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Their Father's Children

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Becoming Artemis’s lieutenant was a little strange.

Firstly, there were other hunters who had been there longer than Thalia had, and yet none of them balked at being ‘passed over’ for the high honour. Maybe it was because Thalia was a child of the Big Three, or maybe it was because she was technically Artemis’s half-sister.

Or maybe they just trusted Artemis implicitly, so much so that her decisions were unquestionable.

Secondly, Thalia’s reasoning for becoming a hunter was much different than the other girls around her – and, at fifteen, she was physically older than most of the other girls, who had all been around eleven or twelve when they took the oath. They had joined because they were too young to have felt the tug of romance or attraction, and the lure of adventure was far stronger than any boy could ever be. Or they had joined because they had entrusted their heart, only to be betrayed and cast aside, leaving them with wounds that would never heal and a heavily guarded heart that would never love again.

Thalia fell most accurately into the second group, but it was not the reason that she had joined, which led neatly to number three:

Thalia was not uncomfortable around men.

Now that wasn’t to say that some men didn’t make Thalia uncomfortable, but – for the most part – she could be around them and hold conversations without dissolving into paranoia or anger, unlike most of her cohort.

It was this last point that was the reason she was still standing on guard, out of earshot of the camp, her bow strung and ready, watching Apollo approach her.

When he got close enough, she un-notched the arrow and bowed respectfully. “Lord Apollo, what can I do for you?”

“You can drop the ‘Lord’ for a start,” Apollo said, dropping to sit beside her. He peered up at her through the darkness. “And relax. There’s nothing for miles.”

“I’m supposed to be on watch,” Thalia said.

“And you are,” Apollo said with a grin. “There’s nothing for miles. Now sit down, I want to talk to you.”

Thalia hesitated a second longer, but she knew better than to defy a direct order from a god (however relaxed that god seemed). Setting her bow aside, she sat down at the base of the tree.

“Thank you.” Apollo looked at her seriously. He was glowing – not brightly, not enough to hurt her eyes, but enough that she could see his face clearly, and he hers. “Why did you take the oath?”

Thalia smiled slightly. “Do you test all your sister’s hunters?”

Apollo chuckled. “No, that’s not what I’m doing. I’m genuinely curious. Guilt? Fear? Anger?”

“I suppose …” Thalia said slowly. “I suppose anger would be the best description.”

“God of truth,” Apollo reminded her. “Try again.”

Thalia huffed out an irritated breath, hugging her knees to her chest. “I am angry. Luke was supposed to be family. He was supposed to look after Annabeth when I wasn’t there. He was supposed to be …” She cut herself off abruptly.

“You are angry,” Apollo conceded. “But that’s not why you took the oath.”

“When I took the oath,” Thalia said quietly, “I became immortal. I am forever fifteen, never sixteen, and that means that damn prophecy – no offence – doesn’t apply to me.”

“If I could stop some prophecies,” Apollo said sincerely, “I would.”

Thalia managed a small smile. “Thanks. I feel bad, you know, leaving Percy with it, but …”

“But …?”

Thalia sighed. “I was scared that if it applied to me. I’d have to kill Luke and I didn’t want to.”

Apollo nodded. “I thought that might be it.”

“Then why did you ask?” Thalia asked in exasperation.

Apollo looked at her for a long moment, and she almost apologised, but then he heaved a sigh so heavy it made her own heart ache.

“It’s never an easy thing,” he said quietly, “having to mourn the death of someone you love. It’s even harder when you were never supposed to love them at all.”

Thalia frowned. “Luke’s not dead. He’s just …”

“Gone,” Apollo finished when her throat closed up and she couldn’t finish. “You’ve lost him, Thalia, and you’re grieving. So how do you grieve in secret?”

“But you didn’t say ‘gone’, you said ‘lost’,” Thalia said, her mind racing. Then it hit her, faster and harder than one of her father’s lightning bolts. “Zoe. You’re talking about Zoe.”

Apollo closed his eyes, but not before a single golden tear rolled down his cheek.

“You loved her,” Thalia whispered, testing the words in her mouth. “But she …”

“I know,” Apollo said, a little bitterly. “She hated me. And I put up with it, because I knew it wasn’t me, it was him, and she was happy, but … I’ve never dealt with grief without my sister before. I loved Daphne and I lost her, but Artemis was there. I loved Hyakinthos and I lost him, but Artemis was there. And now Zoe’s gone too, but I can never tell Artemis. Never. Do you have any idea what she would do to me if she knew I fell in love with one of her hunters?”

