Welcome to the Thursday Thousand! Every week, on Thor’s Day, I will be posting a short story (hopefully) written in advance. The only parameter is that it be, at minimum, 1000 words long. It can be any genre, any length beyond that, and even contain mild cliffhangers! Why? Because some of these will turn into novels, let’s be honest here. Enjoy, and let me know what you think in the comments!

If you’ll turn your attention to The Ferryman, which was my first short story for this project, this one follows it, but with different characters. This is still a short story, but they are linked. You do not have to read The Ferryman (though you totally should, it’s fun and this will be infinitely better with it!) as I will explain anything necessary from that in this. Also, I was definitely supposed to be posting another planet short story today for Mercury, but then I read this webcomic, and well. Here we are.

As a heads up, too, I realize that the end of this is rather abrupt? It’s intentional. Obviously, I’m not done with this world, and I’ve decided that my next venture will finally be in Icarus’ POV.


Things organised neatly

The high table was set, a truly gargantuan thing that stretched across the width of the great hall, the wood ebony black with a rich crimson runner drawn down the center.  The golden plates shimmered beneath the thousands of lit, floating candles, the golden goblets were waiting to be filled, and a massive golden knife was gleaming next to the king’s plate.  He would carve the ceremonial pomegranate, signaling the end of winter.  It was a tradition he loathed, but one he partook in regardless.

The great hall was deep in the cavern, its ceiling yawning up into distant darkness, and its walls smooth from years of fingers trailing over the rock.  There were doorways everywhere, some that led to quiet pools with dripping stalactites above, others that led into the castle itself, winding hallways that often led to someone losing their way until a servant came to bustle them back to the great hall.  There were few who could successfully pass through the maze of hallways, few that the castle let through.

It was far from empty now, women and men alike bustling through the rows of long tables set out, setting cutlery, intricately folding napkins, or checking the shine of the pearls scattered between the centerpieces.  Persephone watched it all from the high table, one of her dark hands wrapped around the arm of the king’s chair.  It was more of a throne, really, though he sulked in it like he did not in the actual throne.  She knew why—the only time he ever sat in this chair was at the end of the season; the only time he ever sat in the throne was with her beside him.  Otherwise, he was hard to keep still.

Persephone lifted her hand, and immediately, one of the women broke away to come hurrying over.  “My queen,” she said as she bowed before the high table.

“Find my husband,” Persephone said, “Bring him—”

A small woman exploded from one of the doorways, her usually unhurried gate spurred into a near sprint.  Persephone watched her, brows drawing together in concern.  Lachesis normally kept her wild orange curls loose around her, but they were tied back now.  Her golden cloak billowed out behind her over black riding pants and a loose grey blouse.  Her mouth was moving, as though muttering to herself, as she streaked across the great hall, deftly wending through the tables, and came straight toward them.

“My lady,” the woman bowed again as Lachesis barreled up the stairs.

Lachesis didn’t even acknowledge her.  And where she normally bowed to Persephone and murmured the respect of her title, now she simply set her hand against the high table and said, “Something has happened.”

The sisters three rarely left their laboratory.  One of them always went beyond the gates to take souls from the ferryman, but never more than one at a time, which meant that they had risked leaving the strings unattended to bring her this news.  Persephone had quietly stilled the hunger of the river, but still, she expected someone to stay with the strings.

Lachesis seemed to read her thoughts, for she said, her words still quick with urgency, “Atropos is keeping watch.  Clotho went to gather Charon’s soul, but she isn’t back yet.  A string broke.  We didn’t snip it.”

Persephone shifted her gaze back to the woman.  “Please bring him to the sisters’ lab.”

“Of course, my queen,” she said, bowing again before she swept away.  Persephone watched her long enough to see her gather back-up; it would be difficult to find the king right now.

When she turned back to Lachesis, the redheaded sister was already walking the length of the high table.  Persephone followed her path, and they met at the end.  Lachesis led the way back through the great hall, explaining as they went, “It’s happened before, strings cut before their time, but not often, and it’s usually a dire accident we didn’t predict.  But this?  My queen, this was violent.  This went against your command to the river.”

“And Charon?” Persephone asked.  She had stilled the river so that he might have a few hours free to roam the mortal world, to see the sun again before he was forced to stay in the underworld like all the rest when spring called her back.

“He was topside,” Lachesis said, shaking her head, “I don’t know if he made it back in time to ferry the soul.  We don’t know anything yet, just that this is wrong.”

