The apartment door slides open with a quiet brush of air. Emet-Selch steps through, the door closing silently behind him.
The smell of food that greets him is absolutely divine. A brief check of his aetheric senses tells him that someone is in the kitchen. No longer out in public, he is free to change out of the confining convocation robes. Shrugging out of it, he hangs the cloth in the coat closet and toes off his shoes. A tap of his finger against his mask causes it to disappear into purple smoke. Hades calls out into the apartment. "Darling, I'm home!"
There is loud clanging from the direction of the kitchen and a yelp as something toppled. A head pops out from around the corner. In the private space of their apartment, the figure is unmasked and unrobed, hair tumbling down a sweater-clad shoulder. A bright smile spreads across her features. "Welcome back, Hades!"
Hades chuckles, moving forward to pull his wife into his arms. He greets her with a quick kiss to her lips, noting the dark circles under her eyes. She hasn't been sleeping well again. "I missed you at the Council meeting."
She leans into his embrace, a far too innocent smile on her lips. Though obviously tired, her soul brushes against his, warm and inviting, a simple greeting. "I was there the whole day."
"Ah, yes, indeed. I think everyone noticed you walking out while Lahabrea was talking," Hades replies dryly. He returns the greeting with his own, aether curling around her. In truth, her departure had provided a distraction that the other convocation members had gladly taken advantage of. More than half of them had fled while Lahabrea was still sputtering for words.
It had been a very long day.
She shrugs. "He was expounding," she corrects. "You know how he loves to speak." She gives him a peck on the cheek, pulling away to tend to her cooking. Her aether remains close, resting against his.
He follows her into the kitchen, unwilling to leave her just yet. A hint of humor sparks through their bond from his end. "As a member of the convocation, the city looks to you," Hades intones flatly, mimicking a certain emissary. "We who have been chosen as the best of the city have the responsibility of guiding Amaurot. To leave while we are still in session - what sort of message does that send?"
Hades takes a moment to sneak a look at the stove over her shoulder. Hm. Spaghetti Al Nero. He couldn't wait to eat.
She turns off the stove, twisting to find the necessary cutlery, only to see Hades standing behind her. He is holding out the plates for her to take, a smug smirk on his face.
She rolls her eyes but grabs them, portioning the food out in motions that spoke of practice. Food thusly portioned out, she holds the plates out to him, nodding her head towards their dining table behind him. Mischief bleeds through their connection when she catches his gaze. Her eyes drift half-shut suggestively, a coy smile on her lips. "Maybe the great and powerful Emet-Selch should do something about it."
Hades catches her meaning. He can't help the thrill that courses through him. Instead of acting on it now, he hums noncommittally, chuckling inwardly at her pout when he doesn't respond to her flirting. Striking now is too predictable, too boring. Not bothering to take the plates out of her hands, he snaps his fingers. The plates, complete with cutlery, reappears on their dining table. There - table set with the help of magic. "My dear, if you wanted my attention, you could have just asked," he says to her pouting face.
Still pouting, she doesn't look at Hades as she brushes past the man. Another snap from behind her heralded the appearance of a bottle of wine along with two glasses, both already filled with red liquid. A smile tugs at her lips.
They share the events of their respective day over the meal. She had caught Igeyorhm and Lahabrea talking in the pantry today, heads tucked close and hands constantly engaging in brief, innocent touches. Igeyorhm's hair had fallen out of her hood and Lahabrea had unthinkingly reached over to adjust it. They had both frozen, staring at each stupidly before Lahabrea had fled via teleportation.
Hades groans. The sexual tension between the two was so obvious, and he wishes they would just fuck already.
It definitely has nothing to do with the bet between them on how long it will take for Lahabrea and Igeyorhm to get together.
It had been another long day of paperwork on Hades's end. He had been stuck in the office all day, double-checking his blueprints for the Akademia's extension and trying to get ahead on paperwork.
In between bites of food, they share their schedules for the next day. She has to meet with Lahabrea tomorrow morning. Hades is due to create the new Akademia wing. Don't forget that their monthly meet up with Hythlodaeus is in the evening.
Conversation wound down and they finish their food in companionable silence. The wine was a lovely accompaniment, and she is half drunk by the time they finished.
