[Or, Five Times Thalia Grace Didn't Say "I Love You" (And One Time She Did)]
I. I think that possibly maybe I'm falling for you – yes, there's a chance that I've fallen quite hard over you; I've seen the waters that make your eyes shine
She is young and brash and bold just because she can be. No one stops her from being rude, from being snappy, from being unconventional, and so she goes along with it because she can, and she doesn't fit in anywhere else anyway, so why bother trying? It doesn't seem to make any sense, so she makes her own kind of sense and that's that.
She knows, deep down, that's she's completely and totally lost, even with a credit card and a backpack full of carefully packed clothes and a train ticket to Oklahoma. And when she buys another train ticket (she closes her eyes and jabs her finger at the destination board and so now she's going to Wisconsin), she doesn't feel any better about it. A map of the train lines across the U.S. doesn't help either.
When she gets to Wisconsin (and it's cold there, ugh), she leaves the trains behind and decides that buses are freer anyway, more open. Buses are better than trains. (She wouldn't know; she's never been on a bus before.) And she's waiting at the bus stop with some other kid, and suddenly they're talking, and what's up with this? Because apparently they're friends now. When did that happen?
But she realizes, even as she opens her mouth to tell the boy she's changed her mind, she works alone, that for the first time since she left her house (not a home, never a home) she doesn't feel lost. She could almost hug him and tell him she loves him for it, but she rejects the idea as stupid. Instead, she steals a baby carrot from his fried rice.
II. I hope that someday I'll see without these frames, and in the daylight I don't pick up my phone, 'cause in the daylight anywhere feels like home
"We're lost, Thalia."
"Shut up, Luke. We're not lost."
She shoots him a glare and shoves her nose back in the map he stole from the convenience store they are crouching behind. They somehow wound up in southern Louisiana, and she can safely say that New Orleans is the freest, most easygoing place that she's been yet. People just smile at them on the street, just wave hello, and there's fresh food everywhere, and it smells good, like incense and ice cream and powdered sugar and deep-fried things. She thinks she's eaten more here than anywhere else so far, mostly because people have just given her food.
The only problem is that they were supposed to end up in Florida, not Louisiana, and as good as the food is here, she doesn't know the area like she knows Ft. Lauderdale in Florida, and New Orleans doesn't have an empty house her mother owns. Unfortunately. And so she and Luke are crouched next to a dumpster behind a CVS, poring over a map he magically snatched from the counter.
"Maybe we were supposed to get off and transfer in Virginia?"
"Well that's just stupid," Thalia decides, frowning. (She's actually pouting, but she'll never admit to it.)
He laughs and leans against the brick wall. His light green t-shirt is scrunched up and wet on the back from sweat (because it's hot down here, jesus), and his feet are sandaled and his hair is messy and his eyes are the exact same shade of blue as the sky at noon and she's just happy. Sitting next to a dumpster in the back lot of a stupid drugstore in the middle of one hundred and four degree weather with seventy nine percent humidity, and she's the happiest she's ever been. Even if they're lost, she's not lost, not like before, and she knows that he feels the same way.
She feels like she's found a home, a home with this perfect boy and in this perfect life, and she doesn't need a map to know she's happy. He brushes a strand of hair away from her sweaty face and smiles at her, and she bites her lip to keep from saying, "I love you." Instead, she bats his hand away, pokes him in the side, and stands up. "Let's go get some of those doughnut things."
III. You're beautiful, just the way you are, and I love it all, every line and every scar; and I wish I could make you see this is where you ought to be
She loves the nighttime.
Even now that she really knows about the gods and whatever, she doesn't look up at the moon and think, "Hey, Artemis, what's up?" It's just as distant and unknowable as it's always been, a constant throughout her life, and it feels good to have something that doesn't change, a landmark to who she is and what she does.
They lost their map, but they can get another one at the gas station tomorrow. She and Luke and Annabeth are sleeping in a cheap motel bedroom, because they managed to charm the owner into giving them a spare room for the night. Only she can't sleep. So she's outside of the sliding glass doors, standing next to the too-green pool and staring up at the moon.
"I was wondering where you were."
His voice is quiet, and so much a part of the scene that it doesn't even startle her. She just turns and smiles at him, openly. It's a smile that she doesn't use often, full of sweetness and happiness and the parts of her that make her Thalia. Not many people get to see it, and he seems to understand that because he smiles back with his Luke smile, full of promises and joy and tenderness.
