what we’re meant for
[apollo x reader]
author’s note: apollo’s ear piercings>>> makes me wanna get more ugh
word count: 9,251
The air feels colder after it rains, but it’s also crisper, fresher, and with a deep inhale you let it fill your lungs, mentally steeling yourself for today’s hunt.
You stand at the edge of the woods, sunlight peeking through the foliage of towering trees and bugs and birds alike flittering between the thick, aged trunks. The grass is damp from a combination of raindrops and morning dew, and you know you’ll need to watch your steps particularly carefully to avoid any muddy spots, lest your feet sink in. A small gust of wind blows, ruffling your hair, braided as it always is to keep it out of your face, and you shiver. Your deep breaths are also made in an effort to acclimate yourself to the lower temperature. You refrained from wearing a cloak despite the chill because you knew it’d only impair your ability to use your bow properly. Though the longer you stand in place, the more you’re beginning to regret that decision. So before you can get the chance to regret it even more, you slide down the small incline and venture into the forest.
Last night the rain had been heavy, and you watch out for fallen leaves and branches, taking care to walk around them. It’s always quiet here, but especially so in the mornings, and any misstep would alert the wildlife to your presence. The birds are singing, a complement to the peace of the early hours, and serve to help you feel less alone as you traipse along. You try to identify the species to whom each unique call belongs, testing what you learned from Alexios during the days you’d agreed to let him accompany you on hunts. Studying birds had become one of his favorite pastimes, and he delighted in sharing with you what he read and applying his knowledge.
There’s a melody, high-pitched and staccato, and you think hard about what Alexios had shared, about the distinct tones. You then hazard a guess, and your attention is pulled to a small bird that perches on a branch of a tree you’re passing. It opens its mouth to sing, and you smile, having found your guess to be correct. It seems you’re getting the hang of this.
Your birdwatching is interrupted by the ruffling of leaves, and you freeze, gaze lowering to scan the surrounding area. You listen closely to determine the direction the noise had come from, and the moment you hear it again, you establish the way you need to go.
You move slowly to remain as quiet as possible, following the sound of pattering on soil and the snapping of twigs. It doesn’t move very far and you’re able to close the distance, ducking behind a bush when you catch a glimpse of fur. Once you’re hidden, you peek around, eyes settling immediately on the sand-colored rabbit sniffing at a plant. As it begins to take a bite of the leaves, you carefully reach for your bow.
The birds chirping help provide some cover, but it’s not perfect because you’re much closer, and any noise you make will stand out. You begin to pull your bow from over your shoulder but pause when the rabbit does, its ears lowering. Had it heard you? It lays flat on the ground then, and you figure it must have; it’s getting ready to flee if it hears anything else.
You hold your breath to keep silent and manage to get your bow and an arrow without the rabbit noticing. As you nock the arrow and take aim, you exhale, then take another deep breath, holding it again to remain steady. You only have one attempt to catch the rabbit here. Otherwise, you’ll have to chase it or search for another animal.
The string of your bow is at maximum tension, pulled back as far as it can go, and your fingers unwrap from around the arrow, letting it fly. You can swear it almost whistles through the air before it hits your target. It’s a clean shot, and now you allow yourself to relax, letting out a sigh and emerging from your hiding place to retrieve your catch.
You pull out the arrow to return to your quiver and tuck the rabbit into your rucksack. You’re not quite done hunting yet, for one rabbit isn’t enough for you and your family. You’ll need to keep searching, but luckily, there’s ample time yet until noon, when you’re expected back to assist your mother around the house.
Slinging your rucksack on, you stand back up straight. The sun is at an angle to shine down through the trees, its rays bright and brilliant. It’s just the warmth you need, and you stay in this spot briefly, basking in it with closed eyes. See, you think to yourself, the cloak would’ve been unnecessary. You’ve got the sun to keep you warm after all.
With your eyes shut, your hearing is extra sharp, and at the sound of more rustling, you’re kicked into action. You’ve pinpointed the direction more quickly this time, and you proceed to track your next target. You try to walk along the ground the sun touches, feeling its heat spread over your back. Please continue to keep me warm, you murmur. It feels nice on cold mornings like these. It’s a playful request because of course the sun can’t hear you, but you like to pretend it can, and that you’re in its good graces, that it should indulge you and kiss your skin so gently.
The silly thought makes you smile, and it rests comfortably on your lips as you navigate your way between the pines.
This morning is a morning like any other, nondescript and quiet. The thick blanket of clouds beneath the expanse of Olympus is parting as the rumble of rainstorms fades to welcome a clear sky. Colors always appear more vivid after the rain: a bluer sky, greener trees and grass. Every drop breathes new life into the earth, invigorating then magnifying it. Fewer sights are better than this, and that’s why Apollo finds himself tarrying in the courtyard.
He allows his mind to empty as he absentmindedly gazes down below, watching the world awaken, freshly cleansed and ready for a new day. The air up here is crisper as well and he breathes it in deeply. This would always be one delight he shared with mortals.
After lingering a while longer, he’s poised to take his leave and proceed with his day, but a curt prayer reaches his ears and stops him short. To hear prayers isn’t unusual, and he hears them often, but this particular one grabs his attention for a short list of reasons. One, that it hadn’t been addressed to him explicitly, but to the sun. It’s this that tips him off to the fact it must not be anything serious, no heartfelt plea for blessing but something muttered distractedly to fill the air, but he hears it all the same, and, if anything, is amused by it. Two, and perhaps—no, not perhaps, definitely—the more important point, is that the sound of the voice is distinct, melodious, enough to pull him in, wanting to hear more.
So, rather than leave, he leans against the stone railing and scans the earth far below, listening for that voice again and searching for its owner, whose sweet song has graced his ears so sweetly on a morning that’s quickly taking a turn, no longer a morning just like any other. Where might you be, little bird…
There in the woods, he finds you. Bow in hand and rucksack on your shoulders, clearly in the midst of hunting. It’s simple to surmise that you’re doing your best to walk beneath the sun, and he can’t contain his smile. With each of your deliberate steps he grows more interested in observing you, and if the other gods notice how long he has been here, head leaning on a propped up hand and eyes drawn downwards, they don’t say anything or attempt to interrupt.
The birds that fly above your head are poor competition and while he wishes you would speak more, you don’t, but he understands since your current task requires silence. Though when you shoot down a deer, you let out a quiet exclamation of victory, and you might as well have shot him instead, for his heart seems to beat that much harder in reaction to your voice. Not only is the sky bluer and the foliage greener following the rain, but the cheeks of fair maidens are redder too, as evident by your own. They’re flushed, for you did have to go on a bit of a chase for that deer, but it’s charming in its own right, especially when joined by your satisfied smile. Apollo wonders if, should he lay his hand tenderly on your cheek, the heat of them might rival the sun he governs. He wonders if you’d allow him to sate his curiosity.
