Nayeon stares at the invitation from Olympus, Jihyo's neat handwriting mocking her from the piece of paper. The Winter Solstice is approaching, and it seems the others would like for her to appear.
It had been decades since she last visited which had resulted in a similar outcome at the previous meetings: Nayeon, Jihyo, and Jeongyeon refusing to acknowledge their fallout, and everyone else trying their best to moderate. It was exhausting, so Nayeon felt that if she didn’t show up anymore no one would complain. So far, no one had. But here she is, holding an invitation from Jihyo. She wonders who forced her to write it, probably Momo and Sana.
"You should go this year," The voice startles Nayeon, and she looks up at Dahyun, whose winged sandals flutter at her feet as she hovers slightly above the ground.
Dahyun floats next to her, in the same spot she’s been hovering since she handed Nayeon the invitation. Dahyun had stopped her in one of her musings about what to do with a large, empty space near her home; Nayeon always enjoyed redecorating to make it as welcoming as possible for those that came to her realm.
Dahyun looks out of place amongst the dark walls of the Underworld. Her blonde hair is pulled into a ponytail and she wears light brown travelers' clothes, most likely to blend in when she visits the human realm.
Dahyun's the only god to visit her, mostly because it’s her job to guide souls down to the Underworld. She stays and chats when she can, and it’s nice to talk to someone living as opposed to the souls that float through. It keeps Nayeon’s social skills up to date.
The cold pressures of the Underworld had a way of seeping into all those who stayed and even though Dahyun says she doesn’t mind, Nayeon can see how much she wants to return to the land of the living each time they catch up. Nayeon can't deny it feels as if Dahyun wants to spend as little time as possible with her.
“Nayeon.” Dahyun’s settled on the ground now and is looking at her with a small smile. It looks too much like pity and Nayeon frowns.
“I never go.” It’s not an answer, but an excuse at this point.
Dahyun hums, “There’s a new goddess.”
Nayeon shrugs in return, not sure what that has to do with their conversation unless the new goddess’ domain deals with hers. The silence stretches on for a moment before Dahyun lets out a sigh. She steps forward and places a hand on Nayeon’s shoulder.
“I’m just saying, she’s already met everyone else already and it would be nice if you could come. Everyone misses you, especially Momo.”
Nayeon glares at Dahyun, “That’s a low blow.”
She only receives a shrug and a sly smile in return. She can’t deny that seeing the others would definitely help her mood, even seeing Jihyo and Jeongyeon would be better than the dead.
It doesn’t take long before she shrugs the hand off her shoulder and nods. “I’ll think about it.”
Dahyun’s face breaks out into a smile and she’s pulled into a hug. The sudden warmth surprises her and Nayeon isn’t sure what to do, still always a little disarmed when receiving any affection. Her arms wrap around Dahyun slowly, and she’s given a small squeeze in return.
It’s a contrast to the cold her skin is used to and Nayeon soaks up as much warmth as she can. Dahyun floats again and Nayeon knows she's gotten restless and is ready to move on.
“Everyone will be so excited to see you.”
Nayeon gives her a short nod, knowing not everyone will be as excited as Dahyun thinks. “Say hi to Mina for me?”
Dahyun gives her a bright smile as red settles across her face. Nayeon doesn’t understand how Dahyun can still react that way after so many years.
“You know,” And now Dahyun’s floating away which means she will say something Nayeon won’t like, “They want to make up and maybe if you guys talk-”
“Dahyun.” It comes out in an exhausted tone and Dahyun drops it. They’d had this conversation more times than she could count. Nayeon always tells her what’s done is done, but Dahyun always mentions it.
Even as Nayeon frowns at her retreating figure, Dahyun sends her a final wave and smile. Nayeon returns the wave half-heartedly.
Nayeon is, once again, left alone in her kingdom. It hurts, but it’s a pain she’s gotten used to. As she heads back home, she looks down at the letter in her hand, and something in her chest aches. She takes a deep breath, pushes it down, and goes back to work.
The air is full of life when she steps into the land of the living. Even with winter settled in, she hears birds chirping and the chattering of small animals.
