genre: demigod!au, strangers(ish)-to-lovers, pjo(?)!au, son of hades!yuta, daughter of Demeter!reader (angst, hurt/comfort, some fluff, not a sad ending)
pairing/s: Yuta / Reader
word count: 12k+
tw: mentions of suicide, loss of a loved one, mild panic attack symptoms, dealing with grief
a/n: pls read this! I contemplated a lot on whether to post this because I was dealing with some personal things and really needed to get some things out of my system and I did that through writing this. I can’t begin to recount how much I cried while writing this but I address a lot of heavy emotions in the course of this fic and if you're not comfortable with that I wouldn’t suggest that you read it. But like I said, the reason why I wrote this was really to escape and find comfort in situations that I was struggling to navigate in my head and I hope that for whoever it resonates with, it brings you the comfort and hope that it brought me.
Yuta always enjoyed it when summer came around. He loved the ticklish feeling of his perspiration as it ran down his neck. He loved the way he would have to squint his eyes from the glare of the sun as he hiked, the way the water would always feel cold no matter how warm he felt.
Yuta looked forward to summer, because no matter how camp half-blood treated him, nature always gave him a warm welcome.
The weather turned cold when June came around.
Yuta didn’t notice it at first, nor did anyone else. Because camp half-blood was practically buzzing with excitement for the upcoming games and activities planned for the duration of summer. Everyone had already arrived at the campsite, some even arriving early (cough cough, the Poseidon kids) because they were just that excited to get their summer’s worth of fun and more.
Yuta only realised something was off when it started getting too cold to just leave the windows open and wear just a tank top and shorts in the Hades cabin. He didn’t think it was a coincidence that the buzzing had started revolving around something (or someone) else entirely, rumours about one of Demeter’s daughters making their way around the camp within mere hours of your arrival.
Trying to shut the windows, Yuta realised the cold wasn’t because of any old temporary breeze, like the kind that came before storms. No, this one seemed like it wouldn’t be going away for a while.
Going over to fiddle with the thermostat, Yuta couldn’t help his frustration from bursting out in a groan when he realised it was broken, the dial’s hollow clicking being just that; useless. Impeccable timing.
Still frowning, Yuta shrugged into the thick olive green camping jacket that he’d found stashed away in the cupboard (probably belonged to one of the old head counsellors judging from how untouched it looked). He was on his way to the strawberry fields, but he figured he’d might as well drop by the big house to ask Chiron to fix the faulty heating situation in the Hades cabin.
“She’s like a totally different person, I don’t get why she even bothered showing up. She looks like she doesn’t even wanna be here. And I didn’t pack any cold weather clothes.”
“Kind of ruins everyone’s buzz, to be honest.”
Yuta overheard one of the campers scoff as they walked past him, mentally scoffing at the two-metre radius they kept when they walked past him, not to mention the look of discomfort that flashed in her features when she saw him.
Running through the list of children of Demeter in his head, he wondered just who they were talking about. There was only one daughter of Demeter he knew of that hadn’t left the camp yet.
But it couldn’t have been you, could it?
Yuta couldn't wrap his head around the thought as easily as he wanted to. He knew you, you were so well-liked by the other campers, they almost gravitated towards you; the positive energy you exude was always hard to resist.
You were like a flower of sorts, Yuta thought, people either loved to be around you, look at you or feed off your energy. He knew that because he saw it since he saw you arrive at the camp years ago. But he couldn’t think of anything you ever did capable of warranting the harsh words circulating amongst the campers.
He guessed his conflicting thoughts were resolved when he overheard Chiron’s stern voice calling your name echoing from his office.
You lost your father when winter was coming to an end.
You never knew how to describe your relationship with him. He was strict, he always placed a lot of emphasis on your studies, intelligence. You had your fair share of arguments, especially with how you always had your head in the clouds, jumping from passion to passion in your search for something that would satiate the yearning for true happiness within you.
But most of all, he was a pillar of strength for you. For as long as you could remember, it had been just the both of you. Especially when you were younger, you would lie on your too-hard mattress with him, talking his ear off about his day, asking him endless questions about whatever movie he was watching. But he never once complained, always listening to you patiently and giving his own advice and little joking comments here and there.
He too would tell you stories about your mother, about how nurturing and lovely she was, how he always loved how you took after her warm demeanour (or how he hoped you would get a chance to meet her when you were older). You’re always so accommodating, he would tell you. You, in all your childlike innocence and curiosity, admired him, in awe from all the stories he would tell you about past travels and experiences or how it seemed as though he had an answer for every question you could ask him.
You always enjoyed that, reminding yourself in excitement every now and then that you had so much more to learn from him, so many experiences you wished to share with him.
You weren’t given enough time for that.
You had to watch, helplessly, as he went from someone who was prided for having such powerful eloquence and knowledge that showed in their speaking and writing, to someone who could barely grip their pen to write. Someone who could barely get a coherent sentence from their lips, who couldn’t even recognize their own image in the mirror. To watch as he went from a normal, active person to someone who could only lie in bed, muscles and limbs stiff and inflexible, hands cold and skin paper-like and wrinkled with age.
You didn’t recognize him, yet you did all the same.
You knew this was your same loving father because he would always ask for you. The mere whispered utterance of what you assumed was your name always made your heart ache, wanting nothing more than to be with him whenever he would manage to utter a small plea for you to stay with him.
What else could you have possibly done than to stay with him? Even when the mere sight of him was enough to bring tears to your eyes.
With his absence, came the heat of summer.
It almost disturbed you, the way you so desperately wanted to cling to any semblance of a feeling that he was still here. So much so that you were selfish enough to throw nature off balance, using your goddess-given abilities to keep the cold around, and with it, memories of your lost loved one.
You were determined to stay in your little bubble, too emotionally spent from your grief to be able to keep up an energetic or bubbly demeanour that your friends were used to. Being yourself, in all your sadness and grief, worked because people don’t wish to be around such negative energy if they had a choice.
Well, people other than Chiron.
“Y/N. I understand that the past few months have been very difficult for you...” Chiron’s tone was firm yet gentle, his gaze searching yours for any sign that you were receiving his words as you sat before his desk.
Perched at the edge of your seat, your legs were angled sideways, one of your hands gripping the arm of the chair and the other on the handle of your duffel bag, ready to up and leave to go back home as soon as he said the magic words.
“But I still think that spending some time in a different environment, away from home… time with your friends here, it could do you good.”
Your heart sank, grip slackening just slightly on the armrest before you tightened it again.
“Chiron, I’m being as honest as I can with you. Being here isn’t helping,” you spoke through gritted teeth, your jaw clenching and unclenching.
You missed the way he’d shivered from how the room had felt even colder than before.
“How can you be so sure? You’ve only just arrived.”
You took in a deep breath, letting it out through your nose.
“I’m not wanted here. No one wants to spend their summer with a wet blanket.”
Chiron, unrelenting, had simply given you a warm smile, though his eyes were still filled with pity, “I think you need to allow yourself time to heal. Let your friends support you, dear. I’m not changing my mind on this.”
You huffed, “You know I could just go home, right?”
“And you know I could just send someone to bring you back, right?” Chiron reflected your tone back, his eyebrow raising in a challenge.
He stared at you for a moment, cogs whirring in his head before he straightened up in his seat, his gaze changing, “I’ll tell you what. If you’re not going to try for my sake… at least try for his sake. I’m sure he wouldn’t have wanted you to stay cooped up in your house everyday.”