They continued through the castle, the cave’s walls smooth and wet in some places, jagged and dripping in others.  Not for the first time, Persephone wished the lab was beyond the castle, out in hell itself, where she could see the blossoms and feel the whisper of wind on her face.  Instead, the lab was deep in the castle, down twisting stairs and into dark, cold air.  When they finally arrived, Atropos was pacing.  She’d cast off her gold cloak, and was in all white beneath, her dark skin dusted with icy glitter across her cheekbones and her dark, cropped curls wild from running her hands stressfully through it.

The lab was brightly lit, which always gave Persephone cause to smile.  People often thought the sisters would work in a dank, dusty hole with only the light of the golden souls to guide them, but the lab was clean and easy to see.  There were comfortable chairs where they lounged, stacks of books and forgotten tea, and a wall of sharp scissors hung up.  In the very middle, a wide and deep cauldron sat, liquid gold swirling lazily inside.  There were two ways to cut a soul’s string—a sister either reached in and drew it out, or a string twirled out, reaching toward the ceiling, and was caught.

When they came down the stairs and into the lab, Atropos abruptly stopped pacing and turned to bow.  “My queen,” she said quickly before she straightened up and looked to Lachesis, “Any word?”

Lachesis shook her head.  “She’s still on her way back, then.  Charon?”

Atropos gestured at one of the tables.  “He made it back in time.”  Persephone looked over to the table to find a crystal orb sitting on a stand, smooth around the edges but with fissures rippling through its innards.  It was clear, no images on it, so she looked back to Atropos.  “We can see hell’s shore enough to find our ferryman,” Atropos explained, “I saw his shadow return.  Among others.”  This last bit was said with an eye roll to Lachesis.

“It wasn’t my decision to tell them,” she said, “Clotho has a soft spot for him.”

“Speak plainly,” Persephone said, aggravation starting to leak into her voice.  This wasn’t how she’d intended to spend her last hours in the underworld, and if this turned into nothing more than wasted time, she was going to be furious.

Lachesis heaved a sigh.  “Clotho told the twins—Hypnos and Thanatos—about your offer to still the river.  They went with her to the shore to adventure with Charon in the human world.  They must have returned with him.”

“There were four shadows on that beach,” Atropos muttered just as a pair of footsteps drifted overhead.

Lachesis leapt over toward the stairs, sticking her head in.  “Clotho?” she called.

“Oh, she was the sweetest!” Clotho exclaimed.

“Have you spoken with Charon since the exchange?”

“No?” Clotho sounded confused.  “Was I supposed to?”

“Damn it all,” Atropos muttered.  “This is bad.  We don’t know who the soul is, or who the culprit was.  My queen,” she turned her dark eyes on her dark queen, “Normally, when a string is cut, it’s a simple, boring process.  Nothing fancy.  Nothing special.  I only just finished hanging the scissors back up and restoring the crystal.  Everything was in chaos down here.  It was like a quake had rocked the cauldron.  That does not happen.  Whoever died definitely wasn’t due to, and whoever killed them is in for a world of danger.”

Persephone sighed.  “It sounds as though our best course of action is to wait for Charon to arrive with the soul.”

“Problem,” Clotho said as she came down the last of the stairs, breathing hard as though she’d run them, “It’s not an exact science, collecting a soul that isn’t due yet.”

Persephone blinked at her.  Clotho looked as though she desperately wanted to look away, but she held the queen’s gaze, though she remained silent.  Persephone looked to Lachesis, who’d trained her green eyes on the floor.  Atropos was already making an exasperated noise when Persephone turned to her.  “What my sisters are refusing to say aloud,” Atropos grumbled, “is that we need to be down here together to figure this out.”

“Ah,” Persephone said, dipping her head in acknowledgement.  “Please send word once you’ve assessed the situation.  I’ll see that Charon is brought to the castle.”  She left without waiting to hear the beginnings of their chatter, though she could hear the twisting murmur of their three voices as she climbed back up the stairs.  She stopped in the great hall to send someone to the gates to meet Charon.  Persephone paused, gaze sweeping over the festivities being prepared again.  She was eager to have everyone in one place again.  They rarely held such grand feasts, and the end of the season was the biggest one.  Despite it, a tendril of cold darkness was started to unfurl inside of her.  She was happy to see everyone again, to have them all in the same room, to dance and laugh and eat with them, but when it was over, so would her time here.

Persephone turned out of the great hall, and she’d only gone a few paces before the woman she’d sent to find the king came around the corner.  “My queen,” she said, bowing hastily, “My deepest apologies.  We have yet to locate the king.”