“No,” Thalia said honestly. “I assume it would have something to do with turning you into an animal of some kind.”

Apollo turned his eyes skyward, to the newly formed constellation of the Huntress. “How do you grieve in secret, Thalia?”

And suddenly, Thalia realised why Apollo was here. He wasn’t testing her, at least not for Artemis. He was looking for someone else who understood. Someone who was mourning a loss they shouldn’t be mourning.

“It’s not the same,” she said quietly. “I grieve in secret because I feel like I shouldn’t be grieving in the first place. You grieve in secret because you feel you have no right to your grief. And that’s not right. Everyone has the right to feel grief. Even if they’re gods.”

“You are very wise for your age,” Apollo said, turning his gaze back to her. “You’re only fifteen.”

“If I hadn’t died, I’d be eighteen,” Thalia said softly. “Plus, I had to grow up fast.”

“You all do,” Apollo conceded. “So I will ask you a third time – how do you grieve in secret, Thalia?”

“You don’t,” Thalia answered, meeting his gaze. “You acknowledge it and then you let it go. And you remember that you do have more than one sister.”

For a second, he just looked at her, and she half-expected him to misunderstand her and make a quip about Athena not being the best person to talk to.

Then he smiled – not quite the radiant grin she had seen the day she crashed the sun chariot into the lake at Camp Half-Blood, but a smile nonetheless – and reached out to ruffle her hair. “I guess I do, little sister. When does the next watch come out?”

Thalia looked towards the sky, tracking the process of the moon. “I wake them in about an hour,” she said, leaning back against the tree behind her. “Tell me about Zoe.”

Chapter Text

Thalia rarely saw Apollo after that, except when he turned up during the day to bug his sister. Each time she saw him, however, he seemed a little lighter, and she put their conversation away in the recesses of her mind.

Until, that is, one hot summers’ afternoon, when one of the hunters came bolting into the campsite, wide-eyed and out of breath.

“Apollo …” she gasped out, as she reached Thalia.

Thalia sighed, reaching out to steady her. “Lady Artemis isn’t here, Ariana. He’s going to have to …”

“No,” Ariana said, catching her breath. “He wants to talk to you. He’s not happy.”

Thalia frowned. “Right. Erm, tell Lady Artemis where I am, if she gets back before I do.”

Ariana nodded, and Thalia strapped on her bow and strode into the woods. She found Apollo in a clearing not far from the campsite, his back to her and his head bowed.

“Where is he?”

Thalia started at the sudden question. “Who?”

Apollo turned to face her, his eyes burning with anger. “You know who. Where is he?”

Thalia swallowed hard. “Luke? I – I don’t know. I haven’t seen him in months.”

“But you have seen him, haven’t you?” Apollo asked. “Since we last talked?”

Thalia took a deep breath. “Yes. He approached me one night while I was on patrol. He asked me to join him. I told him I wouldn’t and that the next time I saw him I would put an arrow through his heart.” She looked at him for a few minutes, read the emotion in his eyes, and her heart sank. “I should have done it then, shouldn’t I?”

For a moment, Apollo didn’t answer. Then the anger bled from his eyes, leaving nothing but pure, unadulterated pain. “Kronos attacked camp. My son is dead.”

The world seemed to vanish around her, her stomach swelling into her throat and her heart dropping to replace it. She had no idea what to do or what to say and, in the end, she didn’t have to.

By the time her brain had kick-started again, her bow lay abandoned on the ground and her arms were wrapped around her half-brother’s waist.

She could feel him shaking as he held her in what was probably a forbidden embrace, but a much needed one, judging by the tears that fell into her hair.

Soft footsteps behind her signalled another arrival, but to her relief, Artemis’s voice was somewhere between bewildered and amused, rather than angry.

“Do I want to know?”

Only when Apollo released Thalia and lifted his head, did her eyes widen, all amusement vanishing. “Brother, what happened?”

Thalia squared her shoulders. “Lady Artemis, I need to request a leave of absence. There has been an attack on Camp Half-Blood and I need to check on my family.”

