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.”

Astoria: In Chaos – Part Four

SMUT ‘WARNING’

Jazz could feel the eyes of the detective following she and Miho out of the cafe, and they were present when she led Miho to a car.

“What’s with the black saloon?” Miho frowned lightly – the cafe, after all, was well within comfortable walking distance from the Grand Olympian.

“Structural engineers need to inspect the integrity of the building before anyone except specific personnel are allowed back inside,” Jazz explained, motioning with her hand that Miho get into the front passenger seat. “Unless you’re against the idea, Hades would like to see you at his personal residence here in Astoria.”

So formal – it kind of gave Jazz away.

“Something on your mind, Agent Mann?” Miho questioned, moving around the car, but pausing at the door. “Go ahead and speak freely.”

In response, Jazz got into the driver’s seat.

She waited for Miho to join her in the cabin before starting the engine and drawing the vehicle from the curb.

There was silence for a whole minute, while Miho watched Jazz from the corner of her eye – then Jazz spoke up.

“Are you sleeping with Hades?” she asked.

Nice and plain, to the point.

“Well that was direct,” Miho nodded appreciatively, and Jazz’s brows furrowed.

“Is there any way to just get a straight answer out of you?” she breathed in exasperation.

“Did I sleep with him? Once. Did I have sex with him, which is more precisely what you’re asking. No,” Miho told her plainly. “Relieved? You seem a bit relieved, though Hades said you were with Hydra. Ooooh…”

Her eyes widened, sparkling.

“… Is this a three-way situation?” she continued, then tilted her head considering where Jazz said they were headed. “Plus me – a foursome?”

Had she not been driving, Jazz might have face-palmed, Miho could see as much, and chuckled.

“Fine, I’ll stop,” she grinned. “But why the question?”

Jazz held her tongue for a little longer, searching for the right way to articulate what she wanted to say, but in the end, decided to hold back.

“Agent Palmer reported he overheard you announcing your relationship,” Jazz said.

“Palmer is it?” Miho mused. “And for the record, I said commander – I didn’t name names.”

“Except mine, to Detective Yashitori,” Jazz pointed out, and Miho had to concede that.

“I understand her frustration,” Miho shrugged. “She wants to do what’s right, and doesn’t understand why HERA is getting in the way.”

“Her superior will explain it to her,” Jazz nodded, heading toward the more expensive end of Astoria.

“Like mine did?” Miho offered, and Jazz had to agreed that hadn’t worked out so well.

“I don’t suppose you did a whole lot to discourage her,” Jazz assumed. “Why did you take her from the scene?”

“Because she was going to make one,” Miho replied, peering out the window at the row of modern apartments. “Agent Palmer’s attitude was not going defuse her zeal, and if things got much more heated, the rest of the gathering mass of inquisitive onlookers might stop focusing on explosions, and start focusing on why an officer of the law was being denied access to the location of a potential terrorist attack.”

Yep. Miho had totally been doing HERA a solid.

“I see,” Jazz responded noncommittally, flicking on the indicator one last time and turning into the driveway of a private, underground carpark.

She did not, however, have a card to open the gate, and pulled the handbrake.

“This is it,” Jazz declared, looking up at the building. “Just hit the intercom for number 5.”

Miho unclicked her seatbelt, but remained a moment.

“You’re not coming up?”

“I have work to do elsewhere,” Jazz told her. “And Hades didn’t ask to see me.”

There were questions Miho had based on what Hades had told her of how Jazz was the reincarnation of the goddess Hera, but now didn’t seem quite like the right time to delve into it.

“Not a threesome then,” she hummed, glancing up at the building, then back at Jazz once more. “How many women have you delivered to his apartment exactly?”

“Including you? One,” Jazz replied. “Don’t embarrass yourself,” she added. “And don’t forget, Hades may look like a man, but he’s a top tier god.”

At this, Miho snorted, but muttered under her breath as she exited the car.

“He’s anything but just a man.”

The moment Miho was clear, Jazz backed out onto the road and soon disappeared.

“So,” she said to herself as she approached the glass entrance, “what are you going to do now Miss Fujiwara?”

Staring at the intercom button for number five, her hand hovering in mid-air.

Everything had been go go go since the morning – she hadn’t had time to process it was now well after noon and she’d been in the midst of a suicide-zombie attack.

Can a zombie even suicide if it’s already dead?

Whatever. Suddenly, Miho found her mind in a spin, much like the night before.

“Come in, Miho,” Hades’ voice sounded, and Miho blinked to find her fingers pressed against the intercom, through which Hades had spoken.

“Right,” she muttered, and when the heavy door clicked open, she pushed it in.

It was a short trip across the foyer, the out into a lovely garden with a covered walkway. Following signage, she found number five, and touched the doorbell button lightly.

Hades must have been waiting just behind it, for the door opened inward before Miho could retract her hand, causing her to flinch a little.

“Sorry,” he smiled apologetically, but he was studying her – posture, body language, expression. “Come in.”

“You don’t have a, beta site or something for if the Grand Olympian gets compromised?” she asked, following him up a flight of stairs to an airy open plan living-dining-kitchen area.

“Yes,” he replied, leading her over to the kitchen counter.

“Shouldn’t you be there? Zombies and explosions and all?” she queried, settling herself on a barstool.

“I’m co-ordinating from here,” he told her, opening the fridge and collecting an armful of various foodstuffs. “I have full confidence in my agents’ abilities to cope with the situation.”

“So we even know what the situation is yet?”

After he carefully placed the contents in his arms down on the bench, he looked at Miho with a raised brow.

We?” he repeated.

“Yeah, we,” Miho affirmed with a confident nod. “I was there when this happened, here and on Olympus, and since you haven’t gone all MIB and erased my memory, and sent Agent Mann to chauffeur me over here, we are definitely a we.”

That may just have been the stupidest sentence Miho had ever articulated. And then it occurred to Miho that Jazz or Agent Palmer, may have told him what she’d said to Detective Yashitori.

“Did you eat on your date with Detective Yashitori?” he then asked, and Miho narrowed her eyes.

“Are you in my head?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted, staring back at her, both of his hands flat on the counter and a slight forward lean to his body. “Am I?”

“Jealous?” she challenged. “Narumi is cute.”

“On a first name basis already?”

“You didn’t answer my question,” Miho grinned, refusing to break eye contact.

“I asked mine first,” he pointed out, his smile tugging a little wider.

“No, I did not eat on my date with Detective Yashitori,” she announced, maintaining her expectant gaze, but Hades straightened, and started to throw baby spinach leaves into a colander.

“Rude,” she murmured with a small pout, not pursuing her answer, thinking, perhaps, about what Agent Mann had asked on the way over.

“So other than detoxing my system with a fine non-GM, high antioxidant meal, why am I here?” she then questioned.

Suddenly the atmosphere was a lot more casual.

“You disappeared,” he said as he prepared various ingredients. “Was it wrong of me to feel concerned?”

“If you were concerned about where i was an whether I was okay, Agent Mann could have told you that over the phone,” Miho pointed out. “Would you like to try that answer again?”

“I was concerned,” he repeated a little more emphatically. “You’re not a trained HERA agent, yet you threw yourself toward serious harm without thought…”

“Thanks, Dad,” she huffed. “But unless you were inside my head the moment I heroically pitched a rubbish bin at an explosive zombie, you have no idea what I did or didn’t think.”

Emitting a slightly peeved snort, she crossed her arms.

“And if you’re going to ground me and send me to my room, you’d better point me in the right direction,” she added, lip curled back a little.

But Hades sighed in defeat, and instantly Miho felt guilty – after all, not last night he’d lost countless of his people.

“I don’t want to fight again,” he told her, and the honesty in his face drained all the swirling, heated anger from her.

“Uh, how am I supposed to stay mad when you make that face?” she grumbled, slouching, and Hades continued to make their late lunch.

He said no more, and after a while, Miho felt words simply pouring out of her.

“The cop, Narumi Yashitori,” she said. “I didn’t reveal anything to her, but I’m sure I don’t have to tell you those explosions got her attention, and HERA got on her nerves… like they got on mine.”

“I see,” he nodded, beginning to pile two plates with the meal he’d prepared. “We’ve a department who will answer any questions she has.”

“I’d be interested to know exactly what they tell her,” she thought aloud. “It was like looking in a mirror.”

“I certainly hope not,” Hades smirked, moving with the two plates over to the dining table. “I hardly know what to do with the Miho I already have.”

At this Miho couldn’t help but laugh, laugh and feel a little triumph – she really did like to challenge people, and there was also something about the way he suggested he ‘already had her’ that made her wonder if if… if um…

“Miho?” Hades prompted, and startled she focused back on him.

“Sorry, totally just spaced out then,” she laughed sheepishly. “I wasn’t thinking anything inappropriate, I swear.”

“Inappropriate?” he queried, putting both plates down and looking back as she slipped from the stool she’d been perched on. “What exactly would you consider inappropriate right now?”

Finding it impossible to articulate in words, Miho shimmied expertly out of her panties and flung them at Hades.

“How’s that?” she offered, but Hades just blinked back at her.

“How’s what?”

Again, Miho blinked. Her panties were where they should be, and Hades was well within his rights to look at her in confusion.

“Is it too early for an adult beverage?” she asked, giving her head a shake as she headed over to the table.

“What would you like?”

“Something with bite,” she replied, rolling her neck. “Obviously I’m too tense.”

“And you wonder why I worry about you,” he sniffed, heading to a sleek liquor cabinet filled with unlabelled bottles.

He returned a moment later, pouring a pale amber liquid into a lovely crystal tumbler.

“This was distilled by Dionysus’ daughter Methe,” he explained, holding it out to Miho.

“The Goddess of Drunkenness?” Miho laughed, his fingers brushing Miho’s ever so briefly as the glass was exchanged.

Nothing much came of it, because while this may have started in Voltage, this isn’t a Voltage story anymore.

“The very same,” he smiled, and sat down opposite her.

Lunch was a rather quiet affair. There was cutting and chewing and swallowing (not usually Miho’s style, that last part), and by the time Miho’s plate was completely cleared, her belly was pleasantly full and her glass was suitably empty.

“That was delicious, the meal and the liquor,” she said, rising to collect both their plates and convey them to the kitchen sink.

Not spying a dishwasher, she simply went about filling at the sink, rolling her neck and stretching her arms while she waited for it to sufficiently filled.

“Stiff?” Hades questioned from behind her, closer than Miho expected him to be.

“Sorry what?” she exhaled, and actually found herself tensing.

Both of them froze, Miho with her head turned enough to see Hades in her peripheral vision.

“Your neck? Shoulders?” he clarified, slowly raising his hands, giving her every chance to move away, watching for even the slightest sign of discomfort or displeasure in her face, her posture, any evidence of repulsion or warning – not that he really thought she’d be subtle about expressing any of that.

But there was nothing, and finally his large hands fell lightly against her shoulders.

As first the pressure of his fingers kneaded gently into the taut muscles Miho hadn’t really even realised were holding so much tension, but when she let out a long sigh, they dug a little harder.

“Mmhmm, if you ever want to give up your job as a god, you could definitely make a living as a masseuse,” she exhaled breathily, unconsciously leaning back against him.

Then froze again, before lifting her chin so quickly she nearly head-butted him.

“Oh, shit I’m sorry!” she blustered when he actually stumbled back a little, and she whirled around to at least look apologetic.