You took in a deep breath, letting it out harshly with a small groan, standing up abruptly.
“Fine, whatever,” you started making your way to the door, bags thumping harshly against one another as you yanked the door open, turning your head to add, “and you know that was a cheap shot, Chiron.”
“At least it worked,” you heard Chiron’s voice echo behind you but you brushed it off, turning back only to almost ram into another person standing a little too close to the door to be innocently waiting.
You recognized him, with his black hair down to his shoulders, curling slightly at the edges, the end of his fringe touching his cheeks as he shook his head to get it away from his eyes.
Hades’ kid, Yuta.
He was looking at you as though he were surprised to see you, and truthfully, he was. That was because he almost didn’t recognize you. Your face looked thinner than he remembered, the darkness under your bloodshot eyes accentuated the certain anger in your gaze. It was unlike Yuta had ever seen you before.
But he recognized you all the same, the way your gaze had softened slightly upon seeing him in a way that made Yuta feel like he’d just caught a glimpse of something too personal.
His shock had struck a nerve with you, it seemed, because your gaze was back to its cold, piercing nature in an instant, a small sigh leaving you.
“Move, you’re in my way.”
Yuta stepped aside quickly, letting you leave, trying to ignore the lingering curiosity within him as he entered Chiron’s office.
Please don’t approach me. Please don’t approach me. Please don’t approach me-
You almost winced at the sound of the metal food tray against the thick dark wood of the dining hall table you were seated at alone, your fingers pinching the carrot in your hand tighter in your dread.
“Hey… Y/N, long time no see, huh?”
Tearing your gaze away from your food, you met the eyes of one of your friends, a sigh leaving you as you mustered a weak smile.
“Yeah,” you huffed.
You watched as her gaze flitted from everything around you, avoiding your eyes. Sucking in a sharp breath, she pressed her lips into a firm line.
“It’s been a while since we talked, right?” she muttered, earning a nod from you. It was no loss on her part, really. If anything, you figured she probably didn’t want to have this conversation either.
“Honestly, the girls and I wanted to ask you out but you were always so busy—”
She’d stopped short when she saw the way you glared at her, your eyes already began to feel hot with the fresh tears that pricked at it.
“Yeah. I was busy.”
“Well, yeah, we know. You didn’t contact us so…”
Well, maybe it was because you were tired. Time and time again you were faced with questions about your loved one, whether he was getting better (as if it was easy to get better from degenerative diseases). All while you were falling into your own pit of misery, yet still were expected to keep a strong front for him, and for the people who couldn’t bear the thought that you had emotions other than joy and excitement.
It seemed, to them, your identity had changed. You weren’t you anymore, just… your father’s keeper. It was easier to say you were fine when you were asked so you wouldn’t have to reopen the wound you were so desperately trying to keep closed.
You sighed, glancing up to meet your friend’s gaze again. You couldn’t blame them, only yourself.
“Yeah, sorry about that…” you began, “I was just… I wasn’t really up for social gatherings.”
She frowned at you, “Well, I guess we could hang out now! Since we’re in the camp, you know? You look like you could use a distraction.”
You couldn’t help the words from slipping from you.
“Distractions are temporary.”
You pressed your lips into a firm line, regret filling you as you glanced back down at your food, “Sorry, it’s just—”
She let out a nervous laugh, shaking her head, though you didn’t miss the way she’d rolled her eyes.
“No, no, it’s fine,” she clipped, her tone a lot harsher than it was before, “We get it. Enjoy your lunch.”
You were about to stop her, to explain that you didn’t mean to be hurtful, but she’d left without another word, leaving you at the table without an appetite anymore.
Unbeknownst to you, Yuta had been watching (out of curiosity, he supposed), wondering what words were exchanged that made you bite down harshly on your lip, stand up and return your tray of untouched food.
“I was just trying to help her, she didn't have to be such a bitch about it. If she doesn’t want my help she could have just said so...” Yuta could hear your friend ranting as she returned to the daughters of Aphrodite and Athena chattering at the table nearest to him.
“I kind of pity her, to be honest… must be hard going through what she went through…” another girl had muttered, her eyes filled with pity as she watched you.
“Yeah well, if I were you I wouldn’t bother. People like Y/N don’t want to be helped. At the rate she’s going, she’s like a ticking time bomb… it’s only a matter of time before…”
“What? She explodes?” another daughter of Aphrodite had chimed in with an eye roll.
Yuta tuned out the rest of their conversation, munching on his carrot as he let his gaze follow your figure till it was out of the dining hall.
I’ll just ignore it. It’s none of my business anyway.
In the mornings, you ached for your loved one.
You were trying to get your mind off of it, but with how everyone seemed to be staring at you either with wary or pitiful gazes (sometimes both), you were starting to wonder if it would be easier for everyone if you just forced yourself to put on a happy front, leaving your longing to be something only for the four walls of your cabin bedroom to bear witness to. Most of all, you were really annoyed at Chiron for forcing you to come here.
Staring at the ceiling, at the little vines stretching and clinging to the walls the more you willed them too, bending in patterns and waves that would suffice in occupying your mind for the time being, you were momentarily distracted by the hushed whispers outside your bedroom door.
“Should we ask if she wants to join us?” one of the sons of demeter had murmured, another one letting out an urgent grunt.
“No, dude, haven’t you heard? I don’t wanna get myself involved in the beef she has with the Aphrodite and Athena girls.”
You sighed, the sound making the whispering halt for a moment.
“Okay, fine, but she’s still technically a camper here, shouldn’t we be looking out for her?”
You didn’t notice the heavy implication behind their words, tuning out the rest of their conversation as you forced yourself to get out of bed. Making your way over to the window of your bedroom (a privilege you appreciated now that you were the only daughter of Demeter left in your cabin), you sighed at the cold breeze that greeted you when you shoved the curtains aside.
You figured as long as you were here, you’d might as well do some stuff you couldn’t do back home.
Maybe you’d go for a swim.
You paid no attention to the funny looks you were getting from campers as you made your way to the beach, the muttering feeling like white noise to you at this point.
It was only a matter of time before Yuta heard it too, the muttering and rumours wondering if you were really heading to the beach to drown yourself. But it bothered Yuta, strangely, how everyone seemed to be busy speculating but no one deemed it important enough to actually check up on you and make sure you were alright.
It was as if they were just waiting for some tragic news to come back to them.
You were oblivious, wondering if the beach would feel like how it did when you went with your dad when you were younger, sitting and enjoying the cold breeze and the powerful sloshing of the waves.
The water looks bluer than you remembered, darker because of the cloud cover in the sky. You weren’t afraid of the cold, though, already kicking your shoes off and grounding yourself in the feeling of the cold sand against your feet and between your toes.
Taking your coat off, you dumped it on top of your shoes, appreciating the feeling of goosebumps rising on your skin.
Walking closer to the edge of the water, you stared at the way the water rushed past your feet, making chills shoot up your calves in the best way possible.
You were about to take another step when you heard a voice.
“Woah, woah, hey…” the voice sounded out of breath, “I don’t think the Poseidon kids would appreciate someone dying in their magical waters very much.”
You turned your head, spotting Yuta just a few steps behind you, the footprints on the sand behind him were spaced far apart.
You frowned, “I wasn’t… I wasn’t planning on dy-drowning myself… I was just going for a swim.”
Yuta’s eyebrows raised in disbelief, hugging his coat tighter around his body, a scoff leaving him.