Persephone waved a hand through the air.  “It’s okay.  Return to the preparations.”

The woman tried to apologize again, but Persephone promised her that it was no trouble.  She’d only half expected them to be successful.  Today was a dark day for the king.

Persephone continued through the castle.  The flickering flames in candles lengthened and brightened as she passed, and little flowers bloomed in the trickling pools of water gathered on the floor.  All around her, hell was starting to sprinkle with spring, a reminder that the season was officially at an end, and that, like many times before, Persephone had nearly overstayed.  Only once, she’d stayed past the end of winter.  They hadn’t thrown an ending celebrated.  She hadn’t come out of her chambers on the last day, just stayed tucked away with the fire blazing and prayed that it would work.

When she woke the next morning, she’d been yanked forcibly from hell and deposited in the mortal world, no goodbyes left lingering in the air.  That spring had been miserable because she hadn’t given herself the time to prepare to leave, and she never did it again.  But she did push it close each time, waiting until the trees were bursting with new buds and the birds were starting to trill with song, and then, when the castle’s walls started blossoming, Persephone finally admitted defeat.

The door to her chambers was closed, the normally pale white wood scarred around the edges with frost and an angry, black gash across the middle.  Persephone sighed.  There were those that did not admit defeat so easily.  She set a hand against the gash, and it threaded back together, little wisps of pink and purple and yellow lightening the darkness until it came back together.  With her other hand, she swept over the frost until it started to melt, and then she gathered the dewdrops in her hand, twisted them together, and closed her fingers over them.  The door was locked, but Persephone whispered to the castle, and it yielded to her easily.

Inside, the room was in gloom.  The lace curtains were in a heap on the floor, replaced by heavy ones that blocked the grey light.  The big bed had not yet been remade, but instead was bare, the soft pink blankets strewn on the floor.  One of the pillows had been thrown clean across the room.  A vase of lilies had been tipped over, water trickling down off the table they’d rested on.  Sorrow swelled in her heart, tangling with the cold darkness there, and Persephone’s throat ached with swallowed tears.

She shut the door behind her and quietly padded through the ruined room, angling around the bed and toward another closed door.  This one was not locked, and as she stepped through, Persephone instinctively inhaled deeply.  Her library was one of her favorite places to be other than the royal gardens.  It was difficult to grow things in the underworld, and the gardens only flourished while she was in residence.  Otherwise, all they had was the thorn wood and the dead forest.  But the library thrived regardless of its inhabitants.

Persephone released the door, letting it slowly fit back into the frame behind her, and stepped farther in.  She looked to the window, where the curtains had not yet been taken down, but the seat there was empty.  She looked to the fireplace, but the coals were dead and the sofa there was empty, as well.  Persephone started to continue in, to take to the shelves and find the small alcove he sometimes hid away in, but then his voice drifted over to her, “Don’t go.”

Persephone closed her eyes, her fisted hand coming to her heart.

Oh, how she yearned to say that this time would be different, that she would stay, that she would wake in their bed in the morning to his smile and the soft touch of his fingers on her jaw and the warmth she only ever felt when he was there with her.  She loved spring, and she missed the sun something terrible, but this—this was worse.

“Please,” Hades whispered.

Persephone turned around, for his voice had come from behind her, and opened her eyes.  Her husband was slumped against the wall next to the door, as though he hadn’t the energy to move from the door once he came into the library.  He was barefoot and still in the pants he’d slept in, loose black material that looked like smoke when he walked.  He hadn’t put on a shirt, either, which meant he’d been hiding since that morning, that he likely hadn’t left their chambers at all.  His olive skin was marred with scars across his chest and around his ribs, wrapping around to his back.  His head was bowed, his dark curls still messy from sleep.  His arms were draped over his knees, his hands hanging loose.

Persephone slowly came over to kneel in front of him.  She unfolded the hand that held the dewdrops, revealing the same sphere of brightness and light.  Hades let out a broken noise when he saw it, his head slumping between his shoulders.  One of his hands twitched, like he wanted to reach out to her.  Persephone took the hand and set the dewdrops in it, closing his fingers over it.  She held onto his hand as she lifted the other to curl around his jaw.  When she tipped his face up, her heart ached.  His dark eyes were not bright with misery, but hollow with nothingness.  His expression was one of despair, and he felt heavy in her hands, like all of it was weighing him down deeper than hell itself.  His eyes fluttered shut as he tipped his face into her hand, and Persephone cursed the damned mortal world that called her back as his exhale fanned out across her wrist.