“Seems to me like being a masseuse could be hazardous to my health,” he noted, and actually looking a little embarrassed, rubbed the back of his neck.

“I am really sorry,” she cringed. “Wow, so embarrassing.”

“Not as embarrassing as if you’d given me a nosebleed,” he pointed out wryly, clearly trying to ease her mortification with humour.

“Could I even do that?” she wondered. “I mean…”

Then she stopped. She had been going to say, ‘… I mean do gods even bleed,’ but then realised she had seen first-hand that not only could they bleed, they could die.

“Yeah, obviously I do need to relax,” she chuckled, biting her lip a little. “Maybe some more of Methe’s booze?”

“How about I make you some tea?” he offered instead.

“Tea huh?” Miho thought. “Not very sexy… friggin’, you totally just blew your chance to blow a god.”

“Afraid I could drink my way through all your good stuff?” she smirked, still trying to cover how much like an idiot she felt.

“If you drank a fraction of my good stuff, you’d be dead,” he answered.

It was an innocent enough response, but given Miho mind had gone to a dirty place, she was now caught up in drinking HADES’ good stuff.

Cough.

“Ah, okay, tea then would be good,” she nodded, looking away as she gnawed on the inside of her cheek a little.

“Why don’t you…” he began, but was interrupted by the ringing of his mobile phone. “Why don’t you get comfortable on the balcony?” he suggested, before digging the phone from his pocket and answering. “Alex…”

Gratefully, Miho made good her escape from the kitchen, and let herself through the glass doors that led out to the balcony.

“Maybe I should write my memoirs,” she thought aloud. “Not that I could publish it if I wanted to be faithful to the last few days and… not if I want to keep their secrets.”

The taste of Hades was then pushed far away by heftier rumination. Her discussion with Narumi replayed, and she found herself scowling, uncomfortable in her padded outdoor chair.

“What are you thinking?” Hades asked, and when Miho focused back in, it was on the teacup Hades held.

“Mm, you can’t read my mind?” she responded, lifting the cup from his light grip.

And their fingers brushed ever so slightly, but because they’re both adults and not a pair of quivering shyness receptors, the fleeting contact slipped pretty much under the radar.

“No,” he admitted, taking his own steaming drink and sitting in the chair beside her. “And though you do seem prone to spacing out, you’re relatively difficult to read.”

“To be fair, I’ve had a bit on my mind lately,” she argued lightly. “There hasn’t been an awful lot of down time to think things through.”

“From what I know about you, you are the impulsive type,” he chuckled, taking a sip of his tea before continuing. “Act now, think later.”

Her first impulse was to be contrary, but she bit down on her tongue and took a few seconds to better consider her response.

Which technically made her contrary. Whatever.

The point is, after a short pause, she put her tea to the side, rose from her seat and turned to him.

Mildly surprised, Hades looked over the top of his cup and up at her, and continued to do so in silence as she stepped in front of him. He did not protest when she reached out and carefully relieved him of his tea, and put it down next to hers.

“You were finished with that, weren’t you?” she asked him rhetorically, her tone an imperative despite the question.

“It seems that way,” Hades smiled slowly, shifting a little in his seat.

Laced with significant challenge – the challenge to reject her – Miho forced herself to maintain eye contact as she placed her fingertips against his crossed leg, and nudged it away from the other.

“I’ll be careful,” she smiled, as she leaned forward and placed her hand on his shoulder, nestling her knee in beside his thigh before rocking her whole body forward, “not to head-butt you.”

“Likewise,” he replied, resting his hands lightly against her hips, securing her, forward-facing, in his lap.

“Being head-butted by a god might have some pretty serious repercussions,” she chuckled, slithering her fingers around his neck and dragging her nails through the short hairs at the nape.

“Then I suppose we’ll have to start with something a little, gentler,” he reasoned, inching his face closer as she dropped hers, but she held back just short of their lips touching.

“Still, I’m pretty robust,” she breathed, lowering lashes briefly as she pressed herself down against him. “Survived a round with Minotaur, after all.”

“I won’t kiss you into a coma,” he vowed, his grip at her sides tightening as his lips closed around just her lower one.

Now, Miho had been kissed plenty of times, but there was a serious thrill in the soft restraint of the way he barely suckled her flesh. She couldn’t tell if the shiver that rushed through her was because it had ‘been a while’, or if it came from knowing the incongruity of his tender approach and the potency of the power she knew he was capable of.

He could tear her apart, but it felt like he was handling something fragile and delicate.

“No?” she exhaled when he allowed her to speak freely.

“Mmm,” he murmured as she rolled her hips forward. “But I can’t promise what comes after won’t cause you to pass out.”

“Come on, Underworld Princess,” she goaded, looping her fingers under his tie, slipping her fingers along the silk to loosen it at the front. “Make my mind go blank.”

Challenge set, permission given, Hades smoothed one hand up Miho’s spine to the back of her head, and drew her face firmly to meet his.

He allowed the taste of her tongue to overwhelm the fleeting flavour of his forgotten tea, and all memory of their awkward kitchen encounter faded.

There was now no hesitation in the roam of his hands; the heat of her body and the pressure she was increasingly exerting against his crotch, dragged him away from thoughts of the crisis currently plaguing the pantheon and Earth. Though he had avoided affections of any kind since Jazz had chosen Hydra, claiming – even to himself – there was just no place for it anyway with the pantheon in a shambles, he could not deny the comfort of another’s intimate touch.

Slowly, Miho gathered up his polo shirt until they needed to break away from each other long enough to slip it over his head. Though the night air blew against his exposed torso on gentle wafts, Hades did not feel the cold in the slightest – the heat from Miho gaze as she slid from his lap and knelt between his legs cause fire to spread both without, and within.

“What if I make you pass out first?” she grinned up at him, walking her fingers up the bulge in his pants, following the zipper up until she could slowly drag it down.

“That would be some feat,” Hades inhaled, clearly trying to play it cool as she teased him through his briefs.

“But if I win?” she asked cheekily, peering up the firm undulation of toned abdominal muscles and licking her lips.

“I wouldn’t call that a win for either of us,” he replied, his hands reaching for her hair, weaving his fingers from behind her ears to the very ends. “I would be unconscious, you would be awake, and I would not get the pleasure of…”

His sentence broke off as she freed his shaft and lowered her head – but she looked up through her lashes expectantly.

“The pleasure of?” she prompted, flicking her tongue out but purposefully missing his head by a tiny margin – and it was clear Hades was exerting considerable willpower not to raise his hips toward her mouth.

“Of hearing the sounds you’re going to make,” he explained, combing her hair to one side and gathering it there. “Of seeing your face reflect how good I want you to feel.”

“Mmm, good answer,” she smiled – a genuine smile, because the tone of his voice assured her his words weren’t meaningless lines.

Kissing against his head ever so lightly, caused Hades to hiss out a slow breath of anticipation; he wanted to close his eyes, but could not lift his gaze from her. The way she lowered her head, sliding her lips around his girth, her tongue warm and wet and firm against him all the way to the back of her throat – he was enraptured. The dig of her fingernails into his thighs reminded him of current tumult, but the twisting, turning, building storm of fire setting all his senses ablaze, was all about her.

Blinking away tears of effort, keeping her gag reflex at bay, Miho took great pleasure in the squirm of this god at her mercy, feeling her own skin burn with want.

“Miho,” he rumbled, straining to reach forward and draw her up from her knees.

“I’m not finished,” she protested breathlessly, but Hades was already well on his way to removing her blouse, strong fingers burrowing under the torturous underwire of her bra and unhooking unkind clasps that held her breasts captive.

At the close of his mouth over her right nipple, Miho gasped sharply, rolling against him, pressing with a crashing wave of need to be filled with more than the uncertainty of late.

“Uh, don’t just tease me then,” she whined, his face gripped tightly between her hands, fingertips digging into his scalp.

And so easily he picked her up, her legs wrapped around his waist, grinding. With a last kick he left his trousers and underwear on the balcony and carried her inside.

She might have wondered how often he had lovers at his earth condo that he had condoms handy, especially in the kitchen, but she was more glad they were there. Stopping now was not an option.

Her pants were shed before he placed her against the cold marble benchtop, the cool contrast shooting splinters of pleasure up her spine.

“No, don’t leave me,” she breathed, when Hades began to crouch, encouraging him back up to her mouth. “I want to stare at you, right up until that moment you break me.”

“I don’t want to break you,” he swallowed, nipping at her lips while he secured the condom into place.

“Oh I want you to give it your best shot,” she grinned, exclaiming a soft moan as his fingers pressed into her wetness, thumb rolling hard over her swollen clit. “It’s not every… day you get to fuck a god, after all.”

The clamp of her teeth on his shoulder caused him to grimace as he explored within her, the scrap of her nails patterning his shoulder blades with uneven white lines unable to break the surface. Each time he pushed inward, Miho’s hips met the limit of his fingers and tried to wriggle further still, and Hades relished the glow in her cheeks and the slight lack of focus in her gaze.

“I want you,” he murmured around her tongue, and Miho leaned back a little.

“Then stop being so polite and take me,” she asserted, even as he placed his fingers into her mouth, tangy with her own taste.

His eyes flared with a fire she’d not yet seen, her imperative releasing the man behind the gentleman god with his own wants, needs, and the will to pursue them.

With a firm grip on her once more, he lifted her from the counter, holding her against his chest easily with one arm, and aligning the head of his aching length against the breach of her snatch – and Miho held her breath though her lungs burned.

“You, are beautiful,” he told her quietly, carrying her further into the kitchen until her back pressed flat against the smooth stainless steel of the refrigerator.

“Are you stalling to infuriate me?” she responded, squirming though his hold was firm enough to prevent much movement.

“I’m stalling,” he breathed, his forehead to her lightly so they were eye to eye, nearly lip to lip, “because I want you,” he continued, and ever so slowly gravity pull her down onto him, “to enjoy this moment especially.”

Wincing a little as he stretched her open – certainly more so than any previous lover – Miho’s entire body quivered until she could swallow him no more.

Satisfied by her shuddering groan and the low-lidded way she enticed him with her eyes, Hades finally succumbed to the tightness of her clenching pussy, withdrawing only to return to that blissful warmth again and again. Neither paid any mind to the rhythmic crack of the fridge as they shoved it against the wall with the force of their passion – both were far too caught up in the rising pressure building relentlessly against their desire to make the conflagration last.

And Miho let go of words, all the words she used to describe things and feelings and sensations, and as each moment of sweet, deep, penetration and the dizzying pleasure drew her closer to peak, she clung to Hades’ shoulders and sucked on his lips, rocked her hips toward the crash of hers until her mouth fell silently open.

 

Miho murmured into wakefulness, her body heavy with a satisfying ache and her mind clouded with the echo of acute sensation.

“Welcome back,” Hades smiled down into her face, his body propped up on one elbow.

Blinking slowly to try and focus her eyes, Miho took a moment to take in her surroundings. Hades laid beside her in a large bed, his lower half covered by a graphite coloured sheet, while she was completely concealed. Lightly he touched her hair, and Miho’s eyes flickered closed with a sigh.

“You kept your word,” she exhaled, nuzzling against his hand. “I… have no idea how I got here.”

“I’d hate to disappoint,” he chuckled, curling a lock of her hair around his finger.

“Oh, you most certainly did not,” she assured him. “Quite…” she went on, clearing her throat. “… epic.”

