Astoria: In Chaos – Part Five

MINOR SMUT ‘WARNING’

Day 27

The two women talked, snuggled, wrestled, tickled, ate more chocolate and eventually fell asleep, but Mieke had to get up for work at 6am and was out the door looking weary – but happy – leaving Miho to clean up.

In a sleep deprived daze, Miho replayed the conversations of last night.

“Have to shelve that for now,” she muttered, dropping a couple of bowls into the sink.

Still in her pajamas, she plopped back down in front of her laptop. Unlike the previous day, however, the sentences began to form, and once she had begun writing, her fingertips flew across the keyboard with ridiculous speed. On the screen appeared the contrast between what the city citizens knew, and what the suited authority known as HERA kept from them, alongside the ins and outs of theology that could change the entire world.

“Imagine,” she thought, “A world without ‘faith’ because the facts of the higher powers of the Earth were revealed. Might make things better, but could very well make things worse.”

That was of course assuming people believed it. There would always be deniers, the self-deluded, who would believe what they wanted to believe despite the facts. One only had to look as far as those refusing to vaccinate their children from preventable diseases to see just how stupid humanity could be.

As she continued, she considered all Hades had told her, things Jazz had said, and then pictured Detective Yashitori’s face as she asked the same questions Miho herself had asked not so long ago. Oh, how she had fought against the heavy curtain of secrecy: fought Hades, fought Jazz, fought HERA.

Now she knew.

It was heading into twilight when she finally finished her article and printed it out several times over, tucking one away in a safe hiding place. Then she considered how she was going to contact Hades. It struck her that she didn’t have his phone number – he hadn’t given it to her – and she recalled the HERA building being closed for structural integrity inspection. Still, with no other way, scribbled a quick note to him, showered like the wind, then threw on some new clothes, smoothed down her head, and headed out.

HERA agents stood as silent sentinels outside the fenced-off, blacked-out area around the HERA building, the foyer of which also seemed to be shrouded in large sheets of plastic. Though she didn’t recognise either of the two men, or the single female agent, she approached one with the same confidence she tackled everything, and smiled brightly.

“Evening,” she greeted. “I have something of importance to give Hades.”

True to form, the agent simply eyed her.

“Come on, tell me you guys don’t know who I am by now?” Miho grumbled. “I’m the reporter Hades took up to Olympus, and only yesterday was here when zombies rushed this very building.”

This did cause the agent to consider her a little less stoically.

“So, Hades? Can you call him down here for me?” Miho prompted expectantly.

“Hades is not available at present,” the agent told her plainly, and a little huffily, Miho took an envelope from her bag.

“Okay fine,” she sniffed. “How about you give him this? And in case you’re wondering, it’s the article I’ve written about this whole operation and everything I’ve seen recently, so, you might want to ferry it post haste to the hands of your friendly neighbourhood god as soon as possible. Print runs happen pretty early in the morning you know.”

Pressing the envelope against the agent’s chest, Miho released it.

“Oh, and if he stands me up for dinner, I won’t be held responsible for the consequences,” she smiled sweetly, then turned on her heel.

All that remained now, was for her to wait.

At her favourite hole-in-the-wall restaurant, Miho took a sip from her fourth cup of coffee. For surely the five hundredth time she glanced at her phone to see she’d been waiting three hours.

Three hours and nothing.

Not even a text message.

Despite being wired thanks to the caffeine, she was well and truly weary.

The caffeine was the only thing keeping her awake.

“So that’s how it is,” she muttered, scowling as she emptied her cup, and it clattered back into the saucer.

Rolling her shoulders, she shuffled out of her booth loudly and shouldered her bag, muttering under her breath. But when she lifted her eyes to fix them balefully on the exit, Hades blocked her path.

“You’re still here,” he noted and looked first relieved, then frowned as he took in her expression.

“Only just,” she announced, her tone in no small part sour.

“I tried calling the number you put in the envelope Agent Hall passed on,” he explained, “but it connected me with an Italian man somewhere in New Jersey.”

“Excuse me?” Miho blinked, frowning as Hades took the slip of paper she’d written on from his pocket and read the number from it. “No, 1, not 7,” she corrected, exasperated.

“I see, that would account for Mr. Morticella then,” he agreed.

“Come on Hades,” Miho sighed. “You’re telling me that with your resources, the ones Agent Mann used to track me down with Detective Yashitori in fact, you couldn’t have looked up my number?”

Shifting a little uncomfortably in the face of her irritation, Hades conceded her point.

“Yes, you’re right,” he acknowledged humbly, nodding apologetically. “And I am sorry, but I have been… busy.”

Exhaling a heavy, lung-emptying sigh, Miho allowed her shoulders to slump. She was being unfair, and was just pissed off because she was over-tired and not at all used to being kept waiting.

