He could hardly believe it.
A hand gently went to the side of his face, delicate fingers over an ear, smoothing hair back.
His hair. He had meant to fix it, hadn’t he? How long had he been in the lifestream now, able to be as he truly was? He likely didn’t look any different than he had in his death.
Short, brown hair. Robes that once marked an esteemed convocation member now nothing more than the sign of an ascian. A big, gaping hole torn through him.
Well, the hole was hardly new in any plane aside from the physical.
But those eyes burned into his own, fingers soft against skin, or whatever it was that remained of their aether.
When he did not respond to the touch, an achingly familiar, haunting voice hit him instead.
“Oh, Hades… you’ve been through so much, haven’t you?”
The same soft lavenders that matched the flowers and trees of the Forest of the Lost Shepherd on the First, the forest he had seen to be.
And he saw the smile, truly, he did. He saw the way this face pulled from dear memory gave a soft grin, pulling him into what should have been a happy reunion. Of course he would try to lighten the mood of their joint passing, of course he would try to do something to make him feel less… less like…
Like he had finally been reunited with Hythlodaeus, the person above all else he had pledged to save, and it was in death. Like he had failed his entire world, even as his world stood right before him.
“Azem’s little shard set us free,” Hythlodaeus murmured, his face gentling, but not falling. “All of us. It’s alright, Hades. How long have you preceded me, down here? I hardly recognize you…”
Hades surged forward, holding onto Hythlodaeus with all that he could bring to bear, as tightly as souls could, even as he felt a thousand, thousand years of age and walls melt around him, leaving behind only dark robes, white strands cupped in Hythlodaeus’s hand, and raw aching and mourning upon his visage.
All of the ghosts that swam in his vision were nothing compared to the one person in his grasp. The one thing that mattered, finally giving way to the worry and exhaustion that, too, was in his core, even as it whispered in his ear:
“Oh, my love, there is nothing to forgive, so do not ask it of me. You did not fail us. You did not fail me.”
Hades pressed his face to Hythlodaeus’s shoulder and wept.