You closed your umbrella with a huff as you ducked in the door of your favorite cafe. Ambrosian Delight wasn’t a big chain like Starbucks, but you appreciated the homey feel of the place and the kindness of the employees. You stayed out of their drama (whatever the fuck was going on behind that counter), and they stayed out of your workspace in the corner of the cafe.
You frowned up at the menu, trying to decide what to order for that afternoon. The rain had made it rather chilly, though it was still not really the best season for warm drinks. You made your decision and looked back in front of you, expecting your usual barista with the pretty pink ombre in her hair and the lovely, shifting eyes, but you were instead greeted by an unfamiliar face.
He was taller than you, with blond hair that fell just so around his temples and warm, hazel eyes that contrasted his broad shoulders and slight stubble. He must have been new, you decided upon seeing his nametag-- it looked like it had been quickly changed, and all you could read on it was what you decided looked like ‘Ross.’
“Y/N!” your usual barista grinned, poking into the man’s sides with her pretty golden nails, making him lurch with surprise and mild disdain. “I see you’ve met my son~”
This was Rose’s son? That was impossible. She looked so young and full, not even that much older than this man. You tried to look as non-judging as possible as you nodded at her.
“It’s nice to meet you,” you said. “Do you normally work here?”
“Not really,” he said, shooting his mother a look that screamed beat it. “This is my first day here.”
You smiled, but you were oblivious to the look of betrayed realization that passed Ross to Rose, and the proud smirk that she shot back at him.
“Well, I come here, a lot,” you said. “We’ll probably be seeing a lot of each other.”
“That sounds great,” he grinned. “Like, you’re all normal and stuff. My mom can be a little overbearing.”
“Don’t worry, I’m an easy customer,” you laughed. “Just a green tea latte and a croissant.”
He charged you for the beverage and snack, and you felt honey eyes on your back as you ventured into your corner and opened your laptop.
Your fingers moved delicately across the keyboard as you weighed every word in front of you as you typed; writing wasn’t easy, after all, and you wanted everything to be just right for this sample chapter for your boss.
“Green tea latte and croissant?” Ross had a blindingly charming smile as he brought you your order; your stomach felt warm at the attention.
“Thanks,” you returned his kind expression and went back to your typing. The blond man hovered just a ways away, not quite looking to head back behind the counter, yet. He was about to ask you about your clacking keyboard when your phone buzzed in your bag-- it was your sister.
“I think I got one for you,” she said, sounding excited on the other end. You had to stifle the tired huff in your breath.
“And, pray tell, who exactly are you trying to set me up with this time?”
“Listen, we’ve been friends for a really long time, and he says he’s always wanted to meet you.”
“I’m not going on another blind date,” you crossed one leg over the other under your table. “Those have literally never gone well for me.”
“This one could, though!”
“I’m walking decent-human repellent,” you frowned. “It’s going to be another mess.”
“How do you know until you try?”
“Look, I’ll think about it. Can we just not do this now? I’m trying to focus.”
“Sorry, sorry. Fine. Just let me know, okay?”
You hung up your phone, and it was that moment that you realized that the apparent newest employee was still lingering in your corner.
“I take it your friend’s just as pushy as my mom,” he chuckled. In any other circumstance, you would have scolded him for eavesdropping, but there was something about this guy’s aura...something that made you feel comfortable.
“Sister, but I guess they’re not that different,” you laughed. “She’s been trying to get me on blind dates...she fancies herself quite the matchmaker.”
He didn’t seem quite all there as he mused, “Yeah...Mom’s the same way...though I’ve set up way more happy couples. It’s an art, kind of.”
“Impressive,” you complimented. “You must have a real Cupid touch.”
He let out a hearty laugh; it made you smile, knowing that someone appreciated your sense of humor.
“I...guess that’s a good way of putting it,” he said once he caught his breath. There was a silence between you two, though not an uncomfortable one. It felt full and warm, though that might have just been the way his pretty eyes were giving you that admiring look.
“Anyway…” he snapped himself out of it, “enjoy your… drink and stuff.”
You gave him a tiny smile and a nod as you returned to your work, and he nearly felt guilty accepting it. This was something he was going to have to take up with his mother….
He didn’t want it to look like he was looking specifically for you, though he couldn’t disguise the way he straightened his posture when you walked in the door.
“Hi,” you waved, walking up to the counter. A month had passed, and ever since Ross started serving you at the cafe, things had totally turned around for you, in spite of your underlying state of stress a few weeks earlier.
“So, Mom said your blind date didn’t go so hot,” Ross leaned on the counter. “What...happened, exactly?”
“Well,” you recounted, scrunching your face as you tried to recall the events of the attempted date the week before, “I wasn’t going to go...I told my sister I...wasn’t really feeling it, anyway. But I went, since it was one of her friends. You’re never going to believe what he said to me.”
“What did he say?”
“He said he never wanted to try the date in the first place and walked out on me as soon as I sat down!”