“If I could spend every morning with this one I love,” she said softly.

“I would rule heaven, not hell,” Hades finished.

Persephone held him a moment longer before she inhaled, trying to fill the air around them with the hope of spring on the exhale.  “Get up, my love.”

Hades let out a shuddering breath, but he started to shift, and Persephone released his face.  Together, they got Hades to his feet, and once there, Persephone stepped close to him.  “I will return,” she said.

“And all will be dark until you do.”  He wrapped his arms around her, and he felt small like this as he pressed his face against her shoulder and just breathed.

Persephone lifted a hand to thread through his curls, the other braced around his back.  “There has been some excitement while you’ve been hiding.”

Hades scoffed gently, his breath huffing hot against her shoulder.  “Hiding,” he mocked.

“And what is this?” she teased as he slowly leaned away.  He gave her a wry grin, and though it lacked in every way, he was trying.  “You’re still in your pajamas.  Imagine what your brothers would say.”

“Surely,” Hades began, his voice going a little higher than its normally deep register, perfectly imitating Zeus, “mine brother wears only the blood of his enemies and the bones of children.  He needn’t even sleep.  He sips their souls for sustenance.”

Persephone pressed a few knuckles against her mouth as she looked up at him, trying not to laugh.

Hades rolled his eyes.  “Come, then, what excitement has there been?”  He led them back through the library into the chambers, his limp badly pronounced without the assistance of his cane.  He ignored the stripped bed and curtains, though he did right the lilies and offered Persephone a sad smile when she swept the water back up into the vase.  She went to their shared closet as he started to peel off the blank pants.

“A string was snipped without the sisters’ say-so,” Persephone said as she flicked through the hanging clothes.  “Our ferryman was not at his station.  Don’t,” she added as she felt the air around them crackle, “I released him.  Styx was calm.”

“Persephone,” Hades sighed.

“I am perfectly allowed—”

“Your soft spot for that boy is very telling,” Hades said, so Persephone stuck her tongue out at him.  Hades’ smile was a little more genuine this time.

“Someone’s gone to fetch Charon and the soul.  The twins were with him.”

“I’m afraid you’ll have to be more specific than the twins.”

The twins,” Persephone repeated meaningfully, and Hades exhaled something that sounded like amusement.

“Ah.  Erebus’ sons, then.  They do seem to always be at the center of trouble.”

“I think it’s likely Hypnos remains the troublemaker,” Persephone said, “Regardless of the situation, it will be nice to see Charon again.”

Very telling,” Hades said, but this time, his voice lacked the bite, and as Persephone turned away from their closet, it was to find him sat on their bare bed, his dark eyes turned over to the curtained window.

“His loneliness is something I understand,” Persephone said as she came over, “But not in this world, my love, you know that.”

Hades closed his eyes, and the pain in his face was almost beyond witnessing.  Persephone dropped the clothes carelessly on the bed and wrapped him away again, pulling him close to her.  “Don’t do this to me,” he said, his voice hoarse as his fingers bunched in her shirt, his arms tight against her sides, “Please.  Don’t leave me.  Not again.”

“It is worse if we do not speak of it,” she said, the tears started to rise in her throat again.

“I can’t do this.”

“Hades,” she said, and nothing more.

This was an old conversation, but it never got easier.  Truthfully, sometimes it was harder.  He was different every year.  Some years, he managed to hold the threads together until she was gone.  But others, he was a shell cracked wide open and he couldn’t rein it in, couldn’t even reach for the threads.

The worst, though, had been the first year they finally started to mean something to each other.  Her coming to the underworld was not as the mortals told it.  She had not been dragged here against her will—at least, not by Hades.  Rather, it was a fate born of deception and collusion between Hades’ brothers, anger that simmered and brewed, none of it Persephone’s fault even if she was the victim.  Those first few years, they’d mostly avoided each other.  Hades had spent much of his time researching a way to break the curse, as they called it then, and Persephone had quietly done the same.  And then, one day, when the castle’s public library drew her up short, Persephone finally dared breach Hades’ chambers, where she knew a personal library rested.  She crept through, moving as quietly as she could, and it was because of this neither of them noticed the other.  Persephone didn’t know about the alcove, and Hades didn’t hear Persephone’s silent footsteps.  It wasn’t until hours later, when Hades came out rubbing his temples and sighing that he finally saw her, and by then, Persephone had fallen into an exhausted sleep at one of the tables.

