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soulsighted

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It was possible that all good things started with a look. 

Hythlodaeus knew you had to be discrete in marking notable encounters, because in Amaurot, you were never looked at, exactly. Masks hid faces, cowls hid the rest. Uniformity meant to inspire unity, a cohesive collective, a better mind for all around you. 

So, when someone looked at you, you had to know they were really looking. 

By this metric, even if one were to catch the first look, they’d be hard-pressed to catch another. Passing glances were nigh-impossible to differentiate, unless, of course, you were possessed of a certain gift. Hythlodaeus was, though his opinion on the phenomena of soulsight varied each time he was asked to declare it. 

It was not so rare or miraculous a skill as it seemed. For many, soulsight manifested in the abstract. The feeling you’d met someone already, the reassurance of their character that came from that subtle recognition. Some even posited that the concept of an “aura” was merely a fuzzier version of soulsight, but support for the theory was limited due to a lack of concrete testing and documentation. Still, the understanding of the existence of such a skill, or innate talent, whatever you preferred, was ubiquitous enough. Harder to explain was a very specific experience that came from the exchange of looks between two soulsighted individuals. 

Sometimes it was little more than a slight chill, a hair-raising sort of shudder. Though he was rarely on the receiving end, Hythlodaeus often limited his own soulsight because it was thus perceptible even under normal circumstances. But he’d truly felt it this time. The arc of lightning up his spine while he’d been doing nothing but minding his own business in one of Amaurot’s more well-populated plazas. The feeling had been fleeting but unmistakable. Hythlodaeus’ recollection of any unobscured distinguishing physical features was muddled, but the color of the soul that he spied was distinct. And he knew he had the right person, because they reacted exactly as he had-- the same startle, the same immediate tensing of the shoulders. But unlike Hythlodaeus, the other party did not turn around. 

This much would not have been totally unusual. A little mystery to muse upon, and nothing more. And then, as though fate had specifically conspired to reunite them, Hythlodaeus found himself in the company of that very same soul but a few short days later. 

He’d taken up a position at the Bureau of the Architect. It was fairly menial, secretary work with a bit of concept review. All final decisions were made by the chief, of course, but Hythlodaeus found that his critiques and comments were each dutifully noted. He supposed that it might have been due in part to the excellent recommendation he’d received from the man who currently held the seat of Fandaniel in the Convocation of 14. The acclaim for his perceptiveness had come as something of a surprise, but Hythlodaeus was quite grateful. He could certainly get used to the feeling of having friends in high places, as it were. 

It was not so strange that anyone should sidle up to his desk for some reason or another. Perhaps they needed to register a familiar or submit a concept for one of the several stages of review. However, in a city as populous as the capitol, it was rare to cross paths with the same person twice unless their return was listed somewhere on a schedule. Had their first encounter not been so strange, Hythlodaeus might not have kept it in his memory at all, but the instant that the familiar color had come into view at the fringes of his vision, he could not help but speak before his mysterious stranger could even state their purpose. 

“Has anyone ever told you,” Hythlodaeus said, “That your soul is an unusual color?” 

His question was met with an immediate scowl. “No. Most people have the good sense not to look.” 

“Do they, now?” Hythlodaeus leaned forward on the desk, folding his arms, “Well, hypocritical hypotheses aside, how may I assist you?” 

The stranger’s voice was sharp and slightly nasal. “I am here to register a concept for strictly personal use.” 

“I assume I don’t need to read you the regulations for personal use concepts? We still have our standards.” Even saying so, Hythlodaeus surreptitiously readied the pertinent paperwork. 

“Yes, yes,” the stranger placed a concept crystal on the desk, “‘Tis by no means my first submission.” 

“Ah, good. Then as for the reminder I am required to give: three to five days processing, and you’ll need to return in person to confirm your concept has been accepted. We’ll have all the certifications ready by that time.” Usually when he gave this speech, Hythlodaeus let his focus drift, the words so stale he did not even need to think about them. But he somehow doubted that such conduct would get a pass in this particular exchange. 

A slightly aggrieved sigh. “Is there anything else?” 

“One last small thing,” Hythlodaeus made a pinching motion, “While we won’t ask that you provide an official name for your concept until it is approved, I will still need to mark yours down for the purpose of records keeping and contact.”

“Fine,” A pause, “Hades.” 

“Pleasure to make your acquaintance,” Hythlodaeus smiled, “My name is--”

As if sensing his friendly intent, Hades was already halfway across the bureau floor to the exit. 