He made a face that looked shocked enough but had just an edge of guilt, “That’s disgusting! I can’t believe he’d do that to you.”
“It made my sister back off on the blind dates entirely, and it was more time to work on my sample packet,” you shrugged, adding with a beaming smile. “Which, my boss loved, by the way.”
“That’s great,” he congratulated.
You felt shy, “Yeah...normally I hate writing romance...but I’ve had a lot of inspiration pushing me that way, lately. I guess it’s just the season.”
You swore you saw a gentle flush on his cheeks as he quickly diverted the topic, “So...can I interest you in one of our seasonal sugar arrow cookies?”
You followed his gaze to the pastry case, where in between the muffins and croissants, there were two neat rows of delicious-looking cookies. They were simple enough cut-outs in the shape of stylized arrows, with a heart-like tip and artistic indents along the tail that looked as wispy as real fletching. A thin layer of icing coated the sweets, airbrushed with gold and tinted with luster dust. They did look well-made and good enough to eat, but your restraint was stronger than your sweet tooth.
“No thanks,” you said politely. “I’m just here for a drink and a sandwich. They look great, though, did you make them?”
He tried to hide the slumping of his shoulders, “I designed them. My mom’s the baker...she’s got a lot more kitchen magic than me.”
“They’re beautiful. It’s a really unique design,” you said, transitioning to your order. He rung you up as usual, watching you retreat to your corner, as always.
He felt a little foolish at his disappointment over your lack of interest in his cookies. This is all Mom’s fault.
Though, he had to admit, if it hadn’t been for his mother, he probably would have enjoyed his time working at the cafe a great deal less. He never would have noticed your sweet smile, or thought about your cute concentrated expression as you typed, or have spoken to you enough to appreciate your genuine concern for people.
He suddenly thought, though, if he was going to pursue you in a relationship, he should probably be honest with you about...well, about a great deal of things.
...Only if he couldn’t ensnare you, first. After all, he did enjoy a good challenge.
He frowned as his energetic uncle grabbed his espresso, grumbled about the lack of preparation speed, and dashed out the door.
“Keep your cool,” his mother smirked knowingly. “I can feel her headed this way.”
He felt his heart skip in his chest, but he gave his mother an annoyed look, “This is your fault in the first place! Why can’t you keep out of my life and just focus on meddling with mortals?! Do you know how many times I’ve nearly looked like a moron over her?”
“Because it’s my job to know,” she looked sly and prideful. “And I always know. I was just speeding up the inevitable. Don’t look now, lovebug, but she’s crossing the street~”
He snapped his attention to the window; sure enough, your figure was standing at the stopped crosswalk. His mother laughed to herself as he began brewing your normal order. An idea popped into his head; he grabbed a golden pen and scribbled a sketch on the cardboard slide, before he attached it to the cup and poured the drink in, just as you walked through the door. Your arms were full of books and papers and a handful of red pens, but you didn’t look as stressed or rushed as you had on other days.
“I assume this is what you’re here for?” he held up the cup with the drink abbreviation facing out towards you.
“I guess I do come here a lot,” you laughed to yourself. You maneuvered a $10 out of your pocket and slid it delicately across the counter. “Can you just put that on top of my stylebook?”
The blond man across the counter took a moment to respond, so you peeked your head around your uppermost book to get a better look at him.
“Are...you sure it won’t fall?” he asked. “I wouldn’t want you to drop it all over your stuff. I could carry some of that stuff-”
“It’s okay,” you winked, completely oblivious. “I’m an old pro at balancing acts.”
He carefully topped your stack with the cup, frowning a little as you walked to your usual corner table and set the cup on the table by the top rim.
He had worked rather hard on that little arrow drawing. You could have at least said something about it.
You looked up from your work over at Ross, who was standing just under a large sign in the shape of a golden arrow, pointing at the farthest right side of the menu.
“I know you don’t work here, but I could really use a hand getting this sign straight.”
Your eyebrows quirked at his odd request.
Actually, he had been acting a lot stranger, lately. Between the cookies and your drink the other day and now the sign, you were starting to wonder if something was going on with him.
“I hope you don’t mind me asking, but why?” you asked, closing your computer and walking over to him.
“Well…” he looked to the side as he fished for an excuse. “You’re taller than my mom. And there’s not really anyone else back there, right now.”
“But it’s already hanging and it looks fine,” you narrowed your eyes at him. “Are you feeling okay? You’ve been acting really weird.”
“Weird? Me?” he laughed. “No, I’m good. Been good. Always...good.”
You frowned to the side at his clear lie.
“You know that if something’s going on...you can tell me anything,” you gently insisted. “We’re friends, Ross.”
He gave you a confused, indignant look that seemed laced with jealousy, “Who’s Ross?”
“Well, your nametag...I just assumed,” you said awkwardly. “Did you just get stuck with an old employee’s tag?”