She’s too nervous to think about the meeting in a few days so she wanders. Nayeon hasn't been to the surface in so long and she can't help but soak it in.
The snow crunches underneath her feet as she only dares to touch the trees that are already dying. She must be careful during the summer months, but in the winter she can indulge in the surrounding nature, just a little. She comes across a stream still slowly running, and the noise helps her calm down. Careful to make sure the stump is dying, Nayeon sits and stares into the water.
It’s so easy to look back and blame herself. No one was ever comfortable around her, and the minor gods especially avoided her. It was so easy to lock herself away and focus on running her domain. She thinks back to when Jihyo and Jeongyeon were the first ones to reach out. She thinks about how she can hardly even imagine being in a room with them after their argument.
Nayeon hears snow crunching and jumps to her feet, wondering how long the observer had been there. When she goes to greet them, the words die in her mouth.
The woman she sees is tall, even from a distance Nayeon can tell that she would only come to about the woman's chin. Flowers are woven into her brown hair and her brown eyes stare back curiously. The white summer style dress she wears contrasts with the winter cold and Nayeon's own black clothing and cloak.
The last thing she notices is the power of life that pours outward and the budding plants that break through the snow around her feet, trying to reach towards her.
Nayeon stares back at the woman, curious. She knows most of the gods and goddesses who deal with life, but this one she's never met.
Nayeon's never been good at intimidation. It doesn't come quite so easily to her even with her powers, so she cracks first, shuffling her feet and nervously tapping her leg. It doesn’t help that the other woman seems to be someone who could rival Sana’s beauty.
It's strange how the other goddess continues to calmly stare at her, it’s almost refreshing. Nayeon knows she exudes death and decay, a factor that tends to keep others away. She knows even Dahyun gets uncomfortable. Yet the woman in front of her doesn't seem to be disturbed and that excites her.
"And you're new."
They’re both left staring at each other. Although excited, Nayeon’s still uncertain. She feels drawn to the other woman, wants to see if she’s as warm as the power she carries.
“I thought you never came up.” Nayeon blinks and taps her fingers against her legs.
“That is true,” She hums, “But I decided fresh air would be good.” There’s a pause before she decides to continue. “You seem to know me, but I don’t know you.”
“You never asked.”
Nayeon can’t help the short laugh that leaves her, refreshed to meet someone who wasn’t terrified of her or who had seen her about to break. She relaxes back onto the stump amused and continues to eye the other woman.
“Okay then, what’s your name?”
“Tzuyu.” Nayeon watches with interest as she stands a little taller, “My domain deals with spring.”
She thinks that makes sense, Tzuyu’s reaction or rather her lack of reaction; Spring is one of the closest domains to death. Spring is about rebirth, production, and destruction, a continuous cycle. Tzuyu is as close to death as life can get. Nayeon feels drawn to her, wants to learn everything she can about this new goddess.
“Tzuyu,” she said, testing her name out before continuing, “So, how am I different?”
Tzuyu glances at the ground and Nayeon can’t help but wonder if the flowers that decorated her hair grew naturally.
“Most of the minor gods seem to be afraid of you, and Dahyun says you’re just grumpy.” Nayeon groans at that, silently cursing Dahyun. “But just now, you seemed lonely.”
There’s the staring again as Nayeon looks on. It’s a little unnerving to be read so easily. She knows Dahyun and the others are only good at it because of how long they’ve known her, but to have someone pinpoint it on their first try is uncanny.
“That’s a bold statement.”
“You haven’t denied it.”
Nayeon laughs, “Oh, I think I like you.”
Nayeon watches as a light pink spreads across Tzuyu’s face. She takes back her comparison to Sana. Sana doesn’t come close to this sight.
As they talk, Nayeon feels the Underworld’s pull growing. It’s weak now but she knows it will only become stronger the longer she stays away. It’s frustrating, the lack of command she has over how long she can be away from the Underworld until she’s physically pulled back. She stands, smiling apologetically at Tzuyu.
