Disclaimer: This has not been professionally edited. It's fairly raw, so please forgive any typos or grammar errors. Please keep in mind that this may not line up completely with what happens in Goddess Interrupted, so please also forgive any minor (or major) continuity errors. The books are canon. This is more or less author-generated fan fiction. If there's a major issue, I might fix it later, but for now, enjoy! (And please do not post this anywhere without my express permission.)
Also, if you haven't read Goddess Interrupted (#2 in the Goddess Test series), don't read this. Seriously. Massive, MASSIVE spoilers for both the first and second books. And potentially some minor spoilers for Goddess Legacy, too.
Without further rambling...
Henry hated war.
His brothers loved it. Walter and Phillip thrived off a well-fought battle, and they met each challenge with more enthusiasm than Henry could muster for most good things in life, let alone something so destructive and chaotic. They thought him odd for it, especially considering how his realm grew with each casualty, but he did not have that kind of fight in him. He simply preferred peace.
All of that fell by the wayside when those he loved were threatened. As he sat in the lone armchair in the middle of the observation room, the one Persephone had loved when she had still been his queen, he struggled to keep the battle raging inside him in check.
Calliope had tried to kill Kate. He couldn’t be certain of it, not when she hadn’t had time to finish whatever it was she’d tried to do, but she had purposely lured her into that interrogation for the sole purpose of hurting her, and Henry had allowed it. He had allowed his sister, the most powerful of the six siblings, to attack Kate, who was all but helpless and in over her head.
If anything happened to Kate, it was his fault. He knew that as well as he knew his name. He had promised to protect her, promised to give her the life she deserved, and less than a year into their marriage, he had failed her on all counts. Not only could he not be there emotionally for her, knowing that by doing so he only drew her closer to danger, but he had to be the one to hold her down when all she wanted was to fight. Diana was no help; she seemed to be convinced her daughter could do it all. While Henry would have normally agreed with her, he could not risk Kate’s safety and her life in order to make her feel useful.
Unfortunately Kate didn’t see it that way, and it frightened Henry more than Cronus ever would. The more he tried to protect her, the more she pushed back, until he could only blame himself for her ire and the risks she seemed so eager to take.
Yes, if something happened to her, it would be his fault. And he had no idea how to stop it.
The fire crackled, and the door on the far side of the room opened and shut. At first Henry thought it was Kate. No doubt she’d been searching for him since he’d stormed off, and he’d purposely come here to avoid her. He wouldn’t put it past Diana to tell her about this place, if only to force them to talk. Henry wasn’t ready for that yet. He would be, perhaps sooner than he anticipated, but not yet.
It wasn’t Kate who spoke though. It was Persephone. “I thought I’d find you in here.”
Henry’s heart ached at the sound of her voice. As much as he loved Kate, as much as he had managed to move on from his first wife and accept that she would never love him as he had loved her, the pain Persephone had caused him had never fully left him. Even now, he was convinced it might never do so completely.
“I come here to think,” said Henry. “I thought you were on your way back.”
“I decided to stick around for a little while,” she said. “You lot need all the help you can get. Especially you.”
Her soft fingers slipped between his, and he tensed. What was she doing? She could barely stand the sight of him; he had expected her to leave the palace as soon as she possibly could, not stick around and purposely seek him out.
“Mother told me what happened. Kate is looking all over for you.”
He shrugged, forcing himself to remain impassive. “I would rather not face her yet.”
“Why’s that?” said Persephone, and she perched on the armrest beside him. Henry shifted his arm so it didn’t touch her. What was he supposed to tell her? That she had been right to leave him? That he only brought pain and suffering to those who dared to love him, or those whom he dared to love? First Calliope, and then Persephone; later Ingrid and Bethany and all the girls who had lost their lives because of him. Now Kate, who mattered more to him than his own existence.
She would have been happier with James. He knew that now. After seeing them together during her summer away, he knew he had robbed her of happiness, just as he had robbed Persephone of the same. It didn’t matter how much he loved them when they loved others more. And he was being selfish, keeping Kate all to himself when not only was it making them both unhappy, but it was also putting her very life on the line.
“She could have died because I was foolish enough to put her in harm’s way,” he said at last. The words felt heavy in his mouth, and he had to force them out. “I have done nothing but put her in danger since the moment we met. I cannot do it anymore.”
Persephone rolled her eyes, and what little hope Henry had had for a reasonable conversation deflated. Of course she would think him ridiculous and melodramatic. She did not realize how desperate Henry was to protect her against not only the likes of Cronus and Calliope, but from himself as well.
“What Calliope tried to do isn’t your fault, and Theo said the tests were clear. Nothing happened to her,” said Persephone. Henry gritted his teeth.
