at deflection, keep it up.
I heard the snap of another book closing and Persephone’s laugh from behind me. “You, Atë? Not going to a party? Especially dressed like that? I would say you’re sick, but I know that’s impossible. You are definitely up to something.”
Smirking, I turned in my chair, looking at her. “Ok, fine, I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m up to something, but I also wouldn’t necessarily say I’m not avoiding something, either.”
“You’re the Goddess of Mischief, any time you come down here you are either hiding from your father or…” she paused, tilting her head, “actually, no, that’s the only reason.”
“Nu-uh! That’s not true. Remember that one time I brought you some naughty undergarments so you and H–”
His voice boomed through the room, causing even me to jump and turn to face him. I held a wide grin, like a child who just got scolded, and I sank a little further in the chair. His face held no humor but a different emotion, similar to that of Eros and Clio.
Oh fuck. Concern. Why can’t anyone just believe I have no ulterior motives?
His face lifted and he looked behind me, his eyes softening. “My love, would you give us a moment?”
I didn’t hear her response, but I heard her shoes clicking on the stone floor, followed by the door opening and closing. The final click of the door had Hades’ eyes back on me, and suddenly my nerves were on edge again. Most, well, all women, in this position may have their nerves on edge for different reasons than mine. Sure, Hades was hot in the Tall, Dark, I run the Underworld kind of way, but it never did anything for me. Okay, that was a lie. It did once, but only once. I blamed it on him being so close to me. He knew as much about me as my closest friends, which was another reason I was here.
“Are you going to answer my question or continue to stare off into space?”
I sat upright, shaking my head from my thoughts. “Right, yeah. What was the question again?”
“Why are you here? I haven’t heard about any world catastrophic events, so either you’re hiding before it happened or you’re hiding because someone found out.”
Narrowing my eyes at him, I responded, “Did anyone ever tell you how annoying you are?”
He smiled as he sat back in his chair, folding his arms in front of him. “Not to my face, or if they did, they permanently reside here now.”
Why was he so smart and how did he know I was hiding something? Why are my friends so in tune with my emotions? Fuck. I was getting restless again sitting here. I jumped up faster than I thought I could and paced behind the chair, bending and playing with my hands as I tried to think of a way to tell him, without telling him, so technically he wouldn’t get in trouble, too. Ha! Funny, right? Me, worried about the King of The Underworld in trouble.
“We’re friends, right?”
“We’re family, Atë. So by definition that’s more than friends.”
I shook my head closing my eyes. “I know that, but I mean we’re friends, too. Like if I told you something, you wouldn’t tell anyone else? Not even Persephone.”
His voice turned serious once more. “I can’t make that promise until you tell me what you’re talking about.”
I turned again, almost a hundred percent sure I was burning a hole in the stone floor beneath me with my pacing. “I’m serious, Hades. You can’t tell anyone. No matter what. Not even if it’s your own brother.”
He moved so fast I didn’t even have time to react. He grabbed me by the arms, stopping me from my pacing. Ridiculous, he’s way too large to move that fast. At least that’s what I told my rational brain. He was taller than me by at least a few feet, which meant I had to look up at him when he spoke. I knew he’d be angry If I mentioned any of his brothers. He loved them more than anything, so why did I think telling him this would be a good idea? I met his gaze, knowing I was right. If his vision could blaze, by the pits of Tartarus they would, because that’s exactly what it felt like now. They held anger, but also something else. Worry.
“What did you do?” he enunciated every word as he kept me in place.
I didn’t like the feeling of being trapped and that’s exactly what it felt like in his vise-like grip. I knew better than to fight him, I’d only lose. This was his world, his domain. So, I did the one thing I hated. I told the truth.
“It’s not really what I did, it’s more of what I was told to do.”
“What does that mean? Atë, you know you are a Goddess. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, regardless of who asks.”
I sighed tilting my head back so I didn’t have to look at him, tears pricking my eyes. “Even if it’s someone you kind of look up to?”
“Let me go, please,” I asked and he let go almost immediately, stepping back a few paces, too. “I’m not exactly the good guy in this, either. I may have done this in another act of rebellion.”
“Zeus has been…” I paused, trying to think of the words, “different lately. With me. He’s always kept an eye on my powers, so to speak, but lately, he has seemed annoyed.”
“My brother usually handles his problems if he’s annoyed with them, and you look to still be standing.”
“He visited the Moirai,” I blurted out. I hadn’t told anyone that. Not Eros, Not Clio, Gods, not even Melinoë. It had been eating away at me for weeks and I told no one. I watched as Hades’ brows furrowed, taking in what I just told him.
“How do you know?”
“I followed him. He didn’t even realize I was there. He had been growing distant after the last war I helped with and I was concerned, I guess. I watched him as he went in, and came out, and he seemed distraught, angry, and he’s been avoiding me ever since.”
“And you think it has something to do with you?”
I shrugged as I felt a tear slide from my cheek. I quickly wiped it away as Hades pretended not to notice. “How could it not? I figured he was mad at me, so I did something I wasn’t supposed to because I’m a vindictive bitch that way. I wanted to give him something to be mad at me about, and now all I feel is this weird, aching pit in my gut.”
He didn’t speak for a moment as he took in everything I had just admitted out loud. The silence was deafening as he contemplated my words. I would have preferred to be tossed in the Pits of Tartarus than listen to this silence. I almost spoke up, then he said one word and one word only.
“What?” I must have heard wrong because he had to be out of his mind.
“What you’re feeling. It has a name, and it’s called guilt.”
“I don’t get those feelings. You do know about the chaos and death I’ve caused, right? Someone like that doesn’t get to feel things like guilt or remorse.”
Hades didn’t miss a beat, he never did. “You do when it’s someone you love. Now tell me honestly. What did you do?”
A sharp knock at the door had us both turning to look. Someone from the outside called Hades’ name. He strode to the door, greeting whomever it was and was reminded of a meeting or such that was due to start soon. I took it as a perfect opportunity to leave, dissipating from his office. I couldn’t tell him, and I’m thankful to whoever knocked that I hadn’t. It would endanger him too, regardless if he was Zeus’ brother. He was right about one thing. I couldn’t hurt the people I loved.