Much as he’d like to stay here watching you for the rest of the day, he can’t, and he reluctantly backs away from the railing. His every footstep takes him away from you physically, away from the sight of you, but mentally, you’re in the forefront of his mind in the passing hours. How hadn’t he noticed you sooner? He scolds himself for being careless, that he should miss something so remarkable as you for as long as he had.
Perhaps it might be argued that the gods are kept busy by the whole picture, presiding over the world as a whole, rarely afforded the chance to study the details. But to Apollo it makes little difference because with the discovery of you, with your fanciful wish for the sun to be at your back as you hunt and your voice soft as the plucked strings of a lyre, he is learning that sometimes, the real masterpieces are in the margins of a painting: well hidden but rewarding to find, so that upon picking it out, suddenly life is seen through a fresher pair of eyes, enlightened, and prepared for other secrets behind the canvas or in the painter’s brush.
Morning bleeds into afternoon and afternoon into night, and when the stars are strung across a dark sky, Apollo returns to his spot in the courtyard to search for you. He didn’t want to sleep until he saw you one more time.
You’re at home, your mother preparing for dinner the animals you’d caught earlier. In the mean time, you converse with a young boy. You talk about the birds you heard while hunting, and how you managed to guess their unique calls correctly.
“You’re a wonderful teacher, Alexios,” you compliment, and Apollo thinks about how he wants to hear you say his own name.
Alexios smiles widely. Then, there’s a mischievous glint in his eye. “I must be. If I could teach you, then I could teach anybody.”
At the playful jab, you lightly shove at his shoulder. “I’m a good student!” you defend yourself. “I just get distracted easily.”
“You’re like the sheep father tends to.”
You laugh, bright and melodic. It’s the only music Apollo needs. He’s of the opinion you’d be better suited in Olympus. Your dulcet tones and the delicate planes of your face are the essence of the divine and otherworldly, but he speculates you’ve been placed on earth to grace your fellow mortals with a piece of the heavens, your existence a reminder of the higher powers that be and the beauty they take care to form.
However, Apollo has no qualms in admitting he’s selfish, because for all of that, he’d still prefer you to be here and to keep you for himself. Thoughts of you lull him to sleep this evening, and, at least in this way, he can feel closer to you.
In the following days, he begins planning how best to approach you. To watch from a distance could only satisfy him for so long; he’s yearning for more. Lately, he’d taken to standing at the edge of the courtyard when he needed to think, since from here, he could also watch you, and during one such instance of this, he’s joined by another.
“You’ve been awfully quiet.”
Apollo blinks and glances to his right. Ares is walking over, in full armor and a helmet tucked beneath his arm. He must’ve just returned from training at the arena.
“Have I?” Apollo asks, but he already knows the answer.
“What’s got you so lost in your head?” Ares reaches out, intent to poke at Apollo’s forehead, but Apollo steps back and swats his hand away.
There would be no point in lying. Ares would see through it. Not that Apollo cares to lie. He has nothing to hide. “There’s a girl.”
Ares hums in understanding. “Ah.”
Apollo turns back to study you. Currently, you’re at the market with Alexios and have stopped at a fruit stand. “I want to meet her soon.”
“Is something stopping you?”
“No, no…” Apollo trails off and stays quiet briefly, already becoming distracted. But Ares detects he’s not finished speaking yet and waits. “I just want to figure out how to go about it is all.”
Ares raises a brow. “You’ve never cared about that before.”
At first, Apollo doesn’t think much of this remark, that it’s not worth noting, but upon further consideration he realizes it is rather unusual for him to take into account the how of a first meeting, and not simply appear before you the moment you’re alone. That’d always been standard procedure for him, and the question this raises in him is surely the same as what’s raised in Ares but that he doesn’t share aloud: why now?
Apollo likes to watch you in your natural environment, likes to watch you be, well, you. After all, it’s what had grabbed his attention to begin with, witnessing you in a scenario you’re comfortable in because of its familiarity, to the point you move through the forest with precision, clearly knowing it as well as the back of your own hand. He wants to interact with that part of you and observe up close the one who offers frivolous prayers to the sun as a mere aside, paying no mind to the gods who might actually be listening. Your desire is for the warmth to wash over you on cold mornings and Apollo would fight to keep the skies cloudless forever so that as long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, your prayer will always be answered.
If he were to appear to you in his form as it is now, as a god in his full glory, it would ruin everything. You’d be taken off guard, startled, unsure how to act in his presence, and he doesn’t want that. It leaves him with the present dilemma, but he thinks he might have come up with something that will work…
Finally, he sighs, and humors Ares with a response. “You’re right. I guess I haven’t.”
For some reason, the animals elude you today. Your ears are sharp and well trained, so you’re certain it can’t be that you’ve missed any telltale cues of one in the area. The woods are quiet, and they feel empty. If you have anything to say about it, it’s a little bit disconcerting.
Eventually you settle against a tree trunk for a short break, laying your bow and empty rucksack next to you. With you sitting, now you don’t even hear the crunching leaves beneath your sandals, and your eyes rove over the immediate surroundings. Nothing rustles, disturbed by creatures who are exceptionally well hidden. Where are they, any of them?
Perhaps you’re just unlucky this time? Returning home empty-handed didn’t matter too much; it was always possible to buy meat at the market. You just preferred to hunt for game yourself because of the thrill it gives and the accomplishment you feel being able to provide for your family in this way. As such, you don’t want to give up yet. After you’re done resting, you’ll continue. Like always, the only rule you have to abide by is to be home by noon.
There’s a stir in the bushes to your left, the leaves jostling, and you sit up quickly. Slowly you grab your bow, fingers wrapped around the grip, and gingerly you pick it up from the dirt and lift yourself to stand. You don’t walk in the direction of the bushes immediately. Your vantage point would be no better since whatever animal is here, it’s well-concealed, and even if you could spot it through the branches, your arrow couldn’t reach. Instead you wait to see if it starts to move out into the open.
Bow in one hand and arrow in the other, you’re prepared to take aim as soon as you spot your target. You just have to hope it doesn’t notice you first and take off into a run. The animal hiding is beginning to move, for the leaves rustle more, and you nock the arrow.
A red fox emerges, golden eyes trained on you as if it had already known you were there. But if that were the case, you’re confused as to why it hasn’t run away. Your arrow’s still knocked, though it’s pointing at the ground, and you stare at each other for one, two, three beats of silence, and this fox’s unwavering gaze leads you to believe thats something is wrong.
No, not wrong, but definitely out of the ordinary. The fox isn’t afraid, and you can’t bring yourself to stare it down from the sight window of your bow, not when it’s unlike any other fox you’ve encountered, so you relax the tension of the string, removing your arrow and returning both hands to your sides.
The fox moves first, walking towards you, and you’re frozen in place. It feels like a dream, being approached like this by a wild animal who means no harm. You wonder if it might speak to you, a conduit for the gods to impart wisdom, but what they could possibly want to say to you, you haven’t the faintest idea. You’re hardly remarkable, not as well-versed in matters of the divine as the priests of the temple. Has this situation come about as a result of opportunity? To be out in the forest by yourself, there’s little chance for interruption. And with the quietness here, so far from the polis, there’s also little chance for misinterpretation, should the gods truly have something important to share.
