Omnia Vincit Amor
"Love conquers all things; let us too surrender to Love." – Virgil
i. If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or clashing cymbal.
Love was not something that she equated with happiness. She did not believe in it, not really, especially not after she came to camp. Once the Greek myths were real, what was the point of believing in love? After all, it was controllable, tamed by some empty-headed gossipy goddess. It was supposedly the strongest force in the universe, but she saw the Aphrodite kids, and she couldn't look at them and think, "Love." She looked at them and though, "Lust." Which wasn't the same thing as love – not at all, and she knew it, even when she didn't know what lust was. She figured, if they were the same, why would there be two different words?
Her father used to tell her he loved her, and look what came of that. A new wife and new stupid babies and a new life where he looked at her with cold eyes, full of blame for the dangers that they faced. You're endangering us. Her teacher had said that parents loved no matter what, only that wasn't what she saw when her father looked at her, so that couldn't be love. So what was love? It certainly wasn't the bounding, relentless, powerful force that the people on television sometimes talked about. It certainly wasn't what her father felt for her. It certainly wasn't what the children of Aphrodite symbolized.
So she decided that since she couldn't find love, it didn't really exist. There was like, extreme like, and lust, and that was the end of the line. It was final. She was nine years old when she came to this extremely logical conclusion.
ii. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
She talks with Chiron about her thoughts on love, as she grows older. He looks at her with sad eyes when she tells him about her thought process, and he smiles when she finishes, but it isn't happy.
"Annabeth," he tells her as she sits beside him on the porch of the Big House, "love comes in many different forms, and it is very fickle. It comes and goes as it pleases, and what its whims dictate no mortal can tell. You should show it more respect."
"Why?" she asks, brash and impudent and untouchable at ten years old. "It's never shown me any."
And so Chiron tells her of many things, of heroes who loved so much they died for those they gave their love to, and she still remains as a stone. "If those people loved them back," she reasoned to him, "then wouldn't they have told them to save themselves?"
"Well, maybe," Chiron acknowledges, "but even if it's one-sided love, it's love nonetheless."
"But I thought," persists the child stubbornly, "that love was only really if it's reciprocated."
"Well, why on earth would you think that?" asks the centaur with a smile.
She looks up at him with solemn eyes. "Because if it's only you that's in love, there's only want. That's not love."
Chiron has nothing to say.
iii. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
She is twelve when love decides that she has been far too flippant and should be taught a long, hard lesson. A storm is brewing the skies and in her head as she tosses and turns, far too awake to even think about sleeping. So she does as she always does and runs through the rain to the big house, where she sits by the fireplace with Chiron and ignores the dirty looks Mr. D shoots her for interrupting their pinochle game.
There are cries coming in, and she and Chiron rush outside to find a boy stumbling into camp. He is drenched and muddy and exhausted, and he is clutching the horn of the Minotaur in his bare hands. He bobs, weaves, and falls into the mud. She and Chiron immediately crowd around him, and as she leans over his face, searching for signs of consciousness, there is suddenly a gaze of breath-taking intensity shining straight from his eyes to her. Her thoughts are jumbled as never before – green, water, rushing, brave, strong, boy, who, stranger, friend, hope, death, future, life, lo – and she collects herself before she thinks that word even as his hand brushes her face and he says in a strange, hushed and oddly awed voice, "Princess curls."
She ignores the rush of blood to her face, the strange pounding in her heart and the tingling on her skin where he touched her like a thousand little lightning strikes only soft and sweet and it's a myth. A myth. Not real. Love is the only myth that's not real. She knows this. She knows it. Being startled into odd thoughts by someone – that's not love.
iv. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated;
She still hasn't adjusted to this boy – this Seaweed Brain, son of Poseidon that he is – and so she's mean to him at times, snappish and sarcastic when she has no need to be. She sees the hurt in those green eyes, but she doesn't want to. Especially if she's the cause of it. So she pulls herself and her attitude back a bit, slaps it around, and makes a newer start. If he's curious as to her new kindness, he says nothing, and he smiles at her.
He is different from anyone she has ever met. He is like the first rush of air through an open window after being trapped in a dusty room. He swirls around, shattering perceptions left and right, blowing away the dust and mold and everything that has encroached on who she is for so long. Since Thalia not-died. Since she lost the member of her family most like a mother to her. Luke was always a mix of father-brother-something else, and she can never quite decide on what she feels. With Percy, there's no complicated mish-mash of emotion. Either she's angry with him, happy to be with him, or frustrated with him for something he really can't control. (She really needs to work on that.)
