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      You

             Are

                   Worth

                             It


He’s five.


 

He kills the Minotaur, horn clutched in his hand and he stumbles across the barrier. The ends of all his nerves are frayed and throbbing, raw and burning from the loss of his mother. He barely makes out the trace of a house just at the bottom the hill. The pine tree stands tall and unwavering and something tells him he’ll be safe if he just makes it past the tree.

Mom, mom, mom.

He staggers past it. Something warm and comforting settles at the bottom of his stomach, stark from the itchy, scorching feeling raging under the surface of his skin from the sight of his mother disappearing in a blaze of golden light. His knees give out and he’s bracing himself for the hard, grassy hilltop, when two warm, soft hands wrap around his shoulders. He blearily tries to keep his eyes open. Blond, windswept hair and electric electric eyes fill his vision.

The boy holding him up mumbles, it’s him; it’s got to be him. He turns back and calls behind his shoulder. Chiron, it’s him.

The last thing Percy remembers before collapsing into the darkness is the clip-clop of hooves and a suspiciously familiar voice.


 

There were three old ladies sitting in the fruit stall. And they were all knitting. The one in the middle held on to this green thread. The lady to her right held on to a grey one, and the last lady was knitting with blue thread.

They were staring at him.


When Percy wakes up there’s a typical, suntanned, toned body, model-like teenager asleep on a chair next to him, head resting on his arms, which were on the edge of his bed. Percy glances around the room he’s in. There are two neat rows of beds facing each other. Over each bed there is a woven tapestry with what Percy recognizes as the doctor’s symbol. As far as he can tell, he seems to be in some sort of sickbay sort of place, but without any medicines in sight.

The rustling of the sheets wake the boy up. He blearily blinks his eyes once or twice and looks up at Percy.

It’s the same electric blue eyes. Percy suddenly vividly remembers the same eyes staring at him when he staggered up the hill, it’s him, it’s got to be him. He shakes his head slightly, trying to shake off that thought.

“You’re awake!” the boy exclaims, hurriedly sitting up. Percy tries to be inconspicuous as he checked out the boy in front of him. A few years older, stronger, probably smarter, muscled arms shown clearly with his sleeveless orange shirt, with the kind of body girls drooled over- precisely the kind of boy Percy tried to stay away from whenever he was in school; the kind that invariably either punched him in the gut or threw slurs about his dyslexia and ADHD. All in all, the kind of guy Nancy Bobofit would give her stolen wallets to in the weekly meetings of the ‘Percy Jackson is a loser’ club.

Except when he sees Percy awake, a wide grin stretches across his face. Percy watches in fascination as the boy’s face sort of lights up with his grin, making him seem ethereal despite the long scar running down his face and his messed up hair.

Percy turns slightly red at that assessment.

At that sight, the boy’s grin, if possible, grew wider. He extends his hand. “Dude, finally. Thought we had to do the whole Sleeping Beauty thing with you.”

Percy turns bright red. He fumbles slightly and clasps the older boy’s hand with his own sweaty ones. The boy laughs. “I’m Luke, Head Counsellor of Cabin 11.”

“I’m Percy, eh, Jackson,” he mumbles, still holding on to his hand.

For a few moments there is an awkward silence, but Luke’s smile does not waver at all. Percy wonders how long they’ll hold hands. It was getting a little weird.

Finally, as if on an after-thought, Luke drops his hand.  He moves to get up. “I better tell Chiron you’re awake.”

Percy nods, even though he has no idea who Chiron is. “Okay.”

Luke smiles again, and slowly gets up. He tugs the chair with him, and places it neatly against the wall, beside Percy’s bed. When he reaches the end of the room, he turns back and smirks. He calls out, “By the way, you drool when you sleep.” With a laugh, he strolls out.

Percy swears he’s never been so embarrassed before.


The lady in the middle lifts up the green thread. He feels this sort of premonitory chill run down his spine; like he’s not supposed to be seeing what he’s seeing. The second old women hands her the grey thread and she begins to twist them together.


After meeting Chiron, Percy feels as if his world has completely collapsed around him. He stumbles out of the Big House and onto the wide porch in front of it. There’s a girl sitting on the steps reading a book. When he shuts the door behind him, she turns around.

Percy feels his heart lurch to his throat at the sight of her. Stormy grey eyes peer at him; assessing him, stripping him bare. She cocks her head at him and shuts the book. She stands up.

“You must be Percy Jackson.” Her tone is cool and polite, but something prickles his skin.

He nods. “I’m Annabeth,” she says.

She gestures for him to follow her. “I’ll show you around later,” she says. “But now, I’ll take you to your Cabin.”

He notices that she doesn’t look him in eye. She keeps staring forward, walking at a pace Percy struggles to keep up with after being unconscious for so long. He walks a few feet behind her, staring at the swishing of her blond hair tied in a high pony-tail. He guesses she’s around his age, maybe a few months older. She’s taller by a few centimetres, which makes him feel irrationally upset.

She talks about Camp Half-Blood as they walk, pointing out the Mess Hall and the Amphitheatre, and other buildings scattered around the green valley. She speaks in great length about each place, but there’s a slight tone of unattachment, which Percy finds odd.

She still doesn’t look him in the eye.

They reach a rickety, old Cabin with peeling blue walls. Annabeth knocks precisely three times on the door. Percy can hear people talking loudly behind it, as well as some clash of metal and shouts and hoots. There’s a distinct crash of something heavy and the door opens.

Luke grins at Annabeth, panting slightly, holding a long bronze sword in his hand. His grin widens when he catches sight of Percy.

“Hey! Dropping off the new camper?”

Annabeth nods curtly, but smiles, stepping aside. Her eyes soften slightly when she’s looking at Luke; steely grey melting to a sort of cloudish grey. She rolls her eyes. Gesturing to the sword: “Please don’t kill him before he’s even settled in.”

Luke laughs. “Nah, we’ll wait for him to be claimed. If he’s Ares’ spawn, we’ll thrash him.”

Annabeth’s smile tightens slightly. She turns to Percy. “You’ve met Luke, right? He’ll be your head counsellor until you get claimed.” She mutters under her breath as Percy walks past her. “If you get claimed that is.”

He’s pretty sure he wasn’t meant to hear that.

.

Annabeth’s sword clangs loudly when it hits the ground.

Percy doesn’t know what changed after pouring water over his head, but he suddenly feels more energized, stronger. The campers around them fall silent in surprise. Honestly, Percy’s pretty shocked too. He was getting beaten to pulp by Annabeth, barely landing a strike on any part of her body. Then suddenly her words describing the sword movement rang clear in his head, in her same cool voice.

He does it.

Annabeth’s staring at him with a strange look on her face. He shuffles slightly, the manic energy that possessed him gone.

“Show me again,” she commands. The rest of the Athena campers shuffle slightly.

Percy shakes his head. “I don’t think I can,” he confesses. “I don’t know how that happened.”

Annabeth retrieves her sword and holds it up. “Again,” she repeats.

His sword clangs to the floor the minute Annabeth strikes it.

.

Luke’s staring at him.

Percy is drenched from the water in the stream and blood from the gash on his chest where the hellhound attacked. He could feel the wound close up though, healing slowly. Clarisse’s sword has fallen on the ground and she’s staring at him too. The flag is clutched limply in Annabeth’s hands, her moment of glory gone. All around him the campers were in various stages of shock and surprise and they were all staring at him.

Percy turns to Luke pleadingly. “I don’t understand….”

His face has a grim expression. He points above Percy’s head. He looks up. A green trident floats above it.

Chiron clears his throat and announces. “It’s been determined.”

Percy catches Annabeth’s stormy grey eyes and his stomach lurches.

He barely hears Chiron’s next words. He feels Luke sidle up next to him. He hears the campers whisper and murmur. The trident still glows brightly above his head and Annabeth’s eyes were piercing him.

He is Perseus Jackson, son of Poseidon, the Sea God.


 

He notices that there’s something wrong with the grey thread. It’s slowly turning black.

He feels his mind fill with panic and horror. He shudders and almost cries out. Something slowly shrivels and dies inside him.


Chiron looks at him gravely. “You will need to go on a quest.”

Percy tries to protest, “I didn’t even do anything!”

Chiron smiles sadly, “If only the gods cared about that.”

.

Luke’s grin fades when he sees Percy face. The prophecy left him feeling almost ill.

“That bad?” he asks sympathetically. Percy swallows and nods weakly.

You shall be betrayed by one who calls you a friend. And you shall fail to save what matters most, in the end.

“Will you come with me on the quest?”

Luke nods. “Obviously.”


 

No no no.


Annabeth sees them off as they leave- three of them, Grover, Luke, and him. She twists her invisibility cap in her hands for a while, and then hands it to a nonplussed Percy.

“It’ll help you,” she tells him. “And as your friend, I insist you make it back safely.”

Something at the base of his stomach loosens slightly from its wrapped up coil. Friend. That sounds right. That sounds good.

He smiles brighter than he should.

“Don’t you worry about it.”


The third lady extends the blue thread. The middle lady drops the now, midnight black thread to the ground and takes it.


Percy pants loudly, clutching the sword tightly in his hands. Ares is stunned. The police sirens blaze all around him, but Percy can barely make out a word of what they are screaming. Luke and Grover run toward him, barefoot, nearly tripping in their haste.

Luke wraps his arms around Percy in a tight hug, nearly breaking his ribs. Percy collapses into him, exhausted. Luke’s body is warm and surprisingly soft, despite his muscles. His arms hold him up, and Percy breaths deeply into his shoulder. Grover thumps his back.

“Are you okay?” Luke asks him, letting go.

Percy nods. “I think so.”

He can’t believe he’s just defeated a god.


The middle lady takes the blue thread, holds it up, and then slowly begins to wind it around the green one from the point where the black thread stopped.


Annabeth’s grey eyes were bright and twinkling. She is even smiling. Percy realises she’s never smiled at him before, even if they were sort of friends. He kicks a pebble in front of the big rock they’re both perched on, sipping his can of Cherry Blue coke. Annabeth’s sitting cross-legged, drinking from her own can.

“Do you miss it?” she asks, crumpling the can in her hand and throwing it on the ground. Percy watches it fall. “The quest?” he asks. “Are you kidding me?”

Annabeth turns to look at him.

Percy shrugs. “Yeah, okay, I do,” he admits. A shadow passes across Annabeth’s face. She was pretty, he realises, and yet, suddenly, she looked at if she aged ten years. Her blonde hair fell limply and her skin was pale and ashen. The smile slips off her face.

She hops off the rock. “I went on a quest a year ago, more out of pity than need, and then bam, after that, no more quests ever.” She kicks her can.

Percy feels something uneasy build in the bottom of his stomach. Everything is wrong, everything isn’t going right. Suddenly a dark look passes across her face.

“To the hell with that,” she says. “I’m not going to end up like one of those dusty trophies in the Big House attic.”

Panic grips Percy. “You sound like you’re planning on leaving.”

Annabeth grey eyes are turning darker; cold, calculating. Any hint of warmth in them disappeared. She gave him a twisted smile. “Oh, I’m leaving alright. Percy, I brought you here to say goodbye.”

The scorpion appears.

You shall be betrayed by one who calls you a friend.

Percy feels as if his insides are blown out.

And you shall fail to save what matters most, in the end.

Annabeth is gone.


He watches as the blue thread only wraps around the green one. The lady does not twist them together as she had done earlier. He wonders why.


Luke hugs him again when he sees him. Percy knows whatever he’s feeling now, Luke would be feeling three times as hard.

Yet, Luke smiles wanly at him.

Percy says, “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” he replies.

..

Annabeth stands, feet apart, taking deep breaths in, extending a silver sword in her hands. Her blonde hair is loose, tumbling down her shoulders in a cascade of curls. She’s panting ever so slightly, her chest rising and falling with each breath. There’s a smear of monster blood on her cheek, and some blood of her own running down the gash in her arm. The room is dark and empty. She opens her eyes-

-and stares right at him.

Percy wakes up with a cry. The Poseidon Cabin is empty, the only sound from the twinkling water in the fountain and the snoring of Tyson from the adjacent bed. He gulps and takes in deep breaths. He fumbles around his bed for Riptide, and when his fingers wrap around it, he lets out a sigh of relief.

He slowly shuts his eyes.

“Percy-”


He shouldn’t be seeing this.


Thalia’s tree is dying. The camp is not safe anymore.

Percy’s been having dreams about Grover and a Cyclops. He hangs out with Luke constantly, taking comfort in the older boy’s presence. They spar whenever they can and Luke’s attempting to teach Percy archery. Which fails miserably. They sit together in campfires and hang out whenever either of them doesn’t have any activities. Percy clutches on to Luke’s presence like a lifeline. He doesn’t know what to make of Tyson, his other best friend is captured and dying and oh gods, and Annabeth is gone.

He doesn’t tell Luke about his dreams about Annabeth. He doesn’t know why, but he guards them ferociously, close to his heart. Even though she’s betrayed them all for Kronos, something, something tells Percy that is not all. There is something more, something that explain the twisting of his stomach at the mention of her name, the throbbing nerves every night after every dream of her cold grey eyes. He’s not scared of her, he’s not angry with her. He’s-

-he’s in need of her.

In a twisted dark way, he still thinks she’s his friend, which makes it all the worse.

.

They run away. Three of them, Luke, Tyson and him.

Strangely they meet Athena, who is proud and regal and every bit like Annabeth when Percy first met her. Except Athena’s grey eyes glow with the wisdom of eons and she gazes at them in a harsher, yet softer away. As Luke and Tyson amble away towards the lifeboat, she catches Percy’s eyes.

He immediately averts his. She gazes at him analytically. He looks at his feet, trying to forcibly will himself not to think of Annabeth’s own greyblack eyes.

Athena says, “You can help her.”

Percy knows who she’s talking about. He shakes his head. “No, she’s made her choice.” His hands tremble slightly. Catching sight of this, Athena’s tone becomes softer, gentler.

“Choices are malleable and impermanent.”

Percy wonders. He hears Luke call out to him. He glances at him. Athena watches this calculatingly.

She says, “Your fates are interwoven together. Only you’ll be able to bring an end to this.”

Percy shrugs. “Isn’t fate determined by choices?”


The other two ladies keep knitting. The black thread remains untouched on the ground. The middle lady tirelessly keeps weaving. He wonders how long this will last.


They hang the fleece on Thalia’s tree and suddenly Percy feels as if he’s taken in a breath of fresh air. Everywhere around him the campers release sighs of relief and beside him Luke lets out a loud hoot.

He grins at Percy. “Dude, we did it.” He lifts his hands for a fist pump. Percy grins and lifts his hand in kind.