The fox now stands right in front of you, its bright eyes blinking, vulnerable but comfortable. You decide to follow its lead, crouching down and setting your bow and arrow on the ground. It’s close enough that you can reach out for it, and cautiously you do, extending an arm to gently run your hand along its red fur. It doesn’t shy away, and as the seconds tick away, you find yourself feeling more comfortable as well. You’re still well aware of the peculiarity of the position you’re in, petting a wild animal so casually, and maybe the gods really are poised to talk to you.
However, the fox is silent as you greet it with a murmured greeting, only continuing to stare up at you. You continue talking, no room to feel embarrassed to converse with a wild animal when it’s already strange to be petting it with ease, and you’re only partly pretending that it can understand because with the way it watches you, you can swear it understands your every word.
“Why are you here?” you inquire, voice hushed. “I suppose you saw a friendly face and wanted to say hello.”
You scratch the fox behind the ear and it nudges its head into your hand, enjoying the sensation, and you chuckle. “Well I’m glad you thought me worthy of your time.”
And your time with it, it would seem, is drawing to a close, because the fox backs up, out of your reach. You watch it with a smile pulling at the corner of your lips and you stand. Lifting a hand to give a little wave, you expect it to turn around and proceed with its own day, concealing itself within the bushes again. And while the fox does turn around and walk away, what surprises you is that it pauses and looks back over at you.
You tilt your head. It’s a very deliberate glance, for it stays where it is, still staring. Was it trying to communicate? Had you been correct after all, that this fox could understand you and had something to share? You stand motionless, ruminating on these thoughts, but the fox continues looking at you, no attempts made to leave… at least not alone. And you know that it could no longer be denied. This fox is trying to say something: it wants you to follow.
Grabbing your bow and rucksack and covering the short distance to the fox, who, satisfied that you’re trailing close behind, proceeds with walking ahead, you reason that there are worse things to be following through the woods. You’ve heard the stories of divine beings interacting with mortals, manifesting in some form to offer guidance, but never did you think you’d be one of them. You can’t help trying to guess what guidance this fox has to offer even if the best course of action right now is just to wait. If it’s leading you somewhere, there’s a destination, and whenever you arrive, you’ll have your answer.
Distracted as you are with watching the fox, you don’t notice the tree root sticking out from the earth, and your foot gets caught on it. You yelp, falling forward, and your hands slide against the leaves as you catch yourself. But then there’s another disturbance, the rustling of more leaves which you’re certain isn’t your doing, and you squash the pained groan you almost let out from scraping your knees in order to listen for any more movements.
Has your run of bad luck finally ended? You’d pushed aside your original task of hunting for game when the fox approached, but now that there’s potentially a rabbit or a deer to track, you’re conflicted as to what to do. And as you’re wont to do in situations like these, you imagine what your mother might say. She’d tell you it’s fine not to go after whatever you’ve heard because the gods aren’t to be ignored, and there would always be other animals on other days. Yes, that’s what she would say yet you still struggle decide.
Your eyes slide from staring in the direction you’d heard the disturbance, down to the fox, who’s paused again, waiting patiently. You know that your urge to track whatever animal is out there doesn’t have to do with the sense of duty to bring home food for dinner, for a trip to the market is no issue. It’s your passion for hunting, the calls of the wild which pull at you. Perhaps it may be ridiculous that the urge is so strong as to compete with the chance to commune with the gods in such a tangible way, foolish even, in the eyes of many, but you would never be ashamed of it. Still…
With a huff, you stand up and brush yourself off. If only to sate your curiosity, you reason, taking wide strides to catch up to the fox.
The two of you don’t walk for much longer, but as you do, you hear the jostling again, of a wild animal sniffing at bushes in search of food. And with every step, you realize the sounds are getting louder.
Finally, the fox stops behind the trunk of a large tree, and you come up behind it, crouching down. Why have you brought me here? You think it but don’t ask it out loud, and you don’t have to because you peak around the trunk and find the answer: there’s a deer in the wide clearing, munching on berries it pulls away from a bush. You duck back around and look at the fox in surprise. It had led you to the animal you heard earlier? The fox sits down, looking up at you with its golden eyes, its job done.
You smile. Sometimes what the gods share with mortals is profound, wisdom only coming from the ones who call Olympus home, and other times they simply share a helping hand.
You’re not about to let the opportunity go to waste. Drawing an arrow and nocking it on your bow, you take aim.
One meeting is hardly adequate for Apollo. The moment he’d interacted with you, he knew he wanted more.
He thinks about what you’d said, how you thanked him for deciding you to be worthy of his time. And how could you not be? It was a different experience entirely to observe you up close, to see the confusion on your face upon his arrival but then the softening of it as you relaxed and welcomed him, even for how atypical the whole affair was, to get so close to a fox. You understood it to mean something even if you couldn’t say what, and when prompted to follow, you did so.
There had been that momentary struggle when you heard the deer, unsure whether to break away or continue to follow him. He doesn’t fault you for the indecision. If anything, it helped him to better understand the love you harbor for the hunt, and he’s of the opinion that such passion should always be encouraged. He’d been leading you to the deer to begin with, but you didn’t know that, and even so, you pushed aside your desire to track the deer yourself to continue following him, acknowledging that where he might lead you had nothing to do with an animal to catch but being okay with it.
The tone of your voice had been so soft, like petals trailing along skin as one lays in a flower field on a warm day, and your eyes were gentle. He would like you to continue watching him in that way, perhaps on a quiet night, a dark one, when the stars are clear and brilliant so that he can promise you that he would scoop them from the sky and fashion them into a crown for you should you ask. Or if not that, he would gladly rearrange them to form a picture of you, a constellation made of only the brightest, to immortalize you in the heavens.
He sighs with longing he doesn’t bother to hide. His eyes slide closed and all he sees in his mind is you. Always you. He needs to see you again soon, to quell the ache in his chest.
The next time he does meet you, he assumes not the form of a fox, but of a human. He wants the chance to actually speak to you. In the early hours of a clear day, he roams the forest, in the areas you tend to frequent. There’s no worry of running into other people on accident. You tend to only be the one hunting this deeply into the woods.
He hears the sound of footsteps approaching from behind, and he turns just in time to see you walk around a tree and into view. Once you spot him, you stop, surprised to find you’re not alone. You hesitate to say anything at first, confusion apparent in your gaze, but you brush it aside as you offer a polite grin.
“I didn’t expect to see anyone out here,” you say.
Apollo chuckles and rubs the back of his neck, feigning sheepishness. “I came here to think and got so lost in my thoughts that, well…” He spreads his arms wide, referring to your surroundings. “I wandered further than I realized.”
You grin widens, and you relax a little more now. “I don’t blame you. The forest is a perfect place to find some peace and quiet.”