“We don’t know for certain. Even if everything turns out all right, I agreed to put her in that position,” he said. What if Calliope had succeeded, and they simply hadn’t discovered what she had done yet? When they had been much younger, Henry understood her, and he might have guessed then what her goals were. But now her mind was so blackened and twisted after eons of Walter’s abuse that Henry couldn’t fathom what she might be thinking anymore.
Persephone ran her fingers through his hair, leaving heat wherever she touched. It sent a shiver through him, one he immediately suppressed. He couldn’t remember a time she’d ever touched him like that before.
“She’s been through much worse over the past few weeks,” she said. “Your new girl’s tough, isn’t she?”
“Yes,” he said. “When she decides to do something, it is impossible to change her mind, consequences be damned.”
Persephone snorted. “Sounds like someone else I know. She loves you, you know. More than I ever did.”
She may as well have stabbed him in the heart. Henry briefly closed his eyes, but he opened them before she tried to comfort him. It would only make this worse. “She does not know me,” he said. “When she learns who I really am, she will go.”
“Just like me?”
He stared out the window. Yes, just like her. If only it were that easy. If only Kate understood what loving him truly meant.
Persephone slid off the armrest, and to his surprise, she landed in his lap. Even during the centuries they had managed a cordial friendship during their marriage, she had never purposely gotten so close to him. His first instinct was to push her away, but she looped her arms around him, and their eyes met. Perhaps she did understand. Perhaps she knew how lonely he was, even now, and how desperate he was for someone to listen to him. Perhaps it was nothing more than that.
Part of him knew it wasn’t though. It couldn’t be, not with the way she watched him; not with the way she seemed to inch closer with every breath he took. He didn’t understand her game, but part of him didn’t care. It would be so easy to slip back into the person he had once been, before he had met Kate and before Calliope had become so dark and twisted. It would be easy to love Persephone again as he once had. That pain was real, it was familiar, and it wouldn’t get her killed. He could live with that pain. He couldn’t live with the agony losing Kate would bring.
Marrying her had been a mistake. He had selfishly risked Kate’s life for his own happiness, and he should have done the noble thing and faded. She would have had a good life with James, who would have made her happier than Henry ever could. He was expendable. And he was a coward for remaining in this world, knowing what it would cost Kate.
He deserved Persephone. He deserved that pain. And Kate deserved the happiness and love James would bring her. In that moment, he made a silent promise to himself: despite the council’s objections, he would find a way to give her that. Even if it meant he had to fade after all.
“Sometimes I wonder what things would have been like if I’d stayed,” said Persephone softly. “How our life together would have been different if we’d taken our time instead of jumping into things.”
It was the very question Henry himself had spent countless years pondering. “Happier,” he said. “Full.”
“Maybe,” she whispered. “Maybe not.”
She leaned in closer until Henry could see the hint of green in her blue eyes. He had never noticed it before, and it struck him as odd that only now, long after everything between them had ended, would she allow him close enough to do so.
“You deserve someone who matches you,” whispered Persephone. “What happened between us wasn’t your fault. We’re two different people, and no matter how strongly you’ve convinced yourself that I’m your one and only, it means nothing when you’re not mine.”
He was no one’s one and only. He had long learned to accept that. “Are you truly happy with Adonis?”
Persephone’s eyes seemed to illuminate in the dim room, and she smiled. “When I wake up and the first thing I see is his face, I know it’s going to be a great day. That isn’t going to change no matter how much time passes.”
He gently brushed her hair from her eyes, mesmerized by their glow. Was this how he looked when he was with Kate? “Do you ever regret leaving?”
She laced her fingers in his free hand. “Sometimes. I miss the sun—the real thing, not the one in my afterlife. I miss my mother. I miss our family. I miss the seasons. I miss change.” She pressed her soft lips to his knuckles. “Sometimes I even miss you. Adonis is lucky. He’s like every other soul—he doesn’t fully realize what’s going on or that the world around him is fake. I do, and sometimes that’s enough to make a difference.”
Henry was still for a long moment. Perhaps that was the solution. He could give Persephone her life back. He could not restore her to the goddess she had once been, but he could fill in the parts of her life that she missed. In return, she could step in and take Kate’s place, helping him rule the Underworld. Not as his wife, and she would go home to Adonis each night, but he wouldn’t have to fade. He wouldn’t have to leave Kate, not completely. He could watch from a distance, knowing she was happy. Knowing she was still alive and away from the danger he brought.
Henry hesitantly touched Persephone’s cheek. This was madness, but he didn’t care about the pain of having her at his side once more, so long as Kate was alive and happy elsewhere. Kate would never leave him though, not on her own. Not without a reason. He knew how she felt about her sister, the inadequacy and self-loathing, the insecurity, the jealous. Persephone was the perfect weapon, the perfect way to push Kate to safety, and Henry hated himself for it. But it had to be done.
“You could come back,” he whispered, and Persephone gave him a pitiful smile.
“What about Kate? You wouldn’t do that to her. I know you better than that. You might have her fooled, but I can tell how you feel about her.”