“No, you’re right,” she admitted. “You’re right. Zombies trump my sorry ass.”

“It’s not that sorry,” he hazarded, leaning just a little to indicate he had glanced at the posterior in question.

She had to laugh.

Her smile waned a little though, when Hades dropped the folded article she’d written on the table where she’d been sitting, and lowered himself into the booth – after all, she didn’t know how he was going to react.

“This is quite a comprehensive story,” he noted: benign.

Studying him – his expression, his posture, his eyes – Miho returned to her seat opposite him.

He, glanced at the empty coffee cups.

“Fuelled by coffee?” he queried lightly.

“Yep,” she nodded. “Though I still don’t think much of what I’ve experienced has sunk in.”

“It may need to,” he told her gravely. “I still haven’t discerned the origin of the zombies, nor those behind them, and there was another incident involving them today.”

This he told her freely, despite the fact she’d compiled all his secrets in plain writing.

“Anyone hurt?” she ventured, and Hades winced a little.

“A member of the public was killed,” he admitted, and Miho bit her lip.

“That’s likely to draw more scrutiny from city law enforcement,” Miho pointed out, like he didn’t already know that. “If you haven’t heard from her already, you’d better brace for Detective Yashitori.”

“She has made some inquiries,” he affirmed. “Her Lieutenant also,” he added. “But they’re not the first, and will unlikely be the last.”

“She’s tenacious,” Miho warned.

“So are you,” he replied, the slightest of smirks touching his lips, but Miho frowned again.

“And look where that got you, Fairy-floss.”

“Where exactly is that?” he queried, unruffled and peering at her steadily.

For a good half a minute Miho just looked back in silence, until finally she responded.

“You’re not going to ask me what I’m going to do?” she scowled. “You’re not going to ask me to keep my mouth shut?”

“Do I need to ask?”

This caused Miho to scoff.

“Do you assume you don’t, just because we slept together?” she volleyed, but Hades didn’t falter, didn’t flinch.

“No,” he said, “but I do assume based upon what I have come to know and understand about you, that you have no intention of attempting to publish this.”

Hackles rising, Miho had to bite down on her tongue to prevent a snapping retort from escaping.

Hades, meanwhile, smiled at her mildly.

“Are you angry because I am making such an assumption, or, because in making it I’ve robbed you of the opportunity to make the grand reveal?”

Miho couldn’t help but react to this, but before she could stand out of indignation, Hades had placed his hand over hers in a light grip.

“But I will ask anyway,” he told her, much more seriously. “If – now knowing what you know, and feeling about it how you feel – you will please uphold HERA’s policy of secrecy, for reasons not borne of anything other than to protect?”

His please hit her exactly where it was meant to.

“Oh, see that’s not playing fair,” Miho grumbled, and Hades’ reply – that could have been amused – remained serious.

“All’s fair in love and war, I’m told,” he declared, his thumb moving slowly over the back of her hand, and Miho straightened a little.

“We’re not at war, Hades,” she responded carefully. “Our opposition came about because you and HERA were acting all shady. Anyone with an ounce of concern for civil liberties and proper authority would be concerned.”

“If that were true, I’d have had a whole lot more than you to contend with,” he said easily, eyes unwavering.

“Lucky for you then,” Miho nodded, finding it increasingly difficult to ignore the soft sensation of his skin against hers.

It traced warm little arches back and forth, a sweetly idle but entirely purposeful motion that rippled to other parts of her body.

“I should go,” she announced, exhaling the last word as she began to shuffle sideways, but Hades’ grip tightened and she stalled. “Come on, I need to go begging to my editor to lift my suspension, or my diet for the foreseeable future will be cup noodles.”

“Work for HERA,” he said, a statement delivered with certainty.

“Excuse me?” Miho blinked.

“You have a way with words,” he explained as she settled back, “I’ve seen plenty of evidence of that. You’re driven, fearless, even if sometimes far too irresponsible, but I’ve also had the privilege of witnessing you throw down a fully grown, and well trained agent, so you’re hardly helpless.”

“You don’t… owe me anything,” she told him slowly, trying to figure out his motivation, despite the glowing resume he’d just recited. “You don’t need to buy my silence; you already know I’m not going to publish anything that could compromise HERA.”

“That’s not why I’m offering,” he responded, but Miho remained suspicious.

“And I don’t need recompense for the other night, either,” she added, and this caused Hades to frown.

“You think so little of me? That I’m the type of man to offer someone a job because I slept with her?” he articulated, a thin fissure of hurt wearing into his expression.

Miho swallowed. She had reached across the table and slapped him in the face with her comment, her handprint brightly outlined on his cheek.