Apollo smiles too. “Yes, it really is.”
When you ask for his name, he tells you it’s Loukas. You repeat it, to be sure you heard him correctly, and it’s not as satisfying as he knows it would be to hear you say his real name, but it would have to do for now. Then you say Well it’s nice to meet you, Loukas and it’s heartfelt, yours smile amiable and extending a hand of friendship, should he want that. And yes, he does, very much so, and more still—as much as you’re willing to give.
You ask him questions about himself and he makes up information on the spot, but in an effort to avoid having to conjure up too detailed a backstory, and because he doesn’t want the focus to be on him, for you’re who he wants to learn about, he turns the tables on you and asks about you. It’s surface level, things he already knew by observing you from Olympus—your family and what they do, why you’re out in the forest early in the morning.
But what he gleans from conversing with you goes beyond that. You care for your family deeply, wanting to be a good daughter and older sister. You just want them to be happy, and anything you could do to make it possible, you would do. Hunting began as something practical, done to provide, but you’d grown to love it, energized by the cold air filling your lungs and the rush of blood through your veins when you’re set on a chase. Life for you is generally quiet, but in the forest, with your bow and arrow, it can be livelier, if only for a little while.
Apollo listens with rapt attention as your life unfolds before him and your eyes sparkle from the light of the sun overhead, but he’s more inclined to believe instead that they shine from the stars tucked away within you. Your soul is the essence of another universe and he’d like to live there, Olympus a distant memory but it wouldn’t matter to him, so long as you’re together.
He’d quickly been lost in his musings about you, the life he’d like to live with you, but he’s pulled from it at the mention of a fox and your quiet laugh of disbelief as you recount what a unique encounter it had been.
“Sometimes when my father asks for help watching the sheep, I’ll sit in the pastures and talk to them, but with the fox, it was different. I was sure it could understand what I said.” You chuckle again, embarrassed. “I’d been struggling to find any animals that day too, and that fox led me to a deer. It was like the gods were watching out for me.”
You glance at Apollo, nervous for what his response could be, because it does sound a little outlandish, but he simply smiles warmly. “Olympus rests in the heavens, but on occasion, the gods take care to remind us they’re closer than we think.”
“Well said,” you compliment, then continue teasingly, “Did you hear that from one of the priests?”
Apollo laughs and shrugs noncommittally. “They have a way with words.”
Time with you passes much too quickly and he’s saddened as it draws to a close. Your parting words include an apology for disturbing him, since he’d come to the forest to think, and he’s speaking to you as Apollo, not as Loukas, when he promises that you would never be a disturbance. He’d enjoyed your company, hopes that you’d enjoyed his too and that perhaps this wouldn’t be the end. Until the next meeting? It’s asked in a way that leaves it open, for there’s no set date and you’ll leave it to chance that you run into each other on another day.
You nod and your lips, stretching into a grin, look so soft. “If it be the will of the Fates, we’ll see each other again.”
“I’ll have to pray for their favor then.” He lifts a hand in a wave goodbye, and you return it before making your leave, gradually becoming concealed by the foliage.
But Apollo would do no such thing. The hands of the Fates keep the world turning but where it concerns you, he would pull the strings himself. He doesn’t bother to entertain the idea of what your thread might contain, whether there’s a place for him in it or not, because he doesn’t care to find out. He wants to be with you, and it’s a desire so powerful that he would dare to push back against the Moirai in order to fulfill it.
From the moment he’d said goodbye during your first conversation, he already knew you would meet again. He’d be there in the woods to wait for you. It isn’t the will of the Fates that turns this wheel, but Apollo.
Hermes had noted both the change in Apollo’s demeanor, his propensity for bouts of silence as he watches the earth below, in combination with his recent absences to go down there, but for what, Hermes doesn’t know. Apollo is forward with him as to what he’s been up to, like he had been with Ares, but unlike Ares, Hermes is privy to just what Apollo feels regarding the Fates and their plans for you.
“It’s no small matter to reject what they’ve ordained,” Hermes remarks. “The threads they spin, it’s destiny. Even for that girl who’s caught your eye.”
But Apollo isn’t easily swayed. It’s the strong who admit no destiny, and he would shoulder the burden of Atlas and carry the sky on his back. Where it concerns you, the Fates were a mere interference. He’d forge the future on his own.
The way your eyes light up when you do see him again makes everything in the world feel right, and upon your playful comment—It seems the Fates have been kind—he brushes aside the idea of destiny and the Moirai easily. In response, he hums, declares They have despite not meaning it since, well, it isn’t true. And he wishes he could tell you it was his doing, that it would always be him pushing you two together because he wants the praise which falls from your lips to be for him and him alone. Though he supposes there would be time yet to reveal such secrets to you, and despite the irritation he feels at needing to wait, he will do so without complaint.
Besides, he’s too preoccupied paying attention to you to bother complaining. You take up all the space in his mind, and there’s room for little else. It’s entirely unusual for the likes of Apollo to be this enamored with anyone, and he studies your form closely as you talk—the curl of your lashes, the sheen of your hair pulled into a braid, the color of your lips—wondering if you found your beginnings as a sculpture, not a human, and it was Athena who breathed life into your form. If such is the case, where was the pedestal off of which you stepped, leaving it behind without looking back in favor of exploring the world around you? Which lands claimed the privilege to have you on display? Those which he posits as possibilities are hardly worthy, but very few, if any, could be.
Had you come from Olympus? It’s the only place Apollo knows contains beauty to the degree you possess. He imagines you there, in the fields or in the courtyard, settled amongst the flowers and staring overhead at a sun unobscured by clouds. He imagines that you look right at home, and it would be ironic that you should be under his nose this whole time, his songbird easily spotted by glancing out the window of his bedroom. Your every word’s a dream and he delights to hear your honeyed tones. He wants you to pray to him with that sweet voice, and he’d honor all your requests so long as you sang for him.
You’ve started teaching him the calls of various birds which flitter overhead, and the ghost of a smile rests on his lips to hear your enthusiasm. There’s an occasional bout of hesitation on your part, unsure if you’ve identified the calls correctly and digging through your memory for everything Alexios had said, and you flash a toothy grin of satisfaction when the bird whose call you’d been attempting to guess makes its appearance, and you learn you’re correct.
Apollo enjoys this activity, but the only bird whose calls he’s interested is you. He trails his gaze along the column of your throat, envisions the vocal chords within them producing the melody and majesty you radiate. His fingers twitch with the urge to follow the path taken by his eyes, to slide along your jaw, down your neck, touch feather-light and and inquiring from you, in hushed whispers, to what artist he owes an expression of gratitude for gracing him with your existence.
As the days turn into weeks spent together, you only grow closer, and it reaches a point that you suggest he join you and your family for dinner. You look hopeful that he’ll agree, but he can’t, given who he is. He needs to keep his distance from everyone other than you. He hates to be the cause of your disappointment, however slight, and that’s why a heaviness settles in his stomach when he declines.
