The times they are a changin'
When Reason Fails
Location: Cam's Office
Timeline: March 31st, 2010
Cam tutted softly to herself as sifted through news reports on her HUD.
Nexus, who had once been forced to work in the shadows and justify their actions, had gained enough political clout to be introduced to the general public. And they had garnered mass approval. After the attack in Atlanta, their escape and many smaller incidents across the country and abroad, along with the propaganda campaign that had been slowly infiltrating the media for the last decade, the people were terrified. Mutants had been declared a threat to national security and Nexus had been grandfathered in as a branch of the NSA in charge of policing the "Mutant Menace."
And that wasn't even the worst of it. Individual states had already started passing laws making life as a mutant nearly impossible. Some states simply made it illegal for known mutants to sign binding contracts, though this did not nullify existing contracts it did effectively trap mutants into their current situation. Most states also now required blood tests before new contracts could be considered binding. Some were instituting a blood registry where people could go in and get tested and gain a blood status ID. All in all it could be worse...
Like it was in Texas. Even before this, the legislature in the Lone Star State on many issues had been a bit controversial. But the laws they were passing regarding mutants could barely see controversial in the rear view mirror. The problem was, the general populace didn't see it that way.
"Please tell me I'm reading this wrong?" Cam asked, though both she and OG knew she wasn't.
"I'm afraid not," OG said, a hint of warm anger in her tone, "They've pushed through a law making it legal to take lethal action against anyone displaying a visible mutation. Stating that using abilities in any public view constitutes a mortal threat. The wording declares not only that the act of 'removing the threat' would be considered self defense, but the moment this hits a courtroom it declares mutants as non-persons, meaning excluded from any and all rights normally attributed to citizens. It would nullify mutants' human rights entirely and open the door to declare them non-citizens."
"And you're sure you can't just help me build some sort of starship that we can beam every mutant on earth to and leave this planet to the rest of them?" Cam asked, pinching the bridge of her nose as she felt a migraine threatening.
"This isn't Star Trek," OG said with a snort, "Besides, where would we draw the line, what about mutants that didn't want to go, or those with human relatives? No, I'm afraid you're stuck with this world, for better or worse."
"Or worse," Cam agreed with a sigh. After another minute of shuffling through reports she wiped her hand across the HUD, sweeping them all aside, "I need to talk to Hades."
"You've been seeking his counsel a lot lately," OG said coyly.
Cam narrowed her eyes, "Your point?
"Well," OG said, the hint of a smile in her tone, "You say that your relationship is purely intellectual and physical, two halves of a coin, completely separate from each other. On one hand the typical relationship between a human and their patron, and the other giving new meaning to the term god-touched. But more and more you've been going to him not as a student or lover, but as a friend, or perhaps, I don't know, partner?"
Cam could feel heat rush her cheeks, "I go to seek comfort and council, as I have said, I have no more emotion invested in him than I would a valued teacher or advisor, our physical relationship aside. I have a deeper emotional connection to Persephone than him!"
"I think the lady doth protest too much," OG said with a tiny laugh, "He loves you Cameo. He's said so many times. I see nothing wrong with you developing similar feelings."
"I am developing no such things," Cam snapped as she stalked into her bedroom to change.
"Then why are you changing clothes before you go see him?"
Her only answer was an annoyed growl as she threw the jeans and t-shirt she had been wearing in the direction OG's voice had come from. If OG had a physical form they would have hit her in the face, as it was they landed in a pile on the floor.
Twenty minutes later Cam emerged in the outfit she'd finally settled on. Her first grab was a sexy black pencil skirt with a flirty green top and spiked black heels along with lacy underthings that she knew would only add fuel to OG's claims. The second, the rust colored business suit she had worn when she'd gone to visit her daughter in Sioux Falls with it's thick tights, long sleeves and high neck would only make OG laugh. Finally she had scrapped everything but the heels and underthings from first outfit, then pulled on a pair of jeans that fit her like a second skin, the cream camisole from under the suit and her leather jacket.