You rolled your eyes, letting your toes trace patterns in the sand under the water, the water feeling warmer now.
“Look. I’m not trying to kill myself if that’s what you’re thinking.”
Yuta sucked in a deep breath, raising his voice so you could hear him above the wind and the waves.
“That’s not what everyone else is saying.”
You weren’t sure why you were surprised, you should’ve known. It was like you’d told Chiron, people were looking at you like your presence here was an accident waiting to happen.
Strangely enough, you were a little glad that Yuta didn’t seem to be walking on eggshells around you like everyone else. His gaze now, as he was looking at you, wasn't wary, nor was it pitiful. It was… somehow relieved.
“What makes you think I care about what everyone else is saying?” you murmured, curious to hear his answer.
Yuta surprised you when he let his lips curve into a smile, shaking his head.
“I don’t,” his tongue peeked out to wet his lips, “just thought you should know.”
You nodded, kicking at the water slightly.
“You should go,” you murmured, “I don’t think being seen with me is gonna help you around here.”
Yuta seemed to find your words amusing, a huff of laughter escaping his lips, “I could say the same thing.”
A small silence ensued, the both of you seeming as though you had a multitude of questions for the other person, yet not wishing to disrupt the peaceful atmosphere.
“I don’t know if the rumours are true,” he murmured, everything about his demeanour and his tone dripping genuinity, “but if they are… I’m sorry for your loss. I know you and your dad were pretty close.”
You nodded, your lips pressed tightly together as you gave him a nod, your expression not giving away anything that you were feeling.
“Thank you, Yuta.”
You barely even noticed how the air around you both had gotten a little warmer, and neither did Yuta.
Yuta shook his head at you in dismissal, giving you a soft smile, “take care.”
He turned without another word, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jacket as he made his way back to the dining hall.
You didn’t think this was gonna work.
Technically, you had everything you needed. The spellbook you borrowed from the library, the food offering, the pit you dug in the ground of the field you were in, a candle and some matches, a pretty extensive knowledge of how to read ancient greek. Desperation?
This should’ve been all you needed to summon a deceased soul (according to the spellbook). Admittedly, like you said, you didn’t think it was gonna work (1. because you weren’t a child of Hades 2. because you didn’t think your powers were that strong or versatile), but you figured you had to at least try. You know, just so you know you tried.
Adjusting the spellbook where it stood propped against the thick root of the tree you were seated under, you took a deep breath in. Muttering the incantations softly under your breath, you scrunched your eyes shut, carefully calling out in your head.
Dad? Can you hear me?
Nothing. Just the rustling of trees in the wind.
Hmmm Hades? Your… Majesty? Are you there?
Again, nothing. Though you swore you heard the crunching of leaves somewhere nearby. Maybe you were onto something.
Uh… Goddess Demeter? Would you rather me call you Mom?
At the lack of a response, your mind had wandered. Thinking of Demeter had brought forth a wave of memories of your father’s stories about her, about how he hoped you would take after her good qualities when you were older.
It was then that a sick feeling surfaced in the pit of your stomach, a feeling that filled you with an almost nauseating type of regret and dread. Right now, you didn’t think your parents would be happy (or ready) to see you like this.
And maybe, you were realising, you weren’t quite ready to see your dad again either.
“Trying to make a deal with my dad?”
You’d jolted in shock, heart pounding rapidly and your eyes opening wide only to see Yuta next to you, peering over your makeshift altar to try to read the spellbook.
You almost forgot who his dad was for a second.
“Are you following me?” you narrowed your eyes at him, earning a shake of the head from said boy, his hair messily bouncing against his forehead as he did so.
“Nope, I was looking for a good spot to read but I realised it was uh…” he gestured to your little display with a giggle, “occupied.”
“I can help you with that, you know?” Yuta slumped down into a seated position next to you, scanning the writing on the spellbook quickly.
“With what?” you frowned, turning your head to yawn.
“I assume you were trying to get into contact with your dad?” he raised his eyebrows at you in question.
Your gaze flickered from him to the open spellbook, your hand reaching out quickly to shut it with a loud thud.
“Forget it, I changed my mind.”
Yuta frowned, “Are you sure?”
Confusion was written in his features as he tilted his head at you, his thumb fiddling with the corner of the hardcover book he was holding.
You nodded, averting your gaze.
A short pause, and then a hum from Yuta.
“Mind if I ask why?” he looked on patiently for your answer.
Keeping your gaze fixed on his knee, you purse your lips, unsure if you should tell him the truth. The truth was enough to deter your old friends, and you figured you didn’t mind Yuta’s unapologetic company.
“You don’t have to answer if you’re not comfortable,” he added, “I’m just… kind of confused, but mostly curious.”
You took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. Maybe you would just tell him, if he didn’t want anything to do with you afterwards, then so be it.
“I don’t want my dad to see me like this.”
You dared yourself to meet his gaze, expecting to be met with an expression that would make your heart sink or something like that. But instead, Yuta simply nodded.
“I get that. You don’t want him to see you when you’re not in a good place.”
Your lips parted, nodding slowly, still feeling as though you were waiting for a punchline somewhere.
Yuta seemed to have sensed this, a bout of laughter leaving him, throwing his head back as he laughed as if it was funnier than it was.
“Why do you look so shocked? You’re acting like I'm the first person that told you that.”
Your eyebrows raised, mustering a shrug, “I mean… you kind of are.”
The way Yuta’s expression had changed from relaxed to annoyed in an instant almost gave you whiplash.
You didn’t answer him, but your silence spoke for itself.
Yuta let out a deep sigh, a scoff leaving him, as if he couldn’t believe you.
“That’s stupid. I’m glad you’re hearing it now, at least. Better late than never I guess.”
You shrugged again, your hand going next to you to run your fingers over the grass, watching as they grew through the gaps between your fingers.
Yuta looked at you, feeling a little more accustomed to the cold now than he was days before.
“How long has it been?” he dared to ask.
You guessed that was what you appreciated about Yuta. In a sense, his questions forced you into that part of your head you’d kept locked up for what felt like the longest time, but strangely enough, it was as if you couldn’t bring yourself to lie to him, or put on a strong front so he would assume you were coping well.
No, there was no need for any of that now as you sat in the middle of the field with him looking at you as though he wanted to hear your answer, not the responsible, optimistic ‘we’re doing alright’ answer you would always give to protect your father’s privacy.
“Almost two months,” you told him, raking your fingers through the soft grass.
Yuta’s lips parted, nodding slowly as he set his book down on top of the now-closed spellbook, hugging his knees to his chest so he could rest his cheek against his knee.
“I get it now,” he told you matter-of-factly, “the cold weather.”
You hadn’t expected him to come to that conclusion (especially not that quickly), a flush of embarrassment sending uncomfortable heat to your neck.
“Sorry, I know it’s selfish of me.”
Yuta hummed, a teasing smile on his face as he turned to meet your gaze, “Yeah, very.”
You rolled your eyes.
“Get used to it—”
“You know, change isn’t always a bad thing.”
“No, I mean. I thought of it ‘cause of the weather thing…”
“I know it makes you feel helpless, but… not everything that changes is something that has to be… you know, fixed,”he continued.
You almost felt like he had a clear view into your head, overcome with awe at how lightly he was uttering such weighted words.
“Fixed?” you echoed dumbly.
Yuta gave you a small smile, nodding. Reaching out a hand nonchalantly, he picked a grape off of what was supposed to be your food offering, popping it into his mouth.
