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Autumn leaves and deep blue oceans

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When they meet, there’s nothing. He looks what they told her he looks like - dark, sad eyes, sun-kissed skin, tired hands and not a very attractive face. Too long dark hair and too big dirty clothes. Nails covered in grease and a pencil tugged beside his ear.
They told her she’d hate him but she doesn’t - instead, she just doesn’t care. Why would she? He’s just a boy who’s too everything - too tall, too different than what she thought he would be, too normal.
He tells her his name, like every single god doesn't know it.

She tells him hers, like every single god hasn't heard of her.

When they meet, there’s nothing. He thought he’d feel something at the sight of the most beautiful goddess and don’t get him wrong, she truly is the most beautiful person he’s ever seen - she’s not too anything - not too tall but not too short. Not too skinny but not too chubby. Her hair is the perfect color of the black sky at night and her eyes are an ocean he should be willing to drown in - but he’s not. He just doesn’t care. Because she’s just a girl - too perfect to exist but at the same time, no one he’d spend all seconds in a minute and all minutes in an hour thinking about.

When they meet again, they are both older. Well, sure, of course, they are older, but they also look older - and it’s not so obvious as gods can look however they want to look like. He hasn’t changed too much - his hair is not as messy but there’s even more grease on his hands and face. The smile faded and his eyes look like they changed color - it’s possible, of course, but she realizes it’s not the color that changed - they’re just sadder than the last time.
This time she does feel something - not for him, though. Just, she would like to know the secret behind the emotion so clearly visible on his older now face.

When they meet again, he feels older. Not just in a physical way but mostly emotionally - he’s tired. Like he’s jut finished a marathon, except he hasn’t even left his workshop.
She looks older too, which he finds weird - why would Aphrodite want to look older? - but her looks are somehow even more perfect. Her skin is slightly darker than his, olive, and it looks perfectly soft. Her lips are a sweet shade of candy pink and her eyes are green this time, a dark shade of it, like a forest anyone would be willing to get lost in - except, he isn’t.
He might be, maybe. But there’s something in them - something almost unnoticeable. A glisten, a darker spot, a darker thought.
And he finds himself feeling something - not for her, not for the goddess of love so beautiful that everyone else would kill anyone, including themselves for her, if she just asked. For that darker thing in her eyes - he wants to know what it is.

They don’t see each other after that for a long time. She’d lie if she said she thought about him a lot - maybe even if someone mentioned his name, she’d take her time trying to figure out who they mean. But sometimes she’d see a tree and brown autumn leaves would remind her of the boy’s and then teenager’s sad eyes.

They don’t see each other after that for a long time. He doesn’t really think about her - why would he? - but sometimes he’d look out of his window and in his mind, get lost in the green of the forest.

It’s not like they have time to talk, catch up at all before they are engaged. She’s not sure how she feels about it - Hephaestus is Hephaestus. Not the worst person to arranged marry. Calm like an ocean, sad like a night, the total opposite of someone else, someone who Aphrodite’s been spending a lot of time with because Ares is not just a god of war - there is an actual war raging on inside him, all the time. There’s fire in his eyes and there’s blood on his hands. He’s like dynamite, always ready to destroy everything around him, always ready to explode.
But glistening oceans are beautiful and there’s something interesting in a night.

They don’t have time to talk, catch up at all before they are engaged. Hephaestus doesn’t really care - it’s not like something will change. He’ll keep spending his time in the workshop, creating things, letting his hands try to understand complicated, beautiful mechanisms, letting grease stay on his face and in his curls and on his clothes. And Aphrodite will do whatever she wants to do - she’s a goddess of love and beauty. He’s the ugliest of gods who has no idea what ‘love’ even means. No one could expect them to be an actual married couple. And she’s not the worst person to arranged marry. She’s different from him - dynamic like a stream, charming like a perfect spell.

But the way streams work, it’s intriguing and he finds the mechanisms behind magic interesting.

The wedding is everything a goddess of love could ever wish for - it’s huge and beautiful and everyone’s here and she looks, well, like a goddess, and even Hephaestus doesn’t look too bad - if it’s even possible. Don’t get her wrong - she kind of likes him - in a strictly platonic, not even very close way - but he definitely isn’t a good-looking god.
Ares is here, too. With his handsome face and sardonic grin and too tight clothes.
But somehow, she doesn’t care. He wants attention and today is her day. She tells him this and for some reason, she doesn’t see him later, as she brings a glass of nectar to her lips and drinks during the toast.