Looking modestly pleased with her description, Hades gently began to draw scrolling patterns down Miho’s neck then across her exposed collarbone, causing her to pleasantly shiver.

“Ahh, you want to go again, hmm?” she breathed, peering up at him with heated desire no less than before, but clearly lidded. “But, if I’m honest, I don’t think I have the energy to move much right now.”

“That’s fine,” he said, leaning down to kiss her lips, allowing her to feel his still present desire despite what he said. “It’s still night,” he told her, shimmying down under the sheet and offering her his arm.

Somewhat laboriously, Miho rolled over and rest her head against his shoulder, his strong arm holding her to him.

“Get some sleep,” he suggested, planting a kiss against the top of her head. “I’ll keep the nightmares away.”

“I don’t think I even have the energy for nightmares,” she admitted wryly. “You sure know how to wear a girl out.”

Snuggled against him, curling one leg over his and her arm across his chest, Miho took in a deep breath of Hades’ scent, and closed her eyes.

In that darkness, Miho rediscovered delicious drowsiness, and focusing on the sensation of Hades breathing, his heartbeat beneath her palm, she drifted into sleep once more.

Day 25

Some time after 1am, Hades felt the urgent vibration of his cell phone. Reluctantly, he carefully pried himself away from Miho, ever so carefully so as not to wake her. With a quiet murmur she shifted a little, then snuggled against the pillow – but remained asleep.

Out of earshot he took the call from Jazz, and quickly apprised of yet another instance of the undead, his plans for ‘breakfast in bed’ with Miho were completely dashed.

He left her a note, to which she woke some hours later, groggy until her hand crunched into paper where Hades should have been.

“Dear Miho,” she read. “I had to go but didn’t want to wake you. Go ahead and make yourself at home, just stay out of the liquor cabinet. Hades.”

Miho scowled and even pouted since no one was around to see it.

“What does he think I am? Some kind of lush?” she snorted, stretching her still somewhat sore body.

The ache, however, reignited memories of the night before, and Miho found herself grinning. She grinned all the way to the bathroom and scoped it out – neat and clean with a shower…

“… big enough for fucking,” she verbalised, turning the water on and stepping under it.

It felt weird.

Not the water – being in Hades’ condo when he wasn’t there.

He had such a presence, and with the recollection of it still pressing against her skin, into her, its absence was significant.

But it was the morning after, and now she didn’t quite know what to do about it. The sex was good.

No, that word doesn’t do it justice.

How the hell do you describe an orgasm so intense you pass clean out?

Divine – duh.

Miho sighed, and resisted the urge to indulge too much in the memory.

When she was dried and dressed in yesterday’s clothing, she wandered out into the open living area to find another note on the kitchen bench.

“Me again,” she read, then snickered at the dorkiness. “Help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge. Wow Hades, if your subordinates knew how fluffy you really were.”

She was starving, but she didn’t want to linger.

She sighed again, but this time because she didn’t want to extrapolate on their relationship all… how many face to face days of it? Okay, so giving in to their mutual attraction was a bit of a fast forward, but that didn’t necessarily mean anything.

So she left, locking the door behind her.

That isn’t a metaphor for her heart, reader, calm down.

With just her handbag, she walked for a while. The longer she spent on the street, the more she found herself scouring every nook and cranny for signs of the undead, until she couldn’t stand it anymore and hailed a taxi.

Making only one stop before her apartment – to acquire herself a new police scanner from a ‘source’ of hers – Miho then shut herself away in front of her computer.

The cursor flashed on the empty document as she struggled to find a place to begin, to order her thinking into some cogent form.

But her brain was clouded.

“Ugh, this isn’t working,” she growled at herself, and instinctively looked to her phone.

In times like those, she would have called Mieke. Rain, hail or shine, night or day, her best friend was always there when she needed her.

The last time they’d spoken, however, had been in the café when Miho had discovered the truth of her employment, and upon reflection, Miho knew she had been pretty harsh about it.

Now she knew the secrets of HERA – well, some of them – she understood it must have been pretty difficult for Mieke to keep everything concealed, and for her to balance their friendship and her work.

Oh but how Miho hated admitting she was wrong, and there were a bunch of messages from Mieke on her phone she’d be ignoring… and she would really have to answer them properly.

“Fiiiiiine,” she hissed to herself, then dialled Mieke.

It was answered within one ring.

“Miho?” the other woman’s voice rang out in surprise.

“Glad you haven’t forgotten my name,” Miho said wryly. “You busy?”

“Ahhh, nope, not busy at all,” Mieke rushed, and Miho smiled.

“Fancy a sleep over? In addition to apologising for what I said to you the other day, and you know, ignoring your messages, I have stuff to tell you.”

“Definitely,” Mieke responded. “Um, give me about an hour?”

Glancing at the clock, Miho shrugged.

“No problem, I’ll get started on the snacks.”

Day 26

Mieke arrived in her Batman pyjamas. The first thing Miho did, was draw her over the threshold into her arms and squish her tightly.

“I’m sorry,” she smooched against the other woman’s neck. “I was a dick. I didn’t try to look at things from your perspective- I am a dick.”

“Me too,” Mieke grinned, hugging Miho right back. “I didn’t want to lie to you. It was horrible and I am horrible.”

This mutual confession was step one.

Step two.

“Chocolate will cleanse us of our sins,” Miho announced, finally releasing Mieke and kicking her apartment door closed.

And so it happened, that on a pile of cushions, tangled in several feather doonas, Miho and Mieke laid in the middle of the lounge room, comfortably snuggled up and stuffed full of melty chocolate muffins Miho had baked.

“I think I ate too much,” Miho groaned.

“As is tradition,” Mieke giggled, but she too felt on the uncomfortable side of full.

“Okay, so,” Miho exhaled, “I need to tell you something, but you have to keep it to yourself.”

“Well it goes without saying I’m good at that, right?” Mieke pointed out, giving Miho’s belly a poke.

“Okay,” Miho repeated, taking a deep breath. “I had sex with Hades.”

Poised for another attack on Miho’s stomach, Mieke froze and stare, not even blinking.

“With Hades?” she repeated, but it truly came out like a question.

“Yeah,” Miho affirmed breathily. “You know, he was getting in my way, and then the whole Minotaur thing and suddenly I’m on Olympus walking around hand in hand then fending off zombies and…”

“But you… with Hades?” Mieke stammered, and Miho prattled on, waving her hands around in an animated fashion.

“And the moment we get back I’m nearly blown up by more zombies, and then Agent Mann is dragging me to Hades’ condo by the river, and he cooks and we drink and then…”

“Then?” Mieke prompted, even though Miho had already divulged the conclusion.

“And then he fucked me so gloriously I passed out,” Miho sighed, her body quivering and her nethers tingling at the recollection. “Holy shit it was soooo good,” she gasped, lolling her head back, and Mieke rose up on her elbows to look down into Miho’s face.

“Do you have any real idea what you’ve done?” Mieke asked her flatly.

“Sucked on the godrocket of Princess Underworld?” Miho offered cheekily. “Not that I could fit all of it in my mouth,” she giggled.

“Oh my god!” Mieke exclaimed, caught somewhere between excited and flabbergasted.

“Well I’d have said that, but my mouth was full at the time” Miho laughed.

“Well… I mean… describe it – in absolute visceral detail!” Mieke demanded.

What followed was a graphic account, with partial re-enactment, of Miho’s sexual encounter with Hades, and Mieke hung off every syllable.

“So he just… left you in his condo on your own?” Mieke blinked.

Hades was pretty private, always professional, and rumour around HERA was, in lieu of Zeus, he was the real leader of the pantheon – and now her best friend had…

“Left me a couple of little notes,” Miho added, “but yeah, pretty much.”

“Well, what were they like?”

“What was what like? His kisses? His choice of position? His testicles?”

“Yes,” Mieke nodded, and that set them laughing again. “I mean the notes. Were they lovey dovey – hearts and love Hades?”

“Nope,” Miho shrugged. “Boring really, business like.”

“Oh, well that sucks,” Mieke pouted. “What now though? I mean, is this a thing? Are you and he a thing?”

“I…” Miho began, then paused to think on it a little more deeply. “… nah, I don’t think so.”

“Really?” Mieke frowned. “I mean, it’s not like I know him personally, but he always struck me as the type to commit, not be just casual.”

“Look, it was probably all the excitement, the adrenaline, the alcohol – holy shit that god-brewed stuff is sooo good.”

“Did you just change the subject?” Mieke gawped. “You slept with a top tier god, the top tier god arguably running Olympus, you don’t get to change the subject.”

“I don’t really know him as a top tier god though,” Miho defended with an awkward shrug. “Just a hot guy with weird cosmetic choices getting in the way of my investigation. You know, even in Olympus it was like… amazing but they have the same kind of sadness and fear as we do.”

“Yeah, I suppose,” Mieke agreed. “I heard some gods actually died.”

“And then came back as zombies,” Miho affirmed. “I just can’t figure out why though. Just for destruction? For mayhem? Revenge? And who? Hades said he didn’t think Zeus was behind it.”

“Ugh, Zeus. That guy scares the shit out of me, and to be honest, I wouldn’t put anything past a megalomaniac like that. When the whole… hey wait a minute, you misdirected again!”

This revelation dissolved into a tickle war that left both women gasping for breath.

“So,” Mieke panted. “Are you going to see him again?”

“That’s… a really good question,” Miho shrugged, stretching out her limbs and wriggling her fingers. “I need to go begging to be unsuspended, or get looking for a new job, or I’m going to end up living at your place.”

“Or with Hades?” Mieke offered, but it was met with incredulity.

“If I moved in with every man I slept with, Mieke, I’d have a pretty decent real estate portfolio,” she expounded, then looked thoughtful. “Damn, I should have thought of it sooner.”

“I still think you’d have a shot with Hades,” Mieke pressed.

“Maybe, but what’s the point? He’s immortal, and I am mortal, which means I’ll be a wrinkly old prune before too long and he’ll still be an Adonis.”

“Not seeing a problem there,” Mieke laughed.

“I think it’d be painful for him to see someone he cared for wither away, and maybe he’d just ditch me for a younger model anyway, which wouldn’t be much fun either,” Miho reasoned.

“Hmm, I see your point,” Mieke frowned. “But you could at least have fun with him while you’re not reliant upon a pacemaker to keep you ticking, right?”

“I guess,” Miho nodded, not quite sure why that idea made her feel uneasy.

Astoria: In Chaos – Part Three

DAY 9

Agent Mann knocked twice on the outside of Cyprin’s door before entering. Therein sat not only the child of Aphrodite, but also Hades.

“Agent Schmit has regained consciousness,” she reported, closing the door behind her. “He’s still a bit shaken up, but was able to give me a general idea of what happened.”

“And an explanation for Miss Fujiwara’s presence?” Cyprin prompted, and Agent Mann inclined her head.

“According to Aiden,” she began, dropping some of her formality, “Minotaur had him at a complete disadvantage, and Miss Fujiwara appeared out of nowhere to draw attention away.”

“That doesn’t explain why she was there,” Cyprin pointed out, touching their chin thoughtfully.

“Given her penchant for sticking her nose in where it doesn’t belong, I think the explanation is relatively obvious,” Hades weighed in.

“You think she was snooping?” Agent Mann queried. “After we ransacked her office?”

“I heard she was quite upset,” Cyprin added, but Hades was shaking his head.

“She’s driven,” he declared. “Hydra was right about her not letting go. It’s perfectly within her character to sneak into a crime scene under cover of darkness.”

