It starts on a midsummer’s day, after Claire and Alex decide (again) that they can’t handle a long-distance relationship (again). Claire is sitting in the park, moping, and that’s Trevor stretched out beside her, not moping.
“It’s for the best, you know,” he says eventually, opening one eye to make sure she’s still there. “If it hadn’t been today, it would have been tomorrow. You two wouldn’t have made it.”
Claire makes a noise that would have been a sniffle in anyone else. In her, it’s as though a very quiet foghorn and a very loud sneeze made sweet love and had an ugly baby. “And you know this how?” Her brain catches up to her mouth, but it’s too late: “And don’t say it’s because you’re—”
“Cupid, lord of love, and master of romance,” he supplies. “Not just that. You can’t trust Alexanders, everyone knows that. Just look at that jumped-up Macedonian boy. He still isn’t sure who he really loved; Hephaestion or Bagoas or Roxana.”
“You’re impossible,” she tells him, but she’s smiling, and it’s unreasonable how much that simple flicker of her lips makes his heart soar.
You would think, sneers a voice in that back of his head that sounds suspiciously like Claire’s, that a self-proclaimed lord of love should have seen that one coming.
You would think right.
Before he gets too cocky, let’s rewind to the moment when it all went south for him, remember why he’s currently squatting among the mortals instead of living it up on Olympus.
Jupiter booms: “Cupid, my son—” (not literally, he’s about ninety-nine percent sure, but with the wild parties Mom threw when she first moved to Olympus, who can know? He hopes not, though. Jupiter might have been the silver fox of Olympus back in the day, but now he resembles nothing more than a stuffy college dean past his prime.) “—I expect better from you than this. When I think of those trysts you’ve arranged: Daphne, and Io, and the delectable Ganymede—“ he steals a guilty glance at Juno and wow, veers off that train of thought in record time, “—the mortals expect you to work the greatest magic in their lives, Cupid. You aren’t doing that any more.”
As though he doesn’t get the I’m-so-disappointed lecture enough already, from Mom and Dad and everyone else he knows. Right now, he’s exhausted and hungover, and it’s too much effort to work up anything more than a one-sided shrug. He adds a grunt too, for good measure.
Someone clears their throat. Mom, probably.
“All right, J-man,” he mumbles for maybe the thousandth time, “I’m on it.”
Jupiter’s face grows even more shuttered. “No, Cupid,” he says, his voice gentler than it’s been in centuries. “I’m afraid you’re not.”
Two years to the day after Claire got assigned to babysitting duty, she discharges him from her clinic. Finally. All it takes is nodding his head sagely whenever she babbles on about the trauma that led him to his delusions and ape back to her that she’s totally, one-hundred percent right, Dr. Allen. Nothing gets past you, honey.
”So, I’m fired, right? Fired from your clinic? Don’t have to sit on your couch anymore and tell you about my deepest, darkest feelings?”
Claire rolls her eyes. “Babbling on about what you remember from Latin class in high school does not count as sharing your feelings, Trevor. But yes, you are officially discharged from my practice. Have a nice life, my friend.”
Drinks are on the house that night in order to celebrate, and again, the next day and the next and the next. He’s got a lot of celebrating in him. But life gets a little boring after, a little more meek and less frustrating. He picks a fight with Champ, just to make it through the day. Typical. One part of his life slides into place and he has to screw up another part of it.
Then he looks up one evening and Claire is there, in her usual booth, her usual stack of files imposingly placed before her. He knows exactly how this is going to go.
(Claire: would mumble something clever like, “I-uh-I just wanted a quiet place to work.”
Trevor: optimally would not have to say anything at all because with impeccable timing on the part of the universe, the bar’s band—hard rock tonight—would start to play just then.
Claire: would roll her eyes because apparently, that is what Dr. Claire Allen did when at a loss at words.
Oh yeah. He’s missed this.
He slides the files away and slides in next to her. “Missed me?” He says, and he’s surprised when all she does is stare back at him and say:
”I suppose I did.”
Rewind again. Another moment from his life as a god: specifically the one when he realized how pointless it all was.
He’s standing behind the college professor, because the poor bastard is due to fall in love. So here Cupid comes, with his bow and arrows ready for the moment that his amour opens her eyes. Except she doesn’t, and Cupid, never patient at the best of times, gets tired of invisibly hovering in the background, waiting for his latest victim to do anything but kneel by his girlfriend’s body and weep.
This here is love. This is what Cupid does, this is what it is his job to inflict upon the world. This is what Jupiter thinks the world is so sorely in need of that Trevor needs to completely relearn his craft.
He goes corporeal, tries to shake the man. “Hey, man. It’s not the end of the world, you know.”
And all the man does is stare back with wide eyes in a pale face. At last he opens his mouth, and all he can croak out is: “She’s dead.” Cupid says nothing, only stares back, so apparently the professor thinks it appropriate to remind him: “She’s dead.” And he keeps on repeating it, again and again, until Cupid can’t help it, looks down at the dead girl’s face, and it’s so white and so still and it’s the sleep of Hades crawling over her face, and his Psyche is dead, dead, dead:
Cupid stumbles backwards, wings fluttering. He goes invisible again, fades out of the scene and wishes he could fade away from the turmoil in his heart as easily. He’s not entirely heartless; he nicks the professor neatly through the heart with an iron-tipped arrow before he goes. The man will be coherent, at least, when the police show up and question him. Won’t save him from facing criminal charges and awkward questions, won’t save him from never being able to teach again, but that much, at least, Cupid can do for him.
Even if he can’t do anything more worthwhile for anyone else.
She drags him with her to her college reunion. She lures him in by mentioning how it’s an eighteen hour drive and she’ll have to do it all by herself, the minx. Oh, sure, when he volunteers to come with, drive at least half the way (“Do you even have your driver’s license?”)—okay, fine, to keep her company as she drives all the way, she groans and grumbles for the sake of it, but he’s pretty good at reading her by now. “Trevor, don’t you dare” means “that makes me weak in the knees, you charming devil” and “Are you ever going to leave me alone?” translates roughly to “I love you forever, my darling.”
The drive goes well. She only threatens to murder him twice and he only fantasizes about throwing himself out the door to his death thrice. What is a surprise is when he finds her surrounded by a group of women (her sorority sisters, she explains later) and on three of them squealing for an introduction, Claire only fiddles with her bracelet and says: “This is Trevor, my….boyfriend.”
Well, that’s news. He goes with it, though. He’s fairly sure he’s got them all eating out of his palm by the end of the night. How this translates to them having to share a room at her sorority sister’s that night, he’s not entirely sure, but it has something with the hotel overbooking its rooms, and Cyndy (“with two ‘y’s,” he’d been informed by the bubbly blonde in question) being all too happy to put them up during their time of need.
It’s adorable, really; they’re about one pop song and a credits reel away from a romantic comedy. Sadly nothing of the sort really happens, except he discovers Claire snores and she accuses him of being a blanket hog.
”You know, considering I’m a divinity once worshipped by thousands,” he reminds her with dignity. “I think you can spot me a few blankets.”
Still: there’s this, both of them up before dawn, wrapped in their blankets. Claire is sipping her coffee, and Trevor is unhappily wishing that it had something—anything—stronger in it. The sun is coming up, and the sunlight tints Claire’s hair red and her cheeks pink.
He looks at her face and thinks there might still be something to this true love business.
He looks at her face and thinks of hope.