The party was starting to break up. The first to leave was Odin, because Loki’s kid and replacement kept pranking him—with a suddenly leaking cup, a habanero slice slipped into his nachos when he wasn’t expecting it, and finally the seam in the seat and crotch of his trousers letting go (exposing to the world that the ruler of the Norse pantheon went commando).
Honestly, I was glad to see him go. No man wants to see another’s junk suddenly appear like that.
Hera was next, taking Hermes with her. I understood what they were trying to do, and I had tried to help, but apparently his sense of guilt for Loki’s death was affecting him too hard. I wasn’t sure if he’d even noticed that they’d drug him here to begin with.
Hephaestus helped her get Hermes up and to the door, but didn’t go with them.
Surprising, that. Really. Because he and Sigyn hadn’t gotten along at all, if you went by all the almost-flirting going on.
The door creaked open—strange, that, since Lucifer kept the hinges oiled—and three ancient women drifted through.
I cursed. Floridly. But quietly, since I didn’t want to be turned into something small, slimy, and easily stepped on. Persephone turned pale beside me, clutching her rounding belly and closing her eyes, lips moving with no sound. I put my arm around her shoulders, feeling helpless, and heard her breathe, “Please, oh please, pass me by.”
I agreed with her sentiment.
The Fates drifted past behind Kyra, tapping her on the shoulder, and motioning for her to follow them. Atropos caught my eyes, and gestured for me to follow.
I kissed my wife on the temple. “Sweetheart, they’re not here for you,” I whispered against her hair. I felt her sag against my side, and passed her over to Hel. “They want to talk to me, for some reason.”
Her frightened gaze haunted me as I followed the Fates and Kyra up the stairs to the private loft rooms.
If whatever this is causes her to miscarry again, I swear I will find a way to fuck over the ones who cause it. Even if it is the Fates.
The trip up the stairs was silent, and I blinked as they pushed open a door to a well-appointed conference room, complete with five comfortable, high-backed office chairs around a circular table. The fates took the chairs toward the back, leaving the other two for Kyra and me. I glanced at her, then shrugged, pulling her chair out. “Luc told me that they had a job for you, but I have no fucking idea why I’m here,” I muttered as she sat.
The fates all turned an identical glare on me.
“If you were patient—“
“—and would give us a chance to speak—“
“—we would be happy to explain.”
Note to self: learn to keep your fucking mouth shut around these three, since you can’t avoid fucking cussing. I gulped, nodded, and sat down in the empty chair.
“You, goddess of war—“
“—have a sister.”
“Your sister is causing problems.”
Kyra nodded once. “What would you have me do?”
“Hunt her down.”
“Stop what she’s doing.”
Kyra leaned forward, sighing. She set her elbows on the table, and rubbed her hands over her face. “What is she doing now?” she groaned.
“Breaking rules she is not to break.”
“Taking lives she is not to take.”
“Stealing things she is not to…take.” The other two Fates stared at the third. “What? It’s the best I could do on short notice! It’s not like we discuss how to freak people out before we interact with them?”
I snorted. While funny, it didn’t tell me why I was there.
“Do you want her captured or dead?” Kyra asked, shooting me a sideways glance.
“She is not sane.”
Fuck. I had a feeling that I knew where this was going, after I took responsibility for Pan and Loki.
“She must be captured—“
“—so that she can be curbed and confined—“
As one, they turned to me, and spoke in unison: “Which is where you come in.”
“And there is worse,” Clotho said quietly.
“Your wife carries—“
“—the new god of nature.”
I’d come stomping back down the stairs after the meeting with the Fates and Kyra, in more than a bit of a bad mood, only to find the only ones still in the tavern were Hephaestus, Kyra’s boy-toys, and my girls. Hephaestus was looking good—that mecha suit he’d designed seemed to be doing its work, and doing it well—and seemed happier than I’d seen him since the drunk bitch Aphrodite had entered the picture.
“Hello, Uncle,” he greeted as I went to move past him to my girls. “I hear from certain sources you’re going on a road trip.”
“Certain sources, huh. That wouldn’t happen to be the nosy devil behind the bar, would it?” I asked dryly.
Hephaestus shrugged and nodded. “I asked why you’d been summoned upstairs, and he told me. Is it true?”