“I’m afraid I need to head back.” She watches Tzuyu pick up one of the flowers growing at her feet. Tzuyu holds out her hand, in it a light pink offering. Nayeon is hesitant, her hand stopping halfway. She knows the flower will wilt once she touches it, but Tzuyu’s eyes are filled with so much sincerity that she gently takes the stem, her cold hands brushing against Tzuyu’s warm ones.
The warmth she feels is unbearable at first, but it becomes muted by the time she pulls her hand back. Nayeon flexes her fingers around the flower.
And the flower, as predicted, wilts after less than a second in Nayeon’s grasp.
“I-I’m sorry.” Nayeon is confused at the apology and waves it off, pocketing the flower.
“There’s no need for that, I knew it would happen.”
Nayeon steps away with a hammering heart and the image of Tzuyu staring down at her hand.
Nayeon’s late. She doesn’t even try to rush as she walks through the gates of Olympus. The nerves she had days before are still there but faint at this point. She tries not to think about how much Tzuyu has to do with that.
Her hand goes to her pocket where the flower rests, her fingers brush gently against it. She smiles softly before she hears a small gasp and a body collides with hers, pulling her up into a hug.
Chaeyoung laughs as she steps away, “You actually came!”
Nayeon smiles at how bright Chaeyoung had gotten, literally.
The glow around her dims down and Nayeon gets a look at her, “And you haven’t changed.”
Chaeyoung runs a hand through her short blonde hair and flashes another smile. The sun goddess radiates heat all around her as the two begin walking towards the meeting. Nayeon can’t say she misses the heat, but she has missed the company.
“Neither have you,” Chaeyoung looks Nayeon up and down, eyeing her black clothing. “Dahyun said you were coming, but she says that every meeting.”
Nayeon winces and starts tapping her leg. She can already feel the guilt growing. She knows that seeing everyone else will make it even worse. Chaeyoung looks at the fingers tapping her leg and grabs Nayeon’s arm. The heat from Chaeyoung’s hand is almost unbearable, even with the clothing separating their skin.
“You know you didn’t upset any of us, right? We didn’t understand what happened, but we knew you needed time.”
It annoys Nayeon that everyone thinks she needs these assurances. She shrugs Chaeyoung’s hand off, “I can think of two people who got upset.”
“Sorry,” Nayeon immediately apologizes. They continue walking in silence until they get to the closed meeting room. Nayeon can faintly hear Jihyo’s voice and she takes a deep breath.
“Relax,” Chaeyoung's smile is back, but it looks unsure.
They open the doors, cutting Jihyo off mid-sentence.
There’s silence as Nayeon’s eyes bounce over Jihyo, seeing that her hair is as short as Chaeyoung’s. Jeongyeon sits next to her and again, Nayeon’s eyes move quickly past blue hair. There’s an empty chair next to her that Nayeon assumes is for Chaeyoung, who has left her side to sit there.
Dahyun is next to her, bouncing excitedly up and down. Mina, in contrast, is staring with no emotion on her face. Tzuyu sits next to her, which does not surprise Nayeon. She stares at her face for a few seconds longer. Even though it had only been a few days Nayeon can’t help but think Tzuyu had gotten more beautiful.
There’s an empty chair next to her that Nayeon can only assume is for herself because the last two seats have Momo and Sana in them.
She goes to the table and grips the back of the empty chair, “Is this seat taken?”
It’s a weak attempt at appearing nonchalant. Nayeon stares at Momo, who has a stunned look on her face like she can’t believe Nayeon is actually there.
Nayeon is once again pulled into a hug as Momo jumps up and grabs her. Nayeon stiffens and her eyes dart around. They go to Sana first who is looking at her with a kindness she feels she doesn't deserve. Then her eyes meet Jihyo. There's conflict in Jihyo's eyes as she stares, but she seems to find what she's looking for because she gives a small smile.
Nayeon's arms settle around Momo, returning the hug tightly. Momo hadn't changed at all: the same overalls, the same streaks of grease across her arms, the same scent of fire and machines. The same Momo.
"I missed you."
Nayeon feels a lump form in her throat when Momo speaks quietly into her neck. She doesn't deserve how Momo gives so easily even after having been avoided so long.
Nayeon only nods because she doesn't think she can speak after Momo’s admission. Momo leans away with a smile and sat back down. Nayeon relaxes into her seat and takes a deep breath.