"I like to look at the moon," she told him as he came up to stand next to her, their shoulders brushing. A breeze pushes her hair against his neck, and he reaches up and catches a dark black strand in his fingers. He bites his lip, and in the soft light of the moon his eyes are silver and blue at the same time, and his skin is pale and he looks so ethereal and perfect. And then he is looking at her, and there is something passionate humming behind his face, and she catches her breath at the intensity of it.
Gently, with sweet eyes, he brushes her hair across his cheek before setting it back with the rest of the black mass. His hand lingers, and she fights the urge to turn into it, to give in to the voice that's rising up and saying, "I love you." Because even if she does, even if, she loves what they have too much to risk it.
They stand together, two beautiful children in the moonlight, perfect in their imperfection, breathing statues filled with love that they each refuse to share.
IV. I will never let you fall; I'll stand up with you forever – I'll be there for you through it all, even if saving you sends me to heaven
It's still hard to believe that all of those years have passed, because there's nothing to remember them by, not even the moon; all she has are flashes of diluted color and sound, here and there, and before that, just vague recollections of travels. They are growing stronger, though, those pre-tree memories, and soon she'll be sort of whole again. But she has a feeling in her gut, and she can't shake it off or chase it away, and she isn't able to name it.
Her dreams are vivid and sometimes disturbing. This one, this one she is having, though, is different. Her lungs are burning as she gasps for air, staggering up hills and tripping and falling on roots. She is running out of a forest and into a plain of grass. Before her, she can see a hill, rising majestic in the moonlight, and a strange-looking boy with a torch, calling out for help. There is a little girl on her side, and she trips, but Thalia catches her and shoves the golden-haired child in front of her.
"Run!" she rasps out. "Run, quickly! Faster, Annabeth!" And Annabeth listens, pumping her poor tiny legs as fast as she can, tears of exhaustion streaming down her round face. She can hear the monsters, now, behind them, but there is someone else here. Annabeth is going up the hill, and Thalia stops at the base and turns. He nearly crashes into her.
"Thalia, what are you doing?" he demands, his grip on her forearms tight. He goes to pull her up the hill, Grover shooting past them, bleating in terror. He pulls at her. "Come on! We need to go!"
She shakes her head, bitterness rising in her mouth. "We won't make it behind defenses. It's me they want."
"Thalia!" he exclaims, his voice a half-gasp, half-sob, a harsh whisper. "No! No, I'll die! I won't let them – Thalia!"
And then his mouth is on hers, and he is the sweetest thing in the world, the best, the bravest, the most beautiful, and she knows, with a flash of insight so sharp it cuts into her soul, that he cannot die. She will not let him lose this life, this precious gift that is his, that belongs to the world, because he is good. She isn't; she's rebellious, imperfect, plain, normal except for her father. She is not like him, but she loves him.
And she reigns in the words, because if she says them he won't leave her. She tears herself away from him with a sharp pang in her chest and shoves him up. "Go!" she says. She steels her face into the best mask she has ever worn, a look of utter promise. "I'll follow. Go!"
This is her sacrifice. This is her plan. She doesn't care, she will die, but he must live, because he is perfect, and if she needs to die to save him, then so be it.
When she wakes, she is sobbing, and the feeling in her gut is amplified by a thousand, and she knows: she feels lost again, and this time, there is no Luke to lead her back. She swallows her desperate whispers of "I love you," turns her face to the pillow, and wishes she had died.
V. I took a guess and cut a portion out of my heart – he said, "That's nowhere close enough, but it's a damn good start."
She is alone, separate, and more lost than she has ever been before in her life. She feels so numb – but then how does it still hurt?
Because it does. More than dying, more than transformation, more than rebirth, this hurts like nothing she's ever felt before in her life. She feels old, old in heart and old in soul, and she doesn't know how she'll go on. But she will.
Because this is her punishment. This is her penance. Her action, her false promise, destroyed the only perfect thing she had ever known in the world. She had brought him to what he has done, and so she must pay for it.
"I pledge myself to Artemis," she says, and it is like hearing someone else speak with her voice. Her heart is screaming, her soul twisting, her will breaking.
And finally, finally, her actions speak louder than her words. As she enters into her eternal atonement for her sin, her mind and body together sing louder than any words.
I love you.
I – Falling in Love At A Coffee Shop – Landon Pigg
II – Daylight – Matt and Kim
III – Come Down To Me – Saving Jane
IV – Guardian Angel – Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
V – Devil In The Wishing Well – Five for Fighting
Um, wow. Two stories in two days. Still, blame the music for this one. All of it. Stupid music. –grumbles-
Not exactly as I wanted it, but it refuses to be tweaked. So be it. –shrug-