Luke sighs contentedly and looks up at the sky. Percy smiles at him. The sun in background casts its light on him, brightening his face and hair, reminding Percy of those old Greek paintings in museums.

Then suddenly the moment is shattered when someone falls from the trunk of the tree. Percy whips backwards. A girl with short black hair and pale skin is slumped on the ground, groaning. Within a second Percy’s by her side, peering down at her.

She opens his eyes. Bright, sky blue.

A pit in Percy stomach tells him all he needs to know about the girl.

He glances back at Luke.

He’s pale and wonderstruck. He lets out a shaky breath. “Thalia….”


Suddenly she begins to twist the two threads together.


Percy’s uncomfortable.

He’s sitting beside his mother, who’s narrating every single one of Percy’s embarrassing baby stories, but that’s not the why he feels like ripping something or punching someone.

He thinks the reason might be that Luke and Thalia are sitting so close together that their shoulders are brushing. Which is weird. And totally not true. If Grover were here, he would laugh and tease Percy for being jealous. But Percy’s not jealous. No way.

Okay, maybe a little. Ever since Thalia arrived Luke had been blowing off Percy to spend time with her. He gets it. They both had history. Pages and pages of it, forged through running away, fighting monsters and being family. But despite that, Percy and Luke had history too; they were friends. And Percy wasn’t very fond of Thalia for stealing Luke away from him. Though, as far as he could tell, he knew that Thalia wasn’t too fond of Percy either.

But that still didn’t explain that horrible itchy feeling of the sight of two of them brushing shoulders.

Percy shakes his head and leans against the window. He hears Luke laugh loudly when Sally talks about how he loved taking baths.

Percy shuts his eyes. He doesn’t know he’s asleep until he’s knee-deep in a dream.

Annabeth’s talking to some monster with a long, spiky tail and bright orange skin. Her hair is untied again, slightly longer, less curly. Her back is facing him. The skin of the of her neck is ashen and pale, a sort of ugly yellow in colour. She’s not feeling well. She’s wearing an ancient Greek toga, stopping mid-thigh. Kronos’ casket is right beside her, with its swirling inscriptions and images.

The monster screams. “To the hell with that! We can just kill them.”

Annabeth says calmly, “No. We will not get the mortals involved as much as we can.”

“They’re pathetic creatures,” the monster spits out. “Unworthy of even existing.”

Her eyes flash. “Have you forgotten that I am part mortal?” she asks steely. The monster lifted its gaze challengingly. “Precisely my point.”

A saccharine smile stretches across Annabeth’s face; twisted, dark and terrifying. “Do you mistake the lord’s judgement?” she asks coolly. The monster’s face drops and he shakes his head. “Good.” Annabeth nods. “Now get the hell away from here.”

After a moment the monster bows slightly and half walks, half crawls away. Her neck droops for a second. Then she turns around. This time she can’t see him. She walks away from the casket. She reaches the other wall and collapses against it, talking in deep breaths. She rests her head against the wall and closes her eyes.

He doesn’t know what to do, so he sits beside her, careful not to touch her.

She says, “I don’t know what I’m doing anymore.”

He tries to reply, but he can’t.

Suddenly she slams her palm on the ground roughly. A sharp stone cuts her skin and trickles of red blood flow down in.

They both stare at it.

“The unclaimed,” she says. “For them. The gods have done nothing.”

The gods are pricks, he wants to tell her. But Kronos is much much worse.

He can’t speak.

Annabeth sighs slowly, tiredly. “Percy-”

Percy’s shaken awake.

.

Thalia’s laughing, holding on to Luke’s shoulders as they awkwardly dance together. Percy watches from the wall. Luke’s smile is as bright as ever.

He averts his gaze from them and it falls on a girl with blonde hair, sitting near the music station.

He wonders how dancing with Annabeth would be.

He shakes his head, trying to physically dislodge that thought. He leans against the cool wall. The two siblings are sitting quietly in the other corner of the room. Thalia and Luke are keeping an eye on them as they dance. Grover’s standing close to them, just in earshot of their conversations.

The music changes to some metal/rock/punk or whatever, with loud drum beats and guitar riffs. The singer’s incomprehensible, half screaming, half making some weird chocking noise. All of the couples break up immediately, some of them bobbing with the beat, some of them awkwardly making their way out of the dance floor, and the rest headbanging and moshing to the music.

Luke catches Percy’s eye. He grins and mouths, you having fun?

Percy shrugs. I guess?

Luke rolls his eyes and gestures to the dance floor. Dude, get your ass here.

Percy rapidly shakes his head. No way. Are you mad?

Fine. Luke raises his hand placatingly. I’ll come there then.

He taps Thalia on the shoulder, who is screaming along with the music, shaking her hands and hips with the beat. She looks much more in place now, her black ‘death-to-barbie’ T-shirt not quite weird and extrinsic. They had caught quite a few eyes when they first entered the hall; this was a formal dance, all the girls were wearing dresses and the guys were in shirts, not ripped jeans, an off-shoulder t-shirt and short, punk style hair like Thalia. Not that Percy was dressed any better; he was wearing a faded green shirt and an old pair of jeans, patched up after all the monster fights.

Among all of them, only Luke was dressed sort of to the occasion, with neatly ironed khakis and a semi-formal shirt. As he walks towards him, Percy realises that he looks pretty good in the clothes too.

Luke grins when he approaches him.  “You know,” he says. “When there’s music, most people dance.”

Percy smiles sheepishly, and rubs the back of his neck. “I had no one to dance with,” he defends. “Unless you want me to dance with Grover.”

They both collectively shudder at that. Grover wasn’t the most….graceful of people.

Luke leans against the wall beside him. “You could’ve joined me and Thalia.”

Percy shrugs. “It didn’t look like you wanted me around.”

Luke’s visibly startled by that statement; his electric eyes widen slightly. “What’s that supposed to-”

He doesn’t finish the sentence. Grover’s distress is so strong that Percy can even feel it bleed through his empathy link. He immediately scans the hall. Across all the thrashing heads on the dance-floor, he catches sight of the satyr.

The siblings are gone.

.

Percy feels as if his insides are on fire, burning and scorching him to ashes. His head is heavy and dizzy and he feels like vomiting everything he’s ever eaten out in one go. It’s like he’s twelve again and stepping into Camp Half-Blood for the first time, skin raw and throbbing, aching aching aching.

Thalia’s dealing with the pain in her own way, sitting immobile on the ground, eye’s wide and blank. She doesn’t move, it’s like she’s not even breathing.

Percy doesn’t feel like that. He feels like ripping out Riptide and running after the manticore, jumping down the cliff himself, running running running until his legs give out, after which he’ll crawl after him. He feels like screaming and fighting until he’s sore and bloody everywhere.

But he can’t do anything but stare in shock at the edge of the cliff, as if physically willing Luke to suddenly pull himself up, with that wide, sunshine bright grin.

He doesn’t.

Beside him, Artemis stands, bow upright, arrows in the quiver, staring down the edge. He still can’t get that the tiny, twelve year old girl in front of him, is the goddess of the hunt. The rest of the hunters hurriedly shuffle around, setting up camp. Bianca and Nico are with their leader, Zoe, who’s giving them the introduction to the 101 class of The Gods Are Real, Don’t Freak Out, Your Dad’s One Of Them.

Artemis lets out a deep breath.

“He is gone,” she announces, converting her bow back into a silver locket. She turns around and looks at Percy on the ground. She doesn’t look like she cares very much about the fact that his best friend just possibly died, which is expected, because she does hate men.

“Get up, boy,” she says. “We need to discuss something.”

Percy startles. He nods slightly, and unsteadily gets up onto his feet. He belatedly remembers to bow.

Something flashes in Artemis’s molten silver eyes. She adjusts the quiver on her back. “Mourning will do him no good.”

Percy’s too upset to even try to be respectful. “Well if he’s dead, nothing can do him good,” he snaps. He immediately realises his mistake. He freezes, hoping the goddess won’t turn him into demigod meat for her wolves.

A slight smile curls onto her face.

“Who says he is dead, son of Poseidon?”

The wolves howl loudly into the night.


He knows he should look away, but he’s still staring. The threads are all interwoven now. Green and GreyBlack and Green and Blue. Suddenly, the middle lady stops twisting.


 

He’s reaching out. Almost there, almost there, almost there, he chants feverishly. Hold on, hold on, hold on. He’s almost at the edge- he leans forward, arms outstretched, fingers reaching forward forward forward…

They skim the edge of the skin, barely ghosting its surface and Luke is falling backwards into the darkness. He’s falling he’s falling and-

“Luke!” Percy screams, lurching out of bed. There’s a thin coat of sweat covering his face and arms, and he pants loudly, greedily taking in air. The Poseidon Cabin is as large and empty as ever, and now, even Tyson’s loud snoring is gone. Sometimes, when the dreams got too much, Percy would sneak into the Hermes Cabin to get Luke and they’d spend the night near the lake. Luke even taught Percy how to skip stones, and Percy improved his control over water under his sharp eyes.

But now Luke’s gone.

Screw Chiron, Percy decides. Screw the hunters too. I’m going to save Luke even if it kills me.

He spars with the dummies in the arena until sunrise.


 

He can hear the other kids playing in the park. He knows he should be getting home soon, but his legs are rooted in place. A boy runs past him, holding a toy aeroplane in the air. He can hear them laugh, carefree and happy.

He wonders why no one else can see the three ladies.


 

 “Keep her safe,” Nico pleads. “Please.”

Percy knows he shouldn’t be making promises he cannot keep, but he nods.

“Okay.”


 

The fruits are fresh and quite appetizing. Maybe he could cross the pathway and buy some of them. They looked delicious. And he could ask those ladies what they were going to knit with so much thread. Maybe the world’s largest sweater?


 

He watches Bianca die.

The figurine is still warm in his hand, from being pressed against her olive skinned palms. He thinks of Nico, and how the boy would hate him forever. Nico, who has no family anymore, Nico whose bright smile and love for mythomagic would probably fade away.

Nico Nico Nico.

He watches Bianca die and all he can think of is how unfair it is for her little brother.


 

His mother might be worried. But he’s five. He can take care of himself.


 

He sits by Thalia after they set up camp for the night. He notices up close, that the tips of her hair are dyed a deep, midnight blue, and she’s got two piercings at the tip of her eyebrow. She’s got a scattering of freckles across her face.

She glances at him as he sits down. Besides that first conversation when she woke up, neither of them had spoken properly to each other alone, with Luke acting as mediator. He thinks it’s less to do with them than to do with their parents. Both of them aren’t supposed to exist, and that makes them awkward around each other.

“What do you want?” she asks bluntly. Percy holds up his hands. “Is it a crime to sit down now?” Thalia shrugs noncommittally. Percy plays with the frayed end of his shirt.

“So, why do the hunters hate you?” he blurts out and immediately curses himself. Of all things he can decide to bring up, he chooses this.

Thalia looks at him carefully. “I think hate’s a strong word.”

Percy bites his lip. Well, there’s no going back now.

“I’m pretty sure Zoe has been shooting eye lasers at you from the beginning of the quest.”

Thalia’s mouth stretches into a slight smirk. “Yeah, that’s for sure,” she admits. “But I think that’s more to do with disappointment than hate.” She stretches her legs in front of her and leans back, staring at the sky.

“Why would she be disappointed?” Percy asks.

“They tried to recruit us,” Thalia says. “Me and… Annabeth.” She stumbles slightly at the name. She clears her throat and continues. “They got Luke to chase after one of the wolves and cornered us. Gave us their whole campaign speech. Annie was only seven, she didn’t understand too much, but I did.”

She looks at Percy.

“I said no.”

Grover and Zoe are conversing near the campfire, holding up a map. In the pale moonlight, Zoe glows sort of silver with this aura around her. Percy wonders how old she is.

Thalia moves to get up. Percy finds himself asking. “Why?”

Her bright blue eyes meet his own sea-green ones. They’re so different from Luke’s, he realises. Far more volatile, dark and erratic.

She says quietly, “I thought I would lose what matters most.”

She brushes off some dust from her jeans and stands up. She looks across at Zoe, with a thoughtful expression on her face and then glances back at him. As she walks towards the campfire, she says, as if on an afterthought. “Annabeth… Annie nearly joined though.”

He wonders why he feels something akin to relief when he realises that she didn’t.

.

Rachel Elizabeth Dare.

“I owe you one!” he shouts, dodging through the crowds atop the dam.

“You owe me your full name!” she calls back, hands on her hips, glaring. She impatiently brushes back her long red bangs and watches him run away. “Boys,” she mutters.

Rachel Elizabeth Dare.

R.E.D.

.

Luke’s hair isn’t even blond anymore, it’s ashen yellow, and greyish and dull. He looks bone-dead tired, sweat pooling all over his forehead and cheeks. His arms are trembling; Percy can practically see his muscles straining and flexing. He’s oh so weak and exhausted and nearly on the verge of collapsing, but the main emotion possessing Percy is bone-deep relief, because Luke is so beautifully alive and there.

He doesn’t even think twice about flinging himself by his side and taking the load away from him. Luke doesn’t even seem to notice his presence, when Percy presses his palms against his cheeks and looks into his eyes.

“Luke,” he screams. His blue eyes blink blearily and a little recognition appears in them.

“Percy…” he murmurs and then collapses. Immediately Percy is crushed under the immense weight of the sky and how did Luke carry this?

He watches vaguely as Artemis and Zoe begin to fight Atlas. He notices Thalia standing unmoving, staring in shock.

Percy realises why. Annabeth walks out of the shadow, wielding her silver sword, a sort of maniacal gleam in her eyes. The two of them talk, but Percy cannot make out what they are saying. Luke’s curled up next to him, his back pressed to Percy leg, and for a moment, he’s immeasurably glad that Luke’s unconscious, so that he doesn’t have to face Annabeth.

There’s a loud shout and Thalia charges at Annabeth. They fight fast and furiously, swords cutting through the air, clashing with each other loudly. Thalia attacks wildly, while Annabeth plays defence, cautiously moving, grey eyes continuously calculating and assessing. Thalia has no such inhibitions, she fights with all her strength, teeth blared, snarling out insults as they move in a flurry of spars and cuts and stabs. Percy notices there are tears falling from her eyes, raw throbbing emotions of betrayal all over her face. Annabeth, for her part, looks completely emotionless.

Suddenly, Thalia says something and Annabeth looks towards them. When she meets Percy’s eye, she suddenly falters, and misses a step. Thalia takes advantage of this opening and pushes angrily. Annabeth weakly tries to deflect her strike but fails. 

She stumbles backward.

They’re fighting on a cliff. Annabeth steps on the edge. For a moment Percy feels as if times stops still. Annabeth’s grey eyes meet his as she leans backward. There’s a choice presented to her there, whether to free fall into the ocean’s embrace or claw on and fight.