When she woke, she was in his bed and he was sitting at the window, the heavy curtains on the floor.  “Let’s work together,” he said, and that was the beginning of the end for them.

That year wasn’t the worst of them, and neither was the next.  No, it would not be until some years into their careful courtship that it all unraveled.  Nearly a decade into her stay in the underworld, just as the celebrations for the end of the season were beginning, a feast that was only a few years old, Persephone realized no one had seen the king since that morning.  What she found, she spoke of to no one.  What she found was a Hades she did not recognize, a man torn into pieces, someone who looked at her with such hopelessness that Persephone looked at her own self, looked at the things she had been locking away, and it drew her to her knees, drew Hades into her arms, drew a kiss to his brow and a whispered promise that would linger between them until the end of days, I will come back to you always.

At length, Hades found his threads and yanked them back into place.  She felt the shift as his shoulders grew a little straighter, and she released him only for him to reach for her, to draw her close, to press the coolness of his mouth against the warmth of hers.  “Hades,” she whispered, trying to keep her distance, but a fire burned between them that Hades stoked and that Persephone didn’t know how—nor did she want to—to keep quiet.

She let him gather her against his body, let him turn them onto the bare bed, let his hands trail along her body until his fingers were slipping beneath her shirt, let the sharp bite of his mouth collapse down her throat and over to her shoulder, and she had every intention of letting it all unfold, but a knock came on the door, and Hades’ head whipped up.  Persephone clapped a hand over his furious mouth as she called out, “Just a moment!”

He bit her hand, so Persephone flicked him square in the forehead.  “Get dressed,” she said as she slipped out from under him.

She could feel the heat of his anger radiating off of him, but he threw himself off the bed and grabbed the clothes.  Persephone peeled open the door only enough that she was visible.  A man dipped into a bow.  “My queen, the ferryman awaits you in the throne room.”

“Thank you,” Persephone said, “We’ll be along shortly.”

The man’s eyes went wide as they briefly flickered behind her.  Persephone smiled and shut the door before she turned around.  “How many of them have you terrified today?” she demanded.

Hades lifted an eyebrow at her.  “And what makes you think any of them could find me?”

“You’re hopeless,” she said, meaning it in a light manner, but Hades nodded.

“Yes,” he said, his voice heavy with the sorrow that lingered at his edges.

“Enough,” Persephone said, “We need to deal with whatever’s happened.”

“In that?” Hades asked, jerking his chin at her.

Persephone looked down at herself, and sighed.  She was still in clothes meant for setting up preparations.  As Hades shrugged into a black jacket that had wide lapels and tails, Persephone descended on their closet.  She’d long since given up trying to convince Hades to wear anything but black, and so many of her clothes were in soft colors.  While he wore a sharply tailored suit that made the cut of his jaw and shoulders that much more defined, Persephone slipped into a flowing golden gown.  It rustled around her in layers of chiffon with two rope straps and pink flowers wrapped around the middle.  She reached for a bottle of fine gold as Hades’ cane thumped across the floor, bringing him to her.  She dusted the gold across her collarbone and down between the soft dip between her breasts as Hades laid his cane against her dressing table and swept her long, dark hair into his hands.  His fingers brushed against her neck before his mouth came to her ear, and his words were nothing more than breath, “You look like the sun.”

Persephone looked up at them reflected in the mirror—her dark skin a match for his paler olive skin; her gold for his black; their dark eyes, hers that would lighten with bursts of green and gold the longer she lingered in the human world, and his that would ripen into ruby red the more he was alone.  His eyes fluttered shut again, and he leaned his nose against the hair still gathered in his hands, just breathing.  She stayed, letting them have this last shared moment of privacy as she stared at him through the mirror, the king, her husband—her only love, truly—that she would miss more than she missed the sun.

But after a few breaths, Persephone gently eased away, and Hades’ face was clear of the emotion he wore so easily around her.  He looked like the king of the underworld now, like someone who dealt death easily.  “Shall we, my love?” he asked, taking up his cane with one hand and holding out the other for her.

Persephone set her hand in his, and he led them out.  “My king,” the man still waiting outside stuttered as he hurried to bow, “The stewards will be happy you’ve come out.”

“Come out,” Hades muttered, “Like I was a child playing hide and seek.”

“Well,” Persephone said as she tugged him away.