“But to consciously put herself in Minotaur’s path?” Cyprin asked. “That’s bold.”

“She’s nothing if not that,” Agent Mann agreed a little wryly. “Footage on her phone clearly captured Minotaur’s aura attacking Aiden, so she definitely saw far more than we wanted her to; whether she remembers it or not, we’ll have to wait until she wakes up.”

“She’s still unconscious?” Hades frowned.

“Doctor Phelps said it was precautionary because of some brain swelling,” Agent Mann explained. “It’s better if she is kept in an induced coma until it goes down, less chance of permanent brain damage.”

“So there’s a chance she won’t remember anything,” Cyprin postulated, and Agent Mann gestured in the affirmative.

“Or worse.”

“Hmmm,” Cyprin sighed, saddened despite the fact Miho had been a pain in the ass.

Hades then stood, the air about him suddenly colder.

“I’m going to interrogate Minotaur myself,” he announced, and Agent man did her best not to cringe.

She was glad she wasn’t Minotaur.

DAY 17

 

Over a week later, Agent Mann – Jazz – was called to the HERA infirmary where Miho had spent the time since her encounter in an induced coma. Finally, MRI results indicated the swelling had gone down enough for it to be safe for her to be allowed to wake.

When she did, Jazz was surprised to find her uncharacteristically subdued. The doctors advised Jazz it would take some time to discover if Miho had suffered any permanent damage from her head injury, and while Jazz nodded, she saw something in Miho’s eyes that better explained her silence.

“Sir,” Jazz greeted, meeting Hades’ approach outside Miho’s room.

“How is she?” he enquired first, and Jazz had to smile a little.

Though they had been trying to prevent the woman from discovering the true nature of HERA and indeed the world of gods and monsters, Hades’ first question was not about what Miho had seen or heard, but rather about her wellbeing.

That was just the way Hades was.

“Physically it looks like she has full function,” Jazz reported. “Dr. Phelps has said she might, at the mildest, suffer some memory loss which might be a silver lining.”

“But?” Hades prompted, knowing Jazz well enough to see there was an unspoken exception.

“But, I think she remembers everything perfectly,” Jazz filled in. “I can see it turning over and over in her mind just behind the mask of stoicism she’s keeping plastered on her face. She might be a tougher nut to crack than Minotaur.”

“That fool knew only that he was encouraged by Zeus to embark upon some random destruction, but never thought to ask why,” Hades reported, shaking his head a little.

“Even if Fujiwara doesn’t have memory loss, there’s nothing to stop her pretending she has,” Jazz pointed out.

“No,” Hades disagreed, looking to the door. “She won’t lie.”

“Oh?” Jazz said.

“Something Agent Genever mentioned,” Hades mused thoughtfully.

“Mieke Genever from Research and Development?” Jazz asked, for the two were acquainted through the other agent’s breakthroughs in aura marble technology. “Mm, well I suppose if Fujiwara won’t talk to you, she might talk to her friend… uh, not that I don’t think you couldn’t get her to talk.”

“It’s fine,” Hades assured, dismissing Jazz with the hand he pressed against the door to Miho’s room.

Therein was light and airy, but the woman in the bed seemed to be sleeping; not that there was anything else for her to do. A nurse looked up from where she was taking notes on a chart, and quickly got to her feet when she noted who had entered.

“Sir,” she acknowledged in a flustered rush –after all, not everyone got to see, let alone speak with a god.

“Is Miss Fujiwara fit enough for a conversation?” he asked quietly, and though the nurse nodded, it was Miho who answered.

“I’m fine,” she declared, her voice still a little raspy from intubation.

Exiting, the nurse closed Miho and Hades in, and the god moved to sit on the side Miho was facing.

“How are you feeling?” he asked, settling in his chair and leaning back.

It took an almost uncomfortable amount of time for her to answer, though she peered at him the entire time.

“Fine,” she repeated, searching, searching, Hades could feel her gaze digging into his skin.

Expecting as much, Hades continued unperturbed.

“Do you remember what happened to you?”

Again there was a long silence and her stare, broken by far too few blinks.

“A part of me wants to tell you I don’t,” she responded finally, a heavy, conflicted sigh. “I think I could pull off a fairly convincing case of amnesia.”

“But you won’t,” Hades noted, watching her struggle.

“Uh, when your own principles come back to bite you,” she grumbled irritably, then slowly began to shift in bed toward a sitting position.

When she winced, Hades grabbed an additional pillow that was wedged between the bed and set of drawers, and tucked it behind her, one large but gentle hand on her back carefully lowering her against it. He felt her tense, saw her flinch but try to hide it in the stubborn set of her jaw and reactive hostility in those hazel eyes.

“We recovered your cell phone from the scene,” Hades told her, returning to his seat, crossing one leg over the other. “Despite dropping it and smashing the screen, you managed to capture most of what went on.”

“But you want me to tell you what I think I saw,” Miho filled in with a severe frown. “How about you come clean? I hate making assumptions.”

“Yet you assumed I and my agents were the bad guys,” he pointed out, but Miho was quick to retort.

“No, I judged you as bad guys for what I observed, and that was covering something up,” she asserted. “Something that nearly got me killed, hell I don’t even know if Agent Schmit survived.”

“He did, in no small part thanks to your intervention,” Hades informed her, but despite his acknowledgement of her efforts, Miho was unmoved.

“Quit misdirecting, Hades,” she hissed, grimacing again. “Tell me what I saw, what I felt – I am tired of conjecture and this stupid sematic game. Minotaur, a man but… what was the orange bull I saw? The power that launched a car, that put holes like that in solid concrete.”

“What you saw was Minotaur’s aura,” Hades explained finally, “the godly part of the monster.”

Slowly Miho inhaled and then released the breath.

“Minotaur, as in the result of Pasiphae’s bestial affair with Poseidon’s bovine gift to King Minos, Minotaur?” she questioned slowly.

“Not my brother’s finest moment,” Hades admitted seriously.

“So this… Minotaur, HERA that he mentioned, the Grand Olympus and you… you’re telling me you are actually the Hades, God of the Underworld?”

The slight incline of his head caused Miho to straighten a little more; despite what she had seen, there was still incredulity in her eyes.

“Prove it,” she demanded curtly.

People, mortals anyway, generally didn’t speak to him like that, and Hades found himself caught somewhere between affronted and intrigued. He wasn’t sure how he’d react in her position, but to challenge the God of the Underworld to prove his identity true was not something he’d request.

“Here is neither the place, nor is it the…” he began, but Miho cut him off.

“Agent Schmit was trying to stop Minotaur,” she interjected, “told him to co-operate, so I can safely deduce his job was to find out what was going on – a law-keeper, even if outside traditional channels, and as your obvious subordinate, he must have been acting on your orders.”

“That sounds suspiciously like an assumption, Miss Fujiwara,” Hades observed.

“Don’t Miss Fujiwara me,” she glowered, hands gripping tight, angry fistfuls of the stiff white sheet that covered her body. “Unless you’re actually planning to kill me for discovering your secrets, which seems unlikely given I woke up in the first place, your best bet to keep me from exposing you and yours to the hungry public, is full disclosure.”

“HERA is an agency responsible for ensuring godly monsters such as Minotaur, and other influences of divine origin, do not have an impact upon the mortals of Earth, that they never have to carry the burden of knowing such things even exist.”

“Good job,” Miho threw in pithily, but instantly bit her lower lip when Hades narrowed his eyes at her.

Suddenly he felt much larger than she knew him to be, his presence expanding and pressing her into silence again.

“Usually mortals settle for the most logical answer, not what they perceive to be fantastical,” Hades expounded, eyes narrowing further. “Usually.”

“I’m… not sorry,” Miho scowled, but she couldn’t meet his gaze now. “What gives you the right to decide for people what they can handle?”

“Aside from being a top tier god?” Hades replied, one eyebrow twitching the moment he spoke – he could hear undertones of Zeus in his own statement.

“As yet unproven,” Miho put in, but still didn’t lift her eyes.

“I have no need to prove anything to you,” he told her, and Miho’s response was to throw off the sheet and swing her legs over the edge. “Miss Fu…”

Hands flat on the squishy mattress, Miho placed her bare feet to the white linoleum floor, ignoring the sudden cold that tickled a line down her spine where the gown hung open.

“What are you doing?” Hades frowned, rising and moving around the bed to intercept her.

“If there are no answers here, I’m leaving,” she announced bluntly, shuffling a little to one side as she tested the strength of her legs.

“You are still recovering from cranial trauma,” Hades argued, not touching her until – when she attempted to step around him – she teetered too far to the left and her knees buckled.

“This…” Miho hissed out, her breathing labored and her eyes rolling. “… this is, it’s unlawful… imprisonme…”

“Be quiet,” Hades growled, lifting her easily and lying her back down on the bed before pressing the call button. “You are going to do yourself more of an injury.”

Through mere slivers tried to focus on Hades’ face, to muster up an expression of fierceness and defiance that might provoke him into providing the proof she’d asked for, but her vision remained hazy and her head swam.

When a nurse, quickly followed by Dr. Phelps entered, Hades explained her dizzy spell – and when Miho finally came good, the God of the Underworld was gone, replaced instead by Agent Schmit.

 DAY 24

Sulkily, Miho remained under observation – not really against her will – but she wasn’t particularly happy about it.

Agent Schmit and Mann visited frequently, and during that time both made their own attempts to convince her staying quiet about what she’d witnessed was in the best interests of everyone. In response, she asked them to explain how lies were better, and finally Jazz lost her temper.

“Does your self-righteousness know any boundary?”

Where she sat by the window, Miho’s expression stiffened.

“Excuse me?”

“No,” Jazz retorted. “You have no idea the dangers HERA protects people from.”

“Of course I don’t,” Miho volleyed, hackles rising. “But not for a lack of trying.”

“You’re just a petulant child rebelling against parents who know better.”

“I don’t know you,” Miho spat. “Who are you to decide what I need to be protected from like, like I’ve not capacity to make judgements for myself?”

About half way through her ragey rhetoric, the door opened and Hades stepped in.

Jazz straightened, but Miho seemed to be winding up for ‘The Rant, Part Two’, though she stalled when Hades spoke her name.

“Dr. Phelps has cleared you for release,” he declared. “Please get dressed; I’d like you to come with me.”

“Where?” Miho queried suspiciously.

“Olympus,” Hades replied, and Miho blinked.

“Bullshit,” she dropped.

“You’re going to regret being so disrespectful,” Jazz muttered quietly, and Miho shot her a dirty look.

“You wanted to know, here is your chance,” Hades pointed out.  “But for that you’ll have to trust me.”

For a moment Miho was clearly thinking things over, until she finally nodded.

“Okay,” she conceded more calmly. “But I make no promises about non-disclosure.”

“Understood,” Hades agreed, and though she was still wary of the reporter, Jazz added no protest.

One of the suits Miho had already encountered was in the foyer of the Grand Olympian, when she entered with Hades on one side and Jazz on the other. Resisting the urge to comment, Miho simply smiled pleasantly.

“Pardon us agents,” Hades greeted as he was waved through security. “This underworld princess would like to take Miss Fujiwara on a tour.”

Rather than cringe at his recollection of ‘the foyer incident’, Miho smirked at Hades.

“You should run with that,” she chirped, but her eyes were everywhere, not missing a single surface as they continued into the building.