She closes her eyes.  

Annabeth falls.


 

Something persistently gnaws at his stomach. The lady doesn’t move her hands, holds the three threads up still. He feels as if he’s being presented a choice.


Thalia chooses to be a hunter. It’s clear now that he’s the prophecy boy.

Luke’s pressed close to him throughout the whole ceremony sort of thing in Olympus. Percy lets his scent waft over him, calming him down. Luke’s still in a rough shape, even after the ambrosia and nectar. He’ll need some time to properly heal.

When they ride down the elevator, he leans heavily against the metal wall and sighs deeply. Percy self-consciously touches the grey strand of hair from the whole holding up the sky thing. Luke’s got a matching one, except it’s a lot bigger and darker.

Percy clears his throat and awkwardly begins. “So I’m sorry about, um, Thalia…” he says.

Luke lifts his head and shoots him a confused look. Percy elaborates, “You know, about her becoming a hunter. I know… you liked her.”

Then he’s the one who’s confused when Luke begins to chuckle. He leans his head against the wall and says, “I’m not upset. I mean, it’s a good thing for her. And…I don’t like her.” He shrugs. “I mean, I did. But more like a sister, you know? Not in the whole wedding bells sort of way.”

Percy’s eyes widen.

“Really?”

Luke looks at him likes he’s completely stupid. “Percy,” he says slowly, a smile threatening to break across his lips. “Percy, I’m gay.”

Now Percy feels really really stupid. “Oh,” he replies. “Oh gods, I’m sorry I didn’t know.” How did he not know that his own best friend was gay? How?

Luke shrugs and laughs. “It’s okay, most people don’t.”

Oh, OH. Something flips in the bottom of Percy’s stomach.

A silence falls between them. Percy awkwardly tries to break it. “So, eh, when did you…figure it out?” Stupid stupid stupid.

Luke cracks a grin. “I always sort of knew, you know? And then after a while it just became clear.”

Percy nods. “Oh, okay.”

Luke shoots him a questioning look. “So you’ve never ever even guessed? Or had a doubt or something?”

“...No.”

Luke shakes his head, a smile playing across his lips. He looks up at the top of the lift. “Dude,” he says. “You’re so oblivious, it’s ridiculous.”

Percy turns a slight red at the comment. He sheepishly tries to defend himself. “It’s not like you were really obvious about it and-”

Luke holds up a hand to stop him ramble. “Nah chill. I was kidding.”

A silence falls between them again, but it’s less awkward than comforting. Percy plays with Riptide, twisting it between his fingers. Luke hums along with the elevator music. It’s a really long ride down.

Percy keeps replaying the talk he had with Thalia over and over again, until he figures out what she meant. And then he tries to desperately forget it so he doesn’t blurt it out or something…..

He finds himself talking. “Thalia…I think Thalia…” he stumbles over his words, cursing his stupid lack of brain control over them. Luke looks at him curiously. He takes in a deep breath. “I think Thalia liked you like that you know.”

Percy’s head hangs low. Holy Poseidon, he’s acting like a third grader.

When he looks up, Luke’s looking wistfully at the metal doors of the elevator. He smiles softly and sadly. “Yeah,” he says quietly. “I know.” He runs a finger absently down the scar on his face. “For a long time I thought I felt the same too, until,” he shrugs. “Until I realised that some feelings were just stronger than others.”

Oh, Percy thinks. Oh.


 

The lady’s still holding the threads up. He knows there’s a choice to make, but what?


 

He’s almost there, almost. He can make out the jagged edge of the cliff. A few more steps, a few more pushes and he’ll reach it. His shoulder’s ache like he’s holding the world up. He knows he’s bruised and bleeding but he keeps running towards the cliff. Nearly there, nearly there. A figure’s standing at the edge, face hooded, but he can make out a hint of bright blonde hair. A cry escapes his throat. It’s Luke, it’s got to be Luke.

It’s like watching him fall all over again. The figure faces him, and just when he reaches the edge, arms outstretched, he misses. The figure free-falls backward, the wind ripping around, pushing up the hood that’s covering the face.

It’s Annabeth.

He screams, “Wise Girl!”

Percy lunges forward, his fingers reaching out for hers. For a spilt second he thinks he’s missed them and she’s going to die die die, fall into the darkness, and be lost forever.

And then her fingers latch on to his. The sudden weight nearly dislodges his shoulder, but the warmth from her hand pressed into his gives him the strength to drag her up. They both collapse on the ground, panting heavily. She pushes the hood down completely, revealing her messy array of blonde curls. Her grey eyes catch his and they’re shining in a way he’s never seen before, but is so achingly achingly similar.

Both her hands wrap around his face. She leans forward and breaths, “Seaweed Brain-”

Percy wakes up with a start.

.

Sally adjusts his collar for the seventh time. Percy rolls his eyes and whines, “Moooom, it’s only school.”

Sally absently pats his cheek, finally letting go of the collar. Her brown eyes sparkle warmly. She raises an eye-brow.

“It’s your first day of school, Percy. Your first day at Goode High School. And,” she leans forward with a smirk on her face. “You have a date with Luke.”

Percy sputters and swats her away. Sally laughs, leaning back. Percy glares at her. “Mom, it’s Luke. And plus, he’s a boy.

“So?” Sally laughs. “I approve of him already.”

Percy picks up his bag grumpily. “Approve is an understatement. Sometimes I think you love him more than me, your son.

Sally smiles and wraps her hands around him in a hug. She kisses his forehead. “Have fun in school, dear. Oh, and on your date.” Percy lets out a long-suffering sigh. Sally giggles.

As he walks out of the apartment door, Sally calls out to him. When he turns around, she’s biting her lip unsurely, her eyes a little more serious. “Percy, darling, you know I’ll love you even if you are gay right?”

A smile spreads across Percy’s face. He nods. “I know, mom.”

.

Of course everything goes to hell, and he runs into Rachel Elizabeth Dare of all people. And once again she saves his life.

“I-I,” Percy looks at her helplessly, as the school building burns behind him. Rachel grins and shoots him the peace symbol. “Don’t worry about,” she tells him. “I’ll take care of it.” She gestures to Luke, who’s standing in the corner waiting for him. “Go go go,” she says.

Percy smiles gratefully at her.

“I owe you twice,” he shouts as he runs towards Luke.

She screams back. “Well, you can be my friend then Percy Jackson!”

Percy can’t stop the grin from spreading across his face.

.

 “You, me, and Grover,” Luke says. “Just like old times. We’re going to find this God Pan and kick those Elder’s in the ass.”

Percy nods. “Always,” he promises.

.

They’re squeezed in Zeus’s fist only for a few tense minutes, shoulder to shoulder, arm to arm. It’s hot inside, and Percy can barely breathe. Luke is so close to him.

When they stumble out thinking the coast is clear, Clarisse nearly cries out in relief.

They’ve been gone three hours.

She then proceeds to whack them both on the head.

.

Luke’s serious and tense in the meeting. “It’s the Labyrinth’s entrance,” he explains. He swallows and then continues. “Annabeth will definitely know about it. It’s a possible route for infiltration.”

“We have to find Daedalus.”

No one sees Quintus flinching in the corner.

.

Luke is pale and sweaty when he stumbles out of the attic.

Percy clutches his arm to steady him.

“You okay?”

Luke nods, even though he’s obviously not.

.

The maze is twisting and turning and wrong.

Janus appears and then Hera confusing them all even further.

Gods, Luke mumbles to him, enjoy toying with us as much as the monsters.

Percy cannot disagree.

.

He thinks they’re going to die.

There’s no way he can clean this stable. But Luke looks at him trustingly and holds a thumb up. You can do it, he mouths.

I can do it, Percy thinks.

.

Nico is a sad angry boy, and that stupid ghost isn’t making anything better.

Seeing Bianca again rips out the scabs from his wounds all over again, and despite what she says, he keeps thinking, it’s my fault, I didn’t keep her safe, he can hate me, he should hate me.

“Don’t hold a grudge,” she pleads to Nico. “Don’t fall prey to our fatal flaw.”

“You left me,” he whispers and suddenly the connection is gone.

Luke holds out his hand, smiling ever-so-softly.

“Come with us,” he offers. Percy can barely recognize him anymore. The smiling, happy mythomagic boy is completely gone.

“Never,” Nico spits out.

.

They all stare at each other.

Finally Luke cuts in. He tells Grover, “Go, find Pan. It’s your destiny.”

Percy can faintly feel Grover apprehension leaking through his empathy link. He turns to Tyson. “Go with him.”

They’re splitting up in a maze which has no beginning and no end, filled with monsters and darkness.

Luke grabs his shoulder and grins. “Just you and me against the world, yeah?”

Percy smiles.

.

They’re going to die.

They’re going to die.

They are surrounded completely, with nowhere to go. Luke’s arm is twisted badly, and Percy’s panting heavily, desperately trying to breathe. It’s getting hotter and hotter, and he knows it’s only a matter of minutes before it blows.

They are going to die.

He grabs Luke’s shoulder and shouts, “You’ve got to go!”

Luke shakes his head rapidly. “Are you fucking kidding me? I’m not leaving you here alone.”

Luke places both his hands on Percy’s shoulder and looks at him. Suddenly, Percy realises how much taller Luke is, compared to him. How much older he is. Percy’s turning fifteen in a few months, but Luke’s already an adult.

He shakes his head. “Go go go, I can handle them until you’re safe.”

Luke’s electric eyes blaze. He stubbornly sets his jaw. “I am not leaving you.”

They’re going to die.

“Please, Luke, please,” he begs. “You’ve got to get back to camp and warn them. The camp needs you.”

“They need you too.”

Rocks begin to fall from the ceiling, and Percy can feel the lave churning beneath their feet.

“I’m buying you time,” he screams. “I’m not even supposed to be alive.”

And then Luke’s pulling him forward, arms wrapped around his shoulders, and he’s kissing him. One two three, his lips move insistently against Percy’s, one two three.

He breaks free. “You are meant to be alive,” he says fiercely. “You are meant to be here.”

His electric eyes are burning, raging, and all-encompassing. Oh, Percy thinks. Oh.

He holds on to him tightly. The earth is beginning to shake now. “Luke, please. Let me at least save you.”

They both stare at each other- Luke angrily, rage all over his face. Then suddenly he softens slightly and nods. “Okay,” he says. “Okay.” Relief floods every bone in Percy’s body.

Luke grabs his face and kisses him again.

“Please don’t die,” he says, looking straight into Percy’s eyes. “Please don’t die.”

“I promise.”

The last thing Percy remembers when the rock begins to rain down upon him is Luke’s grin.

It’s a choice, but he doesn’t understand why he has to make it.

He glances at the third lady holding out the grey thread.

He wakes up with his head pounding and a name dying on his lips. He sits up immediately. Luke.

A gentle hand pushes him back down into the soft caress of the bed. “Sleep, hero,” a voice whispers and Percy listens to it.

He dreams.

.

Annabeth’s wearing the toga again, staring at a sarcophagus. He instinctively knows its Kronos inside. She’s alone, standing immobile, as if in a trance. He walks towards her. When he’s right in front of her, she opens her eyes.

The same stormy grey.

“Percy Jackson,” she says, surprised. Immediately she regains her composure. “What are you doing here?” She unsheathes her sword, long and silver. “It’s called Backbiter,” Luke once told him. “She got it on her quest.”

Percy fumbles for Riptide and uncaps it. The bright bronze lights up the dark room slightly.

Annabeth asks again, “What are you doing here?”

“I don’t know.”

They’re suddenly falling.

.

He stumbles across the barrier. A girl with princess curls comes running towards him.

“It’s him, it’s got to be him.”

.

They’re sitting together in the truck, sharing a granola bar.

“I don’t hate you,” she says.

.

“You’re such a Seaweed Brain.”

“Well, you’re such a- such a, Wise girl.”

“So creative, Percy.”

.

He’s a guinea pig, and she’s so very pretty.

She helps him out and laughs and laughs and laughs.

“Oh, Seaweed Brain.”

.

She laughs, “Dance with me.”

.

She’s falling falling falling.

.

She touches the strands of grey among his raven black hair.

“You came back for me,” she whispers.

“I’ll always come for you, Wise Girl.”

.

She’s going to join the hunters, he knows it, he knows it, she going to leave him and-

“What were you trying to tell me?”

“Nothing.”

.

She’s jealous of Rachel. He doesn’t understand why.

.

“Nice,” he grins.

“You’re armour is crooked,” she says.

.

She’s shivering and pale.

“What was the prophecy?”

She tells him.

He frowns. “There’s more to it.”

“No, there isn’t.”

.

She’s shaking after Hera leaves.

He wonders what choice she has to make.

.

She’s arguing with the Sphinx. Part of him is impressed, while the other half knows her pride is going to get them killed.

.

“We’ll find the workshop before Luke.”

“Will we Percy?”

.

They’re dying, they’re dying, they’re dying.

“But you’ll be killed,” she screams.

“I’ll be fine. And besides, we’ve got no choice,” he tells her.

For a moment she looks like she’s going to punch him. And then she roughly fists his t-shirt and pulls him forward for a kiss. He closes his eyes in surprise.

“Be careful, Seaweed Brain,” she says and vanishes.

.

She’s laughing. He’s never seen her laugh before.

.

“Percy…”

.

“Perseus Jackson!”

.

“Oh god, you idiot.”

.

“Seaweed Brain...”

.

“Seaweed Brain…”

.

Seaweed Brain…

He wakes up with a start.

.

Calypso is warm, kind, gentle and welcoming. He vaguely remembers stories about her; something to do with falling in love and banishment. She helps him eat the ambrosia and drink the nectar, fingers lightly dancing across his skin as she helps him sit up.

She takes one look at his green eyes and sighs deeply.

She touches the side of his forehead, fingers brushing his temple. He finds himself unconsciously leaning into her touch.

She says, “You should rest.”

He agrees.

.

Percy can’t sleep. He’s tossed and turned, but every time he closes his eyes he’s accosted with mixed memories, Luke unleashing the Hellhound on him, Annabeth taunting Polyphemus, Luke smiling coldly at him near Atlas, Annabeth holding his hand in the maze, Luke sparring with him, grinning, Annabeth poisoning Thalia’s tree, Luke falling down the cliff, Annabeth falling down the cliff-

He cannot, cannot sleep.

Calypso is lit up in the pale moonlight, tending to her flowers. Her hands gently mould the earth and she sings a soft lullaby that soothes Percy’s beating heart. He drops down ungracefully next to her.

She smiles at him.

“Your garden is beautiful,” he tells her.

“Do you have a garden where you come from?” she asks.

