Updated: Mar 25, 2022
Ever fascinated by the love story of Hades and Persephone (and rejecting the classic patriarchal non-consensual narrative), I wrote this thing back in 2018. I have since found a wealth of wholesome H+P content online, such as Lore Olympus and Punderworld, and I consume them with ferocity. But this sprung out of my head one day (rather like Athena from Zeus), and I‘ve always been proud of it.
I hope you enjoy.
She fell through a hole. They made eye contact. She had no clue the he had been watching her, fascinated.
You see, she was life, the very essence of it, and youth; of joy, innocence, and renewal. She was stunning, fair, ginger haired, and full of color like the fruit and flowers that sprung from her every step.
Though they did not burst forth from the ground here. Here was barren, infertile, “death.” She was entranced by it. By him. It was all so different. Cold. Dark. Grey and icy blue. But there was so much here. It felt empty and full all at once. She had always been surrounded by the immediate, the here and now. This place, this... man was full of something else (later she would learn this word was “history”). It felt very empty. Bare. Not full of the life that she was so used to - her only exposure. But this barren land, though dark and cold, was so full of this “history,” and... something else. She looked around and saw roots and knew they extended to a tree-friend, and she knew there was life down here... though life of a different kind. He denied such things. There was no life down here, he insisted, but she knew he was wrong.
As they walked, they discussed life and death. Well, she spoke long of life, and asked much on the subject of death. He spoke very little. Though his silence was as full as the world around her.
He intrigued her.
She intrigued him.
They were drawn to one another, polar opposites on the same wavelength, sharing one cord, one strand between them.
His eyes, she found, too often landed on her, and when she met them, he looked away. In shame? Embarrassment? It was different from the looks the young men gave her above.
“They want your fruit,” her mother would say. “Don’t let them have it. They steal a kiss first, and it’s your fruit next.”
“But Mother,” she would ask, plucking an apple from the tree the two of them had sprouted countless seasons ago, “Don’t we give our fruit to all?”
“Not that fruit, my dear. My fruit I have given to others, and will continue to give. But not you. Not yet. It is the fruit of your innocence, and you can only give that once.”
She didn’t understand, but she had heeded her mother’s words. When the boys tried to kiss, to touch, she would giggle and shove them off. They wouldn’t have her fruit. It was hers to give, not something to be taken. Something so precious, it could only be given once. She would play with the boys, of course. Flirt, laugh, chase... but that fruit, she kept to herself. She didn’t even know what it was.
“Is it on a tree, Mother? Where is it? How will I know when I see it?”
“You’ll know,” her mother insisted. “When it is ripe, you’ll know.”
This man, he was not like the boys. He was full of mystery, and something she had never known - loneliness, sadness. He was short with his words. Hard. Like a wounded, caged animal. But he was not unkind. There was a gentleness to him.
They walked and passed a table in a great room, and she felt her belly rumble. She moved her hand to grab a hard biscuit...
He turned on her in sudden anger, and knocked it out of her hand. “No!” He shouted, voice gruff and abrasive, as if he hadn’t spoken louder than a whisper in centuries. His eyes blazed blue, the first she had seen them in their full fire, and she jumped back in terror and surprise, her insides cold. “What? Why?”
He was quiet for a moment, realizing his harshness. Then he was gentle, and sad again, his head downcast, not meeting her eyes. “It...you would lose...” He hesitated, closed he eyes “You would lose who you are.”
She didn’t understand. Was this what her mother spoke of? Her fruit? The fruit of her innocence? But this, this was no fruit, it was only a biscuit, and it wasn’t even hers anyway... She was so lost. Perhaps, this stale biscuit was...his fruit? He looked so lonely.
Ugh! She understood nothing and was getting no straight answers! So frustrating!
But her frustration didn’t last long, quickly over taken by her insatiable curiosity. There was so much to see here. So much newness - well, it wasn’t “new,” it was “old...” but it was new to her.
