Chapter Thirty Three
The end of the day couldn’t come quickly enough. By the time she arrived at the Colosseum for the extra class, she was anxious to be away. The first time she hit the floor, she remembered why she was there. She managed to regain her focus, though she still spent more time on the ground than not.
It was a comfort to her that Hades hadn’t tried to talk her out of going. She knew that he could protect her. He could probably move mountains. But she wanted to be able to fix some of her own problems. And she wanted to be of use to him too. She was relieved that he didn’t expect her to sit idly by, like some ornament left on the shelf.
There was really no marked improvement that she could see from the previous session overall. But she had to trust that would come with time. She couldn’t afford to lose hope or give up. She just kept reminding herself that It wasn’t about them; it was about her. It was about taking control of herself and being the best she could be. Even as she brushed the dirt off her clothes, wincing when she caught a tender bruise, she smiled. She was adamant the extra training would have an impact soon.
Kali practically fled the Colosseum at the end, ignoring her injuries and sprinting back to her rooms. She spared time for a quick shower, but the extra minutes were agony. She rushed to grab some clothes, but paused when she caught sight of herself in the mirror.
Her hair was still wet and wild, tumbling down her back, and it had grown so much. She had tried for a long time to grow it out, and it was finally past her waist. She grinned, imagining Hades’ hands tangling in her gentle curls. With that in mind, she haphazardly threw on a knitted jumper that could pass for a dress. She didn’t bother with socks; she just slipped into her boots and rushed outside.
Kali didn’t have to go far; Hades was leaning casually against the side of her building, waiting for her. His face lifted into a shameless smile and he lifted her in a hug the moment she was in reach. She laughed and met his lips with a breathless kiss.
“I thought we were meeting at the fountain.” She murmured, snuggling against him.
“Patience isn’t one of my virtues either, Kali.” Hades chuckled quietly, almost mockingly, at the weaknesses she revealed in him. “I couldn’t have waited another second to see you.”
“Did you want to come upstairs?” She asked nervously, moving her hands onto his chest. The blush on her cheeks was obvious as she rambled “I don’t exactly have any special dinner or…anything really. But I was thinking it would be nice to just stay in and talk?”
His heart felt lighter with her in his arms, and his smile was free and honest. She could feel his voice rumbling through her at his reply. “That sounds wonderful to me. But you’ll need to eat something, or you’ll get grouchy.”
She thumped lightly against his chest, feigning outrage. “I don’t get grouchy!”
He laughed, kissing her again. “Proving my point, there.” He seemed to think, though Kali wondered if that was an excuse to hold her a little longer. Not that he needed one. Eventually, he asked “What’s your favourite takeaway?”
“Pizza.” She replied immediately, hope clear in her eyes. If not for the grin spreading across Hades’ face, she would have been embarrassed. As it was, she was too distracted to focus on anything but the curve of his lips.
He noticed; Kali didn’t try to hide it, and his grin took on a smug edge. But instead of gloating, he said “Pizza it is.” When Hades pulled a phone out of his pocket, Kali blinked blankly. The idea that he even owned a mobile phone was too strange. He asked what she wanted as he dialled, and she leant into him to trail a kiss across his jaw. She could have sworn that his voice faltered slightly on the phone and her eyes glinted impishly.
He glanced down at her and visibly took a deep breath before continuing the call. Kali allowed a soft giggle to escape before kissing him again. She slowly moved her lips across his throat and up to nibble on his ear. His arms tightened around her, but she bit her lips over a playful grin and slipped out of his arms. The phone disappeared and he let his eyes wander over her, devouring her.
Hades hadn’t even noticed that her hair was wet until he suddenly noticed the water dripping onto her neck and chest. He took a hard breath at the thoughts that came with the observation. Part of him was still worried that he would hurt her if he didn’t control himself.
But the glint in her eyes was driving him crazy. She was teasing him. Her untamed joy, and the flames of desire in her gaze. She didn’t just love him; she wanted him. And she was wearing his mark like she was born for him. Everything about her in that moment was screaming out for him to chase her as she backed towards the door. His eyes darkened and he saw the grin on her face widen. Not falter. She never shrank away from him, even when the shadows of his own mind threatened to consume him completely.
“You…” He stalked a couple of steps towards her, his eyes burning into her, and continued “You are driving me crazy.”
Her smile only grew, even with the intensity of his gaze. Her voice was husky as she replied “Good. At least we’re on even footing then.”