There's a familiar warmth on her knee, and she looks down to see Tzuyu's hand. Nayeon gently lays her hand over Tzuyu's as Jihyo goes back to the meeting. She thinks that things will turn out alright.
Nayeon’s able to recognize Tzuyu's presence after only two meetings. Even though they were friendly, Nayeon's still surprised when she feels Tzuyu cross the entrance to the Underworld.
Quickly putting down the renovation work she had been working on, Nayeon goes to meet Tzuyu.
“Hey,” Nayeon greets. Tzuyu jumps at her voice and Nayeon smiles.
It’s been a few weeks since the winter solstice meeting, a few weeks since she had seen Tzuyu. The meeting had gone better than she expected. Although she hadn’t talked to Jeongyeon or Jihyo, there hadn’t been a screaming match either.
“What are you doing down here?” Nayeon wonders if Tzuyu feels the pressure of death and decay as strongly as herself. She wonders how closely their powers could relate. She wonders if Tzuyu pities her. She wonders what it would be like to kiss Tzuyu. She wonders if maybe she’s already in love with Tzuyu. Nayeon wonders a lot of things.
Tzuyu looks at the ground and replies, “I heard you have a dog.”
“Do you mean Kookeu?” Nayeon watches as Tzuyu goes from almost shy to excited, her eyes shining. “Would you like to meet him?”
Tzuyu nods and falls into step next to her as they travel deeper into the Underworld. Nayeon notices how even in the Underworld Tzuyu leaves little pockets of plants near her footsteps that die as soon as she steps away.
“I thought his name was Cerberus?”
Nayeon snorts and lets out a laugh, “Did Dahyun say that?”
Tzuyu nods and Nayeon shakes her head. “Dahyun thought that Kookeu wasn't a scary enough name for humans once they started telling stories, so she came up with Cerberus and spread that on her travels.”
There’s silence for the rest of their trip down, but Nayeon finds she doesn’t mind. It’s not stifling or expectant, just peaceful.
They come across the Styx and Nayeon stops them. “We could wait for Charon,” she holds her hand out, “But I have a feeling you really want to meet my dog.”
Tzuyu smiles and takes her hand, that familiar warmth spreading across Nayeon’s hand. Nayeon steps forward and they’re both on the other side of the river. She continues walking, hyper-aware of her and Tzuyu’s hands, still linked. Tzuyu doesn’t let go; she squeezes tighter and follows.
As they walk Nayeon gives a brief overview of her domain and answers any questions that Tzuyu might have. Nayeon has never had an engaged audience before and she’s excited as she rambles.
“Ah sorry, no one’s taken an interest in my home and I got carried away.” Nayeon taps at her leg. “We’re almost at the entrance.”
Out of the corner of her eyes, Nayeon sees Tzuyu glance at her tapping fingers and she immediately stops. Tzuyu squeezes her hand. “You don’t have to apologize.”
Nayeon’s saved from responding when barks begin to echo around her. Kookeu, her giant three-headed white dog, runs to greet them. Nayeon steps forward and lets go of Tzuyu's hand, rushing to greet Kookeu.
All three heads try to sniff her at once and Nayeon makes sure she pets them all. She turns back to Tzuyu to see her looking on with a smile.
“Here he is. Tzuyu this is Kookeu. Kookeu, Tzuyu."
Nayeon watches as Tzuyu slowly walks forward extending her hand as she gets closer. Kookeu leans forward, sniffing before rubbing all three of his heads against Tzuyu. Nayeon stares as Tzuyu smiles wide, laughing as she plays with Kookeu. Nayeon realizes that she wants to hear Tzuyu’s laugh for eternity.
Tzuyu scratches Kookeu’s stomach until she looks up to see Nayeon still standing there. “Am I keeping you from your work?” Her eyes widen a little, “Am I keeping Kookeu from his job?”
Nayeon waves off the concern, “No, I needed a break anyway. Plus,” She moves next to Tzuyu and scratches a spot that makes one of Kookeu’s legs kicks. “I haven’t spent time with him in so long, and he doesn't really have a job.”