Artemis looked at her brother. “Your children?”

Apollo shook his head and she reached out a hand to touch his arm. “Go, Thalia. We will keep camp here for a little longer.”

Thalia bowed and whistled, her wolf bounding to her side, and they took off. Thankfully, they had made camp not that far from New York, and as they ran, she felt the blessings of both Artemis and Apollo landing upon her, almost propelling her to the camp border.

Peleus lifted his head, but settled, recognising Thalia’s energy. She rested her hand against the pine tree, feeling her own spirit within it.

The borders had not been breached.

Her wolf whined and she patted his head, scratching behind his ear. “Guard the boundary,” she said softly. “I will return.”

Thalia jogged down the hill towards the house. The closer she got, the more she could see the chaos that had been left behind by the attack.

She scanned the scene for any sign of Annabeth or Percy, but her gaze fell first upon a group of kids clustered around something on the ground.

With a sinking heart, she recognised one of them as Kayla, a girl who had come in at a very young age, not long after Thalia herself had woken, and promptly been claimed as a child of Apollo.

She was crying.

The others must have been her brothers and sisters, and Thalia sped up, joining the group to see one of their brothers desperately trying to heal another.

Lee Fletcher was the oldest child of Apollo at camp. He was studying music at NYU, Thalia remembered, and he was the only person, before she had joined the Hunters who had tried to talk to her about Luke.

He had called Luke his best friend.

Lee’s second-in-command, Michael, was crying as much as Kayla, but he was still trying to talk to the boy trying to heal Lee.

“Will … Kiddo, you need to stop … You’ll burn out.”

None of them had paid the slightest attention to Thalia’s appearance.

Why should they when their brother was dying on the ground?

None of them wanted to stop Will – and with good reason. Now Thalia had a name, she knew this kid. He was young, yes, but he was the best Healer at Camp Half-Blood, and if they’d already lost one sibling …

Or had they?

Thalia looked around at the rest of Cabin 7. There didn’t seem to be any missing faces there.

“Michael?” Thalia said softly.

Michael started, his eyes finally moving from Lee to land on her. “Thalia? What are you doing here?”

“Is the cabin all accounted for?”

Michael frowned in confusion, swiping at his streaming eyes, but nodded. “Yeah, we’re all here.”

Thalia nodded, leaning down to grab Will’s arm. With the enhanced strength of a huntress, she dragged him to his feet, away from his big brother, breaking the connection.

“No! Please, I have to help him … I have to heal him, please you can’t …”

“Will, listen to me,” Thalia said firmly. “There is nothing you can do. He’s dead.”

Will glared at her angrily. “You don’t know that!”

“But your father does,” Thalia said, refusing to rise to it. “He came to find Artemis. He told us that his son was dead. I’m sorry, Will. Not even the greatest Healer can resurrect the dead.”

Will seemed to crumble, and Michael caught him, passing him off to Kayla and another of their sisters.

“Thank you.”

Thalia shook her head, staring down at Lee’s motionless body. “Don’t thank me, Michael. I should have killed him when I had the chance.”

“No one blames you for that,” Michael said, crouching beside his brother. “Could you help me get him into the infirmary? We’ve cleared out a treatment room for the … for the bodies.”

Bodies.

More than one.

Thalia nodded, and they carried Lee’s body through into the house. Michael gave Lee two drachmas for safe passage and they wrapped his body in a golden shroud.

There were no Athena shrouds, Thalia couldn’t help noticing.

“How did they get in?” Thalia asked.

“The Labyrinth,” Michael answered. Seeing her befuddled expression, he managed a very small smile. “Annabeth is probably your best bet. I think I saw her near the lake.”

Thalia thanked him and fled the infirmary with a flood of relief, which only got bigger when she found Annabeth talking to Percy, both of them looking bruised, battered and exhausted, but very much alive.

Percy saw her first and opened his arms with a grin, and she didn’t think twice about crashing into them.

“Twice in one summer, Jackson,” she growled. “Are you trying to give me a heart attack?!”

Percy had the nerve to laugh, but she didn’t release him, tugging Annabeth into the hug as well, resting her chin atop the girl’s head.

“Thank the gods you’re alright.”

Percy’s laughter died, and he pressed a kiss to her temple, something she would never allow any other boy to do.