Despite his bemusement, Hythlodaeus made no motion to follow. It wasn’t exactly in his job description to pursue bureau clients, and his mysterious stranger would be returning in short order regardless. Still, he was not entirely satisfied with the conversation, especially the way it had been cut short. Hades’ hadn’t been rude, not exactly. A mildly abrasive tone was not nearly enough to dissuade Hythlodaeus from pursuing the matter further. Still, three to five days was a bit too long for his liking. Luckily, Hythlodaeus had ways of sneaking around strict timelines, a polished skill from his Akadaemia days. One way or another, he was going to wrangle his fellow soulseer. 

He would simply have to be more persistent next time. 

 

***

“It’s Hythlodaeus, by the way.” At the top of their second real interaction, he still did not give Hades a chance to speak first. “My name, I mean.”

“Is that relevant to my concept petition?” Hades’ expression was difficult to read behind his mask. 

“Oh, not at all,” Hythlodaeus made a vague gesture, “But your paperwork won’t be ready until tomorrow, so I hardly see the need to stay on topic.” 

Contrary to earlier observation, outrage was easy enough to parse. “When I was called here, I expected my visit to have a purpose.”

Hythlodaeus tried not to look too pleased. “Of course there’s a purpose. You said this wasn’t your first concept submission, so you should already know that the character of the creator is just as worth assessing as the concept itself.” 

Hades scoffed. “You could have simply requested my records.” 

“I’m certain someone has done so, yes,” If they had, Hythlodaeus hadn’t read them, “But I find that an actual interview serves the point far more thoroughly. There are some things you can only understand once you’ve seen them with your own eyes, don’t you agree?” 

It was a half-truth at worst, and Hythlodaeus hoped to be called on his bluff. Prove to me exactly how perceptive you are, he urged Hades on silently. 

Though the feeling was less instantly perceptible as it had been before, Hythlodaeus found his bid rewarded with the sense that he was being looked at again. Hades was silent a moment longer. “Oh, it’s you.” 

“Ah, yes, and is it so rude now when you’re the one doing it?” Hythlodaeus leaned forward, “You’ll have to forgive my enthusiasm. It’s not every day that I get the chance to speak with those of especially gifted sight. Except when I am talking to myself, of course, which is often enough.” 

Hades’ lip curled into a scowl once again. “I cannot imagine why anyone would be so inclined as to avoid your eminently charming company.” 

“Quite right.” Hythlodaeus nodded. 

“You’ve no real intention of interviewing me, do you?” 

“None whatsoever.” 

Hades sighed. “Then can we please dispose with the pretense of this visit? Why, if not to discuss my concept submission, did you call me here?” 

“Would you have otherwise agreed to a simple conversation? It may not be an official interview, but given you’ll have to see me again tomorrow to collect your documents, I believe you’d be better served satisfying my curiosity now rather than later.” 

“That,” Hades seemed frustrated with his own agreement, “May be so. What, pray tell, would you have me do?” 

“I suppose,” Hythlodaeus hadn’t entirely expected to get this far, “We could take a walk? Wait here a moment.” 

Hythlodaeus crossed behind the desk to one of the other bureau receptionists. “Would you mind terribly if I stepped out briefly? Trouble with our burgeoning creator here.” He motioned to Hades. 

The receptionist’s mouth opened slightly as she considered his request. “You are due for your scheduled break, are you not? I don’t see why that should be a problem.” 

Hythlodaeus favored her with a genuine smile. “My sincere thanks. I owe you for this one, do not let me forget.” 

Hurriedly, Hythlodaeus made something of an effort to put his own things in order before making for the bureau entrance. Twice he worried that Hades might have simply walked out, but a pointed glance revealed that his quarry had not moved. A petty use of his gift, perhaps, but Hythlodaeus found his own excitement warranted the extra effort. 

“Your patience is appreciated,” When Hythlodaeus sauntered up to Hades a few minutes earlier, he was somewhat surprised to find that his sense of being looked down on was not a product of disposition but of physical stature, “Shall we be off? You know, I half expected you to simply take your leave.” 

“Indeed, my own rationale eludes me.” Hades swept towards the exit, leaving Hythlodaeus to follow behind. 

Amaurot was busy this time of day, the streets crowded with people going about their business before the various bureaus closed for the evening. Hades cut a confident path through the masses, never quite bumping into anyone else. Hythlodaeus wove in and out just to his side, offering apologetic half-waves and smiles. 