“Yeah, fixed. Reverted back to how it used to be. Controlled.”
You followed suit, picking a grape and munching on it slowly, turning to look at him as he raised his eyebrows at you.
You hadn’t realised this.
You were so used to being thrown in unpredictable situations, trapping you within a feeling of helplessness that you grew to desperately avoid. To you, control meant stability, stability in the unchanging things and patterns of life. Of knowing what was in store for you, as impossible as that was.
“Well, what do you suppose I should do, then?”
Yuta giggled, holding his hands up in defence, “I’m not ‘supposing’ anything. But what I will say is that you can grow with the change. You know, to accept that what has happened has happened, and that there isn’t really anything left to do other than to move forward from it.”
Yuta continued, munching on two grapes this time.
“Let it reveal things about yourself you wouldn’t have discovered if not for it.”
You huffed, dismissing his words because you knew they were something to consider seriously.
“Sounds like a bunch of fluff.”
Yuta was the same as ever, undeterred as he gave you a grin.
“My specialty,” he shook his head, expression taking on a more serious tone again, “Really, though, I know it sounds fluffy, but I mean it. Genuinely.”
Leaning back to rest his weight on his palms, he sighed, squinting his eyes at the glare of the sun peeking through the clouds.
“I wish someone was there to tell me the exact same thing years ago,” he muttered.
“What happened years ago?” you met his gaze when he opened his eyes and turned to look at you, the sparkle in his eyes almost seeming to dim for a second.
“I was claimed.”
That night, as Yuta was lying in bed, he felt a strange urge within him to head to the field nearest to his cabin, where he was with you that same morning.
He wasn’t sure why, but something felt right about it and he wasn’t in any position to refuse (now that he was nowhere near sleepy).
It was only upon reaching the field that he was beginning to wonder why he was here. The pale moonlight made the field look bright even though the shadows cast a blue darkness over the flowers and grass he walked over. Giving up on his quest to find out what brought him here, he’d laid down on the grass with a sigh, an arm behind his head as he stared at the moon.
He wondered, just for a moment, if you were sleeping.
As if he were back in his own bed, Yuta felt the wave of fatigue spread through his limbs, from his head down to his toes, letting himself shut his eyes in anticipation of a long-awaited rest.
It was then that he’d heard the voice.
It wasn’t Chiron’s voice, that was for sure. Nor did it sound youthful enough to belong to any campers he knew. There was a certain edge to the voice, the slightly gravelly tone that only came with age.
He heard the voice again, calling his name. This must’ve been someone he knew, or they wouldn’t have known his name, nor called it like that (in such a familiar way).
Show yourself. Yuta thought, a tingling in his fingers that reminded him of the first time this happened, when he’d discovered that he could communicate with deceased souls when he had an encounter with his grandfather just days after he was claimed by Hades, when he was still trying to resist his newfound identity.
It was rare, rare that he would encounter souls that so strongly wanted to communicate with him. But he didn’t detect any animosity or hostility from this soul, an overwhelming feeling had filled his heart, bringing unfamiliar tears to Yuta’s eyes.
Then he saw it, clear as day. A face he was surprised he still remembered even after so long.
“So, poison this time?”
Looking up from your phone, you weren’t shocked to see Yuta again, making his way leisurely to where you were, a different book from the other day in his hand.
You knew what he was referring to (frankly, it was hard to ignore), the tall stems with little jagged leaves fanning out from it leading up to the beautiful blooms in shades of purple and blue. Some tall spikes with tiny mounds of flowers that had yet to bloom.
“Again, not trying to do anything sinister or tragic,” you huffed, amused, “I always liked these flowers.”
“Your favourite?” Yuta asked, crouching into a squat in an attempt to sit down, deftly avoiding the flowers much to your amusement.
You shrugged, “I guess you could say that.”
“Didn’t know you knew anything about flowers,” you teased, earning a giggle from him, a hint of childlike pride in the glint of his eyes.
“I don’t. Well, not much, at least. I worked at my grandpa’s shop when I was younger for some extra money,” he shrugged, “still doesn’t make me as much of an expert as you are, though.”
“That sounds more like it. You were never interested in flowers.”
Yuta narrowed his eyes at you, surprised (yet not exactly in an unpleasant way) that you knew that. He still had to ask how, though.
“Who told you that?”
“You did,” your smile grew at the recollection of the memory, “I don’t know if you remember, but it was the flower arrangement workshop they did a long time ago that they put the Demeter kids in charge of. I asked you if you wanted to come, and you—”
A gasp left his lips, his eyes widening, “Oh! I remember that.”
“Yeah,” you told him pointedly, a teasing lilt to your tone.
“Sorry about that, by the way. I was pretty harsh.” You hadn’t expected the remorse in Yuta’s expression, as if he’d done something so horrible to you.
Yuta remembered that incident, because that was when it started. When everyone had started to avoid him because of his powers, and the unsettling aura of fear and death he brought with his presence.
It was always what separated the both of you, or that was how he used to see it. People gravitated towards you because of your joyful, positive, healing aura, whereas people avoided him because of his heavy, fearsome aura.
You were the only one of Demeter’s kids that bothered to ask if he wanted to take part in that stupid workshop, but at the time, he was upset, and he figured he shouldn’t risk ruining your workshop as well.
Caught up in the memory, you drew him out of his thoughts with the laugh that left you.
“It’s really fine, I didn’t take it personally. Just figured you were in a bad mood or something.”
Yuta’s gaze had softened, his lips parting just slightly, but he seemed to snap out of it quickly, giving you a smile as he averted his gaze, staring hard at the page his book was open on.
“What are you doing here? Not hanging out with your friends?” you asked, though you knew it was a stupid question. It wasn’t like you’d seen Yuta hang out with people from other cabins whenever he was here.
A huff of amusement escaped his lips, giving you a shake of his head in response.
“I like it here. But it’s nothing like how it feels back home. At least back home there’s friends, work, family… nothing like this place.”
You frowned, not quite understanding.
“I thought you said you liked it here,” your eyebrows furrowed, eyes narrowed in confusion.
“You sure?” you couldn’t help yourself from feeling skeptical, and Yuta couldn’t blame you, you weren’t wrong, “‘Cause the way you described it makes me think you don’t actually like this place very much…”
Bringing his hand up to run it through his hair, you almost wondered if you’d struck a nerve, but Yuta’s reaction was unexpected.
“I didn’t know you were so perceptive.”
Your eyes widened, rushing to apologize, “Sorry I—”
Yuta shook his head in dismissal, making you stop yourself halfway.
“What are you doing? Don’t apologize,” he seemed genuinely amused, “you’re right, anyway. I spend more time in this place than I would want to… you know, because of what they say about your scent to monsters being stronger as your powers get stronger.”
There was a certain pensiveness to his gaze, something you found familiar, yet caused an ache to stir within your heart as well. You wondered if he felt the way he looked.
“I like to tell myself I like it here, you know… it works most of the time, I get to be around nature a lot here, which is nice. But… I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have another reason to stay.”
Taking in a deep breath, Yuta let out a sigh, “I never know if there’s gonna be another kid like me… and I don’t want them to have to be alone, and go through what I did.”
“It’s kind of ironic. You would think that this is a place where you’d be welcomed for your differences, because it’s not like you chose to be this way, to have the powers you have. But… it doesn’t seem to work that way here, obviously.”
“I think you did a great job,” you muttered, catching Yuta off guard, the said boy’s eyes widening.