"Don't you dare say one word," Cam said as she touched up her makeup, but she didn't address her hair, the loose french braid actually worked with the outfit, the handful of curls having worked their way loose while she changed serving to frame her face.
Finally she picked up the large leather sling bag she kept for just this purpose and stuffed it full of books, fashion magazines, and a pair of modal cotton pajamas she'd bought for Persephone in a soft coral color before disappearing in a swirl of shadows.
*You know that running away to the underworld does nothing to our connection right?* OG said knowingly.
*Yes, of course I know that,* Cam said, her tone still slightly irritated, *that's not at all why I came here.*
*Keep telling yourself that,* OG said with a chuckle.
Cam ignored her and walked from the small room where she always arrived and into the main living space, Persephone was sprawled lazily on the couch, her head hanging off the front, one leg thrown over the back, a book held in front of her face. She was re-reading the Harry Potter series for the umpteenth time and had gotten to The Prisoner of Azkaban.
The headmistress plunked the bag down just inside of Persephone's line of sight but didn't stop to chat just kept going until she had reached Hades' bedchamber. It was midday so she knew he was still in bed, buried deep in heavy black furs and silk sheets. When she reached the room with its massive bed only one dusky foot was sticking out, and the soft sound of snoring just made it past the thick coverings.
Cerberus, whose puppies had all found homes with other gods, played quietly on the rug at the end of the bed. The head farthest away chewed happily on a tennis ball that let out a soft wet squish sound every time she bit down, while the other two played tug-o-war with a brightly colored rope with a knot on either end.
"Psst," Cam whispered, with six ears she knew the dog would hear her so she held one finger to her lips to make sure she didn't bark. She wasn't disappointed, the head nearest her immediately let go of the rope, causing the middle head to jerk sharply and the knotted rope to smack into the third dog's face, knocking the tennis ball from her mouth. The ball bounced twice wetly before rolling under the bed.
All three heads turned to face her, doggy smiles on each toothy mouth as they yawned and stretched and wagged their tail before padding over to greet Cameo. The dog could be utterly fearsome with a smokey black form, gleaming red eyes and teeth bigger than a man's hand. But her preferred form was that of a large shaggy golden retriever with six liquid chocolate brown eyes and three pink tongues and a mild obsession with tennis balls.
Cam knelt down and tried to give attention to all the heads and all the ears that needed scratching. It was a task but one she was used to. Only once she had greeted the dog properly did she lean close and whisper, "Go get Dad!"
The dog took off with a bound, leaping into the air and landing with all four paws on the middle of the bed, her three heads pushing and nuzzling through the pile of furs until she found her master and began licking him furiously.
Hades spluttered, fighting the mass of blankets and the heavy dog to try to find air. "I...ug... Cerb-" he let out a coughing laugh, they both knew that if he could get out the word 'off' she would have to get off him, but if she kept kissing his face and he couldn't talk she didn't have to listen
Cam was holding her sides, laughing so hard she hurt and tears leaked down the side of her face as she watch the great and powerful Hades, god of the underworld, eldest child of Cronus, brother to Zeus and Poseidon, brought low by his own dog.
Finally he managed to fend the dog enough to bellow, "OFF!" though he was still laughing as Cerberus immediately moved off of him and lay down next to him on the bed, all three heads down between her feet in a posture of abject contrition. A pose that was completely ruined by the tail that thwapped happily against the bed.
As Hades sat up with a serious case of bed head and beard, his bare chest showing a handful of red claw marks against the tan skin, Cam fell apart again, gales of laughter racking her body so hard they took her down, and she crumpled into the chair in the corner.
"Go on," Hades said to his pet, "go bug Seph." Cerberus licked his face one more time then got down and retrieved her rope before padding out of the room.
As he turned his attention to his lover he tried to make his look stern, he was her patron after all, a position that was supposed to come with some level of authority. But he could tell that she hadn't come here intending to laugh and laughed all the harder for needing it. So instead of a reprimand, which had been his first thought, or a well worded innuendo about how she had better ways of waking him which had been his second, he decided to let her laugh.