A ragged sigh escaped him. “You are so far under my skin that I don’t think I could ever claw you out if I tried.” And then his lips were on hers again, his hands almost painful in her hair. She moaned into their kiss and found her legs around his waist as he lifted her again, pressing her against the wall. The playful challenge she had worn was replaced by helpless desire in an instant. Control was a game she didn’t mind losing.
As Hades’ hand brushed the outside of her thigh, Kali longed to be locked away in his rooms again. Clearly, he was just as impatient as she was; just as the thought crossed her mind, the scenery around them shifted. He faltered slightly but Kali pulled him back to her, her mind hazy with need. He allowed the kiss, but firmly broke it off and murmured “That was unexpected.”
“Hades…?” She whined indignantly, but he brushed her hair off her face and chuckled “Kali, my love. I did not bring us here.”
That caught her attention, despite her sudden exhaustion. “What do you mean?”
He grinned again, his features softening as he gazed down at her. “I mean that your power is growing. If I was not responsible for pulling us here, then I am sure you realise what that means?”
“But I couldn’t…teleport. Even if I tried.” She insisted, refusing to acknowledge what she could feel was the truth in his words.
“You wanted us here.” He dipped his head to taste her lips again, making her weak at the knees. A decidedly cocky note crept into his voice when he continued “At least I can rest in the knowledge that you want me as much as I want you. So much so that you would cross through the worlds to get closer to our bed.”
Despite the implications of what she had apparently done, those words gave her pause. Heat rushed to her cheeks and her eyes glittered, a smile dancing on her lips. “Our bed?”
“I like the sound of that.” And she did. Warmth crept through her and she sank into Hades’ arms, resting her head against his chest.
“Good. I like saying it.” His heartbeat was steady, grounding her, and she sighed contentedly when he stroked her hair. He whispered certainly “If you are mine and I am yours, then everything that was once mine is ours. Especially this room.”
Kali allowed herself to bask in him. She still couldn’t quite fathom it. The sense of Rightness she felt in his arms. Several moments passed before she reluctantly asked “How did I…?”
“Later.” He insisted gently, kissing the top of her head. “You ought to rest and eat something. We can go back to Camelot, and I’ll pick up dinner. Then we can talk?”
He kissed her, his lips lingering longer than necessary. Kali shivered at his touch, but she could feel her energy slipping away. “I feel…drained.”
“Sun-stepping will do that to you. Especially between worlds.” He laughed, but the look in his eyes was akin to reverence. “Honestly, I am surprised that you can even stand.”
She narrowed her eyes slightly, guessing “But not surprised that it happened?”
“I suspected it might happen eventually, as you grew stronger.” He admitted with a shrug. “But not yet.”
“What else did you think I might be able to do?” She asked, allowing a teasing smile to touch her lips as she met his eyes.
“Not yet, wildfire.” He murmured quietly, but the glint in his eyes didn’t match his words. Kali giggled despite the heat stealing through her at the promise in those vibrant sapphires. He leant back against the wall, bracing himself, and insisted “You need to eat, and I need to cool down before I forget that I am a gentleman.”
Kali couldn’t help herself when she noticed the tension in his shoulders. She knew he was using the wall to ground himself. She loved that he wanted her so, despite her exhaustion, she bit her lip and took a step closer, murmuring “You weren’t very gentle last night.”
His gaze sharpened into something almost predatory, and he stiffened, locking his muscles in place. But his grin was practically feral when he replied “And you weren’t complaining.”
“I’m still not.” She smiled, biting at her bottom lip. Despite the teasing quality of her voice, she sounded weary. After a moment, she sighed “I’m dizzy.”
Hades held his hand out to her. “Come here. I need to feel you in my arms anyway.” He gathered her close to his heart, as if she were the most precious thing in the world, and held her with a long sigh.
With a familiar tug, the shadows pooled around them and Kali found that they were back in her rooms in Camelot. Hades placed her down on the sofa, lingering for a moment to kiss her, before disappearing. Kali must have drifted off because it felt like a heartbeat before he was back with his arms around her. A glance over to the kitchenette told her the food was there waiting for them, and her stomach grumbled its approval.
She reluctantly stood up and kicked off her boots. Before she approached the food, she hesitated. Glancing anxiously at her bedroom door, Kali turned back to Hades and murmured “Could we sit in there for a bit?”