The wedding is everything a goddess of love could ever wish for - that is, awful. It’s too big and too loud and everyone is too enthusiastic. Gods talk to him and he doesn’t know how to talk to them, some goddesses even smile at him in something that, he believes, must be - Zeus forbid - a flirtatious way. Guests are laughing and Apollo is singing and even Artemis is smiling, even if she rolls her eyes every time before she does.
But he hates it - he hates the music, he hates the enormous ballroom, he hates the bright lights. He just wants his quiet, darkened workshop where he can focus and avoid everyone and do something he’s good at.
He’s too polite to say that, though so he eats ambrosia, something that’s at least good, and he drinks the nectar and tries to talk, tries to smile.
“Why are your eyes like this?” Aphrodite asks at some point. She looks drunk on Dionysos’ wine and she’s all giggly and serious and stunning at the same time.
He wants to ask what she means but someone - one of the muses, he thinks - asks for her and so she disappears again.
He doesn’t see her again until the reception is over.

A week after the wedding, she still hasn't seen him. He’s in his workshop, working, and he probably believes that she’s with Ares now or maybe Apollo or Adonis or Hermes or Dionysus.
But she’s not. For some reason, she's sitting in a forest, staring at leaves falling down, watching young dryads play hide and seek, occasionally talking to them, giving them love advice.
She wonders if she could give one herself if she ever needed one. This thought comes and it goes but it has the speed of a hurricane that hits her suddenly and with force.

A week after the wedding, he still hasn't seen her. He’s still in his workshop, definitely not working but Aphrodite probably believes that’s what he’s doing. It’s what he was supposed to be doing, too, but he just can’t focus. He keeps looking at the forest, although the leaves are no longer deep green and he keeps summoning a picture of blue ocean in his head.

She finally meets Ares again two weeks after the wedding. Apparently, he’s no longer mad because he doesn’t even mention their fight - well, their conversation since he was honestly the only one who was fighting. His hands are scratchy because of violence and not working quietly in a workshop, there’s fire in his eyes instead of sadness and his lips are too hard, his hair too sticky, he’s skin too soft but it’s all nice so she stays.

He went back working and that’s what he’s doing now. Changing, creating, coming up with ideas. He doesn’t care, he doesn’t, he doesn’t.

She hasn’t seen Hermes since what feels like forever. She already partly forgot how soft his short brown hair is, how he likes to make puns that aren’t funny at all but still charming in the weirdest ways, how he always kisses her hand when he greets her.
His eyes are better than Ares’ - instead of fire, there’s a glisten of curiosity and she’s instantly drawn to it.

His workshop is never cold and that’s his favorite thing about it - because outside there’s snow and the trees are empty and dark and sad and even though that’s how he feels all the time anyway, he doesn’t like it when everything around him looks like this too.
He’s been working for hours but he can’t stop now, not when he’s almost finished with another thing. He focuses only on the task and considers himself lucky.

Dionysus is different - he’s not cruel and sardonic and handsome like Ares and he’s not cute and gallant and bright like Hermes. Being in his presence is not just spending time with him - it’s getting drunk on his persona, having fun, giggling like a stupid, young, naive nymph half of the time and being charming and clever and sarcastically cute the other half. His eyes just look drunk and flirty and there’s just a small bright spot and she kind of likes it but that’s also not enough. It could never be enough.

He’s surprised when she comes into his workshop for the first time - so surprised he lets go of his hammer and it almost falls on his only working foot.
She actually looks scared, not because of the sound of it hitting the ground but scared for him.
“Are you okay?” she asks, wide-eyed, looking at him with concern.
Or maybe he’s just imagining things. Maybe she’s not really worried about him because why would she? Why would the most beautiful goddess with eyes the color of ambrosia anyone would want to get drunk on (maybe he could) be scared for an ugly god with no social skills and just one working leg?

She, herself, is surprised when she comes into his workshop for the first time - he’s surprised too. So surprised he lets go of his hammer and it almost falls on his only working for.
She’s scared of it but also scared for him which is another thing that surprises her but then again, why should she be surprised? He’s not someone she loves but he’s her husband and some kind of a friend and he’s oceans and forests and clear blue skies and calming blowing of the wind.
She asks him if he’s okay and he nods. She stays and they talk and she falls asleep here after they’ve already discussed a lot of things - the way Hera looks awfully when she gets mad, the way Apollo is too flirty with everyone and he can’t really write poems, the wonderful way young nymphs look when they’re young and still don’t know the cruelty of the world, how arrogant Ares always is, how he could kill himself - even though he’s a god - by jumping from the top of his ego.
Talking to him is easy, somehow.