He shakes his head. “I wish,” he says, wistfully staring across the swaying plants. She follows his gaze.

“You can stay,” she says quietly. “You’ll be immortal; you can live without any worries forever.” You can stay with me.

Percy wonders.

.

Under the moonlight again, Percy confesses.

“I don’t know what to do.”

Calypso looks up from the earth. There’s a smudge of dirt across her cheek and he stretches out to rub it off. He rests his thumb on her warm skin.

She gently lifts his hand back down and grasps it between her own.

“Do what your heart says.”

“My heart is lost,” he says. “I don’t understand anything. I don’t even know my reality anymore.”

She smiles sadly at him.

“My hero, you have to go back for someone.”

“I don’t if it is the right person.”

She squeezes his hand. “There is never a right or wrong. What you choose is always right to you.”

“I feel like I’m part of two different worlds,” he admits. “And I don’t know which one is real anymore.”

Calypso lets go of his hand and stands up. Her white dress sways in the slight breeze, He notices that the hemline is dirtied and ripped slightly, and yet the fabric shimmers with some unseen magic.

“It doesn’t matter which is real,” she says. “What matters is which makes you feel.

.

Just before he steps onto the raft, Calypso presses a small sapling into his hands.

“Grow a garden for me in Manhattan,” she says, blinking back her tears.

Percy looks desperately at her. “I’ll get you out, I’ll come back for you,” he promises.

She shakes her head sadly. She wraps her hands around his shoulders and kisses him on the forehead. “Go, my hero. Go and chase your destiny.”

She will always be his biggest what-if.

.

When he sees Luke again, it feels as if something heavy and deep in his chest cracks and breaks. It’s like he can breathe again.

Luke’s eyes are puffed and red-rimmed and he’s in the process of burning his shroud when he catches Percy’s eye across the amphitheatre. He drops the cloth with a cry and then he’s sprinting towards him, electric eyes bright and so so blue.

For a moment, Percy thinks he’s going to punch him in the stomach, but instead, Luke crushes him in a huge bear hug.

“I thought you were dead,” he says hoarsely into his shoulder.

“I promised,” Percy replies.

.

Rachel Elizabeth Dare agrees to help them with no problem whatsoever.

Which is pretty surprising, but Percy doesn’t pause to ponder about it. They’re back in the maze again, this time moving at a much faster rate thanks to her help. They’ve still not heard anything from Grover and Tyson, which worries Percy a lot.

They don’t discuss the kiss.

.

Percy’s pacing up and down in a tiny jail cell. They’ve been captured by some minions of Annabeth, who promptly separate him from Luke and Rachel, and throw him in the cell. One Empousai slithered toward him and explained that he had to fight to death to provide entertainment to his lord, Antaeus.

And he’s waiting alone there, for his turn to come up.

He can faintly hear the screams and jeers of monsters from somewhere above him. Something thuds loudly against the ceiling, releasing a shower of dust and sand.

Percy coughs and tries to shield his eyes and nose from it.

He hears the creak of a door open. Through the dust, he vaguely makes out a figure standing in front of the bars of the cell.

A clear voice cuts through the faint noise. “Percy Jackson.”

It’s Annabeth.

Percy staggers forward a little, away from the dust, and can make out her features. Her skin is even paler and ashen; she had lost the nice California tan she was sporting when he first met her. Her hair is much shorter and falls limply across her shoulders. She’s dressed in a white toga.

His heart lurches to his throat.

She looks sick, physically drained and tired. Yet, her eyes are as sharp as ever.

“Name the god who’s helping you,” she commands. “It cannot be Morpheus, because he is loyal to lord Kronos. Who is it?”

Percy blinks at her. “Annabeth,” he says. “Listen, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Shut up,” she snaps. “You’ll tell me now, or I can make this much much worse for you.”

Percy glares at her. “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”

She steps closer, eyes blazing. “The dreams,” she says fiercely. “Haven’t you been having them too?”

They’re only inches apart now, separated by only thin metal bars. His mind races, she’s been having the same visions too?

“You’re the Athena kid, shouldn’t you figure it out yourself?” he asks derisively. At the mention of her mother, her eyes get even darker and stormier. She steps closer. “I am not the daughter of Athena,” she spits out.

Percy rolls his eyes. “Even you can’t change your parents, Annabeth.”

Her fist collides with his nose. He can feel it break, a nasty crack of the bone. But before he can even register the pain, the contact of her skin to his sends a shock wave down his spine and suddenly he feels like his blood is singing and-

-and then it’s black.

Her dad’s twenty when he finds a baby girl at his doorstep. He’s in the middle of college, just beginning his life as an adult. He slogged his ass off for years before getting into Harvard as a History Major. And then he meets Athena, falls in love in that heady sort of way that only happens when you’re young and reckless, and now he has a child.

He’s twenty. He’s not ready for this kind of responsibility.

She calls it a gift.

He calls it a burden.

.

She’s only three, but she knows when she’s not wanted. Grandma is nice and lets her play with her jigsaw puzzles, but she knows it from the way her voice hushes whenever she talks to her dad, the way sometimes her eyes glaze tiredly as she scans the mess of papers on the floor, muttering that she was too old to be a mother again. In the way whenever she speaks to her dad on the phone he’s only barely listening, sweetie, I’ve got to go. Be nice to grandma, okay? Or Anna, I have some school work to catch up with, I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay?

She’s three, but she knows she doesn’t really have a family.

.

She’s four.

Grandma’s dead.

And it’s all her fault. The monster comes from nowhere, and Grandma can’t really see it, and Annabeth tries to scream, warn her, but it’s one swipe of a claw and she’s dead.

She’s four.

.

Her dad’s drunk.

She’s frightened and worried; he’s never ever drunk in front of her. Annabeth knows the effects of alcohol on the body and mind, and she tries to tell her dad this. He laughs bitterly and slurs out, “You’re just like your mother. Too smart for your own good.”

She tries to argue. “No dad, the smarter you are the better.”

He sneers at her. “She was like that too, Athena. Always so proud of herself. Never once thought anything she said was wrong. She said you’d be a gift! Ha!”

He takes another gulp out of the bottle. Annabeth sneaks into her room.

Athena, she chants in her head. Athena Athena Athena. It’s the first time he’s ever mentioned her mother.

.

Her dad wraps his hands around her in a tight hug in the morning.

“I’m so sorry,” he mumbles into her hair. “I’m so sorry.”

Her dad may not be her dad really. But he isn’t a bad man either.

“It’s okay,” she says.

.

He takes her to Massachusetts with him.

There’s this day care he drops her off at every day before school, and a nice lady teaches her to read and write despite her dyslexia. When it’s over, she waits an extra hour for a dad to pick her up, usually reading a book, practicing her writing or helping her teacher.

Her dad picks her up and they have take-out for dinner, and Annabeth thinks, maybe this is family.

.

He buys her a huge lego set after he learns about her obsession with buildings.

She squeals and hugs him hard. He smiles and kisses her on the forehead.

They’re getting there.

.

There are more monsters around. But she learns quickly how to avoid them. She hides inside trash cans or near homeless people, masking her scent.

If her dad notices that she smells like garbage, he doesn’t ask her about it.

.

She’s five. He comes in beaming, happier than she’s ever seen him.

“Annabeth,” he says, “I want you to meet someone special.”

.

Helen is nice enough. She smiles and listens as Annabeth rambles through what happened in school.

Dad’s not really dad, but at least they’re sort of a team now. Maybe even a family. If Helen makes him happy then, she shrugs, maybe it’s okay.

.

Helen can be your new mother, her dad tells her.

Annabeth frowns. “What about Athena?”

He’s confused. “What about her?”

“Isn’t she my mother?” Annabeth asks.

A shadow passes across his face.

“No, she isn’t.”

.

When Helen moves in, it’s like she completes that missing link. The jagged edges between Annabeth and her dad smooth into themselves and now they’re eating real, home cooked food instead of take-out every night, Annabeth doesn’t have to wait an extra hour at school, and her dad smiles more.

She realises that maybe she’s finally got a family.

.

When the monsters attack, Helen bundles her in her arms and rocks her slowly. She’s half Spanish, and she sings the lullabies her mother used to sing to her, when she was a child growing up in the winding streets of her little town. When Annabeth shudders and cries cries cries, she slowly wipes away her tears and says, “Chica, you’re special, so so special. And no one can ever change that, but they’ll always try.”

“They will always keep trying. Keep your head up, girl. No one can bring you down.”

.

She falls in love with Bobby and Matthew the second she sees them.

No one is going to touch her baby brothers.

.

She’s six.

Her father is arguing with a woman in the hall.

Helen grabbed her and dragged her into her bedroom where Bobby and Matthew were huddled together on the bed.

The shouting becomes louder, but Annabeth can’t make out what they’re saying. Bobby, always the more scared one, grabs Helen’s arm and clutches it. “Mommy,” he whispers, trembling, “Who is daddy arguing with?”

Helen’s pale and tenser than ever. She throws an arm protectively around Annabeth.

“No one,” she says. “It’s fine, darling.”

.

Her dad’s voice is louder than any other time she’s heard him scream.

She hears a distinct no.

Then the woman’s voice booms through the house, as if magically amplified. Helen freezes and pulls her closer.

“You’ll regret this, Frederick,” the woman says.” And you know it.”

“She’s not your daughter,” he replies with a chilly air of finality.

.

Annabeth crawls beside her dad on the couch.

“Who was it?” she asks. Her dad peers tiredly at her.

“Your mother.”

Annabeth bites her lip. “What did she want?”

He sighs and wraps his arm around her.

“She wanted to take you away from us,” he says tiredly.

“But why?”

“Because you’re special Annabeth, and you don’t know how much yet.”

.

She’s seven.

There are voices in her head. She can’t get them out.

There’s a tall lady in the doorway. Helen’s taken Bobby and Matthew to the dentist. Her dad’s in his office.

The lady stands straight like a poker, hands gripped strictly together in front of her body. She gazes down at her, proud, powerful, all-knowing. Annabeth tries desperately to stop shaking; something about this woman makes her feel so so scared, like before when she first began to see the monsters.

The lady smiles: saccharine, wide, fake. She says, “Annabeth, is your father home?”

She shakes her head, slowly. She carefully nudges the door lightly, and discreetly brings her hand to the door-knob.

The lady’s smile becomes brighter.

“Sleep,” she says.

Annabeth falls.

.

The fireman wakes her up.

“I’m so sorry,” he says.

No no no.

.

They could not figure out what caused the fire in two completely different locations.

Annabeth knows. It’s the monsters.

It’s your fault, the voices whisper gleefully. Your entire fault.

.

She can’t breathe.

The voices get louder and louder.

Your fault your fault your fault.

It’s like she’s never going to see the light again.

.

Helen’s mother lives in Spain. Annabeth takes one look at her picture and knows she can’t do this to her.

Death follows her wherever she goes.

No, she decides. She’d rather run away.

.

She meets Luke and Thalia, while huddling inside a trashcan.

Luke peers at her, smiling. “Hey kiddo, we won’t hurt you.”

She looks at him suspiciously. “Are you a monster?”

He laughs and shares a look with Thalia. “No, no, we’re the ones who fight them.”

.

When Grover finds them and promises to lead them to safety, Annabeth feels a dam of relief break in her chest. She holds Luke’s arm tiredly.

“Family,” he says.

She nods.

.

She’s eight and they stumble across the border. Her throat’s sore and she’s crying, Thalia, Thalia, Thalia. Luke stands still, stunned and shocked. He doesn’t react at all.

He doesn’t talk to Annabeth for three days, until he slips into her bed in the infirmary at night and cries into her shoulder.

Luke never cries.

They don’t mention it again.

.

She hates the gods. Hates them for killing Thalia, hates them for giving her this life.

Athena doesn’t claim her.

She hates her the most.

.

She’s nine and still staying in the Hermes Cabin. Luke tries to comfort her, saying maybe Athena’s waiting for the right moment, maybe she’s testing her. “Gods like testing demigods,” he tells her.

He doesn’t get it. He was claimed the minute he woke up in the infirmary. He’s even met his father.

Athena doesn’t want her.

Athena isn’t her mother.

.

She’s ten.

They call her one of the unclaimed.

.

She’s eleven.

They send her on a quest.

It’s a pity thing, she knows. She’s smart, strong and one of the best fighters they have.

And it’s also so painfully obvious that she’s Athena’s daughter.

It’s a pity quest.

She does it anyway.

.

It’s her twelfth birthday.

She’s blowing out her candles, laughing as all the campers cheer and whoop. Suddenly there’s a flash of bright light, and a lady stands tall on the podium.

She surveys the scene.

Immediately all the campers fall to their knees. A hushed silence falls among them. Chiron tries to smile, but it comes out more like a grimace. He bows, “Lady Athena, how may we help you?”

She stares right at Annabeth.

“My daughter,” she says. “Follow me.”

.

They’re in front of the Athena Cabin.

Annabeth clenches her hands into fists but wisely doesn’t say anything.

Athena gazes at her calculatingly. Annabeth hates that she looks so much like her, the same eyes, the same hair, the same face. The only difference is that her smile is her father’s bright and happy smile. She wonders if Athena can even smile.

She holds out a Yankees Cap to her. Annabeth takes it gingerly.

She turns it in her hands. She fights the urge to throw it on the ground and stamp it repeatedly. So typical of a goddess to ignore you for twelve years of your life, and suddenly appear holding a present as if it makes up for everything.

Athena’s grey eyes pierce hers.

“Speak your mind,” she commands.

Annabeth grits her teeth. It would be very very stupid of her to scream at one of the most powerful Olympian goddesses. She never loves you, the voices she’s never quite managed to silence, whisper to her. She was never your mother.

She screams, “You killed them! He didn’t listen to you, so you killed them! And then you ignore me for four years and then suddenly I’m your child again? Suddenly, I’m worthy of you? You killed them, they did nothing wrong and you killed them.

She screams until her throat is hoarse and she’s panting heavily. Athena is as calm and unruffled as ever. Annabeth wants to go up to her and pound her, continuously screaming, you murderer, you heartless murderer.

“I did not kill them,” she says. “I tried to save them.”

Annabeth laughs manically, disbelievingly. She can feel tears flow out of her eyes.

Athena’s eyes flash. “I tried to protect him, you’re one my most powerful daughters, your scent is too strong. It was only a matter of time. I tried to take you away, to keep him safe. But he wouldn’t let you go.”

“You cursed him,” Annabeth says quietly. “And you sent that lady to keep me away. And then you killed them.”

Athena looks faintly surprised. “What lady-”

“Don’t play with me,” Annabeth says tightly. “Stop pretending. Stop pretending.

“Silence,” Athena snaps. “I will not have you talking to me like that.”