“Are you certain?” He asked, keeping his voice neutral. He knew she had been sleeping in the living room ever since the spider incident.
“I can’t stay out here forever. And I feel safe with you.” She sounded like she was convincing herself, but her voice was strong. She met his eyes, nodding firmly. “I want to try.”
The first few steps were difficult, and she faltered at the door handle. But with Hades’ hand reassuringly placed at the small of her back, they entered together. After a few short moments, they were sat on the bed with the pizza boxes. Kali’s legs were firmly kept within the confines of the bed, but there was no other sign of tension in her.
“This feels so normal.” She admitted, her eyes bright. Sitting and laughing together, cuddling close, it was more than she had ever dreamt she could have.
He chuckled softly and sighed “You have to be the only woman in the world with a God wrapped around her little finger, without a care for his power.”
“I wouldn’t go that far.” She blushed, remembering the previous evening, but managed to keep her voice even enough to continue. “It’s a part of you, and I won’t pretend that I don’t care for it. But…you know it’s not the Lord of the Underworld I want. It’s you.”
“I know.” His smile changed from his frequently smug grin to something softer. “I did not realise that I wanted to be treated the same as any other man until you showed me.”
Kali wrapped her arms around him, leaning close to whisper “I wouldn’t say any other man…”
“Good answer.” His grin returned and he kissed her cheek, snaking an arm around her waist to hold her against him. They ate mostly in silence, curled up together, until Kali suddenly said “Ask me a question. Anything.”
He laughed quietly but Kali wondered if he sounded almost bitter when he said “Honesty is easy for you, isn’t it.”
“No.” She caught herself and thought for a moment. “Well…maybe.” She struggled for a few more seconds as she considered whether that was true. Was it easy for her? Eventually, she decided “It’s not easy to offer to answer whatever you might think to ask. It terrifies me, to be honest. But I want you to see me. And I want you to know that it’s safe for you to do the same. So…no, it isn’t easy. But it is simple.”
He watched her, holding her steady gaze, for a long while. His startling blue eyes were shadowed, and his power seemed to curl around him. As Kali started to wonder if she had upset him, he said “Marshmallows. Good or bad?”
A surprised laugh tore itself from her throat before she knew what was happening. That was the question he went for? She pondered for all of two seconds before deciding “Good, but only the mini ones and only in hot chocolate.” She laughed again, oblivious to the way Hades’ breath caught in his throat as he watched her eyes glitter with amusement. “Tell me something.”
“Anything?” A heartbeat, before “I have never seen a movie.”
Kali’s eyes went wide, an exaggerated expression of shock only betrayed by her still gleaming eyes. “Never?”
“Never.” He grinned wolfishly and leant forward to kiss her; he couldn’t restrain himself from touching her anymore. When they parted, her smile was smaller, but her eyes were still alight with joy. He was so entranced by the sight, the knowledge that he did that to her, that he barely heard her reply “You’re not missing much. I’m betting your everyday is more exciting than most films I’ve seen.”
“Your turn, my love.” He considered for a moment and then said, “Tell me something small that you lie about.”
Immediately, she blushed. There weren’t that many things that she lied about, but most of them were silly. Even so, she thought about it and mumbled “I pretend to like wine because it makes me seem more sophisticated and I think it makes me look more mature.” She looked down at the glass she had barely touched and stammered “But this one is nice.”
“But you’d still prefer a hot chocolate.”
“Or juice?” She hung her head, wanting the ground to swallow her up. “Gods, I sound like a child.”
“Just me, love.” He reminded her, kissing her softly. She giggled as he waved a hand theatrically at her glass, replacing the dark red liquid with a bright orange one. Her laughter faded to quiet contentment when he added “And trust me when I say that nothing about you seems childish to me.”
To distract herself, and ignore her blush, she continued the game. “What’s your favourite food?”
His arrogant smile was enough to show her that he had noticed the slight wobble in her voice, but he didn’t comment. Instead he replied “Food isn’t really a necessity, but I am partial to a good steak. Otherwise…I enjoy blueberries.”
“Blueberries? Good to know.” Her blush had subsided again, and she couldn’t contain her laughter. “I prefer strawberries, but blueberry muffins are the best.”
He put his arm around her and rolled his eyes when she continued to giggle. “My turn?” His smile faltered and gave way to a pensive frown. “Do you believe in second chances?”