“Unfortunately,” I sighed. “I’ve been roped into this because of having the facilities to house the powerfully insane, like Pan and Loki. Personally, from some of the things I’ve heard this evening, I think Deshayna needs to be chained to a rock until she fades, but that’s not what the fates want to happen.”
“So…are you going on a road trip?” he asked, rocking forward onto his toes, then back to his heels—something he hadn’t ever been able to do before.
“Yup,” I said sourly. “I’m going to be separated from her. Again. For only the Fates know how long this time.”
“Not necessarily,” Hephaestus said, smiling. “I’ve got just the thing. Why don’t you bring your wife and girlfriend to my place in a bit? I’ve got a little to do to finish getting what you need ready for you.”
I shrugged. “Pretty much anything beats the bike for this purpose, but if you’ve got a nice, big SUV or van, that would be ideal.”
Hephaestus laughed and set a hand on my shoulder. “Not quite, but close. Persephone will love it, I promise. And it’ll reduce stress on her.”
“That’ll be a good thing,” I said moodily. This shit could not have come up at a worse time. “She’s pregnant again. And it’s looking like she’s going to keep it, this time.”
“Really?” Hephaestus exclaimed, a delighted smile spreading across his face. “That’s wonderful! That makes what I’ve got for you absolutely ideal!”
I sighed. “Do you know how much longer you’re going to be?”
“Yup. I’m heading home now. Give me a few minutes, then come on over. Come through the house, and through the door in the kitchen to the workshop. It’s in the garage, just past the workshop part.”
Hephaestus, uncharacteristically, leaned in and hugged me before he left.
Huh. Guess with that bitch of a wife gone, I had the nephew I used to have back. The more I thought about it, the more I suspected that her complete and total unwillingness to touch him in any way affected his willingness to touch his own family, who loved him, and didn’t care about his deformities.
Enough with this girly shit. I shook myself and turned back to my girls…only to find them arguing quietly.
“Sephie, I really don’t want you to go with us,” Hel said quietly, earnestly, leaning over the small table that they’d snagged when the rest of the Norse started getting rowdy (the ones still there, at any rate).
“Why not? So you can have Hades all to yourself, you selfish bitch?” she snapped. “News flash: he’s my husband, and has been my husband for much longer than we even knew you existed.”
Hurt flashed in Hel’s eyes, and she shook her head. “That’s not it, Sephie. I’m worried about you. I know how hard it is to be out in the open, and we’re going to be out in the open for gods only know how long. And you’re pregnant. I don’t want anything to be harder on you than it absolutely has to be. I love you as much as I love Hades.”
I stepped up my pace toward the small table as I saw Persephone’s eyes well up. Persephone in tears always undid me.
And then I noticed that, no matter how fast I moved, I wasn’t getting closer to my girls. I spun to snarl at Lucifer, only to find him gone. In his place were three old women. And one of them was motioning for me to come over to them.
“Shit,” I whispered, closing my eyes. I took a deep breath, groaned, and scrubbed my hands across my face. I so didn’t want to mess with the Fates right now.
But, instead of tucking my tail and running like the little bitch I was in the face of their power, I gathered up my manhood, and took a single step toward them—
--only to find myself suddenly belly up to the bar I’d been half way across the room from, only moments before.
Fucking creeps me out when they do that.
“Hades—“ said the one on the left.
“—son of Cronos—“ continued the one in the middle.
“—Lord of one of the Underworlds—“ added the one on the right.
“We greet you,” they finished in unison.
I stepped back from the bar a bit and bowed, saying nothing. Safest with these bitches, as I’d learned the hard way, longer ago than I cared to think. It was a painful lesson.
“You must take both of your wives with you on this journey.”
“Both have roles to play.”
“And one is carrying his grandmother’s replacement.”
I felt my jaw drop. “Huh?”
All three crones giggled. “The son of the Lord and Lady of the Underworld—“
“--is needed on the surface world as a Lord of Life and Nature—“
“—because of the vicious betrayal of the renewal of life Demeter perpetrated upon her own daughter.”
“The child must not be taken into the underworld. Not even now,” the three finished in unison.
I blinked, nodding slowly. “I understand,” I said quietly. Bitterly.
