DEMETER SMILED UP AT THE SKY.
The clouds were beginning to fade, but they were still hiding the bright blue color of the sky, and blocking out the warmth of the sun. Their darkness and gloominess would not completely disappear until Demeter held Persephone in her arms. Until she could feel the serene warmth and comfort of her daughter.
Persephone is returning, she thought with a smile. Zeus had told her that she would come back soon, and she knew that by this time, Hermes had descended down into the hell that had been keeping her sweet daughter captive for so long to bring her back.
The ground beneath her bare feet began to soften, the ice slowly melting. It was almost as if the earth was awaiting her return as well, not just Demeter.
The breeze blew softly, and with it came the scent of lilies. It reminded Demeter of Persephone.
Only a bit longer, she thought, until the return of my sweet daughter. My flower.
HERMES ENTERED HADES' PALACE CALMLY.
He had been here many times before, of course. But no matter how many times he had come down here, the Underworld still shocked him with its darkness and wickedness.
And then he saw him.
"I'm never surprised by your ability to be annoyingly punctual, Hermes," Hades muttered, loud enough for the messenger god to hear his sardonic tone.
"I follow my orders."
Hades laughed mockingly. "Of course you do."
Hermes sighed, ignoring the insult. "Give me the girl, Hades. Demeter is impatient."
"I know very well the mood of Demeter, you fool. I have known it for ages. I hope you aren't foolish enough to believe that her mood somehow affects my will. I do as I please," Hades snapped coldly.
Just then, Persephone emerged. She was dressed in brighter colors than her usual attire, and Hades stepped up to her.
"Hello, my little sparrow," he murmured. Persephone smiled gently up at him.
Hades slowly reached up with his non-gloved hand, cupping her cheek. Instead of pulling away from his touch, as he expected her to, she leaned her face against his icy hand. As if she longed for his touch as he longed for hers.
He slowly removed his hand, and then lifted her chin up with his fingers. Hades glanced down at her soft, almost rosy pink lips, and as he brushed his thumb against her lower lip, he smiled softly to himself.
"I believe it's time for her to go, then?" Hades asked, releasing his hold on Persephone, absentmindedly brushing his fingertips across hers as he put his hand back to his waist.
Hermes nodded. "Come, Persephone. Your mother is waiting for you."
Persephone stepped past Hades, and up to Hermes. She turned back to look at Hades.
"Aren't you coming?" she asked him softly, hopefully.
Hades shook his head, still smiling faintly, only at her. Only for her. "No. I have my own matters to attend to here, and I'm sure your mother would not appreciate my presence near you."
Persephone nodded, understanding his words, but feeling a sense of sadness at the fact that she could not remain here beside him. And as she ascended up with Hermes, she watched the smile fade from Hades' face.
THE SKY WAS BRIGHT WHEN PERSEPHONE EMERGED FROM THE UNDERWORLD.
It took her a moment to adjust to the beauty and the brightness of this world, instead of the low fires of the Underworld. The sky reminded her of the bright blue jewels in the garden, and it made her heart hurt.
She did not have long to adjust, however, before Demeter was running toward her.
Demeter seemed to grow younger the closer she got to her daughter. And when her arms wrapped around Persephone, it seemed like she could finally breathe again.
"Oh, my sweet daughter. I've missed you so," Demeter said, kissing her face.
Persephone smiled, and Demeter took her hands in hers, smiling down at her daughter.
But Demeter's happy expression faded as she removed her hands from Persephone's, noticing the slight stickiness to them.
"What is it, mother?" Persephone asked.
Demeter looked worriedly to her daughter, and took her hands again, flipping them over to have her palms face upward. She let out a gasp as she saw the pink stains on her fingertips. As she looked up at her daughter more closely, she saw the stain on her lips as well.
"Persephone..." Demeter struggled to say, refusing to believe it was true. No. No. "You... you ate from the Underworld?"
Persephone nodded. "Yes. Hades had offered them to me as a parting gift. I couldn't resist."
In the distance, a storm started brewing.