Once she had assured herself of their continued existence, she released them in favour of interrogating them.

Between them, Percy and Annabeth told a story that had Thalia’s mind spinning and, finally, her heart breaking.

“So he’s really gone now?”

Annabeth nodded, staring at the ground. “When we found his body, I thought that was the worst but … then he opened his eyes.”

Percy jumped to his feet. “I need to … I need to go and talk to Grover.”

Annabeth sighed huffily as he left. “I don’t know what’s wrong with him.”

Thalia did. It was obvious in the way Percy scowled every time Luke’s name was mentioned (especially if it was by Annabeth) – just as it was in the way Annabeth looked like she wanted to kill something every time Rachel’s name had been brought up.

However, she was a hunter, so she would leave the match-making to Aphrodite and her children – judging by the way two girls from Cabin 10 had sighed dramatically when Percy ran off, they probably already had it in hand.

Chiron offered Thalia the chance to stay for a few days, but she declined. She did not truly belong here anymore, and now that she was assured of her family’s safety, it was time for her to return to her camp.

She bid everyone goodbye, collected her wolf from the base of the tree, rousing him from what appeared to be an excellent dream, judging from his grumbles, and they set off back in the direction of the hunters.

Even without the urgency of her earlier journey, they arrived back in record time.

In fact, Apollo and Artemis didn’t seem to have moved since her departure, which they may not have done.

They were sitting on her log, Apollo’s head on his sister’s shoulder, and she was stroking his hair gently.

She looked up at Thalia’s approach. “Report?”

“Several fatalities, a lot of injuries,” Thalia answered. “Annabeth and Percy survived.”

“Was it just Lee?” Apollo asked, lifting his head.

Thalia nodded, sitting down on his other side. “Michael accounted for the others. Will was trying to resuscitate when I got there.”

Apollo flinched. “Was it bad?”

Thalia hesitated. Percy had seen what had happened to Lee, and it certainly matched up with the injury she had tried not to look at when she helped move him. “A giant …”

“How did a giant get into camp?” Artemis interrupted.

“The Labyrinth,” Thalia answered tiredly. “Kronos led an army in. Apparently, there’s an entrance in the woods.”

“Wait, Kronos led an army?” Apollo asked, momentarily distracted.

“Luke’s dead,” Thalia said, forcing her voice around the lump in her throat. “Kronos needed a body.”

Artemis cursed under breath – in English. Thalia couldn’t help smiling at that. Apparently her hunters were as much of an influence on her as she was on them

“My son?” Apollo asked.

Thalia nodded. “He got hit on the head with a giant’s club, it caved his skull in.” She rested a tentative hand on his. “If it’s any consolation, I don’t think he even knew what hit him.”

Apollo turned his hand over to grip hers. “Thank you.”

Chapter Text

Several months – and a rescued new camper – later, Apollo’s visits seemed to have returned to normal.

He would turn up, bug his sister, and leave.

Today, however, not long after Artemis had left the camp grounds to speak with her brother, a falcon came soaring into the camp to circle above Thalia’s head.

With a sigh, she rose from the circle of hunters discussing the next hunt. “Phoebe, take over, would you?”

Phoebe nodded, and Thalia set off into the woods.

She found Artemis still talking to Apollo, read her Lady’s discomfort in the set of her shoulders, and prepared herself – for what she didn’t know.

The twins turned as one at her approach and she bowed her head respectfully.

Artemis didn’t like her hunters constantly kneeling before her, and Apollo had made it clear that outside of Olympus, he certainly didn’t expect it.

However, a little show of respect never hurt anyone – and she had no idea what she had been summoned for. Lack thereof could very well hurt her.

“Thalia, my brother has requested your aid in a rather delicate matter,” Artemis said. “I have – reluctantly – agreed, but only if you feel comfortable with it.”

Apollo sighed. “Arty, I keep telling you; Thalia will be in absolutely no danger at all, I just need her help.”

Thalia almost nodded automatically, but caught herself just in time. “Can I ask what it is before I agree?”

Apollo smiled at her, but it was weak and strained. “I need you to take a trip to Camp Half-Blood for me.”

“Oh,” Thalia said, surprised. “I thought it would be something worse.”

“He needs you to talk to one of his sons,” Artemis said. “That’s the part I’m not happy about.”