Tzuyu tilts her head to the side, “I thought he kept the spirits from leaving?”
Nayeon shakes her head, “Another story made up by Dahyun. The Underworld binds the spirits, the same as me. That binding will pull them back every time. Kookeu keeps me company.”
There’s silence except for Kookeu’s happy panting. Nayeon stares at her hand rubbing through fur until another hand covers it. Tzuyu smiles when she looks up and just briefly squeezes Nayeon's hand before starting to play with one of Kookeus’ big paws.
They play with Kookeu for hours before Tzuyu leaves. Nayeon walks with her to the entrance and blurts out, “You’re welcome down anytime, I can get Charon to take you across when I’m not available.”
“Thank you, I will be taking you up on that.” There’s a pause before Tzuyu turns and places a lingering kiss on Nayeon’s cheek. She leans back and steps through the entrance, gone before Nayeon can respond.
Nayeon stands with her hand brushing her cheek for just a moment before returning to her work, a small bounce in her steps.
Tzuyu visits the next day and the next and the next. Nayeon falls in love gradually with each visit. She feels herself smiling more and anticipating Tzuyu’s presence. And with each visit, she understands more about Tzuyu.
Nayeon learns that Tzuyu’s love of dogs comes from her dog who resides on Olympus. She learns about how Dahyun and Chaeyoung pull her into crazy situations. She learns about how Jihyo was the one who helped Tzuyu with her powers.
Each day with Tzuyu is a new memory shared.
Nayeon finds herself opening up more too. She talks about her adventures with Dahyun and Chaeyoung. She talks about what the others were like before Tzuyu arrived. She talks about running the Underworld.
She gives Tzuyu a longer tour of the Underworld and her home, answering any questions she asks and offering an empty room if she ever wants to rest.
“But don’t eat anything while you’re here.” Nayeon told her early on, “It is true that if you eat or drink anything of the Underworld you will be bound here forever.”
Tzuyu had nodded as they passed by trees heavy with bright red fruit. That was the only rule that Nayeon presented, giving Tzuyu as much freedom as she wanted.
“Hey," Tzuyu brings Nayeon back to the present as she leans against the side of her desk. "Can I ask you something?"
Nayeon smiles warmly at Tzuyu, eager to hear what’s on her mind.
Tzuyu stares intently, eyes roaming Nayeon’s face. Nayeon waits patiently as the silence stretches and Tzuyu sighs. "What happened between the three of you? You, Jihyo, and Jeongyeon?"
Nayeon stills and her smile drops. She knew Tzuyu would ask about this at some point. She must have picked up on the tension between the three of them, plus her reactions when Tzuyu would mention them. From what Nayeon could tell, everyone else knew vaguely of their argument.
"We were the first ones, you know? Me, Jihyo, and Jeongyeon. All we had were each other.” Nayeon stares at her legs as she remembers the three of them together.. “All three of us were inseparable. Then we realized there were other gods out there, not just the minor ones we had met but others as powerful as us. So we split up to find them.”
Nayeon smiles softly, “Jeongyeon found Chaeyoung, Jihyo found Mina and Sana, and I found Dahyun and Momo. It was different with more of us but perfect. You should have seen the trouble all of us would get into.”
She recalls the trouble she went through to find Dahyun, how she would easily evade whenever Nayeon got close. Compared to Dahyun, Momo’s eagerness at following the two of them was almost alarming.
“I can imagine.” There’s only fondness when Tzuyu responds.
“Yeah,” Nayeon sighs. “Somewhere along the line the three of us started seeing each other less. I started staying in the Underworld more and when I would visit Olympus both of them would be busy.” She shrugs. “When we finally had a chance together I mentioned how long it’s been and it suddenly escalated into an argument. It was our worst one."
Nayeon remembers the laughter they all shared one moment and without warning, she and Jihyo were yelling at each other. She remembers the energy surrounding them both, the smell of ozone and decay increasing as Jeongyeon tried to get them to calm down.