“Or maybe,” he continued, his hand withdrawing, “that’s the type of man you’re used to.”

“Hades, you’re not a man,” she exhaled, slumping a little. “And I’m sorry for questioning your integrity, you know, everyone speaks of you so highly, so reverently, it just doesn’t make sense.”

“What, doesn’t make sense?” he pressed.

She sighed again.

“Me, after no sleep,” she groaned, and rubbed her eyes. “I need some downtime, uninterrupted sleep.”

“Right,” he conceded, voice tight. “You should go home and rest properly.”

“Yeah,” she agreed, and finally managed to get to her feet.

Maybe she’d have kissed him, at least on the cheek, but it didn’t seem appropriate now.

“If you’re staying on Earth for a while, make sure you’re eating properly, what with Persephone not here to keep an eye on you,” she offered instead.

“If you’re so worried,” he replied, looking up at her as she stepped beside him, “consider my offer; you can keep an eye on me yourself.”

“I’ll think about it,” she agreed, and with one last awkward nod, Miho headed out of the cafe.

It wasn’t until she stepped onto the street and was hit in the face by the cool air, she realised her cheeks were on fire. Her body was tense, uncomfortably so, and her hands had made fists all by themselves.

“That could have gone better,” she muttered to herself, then, with a careful look around the street, she began in the direction of home.

Day 28

After sleeping like a rock, Miho woke to find a text message from Hades.

Now you can call and abuse me if I don’t show up on time…

At this Miho snorted. The message went on to detail the employment he’d offered, and with growing interest she explored the terms.

“Wow,” she exhaled, shaking her head. “This is… wow.”

A position in HERA’s media department writing cover stories. It was the absolute opposite of what she’d been pursuing her whole life, the opposite of her stance on lies.

She would become ‘The Man’, and that idea made her feel very awkward. Still, she could not deny, she wished she hadn’t seen the rotting faces of the zombies that had attacked Olympus – even now, safe in her apartment, she felt a creeping fear that just outside there would be more, or worse, someone she knew or cared for had become one.

Mieke came to mind, and Miho scowled fiercely at her phone.

Aside from the outline of the position Hades offered – hrr hrr – the salary and insurance package was far and beyond anything she could have hoped to achieve in journalism.

Then she had to weigh up the merits and pitfalls of having Hades as her boss.

Was that another nail in the coffin of their ‘not really’ relationship? Sleeping with the boss was never a good idea.

Sighing, Miho rolled over and texted Mieke. She was, after all, an employee of the organisation, and likely knew Hades far better.

That’s a tough one. You know it’d be cool to work together… but I also know how you feel about the whole cover up thing. Follow your heart?

“Follow my heart? Really Mieke?” Miho growled. “So not helpful.”

Still sprawled out in bed, Miho glared at the also unhelpful ceiling until Hades’ face appeared there.

“No, no, no. Bad,” she huffed, finally dragging herself up.

Skipping breakfast thanks to a fridge containing only out-of-date items and a carton of pretty rancid milk, Miho headed for the mall. The shopping list on her phone allowed her to focus on something totally benign.

She wound her way up and down the shopping centre aisles, dropping this and that into her cart – many of which weren’t on the list – but it wasn’t until she’d nearly run over a toddler that she realised she’d spaced out.

“Sorry,” she murmured to the mother who glowered, but what she really wanted to say was she should keep her offspring on a leash.

Pure maternal instinct.

As she passed through the checkout, wincing at the total and realising her next credit card statement was really going to hurt, a rise in noise beyond the supermarket drew her attention toward the food court.

Rolling her cart in that direction, she was met very suddenly with a rush of people – frightened people, screaming, crying people – and not a single one of them paid her any mind.

“Gunman?” Miho thought, perhaps the most likely scenario, but rather than run, she rolled her trolley against the nearest shopfront, and dug her phone from her pocket.

Reporter mode, activated.

It wasn’t the first time she had put herself in harm’s way for a story; there was of course Minotaur, but she’d hadn’t seen this coming. No, there had been other times she’d resisted the instinct to flee, and forged on in search of an exclusive.

What she discovered, however, was no gunman.

Having slunk her way to the food court, what she found caused her body to seize up.

Tables and chairs were upturned, a thankfully empty pram nearby lying on its side. Food and drinks littered the floor, a multi-coloured mess of convenience splattered everywhere by people caught completely off guard.

“No,” Miho exhaled – a weak, shuddering breath.

“Help me,” came a rasping, desperate plea, and Miho spied a teenager on the ground nearby.

His expression told Miho he was not only petrified, but in considerable pain, as did the impossible bend of his leg mid-calf.

“Please,” he cried, his voice a little louder, and Miho motioned for him to be quiet.

Clumsy fingers fumbled for the text message Hades had sent her, and frantically Miho hit call.