He had wanted to offer her a room while he tried to contact Olympus, to let them know he had found her, to get her home. But they never listen to me down here, he thought to himself, watching her marvel at his dull and ancient halls. He vowed he would take her up on his steeds when he could. But he could only rise to the World Above at night, or with a specific purpose. That purpose had not become manifest, so until nightfall, they were stuck, unless mighty Olympus answered their damned hails for once.
A dog ran up to her. A beast with three heads! She pet them - him - them, such a sweet thing!
“Cerberus likes you.”
“They don’t like anyone.”
“Well, surely they must like you,” she exclaimed, rubbing each of them on the head, scratching behind the ears, nuzzling each one sweetly, filled with delight. He watched them nervously. They bit so easily, especially the right one; the most jumpy. She was too innocent to notice, to lovely to risk... But even the right head appeared docile to her touch. Incredible. It must be that all creatures loved her.
“All creatures.” Did he include himself in that multitude? It was so easy to fall madly in love with her. He had always been suspicious of such infatuation, a stark contrast to his brothers. The heart was not something to trust. He had seen too many enter his halls with a broken one, never to be mended, as the Styx passed them by in their agony century after century. Passion was a poison. An illusion. He tried in vain to convince himself of this yet again, but even in this dismal place, the sweet smell of her joy washed over him like the flowers that sprang from her feet Above, and he found it even harder to resist, now that he was actually in her presence.
He had never meant to spy. Not at first. He had the responsibility to look Above regularly, to check on patterns, plagues, wars; to prepare for the coming masses. And he kept tabs on Olympus. Always. It was necessary. Otherwise they would both figuratively and literally go over his head in important matters the he by right must be included in. He wouldn’t let them forget he was down here. They had come to treating it as exile, as punishment. How small-minded of them, how typical. To claim that the elevation must have addled their brains would be too kind. This was no exile. His brothers overpopulated the world without heed to where their progeny would all end up. No. This, what he did here, was a sacred duty. So he kept his eye on the World Above just to know, to keep watch. He hadn’t planned on the growing desire to return his gaze to Demeter’s fair daughter.
He hadn’t even realized he had been watching her more often than the others, and for no real purpose either, just for the joy of watching the flowers sprout where she stepped, her fair red hair falling in front of her face as she laughed and ran barefoot in the sun...
When he had finally noticed what he had been doing, that his innocent fascination has blossomed into desire, he couldn’t stop it any longer. He had told himself many times to just watch Above for patterns, to check on Olympic politics objectively, just long enough to stay informed, then turn his gaze again to his responsibilities Below, not to look at the girl, don’t look at the girl... but he always gave in.
Even just seeing her smile made him feel less lonely, as if she had enough life in one laugh to awaken the whole of the Underworld. Watching her made him feel more alive, more vital in some way. Watching her, he could remember what he was working for, the value of his responsibility. Watching her reminded him how precious life was, how empty his subjects had become, and the importance of his duty to their keeping. Had it been so long? How jaded had he become? Watching her, almost daily now, had become his only joy, and a reminder of his reason for being. She made the entirety of the Underworld feel as Elysium, at least to him. So a few days ago, when he had first seen the hole, he didn’t immediately plug it up.
It was foolish, and irresponsible. He was ashamed of his frail hope, and his utter selfishness. And now here she was, the fruit of his negligence. Exactly where she did not ever belong, and it was all his fault. What a fool, he cursed himself. A damned, selfish fool. He should have sealed up that hole the instant he saw it. He never should have allowed this. She doesn’t belong here in these freezing stone halls gazing upon his monstrosity of a dog. She was life among the dead. What did he hope to achieve by wishing her here? For her to stay? Be his bride? Damned fool. Damned sorry, stupid, tired, lonely, hopeless fool. To take life from the living. Why the very World Above would crumble to frozen ash. And then where would the entire population go? Here. Why it was enough managing the ever increasing population here already! Not to mention that everything that made her *her* would be lost forever. No. He was foolish - he was cruel to have brought her this far. He should have helped her right back up that hole. He shouldn’t have even gone to meet her. He should have sent someone to see to her return. Seeing her now, actually meeting her, hearing her voice speak directly to him, touching her hand...