"Jihyo and I were throwing accusations at each other, I accused them of avoiding me because of my powers, Jihyo accused me of self-isolating on purpose. Jeongyeon was trying to moderate. Then, Jihyo threw a lightning bolt at me." Nayeon squeezes her leg and takes a shaky breath. "It was my fault for provoking her, but I couldn't stay there any longer so I ran and hid in the Underworld. The winter solstice had been my first time seeing both of them since."
There's silence and Nayeon doesn't realize how hard she was squeezing her leg until Tzuyu grabs her hand and threads their fingers together. She looks up to see understanding in Tzuyu’s eyes.
"You weren't the only one at fault, Jihyo shouldn't have done that."
The certainty in her voice shocks Nayeon. She’s always put the blame on herself. She could have always gone back to apologize yet she hadn’t. She doesn’t know how to respond as Tzuyu pulls with their connected hands and tucks Nayeon into her neck.
Nayeon feels Tzuyu’s fingers run through her hair, and she sinks into the embrace. Nayeon surrounds herself in the warmth of life. They stay that way before Tzuyu speaks again.
"You should make amends with the two of them." Nayeon doesn't get defensive as she does with Dahyun, instead she just tiredly nods her head. If Tzuyu was the one asking, she would give it a try.
Lips press against her forehead and Nayeon slowly opens her eyes. She's greeted by a soft smile on Tzuyu's face.
"You should take a break." Tzuyu takes her hand again and pulls them to Nayeon's room. Nayeon is too tired, emotionally and physically, to stop her and lets herself follow.
When they reach her room, Nayeon immediately sinks into her bed. She turns to see Tzuyu standing by the bed about to leave but she makes room and gestures for her to join. Nayeon found it effortless to give affection to Tzuyu, especially when it was returned as easily.
Tzuyu slides in next to her and Nayeon tucks herself under Tzuyu's chin, sinking once again into the embrace. Tzuyu goes back to running her fingers through Nayeon's hair and she hums in content.
"Jihyo hit your leg.”
Nayeon nods sleepily, “I think she meant to hit the ground next to me but she miscalculated. I couldn’t walk on it for a few weeks. I would still feel a phantom pain but tapping or massaging helped. I guess it just stuck.”
Tzuyu squeezes her tight, and Nayeon sleeps well for the first time in decades.
The empty Olympus halls heighten Nayeon’s nerves as she walks through looking for Jihyo and Jeongyeon. She had left Tzuyu in her kingdom while she came here. Nayeon knows Jihyo still lives there and that Jeongyeon is usually on Olympus rather than her palace under the ocean. She hopes she doesn’t run into anyone before she finds them, but luck is not on her side as she sees Momo, Sana, and Mina laughing.
There’s a split second where she contemplates disappearing before Momo spots her and yells her name. Nayeon catches Momo as she runs into her arms, laughing along with her. She feels guilty for even thinking of hiding from Momo again.
Mina had stopped laughing, but Sana was smiling at them.
“Why are you back?” Momo leans back still in her arms.
Nayeon smiles while her eyes dart around the hall. “I’m here to see Jihyo and Jeongyeon.”
She feels Momo freeze in her arms and turns to see a nervous look on all three of their faces. She quickly adds, “I, uh, I want things to be better.”
There’s a quick beat before Momo is back to hugging her and Nayeon sees Sana smiling and Mina looking at her curiously.
Nayeon thinks of Tzuyu after Mina’s observation and smiles while shrugging at that. Sana suddenly leans close, smirking.
“Oh? What’s this?”
“Don’t you dare.” Nayeon glares as Sana laughs, at the moment she hates that Sana is the goddess of love. Momo looks between the two confused, back at Sana’s side.
“Fine, I won’t say anything.” Sana points a finger playfully, “For now.”
For a moment it feels like old times, then Sana turns to Momo who still looks confused, “Don’t worry about it.” Nayeon quickly turns to Mina as Sana starts gushing over Momo.
“Jeongyeon and Jihyo are in the meeting room.”
Nayeon nods, “Thank you.”
As she passes by, Mina pulls her into a quick hug. “I’m glad you’re back, we all missed you.”
Nayeon squeezes Mina's shoulder at that, “Me too, I missed everyone.” Even with the initial coldness from her, Nayeon knew that the wisdom goddess was just being careful. She turns to see Sana pouting as Momo faces the other away blushing. “Yeah, I missed this.”