My son would be taken from us before we could properly enjoy having him. And we would have no more choice about it than I’d had when Zeus made that fucking bargain with Demeter that ripped my wife from my side for half of the year every year. And it was because of that fucking bargain.
I glanced over my shoulder at the girls—who were now huddled together, holding each other and crying—then back toward the crones.
Well, where they had been, anyway. Lucifer stood there, looking completely gob-smacked. “Hades,” he said slowly. “I really, really hate the Fates.”
“So do I, my friend. Just don’t ever let them hear you say that. You won’t like whatever they’ll cook up in revenge,” I sighed. “Give me some of that unflavored, uncut ‘shine you’ve got back there.”
How was I supposed to tell Persephone?
So, when Persephone, Hel, and I followed Hephaestus through the door to the portal in his laundry room, I wasn’t in the best of moods. When he led us past his workshop into the detached garage, I almost blew a fucking gasket.
He wasn’t offering us his car. Not even a van. Nope. What he was proudly walking the girls around was a fucking giant purple and black abstract patterned Winnebago.
“Hades, come look,” Persephone squealed.
I sighed, pushing myself up from where I’d slumped against the doorway when I’d seen the beast. “Coming, babe. What is it?”
“The windows in the back can be covered to where nobody can see out,” she whispered, leaning against my shoulder.
I wrapped my arms around her, tucking her head under my chin, and shot a look towards Hel. She shook her head, slowly, eyes sparkling. “We are so whipped,” she muttered.
Hephaestus stepped up, rubbing the back of his head. “Yeah, I know it’s not really your style, Uncle,” he said sheepishly, “but I was actually thinking of Persephone, not you. I’ve got a button installed under each of the windows that polarizes the window to the point where they might as well be another wall. No need to rig anything else.”
“This doesn’t seem exactly your style, either,” I said, nodding towards the hideous beast of a motorhome. “Where did you get it, and why?”
Hephaestus’s mouth twisted in distaste, and his eyes went dark. “I got it and fixed it up for the wife who wasn’t,” he said quietly. “Gods, I’m such a fucking sap.”
Hel stepped away from the drivers’ side door where she’d been peering in, and laid a hand on my nephew’s shoulder. “No, kiddo, you’re no more a sap than my step-mother was,” she said quietly. “You were abused. Badly abused, emotionally. You need to go talk to Psyche for a while. I know Sigyn is planning to.”
Hephaestus’s eyes brightened a little, but I wasn’t sure if that was because of the suggestion, or the mention of my girl’s step-mom.
Actually, scratch that. Given the way Hephaestus was almost flirting with Sigyn, I was sure that it was the mention of her name.
I sighed, rubbing slow circles over Persephone’s back, and eyeing the monstrosity that I’d be having to spend gods only know how long driving. “How many does this thing sleep?” I groaned.
Hephaestus smiled and handed Hel the key. “Come on, I’ll give you guys the inside tour. There’s a little kitchen, a three-quarter bath, two king-sized beds—even if the dining area has to be sacrificed for one—and a set of twin-sized bunks.”
“Perfect,” I grunted. “Nice and crowded.”
Hephaestus shrugged. “Hey. I’d do more if I could, but Lucifer has never let anyone see how his bar is set up in the wierdspace department.”
“Wierdspace?” I repeated, quirking an eyebrow and guiding Persephone toward the running board.
“Yeah. I don’t know what else to call it, and it’s definitely not normal,” Hephaestus said cheerfully, taking Persephone’s other hand to help her inside.
I followed, with Hephaestus bringing up the rear…and nearly gagged. Hot pink zebra print does not mesh well with purple tiger stripes, and silver and black leopard. The whole interior was a worse eyesore than the exterior. “Oh, please tell me you can at least do something about the animal prints before we have to leave on this stupid mission,” I groaned.
Hephaestus grinned. “Oh, yeah. It’s easy. Everything’s a slip cover, except the faux wood paneled walls.”
“Do you want to keep the slip covers?” I asked. “’Cause if you do, you’d better get them out of my sight before I set the whole thing on fire.”
Huh. I’d never noticed how well Hel and Persephone harmonized while they giggled. Other noises, yes, but not the giggles.
I eyed the king-sized bed in the loft above the dining area in the back, the narrow, steep stairs up to it, and then my pregnant wife.
Yeah, that’s gonna suck.
But we’ve got our steed.