They were still in the Polyleritae district when Hades stopped. He motioned to a bench beneath a tree. Achora heights loomed down a branching path, but Hythlodaeus could only spare a glance in passing while he found a seat. 

“Will this serve?” Hades leaned back, tilting his chin up in a manner that allowed for little argument despite the question. 

“Quite well, thank you,” Hythlodaeus stretched, making himself comfortable to the best of his ability, “I suppose we should get started?” 

“The more quickly this is over with, the better.” 

“Of course,” Hythlodaeus nodded, “I did look over your submission, by the way. Something of an unconventional creature, though you noted its fitness for both terrestrial and airborne travel.” 

“A necessity for my line of work,” Hades waved vaguely. 

“Your ‘line of work’ being what, exactly?” Hythlodaeus craned his neck, trying to get a better look under his conversation partner’s cowl.

Hades pulled back, sensing his intent. “If you simply must know, then it is easiest to describe myself as naught more than an itinerant magus.” 

“Ooh,” Hythlodaeus nodded, “That would explain the need for various modes of travel. And your soulsight must come in terribly handy.” 

Hades’ lip twitched slightly. “You are quite determined to have this conversation, aren’t you?” 

“Indeed!” Hythlodaeus brought one hand to his mouth, stifling a laugh, “You cannot tell me you aren’t also a little curious. I’ve never had such a striking interaction before.”

“You think your gift to be such a trivial thing? A small matter and nothing more?” A frustrated tilt came into Hades’ voice, “To look in upon the passage of souls is not something one does in a mere flight of fancy.” 

“I meant no offense,” Hythlodaeus said, trying not to wince, “But that our philosophies differ so is all the more reason to open a dialogue, don’t you think?” 

“No,” Hades abruptly stood up, “I do not.” Without another word, he strode off, all too quickly becoming another indistinguishable figure in the crowd. 

 

Hythlodaeus, much to his own disappointment, thought that might be the end of it. Hades had, to an extent, done just what he asked in satisfying his curiosity with their conversation. In a turn of obviously intentional timing, Hythlodaeus found himself caught up in a different concept examination when Hades returned the following day for his crystal and paperwork. Suddenly, they no longer had the binding tie of the concept confirmation to bring them together. Hythlodaeus could hope for another chance meeting, of course, but relying on fate was almost too passive for his own liking. 

It cast something of a shade on his mood, even so. Friendship came easily to Hythlodaeus, he knew himself well-liked, but there was a difference between the people who drifted through his days and those he wanted as a regular part of his orbit. Interesting people. People with unique perceptions of the world, how it was and how it should be. Someone like Hermes, so keenly aware of the life around him, of all the places each creation did and didn’t fit in. 

Someone like Hades, who took the sight of all the souls around him and used their glow to cut a path through the places where the light was thinnest, when he dared to look at all. 

Stars above, Hythlodaeus wanted to see him again. 

The ordinary, reasonable reaction would be to continue on as though nothing had happened. Hythlodaeus supposed there were worse things to do than throw himself into his work. Instead, his thoughts set themselves adrift. Not that he’d ever really found the desk work of concept review particularly stimulating, but his attention fizzled into nothing even during the parts of the process that he liked most. Later, he’d wonder if his own distraction led to any premature approvals. 

Hythlodaeus kept his soulsight dulled. He didn’t need any false hope, straining his vision too far. In this half-blind state, he almost didn’t notice when someone approached his desk, and placed a concept crystal down in a particularly haughty manner. 

“What have we...” Hythlodaeus slowly looked up, and found his gaze crossing a familiar scowl, “Here?” 

“A concept submission,” Hades said, “Obviously.” 

Hythlodaeus couldn’t help the grin that broke out across his features. “Well, well. I thought I’d scared you off. You’re calling for business rather than pleasure, I suppose?” 

Hades gave an affected sigh. “We all have our pretenses, Hythlodaeus. You could at least pretend to be interested in the concept.” 

Hythlodaeus could not have imagined just how thrilled he’d be to hear his name spoken so casually. “If you insist,” He examined the crystal, “Flying life-forms are very popular, aren’t they? The beak has an interesting shape, I suppose.” 

Hades regarded him with a curious look. “You could tell all that from a single glance?” 

Hythlodaeus shrugged. “Discerning the patterns of the aether is simple enough with sufficient practice.” 

“You speak as though it were nothing!” Hades shook his head, “Perhaps I misjudged your competence.” 

“Oh, is that a compliment?” Hythlodaeus leaned both his elbows on the desk. 