On their way to a very specific elevator, Miho asked every question that popped into her mind, and with openness that surprised Jazz, Hades answered graciously. When they reached a pair of golden doors, Jazz excused herself, leaving Miho and Hades to proceed alone.

“Just to clarify,” Miho ventured, feeling uncertain butterflies storm in the swirl of her stomach, “Olympus isn’t a metaphor for the place you dispose of people who meddle, is it?”

“It’s a little late for that query, isn’t it?” Hades smiled, allowing her to ponder this for a moment before allaying her concern. “But no, Olympus is quite literally the home of the gods.”

“Quite literally,” she scoffed.

“I don’t recall laughing at your home,” Hades mused, not bothered, just making a point.

“I just find it, well not amusing – odd maybe – that of all the supposed religions that exist and have existed throughout history, that of the Ancient Greeks turns out to be the one.”

“Religion has never been about what is actual,” Hades said, motioning to the elevator’s interior as the doors peeled open, “but rather what people need to feel secure with their place in the world.”

“Among other things,” Miho added, an edge to her tone as she stepped confidently into the lift, regardless of how nervous she might actually have been feeling.

“Not much of a believer?” he queried, stepping in beside her, his arm brushing against hers in the relatively small confines.

Miho shifted sideways a little, and turned her body to face him as the doors closed. Hades noticed now, there was significantly more caution in her body language, though he knew she knew it was well and truly too late to put up a fight if things went sour.

Lucky for her, Hades honestly meant her no harm.

“Self-delusion is not conducive to positive personal growth,” she stated assuredly, but the moment she met his gaze he saw her body tense a little more. “Anyway… elevator?”

“Yes?”

“You ride an elevator to get from Earth to Olympus?” she clarified. “What did you do before elevators were invented?”

At this Hades chuckled, and it was clear from her expression that Miho was caught a little off guard by how warm a sound it was.

“The gods do not require such a conduit to move between worlds,” he explained, keeping his eyes fixed on hers, trapping her there whether she liked it or not. “Mortals, however, demi-gods and godly monsters, are not equipped to travel without. Ultimately, it’s convenient given where HERA is located.”

“Which brings me to my next question – why New York? Why the States? Astoria is nice enough I guess but, isn’t it a little bit odd for something with roots so far away?”

“There are reasons,” Hades answered, but did not elaborate.

Instead, he inclined his head toward the doors, that a second later opened.

The full light of afternoon met them, along with the sound of moving water somewhere nearby, and the call of bird definitely not heard in Astoria. Motionless, Miho just stared, attempting to reconcile her ingrained skepticism with what she was seeing with her own eyes.

“Welcome to Olympus,” Hades smiled, stepping out but looking back when Miho didn’t follow.

Even HERA agents were astounded and sometimes overwhelmed when first seeing the home of the gods, and for many the wonder endured – so Hades was not surprised by Miho’s reaction. Patiently he waited, studying her.

Despite her question about being killed off for interfering, she hadn’t really asked what his endgame was; either she had given him the trust he’d asked for, or was so zealous in her pursuit for the truth behind HERA’s involvement in Minotaur’s destructive rampage, that she was willing to bet even her life on it.

“Shall we?” he prompted finally, extending a hand toward her, and in a daze Miho exited the elevator and reached to take it.

Then stopped. Blinked. Returned her hand to her side.

“You need not be so guarded, Miss Fujiwara,” he told her, lowering his hand with a smile Miho actually thought seemed a little sad.

“You don’t get to hold a girl’s hand when you’re still referring to her by her surname,” Miho sniffed, for some reason feeling the need to offer him a wry grin.

“May I call you Miho?” he enquired, and again Miho was stunned by his manner.

“You are not what I envisioned for the God of the Underworld,” she exhaled, scrutinising him, perplexed.

“Because mortals fear what they don’t understand,” he explained with a shrug, but he stepped closer to her as he did. “They can’t see beyond the veil of death, and because of who and what I am and represent, by association that fear is transferred to me. People make, assumptions.”

“Hm, fair point,” she acknowledged, but her words felt a little sluggish falling off her tongue.

“How about you, Miho?” he then questioned, looking into her face, now no more than an arm’s length away. “Are you afraid of death?”

Her lips pursed. She wanted to look away – not because her answer was yes and not because she was fearful of him per se. In self-defense she reached for humour.

“With that hair to greet me on the other side?”

But her voice was a little breathless.

“Not likely.”

“You’re more than a little obsessed with my hair,” he chuckled, given her an easy way out.

“I’d like to see you as a brunette,” she smirked, clutching the life-line he’d thrown.

“Oh no,” Hades laughed. “Persephone convinced me to do that for Halloween one year, and it looked ridiculous.”

“Would you dye it if I promised to keep your secret?” she ventured, and Hades raised an eyebrow.

“That’s your price?”

“No,” she shrugged. “I was just wondering how attached you were to the mauve.”
“Olympus spreads out before you, and it’s my hair you want to talk about,” he chortled, and in response, Miho tilted her head, peering at him almost curiously. “What?”

“You know, if people could see you, hear you laugh like that, there’d be a lot less fear in the world,” she told him, serious once more.

“Your opinion of me has changed that much?”

Again she found his eyes inescapable, until the call of a beautiful white peacock started her back to her senses – and she didn’t answer his question.

Instead she walked slowly away from the elevator to the edge of the platform upon which they stood. Or rather it wasn’t so much a platform as it was an island floating in a bright sky streaked with pastel wisps of cloud. Beyond, other levitating land masses housed grand structures in the style of ancient Greece, littered with marble columns and grand statues amid lush garden and waterfalls of indeterminate origin.

“This is real?” she exhaled. “You didn’t just, spike my cordial?”

“It’s real, Miho,” Hades smiled at her back. “Let me show you around my home.”

Ever so lightly he touched her shoulder, and when she turned he extended his hand once more. This time, however, though she was still obviously hesitant, she took the offering and allowed her fingers to be gently enclosed by his.

As they walked the winding paths, Hades gave her the TL:DR about the actual role of the gods, including his own work, but Miho sensed there was a great deal he was leaving out.

“And this is the entrance to my estate,” he announced when they passed through a pair of grand gates leading up to his abode.

“Palatial,” Miho commented almost absently, for she was too distracted drinking in her surroundings, trying to memorise every fine detail.

“What’s this?” came a female voice at the top of the rise, just shy of the Grecian manor’s front doors.

It was the twitch of Hades’ grip on her hand though, that snapped Miho’s head to the only other person they’d seen so far.

“You haven’t brought a woman home since,” the cheerful voice continued, and Miho met the owner’s bright green eyes, “well, since me, and I don’t count.”

Slowly, Hades’ fingers uncurled, and after clearing his throat, Hades made introductions.

“A reporter?” Persephone blinked, looking from Miho back to her uncle.

“Despite HERA’s efforts to keep her out of it,” he explained, “Miho is largely responsible for Minotaur’s capture.”

“Hades must trust you a great deal to bring you to Olympus,” Persephone nodded, all the while maintaining a stunning smile. “Most HERA agents never get an invite.”

“I’m not sure about that,” Miho replied, “but, I am very grateful for the opportunity.”

“I was just on my way to speak with Poseidon,” Persephone said, shifting her gaze back to Hades, “but I could eat first and go later if you want me to whip up something for you and your lady friend.”

The edge to her tone was teasing, and Miho was surprised to find a little more colour blossom in Hades’ cheeks.

“Oh, I like her,” Miho grinned, and Hades clicked his tongue.

“Ganging up on me is absolutely not allowed,” he frowned, but this only made Persephone laugh.

“Come on, Miho,” she prompted, stepping forward and taking Miho’s hand – at least Hades had asked, but there was absolutely nothing threatening about her, “I make the best salads in all of Olympus.”

Someone should have told Persephone you don’t make friends with salad, but Miho did not protest, allowing herself to be dragged into the mansion with Hades trailing behind.

True to her word, Persephone produced the most delicious meal Miho had ever had, even though it was salad. She found herself incredibly comfortable with the goddess, whose friendly manner and complete lack of agenda let Miho drop her guard, just a little. Occasionally, however, she would feel Hades’ amethyst gaze grazing her, and though this was not threatening in and of itself, it left Miho wondering what it was he was trying to figure out… other than whether she actually planned to publish an exposé.

He insisted his niece leave the washing up for him to do, and before Miho knew it, she was standing in the kitchen beside him drying dishes.

“As if all this isn’t surreal enough,” she huffed, mostly to herself, “here I am doing to dishes with death incarnate.”

“It wasn’t initially on the itinerary,” he admitted, passing her the last plate. “But Persephone is…”

“Your personal chef?” Miho put in.

“Not far off to be honest,” he conceded, “not that I can’t…”

“Nanny?” Miho amended.

“Okay, that is going a little too far,” Hades frowned, and there was even the hint of a pout which Miho found hilarious.

“Oh no, you seem to me like the kind to over work – see getting in the way of my job at every turn – and forget to take care of himself. I bet she even irons your shirts.”

“She does no… ah… well maybe she did this one,” he scowled, and Miho found it… adorable.

“I wish you’d let me interview you, take pictures,” she sighed. “You would make my career… well you would if I actually had one.”

“No,” he told her flatly, a large chunk of humour disappearing from his tone.

“Ugh!” Miho grunted, stomping around the counter. “You’re only showing me all of this because you know if I run this fantasy without solid evidence even the crackpot conspiracy theorist will laugh at me.”

“That isn’t the only reason,” he smirked, the tables turned. “You are talented at what you do,” he went on, folding the tea-towel over a rail and moving across the open space to large glass doors that looked out over the expanse of his estate, “you must be to be standing here now.”

Miho’s brow twitched and she approached him.

“Okay, so I’m talented,” she agreed, and had been set to go on when Hades’ hand was held out to her for the third time that day.

“Let’s continue the tour,” he said with a smile, and with another sigh Miho agreed, pushing the dull throb behind her eyes to the very back of her focus.

After drinking in the sights for quite some time, Hades stopped beside an immaculate, sparkling pool, and suggested they rest for a while.

“It’s not as if taking a leisurely stroll through heaven is especially taxing,” Miho told him, but Hades narrowed his eyes on her knowingly.

“You’ve been grimacing on and off since lunch,” he argued sternly.

“It’s just a headache, Hades,” she scoffed, but sat when he guided her to an intricately carved stone bench at the water’s edge.

“A headache is not just a headache, when you’ve recently been in a coma.”

“An induced coma,” she nit-picked, but had unconsciously begun massaging her left temple.

“I think it’s time I returned you to Earth,” he decided, but before he could draw her back to her feet, there was a thunderous, roaring explosion somewhere in the distance.

“Hades?” Miho gasped.

“Stay here,” he told her gravely – but that was never going to happen.

“No way,” she protested, doing her best to keep up with the cracking pace he set, running up the sloping path toward a plume of smoke staining the now otherwise flawless sky.

She trailed him by some distance, but caught up to find him – among others for whom she had no name – gaping at the collapsed and smoldering side of what looked to Miho like some sort of atrium.

The gods seemed to be in a state of shock.

“Hades, there are people in there,” Miho hissed, staring forward like she meant to jump into the flaming rubble.

But Hades caught her arm in an iron grip and jerked her back.

“Do not move from this spot,” he commanded, a sound like she had never heard from him, one that indeed rooted her to the ground.