“No, no!” the teenager cried suddenly, raising his voice loud enough to draw the attention of more than just the creature crawling close enough to grab his ankle.

“Fuck,” Miho dropped, abandoning her phone in favour of grabbing the metal leg of the nearest fallen chair.

With all her strength, she swung the chair at the zombie’s head, and with a sickening crack the blow made good purchase.

“Why here?” she hissed, throwing her weapon at the four shambling shapes that approached, before grabbing hold of the teen’s wrist. “This is going to hurt like hell,” she warned him, then began to drag him out of the food court along the polished floor. “Hades!” she shouted as they passed her phone still sitting on the ground. “Get to Astoria Mall, right now!”

They passed her trolley, but Miho – for obvious reasons – ignored it. Several times she tripped over something left behind by a fleeing shopper, but she and her semi-conscious cargo made it to one of many exits largely uninterrupted.

“Where is mall security?” she gasped, peeling off her jacket to place under the teen’s head, before checking for bleeding wounds.

She hadn’t seen any mall cops, and that was odd.

Sirens wailed in the distance, but Miho hoped HERA arrived first – if others entered the mall there was a real risk of further contamination, forget about the spread of undead rumours.

“No!” she barked suddenly, when a couple of men approached the doors outside of which Miho was camped. “No one else goes inside.”

For a few seconds they stared at her.

“Ma’am,” one began, but Miho chewed the end off the rest of what he’d been about to say.

“No really,” Miho insisted. “If you want to be helpful, go on and seal up any way those mad men can get out.”

“We need to move you back, Ma’am,” the other man declared, completely ignoring Miho’s imperative.

“Aren’t you listening to me?” she snarled. “The last time I saw these guys, they had explosives strapped to their chests and they did a whole lot of damage to nearby buildings!”

That caused the men to pause, but it had the desired effect. One of the men called for bomb squad backup, while the other barked orders at uniform police officers finally arriving on the scene. The downside to that was, her apparent knowledge of people performing terrorist activities, immediately placed her under suspicion, so as she and her injured teenaged friend were evacuated from the area, he was taken to a waiting ambulance, and Miho was place in custody.

“Well,” she mumbled to herself, “at least that bought some time?”

Watching from her place in the back of a police car, Miho actually managed a mirthless laugh at the relief she felt when she recognised several new additions to the crowd – suits and plain clothed HERA agents taking charge. And the uniforms simply relinquished control, while others, including the men who had ordered her to remain for questioning, argued a little before being overwhelmed.

“Yep, that’s how they roll,” Miho snorted.

“They?” asked a familiar voice, and Miho’s view was blocked by the appearance of Detective Yashitori. “Don’t you mean you?”

“Not yet,” Miho responded, looking up at the woman as she opened the back of the patrol car and motioned for Miho to get out. “I don’t know, maybe.”

“Officer Bryce says you’ve seen the perpetrators of this attack,” Narumi went on, studying Miho carefully, critically, “and is holding you for questioning because you also suggested they may have explosives?”

Licking her lips – a nervous tell to be sure – Miho searched the crowd of police and suits.

“So what did you see exactly?”

Another sigh emptied Miho’s lungs and she met Narumi’s gaze.

“What I saw was five, hmm maybe six men, old, worn looking with sunken cheeks,” she detailed. “Bloodshot eyes, the kind you get from being hyped up on meth or ice: aggressive clawing and biting and tearing anyone who got in their way.”

It was an accurate description, and similes weren’t lies.

At least Miho told herself that.

“You have experience with drugs?” Narumi enquired, raising a brow, and Miho chortled.

“Come on, Detective, this is New York and I’m a reporter.”

“Well, right now you’re suspected of involvement, or at the very least knowledge of, a terrorist act,” a tall, well build man announced as he sidled up to Narumi’s side.

“Meet Detective Tennoji,” Narumi smiled, but it dimmed as a shadow fell over her.

“A pleasure to meet you Detectives,” Hades greeted pleasantly, and Miho fought to keep from smiling herself.

Before they could speak, before they could ask, he handed Narumi a document.

“Miss Fujiwara has been released to my custody,” he told them.

“Like hell!” Tennoji growled, drawing himself up.

“On whose authority?” Narumi demanded to know, slightly more composed.

“It’s all in that document,” Hades explained, then took Miho’s arm.

Stubbornly, Narumi shoved the document at Tennoji, and grabbed Miho’s other arm.

“This is not a game of tug-of-war,” Miho frowned. “Detectives, please trust they know what they’re doing.”

“I’m far more interested in what you have been doing,” Narumi stated flatly.

“From what I have heard, Miss Fujiwara made a case for first responders not entering for fear of there being an explosion,” Hades reasoned. “Hardly the actions of a terrorist.”