As she heads to the meeting room, Nayeon feels lighter about her decision. Before she loses her nerves, Nayeon pushes the doors.
Jeongyeon and Jihyo are both bent over the table talking amongst themselves. They glance up, then stare as they realized it was her, shock evident across their face. There’s silence as Nayeon stares back at them.
Nayeon shut the door and walks up to the other two, her hands shaking as no one continued to speak. Nayeon breaks the silence once she reaches the table. Jeongyeon and Jihyo continue to stare at her in shock.
“I’m sorry,” Nayeon pushes past the urge to run and hide. “I’m sorry for accusing you both of avoiding me, I’m sorry for running away. It was unfair-”
Jihyo interrupts her by flinging her arms around her in a hug. Nayeon realizes that she’s been getting hugs from everyone recently and finds that she doesn’t mind.
“I’m the one who should be apologizing,” Jihyo says over her shoulder. “I shouldn’t have gotten angry at what you said and I shouldn’t have hit you with one of my bolts.” Jihyo leans back and Nayeon finds tears gathering at the corners of her eyes. “I’m so, so sorry Nayeon.”
Nayeon feels her own tears gathering and pulls her back into a hug, pushing her face against Jihyo’s neck. “I forgive you.” Nayeon mumbles.
Nayeon never thought they would be speaking again. That they would be able to go back to the way they had been. She never thought she would willingly come back to Olympus. It felt like a dream.
“And where’s my apology?” Nayeon and Jihyo break apart and turn to Jeongyeon as she jokes. “Both of you always put me in the middle of your messes.”
Nayeon laughs and Jihyo joins, they reached an arm out and Jeongyeon joined them in their hug. It was the most natural thing to fall into, Jeongyeon’s salty scent mixed with Jihyo’s ozone brought Nayeon back to their early days.
All three stayed in the hug until they heard a commotion outside the doors, and they turn to see Chaeyoung, Dahyun, and Momo tumble to the floor while Mina and Sana looked on in amusement.
“I told you they would make up!” Dahyun yells from beneath the pile.
Nayeon, Jeongyeon, and Jihyo all burst into laughter. The tears in Nayeon’s eyes finally start to fall, and she’s pulled back into a hug, this time surrounded by the others joining in.
“I missed everyone.” She’s able to get out as she rubbed at her eyes. "I'm glad I came."
Everyone backs out of the hug and looks on with grins. Dahyun side-eyes Nayeon with a sly smile, “And we have Tzuyu to thank for that.”
Nayeon blushes and pushes at Dahyun as she laughs.
“What’s this about Tzuyu?” Nayeon freezes and turns to Jihyo, who is staring at her with narrowed eyes and mock anger. Nayeon did not want to be interrogated so soon, so she quickly looks around. Her eyes catch Sana and Momo's, pleading with them to help.
They both understand, and Nayeon had never been so grateful to see both of them start hanging off either side of Jihyo as they whisper in her ear. She watches a blush appear on Jihyo's face. Nayeon chuckles and reminds herself to thank the two of them later. She looks around to see Jeongyeon, Chaeyoung, and Dahyun plotting as Mina joins them with reluctance.
It's nice for things to be like old times, but Nayeon finds herself missing a certain spring goddess.
“I think I'm going to head back.” Nayeon has done more than she could hope, plus she was looking forward to seeing Tzuyu. Everyone waves her off with smiles, and she returns them just the same, excitedly traveling back to her home.
Nayeon quickly runs through the Underworld, nearing to where she can feel Tzuyu’s energy. She’s playing with Kookeu again and Nayoen grows warm at the two of them. As soon as she sees her Nayeon throws herself into Tzuyu’s arms. She can tell she surprised her as Tzuyu takes a step back but returns the hug just as fierce.
“It went well?”
Nayeon pulls back and smiles wide. “Better than that, it feels like things will go back to how it was before.” Nayeon then smiles smaller and softer. “I have you to thank.”
Tzuyu shakes her head, “You would have done it without me.”