When she stands to gather the plates, Hades once again snaps his fingers, sending the now clean dishes to the drying rack. A rush of fondness for Hades fills her heart and spills over into their soul bond. The man had never been a fan of mundane labors.
With the cleaning done, they are both free to indulge in their nightly ritual of lounging about the couch. Hades leans back, an arm around her as she curls against him, head resting on his shoulder. Her own soul, still comfortably rested against his, purrs like a cat in quiet joy. Hades is content to bask in it, his own contentment feeding into hers, a shared loop.
Their original topic occurs to Hades. "About Lahabrea," he murmurs into her hair.
She stirs slightly. Her skin tingles pleasantly from where Hades is drawing inane patterns on her skin and she is loathed to break the quiet. Too peaceful. Instead, she sinks her soul into his a little more. Just enough to allow her thoughts to slip across their bond. I'll bring him something tomorrow.
From his end, she feels his amusement. Her antics weren't anything new, she tended to leave whenever the debate in the Council chambers went in circles for weeks and was no closer to a consensus. Or when one of them spent too long giving pointless speeches. It had been the latter today.
Unfortunately for her, Lahabrea was always insufferable whenever she did it, more so when she left in the middle of his speech. And she has a meeting with him tomorrow too, scheduled for the morning. Their departments have been working together for the highly classified Primal project and both are due for an update. If not placated, she would have to spend the day enduring Lahabrea's snippy, sulky remarks and a pointed projection of irritation that gave her a headache just thinking about it.
(Thankfully, Lahabrea is easily bribable.)
Waves of calm echo around her, soothing away the dull ache before it could develop into a migraine. Hades. She is grateful and tells him so, not in words but emotions she sends to his soul. A surge of fond affection from Hades in reply, and a hand gently stroking her hair, lulling her back to a doze.
With his free hand, Hades snaps his fingers and a book lands in his lap. Hades opens it, flipping to a previously bookmarked page. With her head pillowed on his shoulder and his hand carding through her hair, he begins to read in a low, soothing voice.
She briefly registers its contents. It's a thick volume on the mathematics behind the architecture or some equally boring topic. She frankly doesn't care, he could read anything to her and she'd still love it. His hands pause at the thought, and she belatedly realizes that she had accidentally sent it to him.
The edges of his soul warm in the equivalent of a light blush. Resuming his ministrations, his gentle murmuring and delightful hands lull her further into peace, her exhaustion pulling her into the sweet embrace of sleep. Unfair, she manages to think at him before she succumbs to slumber.
Hades shuts the book, banishing it, forgoing his usual finger snap for a wave of his hand. He doesn't want the sound to wake his lover up. Lately, the bruises under her eyes had been getting darker. Hades knows his wife has been having nightmares. He has awoken more than once to find her missing, bedsheets cool to the touch. She could always be found on the balcony, skin chilled and mind lost in places he could not follow. Whenever he manages to coax her back to bed, she wakes with haunted eyes the next day. It's always the same dream, she'd confided in him once, but spoke no more on its contents.
It stings a little when he thinks about it. It's not because of the secret she wants to keep - he's patient enough to wait for her to tell him - but the fact that he is helpless to soothe her nightmares. Once, he offered to be a buffer between her mind and rest, allowing the nightmares into his consciousness in exchange for her peace. She had vehemently objected and shut him out the rest of the day until he promised not to do it.
Fear spikes through her aether suddenly, followed quickly by heartbreaking sorrow. She stirs fitfully, her face scrunched in a frown. Fingers that had been resting on Hades' thighs curl into the flesh. Hades winced. Ignoring the pain, he considers her resting form. She had made him promise not to interfere, but a tiny peek couldn't hurt...
He dives into her mind before he can decide otherwise. He doesn't need to expend much effort - the dreams are easily found at the forefront of her mind. Hades opens his eyes -
And stops breathing altogether.
The world is on fire. The horizon is dyed orange from the flames. Smoke, thick and cloying, leave trails in the sky and coats his lungs in ash when he breathes. The ground shakes. Above him, orange streaks of light - no, meteors, he realizes in horror - streak across the sky, falling, falling. Earth would be blasted up from where it made an impact with the ground, sending up dust clouds and igniting the earth. Buildings he recognizes as his creations collapsed, the foundations giving out from under them. Great slabs of stone fell onto once painstakingly crafted walkways. Delicate metal arches twisted and broke into deadly shrapnel. More than one screaming Amaurotine was caught in the destruction, each one begging someone to help me, help us, why is this happening, the monsters won't stop make it stop please someone.