The wheels clicked in his head, and he suddenly felt foolish.
“Shit...dammit, ugh, I probably should tell you...everything, I guess.”
You had absolutely no idea what he could possibly mean and were getting a little scared that he was going to admit to being a secret government agent or something, but instead, he tenderly took both of your hands, and you gasped as the image of the cafe disappeared around you.
Instead, you were standing in a gleaming temple, made of polished stone and metallic accents. There were several provocative statues and a large statue of Rose in full nudity, standing in a shell. Ross-- or whoever he was-- was no longer in a casual button-down, fabric straining across his chest, but he seemed to have eschewed a shirt entirely, instead wearing a kind of gilded leather harness that supported a quiver that sat between two cotton-like white wings, matching leather wrist gauntlets, and hardy sandals. You were almost embarrassed by your staring and gaped jaw.
“My name’s not Ross, and I’m not a barista...but I guess you kind of noticed it, now,” he said, not knowing where to cast his gaze. “I mean, my birth name is Eros, but Mom always insisted on calling me Cupid.”
You wanted to ask something intelligent, but instead your brain spit out, “Why the hell does this temple look like a coffee shop?!”
He rolled his warm, honey eyes, “I don’t know, it’s based on whatever humans see as romantic at the moment. Lots of people like the idea of falling in love at a coffee shop, now, so that’s what it turned into...Mom, can you give us a moment, please?!? This is kind of a lot for a mortal!”
The statue of Rose-- Aphrodite, you now assumed-- had been replaced by Rose herself in a revealing, sheer, airy pink gown. The goddess in question was smirking.
“Don’t stop on my account,” she teased in a singsong-y voice.
Cupid was blushing and glaring at his mother, but you were carefully analyzing the events of the last few weeks.
“Wait, so...arrow cookies? An arrow sketch on my cup? That sign?” you suddenly felt kind of offended, “Were you trying to get me to fall in love with you?”
He suddenly looked flustered for a different reason.
“I...I mean...I might have…” he didn’t seem to know how to explain himself, so he turned to his mother instead. “This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t interfered!”
“You really do have a lot to learn about our magic, don’t you?” Aphrodite shook her head. “I told you, you two were already supposed to be together. I can feel those things a mile away, you know. I just sped up the process. You know I can never pass up a chance to set up a cute couple. Just ask Helen!”
“Helen never talks to us anymore, and you know EXACTLY why!”
“I was trying to do her a favor, you know that.”
“THAT FAVOR WAS LITERALLY THE WORST IDEA. THAT WASN’T EVEN A FAVOR FOR HELEN. IT WAS FOR PARIS. I WAS THERE, MOM. DO NOT TRY TO LIE TO ME ABOUT THAT.”
“Troy wasn’t my fault, stop acting like it was!”
“Everyone knows it was your-”
“HEY!” you snapped at the quarreling love gods, squeezing Cupid’s hands to regain his attention, “I’m still right here! Doesn’t anyone want to know what I have to say about this?”
Cupid’s shoulders heaved in a sigh as he calmed himself. He took one of his large hands back and scrubbed it over his face.
“Look, if you don’t want to be together...I’m sorry for all of this,” he said, avoiding your gaze. “I can take you back to the cafe, and you don’t have to remember any of this...I can even leave you alone entirely, if you want. This hasn’t all been me, I really do apologize if you were bummed about your blind date going sideways or you’re offended by me pursuing you. I do actually like you...not just because my mom wants me to. I think you’re beautiful and kind and special...so if you want someone else, I’m happy to find a nice, normal person for you.”
A small smile appeared on your face at his endearing sincerity. For someone so dramatic and larger than life, he was remarkably human.
“I...should probably be a little honest with you, too,” you said shyly. “I...kind of like you, too. A lot. How do you think I’ve been finding inspiration for my book?”
Surprise and then realization and then bliss took turns taking over his expression, and he smiled a blindingly charming smile.
“And that’s you talking? Not anything I’ve tried? Or anything my mother tried?”
“I’m pretty sure your awesome drinks weren’t the only thing bringing me back after you started at...whatever that cafe is.”
“Does this mean you wanna...you know, kiss and date and...stuff?” he asked.
“I’d be happy to,” you bounced, unable to contain your excitement. “Do you think...is Valentine’s Day too busy for you? Considering the whole...you thing?”
Cupid frowned in thought, but Aphrodite waved her hand.
“I can take care of one little day for my boy,” she said, looking awfully pleased with herself. “You kids have fun, but gods, be careful, Cupid. You know what happened to your grandfather when-”
“NO ONE ASKED FOR A ZEUS STORY, MOM.”
He was distracted by his mother’s coyness enough for you to surprise him with a kiss. Cupid was quick to respond, pulling your closer by the waist and burying a hand in your hair.
You hadn’t been looking for a fairy tale or a coffee shop romance, but a romantic myth certainly seemed like the better option, anyway.