“You’re more welcoming than anyone I've met here… you’ve never hurt anyone with your powers. Even now, after knowing all about me that you know, hearing all the rumours. You don’t talk to me like I'm some kind of ticking bomb. You talk to me like I’m… well, me.”
Should you have been embarrassed that you’d just said what you said? No, you meant every word.
Yuta stared blankly at you, ignoring the strange feeling that was stirring within him. The comfort that came with being known.
“Anyway, uh, what are you doing here?” Yuta diverted your attention quickly, focusing on getting comfortable in his seat. He leaned against the trunk of the tree you were seated under, bringing his knees up and propping his book on his knees, “Not hanging out with your friends?”
You purse your lips, shaking your head, willing the budding flowers to bloom.
“I don’t think they’d like to… hang out with me very much right now.”
Yuta’s eyebrows raised, leaning forward just slightly as he tried to detect any sadness in your gaze. Maybe not sadness, that wasn’t quite what he found, more of a sense of resignation.
“I mean… I guess it’s my fault. I kept bailing on them so I guess they just, you know, stopped asking.”
Yuta hummed. Again, no eggshells here. His book was long forgotten in his lap.
“Can I ask what happened?”
You huffed, an empty smile on your face, the kind you’d grown so used to wearing even if you didn’t really have anything to be happy about.
“I guess… we had different priorities, you know? Friends are important to me, of course. It was just… tough for me to manage my time…” you pressed your lips together in a tight line, letting out a weak huff of laughter.
“I wanted to spend time with them. I mean, I didn’t have to go to school, I wasn’t working or anything, but…” you took in a deep breath, your vision already beginning to blur, Yuta looking on with an unreadable emotion to his gaze.
“There was no one else that could take care of him… no one else that wanted to, really. No-” your throat had began to constrict, your lips quivering as you sniffed as softly as you could, “no one else he asked for.”
You dared yourself to meet his gaze, and you couldn’t have been prepared for the wave of emotions that surged through you when you did.
Yuta was seeing it again, the way your gaze had softened, the puffiness under your eyes more prominent now than it was just seconds ago, the slightest hint of the anguish you felt that made itself known in the way your eyebrows had furrowed. The same feeling that he had just caught a glimpse of an intimate part of your soul.
“I couldn’t bring myself to leave him… I couldn’t do that to him, Yuta, not when he needed me,” your voice had faltered, the dry and painful stinging of your throat getting the better of you.
Yuta nodded, watching as you brought your hands up to wipe at your tears, noticing the disdain you seemed to view your actions with. It was as if you were upset at yourself for crying.
Truthfully, you were. You were afraid that you would open up the can of worms that were your emotions that you didn’t feel ready to feel again, for every time you felt it, it felt like you were reliving them with how fresh they felt in your heart.
“You wanted to care for someone you loved…” Yuta surprised you when he’d reached a hand out towards your face, panic registering in you as you made the delphiniums wither, not wanting him to get hurt.
Yuta was too focused to notice the way the path towards you had cleared, his gaze intent as his fingers touched your jaw in a light caress, his thumb wiping away the tear that was rolling down your cheek, your lips quivering as you took a deep breath in despite your lungs feeling weak.
“That’s not something to feel bad about,” he told you with a small smile. Without thinking, you’d shifted to sit next to him, letting your head rest on his shoulder as he similarly let his head rest against yours, not saying anything about the tears you would get on his shirt.
His presence exuded a warmth you hadn’t expected to feel so welcoming, having forced yourself to find comfort in the cold.
You and Yuta had stayed in that warmth for a while, the first taste of warmth you’d felt in a long time. Away from the cold, but no further away from love.
Weeks had passed, and Yuta and you had grown closer, seeming to somehow intuitively know the other person with the more time you spent together, through the stories you would share with each other, friends you both had back home. You felt comfortable with Yuta; he never made you feel like you had to be a certain way with him. You were thankful for that, and you hoped he felt as comfortable around you as you did.
You never planned to meet, funnily enough. You would always seem to find each other in the camp grounds one way or another, as if there was something guiding you towards each other.
Lately, in the evenings, you would be in your room after dinner working on a craft or watching something to wind down before you slept. Yuta would say he would be at the beach, but you didn’t really ask what he did there, figuring there weren’t that many things to do at the beach.
People talked, of course, about yours and Yuta’s new friendship, claiming that it was convenient that two outcasts had found enjoyment in each other’s company.
You didn’t mind, though. A part of you was always aware of Yuta’s presence whenever you came to camp half-blood, and you were more than thankful that you’d come to know more about the person behind the presence, no matter what the other campers had to say about him. Better late than never, as he would say.
That evening was a little different.
The both of you had found your way back to the field, stupid giddy smiles on your faces when you realised you both had the same idea to watch the sunset that day.
“Did you have a good day today?” he murmured, sitting with one leg stretched out and his other foot tucked against his outstretched leg.
You nodded, yawning as you looked up, your hand coming up to your neck to massage the soreness away (you figured that was the con of spending the whole day hunched over your laptop).
“Yeah, I did. I would say it was even productive,” you smiled, wincing at the ache you felt when you looked up at the sky to watch the sunset.
“You can rest your head on my lap,” he offered casually, a huff of laughter escaping him at the way your eyebrows raised in confusion.
“Your neck,” he added.
Your mouth made an ‘o’ shape in realisation, complying gladly and shifting yourself so you were lying in the field now, your head resting against Yuta’s thigh.
It came so naturally, the way he would just reach his hand out to push your hair away from your face. You welcomed the gesture, and the little static buzz it planted in your chest.
“What about you? What did you do today?” you asked, fatigue laced in your tone, no longer watching the sunset but letting your eyes flutter closed instead, enjoying the relaxing feeling of Yuta’s hands in your hair.
Yuta hummed, “I called my friends back home… then I went to the beach.”
The laugh that bubbled from your lips had almost stunned Yuta, thankful that you didn’t seem to notice.
“You’re spending a lot of time at the beach these days, huh,” you commented, earning a smile from Yuta.
“Yeah…” he trailed off, hoping you wouldn’t ask why, and then feeling relieved when you didn’t.
“You’re not watching the sunset anymore,” he pointed out, amusement in the way his lips curved into a smile, “did you just come here to use me as a pillow?”
You would’ve rolled your eyes if they weren’t closed.
“I know you just rolled your eyes at me,” he scoffed.
“In my defence, I didn’t know you would be here when I came here.”
Yuta hummed, “Fair enough.”
“Since your eyes are open, though,” you began, blissfully relaxed at this point, “why don’t you describe it to me.”
Looking at the sky, it was as if you both happened to be seated at the best possible spot to view the clouds and colours cast by the setting sun.
“Well… first of all, it’s not as orange as it was five minutes ago,” he sounded out his words slowly, taking his time to explain it to you, “Now it’s more… blue… blue and purple and pink… the clouds aren’t the big and fluffy kind, these kind of look like rays.”
“Rays?” you hummed, painting a vivid picture in your imagination of what Yuta was describing, his hand moving from your hair to your arm, flipping your palm so it was facing up, drawing on it as if he were trying to draw the clouds, your nose scrunching at the ticklish feeling but you didn’t pull your hand away.
“Yeah. It’s as if they’re shooting out from somewhere. It’s… it looks amazing, I'm probably not doing them any justice with how I'm explaining it,” he laughed, but continued anyway, “you can’t see through them the further they are, but as it fans out, it starts to look more dispersed… kind of like the flowers you like.”
