There is something in the pang of change
More than the heart can bear,
Unhappiness remembering happiness.
Time is a bit indeterminate on Olympus; the sun and the moon behave differently in different gods' spheres of influence. If one stays in one place long enough, however, one can get a feel for its time-stream if nothing else. One day, about a week since Grantaire's arrival, Apollo has abandoned him in the palace/temple that serves as a residence. This is not such a hardship, as there are works of art all through it that were sacrificed to the god by generations of ancient artisans, and they are interesting. When they pall, there is also a library of classical literature, which seems as though it is written in Greek or Latin, but which Grantaire can read as if it was in French.
A quiet female voice interrupts his contemplations. "May I speak to you?" Unlike some of the gods, whose bodiless voices are all-encompassing and loud, this one sounds like it is coming from his left, as if there were a person standing there already.
He starts, turning, and grins wryly. "Kind of you to ask permission."
She takes a step forward, and appears, dressed in a demure, almost matronly gown with her hair pulled back and held firmly. There is soot on her fingers and the hem of her skirt. She nods gravely to Grantaire. "I doubt that anyone else asks your opinion on anything, here, let alone your permission. You deserve some courtesy."
"Thank you." It's quiet, and a little rueful.
"I pity you, and those in your situation," she says, studying him. "You have a most dangerous position here, however wonderful it may feel at times. Do not forget that."
Grantaire sighs, looking away from her. "I don't. Believe me."
"It began that first moment, didn't it?" she asks rhetorically. "He always forgets how quickly he becomes himself again. Foolish of him, and cruel, to pull you after him and neglect you almost in the same moment."
Grantaire says nothing, picking absently at his fingernails as though he's determined to look disreputable even here.
"It is a delicate balance. If you ask to leave before he is ready to lose you, he may very well be upset. Have you seen the garden?" Another rhetorical question. "But if you stay too long, he will tire of you and forget you completely. It would hurt to see him in love with someone else, would it not?"
He looks back at her soberly. "What would you have me do?"
"Pay attention as carefully as you can. Speak to me if he will not listen to you. When you know it is time to end this, don't delay it for sentiment or anything else."
Grantaire nods slowly.
She crosses the room and touches his forehead between his eyes, leaving a smudge of soot behind. "You adore him. Do not depend on him as well."
He meets her eyes for a moment, before glancing down. "I hear you." And, taking in a breath, "I-- don't know if I can make you understand."
She smiles a beautiful but oddly old smile. "I understand a great deal. What would you say to me that I might not grasp?"
Grantaire studies his hands. "That having loved a man for forty years-- for the better part of a lifetime, it's-- difficult to accept that he never truly existed."
"He did exist," she assures him. "He was not playing a game with you, he was not hiding another identity. The man you loved was as real as you were, except that he was something before, and something after." She thinks a moment, then adds, "If he had had a memory of being something greater, then perhaps you might say that the man never existed, because he would have been false. Don't doubt your memories of him. He was as human as you while he lived."
Grantaire closes his eyes, silent a moment.
"Do not doubt that he loves you, in his own way. Man or god, he gives his heart too freely, without realizing how dangerous he is to those whom he favors. He loves you, but that will not make you safe." She shakes her head. "Do not relax too much."
Grantaire chuckles faintly, without much humor. "I don't think I could."
"It must be very difficult for you," sympathetically. "If you need help, find me. I never go far."
"Thank you," he says gravely.
"You haven't much time left, if he is following his normal patterns. Try to enjoy it."
"I do hope you're enjoying yourself," comes a male voice a moment before Apollo returns, a bag over one shoulder. He nods to Hestia, then kisses Grantaire. "Are you getting along well?"
Grantaire smiles at him, a familiar smile of tenderness and rueful humor. "Quite well."
"Good. -- What errand brings you here, Hestia?"
"Nothing but curiosity," she says mildly. "Your sister spoke of him, and I wanted to see if she spoke the truth." She smiles at Grantaire. "I found it hard to believe at first that your love was not beautiful."
Apollo looks defensive. "That hardly matters."
"Beauty sometimes matters, as you know well." Hestia nods to Grantaire. "It is good to see that sometimes it does not."
Grantaire looks wry, but his tone is mildly amused. "I'm told it's not so bad if you squint."
Hestia chuckles. "I don't mean to criticize you by any means. It simply interests me."
Apollo frowns. "Do you not have other things to attend to, Hestia?"
"I suppose I might, if you are so eager to be rid of me. Take care, Grantaire, and do come and speak to me." Hestia turns, and takes a step away. In that step, she disappears.
"I'll do that," Grantaire murmurs, as she fades. When she is gone, he shakes his head.
"Are you all right?" Apollo asks with incongruous solicitude. He touches Grantaire's chin, tilts his face up, and then dabs at the ash mark with a frown. "She didn't hurt you, did she?"