Thalia thought back to her last visit to Camp Half-Blood, a month or so after the Battle of the Labyrinth, as it had come to be called, following the Hunters’ rescue of a young daughter of Apollo. It had been an exceptionally brief visit, long enough to greet Chiron and Annabeth, and drop little Eliza off with Cabin 7.

But she had been there for long enough to notice the way Will had remained out of the circle of campers, barely acknowledging her arrival or his new little sister.

“If it’s Will Solace,” she said, “you really don’t need to worry, my Lady. I am 99% certain I am definitely not his type.”

Apollo’s smile became a little more genuine. “So you’ll do it?”

Thalia nodded. “I’ll do it. What do you need me to do?”

***

And so Thalia arrived at Camp Half-Blood a few days later, her wolf at her side. The Hunters would take it slowly for a while to allow her to catch up with them when she was finished.

She left her wolf curled up at the base of her tree once more and made her way to the Big House, to speak to Chiron and Mr D.

Mr D barely acknowledged her, but she was used to that. Chiron didn’t press her for details of her visit, for which she was grateful.

Apollo was not breaking the rules, but only by virtue of a very tight loophole, and the less people that knew exactly why she was here, the better.

And making an excuse would have been difficult – Annabeth was with her mortal family in San Francisco and Percy was with his mother in Manhattan.

Even Nico seemed to have disappeared again, something that had Thalia worried. She and Percy had both been there when Bianca Di Angelo was killed; she didn’t know about Percy, but she couldn’t help feeling a little bit responsible for the kid. He had been at Camp for the battle during the summer – and been a huge help by all accounts – but it looked like he had retreated once more.

Not that Thalia could blame him entirely. Being a child of the Big Three was lonely business – and Nico didn’t even have a cabin to call home.

Still, right now, the son of Hades was not her primary concern.

She made her way down to the archery field, where Michael was coaching a small number of his younger siblings.

Quite a few of them would have gone home for the school year, Thalia remembered, which left only a few, including Kayla, Eliza, their brother Austin, and of course Will.

Will was nowhere to be seen.

Michael took a shot, his form perfect, his arrow flying straight and true, striking the centre of the target.

As he began to explain to his siblings, Thalia tugged out her hair clip, letting it expand into a bow and drew an arrow from the quiver that appeared on her back.

Her shot was just as true, guided by Artemis herself, striking the target right alongside Michael’s, getting their attention.

She was gratified to see that Michael, unlike his siblings, did not startle, but merely turned to raise a hand. “Nice shot,” he said, by way of greeting.

“Likewise,” Thalia said with a nod. “How’s the off-season?”

Michael sighed. “Quiet.”

“Thalia!” Contradicting her brother completely, Eliza broke out of the ranks with a squeal and threw herself at her rescuer.

Thalia hastily set her bow to one side and caught the young girl.

Ten-years-old, dark haired and cute as a button, Eliza had been found by the Hunters after she and her mother were attacked by monsters.

Artemis had not been present, and it was Thalia who fought to take her back to Camp Half-Blood rather than just accepting her as a Hunter, citing the fact that they were in the middle of a hunt and it probably wasn’t a good idea to take on a new hunter at that point, given how badly it had gone last time (Bianca).

“And how’s my favourite daughter of Apollo?” Thalia asked, ignoring Kayla’s mock protest.

“Good!” Eliza answered, almost bouncing with excitement. “We get to shoot arrows and play games and there are girls who live in the trees and …”

Thalia nodded, letting the girl talk and trying not to think about how much Eliza reminded her of a Nico before his sister’s death.

Speaking of losing siblings, Michael looked even more pale and drawn than the last time she saw him, the loss of his older brother clearly weighing heavily.

“… did you come to visit me?”

Thalia smiled at Eliza, tucking a strand of hair back out of her face. “Well, it is lovely to see you, Eliza, but I’m actually here to see all of you.”

“Are you allowed to talk to boys?” Eliza asked curiously.

Thalia laughed. “Well, I’m sure Michael can keep them in line.”

“But he’s a boy too,” Eliza said, now looking worried.

Thalia chuckled, straightening up. “Well, unless he’s about to propose to me, we don’t need to worry about that.” She took a step closer to Michael. “I hear one of your brothers is having trouble.”