Talking to her is easy, somehow. Which is weird since she’s so different. She’s a free, singing bird and he’s a boring stone lying on the ground. She’s full of colors and life and emotions and feelings and she’s passionate about even the smallest things and he’s lifeless, gray and black and he can’t tell what he feels all the time.
And yet, it’s easy. She listens - really listens. He tells her that Hera, his own mother, hates him a lot even though he’s always taken her side in arguments. She lets him make fun of her lovers and he lets her make fun of his looks but she doesn’t do it - instead, she smiles widely and asks him if he wants to know some really embarrassing stories about Apollo and Adonis.
When she falls asleep, he doesn’t wake her. Instead, he covers her with a blanket he’s built quite a long time ago, the one that keeps the person in perfect temperature, not too cold and not too warm.

When she wakes up, he’s already working and she wonders if he ever stopped working in the first place. That makes her wonder if he even sleeps and so she asks him.
He laughs and says nothing and she makes it her personal mission to make sure he gets sleep. He’s a god and he doesn’t need it but it doesn’t change the fact that sleep is great and he should try it sometime.
She kisses his hair when she leaves the workshop.

She asks him if he ever sleeps and he laughs, too embarrassed to admit that he sometimes falls asleep while working. She’d probably say it’s cute and he’s not sure he wants her to think of him as “cute”.
She kisses the crown of his head when she leaves and it’s nice.
He goes back to working.

It becomes a routine soon - she’d come to the workshop, watch Hephaestus work, talk to him, try to talk him into sleeping too but always failing, falling asleep herself instead. On day twelve, she kisses his cheek instead of the top of his head and her lips feel weirdly sweet after that.

It quickly becomes a routine - she’d come to the workshop, watch him work. They’d talk, they’d laugh and then she’d fall asleep after trying to convince him to go to sleep too. Maybe he could - there’s nothing stopping him, really - but he’s kind of afraid she will no longer have a reason to visit him here if he does.
He’s sure she left some lipstick on his cheek but he doesn’t really mind. He notes in his head that he could make her a lipstick - one that only comes off when she wants it to come off.

On day twenty, she doesn’t come - she’s spending the evening with Adonis instead. He’s flirty and optimistic and has charm only a young soul could have. His grin is pretty, his hair is of a blondish reddish weird but nice color, his lips taste of fruits. She likes it but his eyes are just not enough - they're empty like he’s been through nothing, like he’s not his own person.

On day twenty, she doesn’t come and he’s not disappointed. Why would he be? It’s not like she has to. It’s not a rule, she never even promised anything, they never even officially talked about it. It just naturally happened and now, this naturally happened too.
He decides to make the lipstick now, because why not.

She comes on day twenty-one and apologizes for not coming the previous day. He just nods his head and shrugs - 'it’s okay’, he says. It’s not like she had to come and she gets slightly mad because he doesn’t understand. But then again, she doesn’t understand too. She wants to just come in and sit on the ridiculously comfortable couch but her gaze lands on his eyes - on dark autumn leaves soaked in sadness - and she does something else instead.
His lips are hard and dry and taste of nothing with a bit of grease but she doesn’t care.
He doesn’t kiss her back but that’s fair because she doesn’t even give him time for him to do this.
She then sits on the couch like she intended to at first and just starts talking. None of them say anything about the kiss and she wants to but she’s still not sure why she did that. All she knows is that she’s quite fond of calm oceans, dark nights and quiet forests after all.

She comes on day twenty-one and apologizes for not coming the previous day. He tells her it’s fine because he doesn’t care - truly doesn’t care. Why would he when she’s here now?
She doesn’t sit on the couch and he wants to ask her why but it’s hard to form a question when Aphrodite’s soft lips are on his. She doesn’t give him time to react and he’s glad since he’s not really sure what he’d do.
She ignores it then and he willingly agrees to do that as well.
He gives her the lipstick and for a moment she looks like she’s about to kiss his cheek as a thank you but changes her mind.
Hephaestus understands.
They talk like nothing happened and it’s the best thing ever.

She stopped giving him cheek or top of the head kisses while leaving. Instead, she gives him quick hugs and she discovered he smells of - what a surprise - grease - but also perfume she once gave him and which he claimed to 'probably never use but thank you anyway, it’s nice of you’.
She smiles widely after she leaves the room.

She stopped giving him cheek or top of the head kisses while leaving. Instead, she gives him quick hugs and it’s a whole new nice and soft feelings he can’t really describe. After all, he’s never been good with clarifying he’s feelings.