Dumping the furs and sheet to the floor. As he got out of bed invisible specters picked up each item from the pile and carefully remade the bed. He paid them no mind as he strode to the small gap in the far wall and disappeared for a few minutes, returning moments later with a towel draped about his hips and water dripping from his hair to the stone floor where it almost instantly evaporated with a hiss.
Cameo had found her composure somewhere in the minutes he'd been gone, and used the heavily filigreed gold mirror on the wall to carefully wipe the tear tracks from her face and repair her makeup as best she could. When he returned she was sitting on the arm of the chair waiting for him. She stood, smiling a little as he folded her in his arms. Hades always smelled of fresh spring herbs and real pine, not the fake scent most soap companies used, his was made special at Persephone's request by one of her own followers.
Just the smell made the big bad world a little less scary. Maybe OG was right, maybe it was time to let go of her idea that a woman could only have one true love and that hers had died long ago.
*Of course I'm right,* OG's voice chimed happily in her head.
*You can stick around for the discussion but after that can I have a little privacy?* Cam asked, her mood significantly improved.
*Of course,* OG said, her tone returning to the more nurturing motherly one she took with most of the students.
Cam nodded, inhaling the familiar scent of her lover one more time to calm herself before she stepped back and let him go.
Hades quirked a brow at her, "Business before pleasure."
She nodded, "So much has happened..." she trailed off, not even knowing where to start.
As though reading her mind Hades put his hands on her shoulders and kissed her forehead, "Let me put on some clothes then we'll start with dinner."
"Dinner for you only," Cam said pointedly, she knew better and they both knew it. Three pomegranate seeds had trapped Persephone in the underworld for centuries and she had no ties to Hades personally. Though he always offered, Cam never consumed anything she didn't bring with her.
"Had to try," Hades said with a shrug and a canny little grin as he let the towel drop and pulled on a lush crimson robe, belting it with a gold cord.
Cam rolled her eyes and shook her head, smiling despite herself.
Five minutes later the Lord of the Underworld had summoned spectral servants to bring him a plate laden with food and sat at the small table in his room eating alone.
Stilettos clacking sharply on the stone floor, Cam paced in front of him, words bubbling out of her as though once started she could not stop.
"Nexus has too much power. I knew they were growing, I knew they were amassing resources and seeding propaganda for years, but I didn't see this coming. I never imagined they would be able to move into the light like this, no more cloak and dagger, no more fear that people will find out what they are doing, they can do anything they want to us. The entire country believes that mutants are ticking time bombs waiting to go off. They are writing and passing laws almost faster than I can follow, half of them are being written into law without a vote, but the people are so scared they are applauding the politicians’ initiative. Three states already have laws on the books that if someone kills a person with a physical mutation that can be seen after death it will be deemed self defence. Texas all you have to have is a single witness that the person was using any 'ability beyond rational explanation,' whatever that means and you can remove the threat by any means necessary. Soon it will be legal to hunt us down like animals! Can you even imagine what they would do if they knew about god-touched? HA!"
She took a breath but it was only to keep going, "Grandmother thinks we need to make another show of power, that the only way to combat this is the fight fire with fire. But Atlanta was an utter disaster! Rather than serving as a cautionary demonstration, that we should be left alone, Nexus is spinning it that the entire thing was our fault! They're saying that the only reason the military was even in the town was because they had an anonymous tip about a planned terrorist attack. They've re-edited the footage to make it look as though we were attacking, reporting that the building was a well known Atlanta landmark that we struck in an effort to demoralize the public. They are blaming every minor weather fluctuation in the world on it not just the ones we actually caused, not to mention the men Maggie enthralled, they are still talking about her as though she herself were some kind of god. Nearly every crime committed anywhere in the world is being blamed on mutants. They are drawing blood from everyone they arrest now, as soon as they develop some sort of handheld tester..." She threw her hands up not even able to finish her thought.