“Like the delphinium flowers,” he murmured, a hint of amazement in his tone.
Your lips parted, enjoying the vivid image you had in your head now. You imagined the clouds looked as soft as the flower petals did, the colours to match, little tints of pink peeking out from behind them and blending beautifully with the blue of evening skies.
“Do you like those flowers?”
Yuta did. They reminded him of you.
He gave you an affirmative hum.
Just like that, he’d started to see the familiar stalk of the delphinium growing from the ground, surrounding the immediate area around the both of you. But what caught Yuta’s eye was the vine that had started to snake around the tree nearest to him, defying everything he knew about fruits when he saw the little bunch of grapes you’d willed to grow.
“Go ahead, you can eat it.”
Never one to refuse a snack, Yuta went ahead, plucking a grape from the bunch and popping it into his mouth, the gesture reminding him of one of his first conversations with you.
About to pull his hand back towards himself, Yuta swallowed the grape.
“Not that I’m complaining but why—” he was about to tell you that your hair was tickling him, but it was only when he turned did he realise that it wasn’t your hair, it was the soft petals of the delphinium flower.
Your smile widened, letting your eyelids flutter open to see how he dared himself to feel the petals between his fingertips.
“Was that why… the grapes?” he turned to you, the smile on his face making you glad you decided to do what you did.
He glanced back at the flowers, back to you.
“... amazing,” he murmured.
“Cool, isn’t it? I realised it could work when I was experimenting a few weeks back,” you decided not to add the part about how it was because he’d almost touched it.
Yuta’s eyebrows raised, tilting his head in confusion before he shook his head at you.
“I wasn’t talking about the fruit, I was talking about you.”
Your heartbeat was so loud you could hear it in your ears, the same static buzz from before returning but much more intense.
Before you could get ahead of yourself in the heat of the moment, you lifted your head from his lap, trying to ignore the way you wanted nothing more than to stay there with him. His hand went to your back to support you as you sat up, letting you stand up and watching as you dusted your clothes off.
“I’m gonna call it a night, I’m a bit tired,” you told him, as if that was enough to explain your sudden shift in demeanour.
Yuta nodded, not seeming to have minded your reaction.
“I think I’ll stay here for a while… goodnight,” he smiled.
As you left, you willed the flowers to continue growing. For Yuta.
You were doing better mentally, slowly drawing out of your bubble and allowing yourself to feel as your emotions came instead of shoving them under the rug and pretending they didn’t exist.
But there were days where the temptation to run was stronger, the temptation to lie that you were doing okay because you so desperately wanted to feel okay, even if the person you were lying to was yourself.
It happened after the capture the flag game.
You were waiting patiently at the medic table as you helped to pack up, waiting for Yuta to show up so you could get some supper. You’d forgotten that he told you not to wait for him.
Soon, people started to leave, giving you weird looks because you stayed loitering where the medic booth was supposed to be, anxiously glancing around for any sign of the black haired boy, any voice that sounded like him.
There were rules about being in the forest after dark. It wasn’t encouraged, as Chiron would say, no one knows what lurks in the dark, and it's better not to test that.
You had no control over it when your imagination had started to run wild, wondering if something had happened to Yuta in the forest, whether he’d gotten lost because of how dark it was.
It would’ve been dismissed as ridiculous concerns if you were thinking straight, but you couldn’t. You were so overwhelmed with the feeling of dread that had started to creep up on you as the sky grew darker, shadows covering more than you were comfortable with.
It was times like right now, when you truly were afraid of how alone you felt, in the space where loss felt stronger, and absence was more obvious. The only thing you could focus on was finding a distraction from what you were feeling before it could swallow you whole.
Your legs moved before you could process it, taking you wherever your subconscious was leading you, all while you struggled to find your voice to call Yuta’s name. You felt blind with uncertainty, with the fear that came from not being certain of your surroundings. Even when you tried to find your way back to the campsite, you weren’t sure where to begin, sending more waves of distress through you.
The knowledge that you were alone had grown stronger the more time passed and you were still wandering around the dark forest, putting a weight on your chest that was making it hard to breathe, feeling as though you had to put in more effort now to get air into your lungs, unsure if you were even breathing at all.
You felt sick to your stomach, you didn’t even register the sound of running water— a sign that you were close to the lake. All you hoped was that you could, by some miracle, find Yuta like how you did all those other times.
Yuta had been near the lake, practicing. It was the best place for it, he discovered. The water seemed to be a bridge of sorts, as strange as it was.
Distracted when he’d heard the sound of something in between a groan and a whimper, his head turned quickly, scanning the area around him only to spot you, eyes wide open, frantically trying to see through the shadows.
He saw the panic in your eyes, making his way over to where you were as quickly as he could, a deep frown etched on his features as he grasped your shaking hands.
Your breath came out in short pants, perspiration on your face and neck, your legs felt as though they would give way at any moment. Yuta couldn’t bear to see you so distraught, but it was the worst when he looked into your eyes.
The emotions behind them were familiar. It brought back memories of himself, when he was barely twelve years old, afraid of ghosts but being met with the incessant voices of the ghosts that desired to communicate with him, the constant shock of being able to feel the possibility of death in someone he had just met.
“Breathe, breathe, you’re okay, you’re not alone.”
His words came out in a desperate string to comfort you. Yuta was desperate, using his powers to let the shadows envelop you in his attempt to heal you from what you were going through, but immediately regretting it when he felt the way your grip tightened around his hands.
That was when it clicked. The shadows, the pitch darkness, the feeling of paralysis and isolation it brought.
Almost immediately upon realising, Yuta dispersed the shadows, regret in his tone.
“I’m sorry, shit, I’m sorry, I just wanted to heal you, I could only do it with the shadows.”
You were still trying hard to breathe.
You trusted Yuta, you knew he wouldn’t have done it if he wasn’t confident in it working, especially if he knew how you felt about it.
Yuta, of all people, was the best reminder for you in this moment that darkness didn’t always have to be a bad thing. He said it himself, the shadows can heal.
You shook his head, the unsettling feeling in your stomach making you feel dizzy, your eyes shutting in a wince as you nodded frantically.
“Okay, It’s okay. I want to try,” you told him quickly between laboured breaths, trying your best to take your mind off the pain in your chest, “quickly.”
Barely a second had passed before you were surrounded by darkness again, stripped of your sight. The only thing you were certain of was the heaviness of Yuta’s grip on your hands.
You didn’t know how much time had passed, but you first felt your mind go blank. And then, everything that followed.
The pain in your chest had started to dissipate, your muscles seeming to relax considerably, the nauseous feeling in your gut slowly subsiding, relaxing the furrow in your brow. You were beginning to feel aware of your breathing, the air flowing into your lungs with more ease than before.
Once Yuta was absolutely sure, he dispersed the shadows, his gaze searching yours for a sign that you were okay.
“Thank you,” you murmured finally, Yuta visibly relaxing with the knowledge that you were feeling better.
A deep sigh left him, his hands squeezing yours gently before they let go, bringing them up to brush your hair away from your face.
“Wait, I think we should head back first,” he murmured, taking on a more joking tone, “wouldn’t want Chiron to find us here.”
It was only when you were back at your cabin did Yuta break the silence.
“What were you doing out there? It’s dangerous,” he frowned.
You huffed, glaring at him.
“I’m glad you know that.”
Yuta smiled. At least you had enough energy to glare at him, another sign that you were feeling better.