What if she had eaten that biscuit? If he hadn’t been fast enough? If he had let her? It would have all been over. And then what would have happened? Think of the chaos in Olympus! They would have never let him live it down. They trusted him so little already. And Demeter. She would never forgive him. And the girl - Persephone herself would become a prisoner, as he was, fated to a world that couldn’t give her the life that she craved, the life that she needed. She would resent him. An eternity detested by the woman he loved.
Love? Was this what love was? Damnation, what a word. What a concept! “Love” was what his eldest brother called his dalliances with many a mortal and immortal woman. “Love” was what that intruder Aphrodite called her flirtations with Ares - thorn in his side that he was - when she had a perfectly good and loyal husband already!
“Love.” If this was love, this thing that brought chaos to gods and mortals alike, he wanted none of it.
“Don’t you think so, Hades?” He looked down on her, still laughing with his dog. She had been speaking to him. He had completely missed it, absorbed in his private world, again.
His name, he realized suddenly. She had called him by name.
“I...I wasn’t aware you knew who I was.”
“You said you were lord of this place, when you helped me up. After I fell, remember?” She laughed and stood, combing her light hair back out of her face with her fingers. “This is the Underworld, isn’t it? I’ve heard so many stories...”
“And what have you heard about it?”
“That it’s where the Dead live, and that it’s cold, dark, and scary.”
“Sorry to disappoint you with the truth.”
“No!” Her eyes grew wide, looking up at him. “It’s not scary at all! It is cold, and dark, but I think it’s beautiful.”
Hades raised an eyebrow.
“It is,” she insisted, lingering on the last word. She came closer, as if completely unaware how intimate her closeness was. She gestured with one hand around the room, her gaze following her hand. Her other hand lightly and casually steadied herself upon his chest. Hades’ breath left him. She took no notice, still presenting his own room to him. “There is so much here I hadn’t seen before. I can’t describe it.”
She ran to the wall. Her hand slowly peeled away from him, and it felt an eternity before his breath returned. “Like this!” She shouted, gesturing to a dark tapestry. “What is this?”
It was Etruscan. He had made it himself, long ago, based on the tales some of his people had told him when they had first arrived. He used to do these things. Paint, weave, sculpt. He used to actually listen to the tales of the new arrivals.
He used to care.
He told her about the tapestry. He didn’t know why he told her. He had already decided and had told himself again and again that it would be best for everybody if she went back Above as quickly as possible, as untainted as possible. But something pulled at him. Her pleading eyes, wanting to know more, hungry for it; he couldn’t deny her. She requested it, he granted it. He took her everywhere.
He showed her everything in his home: the catacombs, the river, everywhere she asked. Her curiosity was insatiable. The history, the tales, what everything was, and the eternal “why.” There was much he couldn’t tell her, not fully, not without spoiling her. He answered until she was satisfied, which was easy enough, as she would flit from one topic to the next. She had the attention with the lifespan of a flower, and everything she gazed upon was just as beautiful to her.
He was afraid to take her to the lake. He almost didn’t, but she had heard the wailing as they passed, and insisted. Nervous, but unable to deny her, he showed her.
“How long have they been there?” She asked, her eyes wide, gazing at their suffering.
“Some of them, millennia.”
“By the Titans...” she breathed. “There’s so many of them. Why are they so sad?”
“They miss life. The life they once had, or could have had, in the World Above. With their families, their loved ones, the ones they leave behind when they come here. They forget how it feels to be alive, but they remember how it is supposed to feel, and they know they lack it. It is...” he hesitated to finish, realizing how familiar his description felt, “...a miserable existence.”
She turned to him, the face of innocent idealism. “And you can’t do anything to ease their suffering?”
“It is the way of life, that all that lives must die.”
“I know, I’ve seen it,” she said, looking again at the Lake of Souls. “The wolf eating the rabbit, the bones crunching, the blood left on her jaws. I have seen delicate flowers crunch under ignorant boots. I once followed a caterpillar from egg to butterfly. I watched it from Artemis’s crescent bow to her full glory before it’s wings fluttered its last. I have seen dying.”