She could them only watch as he took control over the scene, directing those around him to attend to all facets of this event they seemed to be having difficulty processing. Miho also tried to fathom the situation – was this an intentional attack on Olympus? Terrorism on Earth seemed an almost daily occurrence, but this place of divinity she thought should have been exempt from such human failings.

A panicked sniffle-sob to her left drew Miho’s attention from the chaos to a small, distraught figure. She looked maybe five or six, but Miho had no idea how gods aged – all she knew, was the apparent child was frantically searching the carnage and looked about ready to dive into the fire.

“Hey,” Miho frowned, when the little girl shuffled forward, “no no, you can’t go in there.”

“My mother is in there!” the child exclaimed, wide eyes a blur with terror.

“Hades will… do something,” Miho assured, but she couldn’t really be sure at all.

All she could do was crouch and try to offer the girl some comfort, not that she was especially good with children.

Then something appeared Miho couldn’t quite reconcile.

Fire, destruction, mayhem, injury and death she could understand, it was all just another day at the office, but the figure that came stumbling from the building’s ruined husk was not just a victim.

When the child let out an alarmed scream, Miho reflexively swept her up, and drew back from the horror that shambled in their direction.

“Don’t look,” Miho hissed, pressing the girl’s face into her shoulder protectively as she retreated.

The woman, Miho assumed she was a woman, looked broken: one leg twisted at an unnatural angle, part of a jagged bone protruding from the side of her neck that lolled to the side as if lacking support – and her eyes wept an oily blackness that dribbled down her cheeks and dripped from her chin.

Shaking, Miho peered around for something she could use as a weapon, settling on a somewhat charred shard of wood that she awkwardly scooped up from the ground.

“I don’t know what this is,” she forced out breathlessly, her mouth dry. “But you need to just… just stop and…”

But discoloured fingers clawed forth, forcing Miho to bat the hand away with her makeshift club.

“Seriously!” Miho barked, quickly placing her ward on the ground behind her and gripping her weapon with both hands. “I will fuck you up… more.”

It sneered, the zombiesque woman, and a rasping, rancid chuckle emerged through lips slick with gore before she lurched her Miho.

The sound of wood connecting with soft flesh and surprisingly brittle bone caught Miho completely off guard, the upward swing she landed against the underside of the ‘woman’s’ chin, substantial enough to knock her attacker down. She followed through with a wide swipe to her left, collecting a second monstrous figure attempting to get at the child who clung hysterically to the back of Miho’s pants.

No time to process.

No time to question.

Miho just acted on instinct, until the rush of a snarling purple shape flashed around her, great, glowing scythe decimating the threats her reach. And she shivered against the cold that touched her skin but left it unmarked, the power that made her feel dizzy but left her and the child unharmed.

Panting, Miho dropped to her knees to embrace the child again, looking up as the reaper receded to reveal Hades had been behind it.

“Are you all right?” he asked, his voice deep with grim concern.

“All right, yes. Okay? No,” she breathed, stroking the little girl’s hair. “What the hell is going on? Zombies?”

“That is an excellent question to which I do not currently have an answer,” he responded on the very edge of a growl that made Miho want to cower, even if the ire was not directed at her.

“Uncle!” Persephone called, rushing up as she shook her head in disbelief.

“Take Miho back to the estate,” he instructed sharply, and Persephone urged Miho to her feet without further question.

“Where’s Peitho?” Persephone rushed, glancing from the girl still wrapped around Miho, to her uncle.

Hades’ indicated one of the bodies now motionless where he’d cut it down, and Persephone’s eyes grew wide.

“Go now,” he prompted a little more firmly. “Take Symphonia with you.”

With a decisive nod, Persephone urged Miho into motion, and reluctantly complied, scowling over Symphonia’s head ad Hades as she did.

He spared her one more glance and a nod before turning back to the confounding scene.

In silence Miho sat, idly stroking the hair of the little girl – Symphonia – who had finally fallen asleep with her head in Miho’s lap. Processing what she had seen and done proved an even bigger challenge than accepting Olympus and the Greek pantheon.

Persephone pottered around nervously, glancing toward the entrance foyer every now and then. Olympus had fallen eerily quiet – even the birds and insects seemed to have recognised the gravity of what had occurred, the abnormality, and the cost.

“Can I get you a drink?” Persephone asked Miho, leaning a little over the back of the couch.

“That’s the fourth time you’ve asked,” Miho smiled thinly over her shoulder. “Maybe you should have one, a strong one.”

“Maybe,” Persephone nodded, moving around to sit opposite Miho. “I just can’t believe what I saw.”

“You and me both,” Miho agreed. “I…”

She lowered her voice so as not to wake the child.

“… Gods… can they actually die?”

Solemnly, Persephone sighed.

“We can,” she replied. “Our souls get reincarnated, we can be reborn, but it’s… difficult.”

“Symphonia’s mother?” Miho prompted.

“Yeah, she will… I think… I mean I’ve never seen a god turned into…”

“… a zombie?” Miho put in, and Persephone cringed. “That’s what they were, right? But how? What power is strong enough to do that to a god?”

“In honesty, I don’t know,” Persephone admitted, slouching.

Both women straightened however, Persephone jumping to her feet, when the sound of the front doors opening and closing heralded Hades’ return.

His face was weary, smudged with soot, his clothing just as grubby with one sleeve torn.

Trapped beneath Symphonia, Miho could only crane her neck and frown, looking him over for injury.

Wordlessly, Persephone questioned him with her eyes.

“I don’t know,” he admitted, and there was real pain in his voice that burrowed toward Miho’s heart. “But, we lost eleven.”

“What kills eleven gods?” Miho whispered.

“Could it have been…” Persephone began, but seemed fearful of continuing.

“No,” Hades dropped definitively. “Zeus may be acting like our enemy, but I cannot believe he would attack Olympus like this, not do that to his own people.”

“Zeus, is your enemy?” Miho exclaimed, and Symphonia stirred a little. “No, no, just stay asleep,” Miho soothed, carefully inching out from under the girl so she could scrutinize Hades after this new revelation. “Hades, what the hell is going on?”

It was unnerving seeing such a man sigh.

“I can explain it,” Persephone piped up, but Hades shook his head.

“No, I want you to take Symphonia to Aphrodite,” he declared, drawing in a bracing breath. “Peitho was her attendant.”

Sadly, Persephone nodded, moved over to the sleepy child and lifted her into a draping carry.

“Wait, will Persephone be safe going out on her own?” Miho scowled. “What if there are more of those… things?”

“I’ll be fine,” Persephone asserted with a reserved smile. “And Uncle will keep you safe.”

In the wake of her departure, Hades and Miho remained standing, still, strained.

Olympus was his home, and god or not, Miho had to think he was deeply affected by what had happened.

“Why don’t you get cleaned up?” Miho offered finally. “I could make some tea or… juice? It’s about dinner time if you’re hungry? You must be exhausted.”

Hades opened his mouth, but closed it without saying anything – then offered her a resigned nod. She hadn’t expected that.

With no idea what to make, Miho poked awkwardly around the kitchen after Hades had disappeared, trying to find various utensils. She found the refrigerator an amazing place, filled with fresh produce that made Miho wonder where Olympus’ farms were. The process of cooking allowed her to distance herself from the tangle of thoughts that threatened to engulf her. In fact, she was so focused, she didn’t even notice Hades had returned until he placed himself in her path.

“Jesus!” she exclaimed when she turned and crashed into his chest.

With one hand Hades’ caught the bowl she nearly dropped, and the other took her arm to steady her.

“No, just Hades,” he corrected, fashioning a mild smile.

Despite herself, Miho blushed. The scent from his freshly washed body, its warmth, and seeing him in casual attire, did something to her she hadn’t expected.

“I… didn’t know what you liked,” she admitted, swallowing as his touch lingered a little before he stepped away. “So, I just… I doubt it’ll be anywhere close to Persephone’s meals.”

“That doesn’t matter,” he responded, heading to one end of the kitchen and opening a door. “I appreciate your efforts.”

For a moment he disappeared again, and when he emerged it was with a bottle in each hand.

“Red or white?”

“Well I was about to grill this fish I found,” Miho replied. “Not sure what type of fish it is, but it looks fresh enough so, white?”

“White it is,” he decided, placing the red aside and removing the cork of the white.

After all that had happened, there was a strange normality to preparing for a shared meal, in being offered a glass of wine in the evening.

But they didn’t toast, to crystal clinking together, and Hades frowned, finally raising his glass.

“To the ones I lost today,” he said solemnly, his eyes focused elsewhere for a moment before he looked into Miho’s face through the pale, golden liquid.

“May they find their way home before long,” Miho added with equal reverence, and she felt the weight of his gaze intensify, watching her as he took a sip. “So, take a seat while I cook the fish.”

“Can I help?” he asked, at which Miho couldn’t help but laugh.

“Would Persephone let you help?” she levelled.

“This is my house you realise,” he pointed out, actually amused.

“Just sit down and let me get on with it,” she huffed, and actually gave him a light shove to get him moving.

Chuckling and moved as far as the other side of the island counter, and sat on a stool.

“After what you’ve seen, I owe you an explanation,” he said after the initial sizzle of the fish on the grill had died back.

“Eh,” she shrugged, glancing back over her shoulder with a smirk. “Don’t worry about it.”

“What?” he blinked in surprise, glass stalling half way to his mouth.

Again, Miho shrugged.

“It’s fine,” she reinforced. “Just enjoy your wine and your dinner.”

Though he could obviously keep talking, the way Miho turned back around to focus on the fish was a clear message to take her suggestion. It puzzled him greatly, that she – in pursuit of answers- would turn down the very chance to get them.

“You’ll get wrinkles if you keep frowning like that,” Miho snickered, though she hadn’t looked at him.

“Pardon me for feeling a little bewildered,” he replied. “Are you finished learning about this hidden world you’ve finally discovered?”

“Of course not,” she scoffed, taking the thin fish fillets off the heat and putting the pan on the marble countertop. “Now just isn’t the right time.”

“Hmm,” he mused, watching as she plated up their meal.

It was pleasant, and though Miho had a million more questions than she’d had earlier in the day, Hades’ pain was evident, no matter how hard he tried to hide it. It was commendable of him to still be willing to talk after some of his people had been killed… and not just killed.

“Is your head still bothering you?” Hades asked as he picked up her empty plate.

“Hm?”

“You were frowning,” he added, carrying the dishes to the kitchen.

“Nope,” she exhaled, a breath that turned into a yawn, and she rested her head on the back of her chair.

“Tired clearly,” Hades smiled. “I could take you back, but perhaps it would be better if you stayed here the night.”

This caused one of Miho’s eyebrows to lift, and immediately Hades rushed to elaborate.

“I have many guest rooms,” he explained, and Miho grinned wickedly as he blushed.

“Disappointed,” she sighed airily, but her teasing was ruined by another yawn. “Looks like we’ll just have to be quick.”

“I’ll get you a towel and something to wear,” he chuckled.

In a lavish guest room – truly the type of fairytales – Miho sprawled out on the massive bed – a bed so comfortable it felt like she was floating. But she just stared at the softly draped canopy as the world churned in her mind, over and over without rest.

Two worlds.

The things she’d seen defied logic, and yet logic told her all she’d ever needed was first hand proof to believe in something – there was no such thing as ‘can’t be’, but rather ‘I’ve just not discovered it yet’, but everything she’d witnessed that day overloaded her brain.