“Kate is many things to me,” he lied. “But she is not you.”
“Henry…” Persephone leaned forward and closed the gap between them, touching her lips to his. The damnable part of him that still loved her cried out, and he kissed back. They had never kissed like this while they were married. They had never kissed because they’d wanted to. And there was something thrilling about it, something that Henry couldn’t suppress. But it wasn’t everything he’d hoped for once upon a time, either.
It was a kiss. A simple kiss that dragged up old hopes and broken dreams, but he had bigger hopes now. He had better dreams. And all he wanted was for Kate to live to fulfill them.
At last he broke the kiss, and Persephone watched him with a heavy gaze. “The thing is, I’m not me either,” she said softly. “I’m not the person you love. That person never existed, and turning me into her in your mind—it’s destroying you. We had one good day together, and the rest of it was awful. I was miserable, and by the time I knew I didn’t want to be married to you anymore, you’d convinced yourself that you were in love with me. But you never were. You fell in love with a person who never existed.”
Henry knew he had fallen in love with someone who hadn’t existed, and he wasn’t asking for her love now. Only her help. But when he opened his mouth to explain, she interrupted him.
“Tell me,” said Persephone. “Was that the kind of kiss you’ve spent the past thousand years imagining? Did your heart stop? Did the room spin and did everything else fade away?”
Henry swallowed tightly as guilt rolled through him. No matter how he felt about Persephone, no matter how desperate he was to protect Kate, this wasn’t the way to do it. If she found out, she wouldn’t blame him for acting on feelings she thought he still had. She would blame herself for not being enough, and the thought of her going through that pain made him ache. He didn’t deserve her. But she deserved better than this.
Still, it was done. And the coward’s way out was better than mourning over Kate’s dead body. He straightened, gently pushing Persephone away. “No,” he said quietly. “I love Kate.”
“Good,” she said. “It’s about time you realized that.”
He shook his head. “You do not understand. I love her so very deeply that I cannot stand the thought of what will happen to her during this war. If she stays with me, Calliope will kill her. I cannot live with that guilt.”
Persephone raised her eyebrows, and she leaned back, watching him closely. “Is that what this is about? You want me to run off and tell her we kissed so she’ll leave you?”
Henry was silent.
Persephone snorted. “You’re ridiculous. I’m with Adonis, and you love Kate so much that you look like you’re about to fade at the very thought of her leaving you.”
“Better I fade than she,” he said with more force than he intended. “And I do not want to separate you from Adonis. You are the one who kissed me, not the other way around.”
“Yeah, because I wanted you to realize that you don’t love me the way you think you do.”
“I love you in spite of the pain you caused me and in spite of the way you destroyed my life,” said Henry quietly. “And I love Kate in spite of the pain I cause her. In spite of the way I destroyed her life.”
“You didn’t destroy her life,” she said. “You saved it.”
“I have brought her down here. I have put her in danger. I have forced her to go face to face with Calliope—”
“Would you shut up about Calliope already?” she snapped, and Henry fell silent again. “Listen. I’m not going to be your queen. This is your realm, and I’m pretty damn happy with my afterlife. It isn’t perfect, but Adonis is more than enough for me. If you love Kate this much, then do her a favor. Don’t leave her. Don’t hurt her the way I hurt you.”
That drew Henry up short. “That is the last thing I want,” he said. “She will have James—”
She scoffed. “I really wish you and James would end this damn feud. It’s been eons. Get over it.”
“It may have been eons to you, but he spent the summer with Kate—”
“So what? You’re just going to roll over and let him win?”
“I want her to be happy,” he said slowly and through gritted teeth. “If that means letting her go—”
“The only way you’re going to help her be happy is by loving her the way she loves you,” said Persephone, and her voice grew softer. “I know you do. So why can’t you show it?”
“I already told you,” he said roughly. “She will die if she stays with me.”
“No, she won’t,” she said. “You know how I know that? Because I know you. And I know what lengths you’ll go to in order to protect her. Do what you have to do, Henry. But no one deserves the kind of pain she’ll go through if you leave her. You didn’t deserve it when I did it to you, and she doesn’t deserve it now.”
She pressed a kiss to his forehead and stood. He missed her warmth as soon as it was gone, but as she walked away, he found himself wishing more and more that it was Kate who had come all along. He missed her. He missed her so much that he ached, and the thought of causing her the kind of pain he had endured for so many eons…
Persephone was right. He couldn’t hurt her like that. And selfishly, he couldn’t hurt himself like that again either.
“Do me a favor,” said Henry as she reached the door. “Do not tell her about this.”
“I won’t,” promised Persephone. “She wouldn’t believe me anyway, you know. Not the part about the kiss, and sure as hell not the part about how much you love her.” She paused. “You’re an ass, you know.”
“I know.” Henry sighed and leaned back against the chair. But he was an ass who would not see Kate killed, no matter what it cost him.