“This is not dying. Dying is what the living do, though it is the final thing the do. Dying is an action. This is not action. This is death. Being dead. Complete inaction. Just existence.”
“But...if people knew - I’ve seen the old leaving the young, the weeping at the loss. If they only knew their loved ones were here, they could come visit them, and they could do more than just exist! They wouldn’t be so lonely any more! Not for forever, just a few minutes.”
“That’s all you have to say? Why not?”
“Nature won’t allow it. The Living among the Dead...” his eyes flashed blue and met hers for a long moment, “it is impossible.” He saw the pain on her face, and he tried to soften the blow, realizing his unintended cruelty. “I’m sorry.”
“But you, and me - we aren’t dead. Why can we -”
“We are the Immortals. It is our lot to care for the mortals of this world; the living, and the dead. We have a different set of rules we must follow.”
“I know,” she sighed. He didn’t like seeing her brow furrow in resignation. “It’s just so sad.”
“It is the way of it,” he said, turning his face away. “There is no sense trying to change what is.”
Persephone looked at him. He looked even sadder than the souls in the lake. How long had it been since he remembered what life felt like? Had he ever known? Had he ever felt the grass beneath his feet? Had he ever run with rabbits in the springtime sun? Tasted a crisp apple?
She supposed not. He was stuck here, wasn’t he? With his own set of rules, like he said. “How come I never see you above ground, in the living world?”
He wouldn’t meet her eyes. “It’s complicated.”
“But don’t you belong in Olympus with the other gods? Aren’t you one of us? Don’t you miss your family?”
“Persephone, I...” he almost told her everything. Almost confessed how she had been able to venture here; confessed his feelings for her, the pain of his miserable existence, the unfairness that keeps the world in balance, but no. He must not. He would not. It was not his place to break her innocence. That was her gift, her purpose. Her innocence and her joy.
His tone changed from apathy to almost youthful excitement. “I want to show you something.”
The air grew warmer as they walked. Color replaced grey, and pleasant music sounded louder in the ears than the distant wailing. Persephone’s heart beat quicker. She looked up to where he walked beside her. He smiled at her, actually smiled. They turned the corner, and she was awash with gold.
Fields! Golden fields as far as her eyes could see! Warm like summer, like bread! Rich and fragrant like fruit and flowers. The music, the laughter, the feeling of joy! Was she still in the Underworld? She gazed back and forth at the gold before her, and the grey beside her, eyes asking for an answer to her blissful confusion.
“Persephone, this is Elysium.”
“Elysium...” she tried the sound of the word on her lips. A place of life among the dead. But no...he had made it clear that was impossible. And yet, she looked before her, and it was life! She recognized it!
But then she looked closer. The golden wheat wasn’t growing. It was just...there. There was no risk here, no frailty, no possibility. This wasn’t life, it was a reminder of it. A picture of what was. But how beautiful it was. A way to remember life in joy, and beauty. And love.
“You like it?” He asked hopefully.
“It’s beautiful,” she beamed, and his heard leapt. “You must visit here often.”
“Sometimes,” he admitted. “Not too often. Most there aren’t too fond of my presence.”
“No?” She was shocked. “You are the lord of this place! It is you who keeps them in such comfort! How could they not appreciate what you do for them?”
“Most mortals spend their lives paying homage to the lords of Olympus, the bright gods of earth and sea and sky, of love and craft and war, the spoils of life. They spend their lives fearing to ever meet me. Most of them end up like the poor souls we just passed in the lake. Elysium is reserved for the most celebrated fallen warriors. They have earned the privilege to spend eternity in paradise. They get to forget the troubles of their lives, and enjoy never ending happiness; the reward for their valor. Some honorable men are grateful, but most see my presence as a reminder that they are dead, and they remember that others are not so fortunate as they. Some feel guilt at this comparison, and it shatters the picture of paradise. It is easier for them to forget the reality most suffer and just enjoy their spoils.”