“Are you mad at me?”
You couldn’t bring yourself to maintain your glare, averting your gaze as you shook your head.
“No, I… I don’t know, I’m just glad you weren’t in any danger.”
Yuta scoffed, giving you a dismissive shrug, “We’re in the camp, how dangerous can it get?”
You frowned, swatting at him weakly.
“Don’t tempt fate, Yuta.”
He sighed, the smile lingering on his face as he pulled you into a hug, letting one of his hands cradle the back of your head, his other arm rubbing your back.
“Okay, okay,” his tone was purposefully patronising, making you roll your eyes, “seriously, though. Thank you for coming out to look for me… even though you really didn’t have to.”
It seemed crazy to Yuta, for you to have rushed into the shadows despite how fearful you were of it. For that he was even more grateful, more than you knew.
You nodded, cursing yourself at the relief that his embrace had given you, that his presence brought you, to the point of sending warm tears pricking at your eyes.
Cursing under your breath, you tried desperately to stop your tears from falling, biting on the inside of your cheek, blinking rapidly. None of that seemed to be working.
You didn’t have to say it out loud for Yuta to understand the reason behind your tears.
So when you tried dismissing how you were feeling, he wasn’t having any of it.
“Sorry, I don’t even know why I’m crying- I mean, I know I was getting better so I know it doesn’t make sense-”
You didn’t even realise he had called your name.
“Listen,” he said, patient, pleading, “grief isn’t… linear. I don’t know why you keep forcing yourself to believe it is.”
There it was again. Warmth, unfamiliar yet not unwelcome. Comfort that reached further into your soul than the cold could have.
You could only nod. You knew it was true.
“You have to be patient with yourself. It will take time, and I’m definitely not gonna hold that against you,” Yuta pulled away to look at you, giving you a smile you’d grown used to. This unwaveringly hopeful smile you had grown to love.
He would look out for you for long as you needed, Yuta thought, and as long as you would let him after that.
You nodded, a weak murmur leaving you.
His smile grew.
“As long as you know that, I’m happy.”
Yuta ignored the little prompting he felt within him to hold your hand, surprising himself by bringing his hand up to touch your cheek gently, letting his thumb smooth over the skin of your cheek.
Letting go of you, he gestured with a nod towards your cabin, “You had a long day, you should get some rest.”
You nodded, a deep sigh leaving you.
“Thank you again, Yuta,” you told him, and he knew you meant it.
He shook his head in dismissal, “Go ahead, it’s getting late.”
You slept well that night, for once not as disturbed by the darkness in your cabin, the warmth within your heart was much stronger than any fear that lingered.
In the middle of August, the cold wasn’t as harsh as before, but you still felt it in your bones with the breeze sometimes.
These days, you told Yuta, the ache had turned into more of a longing. A feeling of missing your loved one instead of the pain of their absence.
You were in a much different place than before.
Now, the fear of your dad seeing you was long gone. You found yourself missing his presence every now and then, a part of you wishing you could tell him all the things you would have normally told him when he was with you.
But you didn’t mind. You were thankful for the days where the memories of him were stronger, and just as thankful for the days where they weren’t.
Sometimes, you see him in your dreams. Different versions of him. On occasion, the version you knew in your childhood, boisterous, refined. Other times, the version you knew in your teenage years, strict but dependable.
You would always wake up in tears. But they weren’t bad tears, no. They were more cathartic.
Today, Yuta told you he had something to show you when the both of you had been at the beach.
You were a little skeptical at first, especially when he started walking before you into the water, your eyes widening.
“Should I be afraid?” you quirked an eyebrow at him, facing him as you stood where the water just covered your ankles.
Waist deep in the water, Yuta stretched out his arms to beckon you over, shaking his head.
“Nothing to be afraid of, I promise.”
Making your way closer to him, you shot him a feigned look of uncertainty just to tease him. You knew you trusted Yuta, even if you were both now standing deep in the cold waters on a breezy evening.
“How are you feeling?” he felt the need to ask, a certain determination evident in his gaze that you found somewhat comforting.
Yuta hummed, shrugging as well, “I guess that works too.”
Moving so he was standing beside you now, he had one hand on your back.
“If at any point of time you’re not comfortable, I need you to let me know and I’ll stop, okay?”
Your eyebrows furrowed slightly but you nodded anyway, waiting for his next instruction.
“Okay, now I need you to lie on your back.”
Not without casting him one last skeptical look, you did as he told, leaning back and feeling your body be carried by the waves as you let yourself lie completely flat on the water, Yuta’s hand under your back just in case.
His voice was muffled but you could more or less guess what he was saying.
“If you’re asking if everything’s okay, my answer is yes,” you told him, seeing him snicker (maybe you were speaking louder than you thought you were).
In your anxiousness, you looked at Yuta, seeing him gesture to his eyes.
He wanted you to close your eyes?
“My eyes?” you asked, again a little too loudly.
Yuta’s laughter was still infectious even as it was muffled by the water in your ears.
Closing your eyes, you felt Yuta’s hand leave your back, your heart beginning to thrum faster in anticipation for what was going to happen next.
You weren’t sure what you were expecting, but you knew magic was involved somehow when the water started feeling less like water, as if there was nothing supporting you.
You felt it first, your breath hitching when you felt an immense amount of love within you. A warmth in your chest, the heat of tears in your eyes that till now you could never say you were used to. There was no fear, no anger, just this overwhelming feeling of love.
You barely even had time to wonder what Yuta was trying to do because it was merely moments later when you heard the voice.
You almost thought you were imagining it, the voice that was slightly gravelly, rough and airy with age.
You recognized it instantly, your father’s voice.
There was no answer, but you didn’t think you needed it.
After you called in your head, you felt the warmth almost immediately spread from your chest throughout your entire body, an overwhelming amount of emotions flooding you in that moment.
It was as if your soul recognized his.
You couldn’t see him. All you saw was darkness, but you weren’t scared because you could feel everything: the strong reminder that you were loved, that he was proud of you. Most of all, that you didn’t have to worry about him anymore, he was okay.
You couldn’t describe how the knowledge of that had made you feel. It was like an organ had been ripped out of you, this behaviour of yours to care for him and worry about him that was second nature to you, there was no need for that after you lost him and that made you feel helpless.
This part of you was being taken from you, but it. was also being replaced with much more. Something you would argue was an even harder pill to swallow- that it was time for you to care for yourself, to treat yourself with the love he wasn’t able to show you but so desperately wished he could have, and even more than that.
You didn’t know how long you spent in that state, clinging onto this soul-gripping feeling of his presence in a form that was stronger than anything you’d ever experienced.
Relief was slowly making its way through your heart, as if it was melting every last bit of the cold you still clung to for security.
It was surprising, how natural it felt when the thought came to you that he had to go, how you didn’t resist when it was time for you to say goodbye to him.
The feelings had dissipated all at once, leaving you with a tingling in your fingers and a sudden awareness of the water, the feeling of your body swaying gently with the waves and the sound almost seeming to return gradually to your senses.
You felt Yuta’s hand on your back slowly easing you into a standing position, the lack of water in your ears bringing other sounds to your awareness. You were crying, sobs leaving you as your shoulders shook while Yuta held you in his arms.
Your grip was weak, your hands trembling. Your heart was overflowing with love to the point where there were no words to describe what you were feeling.
You choked on your own sobs, unable to get coherent words out.
Yuta nodded, pulling away just enough that he could rest his forehead against yours, that you could see how his cheeks were also tear-stained, his eyelashes wet and his eyes brimming with tears.