He’s polite, explaining that he doesn’t want to intrude, and the small smile you’d been wearing fades. Already he’s aching to see it again, wants to beg for it to come back and if you truly wanted him to accompany you, he would do it, any consequences be damned.
Was there a chance that you knew he was lying about the reason? Your head is tilted and you delay giving a response, and maybe you don’t know the real reason (he highly doubts you could figure that out) but you detect enough from the tone of his voice that he fed you a lie. If you do realize it, you don’t address it, and instead, like you heard his earlier wish to see your smile again, that charming smile returns. Now there’s a playfulness to it.
“Then I guess you’ll just be my secret,” you tease.
Apollo grins. It would be his pleasure to be your secret, held close to the heart like all secrets are.
He’d like the beat of your own to help him fall asleep at night. He lays in bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking about you and whether you’ve also settled in for the evening. If he were to extend arm outward, along the blankets to the empty side, as though reaching for you, he wonders if you’d sense it, the faint touch of his fingertips, a testament to what Apollo feels for you. No distance between you would ever be too great. His dreams are filled with you and perhaps this is a sign that you were thinking of him. He hopes so.
Apollo had been certain of his feelings from the moment he first set his sights on you, but the idea of confessing and revealing his true nature stayed far from his mind. It hadn’t been by any will of his own; he was enamored with you during every meeting, genuinely enjoyed talking, that he hadn’t bothered considering the next step, content in the current moment to just be.
But on a bright afternoon while out in the courtyard, he finally gives it thought, and it’s perfect, really, because sunny days remind him of you, and maybe that’s what prompted the last push. To be around you was to keep a piece of the blessed sun he governs right by his side, your presence warming him even on the stormiest of days, and he desires to know what it would be like to be the recipient of your love as you are of his.
He’s the god of the sun yet he wonders where you have been all these millennia. Maybe your essence had always been there, manifesting in the blooming of flowers one century and then in the powerful flow of a river the next. And on and on your soul drifted through time until it settled within you as you are now, a culmination of the lives you have lived, and maybe Apollo had always known where you were because whenever he looks into your eyes he sees eternity. You’d been with him since the beginning of it all; he was just looking in the wrong places.
There’s a chill in the air on the morning he plans to tell you the truth. You shiver, having come without a cloak, and he offers you his, throwing it around your shoulders before you get the chance to decline. You smile, accepting the help gracefully, and Apollo returns your smile automatically.
Do you remember, he starts, about what I said the day we met? You hum as you attempt to recall what he’s referring to but can’t remember. He doesn’t blame you, since you’d discussed many things then.
“It was about the gods, and how sometimes they’re closer than we think.”
Your eyes light up in recognition. “Oh, yes! But… what about it?”
Apollo doesn’t respond immediately, considering carefully how to phrase his next words. It’s unlike him to be this way, and he is aware, irritatingly so, of the slight hesitation in the back of his brain. It’s not that he’s afraid, because every instance he had imagined this moment, his heartbeat raced not with nerves but with exhilaration. He owes it to the pressure overcoming him to make this flawless, so that you can know the true depth of what he feels toward you. His gaze slides from staring at the horizon down to you, who watches him so attentively, and he realizes the pressure is unfounded. He just needs to be real, and you would understand by the parts he doesn’t say out loud.
So, taking a deep breath, the cold air filling his lungs, he speaks. “How would you feel to know one had been at your side?”
“You mean that fox?”
“Not just the fox, but every time you ventured into these woods. You hadn’t been alone.”
Your head tilts. “I wasn’t alone all the time: I had you.”
Apollo goes quiet, waiting to see if you connect the dots yourself. He looks at you and envisions the gears in your head spinning as you stare at each other. Saying it out loud, what he’d been implying, would have garnered the same result as staying silent. His lack of words is still a response to your unspoken question, and he notices the unease which settles on your face, expressive as always, unable to hide what you’re thinking and feeling.
“Loukas…?” Your voice is hushed. Maybe you only say the name because you want to ask what he means, wanting to hear it explicitly, or because you’re questioning if that’s even his real name.
Apollo notices that now you look at him as you did during your first interaction, when the first few polite greetings had been exchanged: like a stranger. You’re keeping yourself guarded, and there’s a tightening sensation in his chest and he hates it. He hates how it hurts and hates to see you look at him that way. And he would never fault you for it because he’d kept his identity a secret, but he loves you and the only way to show it to you, to make it real, was if he told you the truth of who he is first.
He shakes his head. “I go by another name.”
He transforms before you, his mortal covering falling away and giving rise to his divine form. The burst of light which issues forth from this process is so bright you need to cover your eyes. You bring your arm up, and he’d like to reach out and take hold of it, to gently lower it to your side so that he might meet your gaze, but he restrains himself and, instead, says your name quietly, a signal that it’s okay to look now.
And you do. Your eyes are wide in astonishment, your mind no doubt scrambling to process the fact a god is standing in front of you. Sure, you might’ve interacted with one before, in the form of that red fox, but this is something else. This isn’t a vague manifestation, like another animal or a dream, the mysterious—and more typical—methods gods tended to utilize for communication with mortals, but a literal god. No veil or disguise. No hiding.
Apollo studies you closely, contemplates the myriad of emotions which are no doubt flittering through your mind like a dozen little hummingbirds. He keeps his tone tender, for you’re already shocked, and he realizes the situation is a delicate one. Suddenly you start to resemble the deer who roam the forest—graceful in posture and magnificent to behold but still tense, prepared to flee the moment you detect there’s anything unusual.
My name is Apollo, he says lowly. And since I first laid my eyes on you, I have been with you here in these woods.
You take in his appearance: the long blond hair, tanned skin, golden eyes which match the sun shining behind his head high in the sky. He’s beautiful, and that should come as no surprise where it concerns an Olympian, but to witness his beauty yourself is an experience unlike any other, leagues above merely hearing from the priests how he might look or observing the sculptures fashioned as praise for him.
His eyes are what draw most of your attention, and they are kind as well as familiar. They mirror the brighten golden gaze of another being you had encountered in the past, and you let out a quiet breath of disbelief. He had been with you even then. Your intuition speculating that the fox had been a god wasn’t unfounded at all. It hadn’t been an aimless musing, a what-if because you’ve heard the stories of gods appearing to mortals. You’d been correct. It had been fact.
“But why…” You trail off, unable to finish the question because truthfully, how could you? The implications of his actions, of spending all this time with you, only to reveal his true self, speaks for a reality you are having trouble coming to terms with. Why you?
Apollo understands what you’re asking without you needing to continue, and in readying himself to explain from the very beginning, the corner of his lips lifts in a tiny smile as he reminisces on the first words he’d heard you say to him, indirect but meant for him all the same.
“The day was cold, fresh off the heels of a rainstorm the night before,” he starts. “You asked the sun to keep you warm and kept your footsteps to the places on the earth where it touched.”
You remember that moment, and it surprises you that it had reached him, because it hadn’t been a prayer, not a genuine one. Simply a playful aside.