Nayeon grabs onto Tzuyu's hands. "I actually have a gift for you," She can see Tzuyu about to protest so she quickly continues. "Please, it's to show my appreciation and gratitude."
Tzuyu closes her mouth and nods. Nayeon leads them both towards her home, her hand nervously gripping Tzuyu’s. Nayeon gets closer to her home and stops off to the side. She turns to Tzuyu and anxiously rubs her thumb over her hand.
"You know I’ve been working on fixing this space near the entrance here. Whenever you're here I can tell that you miss the trees and plants, and I want you to be comfortable. Plus, you’ve inspired me." Nayeon walks them further to the side while keeping an eye on Tzuyu's reaction.
The clearing was something she had worked on since before Tzuyu's first visit, but hadn’t had inspiration until then. The first noticeable differences were black, metallic trees placed throughout the space. Each tree reflecting against the gems scattered across the ground, all slightly different shades of green. Along the walls and low ceiling were different types of gemstones, blue, purple, and orange shifting alongside the green. Nayeon watches as Tzuyu stares in awe, she leads the two of them deeper into the metallic forest.
They come to a clearing where a small cluster of flowers occupy, Nayeon hears Tzuyu gasp as she reaches down and plucks one. The flower doesn’t wilt.
“You said flowers couldn’t survive.” Nayeon hears the confusion in Tzuyu’s voice as she steps closer with the flower in her hand. The white leaves softly glowing between the two of them.
“I found a description of them while searching through my books. It seems they only grow within the darkest corners of the Underworld, and I wasn’t even aware.” Nayeon brushes her fingers gently across the petals before presenting them to Tzuyu. “This is my gift.”
Tzuyu slowly takes the flower, turning it over in her hand. Nayeon isn’t sure how to read her face as she looks over the flower. She hopes Tzuyu understands what she’s trying to say, yet she’s still not sure if she’s crossed a boundary that wasn’t meant to be crossed.
There are fingers in her hair as Nayeon’s thoughts are interrupted, and she watches with wide eyes as Tzuyu carefully weaves the flower in. It’s tender, Tzuyu’s hands delicately parting her hair and pushing the flower behind her ear. Her hand lingered, and Nayeon leans into the warmth.
“Thank you,” Tzuyu’s eyes are bright, “I also have something for you.”
Nayeon’s about to protest when she’s pulled by her hand and isn’t given a chance to decline. Tzuyu leads them to one of the trees filled with fruit. She doesn’t understand what’s happening until she watches Tzuyu pull the fruit off the tree. Nayeon feels fear take over her and grips the wrist holding the fruit.
“What are you doing?” Her voice fills with panic as Tzuyu remains calm.
“I’ve made my decision.” Nayeon's more confused as Tzuyu effortlessly breaks the fruit in half, dropping one side to the ground.
“What decision? What do you mean?”
Tzuyu raises her hand and mimics her actions just moments before, resting her hand against Nayeon’s cheek. She feels a streak of juice smear as Tzuyu’s thumb caresses it.
“Nayeon,” she moves her face closer, “I’m not leaving you alone.”
She feels hope that maybe she's not alone in her feelings, that maybe she had a chance. Then Nayeon remembers that Tzuyu is not of the dead.
“You can't, you're spring, you are still needed with the living. You cannot be bound here.” Nayeon can’t fathom why she’s even thinking of this idea. She doesn’t understand why someone would willingly bound themselves to this place.
“I thought of that,” Tzuyu smiles softly. “I will stay with the living for half the year, then the other half I will be with you.”
She can’t help but be disoriented by this decision and ask, “Why?”
Instead of answering, Tzuyu leans down and softly kisses her. It is the easiest thing Nayeon has ever done to kiss back. There is nothing but tenderness between them, and when Tzuyu breaks away Nayeon slowly lets out a breath. It’s shaky, and she’s dizzy off the kiss. Nayeon sees how steadfast Tzuyu is and finds herself agreeing.
“Okay,” She says softly, her resolve crumbling. “Half the year.”
Nayeon watches as Tzuyu takes a single seed and bites into it. Their second kiss smudges red as Tzuyu binds herself to the Underworld and Nayeon.