She makes herself show patience. She forces herself to be kind. And then she's surprised when, one day, she realizes – she's not making herself do it anymore. It's genuine, and real, and it's strange to feel that way because now he's a friend, not just a fellow camper. It is a sort of…humbling feeling, but at the same time an odd sort of elation. But still – not love. He has washed away other perceptions, but not this.
v. It is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury;
When he comes back to camp for a second summer, seeing him again is…strange. She missed him; she's not used to the feeling. Everyone she cares about is here, at camp, so…who is there to miss? Except him. It is doubly strange because now there is not even a trace of what little animosity was left after he left last summer; instead, it's a real friendship, although he may not think so. She's still skittish and snappy because she doesn't understand these new thoughts and emotions, and he's the center of practically all of them.
The ones that aren't centered on him are centered on Luke. Luke Luke Luke, Luke who left her, Luke who rescued her, Luke who betrayed her, Luke who hugged her, Luke who tried to kill her friend, Luke who spun her in circles and made her laugh and smile and who brought her apples because he knew she loved them, Luke who…
And so things are still awkward between her and Percy, because Luke hangs between them like a barrier of lead and dried ice, poisonous and cold to the touch. And even as they journey on on their second quest, even as they run together, fight together, laugh together, joke together, he still remains there, in her mind, like an omnipresent shadow, watching and oppressing and brooding, intrusive and painful. And there is no love anywhere. Of this she is certain.
vi. It does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
The Sirens come and go, the nightmares arrive and fade away, and Percy stays constant – but even as he goes, so does his darker half, his shadow, the pain versus the joy: Luke. For every gesture Percy gives, she sees Luke there. She watches him with her parents in her perfect vision, and even as Percy holds her, even as she sobs, she hears his voice: "It's okay, Annabeth. It's okay. I've got you now."
Grover is safe, the Fleece retrieved – and then he is there. Painfully present, hurtfully insulting, nothing like the Luke she knows, but she sees him, the old Luke, her Luke, hiding and shimmering beneath his cruel exterior, a faded shadow in the curl of his lip, beside the ridges of his scars, inside the curl of his fingers and flashing briefly behind his blue stained-glass eyes that she knows so well. But he is overshadowed, so often overpowered, by the newer Luke, the one she is afraid of: the one who hurts and finds joy, who kills to sate himself. That is not her Luke.
He laughs in Percy's face, cruelly and tauntingly mocking his desperation. Over every wrong he executes, over every punishment exacted, he smiles and rejoices. Who is this? And still, she wonders: how can anyone believe in love? After something like this? And in her mind she wonders at the question, but refuses, subconsciously of course, to acknowledge where it springs from.
Thalia is broken, torn, and not from the tree – from Luke. She knows, knows that it was Luke who poisoned her, who is responsible for her pain, and Annabeth cries even as Thalia grieves for the man who she lost – who she had loved. And Annabeth holds herself back, because she believes that Thalia sees as she does: there is no love.
vii. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
That is all that there is, thrumming through her veins and heart and soul and mind – pain, pain, pain, pain. Her back is screaming, her legs dying, her neck breaking; her arms are not a part of her anymore, for she cannot feel them. All that is left to her is some weak realm of thought, and Luke is always there, and so on marches the pain, the pain, the pain.
But in that dark corner of her mind, she hopes. She hopes and she prays and she believes with all of what she is that Percy will come. Percy will be here. Percy will not abandon her, because he's Percy.
And so she will march on. She will bear this weight, this pain, this sacrifice, and she will endure because she must, because she knows that when he gets here – and he will, she knows this – there must be something for him to save.
And unbidden, verboten, taboo in her mind, the first thought takes root, unknown and secret. She does not think the word love. All she can think is Percy, and they are not the same. They are not.
viii. Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
Her head still spins, still swims, from the battle, from the fall she saw Luke take; but he is alive. She knows he is alive, and she doesn't know whether to be happy or sad about that fact. It means that her Luke remains; but so does the one that is not hers.
Even as this shadow hangs above her hurting heart (and it just keeps beating, damn it), it seems to pale in the light of the truth: Percy did come. She wasn't wrong; she hadn't hoped in vain. It feels like flying, almost, euphoric to know that someone has such loyalty towards her, her, who deserves it least of all people, it seems. She is moody and temperamental and often demeaning and demanding, but he doesn't care, he still came for her, and she is nearly giddy on that thought alone.
He hadn't left her. He hadn't failed her, failed her hope. He had come for her despite a dangerous prophecy, in spite of odds stacked high against him, regardless of how many people tried to keep him away. He is her friend, and he is loyal and trusting and lo –
There is no love.
ix. For we know partially and we prophesy partially;
She feels her greatest dreams springing to life around her; she is in Daedalus' Labyrinth, exploring, learning, seeking truth and leading a quest of her own.