"Not at all," Grantaire assures him. "She only wanted to get acquainted, I think."
Apollo studies him a moment longer. "You don't seem hurt. Good."
"No, cher." Softly. "I'm all right."
Apollo kisses him again, running fingers through his hair.
Grantaire relaxes into his embrace, with a faint, muffled sigh.
"I love you," Apollo says, beginning an apology, "but sometimes I don't know who you are, now. Forgive me."
Grantaire half-grins, though it's a little shaky. "Of course."
"It is strange," in a musing tone. "I always know that I love you, when I see you, but not always why, or how I met you."
"Ah," wistfully. "I could tell you."
"I know, but I wouldn't think to ask." Apollo strokes his hair. "More than that, it would feel like a story about something that happened to someone else."
Grantaire is quiet then, leaning against him a little.
"I'm sorry," softly. "I don't mean to make you unhappy. I love you as much as I always did."
A deep breath. "Then I'm content."
"You are too easily pleased," in a bemused tone. "I should do better than this for you."
"Should you?" caressing his shoulder with that odd, hesitant touch.
"Don't I owe you something for all those years? Something more than forgetting them, at least?"
Grantaire murmurs something inarticulate.
He shakes his head. "They were beautiful, those years. They were their own reward. There is nothing I can rightfully ask of you, now."
"Is there anything that you want that I could give you?"
"Love me," Grantaire says very softly. "Let me love you. Let me be with you."
"I can't promise you that," miserably. "I can't swear that I will love you when I know I will not be certain who you are, soon. You may stay here, if you like, but I would not do that to you."
A pause. "For now, then."
"For now, yes."
Grantaire nods, and embraces him wordlessly.
"I love you," quietly. "I always will-- Marcelin."
Apollo sighs. "I wish you wouldn't call me that."
Grantaire gives the floor a wry, bittersweet smile. "I'm sorry," he says gently.
"It's all right, just -- it's strange."
"Yes." Grantaire straightens to look at him, still smiling, though his eyes are troubled. "You used to say that to me, do you know? When I called you by your name."
"I'd forgotten," contritely. "I'm sorry."
"It's all right," reaching up to touch his cheek.
"This is terrible," pulling away. "I should never have done this to you."
"No," sharply. "You should leave, or if you won't leave yet you must let go." He shakes his head. "I love you with all of my heart, but then again I don't. I will hurt you if you stay here."
"You can do what you like with me," Grantaire murmurs, without irony. "If you want me gone-- I'll go. Willingly."
He takes a deep breath. "I want you to be happy. I don't know how I can accomplish that."
"That's enough in itself."
Apollo shakes his head. "How could it be?"
Grantaire smiles crookedly. "That's my Marcelin talking. Shouldn't it be enough for me-- that you loved me once?"
He blinks. "Of course not. If it had been different -- if it had been more -- but it wasn't."
Grantaire watches him, worried. "What more could I ask?"
"Anything," touching his cheek. "I would do a great deal for you if you asked it of me."
Grantaire closes his eyes. "I don't know what to ask of you that's possible."
"Tell me what you want, and I will tell you what can be done about it." He clears his throat. "You can stay, if you truly wish to stay with someone who only loves you when he sees you, doesn't remember why or how, or even who you are, and is apt to --" he swallows "-- to forget your existence when you are not present."
"Chéri--" And Grantaire laughs, the sort of laughter that might just as well be tears. "When I first loved you, you hated the sight of me."
"That doesn't matter now." Apollo pulls him close. "I can't say that I would ever remember who you are, once I forget. At least at the beginning you could hope that matters would change. This would not change in your favor."
"I don't know. I don't know anything anymore. I don't know what to say."
"If I let you go -- or ask you to go --" he shudders. "It is so hard to think of losing you, even now. I feel as though I'm arguing with myself." He takes a long breath. "If I let you go where you belong, you would not be alone there. Surely it would be better to be with other people who love you than here."
"How can I know?" Grantaire pulls back a little, searching his face. "I love you. If you think it's best, then send me to hell or heaven or the void-- Or someone's back yard, if you must," with a wry smile. "Wherever I am-- so long as there's anything left of me at all--" But he breaks off, pressing a hand to his eyes.
"Shhh, mon chéri. I know it's difficult. -- I should never have brought you here, except that I couldn't bear the thought of never seeing you again." Apollo strokes his hair. "I suppose I only put off the inevitable, but at least now you'll know -- it wasn't anything either of us did."
Grantaire nods, silent.
Apollo holds him tightly. "Whenever you're ready to leave, my love."
Grantaire leans against him. "A little while yet." Quietly, hesitant.
Apollo kisses his cheek. "You may stay as long as you can bear it."
"A little while," Grantaire repeats, and looks up at him, lost.
"It's your decision," quietly. Apollo kisses him.
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