Well, it's not Luke/Percy... but it's still one of the best PJO stories I've written yet!




"If you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think it a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs."

—Ambrose Bierce

He's always considered this an honorable statement, a perfect illustration of the demigod's life— or rather death—; facing the ending of everything with back straight, eyes open, feet planted firmly, everything braced for the final blow.

But somehow, here in the airy throne room of Mount Olympus, with the sun shining and the birds singing and everyone standing in a crowd waiting for him to die it's different.

He begins to see the merits of falling down the cellar stairs.

It's a beautiful summer day. In a different world, a happier one, he'd be down on Long Island polishing javelins, bandaging knees, maybe even stealing some toiletries for a wet-behind-the-ears undetermined kid fresh from his first supernatural encounter.

But this isn't what should be the real world. This is the tarnished world, the crumbling world, the godsdamned Western Tradition world that he'd thought he wanted to destroy.

Now he's not so sure. He's not so sure he even cares. After today it could all be destroyed and he wouldn't know, because he won't be here. And what does the world matter if it's nothing to do with you?

They're looking at him. Their looking pierces through him. He remembers a painting he once saw: some young martyr, shot full of arrows shot to rags, pinned against a tree like a pretty ivory butterfly. Even though his blood was soaking into the ground, his eyes were raised to heaven. Waiting for his god to come and take him away.

Test them to the breaking point. Let your warriors die. Raise their names high above all others, give them fame and respect from all, but in the end don't bother with giving them a way out.

Gods may come and gods may go, but in the end religion stays the same, he thinks, and almost smiles. Almost. Gallows humor isn't so funny when it's you facing the gallows, or the axe.

They're looking at him. He supposes he must cut a tragic figure: handsome dashing young man, waiting to be executed for crimes against the state. Prince of thieves, robber baron. That young martyr was handsome, too. Even beautiful. Why is it that everything beautiful is always destroyed? Why is it that no one seems to care? Or worse, takes pleasure in it?

He'd never take pleasure in it. Olympus is not beautiful. It's only as beautiful as Elizabeth I from a distance, before you got close enough to see the lines under the red paint and the stench of the rotten teeth.

Athena raises her spear. Its blade is long enough to cut through a man's neck, and very sharp. He shouldn't suffer too much. At the death, that is. Her armor is gold, almost as gold in the sunlight as the hair of a person he sees in the front row, a person hiding her face in the shoulder of another, this one nothing but a face of white and black and green.

They're looking at him. There's three of them. At first he thinks it's the Fates, but he sees no yarn in their hands, no homely domesticated symbol of all a person ever was; it's just three teenagers. Blue eyes, green eyes, gray.

The spear blade begins to fall and he knows there must be noise, music, a drumroll, tumult, something, but he doesn't hear it and he doesn't see the blur of divine silver falling like a feather, like a judgment, because in his mind he's already falling and the only thing he can see is them. His fates. They're looking at him and he's glad, they're looking at him with dry eyes and steady mouths and cold, cold hearts and though the gods will think they are being vindicated, grimly watching the lesson they already understand so well see that, children? Watch and learn watching the traitor die with a terrible joy in their hearts, he knows they are simply being brave.

They don't look away.

And that's all that matters to him.

If they had wept, or hid their faces, if they had been too afraid to watch him go, then he would have ducked, rolled away, done something drastic and then who knows how it would have ended? But how it would have ended wouldn't have mattered, because if they had not been strong for him then that would have killed him anyway. His systems might have gone on working, but he would have felt nothing. Death twice warmed over. Later he knows there will be tears, many tears, especially graying over again those stormy eyes.

They're looking at him.

They don't look away.

And that's all that matters to him.

A/N: The figure Luke alludes to is Saint Sebastian of Milan, a popular subject of Renaissance painters. Contrary to popular belief, Sebastian actually survived his execution by shooting, but was later beaten to death on order of the same emperor who ordered him shot. Because of this, is sometimes known as the saint who was martyred twice.