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The sound of the first blast could have woken the dead, and Hades covered his ears, as did many of those who stopped their labors on the port to stare at the mountain of rock in front of them. Hades' heart pounded with every crack, knowing it was the might of his brother, Zeus, who was causing such a thunderous boom, just as it had been Zeus who brought the rocks cascading into place all those years ago.

There was still much work to be done to prepare the port for the souls, but Hades knew the gods were eager to reopen the connection in the hopes it would please Gaia and reverse the prophecy. This was Hades' hope as well, and he thought of his genial conversation with Rhea's spirit earlier that day before he made for port. A smile always graced her face, and her mood appeared unencumbered and comforting. Was it a selfish gesture that he and the other gods were doing everything in their power to bring her back? Of course, there was much more at stake than the loss of a single titan, and Hades felt sure they were doing the right thing as he watched rocks tumble into the empty chasm that had once held the sea.

Shard by shard, the mountain broke apart, and sunlight spilled into his world. When the crevice had reached sea level, the salt water began pouring in, splitting the mountain further. No one spoke or hammered while the crater filled with water, each face held in awe as the opening grew until it was large enough to accommodate a yacht. Although it was not Poseidon's yacht that was the first to enter, it was Zeus riding the crest of a wave, naked as the day he was born. He gestured his arm in greeting, acknowledging those gathered at the pier. The scene was quite surreal.

Besides a new robe, Zeus was given many back slaps and hearty handshakes as he stepped onto the dock, and Hades walked through the throng to welcome his brother, making an effort to forget their past transgressions as he pulled Zeus in for a hug.

"Welcome to my home, brother," Hades said.

"It has been far too long," came Zeus' reply as he pointed toward the yacht through the gap. "If you squint you may be able to see your family on board that ship. They are beautiful, Hades. You are a most fortunate god."

As Zeus and Hades turned their attention to the gaping maw of the mountain, Zeus continued his mission to create a proper opening for the souls with expertly delivered bolts of lightning. This also caused waves to batter the decaying dock, and the laborers were forced to collect their tools and retreat.

"Weren't you afforded a view of the shoreline when the original port was built?" Zeus asked Hades over the cacophony of sound.

"Yes. Do you have a copy of the blueprints Hestia drew up?" Hades didn't expect Zeus to have the blueprints, since he had arrived in the nude, but Hades felt it important to make the point.

"I committed them to memory. But I am willing to widen the connection to better suit you."

Hades regarded Zeus thoughtfully without drawing attention to this fact. It had been many years since he felt such companionship with his brother. When the proper depth and width had been achieved, and the waves subsided, Poseidon navigated his ostentatious boat through the gap and up to the dock.

Once the yacht had been secured, Lexi walked down the gangplank to a chorus of cheers. The smile on Lexi's face was worth anything Hades owned, even as his son wailed in her arms. When Ely was handed over to him and the wailing stopped, Hades felt a tear leave his eye.

"You have a lovesick heart, you know that?" Lexi said as she kissed the tear from his cheek.

"I hope you will never hold it against me."

A white-haired nymph followed Lexi down, relinquishing Elm to Lexi's outstretched arm, and Hades took a moment to admire his daughter. She appeared to be in good spirits as her bright, hazel eyes took in her surroundings, an infantile smile touching her lips.

"Have you spoken with Rhea today?" Lexi asked.

"Yes. She was extremely pleased about the reopening of the port."

"Good. According to Mnemosyne, Rhea's body is still in superb form," Lexi told him. "They are keeping her in the great hall in the palace of titans. Many have come to visit."

Lexi appeared to lose her train of thought, focusing her attention on Elm as she wrapped the babe in her blanket. "I would like to take the babies home. Will you be terribly distraught if we leave you with your brothers?"

While Hades wished he could keep his family close after their short but tortuous separation, he was happy Lexi considered the underworld her home over the sunny shores of Olympus. "Follow me, my lady. I will escort you to my chariot, but I have a feeling Lars will want to pilot it."

"Oh, is Lars here? I would like to catch up with him." Lexi surveyed the bodies scattered around the work site, and Hades felt his chest tighten.

"How much do you need to catch up on?"

Lexi grimaced. "Hades, your jealously is getting the better of you. Lars is our friend."

Hades snorted, although he hadn't meant to. "Yes, I know. I owe him a great debt of gratitude, even though he lusts after my fiancé."

Lexi took a gentle swipe at his arm as she stepped into the chariot. The nymph had been on their heels, and a look of regret darkened her lovely features.

"Will the lady need further assistance from here?" she asked as she helped buckle Elm into her carrier at Lexi's breast.

"You have been more than accommodating, Cassie," Lexi said as she fondled the nymph's bleached tresses. "Return to your family. My escort is already on his way."

Lexi gestured toward Lars, who had broken into a full trot as he made for the chariot. Cassie's eyes widened in shock at the sight of the mighty minotaur, and she quickly took her leave.

"Good day, Lady Lexi." Lars grunted into Lexi's face as he caught his breath. Then he nodded his greeting to Hades. "Will you permit me to escort your mate safely to the palace, your grace? I will return with your chariot and resume my position as overseer."

Lexi directed a warm smile at Hades, and he knew he had earned a few points for putting Lars in a supervisory position. "I'm happy to have Lars escort me home, Hades, but I have missed you terribly. How long can I expect you to be here?"

"I will be home in time to share dinner with you. How will that be?"

Hades leaned in to kiss Lexi's mouth, savoring the softness of her lips and giving no regard to the minotaur waiting to avail himself.

"I think I can make it to dinner," she said. "And then you are mine, my prince."

With great reluctance, Hades relinquished his son into Lexi's arms and handed the reins to Lars. As he watched his chariot take to the air, carrying his beloved family home, Hades was already thinking of able bodied gods to cover for him.


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