One runs across his path, collapsing midway as a monster - because what else could you call that - rends the Amaurotine in half. Aether spills out from the broken form, coalescing into another hell beast with far too many limbs and eyes. It turns and bounds away, heading further inwards to the center of the city.
The sight makes bile rise in Hades's throat. The air is thick with more than smoke; the combined fear and panic of a thousand thousand Amaurotines nearly break the borders of his soul - it is only the constant repetition of this is just a dream that allows him to move on from the scene of the nightmare.
He picks a random direction and starts walking through the destruction. The monsters pay him no heed as he passes. Around him, the ruins of a city, the shattered crystals, broken stone and twisting metal a sure sign of Amaurot.
Finally, he spots someone familiar. Clothed in singed convocation robes, hood tossed back to allow hair to spill down her back is his wife. She is crouching over something - someone - and he makes his way over to them, jumping over fallen debris.
Hades is five paces away from sweeping her up in his arms when he stops short. From his spot behind her, he can see over her shoulder. The figure she is leaning over is unmasked, the single white forelock sticking to his forehead. Blood is splattered across a face he knows far too well.
Hades himself lies against a piece of debris, robes and body shorn nearly in two. Blood and aether leak out from the cut. It is disconcerting enough that the Hades - the real one, not the dream version of him - quickly pats himself down. No wounds.
There is a slowly widening pool of blood beneath his dream self. One that his lover is kneeling in, dark robes stained even blacker with his blood as she tries her best to contain it. Her hands press uselessly over his wound, aether flickering weakly in an attempt to heal him. The real Hades can only watch in silence, too stunned to move. Watch the resignation in dream-Hades eyes as he begs her to let him go, to save herself. The weak hand he lifts to cradle her cheek as his form unravels at the seams, dissipating into motes of light. The tears in her eyes as she shakes her head, begging him to no no no stay with me please don't go I love you Ican'tlivewithoutyouHadespleasepleaseplease -
Hades surfaces with a gasp, jarred out of the nightmares from sheer shock. Sweat is dripping down his temple and his heart is beating wildly from witnessing his wife's nightmares. Too real. It had been so real. This is what she dreams of nightly?
No wonder she is so driven lately, starting that secret Primal project with a desperation he has never seen before.
He glances at his lover. Sometime during his foray into her dream, she had toppled into his lap, fingers curled against her face and sleeping fitfully. The sight of her whole and hale brings a sigh of relief to him, the tight knot of anxiety in his chest easing. She is fine. He is fine. They are both in good health.
Soft blue light shines in through the windows of their apartment. Instinctively, Hades glances at it. Outside, the city lights shine like stars across the skyline. A skyline that is exactly as he remembers. There are no monsters, no collapsing buildings, no fiery sky.
That's right. The world is peaceful. There is no way Amaurot, the fair city that possessed the greatest minds on the star, would fall. No threat is insurmountable to their people. The dream is just that - a dream.
They are both fine.
Hades takes a deep breath, holding it for five seconds before exhaling slowly. Does it again. And again, until his heartbeat stops thundering in his ears. He leans down and kisses her forehead, cooing softly (something he will never admit to doing). Eventually, she relaxes, slipping from visions of fiery skies to more pleasant dreams.
They are both fine, he tells himself.
Better than fine, even. Happy and healthy.
Everything is fine. Amaurot is still standing, he repeats to himself. Safe.
Nothing will happen. Dreams, however real, are just dreams.
Everything is fine. Everything will remain fine.
Both of them are fine.
Years later, when the horizon was painted orange and meteors streaked across the sky, when the earth shook with every breath and buildings crumbled around him, when the monsters screamed in glee and bloodlust, he would remember that vision.
And when he found her body in the ruins of Amaurot, when a massive blue crystal was born from the husk of her corpse, when the world shattered and split into ten and four around him, he would understand why she had summoned Hydaelyn.