“You’re going to help them cover this up now?” Narumi hissed at Miho.

“I think I was pretty forthcoming with what I saw, Detective,” Miho shrugged, only now pulling her arm away. “I’m no terrorist. I just happened to be here when this all went down and in all honesty, I’m still shaken.”

“Let’s go,” Hades prompted, giving Miho’s arm a slight tug.

Tennoji moved to intervene, but Narumi stopped him.

“I don’t know if they have explosives,” Miho said when they were out of earshot, “but it was the best I could do to buy ti…”

Prophetic maybe?

The blast sent a massive cloud of smoke and dust into the air at the centre of the mall complex, though Miho was unable to see it. As if by reflex Hades moved, and Miho found herself enveloped once more in Hades’ arms, his back to the beleaguered building inside which subsequent detonations sounded.

Screams rose up from the morbidly curious crowd well outside of danger’s range, and though they too were well out of harm’s reach, Hades continued to shield Miho until relative silence settled once more.

“Sometimes it sucks to be right,” Miho whispered, her eyes closed, her body rigid until Hades straightened.

“More people could have been injured, perhaps killed if you’d said nothing,” Hades responded, his breath shifting the hairs behind her right ear.

“And I… didn’t tell her what I really knew,” she breathed, consciously relaxing her body back against him.

“I didn’t think you would,” Hades smiled. “And I am glad you’re safe.”

Then he flinched as something cold touched his cheek. Looking up, his brows twitched at the sight of snow at the end of spring.

“Is that…?” Miho trailed off, also peering upward, and her question was answered as the snow began to fall like a blanket. “What the hell?”

Hades’ expression looked grim as he released her.

“Hades?”

“You said you were shaken,” he focused back in, but she could tell his mind had no gone elsewhere. “Will you be all right?”

“I’m okay,” she nodded, chewing the inside of her cheek for a few seconds. “What do you need me to do?”

“I’ll have an agent take you home,” he replied, narrowing his eyes like he thought she might put up a fight – but she didn’t.

“If you can spare one,” she nodded.

“I can.”

Despite the chaos, the magnitude of what needed to be sorted, Miho was soon inside a company car being driven home.

Hades had touched her hand before she’d entered the cabin, a fleeting sign of affection though his expression remained serious. It was clear to her he was reluctant to let her out of his sight, and if she was honest, as the car moved away she felt less safe.

Exploding zombies should not be a norm.

At Miho’s apartment the agent lingered, making triple sure she was okay before he left.

After using her spare key to get in, all locks were double checked before Miho finally released some of the tension from her shoulders.

On her way to the bathroom, she glanced out the window at the snow that was falling like a billowing white.

“Ugh,” she grunted, turning on the bath taps.

Though the weather had been mild for weeks, the abrupt cold snap added to the fraying edges of her nerves. Then there were the two detectives to think about, eyeing her off like she was involved in terrorist activities and worse, covering it all up. She hadn’t lied to Narumi, but she hadn’t told the whole truth, and Miho realised just what a fine like she was walking.

With another grumble, Miho submerged herself deep in the tub, and let out a long, luxurious sigh. As the warmth sank through her skin to muscles tired from being tensed for action, more of her new reality sank in also.

“I’m a fuckin’ hero,” she whispered to the reverberating walls.

She had, after all, rushed headlong into dangers and dragged that boy – whose name she did not know – from the infections jaws of a slathering zombie.

“Oh shit,” she muttered, for two reasons.

One, because she was supposed to text Hades and hadn’t.

Two, because she had abandoned her phone in the mall.

She’d had to remember where her spare apartment key was, but it hadn’t twigged until that moment that her bag and belongings were not with her.

There wasn’t much she could do about it since she didn’t have a landline phone, and so she closed her eyes and inhaled a deep, steamy breath.

There she allowed herself to be suspected half way between awake and asleep, and time slipped away until she was jerked to attention by three solid knocking sounds from somewhere else in the apartment.

Sitting up, she strained to listen until the knocking came again.

“Damned broken doorbell,” she hissed, pulling herself up.

She gave her body a cursory dry before wrapping herself in a towel – whoever had come to visit would just have to deal with her moisty, dishevelled state.

“Okay, okay! I’m on my way!” she called, when the knocking sounded for a third time, this time more emphatically.

Hades blinked when Miho swung the door open, a grumpy frown affixed to the heat-flush of her face.

Drips fell from rebellious strands of hair that had escaped her messy bun, and the tucked-over knot keeping the towel around her looked set to unwind.

Likewise, Miho stared right back at Hades, suddenly wishing she hadn’t opened the door looking much like a drowned rat.

“You didn’t text,” were his first words, breaking the moment.