Apollo’s smile grows. Sincere prayer or no, I heard it, and when I did, I wanted to know the one who said it. He explains to you it was your gentle tone which pulled him in, voice laced with affection which underlies your every word, and he wanted to hear more of it, to hear you sing and it could be about anything—your hunts, your family, gossip from the markets—and he would hang, and has hung, on it all because everything you say is the sweetest melody. You put the birds to shame.
And this, he hopes, is adequate to answer your query. He’d seen the confusion on your face, wondering why you had stuck out. He wants to help you understand, see things from his point of view, because even if you might not think so yourself, you’re remarkable. At the tail-end of his speech, throughout which a sense of eagerness had been clawing at him from the inside because this was it—the moment he confesses and might finally feel the softness of your skin against his, might finally hear you say his name—he tells you he loves you.
You’re at a loss for words, as his hang in the air between you, and Apollo had been expecting a reaction of this sort. To be loved by a god was no small matter. But what he isn’t expecting is the shake of your head, slowly at first, like you’re uncertain, but then again, more assertive. It’s his turn to be confused and he murmurs your name, a slight upturn at the end as if asking a question.
“You don’t love me,” you state.
Apollo’s brows furrow. “I assure you there’s little else which I have been so confident about before.”
“But a god and a human together…” You shake your head again. “It’s not meant to last.”
His heart wrenches painfully in his chest to hear you say that, though he understands where you come from. Such stories were common, himself being the god in some of them. The relationships are temporary, but this time, with you, he’s serious. His feelings for you are real, transcending the point of mere infatuation. He loves you and the declaration isn’t empty. He’s almost desperate now as he tries to come up with a way to convince you that your own story, between the two of you, would have no tragic end, maybe even no end at all. Because when stories reach the closing, happy or not, there is always inherent in the drawing of the curtains a perceived sadness, a pulling away from the world upon the stage and one is unceremoniously thrust back into reality, which is nowhere near as spectacular. It’s a disappointment he never wants to feel with you, and he would do all he could do keep you together.
“I sometimes wondered if there was anyone for whom I would change the course of the sun,” he tells you, his eyes drifting upward to glance at the sky. “And I could think of no one until I saw you. I told myself that if you so desired, I would keep the sky free of clouds so you might always feel the warmth of the sun.” His eyes slide back down to meet your own. “If you wished with that sweet voice of yours for the sun to rise in the west and set in the east, I would do it.”
You’re visibly more relaxed now, your gaze having softened as he spoke. It shines with the temptation to give in, to accept his love and give him yours in return, but a small part of you continues to struggle with the idea of loving a god. Apollo hopes you can see the sincerity on his face, as close to a desperate plea as he can get short of actually begging out loud.
“And if I were to ask for that,” you start, "for the sun to rise in the west and set in the east, what of the earth? The crops and the people who rely on its consistent path through the sky?”
Apollo shakes his head. “None of that would matter to me. Don’t you see?” He says your name again, and in a fit of irony the tables have turned because your name upon his lips is a prayer in its own right. “To be with you is to have the world fall away.”
Tentatively, he lifts a hand to set it gently on your cheek. You don’t flinch or back away, and he sighs, one of satisfaction to finally feel your skin, the softness of it to match that of your eyes and your voice and your everything. He declares it to you once more. I love you. And he would keep declaring it until you believed him.
You cover his hand with yours and lean into his hold. There’s still conflict in your gaze, a storm of emotion, and the way you murmur his name sounds like a call for help. You want to be saved. You want to be rid of the discord within you and to accept all he has to give, and you’re closer to the edge, have moved closer with his every word, but the last bit of hesitation keeps you from falling over. Apollo…
The breath leaves his lungs to hear you utter his name, a sound he has longed to hear since the first time he heard you speak. There’s a twisting in his chest but now it’s from that flood of love which he is barely able to contain. He wants to hear you say his name again and again, and he’ll fight against the hesitation you continue to feel, chip away at it until it’s only you and him and he could guide you over the edge and into his embrace.
His thumb strokes your cheek, a comforting back and forth motion. “We’re meant for each other.”
“You speak of destiny, but who other than the Fates can determine what any of us are truly meant for?”
Apollo is reminded of the conversation he had with Hermes what seems like many moons ago. All at once the fires of passion flare with him, magnified by his defiance of the Fates. When he’d declared to Hermes that where it concerned you, the future was his to forge, he’d been serious. He proclaims it now to you, promises that when it comes to the two of you, the Fates are powerless.
“The thread of your life is spun and measured by the Moirai, but I would pluck it from the hand of Atropos and her shears so that you might stay with me forever.”
It’s his final appeal, the ultimate supplication, to dare to go against the hand of fate. You understand the gravity of this assertion, and at hearing it, the last of those defenses in you drops, and there’s a clearing of the storm clouds, which he detects in the clarity of your gaze. As you look up at him, you do so with sureness, with love, and to bear witness to and be the recipient of your radiant affection is to make the task of intertwining your own fates as easy as waking up in the morning. You give him the strength to carry it out and there truly is no one else for whom he would go to such lengths for.
He kisses you and your lips are warm. Maybe you’re a piece of the sun that has fallen to earth, a shooting star which has made its home here until he found you. You’re the part of him that’s been missing, and holding you now, Apollo is aware of how complete he feels.
Upon parting, you remain close and watch one other. The silent look shared is intense, profound; two hearts beating the same lonely tune, fiercely longing for love and not caring what the world—or the heavens—might think.
under an umbrella meant for one
[josuke higashikata x reader]
author’s note: i rewatched diu in spring and had a few ideas drafted at that time but i didn’t actually write anything until this one, which i came up w last weekend lmao. enjoy <3
word count: 3,408
Josuke’s still half asleep as he saunters into the kitchen at 7AM on Friday, and he’s only half listening when his mom tells him to bring an umbrella today.
“It isn’t raining yet, but with how dark the clouds are, it definitely will be soon,” she remarks as she opens the refrigerator door and reaches in to grab her food. “I left the umbrella for you right by the front door so you don’t forget it.” Like I always do. But she keeps that last part to herself.
Josuke hums, taking one of the glasses sitting on the dryer rack from when he’d done the dishes last night and filling it with water from the tap. As he drinks, gulping audible and head tilted back, Tomoko glances over at him. The vague response is meant to be a confirmation that he heard her, but she doubts he actually processed it. He isn’t truly awake until at least 11:30AM. She follows his movements: sluggishly setting the glass in the sink; eyes sliding shut; swaying a little as he stands in the one spot. In such a state, he’d be hard pressed to repeat back what she said successfully had she asked him to, but at this point, he might have already fallen asleep again.
With a quiet sigh, Tomoko closes the short distance between them and rubs his back to bring him back to consciousness. Dozing off and potentially falling over on the cold kitchen floor is hardly an ideal wakeup call. (Though she won’t deny that maybe something so shocking to the system might be what he needs every now and then, with his tendency to stay up too late playing video games and paying for it in the morning.)