“...Something like that. When do your duties conclude for the day?” Hades folded his arms in a show of aloofness, as though he were not already behaving quite personably. 

“Soon enough, I believe?” Hythlodaeus looked around, “We’ve already reviewed yesterday’s submissions, so there isn’t a great need for me to stay past regular hours. That does mean your feathered friend will have to wait for its chance in the sun, unfortunately.” 

“You assume it will pass inspection? I did not think it a particularly inspired creation. Regardless, I shall wait.” Hades turned on his heel and made for the door, leaving Hythlodaeus to consider what to do next.

It wasn’t much of a question, was it? Hythlodaeus put together his things, sorted his paperwork, and informed his coworkers of his imminent departure. And then he met Hades at the double doors and tried not to act as though he were going to spontaneously compose a poem for his own gladness. This time, Hades made something of an actual gesture towards the door, waiting for Hythlodaeus to make the first move. 

They took a slightly different direction than before, making in the direction of the Bureau of the Sectretariat. Hades spoke before Hythlodaeus had the chance. “I owe you an apology. You were correct that differing opinions are the basis of a proper debate. It was wrong of me to dismiss your interest outright.” 

“No need to apologize, really,” Hythlodaeus shook his head, “I hadn’t meant to broach such a sensitive topic. You’ll have to forgive me getting so ahead of myself in my excitement.” 

Hades stopped suddenly in the middle of the path. Hythlodaeus stumbled, but managed to recover his balance well enough that he didn’t look a complete fool. Hades might not have noticed anyway, as his gaze was fixed stubbornly skyward. “When you turn your eyes to the currents of aether above, what do you see?” 

Hythlodaeus straightened his robes and tilted his head back for a better view. It was dusk now, the faintest fingers of darkness caressing the still bright sky. He let his sight open up, unfolding new dimension into the scene as each soul revealed itself, lights beyond counting with a color and shape of their own. It was at once dizzying and beautiful. The lights twisted and plunged on silkspun currents of aether; tracking a single speck of light was almost as impossible as following a single raindrop through a stream. 

Hythlodaeus exhaled slowly, the scene before him coming slowly back into focus. “Where to begin? It’s beautiful. If I’d looked any longer, I might’ve been swept away myself.” 

“Beautiful,” Hades echoed, “ That is what you think? Truly?” 

“Of course it is. What else but beautiful could such a sight be called?” Hythlodaeus spread his hands in a wide gesture, nearly knocking into a passerby. A bubble was beginning to form around the two of them, walled by silent politeness that was likely mixed with mild annoyance. 

“It does not perturb you in the slightest?” When Hythlodaeus shook his head, Hades continued: “There are some that find the application of soulsight disturbing, especially in concert with magicks derived from the Underworld.” 

“Rather narrow-minded, that.” Hythlodaeus paused, the realization dawning on him last. “Oh, you mentioned before... Hades, are you asking if I think you are disturbing?” 

Hades’ shrug was cryptic, but his slightly sour expression clarified the gesture. 

“Admittedly, our interactions have been rather limited thus far,” Hythlodaeus started slowly, putting no small amount of thought into his words, “But no, that is not a word I would use to describe you. Certainly, your overall disposition may want for some warmth, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. And your work sounds quite beneficial to the star, so I cannot fathom why anyone would find reason in such criticism.” 

Hades was silent for a moment. “I had thought that your relentless pursuit of my company was merely an act in the name of morbid curiosity. How you have managed to convince me that your interest is sincere beggars belief.”

“My interest is always sincere. Except for when it isn’t.” Had they not been in such public surrounds, Hythlodaeus would have punctuated the remark with a well-timed wink. 

Hades’ expression in that moment could have almost passed for a smile. 

***

And in line with Hythlodaeus’ fondest hopes, a new heavenly body drifted into the orbit of his personal star. 

Most of the time Hades made sure he had a specific reason to visit the Bureau of the Architect. It was his slightly peculiar way to veil social calls in practical application, be it for a concept submission or to peruse the archives and records that the bureau kept for the benefit of its many creators. Always he called upon Hythlodaeus in particular, and most of the time he made some sort of invitation to walk the streets or relax upon a nearby patch of greenery. It was never idle conversation, Hades likely would have insisted, though their conversations included all manner of subjects. Soulsight came up less frequently than Hythlodaeus expected, though eventually the two of them managed to deduce the fact that Hythlodaeus was slightly more gifted in deriving form and function from the ambient aether. These visits were nonetheless slightly irregular, as Hades had implied with the manner of his work being beholden to the occasional trip outside the capitol.