“It’s okay,” he could barely muster a whisper with how exhausted he was, “you don’t have to explain it to me. I was there, I felt it too… all of it.”
You were past controlling your tears now, shutting your eyes and leaning into his touch, his arms holding you close and steady.
“You did so well,” he murmured, “so, so well.”
He was so glad all those days practicing at the beach had worked.
You didn’t have to say it out loud for Yuta to know how you felt. Just the way your arms had wrapped tighter around him had spoken for itself.
When it was almost autumn, people welcomed the cold.
But it seemed, they grew colder too.
You were trying your best to ignore it, the way the rumours had seemed to get more spiteful, more annoyed.
But it was hard, especially when they seemed to follow you wherever you went, only ceasing when you were with Yuta. Nobody dared to get on his bad side, they respected (and feared) him more than you.
Currently, you were focused on finishing your dinner so you could meet Yuta at the field. But as time passed, you seemed to battle with your appetite the more the people at the table next to you had spoken.
“Seriously, she’s still at it?” one of them scoffed.
“What are you talking about?”
“Oh… Honestly, it’s been months. I don’t know why she’s still keeping it up. It’s not like she’s the only one that lost a loved one before.”
“Precisely,” another camper chimed in, “she’s gotta get over it at one point. I’m seriously getting tired of all this negative energy in the camp.”
You took in a deep breath, trying to calm your thoughts.
“I mean, I thought her hanging out with Yuta would be good. You know, birds of a feather…”
“Whatever. Yuta’s probably just sticking around ‘cause he pities her. S’not like he has any other friends here anyway.”
You didn’t want to listen in anymore, standing up and steadying yourself as an unsettling feeling began to stir in the pit of your stomach.
You didn’t want to entertain the thoughts they’d put in your head but at the same time, you couldn’t help yourself. All this time that you’d spent with Yuta… you didn’t want to think it was because he pitied you, but it was a possibility, right?
Your pacing brought you to the field while your mind was busy running wild, your thoughts momentarily taking a darker turn when you spotted Yuta sitting in the middle of the field, legs stretched out in front of him with his book in between his legs, reading in that uncomfortable-looking position.
Looking up when he heard your footsteps, he gave you a wide smile in greeting, a hand coming up to wave at you.
There wasn’t any pity in that, was there?
You were annoyed now, reading too much into his actions just because of some things you heard some campers say.
Yuta detected this annoyance of yours rather quickly, judging from the look he gave you when you huffed out a greeting, slumping down on the grass next to him.
“Hey, what’s wrong?”
“What do you think is wrong?” you retorted quickly, regretting your harshness almost immediately, “sorry, that was mean.”
Yuta didn’t seem very hurt by it, though. If anything, he was a little amused.
Raising an eyebrow at you in question, he fought the smile that was threatening to make its way on his features.
You huffed, your doubt getting the better of you. Deep down, you knew you trusted Yuta, it felt like you just needed a reminder why you did.
“I don’t need your pity, you know,” you told him pointedly.
Yuta’s eyebrows raised in surprise, his lips curving in a slight smile.
“Mind if I ask where this is coming from?”
“It’s coming from… from literally everywhere! The way everyone talks is like, you know, like they’re all so sure of it. That you’re only spending time with me because you see what a trainwreck I am and you pity me for it. Or… or that it’s because you’re just using me for company—” you stopped yourself short. You didn’t really believe that last part.
Yuta’s gaze remained patient, the hint of amusement still obvious in his eyes.
“Anything else?” he prompted, making your lips part before shaking your head.
“No,” your frown deepened.
Yuta let his smile show, pursing his lips, “I thought you said you didn’t care what everyone else was saying?”
You sighed, averting your gaze.
“I mean… yeah, I mean, I don’t but… I guess it just got to my head this time. I mean, of course I don’t want to think that you’re just with me because you pity me, not when—” you stopped yourself. Not when you felt so strongly towards him?
Yuta nodded, “happens to the best of us,” he shrugged.
You wondered how he still seemed to be handling your outburst so well.
“For the record. I don’t pity you.”
You lifted your gaze to look at him, eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
“Like… at all?”
In the same, unexpected nature of his, Yuta laughed.
Shaking his head at you, he let out a small sigh as he calmed down from his laughter.
“Yes. I don’t. What I feel towards you… is nothing like pity.”
Yuta thought you looked a little like a deer in the headlights, eliciting another giggle from him.
“Frankly, I admire how strong you are.”
You frowned. Strong wasn’t a word you heard anyone describe you with before, especially recently.
“You look confused, are you confused?” Yuta asked, a slight teasing lilt to his tone.
Nodding at him, he shifted his body to face you more.
“I know what they’re saying. People always think that grief is something that just disappears after a while, hmm? That you’re supposed to work towards being able to say like it’s gone and that you’re all better now as if it was just some kind of flesh wound.”
You purse your lips, blinking harshly. Yuta always managed to see you better than you saw yourself.
“I think you know what I’m talking about better than anyone. Your grief didn’t just… disappear. And it’s not disappearing, it’s just… shifting forms. Dealing with that isn’t easy. For things to move from pain, to longing, to this feeling of absence, and most of the time all at once.”
It was nothing like you ever expected, the way he seemed almost to be looking directly at the state of your heart, saying all the things you hoped he knew and was comforted that he did.
He reached out a hand to pluck a leaf the size of his fingertip from your hair, a soft smile on his face, “All while you’re dealing with that, you continue to love. I mean, I would know because I see it for myself. You’re not different from how you were a year ago, you show your love the same way. That takes strength, and a whole lot of courage.”
You felt your throat start to tighten again, the lump in your throat making your frown deepen, your vision blurring with tears.
You were different now, weren’t you? How could he say that with such confidence? That you weren’t different from the person you were a year ago. You thought you were, especially after going through something that was so traumatic to you.
“I know you’re probably thinking that you are different because of what happened, but I didn’t mean it that way. What I meant was… if you think pity is what makes me want to spend time with you, to do things with you, to care for you. You couldn’t be more wrong,” he let out a huff of laughter, his gaze making that familiar static buzz return to your chest, the kind that paralysed you but in a way you didn’t refuse.
“Y/N,” he murmured, his hands coming up to touch your face, the cold of his hands not dulling the warmth of his actions.
“You are much more… so much more than what you’re healing from… and I love you for all of that.”
Your tears seemed to flow faster now, the heat in your chest returning, the feeling of the love you had for the boy sitting before you. You weren’t going to say you didn’t deserve it or anything, you were just extremely thankful that you had the joy of experiencing this.
“My dad likes you a lot,” you murmured, your voice weak with fatigue. You weren’t sure where you were going with this, but you had a vague idea. You trusted yourself to get there eventually.
Yuta hummed, the laughter that left him making a smile grace your features as well.
“I do too,” you added.
Yuta’s eyebrows raised, one of his hands moving from your face to run his fingers through your hair, the reminder of the soft delphinium petals returning to him.
“You like me?” he grinned.
“Love,” you murmured.
Yuta’s eyes had practically lit up, finding it difficult for him to stop smiling even after he’d pulled you closer to him so he could wrap your arms around you and you could rest your head where you could hear his heart thrumming wildly.
In Yuta’s arms, you were reminded that most times, the cold was a prelude to warmth, both of which were needed. But above all, you were reminded of the need for pruning to allow growth, of presence, of healing. Of love.
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