“Don’t forget.” She punctuates her parting words with a couple pats to his shoulder, and then she takes a seat at the dining table to eat.
“Yeah. Umbrella. Rain. Got it,” Josuke mutters and waves a hand dismissively.
The corner of Tomoko’s mouth lifts in a small grin, and she watches him amble back out of the kitchen, very much resembling a zombie. Ah. So he had heard.
Unfortunately for Josuke, that doesn’t mean much. He’d taken too long to get ready, the fact it was still dark outside due to the clouds blanketing the sky making it even more difficult wake up. Upon finally getting his pompadour just right and throwing on his uniform, he’d glanced at the clock to learn he should’ve left almost ten minutes ago. And with how close he normally cuts it with getting to school, sliding into his seat in homeroom just as the bell goes off, it’s ten minutes he doesn’t have.
Shit. He grabs his books and dashes out of the house. Why hadn’t Okuyasu come by the house today? They always walked together. He thought he had more time than he did because it was his friend’s knock on the door every morning that signaled when he had to leave. Then he remembers: Okuyasu had a quiz to make up and he’d opted to do it in the morning rather than after school.
Josuke remembers another thing too, but he remembers it too late: he left the umbrella by the front door. He groans and slaps his palm on his forehead. Not again. He can hear his mom now, brow raised with hands on her hips once he gets home later, soaked through and miserable—You can’t say I didn’t remind you! Cue the disappointed head shake. And be careful, don’t track water on the hardwood! He really is just a mess in the mornings, isn’t he?
Get it together, Josuke. The front gates of the school are in sight now, and he ends his mini pep talk to himself with two more slaps, this time to the cheek, to try to wake himself up a little more.
The hallways are mostly empty once he’s finally inside, and his classroom is right at the end, the door slid back. He spares a glance to the clock on the opposite wall, where the hour hand is at 8 and the minute hand is pointed at the notch just before 12. The third hand ticking away the seconds is incredibly close to completing its full revolution, and it does so in 3… 2… 1.
A shrill ringing fills the air that’s otherwise dead considering most students are now in class, and Josuke starts running, shoes clacking on the linoleum. He’ll be fine if he gets there before the bell stops!
He curls his hand around the edge of the door as if to stop himself from overshooting his target, and comes to stand in the frame, panting quietly. Yes, made it! The teacher stands close by, clearly on her way to shut the door, signaling the beginning of lecture and that anyone who were to come after was to be marked tardy. But Josuke wouldn’t be one of them today!
“Perfect timing, Higashikata,” the teacher remarks.
Josuke chuckles quietly, closing the door behind him. “Heh, yeah…” By now she is accustomed to his very last second arrivals, and he’s certain he’s closed the door for her more often than not this trimester. Maybe one day he’d actually be late, but he’s not keen to let that happen anytime soon.
While the teacher returns to her spot at the head of the classroom, he walks over to his desk, the second column from the far side and three rows back. He sets his books down before plopping into his seat, and as he does, he catches your gaze from where you’re sat to his right.
When your eyes meet, you smile brightly and the corners of your own crinkle slightly. He smiles back but it’s not nearly as energetic. Even after you’ve turned your attention back to the teacher, he lingers on you, your hair pulled back into a neat ponytail, white ribbon holding it in place; your knee high socks and pristine Mary-Jane’s with a small heel; your cheeks dusted in soft pink to complement the translucent sheen of gloss on your lips. He already feels frazzled in the mornings and is sure he looks the part too (the one exception being his hair, of course; he’d cut no corners with that) but the sentiment is magnified as he studies you.
You’re always so put together, so neat. You have good grades and everyone likes you, students and faculty alike. If someone needs help you’re happy to offer assistance, and it’s almost shocking how well you can remember everyone’s names. It makes you personable and inviting, and not to mention your smile: warm and amiable, you’d always have one to share with whoever looked your way. Josuke won’t lie that he’s a bit more awake now that you’ve graced him with one. And truly, considering all these things, is it really a such a surprise that his crush is as big as it is?
He’s inclined to think no. Though he’s also inclined to think he is far from the only person to feel this way about you. Hell, he knows he’s not because Okuyasu had mentioned the other day how cute you’d looked when he passed you in the hallway and Josuke had asked what you were doing and Okuyasu shrugged and said Nothing, she was just talking with a friend. Then he went on to say well, you look cute every day but there was just something about that moment you looked cuter than normal and to anyone else this wouldn’t make any sense but Josuke, a boy with butterflies in his stomach that seem to rouse to wakefulness at the sight of you and at the sound of your voice, even when you aren’t doing anything special, understood perfectly.
Beneath your seat he spots an umbrella, folded up and covered with a slip: a pink one with strawberries dotted on it. Well, at least you’d prepared for the rain today, but that’s to be expected. He wonders what that’d be like, to not be forgetful and to be even half as composed as you are. He bets it’d be nice.
It’s your turn to catch him as you glance at him and his eyes slide from your umbrella up to your face. Briefly you look down at his desk where his books are still sitting the way he left them, and you mouth the words Page 217. That’s when Josuke notices your textbook is open, and he observes the students around you who also have theirs out. Quickly he moves to catch up, grabbing his copy and flipping through.
He does it just in time, too, as the teacher calls his name to ask him a question.
“What page are we on?”
Though he’s been taken by surprise in the past, you’ve spared him of that today and he answers correctly. Satisfied (though slightly suspicious of whether he really had been paying attention), the teacher returns to writing on the board. Once her back is turned, Josuke mouths Thanks and you flash that perfect smile at him again and his stomach feels a bit funny.
The rain begins to fall halfway through the day. It starts as a drizzle, silent and feeling more like a mist than anything, until it comes down a little harder, with enough force that the raindrops darken the cement. Students are quick to flee to the safety of the indoors during lunch, hiding beneath their umbrellas (or in the case of the less prepared, beneath their textbooks).
When classes resume, the rain is descending in a steady downpour, beating against the windows with muffled patters. It’s nice background noise for lazing around at home, but while at school, not so much. The dark sky makes Josuke sleepy (though he hadn’t been fully awake to begin with) and he rests his head on his propped up hand as he looks outside. He’s sitting right by the window, and he follows the path of a raindrop sliding down the window. It goes straight for a short while, then at a diagonal towards the right; it picks up a few other raindrops along its way, growing in size, and down it goes, until it reaches the windowsill…
Josuke’s eyelids begin to droop. Could this day go by any slower?
The bell to signal the end of the school day is truly a blessed sound indeed. It seems the weather has decided to have some mercy for the students who had failed to bring an umbrella, for the rain ceases and the sky, while still cloudy, isn’t as dreary as it had been earlier. Because of this, Josuke is able to wait for Okuyasu and Koichi at the usual spot, right outside the front gates. All three of them have a different final period and Josuke is the first to arrive this time.