The walk to the throne room was done in silence, Hades’ cane the only sound, the queen’s feet bare and quiet as always, and Persephone was glad for it, for what came next were moments of chaos and uncertainty, moments that would steal the last of the calmness she had on this day.  The walk was the last time she was even remotely alone with her husband, and the following day, when she woke in a valley of flowers, she would think back on this walk, on the coolness of Hades’ hand wrapped around hers and the steady beat of his heart, always in time with hers, and she would be glad they’d had that moment.

For when they arrived in the throne room, they made it only a few steps inside before Hades drew them to a stop and Persephone let out a shocked exhale.  “Oh, gods,” she said.

Charon was standing with the twins, Hypnos and Thanatos, the three of them separate from a fourth.  The twins were normally only similar in their blonde hair, but now, both of them wore the same expressions of uncertainty, and Hypnos had dropped his usual swagger to stand closer to his brother.  Charon always reminded Persephone of herself, it was true, in that they shared the same sadness, the same loneliness, but it was Hades that made her so fond of Charon.  They both wore the same scowl, both despised talking to people unless necessary, and both tried—and failed miserably—to hide behind stony faces.  They even looked similar—Charon had dark hair and dark eyes, never wore anything but black, and was currently looking at the queen with sadness at the edges of his expression.

But it was not Erebus’ twins, was not Charon’s sadness, that drew their attention.

No, it was the man they stood apart from—he had golden skin, sun-kissed blonde hair, a mouth that looked made for smiling, and enormous charred wings between his shoulders.

Persephone recovered first.  She released her husband’s hand and quietly walked away from him, forcing herself not to stare at the winged man.  “Charon?” she asked.

Charon did not do her the service of allowing the illusion to last.  “Chaos killed Icarus,” he said, and they devolved into madness.

Chaos was an old, old legend that Erebus, father to this trio of boys, was told to have locked away at the beginning of all time.  Chaos was a monster that lurked in children’s nightmares.  Chaos was one of the few beings outside of the sisters and Zeus that could wield death.  And Icarus, another legend, one that had resided peacefully on earth for some centuries now.  Legends were not easily killed, but that one had killed another—this stank of oncoming war.

Hades did not bother with asking how Charon knew it was Chaos—the old god was easy to recognize, and Charon would never trouble them with something unless he was certain.  He did not order Icarus locked away, either—it was difficult enough escaping the underworld, and in a matter of hours, it would be impossible.  Nothing left until Persephone returned.  He did not, as his brothers might have, try to instill fear in their unexpected guest, either.  Instead, Hades paced over to Icarus, with his proudly lifted head and his burnt wings, and Hades asked, “How is Helios?”

Persephone looked away.  Anything else might have been less cruel.  As it was, Icarus’ pride crumbled, and he looked down, away from the king.  He did not answer.  He didn’t need to.  For despite all his pride and his status as a legend, he was stood before one of the most powerful gods of all time, one that knew his secrets and would wield them against him should Icarus try anything.  Persephone knew why Hades had leapt so quickly to this specific cruelty, too, for then he said, “Our guest will join us tonight, and we’ll discuss what happens next in the morning.”  He didn’t look back to her, but he didn’t have to.  Zeus himself could have descended from on high, and Hades would have ignored his presence.  It was his last night with his wife, and Persephone knew that nothing would sway Hades’ attention from her.

Charon flinched, understanding, as well.  He had brought Icarus here now hoping that they might avoid the Hades of tomorrow.  Persephone had never experienced that version of her husband, the one without her, but she’d heard plenty of stories.  She sighed, extending one of her hands toward Hades.  “Charon, stay,” she said, “There’s no point going back to the beach now.  I’m sure the sisters three would enjoy a visit from you.  The river remains satiated.”

“Thank you, my queen,” he said, bowing.

Hades turned back to her, his hand finding hers, and when she looked up at him, some of his threads had snapped.  She gently pressed a kiss to his knuckles.  He dipped his head, his fingers tightening around hers.

“Icarus,” Persephone said as she looked over at him, “I am sure you have many exciting stories to tell, and it looks like you could use some rest.”  Her gaze drifted briefly to one of his wings, and she watched him swallow.  She wondered how long it had been since he’d seen them, and if the burns still hurt.  “Come.”  She released Hades’ hand to reach out to Icarus.  “We’ll see that you are properly prepared for the feast tonight.”

As she left the throne room, Persephone looked back, something she tried to do as infrequently as possible, to find Hades already gone, hidden again until the feast began and he appeared beside her suddenly, a mask of indifference on his face and all of his threads neatly stitched together.  And though he would dance with her and smile as she laughed, when she woke in the morning, it was alone and with the tears in her throat finally spilling over.