“Left my phone at…” she began, but he finished.

“At the mall,” he smiled, holding her handbag out to her.

Swallowing, Miho extended her hand, but the second she closed her fingers around the strap she froze.

His gaze, though fixed upon her face, seemed to smooth along her shoulders, along the ridge of her collarbones, and down to her barely concealed breasts.

With sudden desperation, Miho’s body demanded she drag Hades inside and devour him, but some small angel or demon in her mind told her not to; there was still the whole job offer thing to consider.

“Are you alright?” he asked, closer than he had been – somehow he’d stepped forward and she’d not noticed, sandwiching her hand and the bag between his body and hers.

“Ahh… I’m…” she said, but finishing that sentence proved difficult as his face drew closer. “Hades,” she whispered.

“No, I’m Hades,” he told her quietly, lips hovering before hers. “You, are Miho.”

“Right,” she swallowed, her free hand taking hold of his upper arm. “We shou…”

Tired of her hesitation perhaps, but more likely reaching the limit of his self-restraint, Hades silenced Miho with the ardent smother of his lips; and Miho crumbled, leaning into him with encouraging reciprocation.

In the doorway of her apartment, they bundled up all the day’s, week’s emotion, and let it melt away through the dance of their tongues and a transference of body-heat and passionate need.

All thought and rationality fled from Miho’s mind – her body simply responded as Hades backed her into the apartment and kicked the door closed behind them.

“No more polite,” he growled.

The confident roam of his hands beneath the towel, its path up her left side and to her breast, demolished the lingering remains of Miho’s self-control. Within seconds she found herself toppling back onto the couch, and Hades straddled her, tugging away his tie and pulling at the buttons of his shirt.

Awkwardly, vision a hazy blur of desire and urgency, Miho struggled with his belt buckle while her mind tried to figure the location of the nearest condom.

“Handbag, handbag,” she muttered, searching the lounge though her lust kept drawing her back to the final reveal of Hades’ perfectly chiselled chest, the definition of his pecs and abs.

“There,” Hades pointed at the floor behind Miho’s head, right where she’d finally abandoned it.

The bag, not her head.

The way he reached forward, laying his body against her, caused Miho to shudder with anticipation. She took the opportunity to kiss up his neck as he took hold of her handbag and dragged it within her reach. Miho dug a hand into it blindly as Hades sat back, wriggling to get out of his pants; once he’d achieved that, he took his shaft in one hand, and wormed his hand between Miho’s legs, rubbing fingers against her clit in firm strokes.

“How am I supposed to…” Miho whined, having difficulties pulling open the small zipper compartment where she kept a small supply of ‘just in case’ contraceptives. “Fuck… Hades, stop, stop, I can’t get the damned…”

Hades chuckled as she fumbled in frustration, but he was of little help, and Miho whimpered as he slowly burrowed two fingers into her moistness.

“Okay don’t stop,” she huffed, biting down on her lower lip, watching him stroke his cock, base to tip. “Uhh, that is sooo sexy,” she purred.

“Let me help you with that,” he smirked, releasing his erection and leaning over her again.

“Oh,” she breathed when he withdrew his fingers, and his head nudged against her entrance.

It was a really stupid thought, but suddenly Miho understood how easy it could be to say ‘fuck it’ and have unprotected sex. She wanted Hades to just throw all caution to the wind and pile drive her, the two of them as close as two people could be – but he did no more than tease, and a few seconds later rocked back triumphantly with the small foil packet in his hand.

“Quit smirking and get on with it,” she snarled, glaring, squirming beneath him.

“Still impatient,” he grinned, tossing the packet aside and rolling the condom over his length, before slowly licking his fingers.

“Hades,” Miho hissed, reaching her arms up and clawing at the air, and he was more than happy to indulge her need.

Running his thumbs along her inner thighs, he parted her legs and then leaned down to meet her hungrily lips. He groaned into her mouth, remaining poised at her entrance but holding back – and though he wanted her badly, the frenzy in her eyes was something to savour considering it had felt like she’d kept him at arm’s length since their first ‘encounter’.

When her nails dug more firmly into his shoulders and she bit down and held onto his lower lip, he finally relented, driving himself inside her to the delicious tension she squeezed around him.

Breathing came intermittently, gasps interrupted by their chests pressed together, by the strenuousness of Hades’ thrusts, and the frantic need to taste one another’s thirst.

“Miho!” came a call from outside the door, an urgent one at that, and the voice was followed by a second sentence and the unceremonious entrance of Mieke into the apartment. “I heard you were in a…”

Compromising position?

“Oh… god…” Mieke gawked, absolutely frozen but for her mouth that somehow kept moving. “Hades! Sir… wow… I mean, oh god, Sir!”