“Absolutely. Sometimes even third and fourth ones.” She didn’t hesitate, and her tone left little room for argument when she added quietly, “No one deserves to keep punishing themselves for their mistakes forever. Do you? Believe in second chances, I mean.”
He did not meet her eyes, but he replied evenly. “I would like to.”
Kali didn’t need to feel his conflicting emotions to know there was more in those words than he was willing to say. Instead of pushing, she leant against him and said, “If you could steal any of the gods’ powers for a day, whose would you take?”
“Zeus’.” He replied, with absolute certainty. “Not because I’m interested in what he can do; just to see the panic on his face while he scrambles around like a mortal.”
She laughed, nearly doubling over. “You answered too quickly!” She exclaimed, barely getting the words out through the giggles. “You’ve definitely thought about that before.”
He felt his laugh bubble up his throat and escape before he could try to school his expression. He touched her face, chuckling along with her, and sighed “There has not been this much joy in my life since…as long as I can remember. I didn’t think I knew how to laugh like this.” He could feel her heart was full to bursting, but he cut her off before she could respond “I suppose you would want Ares’ so that you could teach him a lesson?”
“I don’t know, if I could then I’d probably lean more towards Demeter’s magic.” She hastily wiped a tear from the corner of her eye before it could betray her. A few deep breaths later, and she managed to elaborate “Believe it or not, I really don’t like fighting.”
“No? You always seem enthusiastic in the arena.” He remembered the way she fought with Achilles, and the fierce passion she brought to everything she did. ‘Enthusiastic’ didn’t quite cover the aura she projected in the heat of combat.
Another silence followed while Kali battled to make a coherent sentence from her jumbled thoughts. But Hades was patient, and she finally managed to mutter “Ares said once that my siblings are always healers and…I wouldn’t admit it to him, but I can see why. I want to protect myself…I’m scared of being caught short and I never want to feel powerless. Not again. But I’d much rather be helping people than hurting them.”
Kali took a breath to steady herself and gather her thoughts, adding “I don’t really see the necessity for such senseless violence. If everyone just took a step back and decided to stop hurting their fellow man, no one would need to fight.” Another moment passed in silence and she admitted “At first, training was a good way of venting. I liked the challenge and the sense of achievement. I liked having clear cut goals. I still do. But violence breeds violence.”
Hades waited to make sure she was finished before he gently prompted “And you are worried what it says about you if you find it fun.”
She just nodded; that was a truth that she was afraid to admit out loud. Hades touched her chin with a finger and lifted her face to his. Just before he kissed her, he whispered “You are like wildfire when you fight. And it is glorious. There is no shame in that.”
“But…I don’t want to hurt people.” She bit her lip, her uncertainty clear. This was something that had been in the back of her mind for longer than she wanted to admit.
Hades moved to look at her, his hand brushing the hair from her face and curling it around his fingers. “When you fight, what do you think about?”
“I don’t really know. Staying on my feet, mostly.” She mumbled, not quite looking him in the eye.
“That is survival, not violence.” His hand moved to her cheek, steadying her. “Enjoying combat and the challenges involved cannot change your nature. The way I see it, there is no reason you can’t heal people and still defend yourself and others.”
Her eyes were bright, hopeful, and she whispered, “You really think so?”
“I do.” He smiled certainly and then chuckled to himself, admitting “You are so full of compassion. I can’t even imagine you walking away from an enemy you had defeated without trying to help them up.”
His faith in her filled her heart to bursting. Shoving away a couple more tears that had dared to streak down her cheeks, she said “You know, ever since you told me about the other realms, I’ve been thinking…I really can’t wait to see the worlds with you.” She was trying to force the subject onto brighter things, but that didn’t make her statement any less true. “Hades…which is your favourite?”
He didn’t need to think about his answer. “Of all the realms…would it surprise you if I told you The Underworld is my favourite? It is less refined than Olympus, perhaps, but it has its charms. I’ll show you soon. This weekend, if you’d like?” He couldn’t wait to share his world with her, but he managed to keep his tone calm and even.
The way her face lit up before she kissed him again was enough of an answer for him. He twisted her hair around his fingers, pulling her close. With Kali sharing his mind, he knew that there was no need to say anything. They were one mind, one heart. Kali’s hands fluttered to the collar of his shirt and her lips were urgent on his. They both knew he couldn’t deny her when he needed her closeness as much as she did.
When the evening eventually came to a close, it ended as Kali hoped it always would: in Hades’ arms.
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