Annabeth goes on as if she didn’t hear a word. “You have the nerve to claim I’m your daughter. Well, mother, I am not your daughter. I am Helen Chase’s; you are nothing to me.”

The voices laugh approvingly in her mind. She can feel her head pound and her nerves are raw and throbbing, yet she feels like she’s on fire, burning and scorching, razing all those mighty gods who looked at her like a pawn down.

She can hear the whispers, unclaimed unclaimed unclaimed, and feels the sting. She can see the flames burning the dentist’s office down, can hear Helen screaming, and Bobby and Matthew crying. She can see her dad lying face down on his desk, the fire flickering all around him.

And the laughter, oh gods, the laughter-

Athena’s face becomes taut. “You do not know what you are doing,” she warns. “You are walking down the wrong path.”

“On the contrary,” Annabeth says darkly, “I do. I’m not your daughter. And there is no wrong path for the one who takes it.”

“This is not your fate,” Athena says quietly.

Annabeth says flatly, “Dying was not their fate either.”

.

She smiles and waves the cap.

Chiron lets out a relieved sigh.

.

She begins to plan.

.

She moves into the Athena Cabin.

She hates it.

.

The voices in her head finally have a name.

.

.

Annabeth gasps and shudders.

Percy groans from the ground. The blood from his nose had dried, caking his face. His whole body aches, his muscles straining and screaming as he tries to sit up. He lifts his neck and sees Annabeth stumble and lean against the wall opposite his cell, breathing deeply. Her eyes are bright and maniacal, distressed and angry. Oh so angry.

She glances at him on the ground.

“I will kill you,” she says lowly. “I will kill you.”

It’s like she’s trying to convince herself.

Percy hears a loud high pitched scream pierce through the air and once again dust falls down from the ceiling. He closes his eyes to protect them.

When he opens them, she’s gone.

He doesn’t understand why he keeps looking at the grey thread.

When he fights Antaeus, Annabeth is collected and calm.

When she orders her troops to ruthlessly kill them, he blows the whistle, and leans into Luke’s warmth.

.

Quintus is Daedalus.

When he tells them that he’s helping Annabeth, Percy doesn’t know whether to cry or blast the whole damned place down with the water he can feel pulsating in the distance.

He does neither, but Luke punches Daedalus right in the face, and that’s good enough.

.

He feels like Icarus, flying too close to the bright bright sun.

Oh what a mighty fall it’s going to be.

.

Rachel’s rich.

He wonders how he hadn’t noticed.

.

Luke’s staring at him, arms crossed, glaring, trying to kill him with his sheer anger alone.

“You can’t go there alone,” he says tersely. “And I don’t care how strong you are or whatever.”

“Luke,” Percy sighs. “You know exactly why I need to go alone.”

“You don’t even know where it leads. It could be an entrance to Tartarus for all you know!” Luke shouts, throwing his hands up in the air. “Stop being so damned self-righteous.”

Rachel and Nico watch as if it’s a tennis match.

Percy raises his voice. “I’m the only one here strong enough to face him.”

Luke’s eyes blaze and the next thing Percy knows, he’s being slammed into the rocky wall. Luke pins him there, one arm on his shoulder, the other right beside his head. Rachel cries out.

Luke growls, “I’ve been fighting monsters from the goddamned age of eleven. I’ve got years and years of experience more than you, and I don’t give a flying fuck that you’re Poseidon’s son or whatever.” He pokes Percy on the chest. “You’re being a fucking arrogant son of a prick and you better get your head out of the clouds.”

Percy’s eyes are wide and shocked. Sure, he and Luke tussle and play around with each other, but it’s the first time Luke showed any aggression outside their sparring towards him.

He gulps and watches as Luke immediately freezes and stumbles back, releasing him. He shakes his head rapidly, and looks at Percy, horrified.

“Oh Hermes, I’m sorry, Perce.”

Percy shakes his head.

“No, I should apologize. You’re right; I was definitely getting too cocky.” He smiles sheepishly. “Thanks, bro.”

Luke smiles at him, and for a second, Percy’s a little blinded. They look at each other.

Nico coughs.

The moment is broken.

.

All four of them sneak into the Titan’s lair.

Percy recognizes it from all the dreams he’s had of Annabeth. He looks around and catches sight of the sarcophagus. It’s bright golden, almost glowing with a faint, pulsating light. He walks towards it as if in a trance.

Rachel calls out to him. He ignores her.

When he reaches it, in the back of his mind, something screams, urging him to leave. There’s something very unholy about the magic before him. Something wrong. There’s pit growing in the bottom of his stomach. His heart thuds loudly.

He reaches out and opens it.

It’s Annabeth.

.

Something shatters.

Percy doesn’t know whether it’s in his mind or in the cave.

.

Rachel cups her mouth.

Luke freezes.

Percy nearly blanks out.


 

He’s five and in the park.

He knows everything is going to go wrong.


 

Annabeth wakes up, her eyes opening. Percy expects them to be her stormy, dark grey, but they’re not.

They’re golden.


 

Fate should not be messed with.


 

Annabeth- no Kronos, smiles, stretching out his hands and legs.

They all stand rooted in place, horrified. He can feel the energy coming from Annabeth’s body, the power, the bloodlust. It’s disconcerting. Annabeth looks the same, the same blonde hair, the same paper skin and paper bones. She looks healthier now, as if being possessed by an ancient evil titan did wonders for one’s health.

Her golden eyes catch his. For a second they turn grey, and he can hear

Percy-

And then Kronos slows Time.

.

Rachel throws a blue hairbrush at the King of Titans, and Percy’s never respected someone so much before.

They all stumble out of the cave and run. Run run run run, randomly turning corners, praying to blind fate that they don’t end up falling into an eternal pit or something.

They don’t.

They reach what looks like an older part of the maze, and they all fall to the ground, groaning and panting.

Maybe they’ll be safe for a while.

.

He’s leaning heavily against Luke, head against his shoulders, and breathing in his scent. Luke’s shaken as well, except he hides it a lot better than Percy, whose all volatile emotions and anger and deep, bone aching sadness. Rachel’s lying on the floor beside them, staring up at the ceiling of the cave. There’s a part of him that wants to go and hold her tight because this cannot be easy. Nico’s still all black anger, and he’s sitting against the wall opposite them, holding his legs tightly to his thin, skinny frame by his knees.

“Tell me what the prophecy was,” Percy mumbles into Luke’s shoulder.

Luke sighs and hits his head against the wall.

“Tell me,” Percy insists. Maybe the prophecy will tell them how to save Annabeth, how to bring her back, how to turn golden back into stormy stormy grey.

Luke says,

 “You shall delve in the darkness of the endless maze,

The dead, the traitor, and the lost one raise. 

You shall rise or fall by the ghost king's hand, 

The child of Athena's final stand.

Percy’s brow furrows. “That’s abrupt.”

Luke hums in agreement, and adjusts his shoulder beneath Percy’s head slightly. He breathes out, and Percy can feel his chest move in and out and in and out.

He lifts his head.

“There’s more isn’t there?” he asks.

Luke looks sideways at him, and smiles easily, softly, so so deceitfully.

He shakes his head. “Of course not.”

Percy moves away from the warmth of Luke’s body and faces him. He looks into his eyes.

“Don’t lie,” he says, forcefully. “Tell me the entire thing.”

Luke’s smile becomes a little colder, a little harder. “There isn’t anything else, Jackson.”

Percy surges to his feet. He stands before Luke, arms crossed in front of him, glaring down. “Stop lying!” he says sharply. “That’s selfish. We’re a team remember? That prophecy affects us all.”

“No,” Luke says coolly. “It’s meant only for me.”

Percy clenches his fist. He breathes deeply, trying to control his urge to scream at Luke, with his insufferable, lying lying smile. Luke’s looking up at him, face expressionless, eyes guarded, his hands carefully edging toward his sword. Nico’s still staring impassively at them, while Rachel carefully sits up and watches with her bright green eyes.

They’ve never been like this, Percy realizes. Never so volatile, never so angry. Being with Luke was always like being near water for Percy. Calm, collected, soothing, comfortable, home. Home.

Luke was like home with Sally, blue cookies and warmth all packaged into one.

But now he felt like living with Gabe, always alert, careful, tip-toe tip-toe, don’t wake the drunk man up. Every move was going wrong; something between them was shriveling up and dying, ever since he came back from Calypso. This anger, this frustration, it was never directed at Luke before. Never Luke. Never home home home.

“It could save Annabeth,” Percy finally pleads, clenching his fists harder, almost drawing blood from his palms.

It was the wrong thing to say.

Luke’s face shuts off. His electric eyes become sharper, colder, cutting through Percy’s skin.

“It has nothing to do with Annabeth,” he says quietly. Rachel shuffles slightly, and even Nico looks a little alarmed at the new development.

Percy shakes his head. “How do you know that?”

Luke bites out, “Why do you care? Annabeth is gone.”

Percy shuts his eyes tightly and when he opens them, he can see stars. Why why why is the question. Maybe it’s because he knows what she’s gone through, what she’s lost, lost to fire, lost to the gods. Maybe it’s because Athena doesn’t deserve to have her as her daughter, because all that was innocent and warm about her was purged and lost the minute she started listening to the voices. Because she, of all people, deserves another chance, another life, free of all that binds her.

Maybe because of the way she says, Percy-

Or because she’s the most beautiful person he’s ever seen alive.

“Annabeth’s still there,” he chokes out; she is, she’s right there, calling for them to help her out.

Luke snorts derisively. “Annabeth died the minute Kronos was born again.” He looks at Percy. Says more gently, “She’s gone, Percy. You can’t keep thinking of her as Annabeth, but as Kronos, because otherwise, she’ll kill you.”

I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you.

“Annabeth won’t do that,” he says steadily, not budging an inch. “She’s too strong for Kronos to control.”

Luke’s face contorts with absolute rage. “Why do you care?” he hisses.

Percy breathes out. “Because no one else will.”

And then there is silence.

.

Luke follows Rachel stonily, refusing to speak to Percy, despite his attempts to bridge the gap. He still thinks Annabeth is still in there somewhere, but he knows that thought is not as important as not losing Luke.

He’s about to call out to him again when he pauses.

There’s a baseball hat lying on the floor.

Luke turns back to look at him, and in the moment their eyes meet, they know who it belongs to.

“Grover,” Luke breathes out.

Percy lets a smile build on his face.

.

Grover is the new Lord of the Wild.

Percy’s never been more proud of his best friend.

.

They burst out of the cave and hurry to the Big House.

Percy’s barely started speaking when a horn blares.

He hears the blood-curling scream of a camper.

The battle has started.

.

He’s moving on auto-drive, slashing, stabbing, drawing golden blood with every slice of Riptide. Luke’s fighting close to him, unleashing his own chaos into the fray. Not a single monster survives their combined efforts.

When Daedalus arrives it looks like they might even win.

.

Grover unleashes the panic.

It’s goddamn amazing.

.

Daedalus decides that this is the end.

He hands Percy Mrs. O’Leary’s whistle and smiles forlornly.

“Take care of her for me,” he says, brushing the fur under the hell-hound’s chin. Percy nods, and holds the whistle closer to his body protectively. Luke’s helping the injured campers, so many dead, so many almost lost. If he had the time, Percy would grieve, he would sob and yell and break something.

But he can’t grieve because it’s all his fault for not seeing through Annabeth’s plans earlier, for thinking that there was even the slightest iota of humanity still in her.

The darker part of his mind gleefully agrees.

Luke would disagree but-

-he’s not thinking of him right now.

Daedalus straightens. Nico’s standing a few feet away, waiting.

“I’ve lived a long life,” he says. “But I cannot think of a worthier way to die.”

But this is not worthy, Percy thinks. This is an old man trying to atone for all his sins; this is man trying to wipe clean an ocean of blood with one single good deed.

The world does not work that way.

The way Daedalus’ eyes are shining means he thinks he’s going to heaven. He thinks he’s going to rest in peace, die so he does not have to witness the downfall of so many lives.

So many lives, Percy thinks bitterly. So many shrouds to burn, so many shrouds already burnt.

Daedalus thinks he’s going to Elysium. And maybe he will.

But that doesn’t mean it is right or it is fair.

Percy smiles. “You’re a hero,” he says, swallowing the bile rising at his words.

Daedalus laughs. “No, you are, Son of Poseidon.”

He nods at Nico-

-and he’s gone.

.

“Stay here,” Percy says.

Nico shakes his head. “Only the dead will accept me.”

.

Luke’s staring into the ashes of the bonfire. Percy stands beside him.

He takes in a deep breath, it’s now or never.

“Tell me the rest of the prophecy,” he says softly. Luke shuts his eyes and his face sags, revealing lines of tiredness and age. He looks far too old- as old as Chiron, as if he’s witnessed things that have weighed down his entire life.

“Who is Annabeth to you?” Luke asks instead. Percy carefully thinks about his answer.

“I don’t know,” he says finally, truthfully.

Luke’s shoulders sag further, and when he turns towards Percy, he looks so sad, so drained, as if he’s lost all that is dear to him.

“Destroy with a hero's final breath,” he recites. He pauses and takes in a deep breath. “And lose a love to worse than death,” he finishes weakly.

Percy bites his lip to stop himself from surging forward.

“Oh,” he says, and Luke smiles wearily.

“Do you know what it means?” Percy asks finally.

Luke gazes back into the ashes.

“I think I do,” he says quietly.

.

When he’s leaving back home after summer, Luke comes down the hill to drop him off.

When his case is packed and ready, they look at each other, the air loaded and tense.

Percy fiddles with his fingers awkwardly. He wants to tell Luke to come with him, stay with him for a while longer, gain back all that was lost between them. That feeling of warmth and security Percy gets from him is still there, but its fainter and muted. He doesn’t like that at all.

Luke finally smiles easily, and steps forward to wrap his hands around Percy’s shoulders. He pulls him down and ruffles his hair. Percy laughs and tries to swat away the older boy’s hands.

“Hey, stop that!” he says indignantly, but Luke just chuckles. He releases him and steps back.

He lifts his hand up. “Tell Sally I said hi,” he says.

Percy once again wonders whether he should tell him. About how he’s been questioning his sexuality for a while, how he’s been thinking about that kiss when the volcano was erupting, why he came back.

He doesn’t.

Instead he grins. “Yeah okay.”

“See you later, bro.”

Percy tries not to look back.

.

“You’re my favourite son,” Poseidon says.

I’m your only son, Percy thinks.

.

“I know how you can defeat Kronos.”

A beat.

“Come inside.”


 

He’s five, there are three threads. One green like his eyes, one grey like a stormy night, and one blue like the cookies his mother makes.

And he has to make a choice.