She never expected to feel so pressured, so harried, so hurt and hopeful and strange all at once. She doesn't like it, because there's no logic, no rhyme or reason or anything else, and she doesn't know how to handle this emotional overload. The prophecy – the prophecy terrifies her, and no matter how much Percy asks, she won't tell him about it.
You're being illogical, her mind snaps at her. Her mind is sounding like her mother these days, and it's a little unsettling. He's not your love. You have no love, because there is no love. It's a prophecy; they're never straightforward. You know this. Listen to your mind. Your knowledge.
There is nothing else, love or otherwise, to depend on.
x. But when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
She kisses him.
She doesn't think about it, refuses to delve into it. It was for luck, she says, and she closes her mind to the matter. And then he's dead, and all she can think is, You fool, and she doesn't know why. She doesn't understand, she doesn't know, and she's in agony because the part of who she is – the knowledge – is rendered useless in the face of this overwhelming emptiness. What is this?
He is back, he is alive, and well, and he lies. He lies about Calypso, and she doesn't think she's ever been this kind of angry before. It is stinging, bitter, burning the back of her throat and the tip of her tongue with scorching words of rage she swallows down.
And oh, it hurts when Percy brings in the mortal girl, and Annabeth is never going to like the color red ever again. She doesn't think about why it hurts, doesn't want to, doesn't care (or so she tells herself).
Luke is gone. Her Luke, her Luke is trapped inside his own body – golden eyes in place of blue, a voice like a hundred blades across a whetstone, like the dying gasps of a soldier on a battlefield. That is not her Luke, and it hurts. (But not as much as Percy made you hurt, whispers a treacherous part of her mind.)
He finds her on the hill, and he says goodbye. He reaches out to her, and she can feel him there – alive and breathing and there, touchable and hurting and hoping for her to look at him. Her heart is pounding in her chest, and she hears it – look-now, look-now, look-now, look-now.
She heads down the hill. She says nothing. Look-back, look-back, look-back, look-back, beats out her treacherous heart, and she feels like ripping it out of her chest just so she can die and feel nothing ever again, because as much as she is hurting, knowing that she hurt him is twice as bad.
This is pain, she thinks.
xi. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
She is angry, so angry, but so happy to see him alive, and this, coupled with the sadness of Beckendorf's sacrifice, pushes her to her emotional edge. She is brusque, rude as she has not been since the beginning of their whatever-type-of-thing-this-is.
They argue, they yell. Her mind is screaming at her, mutinying against her will – he's no coward, she knows he's not, so why is her mind making her say this? Why? But she knows, she knows, but she's the coward, because she's too scared to admit what's taking hold of her, what is wrapping its way around her relationship and mind and heart.
She is childish and cowardly and conversations and thoughts from years long past keep drifting through her mind like fireflies above the strawberry fields at night – "Love isn't real," "There is no love," "That's not love." All her mind can make is distinctions, and what is she comparing them to?
She is the coward, she the child; she is a little girl in a woman's body with adult emotions, and she must grow up. She must. If love is real…she thinks. If…
xii. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
She is grown now, filled into her soul and mind and her emotions. Things fit, finally, as they should, and it is as though all of her life she has had clouds in her eyes and now they've been cleared.
Hindsight is bittersweet – for now she knows what love is. Love isn't the thing that Luke made it out to be, a complicated, twisted, hidden thing. Love is open; love is small and large and everything in between. Love is trusting someone totally. Love is smiling just to make them smile. Love is having faith. Love is knowing the truth. Love is making things work when it seems like they shouldn't. Love is partly anger, partly lust, partly want, partly hope. Love is in anything and everything. Love is all-encompassing.
There are strong hands, familiar and pleasant, on her waist, and gentle butterfly kisses scattered across her cheeks, and the hint of a smile in a kiss pressed chastely to her mouth. Love is Percy.
She knows that what she experiences now will only be clear in hindsight, and so she must wade through as best she can; but she also knows that she will have Love with her, and somehow, that makes everything all right.
xiii. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
A/N Okay, title means "Love conquers all" in Latin; quote from Virgil is, obviously, from Virgil (Roman poet); the words accompanying the thirteen parts (technically twelve, hush, I know) are the thirteen verses of the most famous portion of Paul's letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13), from the epistles of Paul, found in the Bible. I used the King James version.
Writing soundtrack: Falling In Love In A Coffeeshop - Landon Pigg, Lullaby for a Stormy Night - Vienna Tang, Disenchanted - My Chemical Romance, Be My Escape - Relient K, Speeding Cars - Imogen Heap, and L'appuntamento - Ornella Vanoni
Not much to say about this, except that I actually had a lot of fun writing it. I could be happier with the final product, but it was really more of an expurgation of thoughts than anything else, so I'm content. :)