Michael sighed. “Will won’t leave the cabin. He eats and sleeps. That’s it. We can hold the fort in the infirmary, it being off-season and all, but if something else big happens, we’re going to need him – it’s because of what happened with Lee, I know it is.”

Kayla sniffled, nestled under Austin’s arm. “It wasn’t his fault. He couldn’t save Lee, no one could And we’ve prayed and prayed to Dad and he won’t answer.”

“He’s the only one Will would listen to,” Austin said, scowling. “Lee’s dead and he won’t even show up for two seconds –”

“He can’t,” Thalia interrupted. “There are rules.” She held up a hand to stop his protest. “And I know. He could circumvent them. And then my father would punish him. And then, gods forbid if something happened that meant you seriously needed him, he wouldn’t be able to break the rules. Father’s grounded him more than once. Literally.”

“Thalia,” Michael said, before Austin could argue any further, “how do you know that’s why he isn’t answering? I mean, I wish I could have your faith, but how can you be so sure?”

“The same way I knew Will was having trouble,” Thalia answered. She knelt down so she was eye level with Eliza, who was still clinging to her hand. “Your dad wishes he could be here, sweetheart. He loves you – all of you – so much, and if he could answer you, he would. But he can’t. So he asked me to come and to let you all know that he is listening and he does care, and maybe to talk to Will and see if I can get through to him.” She looked up at the others, who had gathered around her, staring at her like she was reciting the meaning of life. “He’s at the cabin?”

“Yes,” Michael answered. “Thalia, what you said … Was that …?”

Thalia straightened up with a sigh. “And if you get the chance,” she recited, “tell the others how much I love them. How proud I am. Tell them I would be there in a heartbeat if I didn’t genuinely believe that our Father would make their lives harder for it.” She gave him a small smile. “And tell Michael to stop doubting himself, because he’s doing a great job.”

Michael looked like he was going to cry. Kayla already was.

Eliza, who was too new to have developed any kind of bitterness towards the gods, simply beamed at her. “Well, of course he loves us. He’s our dad.”

Thalia smiled. “I know, kiddo. Why don’t you try to help Michael and the others feel better, and I’ll go to talk to Will?”

Eliza nodded, accepting her task, and Thalia retrieved her arrow from the target, replacing it in the quiver and letting it vanish back to wherever magical weapons went when they were out of sight. Leaving Cabin 7 in the capable hands of their youngest member, she jogged up the hill and back to the horseshoe of cabins.

Cabin 7 glowed golden in the sunlight and Thalia had to shield her eyes as she approached.

There was no answer when she knocked, but she pushed the door open anyway, stepping into dim light (or maybe it was normal light and her eyes hadn’t adjusted yet).

Will was sitting on his bed, hugging his knees to his chest, staring at the wall.

Thalia wondered how long he had sat there, and whether he was seeing the wall at all, or if he was seeing unseeing eyes and blood-covered hands.

Closing the door firmly behind her, Thalia crossed the room and sat beside Will, leaning against the headboard.

He didn’t say anything, but he did shift over to give her room, which she counted as a win.

“Are you allowed to be here?” He asked after a few minutes.

Thalia smiled. “Like I told Eliza, it’s fine. It’s a vow of eternal maidenhood, says nothing about talking to boys. Unless you’re about to propose to me.”

“How do you know I’m not?” Will asked. The joke settled her a little, but it didn’t reach his voice or his eyes.

“Honey, if you get through it with a straight face, I’ll say yes,” Thalia said with a smile.

She was rewarded with a tiny smile of his own.

“What are you doing here?”

“Your dad asked me to come,” Thalia said softly. “Your siblings are worried; they’ve been praying to him, but he can’t answer. So he asked me to come and talk to you?”

“And say what?” Will asked tiredly. “I’ve already failed …”

“Says who?” Thalia interrupted. “There was nothing you could do …”

“Then what good am I?!” Will demanded. “I can’t sing, I can’t shoot – healing is the only worth I have as a son of Apollo and if I can’t do that, then what good am I?”

“You couldn’t bring back the dead, Will – no one can bring back the dead,” Thalia said, refusing to rise to his anger. She dealt with far more drama from the Hunters (not that any of them would ever admit it). “Not even your father can do that. If he had thought for one second that there was hope, he wouldn’t have come looking for me and Artemis. He would have been here, looking over your shoulder, and giving you the strength you needed.”