 

Rachel is his lifeline to a life he cannot have.

He doesn’t remember having so much fun in years, even pre camp-halfblood and pre run-for-your-goddamn-life. He goes to Goode High even though he kind of blew up an entire room (Sometimes even mortal dads can pull strings). Rachel’s in all his classes except swimming, which she still insists is cheating, even though Percy tries his best not to stay too long underwater or swim too fast.

No one really gives them a second glance, maybe a few at Rachel because of her dad, but none at him. He’s the scrawny, still-not-completely-done-with-puberty kid who has a long way to go before he stands out as anything but a trouble-maker.

Percy’s fine with that. It’s nice to finally appear at least slightly normal.

Rachel’s painfully patient with him, and he admits that it’s only because of her constant tutoring that he passes his classes. She’s a genius, probably could go on to revolutionize medicine or something, except she’s a save-the-planet and climate-change-is-real-you-fucking-capitalistic-misogynistic-bastards kind of person. Rachel wants to do art, but Percy isn’t sure if it’s a genuine love or just another attempt at rebellion.

She comes home with him and they spend time with Sally and Paul, baking, eating, going for walks. She stays for sleepovers with him and he’s never had sleepovers before and it’s like growing up all over again. Or else he spends his afternoons after school in her house - mansion - which overlooks the New York skyline, half of which her dad probably owns. She paints her wall, humming to Black Sabbath or AC/DC, and he simply lies on her bed and listens.

It feels nice.

.

Rachel’s the first one he tells.

He stumbles over his words, still so so afraid, so so confused. They’re lying on the bed, shoulder-to-shoulder, her red hair fanned around her head like a halo, some strands falling on his face, tickling his nose.

He says, “I think I’m bisexual.”

Rachel hums. “I kind of guessed.”

He turns to face her. “Really?”

She laughs, her hair strands falling on his eyes, covering them. She takes his hand and weaves their fingers together, weaving them above in the air.

“Of course; you’re my friend and I think even the monsters know.”

“But I just figured it out,” he protests.

She laughs again, twinkling like crystals, like nothing Percy’s ever heard before.

“Darling,” she says. “You’re an idiot.”

.

If he wants to classify his friends, it would go Grover, Rachel, and then fall down to probably Clarisse.

He doesn’t include Luke, because Luke’s something else; Luke has his own category, his own little circle in the Venn diagram of Percy’s life. It overlaps with fighting partners and people-he-trusts, but it doesn’t cross friends, because they’re not friends, they’re something else.

He finally names it Partner, and tries not to think of it that way.

.

Annabeth’s circle doesn’t overlap with anything, and its name is –‘?’.

.

She says, “Dad wants me to join a finishing school.”

He raises an eyebrow. “He does know you’d rather become a Wall Street Banker than do that right?”

She laughs a little hysterically.

 “I love you,” she declares, placing her cold feet on his leg. He jerks them away and attempts to glare, but his expression just ends up softening.

“Back at you,” he says dryly. “Even though you’re using me as your personal heater.”

.

He knows the world is going to end when Blackjack lands on the roof of Paul’s Prius.

Oh gods, not again, is his first thought and the second is, shit, it’s time.

Rachel sighs in the seat next to him, her hands curling in her lap. She turns to look at him, and she smiles. “Time to save the world, huh?”

He helplessly gestures to the car hood, and she nods. “I’ll take care of it.”

As always, goes unsaid.

Beckendorf is grinning down at him, his burly, huge muscles flexing under the sun. Blackjack neighs and the horse-translator in Percy’s mind registers that he’s asking for sugar cubes.

Percy smiles apologetically at him.

He quickly gets out of the car and reciprocates Beckendorf’s fist bump.

“Bro,” he says. “Let’s kick some ass.”

Rachel watches a little sadly as Percy rips out Riptide and it transforms into a sword. This was supposed to be their little vacation, and Percy was supposed to teach her how to surf.

They look at each other, and she leans forward until their foreheads are touching. He stares into her bright green eyes.

She breathes, “Don’t you dare die Jackson, or I’ll come and murder you again.”

Percy laughs. “I’ll try not to, Dare.”

She nods and pulls him in for a fierce hug.

“Go crush some monster butt,” she says, rubbing the corner of her eyes with her knuckle.

Percy smiles gently. “I’ll come back to teach you how to surf,” he promises.

.

Everything is going wrong. They were supposed to go in and out unnoticed, but here he is, running all around the ship, desperately trying to shake off the monsters.

Beckendorf’s fixing up the Greek fire and the least Percy can do is buy him some time. The monsters are fast and there are so many of them and only one of him. Try as he can, he can’t stop the onslaught and it’s only a matter of time before he’s caught.

He’s brought before Annabeth.

She’s glowing a slight golden, wearing a black toga that swishes with the floor as she moves, the threads shimmering between golden and black. Her blonde hair is piled high on her head in a bun, put in a place with a single, thin silver knife.

Her eyes are still molten golden.

Percy cannot stop the slight stuttering of his heart at the sight of her, and he’s long given up trying to submerge the tiny part of his brain that screams wise girl wise girl what are you doing?

She extends her sword and the monster holding him drops him to his knees.

“Percy Jackson,” she says. “Fight me.”

.

He slashes and slices, rolls on the ground, swings sideways, mimics all the moves Luke’s taught him.

He can’t get a single slice on her.

Kronos mocks him mercilessly as they fight, his words slipping out in the flitting, twinkling voice of Annabeth. Her face is contorted in an unsuppressed glee.

She slices and it cuts through his shirt, leaving a bleeding line across his torso.

There’s water all around him and it’s pulsating and restless, almost goading him to unleash its powers. He tries to control it, but Annabeth is so fast; he can barely keep up with her and a slight lapse in attention can get his head chopped off.

Annabeth smirks. “I’ll burn your camp down after I get to Olympus,” she promises. “But it might burn down on its own before I even release a monster.”

Percy ducks down, avoiding her swing. “What do you mean?”

“What I mean Percy Jackson,” she steps forward, her sword in a downward cut towards his throat. “Is that you can’t trust anyone.”

Her sword is barely visible, just a thin silver line on its way to kill him. He remembers: Twist your blade flat against your enemies and they’ll have no choice but to drop their weapon. He clamps his eyes shut and follows Annabeth’s voice in his head.

Her sword falls to the ground, and in the second her attention is away from him, the ocean releases its rage and a huge wave thrashes against the boat, rocking it. The monsters in a circle around them scatter slightly, most of them clutching on to the railings. Annabeth stands still, her mouth slightly open and her eyes are grey.

Percy-

The moment’s gone and Kronos is back, lifting Annabeth’s arms to freeze time, and Percy’s bracing himself for the onslaught.

Suddenly Beckedorf’s brought to them.

.

Go you fucking asshole, go.

No. Not without you.

You’re the only one who can survive.

Silena-

Tell her I love her-

-and tell her I’m sorry.

.

Beckendorf is dead.

The ships blown up and they’ve saved so many lives but-

-Beckendorf is dead.

.

“You have to do it,” Nico whispers to him in his dream.

“I’m not ready.”

.

Tyson smiles down at him.

“Dad wants to see you,” he sings.

.

“Tell Chiron it’s time for you to know the prophecy.”

.

Silena breaks down the minute she sees him.

The voices whisper, you could have saved him.

He thinks, no I couldn’t have.

.

Luke grabs his shoulder just before he steps into the attic.

“Be careful,” he says quietly.

Percy tries not to lean into his hand.

“I’ll try.”

.

He feels like puking his insides out.

A half-blood of the eldest gods

Shall reach sixteen against all odds

And see the world in endless sleep

The hero's soul, cursed blade shall reap

A single choice shall end his days

Olympus to preserve or raze

He’s going to die.

.

“It’s hopeless!” he yells.

Luke glares at him.

“You’re a coward.”

.

“Luke,” he says, thinking about Annabeth’s parting words. “I think there’s a spy in camp.”

Luke frowns. “Why do you think so?”

Percy fiddles with Riptide. “Annabeth hinted at it,” he says uncertainly. Luke’s face clouds over. “Kronos,” he mutters.

“What?”

Luke’s gaze is piercing. “It’s not Annabeth. It’s Kronos. And I can’t believe you would trust his words over your own home.”

It’s like a stab to Percy’s heart.

.

Rachel’s painting by the sea.

It’s like she’s possessed, throwing colours wildly at the canvas, using her hands, her shirt, her paintbrushes like tools of war. She screams loudly into the air, filled with the sound of the waves crashing against the cliff.

“What’s happening to me, Percy?”

He looks at her painting.

It’s Annabeth.

.

“I can’t feel Grover anymore; the empathy link, it’s- it’s almost gone.

Luke looks as alarmed as he is.

.

Nico says, “You can’t wait any longer.”

Percy takes in a deep breath. He thinks of Beckendorf, of Silena, of Grover, and of every other camper who is in danger.

He thinks of Luke dying.

“Okay,” he says. “Okay.”

.

Sally cries openly and clutches his shirt.

“I always knew this day would come.”

“Which day, mom?”

“The day I would have to let you go.”

.

When he sees Grover, he sighs loudly in relief and nearly collapses near his best friend’s body.

“Wake up wake up wake up,” he says urgently.

Grover wakes up.

.

“Be careful out there.”

“I really wish people would stop telling me that.”

.

Helen’s ghost is floating in the Fields of Asphodel. She’s as beautiful as she was in Annabeth’s vision, despite the strange, lost look on her face.

Percy carefully catches her eyes. “Hello, Mrs. Chase.”

.

He’s livid at the betrayal, but so so achingly sad for Nico at the same time.

One more pawn for the gods, the voices whisper. What are you but the same, Perseus Jackson?

.

He slams Nico against the jail-cell wall.

“Tell me why I shouldn’t kill you,” he growls.

Nico whimpers. “I didn’t know he would do that.”

“He’s the God of the Underworld!”

“He’s my dad.

.

Achilles watches him with sad eyes.

“I tried to warn her but she wouldn’t listen.”

That’s all the encouragement he needs.

.

River Styx is fucking cold.

.

He can’t breathe, he’s flailing in the water, he can’t breathe.

He’s drowning, drowning, drowning. There’s water all around him, but he’s drowning. The river is poisonous, seeping into his bones, filling his blood with aching, crippling pain and loss and you’re not good enough you’re going to die die die. Die little son of Poseidon.

He gasps and more water enters through his mouth.

He hears someone calling his name and swims desperately to the voice.

Percy, the voice laughs. Bro, you really think I’m going to let you go now?

His face bursts through the surface and he can see Luke standing on the water’s edge, holding out his hand.  His blonde hair is swept to the side in his usual style, his electric eyes sparkling brightly, his entire face alight with his open, all-encompassing happiness.

Percy reaches out. His fingers graze Luke’s, and suddenly it’s not him standing there anymore.

Annabeth smiles and shakes her head at him. She’s wearing a Camp Halfblood shirt and her baseball hat, her blonde hair brushed up in a messy ponytail, and her eyes are twinkling and laughing at him. She says, you’re not getting away from me Seaweed Brain. Not yet.

He wakes up gasping.

.

He’s invincible.

What the hell?

.

He gazes desperately at Nico.

“We need you.”

The younger boy nods solemnly.

“I’ll try.”

.

The gods are losing against Typhon.

The voices laugh loudly and gleefully, oh son of Poseidon, what will you do now?

.

“Luke,” he says urgently. “Get everyone here.”

Percy can hear the sound of clashing swords in the background. He must be fighting in the arena.

Luke breathes into the phone, “Are you okay?”

Percy tries to wipe off the silly smile on his face. “Nothing can hurt me now,” he declares.

.

They’re all looking at him. Luke meets his eyes evenly and nods in his direction. Camp Halfblood needs a leader, and Percy just conveniently manages to fit the role. In all honesty, Luke should be the one standing where he is. He’s older and stronger and miles and miles more inspirational.

But Percy’s the prophecy boy.

“Okay, so here’s the plan,” he starts.

.

Hestia smiles softly at them from the hearth.

“Come here, my hero,” she calls. “Let me show you something.”

.

Luke’s in the kitchen smiling sheepishly up at his mom, holding a peanut butter sandwich. May Castellan’s lips twitch as she desperately tries to stifle her laughter. The room is a complete mess, bottles of jam all over the floor and bread pieces sticking to them.

Luke looks eleven or twelve, so achingly young, a tiny curl in his smile Percy’s never seen before. He declares, “It was a successful battle.”

May gestures to the table “Was it really?”

He nods. “Mission accomplished. The perfect peanut-butter and jelly sandwich has been created.”

His mother glances at the jam bottles. She shakes her head. “Are those Mrs. P’s prized fruit jams?”

Luke is unfazed. “She won’t miss them,” he says, brushing it off. May bursts out laughing. After a few moments she calms slightly and she says with twinkling eyes, “You’re so much like your father.”

Luke grins. “Could you tell me about him again?”

Her face goes a little wistful. “He was always so mischievous, always pranking this person and that person. My college life would have been completely boring if not for him. Everyone either loved him or hated him to the core of their hearts; there was no in between.”

Luke puts down the sandwich carefully on a plate and hands it to her. She takes it absently.

“I’m going to find him one day mom,” he says quietly and fiercely. “And then you both could be together again.”

His mother looks pained but smiles anyway. “Now how about we clean this up?” she says, changing the topic.

.

May Castellan wanted to be the Oracle of Delphi when she first met Hermes.

But then she fell in love with him. And when she saw Luke for the first time she realised she could never leave him like that.

And something deep within her nagged her about not going with Hermes to Camp Halfblood and she was never one to ignore her gut feelings.

So she stayed.

.

When he turns thirteen, it’s a split second decision to run away.

The monsters are attacking more and more as he grows up and it’s getting too much. The house has fallen silent now, the always present laughter slowly fading away. May’s stressed out and sometimes she disappears for long periods of time into her father’s study and the one time Luke tried to go in she was weeping about his dad.

The voices told him it was time to leave.

And so he left.

.

Meeting Thalia out in the woods scared the shit out of him and they both spent fifteen minutes trying to rip each other’s heads off and the next fifteen minutes fighting a goddamn Hydra together. When the final head falls and the monster disappears, they both fall to the ground and suddenly they’re a team.

There’s something transcendental about a bond forged via fighting for your life.

.

Maybe he loves Thalia.

He would like to love Thalia.

.

Family, he promises to Annabeth.

Family, she repeats wonderingly.

.

Grover talks to them about a safe home.

He’s more worried about their current safe house.

.

He can’t breathe.

He can’t breathe.

Thalia’s dead.

He can’t breathe.

.

A boy stumbles across the border, clutching a Minotaur horn and he’s partly impressed and partly kind of wondering how a dorky kid like him was even a halfblood.