“The Living are the same,” she said, just now realizing the truth of it.
“There are few with the compassion - or the energy - to care for those less fortunate. Mortal and immortal alike; we are all the same in this.”
Persephone felt her heart twist uncomfortably. “That’s awful.”
She looked back at the glorious golden fields and felt them tarnish. It seemed now as if the strong, vibrant wheat would crumble to dust if she were to touch it. The music in her ears became water, and all was wailing. She turned to the man beside her, once a dull grey, now a rich black, as dark as the deepest, most fertile loam. He gazed out upon the fields of Elysium. What did his blue eyes see? People who shunned him. People who feared him, hid from him, cowered in his presence.
“You spend eternity with people who fear and avoid you,” she whispered with gentle pity. “No one else? No one to talk to, ever?”
“It is what it is.”
He turned his face to hers, firm. “It is not for us to change the fate of the world, only to facilitate it within our means. This is my responsibility, and I’ve accepted it.”
Persephone’s eyes grew wet. A pain filled her heart like none she had ever known. It bled with his words. She stepped closer to gaze at this man, so gentle, so very lonely. Could he even see how kind he truly was? Could he fathom his own beautiful depths past the loneliness of his state? She couldn’t imagine a life like this for anyone.
She felt something stir within her. A leap, a butterfly’s wing. Who was this man? His face chiseled from stone; his eyes, broken steel. She realized that she knew exactly who he was, and yet didn’t know at all, and that excited her. He was a mystery, an adventure, a past, and a future. She couldn’t put her finger on why or how, but in the next few moments, as a tear fell from her face, wetting the ground at her feet; she felt her hand move to his cheek, raised herself up on her toes to meet his lips, and kissed him.
Hades’ spine stiffened. His eyes opened wide. What was this girl doing? What in the name of Chronos? He must back away, he must stop her. But he couldn’t move. He was paralyzed. A force of gravity he could not explain held them together in that instant. Her eyes were closed. Titans, she was beautiful; as if light itself radiated from her, filling the dark world around him with morning. He could feel the warmth from her, the curve of her hips, her breasts, the beating of her heart, alive with fire, her hand on his face, her soft lips on his.
In a moment, he was alive. In an instant, he decided. This was no longer something that was happening to him involuntarily, not just something he dreamt about in mingled desire and horror. No more fighting the feeling. No more sorrowful, hopeless avoidance. No more trying to protect the girl. Despite his futile attempts to keep her safe, she herself chose this, and he would choose back. He silenced the voice in his head that shouted this was foolishness, and dove into her. He wrapped his arms around her, pressing her closer, closing his eyes, giving into the kiss with ferocity.
Something broke in Persephone. Shattered. It was a bit painful, a bit frightening, but liberating. Exciting. She didn’t know how to define it, but when she opened her eyes and finally parted from this man whose arms she was still entwined in, she felt...different. Her face still wet, she smiled at him, and laughed. His face became one of shock at her reaction, but she didn’t look at it for long because in a second, she was kissing him again.
When it was over, there was something at her feet. A... plant was there where there wasn’t one before! Not a picture of one, as the fields before her, a real living plant.
“What in all of the Underworld is this?” Hades asked in astonishment. “A plant? Here? You...” He gazed at her in wonder and amazement. “Your power is so great, you can make a living plant to sprout here, of all places?”
I,” Persephone laughed,” I don’t understand! This is a plant I have never seen before! Look at the flowers, look at the fruit!” It was round, as an apple, but rounder, redder. “I know not what it is. This is magical! Quick, we must see!”
It all happened so fast. Faster than she could understand, faster than he could comprehend. With a giddy flourish, Persephone plucked the fruit from its stem, cracked it open with laughter and exclamation, “Look, it’s bleeding!” and “All the bright red jewels inside!” And her fingers - covered in the juices of this strange new hybrid fruit born of the union of their kiss, her tears, and the soil of the Underworld - popped into her lips as quick as she laughed, and she lifted one half of the fruit to her mouth with glee, and bit into it.