He watches the crowd of students leaving campus, large groups of them taking up most of the space on the sidewalks and the crosswalk. The air is filled with energetic chatter and the whoosh of passing cars. As the minutes wear on, the hustle and bustle gradually diminishes, and only a few students here and there trickle through the gates. However, thus far none of them have been Okuyasu or Koichi, and Josuke’s brows furrow. He peaks around the corner to look past the opened gates but they’re nowhere to be seen. What gives? Where the hell are they?
Normally they don’t take this long to show up. Did they get distracted or something? Josuke huffs and turns back around, looking down the sidewalk. The plan had been to get food at St. Gentleman’s, and while any other day he might try to wait it out or even return inside to search for them, he’s getting hungry and considering going ahead. They wouldn’t be annoyed, and they’d all meet up eventually, just now at the bakery and not outside the school building.
Not that it takes much convincing on his part, Josuke makes up his mind, and with a decisive nod, stuffs his hands into his pants pockets and begins walking. He wonders what to buy once he’s there, and envisioning the different choices makes the rumbling of his stomach only grow louder. But he doesn’t make it more than ten steps before he feels a solitary raindrop land on his head.
At first he thinks it’s his imagination, but then he feels another, and he glares up at the sky. Is it really— A few more hit his face, one narrowly missing his eye, and he groans. There was no more denying it now. It was beginning to rain again.
A light drizzle would’ve been the most ideal, and he wouldn’t have minded walking through it, but he’s not quite so lucky. The most he could hope for is that it doesn’t come down any harder than it is now; the torrents of earlier this afternoon would be difficult to trek in. Possible, but he’d look like a wet dog by the time he arrived at St. Gentleman’s (and halfway to shaking the excess water off his body like one too). He considers what he might do if it did rain that hard, if it would be worth the walk, and he sighs. He’d be soaked whether he chose to go to the bakery or reroute to his house. At least a trip to St. Gentleman’s got him some warm food at the end.
Josuke’s once perfectly done pompadour is being messed up by the rain, and he pushes some of the stray strands back from his forehead. Man, this sucks! Did Okuyasu or Koichi bring an umbrella? If they had, it would’ve been left in their lockers for the day since they ate lunch indoors, so Josuke wouldn’t have seen. Okuyasu he was a bit unsure of, but Koichi stayed prepared, and Josuke doesn’t put it past him to have brought one just in case.
Maybe he should turn around then? He could go back inside, find his friends because really, if he hadn’t seen them while standing by the front gates for fifteen minutes then where the hell were they, and just take the walk to St. Gentleman’s with them, while, fingers crossed, sheltered beneath an umbrella.
As if on cue, Josuke no longer feels the rain falling, and he looks up to see he is now beneath an umbrella: it’s colored pink and has a strawberry pattern.
His eyes trace the length of the handle and find you at the end, smiling at him. Your arm is lifted slightly to be able to keep him covered as well as your much shorter self.
“You’ll catch a cold if you just stand there,” you remark.
Ah. It occurs to him he had stopped walking when it started raining. Deep in thought about how to proceed, he had neglected to actually move out of the way so that he might continue his thinking without getting wetter by the second. Just staying in one spot was even worse than just continuing with his walk! First not bringing an umbrella to begin with, and now this, he truly was screwing himself over at every turn.
But it would seem the world is taking just a little pity on him, for not only has his need for an umbrella been answered, it had been you that answered it. The weather is cold but he hardly notices due to his rapidly warming cheeks. He is suddenly acutely aware of how close the two of you are standing, and you have to, given your umbrella isn’t that big and he has a broad form. He detects the faint smell of your perfume: powdery and floral, a vibrant freshness that matches the bright expression on your face. You’re like a ball of sunshine competing with the cloudy afternoon, but he already knows who he’d declare the winner.
“Uh, yeah…” Josuke finally forces out awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. On the inside, he cringes. “Just… got distracted deciding what to do since I didn’t bring an umbrella.”
You tilt your head. “Where were you going? I could walk you there!”
Your offer catches him off guard, quick as it had been. Clearly it isn’t something you said just to be nice. If he wasn’t mistaken, your suggestion had an eager undertone to it, as if hoping he’d agree and grant you the opportunity to help someone. Once more he’s in awe of your willingness to lend a hand where needed, and maybe this was the intention of the powers that be all along—where Josuke was unprepared, you were, as always, put together, and it was his lucky day that you had set your sights on him.
His brief silence you interpret as hesitation to agree, so you continue: “And don’t feel bad about accepting! I’d hate for you to walk under the rain.”
You wear your heart on your sleeve and Josuke can’t help smiling. It’s a good look on you. “I was going to get food,” he states.
“Oh, me too! Where were you thinking?”
The longer this conversation goes, the more it becomes apparent this may turn into more than a simple walk. The prospect of eating a meal together and spending time with you outside of class makes Josuke’s stomach do a flip—there’s that queasy feeling again. His anticipation was such that it made him feel sick. Was that typical? Was this sensation written about in romance novels? He wouldn’t know since he’s never read stories like those. And yet, ironically, he finds himself to be right in the center of one.
The name St. Gentleman’s is on the tip of his tongue before it dies out and he reconsiders. If both of you went there, you would inevitably run into Okuyasu and Koichi, and as much as Josuke enjoys being around them, right now, he just wants to be with you. They’d be a distraction, and he has no qualms in admitting he wants you to himself because with the way you watch him right now, he wants to remain the center of your attention. You make it simple to forget the cold weather. Besides, the others wouldn’t mind his absence, especially not after he tells them his reason for not meeting them.
“Cafe Rengatei,” he says instead.
You nod once, resolute. “Let’s go there then!”
The optimistic part of him seems to spring to life—this is a date! But Josuke tries to push that down quickly, not wanting to make this out to be more than it is. Because it isn’t much, really. Just two classmates getting a bite to eat after school. That’s it. As friends.
“Here, you’ll need to hold the umbrella though since you’re taller.”
You hand him the umbrella and he takes it, and to ensure you’re also properly covered, you step even closer, shoulder pressed against his. You’re touching him and you’re so warm and smell like flowers and even if on the outside he appears perfectly fine, on the inside he’s freaking out and he might not call it a date but it sure as hell is playing out like one.
He’s still in shock at the events that are transpiring, and doesn’t immediately fall into step with you. You blink and glance up at him, and the gloomy weather and umbrella cast a shadow over his face that, thankfully, hides his blush. It deepens when you take hold of his arm, the one between you holding the umbrella, as though to pull him along.
“Come on, let’s go before it starts raining harder!”
Josuke didn’t think he could like the rain as much as he does now. Talking with you becomes increasingly easier with every step, and it feels like his heart stops when you grin softly. The walk is unhurried, even for the rain falling all around you, and it’s hard to say who is dictating the pace, who has decided to prolong this time spent so close together.
The depths of your eyes are crystal clear at this distance and he knows one thing for sure: if it had, in fact, been you at the start setting this slow pace, it’s him who would keep it that way. He’ll keep his steps slow to extend this moment with you, all the while wishing it would last forever.