Will didn’t respond and she rested a hand on his wrist, anchoring him to her presence, lest she lose him to memories.

“Your dad is so proud of you, Will,” Thalia whispered. “That’s what he sent me to say. That’s he’s proud of you and he loves you. And he told me, himself, that you are an exceptional Healer.”

“Even if I couldn’t heal Lee?” Will asked in a very small voice.

“Even then,” Thalia agreed. “Like I said, Will, no one could have healed him. I suppose Nico might have been able to do something, but I should think his Dad frowns on resurrections. Plus you’d probably have ended up with a zombie or something …” she closed her eyes. “Dear gods, shut me up.”

Will was shaking beside her, and it took a few minutes, to realise he was laughing. “It’s not funny,” he gasped out after a few minutes, “but I just had this image of a zombie leading the campfire songs.”

That had Thalia laughing as well, but she finally got herself under control enough to ask, “Where did Nico go anyway?”

Will sighed, his humour evaporating in a way that confused Thalia until he spoke. “I don’t know, which is the other reason I’m kicking myself. I was here when he first crash-landed with you and Percy in Dad’s car, and when he took off after his sister died, I was worried. So when he turned up during the battle, I was planning to try and make sure he stuck around and then …”

“Yeah,” Thalia said softly. “I get it. It’s not your fault, Will. I’ve been trying. It’s like grasping shadows.”

Will leaned against her a little. “Do you think he’s okay?”

“I hope so,” Thalia said honestly. “He’s young, but he’s a fighter.” She frowned. “Then again, you can’t be that much older than him, can you?”

“I’m thirteen,” Will answered. “I think I’m about eighteen months older.”

Thalia sighed heavily. “You’re all so young.”

“You’re only fifteen,” Will pointed out.

“I should be twenty,” Thalia said. “I just didn’t age properly when I was dead.”

Will snorted. “There’s a sentence you never think you’ll hear.”

Thalia smiled. “Are you feeling better?”

Will hesitated. “My dad really said all that?”

“He really did,” Thalia confirmed. “He has faith in you, Will. So do I, if that means anything.”

Will laughed a little nervously. “Well, of course that does – you’re a Camp Half-Blood legend.”

Thalia pinked a little under the praise. “So you’ll get out of the cabin? And back into the infirmary? Because they do need you, you know.”

“I know,” Will said, managing a genuine smile. “May the gods protect us from the evils of the common cold.”

Thalia laughed, standing up and pulling him to his feet and out into the sunlight. “Now get back into civilisation, young man.”

Will saluted. “I guess I should get to the archery range.”

Thalia hesitated. “On second thoughts, maybe I should have left you moping in the cabin.”

***

A few days after Thalia returned to the Hunters, she had company yet again on patrol.

“How are they?”

“Good evening, Lord Apollo,” Thalia greeted. “I’m very well, thank you for asking.” She smiled at his impatient expression. “They’re fine. They were very grateful to get the message. Will went trotting of into the infirmary, if not the sunset. They miss Lee, but I think they’re going to be okay. And Eliza asked me to tell you to consider yourself hugged and that she loves you very much.”

Apollo swallowed hard and Thalia feigned interest in a bird hopping from branch to branch above her head to give him some privacy.

He was gone the next time she looked over, leaving behind a warm breeze that surrounded her like an embrace and whispered thank you through the trees.

Chapter Text

Thalia leaned on her crutches and sighed heavily, watching the clean-up with almost dead eyes. At some point, she would need to leave Olympus and return to the ground, to the carnage in Manhattan, where the mortals were trying to make sense of what had happened and the demigods were trying to pretend like their entire worlds hadn’t been flipped upside down.

“How are you feeling?”

Thalia looked up at Apollo and managed a brave smile. “Fine thank you, Lord Apollo. I’d bow, but I’d probably fall over.”

Apollo sniggered. “Yeah, let’s do something about that.” He rested a hand on her lower back and his eyes glowed, too brightly for her to look at.

The pain died away and he took the crutches from her to allow her to check her legs.

“Thank you,” Thalia said quietly. “Won’t you get into trouble?”

Apollo shrugged. “You’re Father’s favourite at the moment. I’ll be fine.” He looked seriously at her. “I know you’re not though.”