At Mieke’s abrupt arrival, Hades had laid down against Miho, curling his arms under her shoulders and sheltering her like he thought the interloper might be a threat – then he met Mieke’s wide-eyed shock.

Of course it was obviously what he and Miho had been doing, their lightly sweating bodies crushing together, Miho’s legs wrapped around the back of his thighs leaving his ass fully exposed.

“Worse timing ever,” Miho hissed out against Hades’ neck, nipping at the skin despite their situation.

“Agent Genever, if you could turn around?” Hades suggested, still a little breathless.

“Yes, buns… I mean Sir! Sir!” Mieke corrected quickly, spinning around, and the moment she had, Hades reluctantly eased himself out of Miho and stood up.

With a heavy sigh, Miho rolled over and looked up at him while he collected his clothing, pouting furiously.

“I’ll just…” he began, and Miho finished for him.

“Yep, go ahead, bathroom’s the first door on the left.”

With an apologetic look – like the interruption was his fault – he pecked her quickly on the lips then disappeared.

It wasn’t until she heard the door click that Mieke whirled around, just as Miho – still naked – sat up looking pissed off.

“Oh. My. God,” Mieke whispered conspiratorially, crossing the room but stopping short of sitting down on the couch that now seemed… um… contaminated? “Does this make you two official?”

“No,” Miho grumped. “It means you’re an exceptionally effective contraceptive.”

“Wait, wait, hold on,” Mieke blurted. “You two were trying for a baby?”

“Are you on crack?” Miho exclaimed. “I can barely look after myself let alone an infant, and even if I wanted babies… no. Cock-block.”

“I’m sorry,” Mieke grinned, her pale cheeks filled with colour. “But you know, what has been seen cannot be unseen so…”

“I suggest you unsee it,” Hades declared, appearing fully dressed.

Miho still sat there stark naked and not at all bothered by that fact.

“Right,” Mieke nodded, taking a step back from the couch and unable to meet Hades’ eyes. “I just wanted to check on Miho, but now I see she is… okay I’ll just…leave and let you two do… stuff.”

“Be careful in the snow, Agent Genever,” Hades warned, walking her to the door like it was his apartment.

“Sure thing, Sir, and sorry again for interrupting your… nothing… bye.”

Hades let out a heavy breath and remained staring at the door after it had closed behind Mieke, but he heard Miho laughing.

“There is no way she is ever going to forget your divine ass,” she grinned, and though he looked at her reproachfully when he turned, she only smiled the wider. “And once she gets over her shock, expect to get teased.”

“I would hope she’d know better,” he grumbled, flopping down onto the couch and dragging her into his lap.

Relaxing against him, Miho closed her eyes and let him kiss her briefly.

“Hmm are you hungry?” she asked him as her stomach gurgled. “I never managed breakfast and skipped lunch so…”

“I could eat,” he replied, planting his lips against her shoulder, and Miho lolled her head back.

“Food,” she clarified, patting his cheek before dragging herself up.

“You’re not going to cook like that are you?” he chuckled, giving her bum a light smack.

“Don’t be stupid,” she tsked. “I’m going to put an apron on.”

While Miho whipped something up, Hades watched her with a smile – a hungry smile. When he offered to help, she batted him away until food was laid out. As they ate, conversation danced around their interrupted exercise and what it might mean, and stayed away from the topic of explosions and zombies, and ended up instead talking about Mieke, right up until Miho yawned for the fifth time.

“Okay, I think it’s time I put you to bed,” Hades chuckled, taking up the dishes from the table and putting them in the sink.

“And after you’ve done that, what then?” Miho queried, standing behind him with their glasses in her hands.

Slowly, he turned to consider her, reading over her expression but ultimately responding with a question.

“What would you like me to do?” he asked.

“I knew you were going to ask that,” she grumped, reaching around him to put the glasses with the plates.

When she straightened, he brushed the back of his hand against her cheek, and without even thinking about it, Miho leaned toward the touch.

“Ugh, I want you to stay and keep the nightmares away,” she murmured, and Hades smiled.

“Gladly,” he told her gently, leaning forward and kissing her forehead.

Though a little begrudgingly perhaps, that he had made her say it, Miho led Hades to her bedroom.

She had put on more than an apron before cooking dinner, but little more than an unimpressive pair of sweatpants and a hoodie. That he still wanted to follow her to the bedroom when she was attired like that, encouraged her more than she thought it should.

“Arms up,” he instructed, but she batted his hand away when he reached for her.

“You may be considerably older than me, but I’m not harbouring any daddy fantasies,” she chided.

“How much do you like that outfit?” he enquired, peering at her so seriously, a serious response formed on her tongue.

