September 2nd, 2017

fantasy

Fic: Lost and Found [mythology]

For wetsammy's prompt Mythology: Hera has a secret soft spot for one of Zeus's children.


For some reason Demeter comes to Hera during her campaign to get Persephone back. "She's my child," she tells Hera yet again, wide-eyed and wild-haired, clutching at Hera's hand and arm. Her nails are close-bitten and edged in dirt and blood.

"I am well aware, sister," Hera responds coolly. "I cannot think why you would feel the need to remind me of the fact." She pries her arm loose from Demeter's grasp so that she can reach her cup of ambrosia--fortification seems necessary to deal with the emotional mess kneeling in front of her.

"Because you can talk some sense into Zeus--convince him to make Hades give my daughter back." Demeter clasps her hands together and looks up imploringly at Hera. "Sister, for the sake of our bond--"

"You should've thought of that bond before you slept with my husband," Hera says, with the bitterness that comes from long centuries spent married to a god that will bed literally anything that catches his fancy. "Hades will not harm your daughter, and you know quite well that he's probably feasting her as his most honored queen at this very moment--which is more than any of the other eligible gods would do. She was a maid, and now she is married, and the best you can do is accept it and get back to your duties and stop interrupting the rest of us as we attend to our own."

Demeter's response withers every plant close enough to hear, but Hera just cocks an eyebrow and sips her ambrosia. "Well, that's hardly likely to change my mind. I suggest you be off before you say something truly unforgivable." And while Demeter is half-mad from the loss of her daughter, she has enough sense to shut her mouth and leave rather than call down the wrath of the queen of Olympus.

"Would you be as upset if I was stolen?" Hebe asks, coming out of the corner where she'd been hiding during Demeter's visit. She curls up beside her mother's knee and Hera rests her free hand in the wild curls of her hair.

"And even more," Hera says. "It's good for the sake of everyone that no man is foolish enough to do so." And she offers her cup of ambrosia to the child that will never grow old enough to leave her.

*

"Mother had some very vile things to say about you, Aunt Hera," Persephone says a good while later, after her confession of the pomegranate seeds and Zeus's final decree. She's shed the black of Hades' realm for her mother's green, though a dark ribbon still winds through her copper-colored hair. It suits her better than her maiden gold had.

"Oh?" Hera asks, not that she really cares to hear Demeter's ravings again, even at a remove. But Persephone has always been deferential to her and friendly with Hebe--hence the current joint game of five-stones--so she feigns interest and busies herself with her throw. Even she is subject to chance, and her score is a disappointing nine.

"I thought I ought to apologize on her behalf," Persephone says as Hebe takes her turn, the girl clearly more interested in the game than the conversation. "And thank you for not urging Lord Zeus to sooner judgment." That raises Hera's eyebrows more than anything Demeter had been able to come up with, and Persephone laughs a little in response. "My lord husband is very ... attentive, as you of all the gods might have guessed."

"Then marriage suits you?" Hera asks. Just a glance suggests it does--there's a dignified grace to Persephone that had been lacking when she'd merely been goddess of spring.

"Oh yes," she answers, with a smile that suggests some secret, pleasing thought. "I never thought it would, with the fools who spend their time up here, but down there--" She laughs again. "He is very patient, is my new husband."

"Well, I am glad for you," Hera tells her, and tries to will it so; she'd married Zeus of her own choice, after all, when she was young and foolish and thought power was worth having a husband with a wandering eye. "Not all men are so."

"No," Persephone agrees, suddenly sober again. and she reaches across the table to touch Hera's hand, irking Hebe, whose luck with the stones has yet to run out. "And I am sorry for that too, Aunt."

"Well," Hera says, clasping Persephone's hand in her own, "it is no fault of yours, dear niece." And she is glad to find that she truly means it. "You must be sure to visit here, when you return each spring."

"I will," Persephone promises, and then Hebe squeals, "I've won it--Mother, you owe me cake!" and they all three go down to the Olympian kitchens together, arm-in-arm.