There are still some days when she doesn’t come - like day thirty or thirty-nine or forty-seven (first Ares, then Apollo, then Ares again) - but most of the time, she does come to the small but cozy room that she became quite attached to.
Because it’s this room she’s attached to - not the ugliest of gods, not the god with only one leg working, not the brightest conversation partner she’s ever talked to, not the man with eyes that make her forget how to breathe sometimes.
(She’s lucky she’s a goddess and she doesn’t need to breathe)

There are still some days when she doesn’t come - like day thirty or thirty-nine or forty-seven (he wonders who it is, every of those days) - but most of the time, she does come to the small but cozy room that he’s always been the only one attached to.
He wonders if those feelings he has are just this - if he’s for some crazy reason attached to the unlikeliest of goddesses, the one who likes lipsticks way too much, who always tells him about going to sleep, who forces the room to smell of violets or strawberries or spices, who’s way smarter than he thought she was, with eyes sometimes deep like a sea, sometimes as bright as ambrosia or as mysterious as a dark forest which he could spend forever in.
(As a god, he actually could)

She does make him go to sleep eventually and she considers it the biggest success of all time. It’s day fifty-one and she manages to talk him into a quick nap.
A quick nap becomes a full, couple of hours sleep and so she wakes up to the sight of him, still asleep, on the other couch in the workshop.
She leaves the room, letting him sleep, but before she does, she kisses his cheek.
Her lips feel sweet again.

She does make him go to sleep eventually and she apparently considers it the biggest success of all time. It’s day fifty-one and she manages to talk him into a quick nap.
A quick nap becomes a full, couple of hours sleep and so he wakes up on his couch. She already has left the workshop but he can still feel something light, like a feather on his cheek.
The feeling comes back.

This time a fight with Ares is actually a fight, with both of them screaming and almost killing each other (the only thing stopping them being gods’ immortality). She accuses him of being selfish and he rolls his eyes and says she never minded it before.
He’s right. She never did. And it’s not really, truly, actually his selfishness the reason - it’s his eyes. They’re not right. She knows it now, she’s sure of it.

When she comes to the workshop, she does it again. His lips feel the same as they did before except this time he kisses her back and she finds herself lost in woods at night, not wanting to ever go back.

He thinks she’s not coming today again so he just starts working on another thing. It’s another blanket, a prettier one this time. He’s wondering if it should smell of violets, spices or strawberries but then she comes and this time he kisses back, lets himself get lost in green woods, drown in a stream, get drunk on ambrosia and he could do it again and again and again and again.

On day seventy-eight, they show up on Olympus. They hold hands, give each other cheek kisses, laugh and talk and gossip together and yet on the next day, when Aphrodite talks to Athena, she tells her how poor she must be, having Hephaestus as husband and how lucky she is she has so many distractions.
She wants to scream at her, tell her how she understands and knows nothing and how she’s definitely not a real goddess of wisdom but in this moment, Ares shows up. There’s a smile Aphrodite wants to wipe off on Athena’s face but then she gets an idea.
Athena winks and Aphrodite smiles at her widely.

On day seventy-nine, Aphrodite comes to the workshop, gives him a sweet kiss and smiles wickedly.
She definitely has an idea she’s proud of because that’s the same look she gave him when he finally went to sleep.
She explains and he was never a fun person, he was never into anything involving interactions with others but this thing is actually a work of a genius and it’s now that he realizes his wife is actually the smartest goddess of them all - not Athena, no matter what they say.

And so she starts - she meets up with Ares, apologizes, tells him that they are the golden couple of Olympus after all. Fire in his eyes is back and the dynamite he is, explodes with pride - of course! He knew it!
Fire is even brighter and angrier when Hephaestus discovers his wife with her lover. Ares, always a warrior, always a restless soldier, a burning forest, almost punches Hephaestus in the face.
But instead, he just leaves. He’s definitely too embarrassed.

And so he starts - waits for Aphrodite and Ares to show up and then pretends he never expected it, like he’s angry with both of them. He was never the type of person to do something like this but even he can’t stop laughing after angry Ares - always dangerous, always a war, always a restless soul - just runs away.

It continues because what else is there to do than making fun of the others? They can be the most smitten people, they can act like they are star-crossed lovers who finally got to be together, like they are ice and water, always one next to another, despite being complete opposites- and still, no one ever would believe them. Because how could love between them exist? Between an ugly, lonely, sad god, a calm ocean, a depressing night, never sleeping, always working, figuring out how his beautiful mechanisms work and the most beautiful goddess of all, the one who brings all the colors to the black and white world, a never-stopping stream, a deep ocean during a storm? Messy, greasy dark curls and soft, shiny black hair? Cotton candy soft lips and hard, dry ones? Sad, dark autumn leaves in his eyes and eternal light in hers?

It continues and they rather like it - because, after all, they don’t need anyone else in their world and definitely not in their workshop.
And even if legends and stories and words and people will always describe them as not matching husband and wife, him as cold and distant, her as too good for him and flirty with everyone, in the end, it doesn’t matter. Not when the workshop smells of violets and the blankets are soft and the night in his mind sometimes gets interrupted by her day and the world is not black and gray anymore.