Thalia swallowed hard. “We won. Kronos is scattered across the cosmos somewhere. It was just a hard win.” She paused. “I’m sorry about Michael.”

Apollo nodded, his jaw clenched. “Thank you. They haven’t found him yet.”

“I know,” Thalia said. “Percy was going to track the tides, figure out where he’s going to … wash up.”

Apollo nodded silently.

“You know, if it’s any consolation,” Thalia continued, “your cabin is the only one that didn’t lose anyone to Kronos. The army, I mean. Well, I’m not counting the Big Three, because there’s only one of us in each, but … aside from us, yours was the only one.”

Apollo sighed. “Does that mean something?”

“It means you’re a good dad,” Thalia said. “And they know you are.”

Apollo’s smile returned, and he turned to face her properly. “You didn’t get to say goodbye, did you?”

Thalia’s breath caught in her throat. “W-What?”

“To Luke,” Apollo elaborated. “Percy and Annabeth were with him, but you didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.”

“No,” Thalia admitted. “I didn’t.”

“Would you like to?”

Thalia hesitated. “How? The Fates took his body.”

Apollo smiled, holding out a hand to her. “Close your eyes.”

She did, taking his hand, but even with her eyes closed, the glow that surrounded her was a little painful.

Finally, it died away, but she kept her eyes closed until he released her and told her it was safe.

They were in a small room, devoid of furniture but for a cot bearing a shrouded body.

Thalia sucked in a shaky breath, taking a small step towards it.

“I’m going to step outside, Thalia,” Apollo said softly. “Take all the time you need.”

Thalia nodded wordlessly, unable to form words just at the moment. Even after Apollo had left her, it took her a few minutes to manage to close the distance between her and the cot, and pull the shroud back from Luke’s face.

It almost broke her all over again.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. Her words echoed off the walls and disappeared into nothing, destined never to be heard. She cleared her throat, forcing herself to talk normally, as though Luke was listening and would respond and wasn’t … the way he was. “I’ve wanted a chance to talk to you since I woke up. And I never got one, because you weren’t you and you weren’t willing to listen to me. I’m sorry I left you. I’m sorry my death hurt you so badly. I’m sorry if you felt like I betrayed you, taking their side over yours, but … I couldn’t take your side, Luke. Not after seeing you. That wasn’t you – that wasn’t my Luke. It was a stranger with your face and …” She wiped her tears away furiously, unwilling to let them fall and yet powerless to stop them. “I’m sorry I wasn’t enough to stop you.”

Her voice broke on the last word and she let herself cry, her whole body shaking with the force of her sobs. “Why wasn’t I enough to stop you?”

She didn’t know how long she stood there, but finally her tears stemmed and she wiped her face once more, before reaching out to touch his cheek. “Annabeth says you fought your way back. I knew you would.” She paused. There was so much she could still say, and yet none of it would make any difference now. “I miss you. The real you. Maybe one day we’ll meet again in Elysium. Just … don’t do anything else stupid in the meantime, yeah?”

She leant down and pressed a kiss to his forehead, which nearly made her cry all over again, because his skin was cold – so cold – and Luke had always been so warm, on the streets, when the temperatures dropped in the winter and they huddled together for survival.

“Goodbye, Luke.”

She forced herself to walk out. If she didn’t, she might never leave.

Apollo was waiting for her, and he met her with pure concern. “Are you alright?”

Thalia took a deep breath, assessing. “Yes. Yes, I think so. It’s not … It’s not complete closure, it’s still … hard, but … I feel like I can draw a line under it now. Close the book. Move on.”

Apollo smiled slightly. “Were you in love with him?”

That was the question, wasn’t it?

“I don’t know,” Thalia admitted. “I never got a chance to figure it out. We were children, and then I was dead. But we spent three years together, just the two of us, and … I don’t know if I was in love with him, but he was my everything.” She sighed. “And maybe only love would hurt like this.”

Apollo opened his arms to her and she went into them willingly, taking comfort in her half-brother’s embrace.

“Want me to take your mind off it?” Apollo asked.

Thalia sighed. “Oh gods yes please.”

Apollo released her with a grin. “I need to talk to my kids. Want to come and help me fool Dad?”

Thalia wiped her eyes and gave him a smile. “I’d love to.”