So it was that when Hades once again called upon Hythlodaeus in the late afternoon, his presence was not wholly unexpected. Instead, it was his request that came as something out of the ordinary. 

“If you are available,” Hades’ own feigned detachment betrayed exactly how out of the ordinary his request was going to be, “I would like to invite you to my lodgings for a cup of tea.” 

Hythlodaeus had no reason to refuse, and said as much, though he could not keep a smile off his lips as he considered the implications of such an invitation. At last, out of the view of the public eye, he would be able to see the full face of his new friend. Unless for some reason Hades was one of those rare individuals who did not rid themselves of mask and cowl even in the comfort of their own home. It could go either way with an equal probability, he reasoned. 

Hades kept a small apartment in one of the residential buildings near to the Bureau of the Administrator. The receptionist of the building seemed to expect Hythlodaeus’ visit, because they asked for no documentation, simply waving the two of them along deeper into the building. They took the elevator to a high floor, but Hythlodaeus did not grant the number much of his attention. He tried to keep his looks inconspicuous, but the tension in Hades’ shoulders was apparent even in passing. 

Hythlodaeus had expected sparse furnishings, something that emphasized the points of Hades’ frequent travel. Instead, the inside of the flat was stacked wall-to-wall with copiously arranged knickknacks. Mementos from those to whom he had lent his service, Hades explained before Hythlodaeus could remark upon it. A waste of valuable space, but should any of the people who had thought to give him a gift happen to pay a visit, Hades did not want them to feel as though their gratitude had been forgotten. 

An adorable display of sentiment, Hythlodaeus wanted to say, but he managed to hold his tongue. 

While Hades arranged their tea, Hythlodaeus preemptively unfastened his mask and pulled down his cowl. Bereft of the covering that kept it largely invisible, Hythlodaeus’ hair was in something of a disheveled state. He hastily combed his fingers through the lavender locks, untying his braid in the hopes of restoring it to a more presentable state. 

Hades returned while Hythlodaeus was still in the midst of tying his braid. He stood in the doorway of the living room as though he had completely forgotten his houseguest. 

“Sorry,” Hythlodaeus mumbled through a mouthful of hair, “Just a moment.” 

Hades set the cups of tea down on a small table between two comfortable looking chairs. For a moment that Hythlodaeus found just long enough to revel in, Hades’ stare was obvious even through his mask. 

“Right, then,” Hythlodaeus let his braid drape itself over one shoulder, settling into one of the two chairs, “Are you going to take your tea like that? Not that I mind either way.” 

Hades scoffed, though it was a shaky dismissal. “No.” 

At last, the cowl came off, revealing a head of shockingly white hair. Next, the mask. Hades removed it with his back to Hythlodaeus. When he turned, Hythlodaeus was greeted by a pair of yellow eyes that sparked like twin stars. Hades had a sharp nose and tilted eyebrows to compliment his near perpetual frown. His hair was long and quite mussed, though it worked, somehow. Altogether, he was rather handsome.

Hythlodaeus hid his surprise behind his teacup. 

Hades lifted his own cup, motioning to it instead of taking a sip. “A gift from one of the island provinces. ‘Twas the most I could accept without agreeing to a spontaneous betrothal.”

“A betrothal?” Hythlodaeus raised his eyebrows, “However could you have refused?” 

“It seemed something of a disservice to the interested party,” Hades twirled his wrist, “I couldn’t possibly offer a proper courtship.”

“Oh, come now, there is simply no way a handsome gentleman such as yourself,” Hythlodaeus leaned over his cup of tea, “Hasn’t ever been properly wooed.” 

Hades pressed his fingertips to his forehead. “Have you any true need to pursue the topic, save to make a joke of my lack of experience?” 

“But of course!” Hythlodaeus allowed the barest impression of a smile to cross his lips, “My interest is, I suppose, more practical than academic.” 

“And what is that supposed to mean, pray tell?” 

“Ah, well,” Hythlodaeus shrugged, “Without a baseline to compare, I will have to take a more direct approach. If one were to attempt to seduce you, dear Hades, what would this hypothetical person have to do to win your favor?” 

Hades’ eyes were distant yellow stars. “I’ve never rightly considered such a thing. Prove themselves worthy of my time, I suppose.”

Hythlodaeus hummed thoughtfully. “I’d like to think I’ve done that already. Anything else?” 

“You’d like to think you’ve--” Hades made a slightly-incredulous-slightly-aghast noise, “ Hythlodaeus.”