“Er, it’s just some cheap running gear,” she shrugged, then flinched as purple light flashed around her in the shape of Hades’ reaper aura, slashing the fabric away from her body without casing her a single scratch.

“That, is cheating,” she told him sternly, and this time it was he who shrugged.

“Or is it merely using all resources to my advantage?” he asked, smoothing his large hands lightly over her shoulders.

“I mean it though, if you treat me like a child, I will definitely throw a tantrum,” she persisted, and Hades held up his hands.

“And I’m well aware of how intense those can be,” he chuckled, and Miho gave him a playful shove against his chest.

“I’ll get you a towel and, I probably have a spare toothbrush around here somewhere,” she told him, snagging a baggy t-shirt from under her pillow and slipping it over her head before heading back into the hall.

When she returned, Hades’ shirt was already hanging on her wardrobe door, and his belt was sliding free.

Swallowing another yawn, she nudged the folded towel against his back.

“Bathroom is the…”

“Found it earlier,” he pointed out.

“Oh, right,” she sighed, following up some mutterings about best friends.

And by the time Hades re-entered the bedroom, Miho was already tucked into bed on the left side.

Without hesitation, Hades moved to the right, slid in beside her, and snuggled her against him.

“I put my toothbrush next to yours,” he said against the top of her head, and Miho looked up at him with a slightly concerned expression, clearing her throat before responding.

“Um, I’m not sure that’s… that’s such a good idea.”

“And why wouldn’t it be?”

His question sounded innocent enough, but Miho knew he wasn’t that dumb.

“Next you’ll be wanting a drawer, then some room in the wardrobe,” she pointed out, speaking dramatically with her hands to cover the awkwardness.

Hades did not seem the slightest bit fazed.

“Would that really be so bad?” he queried calmly, and Miho rolled over and sat up to look down at him.

“Okay, fine,” she huffed, scowling as if the next things she spoke had been drawn from her using torture. “You know I… sex with you was amazing, but home visits and toothbrushes and drawers aren’t casual sex, they’re more than that, and you… I may act like I’m fifty feet tall, but I’m 5’11” and mortal but you… you’re not. You’re an actual god, immortal and powerful, and I don’t know many stories from history where that ever worked out happily ever after.”

“So far an accurate assessment,” he nodded.

“Then you see the problem I’m having here,” Miho exclaimed, but Hades shook his head, and pulled her against his chest by the wrist.

“You think I haven’t also had these thoughts?” he asked her, smoothing back the hair either side of her face. “The very moment I felt myself stir beyond mere physical attraction, I had to wonder if there was any point.”

Despite being the one to bring it up, Miho swallowed the lump suddenly in her throat.

“Perhaps we were simply drawn together by circumstance,” he continued evenly, but his fingers continued to sift through her hair, “caught up in this chaos not even a god like me has all the answers to, but there has never been anything false in how I’ve acted toward you. I’ve never done, or said anything I didn’t mean.”

“I… don’t know what this means,” Miho sighed, biting her lower lip in frustration, but Hades laughed.

“Are you truly so unaccustomed to the concept of love?”

“Whoa whoa, you’re just going to come right out and say it?” she rushed, attempting to sit up again, but Hades preventing her from rising.

“Would you have me call it something it’s not?” he offered. “You are not one for lies, I’ve learned.”

“Well, no I wouldn’t want you to lie,” she frowned, getting all tangled up in terminology and dogma. “But…”

“But what?” he prompted a little more flatly. “Have I misread the signs? Because if I have, I’ll…”

“No,” she admitted, but looked away like she was for some reason embarrassed.

Miho.

Embarrassed.

“No,” she repeated. “It’s just that, I’m too old now to look for anything other than a future.”

“And there is no future with me?” he continued.

“I don’t know!” she admitted. “Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe a mortal should take odds she has a fighting chance of winning.”

“You did take a chance, picked a fight, with me in fact,” he pointed out. “And I’m telling you right now – you already won.”

Slack jawed, Miho just peered at him, lost for words.

“I will show you,” he whispered, brushing her cheek softly, “give me your trust, and I’ll show you.”

Gnawing at the inside of her cheek for a moment, searching his eyes, his expression for any trace of falsehood, of a game gods were purported to enjoy playing with mortals, Miho – finding none – dropped her chin a little, and leaned her head into his touch.

“You have my trust,” she declared breathily, finally lying down again, draping herself over his body and snuggling down.

“Jeez,” she muttered as he wrapped his arm around her, and she planted a kiss against his pec. “Our clashes, Minotaur, Olympus, the zombies, explosions… this… I feel like a stone being tossed about by a raging river, tumbling rapidly in one direction to some unknown destination.”

“The unknown isn’t all bad,” he reassured her with a kiss to the top of her head. “But even if it is, I’ll be with you to face it.”

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