When she finally struggled into slumber, it was troubled. Darkness lurched at her from all directions, rotting hands infested with pestilence, grabbed from her body and dug in jagged fingernails. No matter how she screamed and tried to fight the monsters off, help seemed so distant – the shape of Hades and the purple reaper she’d seen but once, for some reason holding back.

It had been dark for hours, when she finally wrested free of sleep’s fearful embrace. She woke to find herself in a tangle of soft blankets, gripping her pillow that would moist with tears. Desperately trying to catch her breath, she rocked into a sitting position and put her feet to the floor. It’s stability helped to calm the raging of her pulse, and dispel the storm clouds still clinging to her skin.

“You’re not a kid,” she muttered angrily at herself, scrubbing her cheeks and eyes before smoothing back her hair.

After a few minutes of contemplating going back to sleep – then deciding not to – Miho checked she wasn’t being indecent in the t-shirt Hades had lent her, she exited the guest room and headed to the main area.

She was surprised to still find Hades up, paperwork spread across the dining table. When she appeared he looked up, even before she’d entered his peripheral vision, and frowned a little.

“Can’t sleep?” he questioned, and Miho shook her head, looking a little sheepish.

“Nightmares,” she explained awkwardly. “I can’t stop everything spinning in my brain.”

“Unsurprising,” he nodded, scraping his chair back softly and getting to his feet. “Why don’t you get comfortable on the couch?”

Without protest, Miho moved over to the comfy looking sofa and flopped down. She zoned out almost immediately, losing sight of the room for a wash of blurry, high speed thoughts and images that tried to drag her back into fear, until a sweet smell assailed her nose.

“Hot chocolate?” Miho blinked, staring at the steaming mug Hades was holding out to her from behind the sofa. “Not something I thought a health nut like you would have handy; I’ve seen what’s in your fridge.”

“It’s organic, fair trade cocoa,” he replied with a wry grin, and with his own mug in hand, sat down next to her. “So, what’s bothering you the most? Maybe those answers you refused earlier will help quieten your mind.”

DAY 25

Miho didn’t know how long they talked, nor did she remember when it was she fell asleep. All she knew, was that eventually light tickled her face. She was warm, and snuggled, enveloped and protected by a sense of complete safety she didn’t want to disturb.

Finally, when she stretched a little, something moved beneath her, and she opened her eyes. What she saw was Hades’ sleeping face not far from her own. His arms were draped around her, hands resting in her lower back, and she laid against his chest, formerly with her head tucked beneath his chin.

“How did…” she began, and that was all it took for Hades’ eyelids to slowly peel back.

“Good morning,” he smiled softly, such a gentle expression Miho was caught completely off guard. “I suppose we fell asleep.”

As much was obvious.

Miho remembered him telling her about the search for Hera, about Zeus’ obsession with finding Hera and how it all blew up after the fake was revealed. The pantheon ended up broken, split, a dangerous schism that could well have been the route of what had happened the day before.

Now, Hades’ didn’t seem at all abashed by their circumstances, nor did he remove his arms.

“This looks cosy,” came a suspicious voice from the other side of the room, and Miho lifted her head a little to see Persephone enter.

“Oh, this isn’t, this isn’t what it looks like!” Miho rushed, wriggling, and with a chuckle Hades sat up and unfurled his arms.

He did not, however, rush to move away from her, though his cheeks had become a little pink.

“I just…” Miho began again, but Hades put his hand on her shoulder, even while she hurried to pull his t-shit over her hips.

“It’s okay,” he assured her, then rose. “Yesterday was pretty trying.”

“Is that your shirt?” Persephone wondered, and Hades responded honestly.

“I didn’t think you’d approve of me rummaging through your drawers,” he answered.

“Clearly you didn’t have the same issue about rummaging through hers,” Persephone grinned, and Miho’s eyes stretched wide.

“Wait, that isn’t what happened at all,” she argued, standing up while clinging to the hem of her modesty.

“I don’t disapprove,” Persephone teased, moving over into the kitchen area. “He looks good on you.”

“Okay, that’s quite enough,” Hades finally intervened, running his fingers through his hair.

“Oh god,” Miho exhaled in embarrassment, hand over her face, while Persephone continued to laugh.

“You’re not tired of saying that yet?” the goddess added, and Hades very nearly face palmed.

Giggling, Persephone opened the fridge.

“Why don’t you two take a shower while I fix breakfast?”

“I’m fine,” Miho said quickly. “But I will go put my clothes on.”

Swiftly she scurried back to her guest room, aware of two gazes following her.

“Spill it,” Persephone urged, leaning over the counter at her uncle.

“There is nothing to spill,” he assured her. “Understandably she had difficulties sleeping so…”

“… you gave her a hand? Or something else?”

“Don’t be vulgar,” he chided, settling on a barstool. “I explained how things came to be the way they are now, and what might have been the cause of yesterday’s destruction. But, I would much rather know the facts.”

“Unfortunately I have some more bad news,” Persephone said, finally getting serious. “Erinyes is missing.”

“Missing, or defected?” Hades sought in clarification, his expression filling with shadow.

“Hard to say at the moment,” Persephone sighed. “All we know is she wasn’t among the dead.”

Generally quite calm and in control of his emotions, Hades’ irritation actually bubbled to the surface.

“Zeus needs to stop this madness,” he growled, his fist balled on the benchtop.

In the doorway, Miho paused mid-step as a wave of powerful, negative vibes expanded from where Hades sat.

“Bad news?” she ventured, remaining where she was, and Hades inhaled a sharp breath to reign in his annoyance.

“Could be,” he conceded. “Sorry.”

“No, no, don’t apologise,” she said, moving slowly over to the counter. “Now I’ve a better picture of what’s really going on, I get the stakes are high. I don’t suppose you could call a truce with Zeus, to talk things over?”

Then her eyes cut to Persephone.

“It just occurred to me that Zeus is your father,” Miho noted.

“He is,” she sighed, “but that doesn’t mean I’m going to excuse him for behaving like a thug,” Persephone replied gruffly. “If he is responsible for what happened yesterday, I…”

Her entire body seemed to tense, her brow gathering low between her eyes in a knot.

“I don’t know if I can forgive him,” she finished.

“Persephone is above reproach,” Hades vouched with a curt nod.

“Okay,” Miho accepted, sitting on the stool next to Hades. “So what happens now?”

“We eat,” Persephone declared, trying to lift the mood.

“Then I return you to Earth so I can deal with this mess,” Hades added.

“Just like that?” Miho blinked. “Down the elevator, out the building and goodbye?”

“Maybe a kiss,” Persephone put in, but Miho shook her head.

“Not what I meant,” she explained with a frown. “Now I know all this, how am I supposed to just, go back to ‘normal’ without even knowing how this ends?”

“It’ll be better if you do,” Hades responded, but Miho wasn’t having it, turning her body to him.

“There you go making decisions for me again,” she scowled. “I’m old enough and ugly enough to look after myself.”

“Oh?” he voiced in challenge, also swiveling to face her. “Is that why you were thrashing around and crying in your sleep?”

“I was and you didn’t wake me?” she volleyed, and Persephone took a step back.

“Uh, I don’t want to get in the way of a lover’s tiff, so I’ll just…”

“We are not,” Miho snapped most definitively.

“This isn’t up for debate,” Hades told her, and ambiguity remained about what exactly wouldn’t be debated.

“Fine, then take me back now,” Miho hissed, getting to her feet.

“For someone claiming to be old enough to take care of herself, you sure are acting like a petulant child,” Hades judged, his voice taking on a colder edge.

“Then allow me to get the hell out of your way,” Miho asserted, and began to stalk toward the front door.

“Wow,” Persephone dropped. “You sure know how to pick the feisty ones.”

“Apparently,” Hades sighed, exasperation written all over his face as he began after Miho. “I will be back shortly.”

Miho was surprised there was no further lecture from Hades, especially as they rode the elevator down in silence. He also said nothing about non-disclosure or confidentiality, and simply saw her to the collection of her handbag, then to the foyer of the Grand Olympian.

“Please stay out of HERA’s way, Miss Fujiwara,” he said finally, his voice even and firm, “for your own safety.”

“Sure thing, Reverend Hades,” she dismissed, waving over her shoulder and strutting out of the building like a boss… only to back very quickly back inside. “Zombie!”

The guards looked to Hades, but when the top tier god took Miho’s shoulder and shoved her behind him, the other agents leapt into action.

“Stay here,” Hades rumbled, following his agents onto the street, but Miho was already digging around in her bag for her phone.

She’d left it on, and it was flat, much to her disgust, but that meant her entire focus then went to the scene unfolding on the street.

Several corpse-like figures were approaching the building, but that wasn’t even the beginning of the horror, for strapped to each were vests looking to Miho very much like explosives.

“Get back!” Miho shouted, as a number of people just going about their business, approached along the footpath. “Go, go! There’s a bomb!”

In a city that had already experienced the pain of terrorism, the ‘b word’ had an immediate effect. The people turned on their tails and ran, screaming and shouting at others to clear the street.

Gun shots popped, as agents fired upon the walking dead, while Hades’s reaper aura swept across the now otherwise empty street, collecting the bodies before smothering the explosions that burst forth from the fallen emissaries of destruction.

“Hades!” Miho shrieked, dashing from the store front she’d been hiding in, collecting a metal waste bin as she did.

Which she pitched at the legs of the much faster moving creature that had slipped in behind the agents on its way to the foyer. When the bin connected, the zombie stumbled and fell, given Hades – who had turned to Miho’s call – enough time to sprint and slide in front of her, putting his aura between them.

The explosion tore into the Grand Olympian’s fascia, sending concrete rubble flying, but there was no one left in the foyer to be injured, and the other HERA agents were well out of range. For seconds after the sound of the blast dissipated, Hades remained hunched over and around Miho, who only opened her eyes when her ears stopped ringing.

“That was reckless,” he rumbled, but his arms tightened a little before he straightened.

“But effective,” Miho exhaled, wobbling a little and resting back against Hades who hadn’t moved away.

“Hurt?” he scowled over her shoulder.

“Nope,” she managed, trying to catch her breath and quell the trembling of her body.

Damage to the building did little to quell the involuntary shaking of her limbs. While it all could have been much worse if the blast had detonated inside the foyer, the building now looked like it needed a dentist. HERA agents began cautiously emerging through the jagged cavity, and still Hades held Miho.

“You can let go of me now,” she whispered, as someone called out to Hades.

Flipping a switch, Hades’ expression hardened and he finally stepped away from Miho’s side to begin delegating responsibility for the scene.

Focusing on getting a grip, Miho moved herself out of the way as the street was cordoned off and nearby buildings were evacuation.

As she calmed, words joined together, linking into sentences and paragraphs, pages of cogent story that would absolutely sell/

“Hey!” came an assertive female exclamation, and for a second, Miho wondered if she had spoken aloud without consciously thinking.

“Is there a reason you’re ignoring this badge?”

“This falls outside your jurisdiction, Ma’am,” a straight-faced HERA agent outside the barrier responded – also familiar to Miho.

Without really thinking she might not be allowed back in, Miho stepped out to inspect the gathering crowd, and the one belonging to the loudest voice of all. “And who exactly are you?” the smartly dressed woman demanded, an NYPD badge dangling around her neck. “You sound just like me,” Miho chuckled, drawing the attention of both the woman, and the agent she’d been sparring with. “They’re trained to be that annoying.” “Are you?” the police officer volleyed.

“A reporter,” Miho answered pleasantly, offering the other woman her hand. “Miho Fujiwara, at your service.”