But he can feel it in his bones. Everything is going to change.

.

Athena glares down at Luke.

“You could have stopped her,” she hurls her words like poison darts, like silver knives, aimed to cut, aimed to kill. Luke stumbles at her words; deep down, Percy knows, he thinks the same.

“You have never been her mother,” Percy snaps, stepping forward in front of Luke. “If you want to blame someone, blame yourself.”

He expects to be burned to ashes, to be cursed for the rest of his lifetime, cursed for his future lives too. But instead Athena’s face is overcome with sudden dark dark grief.

“She was my strongest child,” she whispers.

“Children are not soldiers,” he replies quietly.

.

Plan 23.

Luke seems to know what it is.

Percy rolls with whatever it is.

.

Luke’s blue eyes widen.

“Please don’t tell me you swam in the river Styx.”

His silence is his answer.

Luke’s face cracks into the widest grin ever. “Dude, that’s sick.”

.

They’re fighting together.

It feels like a well-oiled machine, fighting with him. They stand back to back, swords out, acting like each other’s shields. Years of quests have built up to this: this wordless bond, this soundless ease. Percy knows where Luke’s going to strike just before he does it; moves accordingly, like he’s part of Luke’s body. Bones and blood and soul and mind all combined in a perfect chemical reaction.

He feels so alive.

It’s a mistake to move out of this circle of protection. Percy steps to the side, turning his back from Luke just a little to strike a monster who was out of reach, maybe even retreating. It’s like Kronos has slowed time: the son of Nemesis lunges forward, knife aimed for his back, his weak point.

It tingles with a premonitory chill and Percy cannot move; cannot miss it.

He waits in those moments to die.

And then he feels someone crash into him, pushing him to the ground.

Luke groans, clutching his bleeding stomach, where a single silver knife stands like a perfectly thrown dart at bull’s eye. Ethan throws his head back, looking up at the dead sky of the silent city, and then runs.

Percy quickly moves over to where Luke’s lying on the ground and cradles his head in his lap.

“Wait, wait, just wait,” he says hysterically. “You’ll be okay, okay, okay.”

Luke simply garbles in reply.

.

Percy falls down to his knees, carefully touching the side of Luke’s face as he lies immobile on the sofa.

The Apollo camper simply shrugged when he walked into the make-shift infirmary, gesturing to all the others in the room to clear out. Luke’s eyes are closed, and he’s breathing in and out faintly, but in and out and in and out nevertheless. Percy places one hand around his head, fingers running through his blond hair, and the other just falls next to his hand.

He breathes in. He smells that faint scent that is just Luke, sweat and body oils and deodorant. It’s the smell that accompanies the taste of blue cookies and Sally’s perfume when Percy has ambrosia these days; the smell of home and love.

His eyes flicker open, electric blue. The minute they catch Percy’s, he’s stumbling out, “Holy Zeus, why the fuck did you take that knife?”

Luke smiles faintly and shuts his eyes again. “Your back was to him, you could’ve died.”

“I’m invincible, stupid,” Percy says, even though he’s lying. If that knife had stabbed him, he would have died. Plain and simple.

“Shut up, Jackson. Just admit that I saved your life.”

Percy nods reluctantly.

It’s something serious, it hits him. He could’ve actually died there; prophecy morphercy.

He shudders and takes in a deep breath, and burrows down into Luke’s neck. It’s slightly sweaty, warm. “It was my weak spot,” he mumbles into his skin, whispering it into his body so no one else would ever hear; a secret embedded in skin and bones.

Luke breathes out. He lifts his hand and cradles Percy’s neck.

“Something told me to jump,” he says. “Something told me I had to stop that knife.”

Percy breathes in again and lifts his head. Luke’s electric eyes are fierce and all-encompassing. “Tell me where it is,” he says. Percy hesitates a moment. But this is Luke, and he trusts him with his life.

He takes his hand and carefully brings it to the bottom of his back.

“Here,” he whispers. Luke fingers graze the small of his back, dancing lightly over his t-shirt, setting fire to it. He draws back his hand and drops over Percy’s.

“How’s the fight going?” he asks, thankfully not pointing out exactly how momentous that moment was. Percy falls to his butt and sighs.

“It’s not going too well,” he confesses. “We need to you.”

Luke smirks. “Of course you do, dumbo. I’ll be up in a few minutes.”

Percy shakes his head.

.

He dreams of Rachel coming to New York.

He thinks, please don’t.

.

He fingers Pandora’s Box in his hands. Centuries and centuries she’s held on to her hope, relentlessly, unwaveringly. He can feel that it is old, throbbing with its own ancient energy.

They don’t have much hope anymore. The gods are losing to Typhon, Hades refuses to fight, Kronos’ forces are tearing apart Camp Halfblood. It would be so easy to give up Hope now, surrender, die.

He’s going to die anyway.

But, he touches the inscriptions on its wooden surface, she’s held on for so long, too long; maybe they can hold on too.

.

There’s a moment of peace to heal the wounded and make battle plans.

He dreams.

.

Keep Pollux safe, please.

.

He sits next to Hestia on a log in front of the dying embers of the campfire. For a while he stares at it, watching the flames flicker slowly in the dark ashes. Hestia picks up a long stick and gently pokes some of the hot coal, pushing it and turning it around. As a tiny little fire comes to life, she says, “You’re a true hero, Perseus Jackson.” She says it a little sadly, as if she were speaking to a dying man.

He stays silent, waiting for her to go on.

She turns to face him, godly golden shining eyes, blazing with the energy of centuries. “There is a choice you will have to make. You didn’t make it eleven years ago, but you will have to soon. There are forces that even the gods cannot fight.”

He asks timidly, “Will I make the right choice?”

Hestia smiles kindly. “When the time comes, you will know.”

.

He stares at the sky in horror. The pilot at the wheel falls asleep, slumped across the console. The helicopter swerves out of control, swinging to the right, flying parallel to one of the many skyscrapers that dotted the New York skyline. Its reflection shimmers on the glass walls of the building, rippling across its surface. The helicopter hums and rumbles, swerving around like some sick dance.

All Percy can see is red. R.E.D. Rachel Elizabeth Dare.

While he’s stuck, immobile, shocked, Luke immediately swings into action. He runs across the tarmac, still filled with sleeping people and silent cars. He dodges the still running scooter which had fallen to its side, its driver lying beside it. As the helicopter swings dangerously close to the side of the building, he clambers over a fallen car and leaps, grabbing the edge of the ladder swinging out of it.

Percy’s mouth goes dry and his heart hammers loudly.

Luke quickly climbs up and in a matter of minutes takes control of the flying mess and lands safely on an open patch of land in a park nearby.

Percy runs to it.

Rachel and Luke are conversing in low tones when he approaches and when she catches sight of him, Rachel runs to him and throws her hands around his neck, squeezing him for dear life.

“Oh god,” she says, slightly hysterically. “Now I understand what almost dying feels like.”

Percy laughs and rubs his hand over her unruly mess of red hair. “Tell me about it,” he says amusedly. Then catching sight of Luke, a little paler than usual, he grows a serious.

“Rachel,” he says. “What the hell are you doing here? It’s dangerous.”

She immediately crosses her arms. “I need to talk to you,” she says, and raises her eyebrow challengingly. Percy sighs.

“Rachel….”

“This isn’t you fate,” she says immediately, interrupting. “All these events, this whole thing,” she gestures widely with her hands. “Isn’t supposed to be how it is.”

Percy frowns. “What are you talking about?”

She doesn’t look at him; she looks beyond, like staring right through him. “You’ve met them,” she mutters. “You’ve done this to yourself.”

He feels Luke’s hand fall on his shoulder. He turns to see that he too has the same confused expression on his face. He turns back to her and says gently, “You’re not making sense, Rachel.”

Rachel shakes her head, as if snapping out of a stupor. “I’ve got to go,” she said absently. “Yeah, I’ve got to find someone.”

He reaches for her, but she leans forward, pecks his cheek. “Stay safe, Percy,” she says seriously.

And then she’s gone.

.

You’ve got to help them! Nico yells.

What have the Olympians ever done for me? Hades spits out.

They’re the only family you have.

.

Annabeth’s lounging on a stone bench. She’s dressed for battle this time, cargo pants and a black shirt. Her hair’s still left loose, falling down her shoulders in her classic curls. Her bright golden eyes calculatingly look down at the bowing men before her.

He recognizes them as the son of Nemesis who almost killed him, and Prometheus in his suit and tie.

“Release the Drakon,” she commands. “We’ve waited long enough.”

Prometheus smiles and brushes his jacket for invisible dust. He stands up. “Brother, er, sister? Never mind,” he clears his throat. “The Drakon is prophesized to be defeated.”

Annabeth smirks and gestures dismissively. “Only by a child of Ares,” she says. “And they refuse to fight, those arrogant children.” She smiles wickedly.

Prometheus bows slightly. “Very well then. It should be the end to their futile resistance.”

Annabeth laughs.

.

Percy wakes up in cold sweat. There’s a warmth next him, and he sees Luke leaning against the wall next to him, fast asleep. He stands unsteadily to his feet.

He thinks of Clarisse and for the first time he really really really wishes she were here, stick up her ass or not.

.

They stride into battle and for the first time they go in knowing defeat is inevitable.

Luke’s feeling much better, clutching his sword tightly in his hands, causing his knuckles to go white. Percy nervously adjusts his armour, twisting it right and left, fingers running to the small of his back.

Luke catches his hand and shoots him a warning look. Right, Percy remembers, no bringing any attention to that spot, they had discussed it.

He grips Riptide instead.

They hear the roar before they see the monster. It’s huge and bright green; poison green, danger and danger and danger and you’re going to die today.

He lets out a sharp gasp at the sight of it. He grits his teeth, biting his cheek hard from not screaming out. He can taste the metallic tang of fresh blood in his mouth. Beside him, Luke readies himself, and shoots him a carefree grin that screams, this might be the last time I see you, but hell yeah, what a way to go.

Percy tries to grin back.

Luke winks at him and charges, blazing forth like a surge of electricity, burning his path.

.

There’s a loud battle cry and Percy turns to his right to see a chariot charging towards them, with the Ares Symbol carved into its body. His heart thuds, Clarisse.

And the monster spits out poison and he’s back into battle.

.

Luke’s arms tremble when he removes the helmet to reveal the shivering face of Silena Beauregard, eyes shut in pain.

He drops it and stumbles back a little. Percy falls to his knees.

Silena smiles weakly up at them. “I needed to do this.”

There’s a another battle cry and this time they see Clarisse, the last of the Ares children, riding towards them, blazing a bright red- a blessing from her father- eyes flashing, pure anger radiating from every atom in her body. She grips a spear in her hand, and her chariot stops right in front of the Drakon.

It rears its head and roars. Clarisse doesn’t blink, raises her spear, and throws it right into its eye. It flicks its tail wildly, nearly ripping her off her chariot. She holds on, grits her teeth, and slides her sword out of its sheathe. In a single slice, she cuts through its thick hide like butter.

The three of them, along with all the halfbloods around them, watch in amazement. The creature roars loudly and thrashes around but Clarisse holds her ground.

With a last ugly sound it disintegrates into fine golden powder, leaving behind just its thick scaled hide.

All the Ares children erupt into mad cheers, but Clarisse doesn’t so much as raise her fists in victory. Instead she leaps over an abandoned car and runs towards them.

She falls to her feet and cradles Silena’s face in her lap.

Percy is startled to see that she has tears pouring out of her eyes.

Clarisse howls, “What the fuck possessed you to do that, you stupid child of Aphrodite?”

Silena coughs slightly and smiles up at her best friend. She carefully touches her cheek with one hand.

“They needed you, you stubborn girl.”

Clarisse shakes her head fiercely. “Don’t you dare die on me.”

Silena laughs. “We both know that won’t be happening.”

“Shut the fuck up, you fucking bitch, and fucking hold on goddammit.”

“Language,” she whispers. Still holding onto Clarisse’s face, she turns to face Percy, tilting her head lightly.

She says softly, but strongly, “Annabeth is the smartest person I know. She doesn’t need spies to tell her what Camp is going to do. She’s always been a ruthless tactician.”

Percy’s mouth falls dry. He wonders how she knows.

Silena continues, “My mother told me to tell you this. She says that love is more complicated than just making choices.”

Luke asks, “What does that even mean?”

Silena shrugs and coughs a little more. “I don’t know,” she admits. “But it’s the last thing she told me, so I guess it’s important.”

She coughs again, a hacking cough. Percy can see threads of poison green spread across her pale skin. It’s clear as day, she’s dying.

Clarisse grips her shoulders tightly. “Fight it,” she pleads.

Silena smiles and stares up at the unfairly blue sky. “I can’t. I can see Beckendorf; he’s waiting.”

Clarisse shuts her eyes. She whispers, “It’s not fair.”

Silena hums quietly. “Nothing’s ever fair, that’s why we fight for what we believe in. Promise me,” her eyes flash slightly. “Promise me you’ll stay here and fight for me.”

He could see the internal fight in Clarisse between her love and her ego.

Finally: “I’ll fight until every last one of these motherfuckers is dead.”

And that’s all she wanted to hear.

.

Thalia grins wickedly at them, holding a silver hunting knife between her teeth, decked in the flowing, shimmering garb of the hunters, but with pitch black leather pants and choker. Her hair is streaked dark blue, with strands of purple.

“Jackson, Luke,” she acknowledges them, flicking a flash of white-hot, burning lightning at a monster. Around her all the hunters are kicking ass too, and seeing them makes Percy scared for his balls.

“Thalia,” he says, a tad nervously.

She laughs loudly. “Don’t wet your pants, Jackson. The main fight hasn’t even started yet.” She glances around. “You guys should really fortify Olympus; we’ve got it here.”

Luke raises an eyebrow as she fries another creature. “Remind me never to fight you again, yeah?”

Her eyes flash brightly.

.

Rachel sways back and forth, clutching Pandora’s Box. Her eyes are blank and bright bright green, glassy and lost. Beside her Hestia tends to the hearth, occasionally glancing at the girl next to her knowingly.

Percy, naturally, freaks out.

“Rachel!” he yells and she startles, breaking out of her trance, nearly dropping the box. She blinks at him.

“Percy…?”

Beside him, Luke quietly muttered to Grover and the two of them edge forward, away from the two of them. Percy vaguely notices Luke’s departure, but walks toward Rachel cautiously.

She holds out the jar. “I don’t know what happened,” she says. “But there’s something wrong here.”

Hestia smiles up from her hearth. Percy holds the box in his hand again, running his fingers over its inscriptions.

He looks at Hestia again, who smiles at him kindly and wisely, despite looking like a nine year old girl.

Can you keep your hope, son of Poseidon?