Hades had grown very still at the mention of Cam's daughter. But now wiped his hands on a napkin with very precise movements then got to his feet to go to her. He wrapped her in his arms and just held her again. His hands slid up her back under her jacket, beacons of heat through the thin silk of her camisole. His voice was soft as he spoke against her hair, "Do you want me to-"
But she never found out what he was willing to do.
A clear crisp female voice filled the room, "Do what brother?"
They both turned slowly to face the golden mirror on the wall as though they were in a scary movie and the axe murderer had just arrived in the room. Even Hades started in wide eyed horror at the coolly stern face of his sister Hera.
Though Aphrodite was the one most bards and poets wrote about, the queen of Olympus was no less beautiful. The difference was that hers was a stern beauty with none of the heat of passion Aphrodite possessed. Hera's hair was nearly the same shade as Cameo's, the soft red waves standing out against her creamy pale skin. Her eyes though weren't the dark clear green of Cam's they were a dusky blue with a dark fringe of lashes under perfectly sculpted eyebrows. She was dressed in a black business suit, stark against her skin, the jacket buttoned over her modest bosom with no a shirt underneath.
The bigger problem was not that Hera had interrupted, it was the simple fact that Hera was a nosey bitch. As avidly as her spouse ignored the god-touched and turned his back on humanity, she watched them, her own personal soap opera so to speak. But she knew the rules Zeus has laid down better than any others and wouldn't hesitate to throw any one of them under the bus if they crossed the line. A line Hades had been flirting with for years.
"Do what?" she repeated placidly into the silence of the room.
But Hades hadn't survived this long without being able to think on his feet, "I was simply going to offer to take her mind off the matter your majesty. We are lovers, as you well know."
"Indeed," Hera said dryly as Cameo's cheeks flamed pink and she hid her face in Hades' robe, "it's astounding she can still blush so readily considering all I have seen you two do..."
"Did you wish to speak to us of something specific my queen or were you just catching up on the doings of human lawmakers?" Hades asked, his tone almost bored as he smoothly changed the subject. But unseen to Hera, his fingers, hidden under Cam's jacket, had started to dig into her back as his anger mounted.
"Actually I did have a purpose for my visit," Hera said, letting him deter her only because she had other news, "It's recently come to my attention that a great deal more of my people have decided to participate in this little endeavor of yours than we originally thought. Moreover it seems that they are making back alley deals trading up for 'god-touched' who better suit their needs." She said 'god-touched' with the barest hint of sarcasm and disdain. "In these trying times," she continued, a smug little smile on her rosey lips, "I thought it would be important for your..." she cocked her head to one side and put on an expression of wide eyed, though quite false, naivete, "You know? I don't even know what to call her? Your lover? Your paramour? Your mistress? You are both married after all..."
"I have freed Persephone of our marriage. And Cameo is a widow. As for what to call her, you could try her name," Hades said, his eyes narrowing ever so slightly.
Hera sighed, waving his comment away with one narrow hand, "As you will. In these trying times, I thought it important for Cameo to know that she may have an influx of students coming her way. Among other things..." Her tone had turned canny as she looked at the pair out of the corner of her eye.
"That's enough sister," Hades said coldly, his tone changing from deferential to warning.
"What?" Hera said, pressing a palm to her alabaster skin, blinking with feigned innocence.
"Good night my queen."
"Good night brother."
The mirror shattered suddenly, glass hitting the stone floor with a soft tinkling sound as Hades relaxed and lifted Cam's chin so she would look up at him.
"Enough of this seriousness my love," his voice was like warm honey on her skin, making her shiver, "let me show you how much I've missed you."
Cam knew she should object, that if she let him change the subject she would be lost in the carnal delights his bed always offered, but she looked inside herself and found she simply didn't care.
*Privacy mode,* she thought as she was lead deeper into the room, her clothing landing on the floor once piece at a time.
*Uh huh,* OG said dryly, but she'd recorded everything and would remind Cam later that there were serious questions that needed to be asked.