The eyes of the HERA agent narrowed.

“Oh relax Agent Eyeballs,” she grinned, waving her other hand at the man. “You’ve got bigger things to worry about right now than me and my blabbermouth.

When the police officer’s hand made contact with Miho’s, Miho looked back to her brightly.

“Detective Yashitori, Narumi,” the officer greeted, some of her steam escaping in the face of Miho’s unbothered expression.

“Pleasure to meet you, Detective,” she smiled, and turned her back to the HERA agent, subtly encouraging Narumi to do the same.

Conspiratorially, she leaned a little closer to Narumi and dropped her voice, well aware the Agent Scrutiny was watching and listening still.

“Just quietly, they do have jurisdiction, and no, they aren’t going to share much more about how.”

“And you know this how?” Narumi enquired, studying Miho just as closely.

“Oh,” Miho smirked, then raised her voice a little. “I’m sleeping with one of their commanders.”

Yeah, that broke Agent Voyeur’s calm, and he blinked like Miho had just thrown cold water in his face.

“Miss Fujiwara,” he growled.

“Nope,” she sniffed, dismissing him with another wave, linking arms with the somewhat bewildered detective, and urging her into a walk. “I am in desperate need of coffee,” she declared. “And you look like you could use one too.”

Somehow, Narumi’s frustration had evaporated – something about Miho’s manner managed to carry her away. But that wasn’t the only thing. She was a detective, and an observant one. Even as she had argued with Agent Stoicism, she’d spied Miho emerge from within the blocked off area, and her familiar way of speaking with ‘those in charge’ suggested she knew more than most of the morbidly curious crowd.

So she went along.

Not far away, in a cafe Miho had only been in once before, Miho placed a ‘cup of Joe’ in front of Detective Yashitori, just as Hades had done with her. And it wasn’t lost on her how similar the circumstance were – except Narumi had yet to call her ridiculous names or make commentary on her hair.

Before Miho could speak, Narumi took the initiative, just in case the other woman’s purpose was to cover for the suits.

“So, if I can’t get to the crime scene, what am I supposed to put in my report?” she asked, her voice a little edged. “It’s kind of difficult to investigate when some people, somehow apparently have every right not to let me in. My boss is going to love this; I can hear him right now.”

“I bet he sounds a good deal like me,” Miho responded, calm in the face of Narumi’s slight irritation.

Narumi suddenly superimposed Miho’s face over Kirisawa’s, and her annoyance wavered just slightly. What Miho’s assertion also did, was further reinforce the woman who she’d so willingly left a crime scene with, knew something, and had once been in a position of frustration also.

“So, I’m listening,” Narumi prompted, blowing the steam over the top of her mug.

Nodding, Miho chewed on the inside of her cheek thoughtfully.

Here was a cop. Clearly one driven enough to push back at obstructions preventing her from getting to the facts.

The easy answer was, tell a lie to protect the best interests of the masses – and Now Miho sat in his seat.

“So, the Greek pantheon is real, though right now it’s fractured thanks to Zeus being a dick. Now bomb wielding zombies are attacking both Olympus and Earth,” Miho heard herself prattle.

“Well, if I’m honest – and I like to be honest – there isn’t a lot I can tell you,” Miho admitted finally. “And if I feed you the lines they fed me, then you’d be just as dissatisfied as I was.”

“So, you could always try telling me the truth,” Narumi suggested critically.

“Believe me, I want to,” Miho sighed.

“But?” Narumi insisted.

“Well, if your imagination is anything like mine, you have a pretty vivid idea of what might happen,” Miho nodded slowly.

“And your boyfriend?”

“Boyfriend?”

“The commander? He wouldn’t protect you if you say, happened to accidentally let slip a few details?”

“Oh riiiiight,” Miho chuckled. “I never said he was my boyfriend.”

“But you’re sleeping with him?”

“Slept with him, yes, quite fitfully actually,” Miho revealed emphatically. “The guy made for a surprisingly comfortable mattress considering all the lumps and… bulges.”

At this, Narumi blushed a little despite herself, perhaps drawn to the sudden image of someone she knew with bits and pieces in all the right places.

“Mhmm, Detective Yashitori, I do believe you’re imagining something pretty lewd,” Miho grinned, offering her a wink. “Someone special in your life? Yes?”

“Mhmm, Detective Yashitori, I do believe you’re imagining something pretty lewd,” Miho grinned, offering her a wink. “Someone special in your life? Yes?”

Being relatively good at reading people, Miho could see the answer written on Narumi’s face, though the detective quickly covered it up and refocused.

“I suppose I should expect a reporter to be pretty good at misdirection,” she smiled thinly. “Though isn’t your job usually revealing the truth, rather than covering it up?”

For a few seconds she allowed this question to hover, before she spoke again, leaning forward on the table a little.

“Which begs many questions, including why would a reporter be so subversive? Perhaps to protect the commander she is sleeping with?”

“Subversive is an awfully strong word,” Miho grinned, rather enjoying the verbal game of cat and mouse. “As for someone I might be protecting, which it’s entirely within the realm of possibility, that wouldn’t really speak very well of me would it? I mean, several explosions just chewed a chunk out of a New York building – that’s a little bigger than just me and my beloved, right?”

“Right,” Narumi nodded, not so much enjoying the banter as trying to dig her way through Miho’s wall of words. “But I don’t know you, so you could very well be that kind of person.”

“Please, I’m nothing like Agent Pokerface,” Miho scoffed. “I’m pretty sure they are required to take classes in speaking in monotone, and their P.T. involved toning facial muscles so they don’t ever smile.”

“But not you?”

“Nope, I am soooo not on the payroll,” Miho chuckled.

“But you’re toe the line,” Narumi asserted, rather than questioned, and she watched as Miho shifted a little in her seat, a sign – perhaps- this idea didn’t sit well.

“You want to know what’s going on behind the curtain, Detective?” Miho exhaled, leaning back in her seat, poking at her mug idly.

“Obviously,” Narumi responded. “That is my job.”

“Mm,” Miho murmured. “Would you still be pushing to know if it wasn’t your job?”

Narumi took a moment to consider this question. It all came back to why she became a police officer in the first place, what she stood for.

“Yes,” she answered finally, a definite nod added for emphasis – and Miho smiled a knowing and somehow conflicted smile.

There was so much of herself in the other woman it was painful to watch. It was like staring into the not so distant past, observing herself tread the same path of frustration and irritation, facing the same hurdles – only now she was Agent Mann and Hades.

That stung.

“You know what they often say about the Internet, Detective?” Miho posed rhetorically, for she clearly meant to continue. “What has been seen cannot be unseen? I imagine in your line of work, you’ve witnessed many things you wish you could scrub from your memory.”

“That doesn’t mean the reason behind why I saw it doesn’t make it worth the price,” Narumi argued, and she believed it, Miho could see she believed it.

“I understand,” she said, trying not to be patronising. “Things explode, and the protectors of the city don their capes to protect the innocent.”

“I prefer a badge to a cape,” Narumi interjected a little dryly.

“Well I don’t have either,” Miho pointed out a little wryly, “and you know, I thought complete and utter transparency in everything was the only way to be fair, to be equitable – because you and I both know, knowledge is power.”

Waiting for her continue, Narumi pursed her lips expectantly.

“But in recent days I’ve learned, power isn’t everything,” Miho explained, but frowned as she heard her own voice.

“You’re conflicted,” Narumi observed.

“Oh yeah,” Miho laughed, a slightly bitter sound. “It’s crazy how quickly things can change, especially to things you thought were set in stone. Beliefs ingrained in me by my parents, by my environment, by the world and all its perils.”

“Perils like explosions on busy public streets in broad daylight?” Narumi offered.

“Exactly,” Miho confirmed. “All the scary stuff we assume will be less scary when we know the reason why – and I hate assumptions.”

“Then that’s another thing we have in common,” Narumi encouraged.

“But I was wrong,” Miho admitted, internally cringing. “There are some things in the world, the universe, that I am, that others are, better off not knowing, will be happier not knowing.”

“But who are you to make that judgement?” Narumi very nearly growled. “You said it yourself, you don’t have a badge – I’m at least authorised to protect the public. What gives you the right? What gives your shady friends in the suits the right to get in the way of what should be the jurisdiction of NYPD?”

A sigh drew both their attention to a new arrival not far from their table.

Jazz’s expression said, ‘Oh gods, they’re multiplying’.

“Uh oh, hand caught in the cookie jar,” Miho quipped, but Narumi was instantly scowling at the new arrival.

She didn’t recognise her, but Miho’s comment and her mode of dress suggested she was very much a part of the ‘group’ who apparently thought they had all rights to obstruct police business. Staying quiet on the matter simply wasn’t her style.

“Whatever this organisation of yours is – and it’s certainly not a publicly known or acknowledged institution – I’m going to give you some advice, take it even as a warning if you like,” she declared, standing to make more of a point.

Jazz didn’t move, allowing the officer to continue.

“Even if you are influential enough to convince my superiors to turn a blind eye,” Narumi continued, and Miho watched on, her expression also falling into something bland, “you’re sadly mistaken if you believe the echoes of terrorism will be ignored by not only the NYPD, but also the FBI. We answer to the public, even if you…”

She cast a glance at Miho.

“… and your lackies, don’t.”

Ouch, talk about a slap in Miho’s face, but Narumi wasn’t about to let it go. She might have been relatively calm during her conversation with Miho, but the suit really pissed her off.

“I understand,” Jazz replied calmly, “and you are absolutely right.”

“But,” Miho added in helpfully.

“But,” Jazz said, her lips a sour line of disapproval as her eyes flitted to Miho, then back to Narumi, “I suggest you speak with your superiors before you kick up too much more of a fuss. It’ll save you a lot of time and energy that you could be expending helping the people of New York where we can’t.”

“Well, it’s hard to know where that would be,” Narumi began, smirking though there was certainly no smile in her eyes, “when I don’t know where exactly your jurisdiction starts and ends, isn’t it?”

Desperately she fought the urge of her hands to plant on her hips.

“Apparently, I didn’t get the memo.”

“Yeah, that happens,” Miho put in… yeah, so helpful.

“If you would prefer to talk to my superior, then I’m sure he’d be happy to find the time to detail you an explanation about law, and lawsuits. To whom should he address it?”

“She’s Agent Mann,” Miho answered, and Jazz shut her eyes for a second to keep from snapping, but Miho just grinned cheekily and also got to her feet. “She loves getting mail. Want her email too?”

“Seriously?” Jazz sighed sharply.

“How did you even know I was here?” Miho queried, though she didn’t seem awfully bothered.

“I’m psychic,” Jazz answered, and given what Miho did know, she couldn’t be sure Jazz was joking. “Your favourite commander is looking for you.”

“Of course he is,” Miho beamed, but she was honestly a little hmm, not scared, but certainly apprehensive, given if Jazz had come to fetch her on Hades’ request or order, and he knew she had wandered off with a cop, she might very well be in for a talking to.

Or a spanking.

Hopefully a spanking?

“Well it was lovely to meet you, Detective Yashitori,” Miho smile brightly, offering Narumi her hand again, but this time there was a business card in it.

Still, Narumi’s temper was still agitated, so though she shook Miho’s hand and took the card, she failed to manage a convincing reciprocal expression.

Jazz, on the other hand, scowled as Narumi inspected the card, while Miho sidled up to her.

“Okay, I’m good to go.”