He thinks, no I can’t.

He holds the box to Hestia to take, and she looks knowingly at him. He realizes that in order to resist the temptation to give up Hope, he must leave it in the place where it survives best — in Hestia's domain: the hearth

Rachel watches this wordlessly.

.

His dad nearly kills him.

“You want me to do what?” he asks incredulously. Percy takes in a deep breath.

“I want you to abandon the sea and fight Typhoon. It’s the only way.”

“But we just remodeled!”

Dad!”

.

Thalia whispers, “He’s here.”

.

Hades bursts out all guns blazing, with a massive army of the undead, and a special guard of Nico, Demeter, and Persephone.

Percy thinks, Gods why is everyone so dramatic?

.

Annabeth calmly collapses the wards, trapping only the six of them together in Olympus.

She strides through the empty palaces, obliterating everything in sight. Percy watches as fountains are destroyed, temples collapse, trees are uprooted, statues are turned to dust.

They try to keep up with her, desperately fighting the monsters on the way. As he passes a temple for Apollo, he’s suddenly attacked by a vision and Rachel’s voice.

He sees a park.

You’ve met them before, you did this to yourself.

He shakes his head and the vision’s gone.

.

When the statue of Hera falls on Thalia, she howls and swears loudly.

“Ohmygod, I can’t believe the bitch waited until now to exact her goddamn revenge on me.”

Luke and Percy desperately try to heave the statue off her, but it’s too heavy. She shrugs. “Go,” she urges. “You’ve got to fight him.”

Idly Percy realizes that he’s the only on to refer to Kronos as a she. Maybe that says something about him.


He’s five. There are three ladies before him.


The son of Nemesis stands before him, trembling ever so slightly, clutching a sword so hard his entire hand has gone white.

Luke steps forward confidently, lifts his own sword and almost effortlessly knocks Ethan’s sword away. The boy’s faith is wavering, and Percy knows it. Luke holds his hand out to him.

“It’s nearly over.”

Ethan shakes his head slightly. “An eye for an eye, I have sold my soul to this.”

Luke throws his head back and laughs. “Dude,” he says. “If any one of us actually had souls, we wouldn’t be here right now.”

.

The entire throne room is heavy with silence. It’s as if every corner of this massive, imposing area is holding its breath. After all, everything it has ever witnessed in all its centuries might collapse in seconds.

Annabeth stands in the center of the room, twirling her sword in her hand, as if in wait of them. She has removed her armour, it’s tossed to the side carelessly. Her black toga shimmers like the cloak of Hades, but here, instead of trapped souls, it seemed to absorb all the energy in the room.

Her skin is sickly pale, and she has three slashes across her face. Her hair is limp and dry, tied into a traditional Greek bun. Her lips are red like blood, a single stroke of colour on her skin.

And her eyes are like poison.

Luke gasps slightly and steps forward first. He hasn’t seen her face to face since the Labyrinth, and it shows. He clutches his sword strongly, but Percy can see the slight trembling of his hands.

Annabeth notices him and smiles, stretching her hands outward like she might hug him. “Ah, the son of Hermes,” she says, her voice tinged with the ancient voice of Kronos. “I wondered when I might have the honour of fighting you.” Her smile is wicked and predatory, goading him into striking first.

Percy wants to call out, but steps back; this is not his battle.

Her words break whatever tumultuous emotions Luke was feeling. His face hardens and his grip on his sword tightens. Blue eyes turn icy and cloudy like a storm. His muscles ripple as he leans forward into a fighting stance; Percy knows immediately who was going to draw blood.

There are things no one knew about Luke.

He was a far far better fighter than Percy. Stronger, faster, lighter: if they lived in ancient Greece, Luke would have been the kingdom’s strongest fighter. The only reason Percy had an advantage was because he was, after all, the son of one of the Big Three. Luke was fearless and powerful, and above all a ruthless, ruthless killer. He had the wits of his father, as well as the slight and the cunning. Percy knew this, felt it every time he fought side-to-side, back-to-back with him. Percy fought like a civilian, fighting for others, fighting to live. Luke fought like a soldier, always for the victory, always for the better-I-kill-you-first-before-you-ever-have-a-chance-to-kill-me, an instinct honed from years spent on the street, when every other day was a battle to survive, where anyone and everyone was your enemy and it is better to die guilty of never giving anyone a chance, then to die with a knife in your back because you were too trusting. Percy would forgive at the slightest indication of remorse-

-Luke never ever forgave.

There were things no one knew about Luke. He was always calm and laid-back, yes, but he also always had an extra knife in his pocket.

Annabeth and Luke were like wolves, circling each other, ready to fight tooth and claw in order to win. Luke grins wickedly, the darkening air of Olympus making him seem slightly psychotic, and Annabeth throws her head back slightly, a single stretch of her blood red lips, and the throne room stands still with bated breath. These wolves were more alike than they knew, cut from the same cloth, of the same blood and flesh, family in more ways than one, and as Percy watches them raise their swords and bare their long, bloodstained teeth, he realizes that this could easily, so easily, be reversed.

And he is struck by a terrible terrible vision of Luke with golden eyes and Annabeth wearing a Camp Halfblood t-shirt and-

-and the first blows fall.

.

Luke draws first blood as predicted, a single long slice of Annabeth’s arm, and Percy watches transfixed as the skin closes up and heals immediately. When his mind snaps back to the battle, Luke already has three gashes to his stomach, Annabeth has a growing bruise on her neck, and they’re moving so fast, Percy can barely make out their swords.

This isn’t an even match, because while Luke is strong, he is no match for a Titan king and invincibility. After a few minutes his strikes become slower and less common, his movements lose their edge, and Percy bites his lip hard to stop himself from yelling out. Annabeth smiles languidly, her sword movements are as graceful and fluid as ever. She will not tire out, but the demigod surely will.

A sword clangs to the floor some distance away.

A strangled shout and Luke falls to his knees, her sword tip grazing his neck.

Olympus will surely fall when its strongest soldier falls.

.

Percy stumbles forward, eyes widened with panic. Annabeth laughs lowly and menacingly, the laughter of a victor, the wolf that finally caught its prey.

Luke holds his head up straight and unflinchingly. “Kill me,” he spits out, eyes glinting. “Kill me like the pathetic fucking person you are.”

Annabeth tilts her head slowly, the sword in her hand held loosely, almost lazily. “Oh I’ll kill you,” she says. “I’ll kill you in slowest and most painful way possible.” She shakes her sword slightly and gestures toward Percy. “But I’ll kill the Son of Poseidon first, and make you watch. Wouldn’t that be sweet torture, Son of Hermes?”

Luke lets out a garbled choke. “Don’t touch him.”

Annabeth throws her head back and laughs. “Ah, how sweet. The fallen hero fights for the life of another. Is this the mighty power of love?” Percy notices how despite her words, she doesn’t even glance at him, keeping her eyes solely trained on Luke. Maybe that was his chance.

He steps forward. “What do you know of love?” he asks acidly. “What do you know of family?” He steps closer.

Annabeth doesn’t turn. “Love is for fools, love does not exist. Love is for weaklings like the Olympians to deceive themselves of power.” She throws the words out like poison darts, but they keep missing their mark.

Percy steps closer and closer, until he is only a few feet away from her. Her sword arm is steady and Percy knows she can slice Luke’s throat in seconds. But he trusts his guts.

He says, “We are friends, Annabeth. Remember that?”

Annabeth bellows, her scream filling the entire room. Percy flinches as the sword grazes Luke’s neck; a thin line of red drips across his skin.

“Annabeth, the dreams, the dreams, you know them like I do.”

He doesn’t know what he is saying, or doing. He should be attacking her, clawing her away from Luke, treating her like Kronos, and not like Annabeth, the girl he does not know.

Kronos Kronos Kronos

-but she is not Kronos.

He is only a few feet away. She could turn around and in a single slice half his chest would be cut open-

-a single slice and Luke would be dead.

But he stands there, unarmed, protected by only his skin and bones. His invincibility definitely added to his recklessness, but he knows knows that this girl, this achingly broken girl would listen.

He throws his final words out.

Wise Girl.”

Annabeth turns.

.

For a second her eyes are stormy grey, oh so desperate, I’m here Percy I’m here, help me help me help me.

And then they’re golden again, but that’s all he needs, that’s all he’s ever needed.

.

He finally remembers, connecting all the dots together, the clues and the messages, Hestia’s sad eyes and Rachel’s frenzied ones.

There is a choice, eleven years pending.

.

Percy straightens confidently. He closes his eyes and screams, voice ripping through his throat, like the last sound he would ever make.

I WILL MAKE MY CHOICE.

And just like that something breaks in the air. The air of Olympus darkens and crackles, the energy that enters the room is ancient, far older than the gods, older than the Titans themselves. The power of the primordial, which existed before mankind and would exist long after everything else was gone.

 His vision goes black.

.

He’s in a park. He smiles bitterly at the fact, noticing his five-year-old self frozen, gaping at the sight before him. Percy wants to scream at him to turn around and go home, but that would be in vain.

He turns to face the Fates. He knows them now, finally recognizes and remembers them. Next to them stands Rachel, but not the Rachel he knows. Her eyes glow a bright green, and she stands unseeing, swaying side-to-side. The voice that comes out of her is ancient and terribly harsh, like the fields of time.

“Make the choice, Perseus Jackson.”

The three Fates hold up the three threads. Blue for Luke- warmth, family, and love. Grey for Annabeth- a twist in his gut, Wise Girl, a single red strand linking their ankles. And finally Green for him.

The Fates at the two corners hold up their threads, and the one in the middle holds up a pair of long, golden scissors.

“Do not be in haste, hero.”

Percy turns around to see Hestia tending to her hearth. The Last Olympian, the Keeper of Hope- it was fitting that she was the one to guide him. She was no longer her nine-year old self, but a girl his own age. She wore the traditional Greek dress, her long. Chestnut brown hair flowed mid-back, and her eyes were the colour of honey. She looked more beautiful than Aphrodite could ever be.

“What do I do?”

She smiles gently. “I cannot tell you that. But I can tell you what the consequences of your choice will be.”

“If you choose blue, then all will be right in the world. Order will establish itself once more, and your fate, your true fate, will pave its way to the light.”

“But Luke will die,” Percy says quietly. Hestia smiles sadly. “One can never have everything in life. You will have your Other Half, however.”

“And if I pick Grey?”

“Your fate will continue as it is. The order will eventually correct itself, but there will definitely be changes in your true fate. Nothing will be predictable, anything can happen.”

“Basically I have to pick between Order and Chaos, and no matter what I pick, one of them will die?”

Hestia tends to her hearth. “The life of a hero is never happy, Perseus.”

Percy thinks of Luke and Annabeth, the wolf children with their sad, broken eyes. He thinks of his Luke, with his calming smile and endless warmth, but his distrust and pain, his kill-or-be-killed life. The Other Annabeth, with her bright eyes and quicksilver wit and love, but never loved, never wanted.

And he thinks of the green thread, bright and thick.

“There is another choice,” he says, removing Riptide. Hestia looks at him, her eyes guarded and blazing. “There is,” she says. “But that will upset the scales forever, will change everything.”

It’s your Hamartia, Percy. You would sacrifice the world to save the people you love.

“I don’t care,” he says strongly. “I don’t care. I have spent too long being the pawn of you all to care anymore. I will save the people I love.”

Hestia smiles, a smile of pride and compassion. “I have lived centuries and witnessed the rise and fall of many like you, and you asked me a long time ago if you would make the right decision.” She pauses. “I believe you have.”

Percy remembers the prophecy and how it predicted he would die. He remembers how he feared it, loathed it, but now all he can feel is the calm of acceptance. He is done, done with being a toy soldier for the gods to wield, done being the face of another battle in a war that would never end.

Hestia gently touches his forehead with the back of her palm. “Being born a hero is a curse, and hence, any blade he wields will always be cursed as well.”

A hero’s soul, cursed blade shall reap.

He finds himself smiling. Ironical that what saved him the most shall hurt him the most.

He turns to the Fates. They gaze at him with the knowledge of centuries, ancient and all-knowing. Through the voice of Rachel they speak, “What is your choice, hero?”

He closes his eyes.

.

A strong blast of wind storms through Olympus, blasting open the doors of the Throne Room. Annabeth stumbles back in surprise, time is unfrozen, and Percy snaps back to life. The angry howl of the wind deafens him; the sands of fate and time begin blowing around the three of them, circling them with greater and greater speed.

Luke shouts out in alarm. The soul of Kronos, sensing an open and far more powerful body around, immediately rushes out of Annabeth’s body. She is thrown back into the air, back bending backwards, as a harsh golden light poured out of her eyes and mouth. The light surges into the air, and in one terrible moment, forms the body of the ancient Titan king. And then streaks right to Percy.

Percy feels as if his body is being ripped apart, bones fighting bones, muscles fighting muscles. The dark power of Kronos tries to overcome his body, tearing his flesh apart, raw and angry, it feels a hundred times worse than holding up the sky. Percy screamed, a primal, unearthly sound, ripping from the base of his throat towards the storm around them.

Luke staggers to his feet and Annabeth gasps in shock. For a second Percy freezes, and Kronos almost takes control, but immediately he’s fighting back, pushing his power farther and farther away. With a final yell he rips Riptide from his pocket, and for the final time uncaps it, revealing the shining, gleaming sword. He catches sight of his reflection, one bright green eye, and one golden.

He looks at Luke one last time, memorizing his electric electric eyes, and skin and bones and body, and then makes eye-contact with Annabeth, who, despite all the crazy she has gone through, immediately understands what he is going to do. Her eyes fill with tears and they are grey, oh god, he’s wanted to see this for so long and-

-and Luke’s finally figured out what he is about to do and he surges forward eyes angry and wild and scared, oh so scared.

Don’t, Percy yells soundlessly. This is my choice.

My choice.

My choice.

My choice.

His body is being ripped apart and this will change the world forever and he will never see those eyes again and he’s going to die and-

-and he has to do this.

He painfully lifts Riptide to his back. Luke is screaming now, but Percy can’t hear what he’s saying. Annabeth is holding him back, tears streaming from her eyes, but she understands what he’s going through, understands better than anyone else, because he may love Luke, but Annabeth is his Other Half and-

-and his fingers tighten around the grip, sword in position and-

He screams, last words of a falling hero.

Family for everyone. Promise me, family for everyone.

At both their nods, Annabeth clutching Luke around the shoulders as they looked up at him heart-brokenly, a seal for a promise they would never ever break, Percy stabs downwards. 

As the darkness encompasses him, he remembers being happy.

.

He is five and he can hear the snip of the green thread all the way at the other end of the park.

Nothing will ever be the same again.

.