“Yes?” Hythlodaeus blinked at him, as innocent as he could conceivably pretend to be. 

“You aren’t-- you cannot mean to say...” Redness rushed to fill Hades’ cheeks so that he looked fit to boil over. 

“What, that I wish to know you as more than a friend?” Hythlodaeus stifled a laugh, “How good of you to finally notice.” 

Hades spluttered incomprehensibly by way of a response, sinking back into his chair. It had the effect of tugging Hythlodaeus’ smile into a full-on grin. No propriety here, nothing presentable about the look on Hades’ face. Certainly Hythlodaeus liked the man well enough fully composed, but he was nigh-irresistible in such a flustered state. 

“If this is meant to be some manner of joke, one of your little jests,” Hades clawed his way out of the plush fabric of his seat, “I do not find it funny in the slightest.” 

Hythlodaeus cleared his throat, leveling his expression. “No joke or jest, you have my sincere assurance. If my overtures truly displease you, simply say the word and I shall cease my efforts. I understand that everyone has their preferences, and if I do not measure up to your standards, then that is that.” 

Silence fell upon the room. For all his boldness, Hythlodaeus felt doubt spike in his chest. Perhaps he should not have risked their friendship on this, as much as it would have pained him to keep silent. Had he misspoken, or spoken too much? Possibilities whirled in his head while lights danced across his vision. 

“...No.” 

Hythlodaeus startled, refocusing his attention to find that Hades was staring directly at him. “No... what?” 

“Would you believe me,” Hades spoke very slowly, “If I were to say that you should continue on, with... this?” 

“I’ve no reason not to take you at your word,” Hythlodaeus spoke so quickly that the words tumbled off his tongue together in an undignified jumble. His heart lurched into action, tapping out an equally swift beat. 

“Then do so.” It was hard to take Hades’ almost flippant tone seriously when he was still so red in the face. 

“Very well,” Hythlodaeus bobbed his head to an affirmative, “In that case, might I ask another question?” 

“If you must.” 

“Have you any experience with the more physical aspects of relationships? Kissing, and so on. While I suppose the answer could be deduced from your earlier assertion, I still cannot help but wonder.” Hythlodaeus glanced off towards a corner of the room as though it were suddenly of great interest. 

“Is this inquiry also in the spirit of practical interest?” Hades sounded like he was smiling, but Hythlodaeus diligently refrained from looking in his direction. 

“But of course,” Hythlodaeus gestured vaguely. 

“And if I told you yes, while somewhat limited, I do have some manner of experience in that which you have described?” 

Hythlodaeus practically whipped around, and found that Hades was smirking at him. Smirking. And here Hythlodaeus had been so certain of his upper hand. “Ah, color me surprised. But, you know, in the spirit of academia, I would like to see some proof of your claims.”

“Proof.” Hades repeated, “You think me that helpless?” 

“On the contrary,” Hythlodaeus smiled, “I have full confidence in you. ‘Tis my own skills I’d like to take a comparative measure of.” 

Hades raised an eyebrow. 

“I believe I may be somewhat out of practice, you see,” Hythlodaeus toyed idly with his braid, “My tastes are more discerning than you might think.” 

Hades scoffed. “Now that is a claim that requires sufficient proof.” 

“As we have so recently established,” Hythlodaeus made a sweeping gesture, “I am remarkably fond of you.” 

“How flattering. What would you have me do, exactly?” Hades eyed Hythlodaeus with a measure of suspicion.

“Nothing arduous, really. A kiss should suffice.” 

Hades gave a resigned sigh. “Very well.” He stood from his chair, somehow managing to frown despite the fact that by most estimations, kissing was a thoroughly pleasurable activity. Hades stared at Hythlodaeus, who had not moved, and managed to deepen the lines of his frown even further. “You aren’t going to make me do all the work, are you? Come here.” 

Hythlodaeus shuddered. “Well, if you insist.” 

He stood and crossed the room to stand in front of Hades, who regarded him from his slight height advantage with what could have been smug satisfaction, if Hythlodaeus didn’t know better. 

“Enjoy taking charge, do you?” Hythlodaeus tilted his head, “I’ll have to keep that in mind.” 

“Oh, be quiet.” With a surprisingly firm hand, Hades grabbed Hythlodaeus’ chin and tilted it up. 

 “You know I’m naturally disinclined to do so,” Hythlodaeus tried not to stare too obviously at the all-too-close pair of lips in front of him, “Compel me.” 

Hades kissed him. 

Finally.