For Zoe H.


To Hades with it all.

I don't care anymore - I don't want to care anymore. I don't want to have to worry about the war we're in the middle of, the Titan lord on the other side of town, the Luke I thought I knew, or the son of Poseidon I always worry about anyway. I don't want to have to carry my knife in the easiest place to reach possible, I don't want to have to give false encouragement - I don't want to keep fighting.

I want to be back at camp. With Percy. Safe.

The fact that I'm not almost makes me wish Will hadn't made it in time. Almost.

I almost wish they'd let me die, like so many others already had, so I could hopefully get Elysium, or even the Asphodel Fields, and I could wait out the end of this whole eternity until Percy joins me. I almost with they'd let me die, so I could build the illusion that everything is peaceful and right in the world, the illusion I was never able to build. Almost.

Because then I see Percy.

His shirt is shredded nearly to nothing, even that much I notice through the white-hot pain in my body, concentrated in my arm. The just-coming-up sun is reflected in his eyes, and they sparkle like the ocean would during the sunrise - I would know: I always used to watch it in San Francisco, and at camp - with such icy fear that I almost can't look at them, but I do anyway, because I love those eyes. His dark hair is flecked with monster dust, and Riptide is at his side, the blade as sharp as ever, even though that shouldn't be remotely possible with the amount of hacking and slashing it's done lately. He has worry lines in his brow, and it makes me realize just how horrible that is. Demigods usually don't get worry lines until they're at least twenty-one (although hangovers play a major part in that).

It's even worse when I look at the other faces - faces that are a lot fuzzier than Percy's, because his is the clearest of all - and see worry lines in everyone else's brows too, and it makes the pain in my arm sear when I realize that I must have them, maybe even more.

Percy kneels beside me and takes my hand; I squeeze his, trying not to break his fingers despite my muscles trying to without me telling them.

I distantly hear Will exhale in relief. He says the poison hasn't gotten past my shoulder, that much I can put together, but I hear the word "nectar" and tighten my grip on Percy's hand.

"Ow" doesn't do it justice.

Now the wound stings and burns, and the latter is now hotter than ever before. I bite my tongue, hard, and focus my don't-scream-out-in-pain efforts into my hand, which I happen to forget is still in Percy's. His fingertips turn purple.

I dimly hear Will start murmuring something incoherent: A hymn to Apollo. As he finishes, I feel stronger - but only slightly. I seem to be able to hear better, and although the fire in my arm is still going strong, it's as if it's been shrunk, just a little.

I don't even try to pay attention when everyone starts debating about getting stuff for the injured (which I really hope doesn't mean me). I don't look at Percy anymore, either; my eyes are closed, helping me try to control my breathing. I notice everyone begin to shuffle out. My heart feels a little heavier, somehow.

I feel a damp cloth on my forehead. Silena. Thank the gods.

She says it's her fault.

If I had the strength, I would yell right in her face that it's not. But I don't have the strength, and I just barely manage to mumble the opposite out, with only a hair of threat lying underneath.

I hear another voice. My eyes snap open.

Percy is still here. Still holding tight to me. (Gods, I don't want him to let go.) Still fighting for me.

...the Ares cabin...

I can't get my ears to listen to what Silena is saying, even though they want to hang on Percy's every syllable.

...Clarrise is pretty stubborn.

That's an understatement.

Silena keeps begging and pleading. Percy and I exchange looks. I nod slightly, and he gives permission. (Wow, that's not the weirdest thing in the world to think.) She flings her arms around him, but pushes back again, glancing at me. She apologizes; I raise my eyebrows. She gives us the smallest of smiles, then takes off through the doors to find a winged ride.

Percy scoots closer to me and feels my forehead. I notice that the back of his hand is different from his palm: His palm is warm, like sand on a beach, heated up in the sun, but the back his cool and refreshing, like jumping into the ocean in the middle of a sticky summer day. I've never noticed it before, but I add it to my not-really-there List of Things I Love About Percy.

I tell him he's cute when he's worried. His eyebrows get all scrunched together.

He commands me to not die while he owes me a favor. It might be the only reason I stay out of the Underworld during the rest of this war. Then he asks me why I took that knife.

It's one of the few questions I really don't have an answer to.

I try to think back to the little "battle" we had going on, but my memory's a little foggy. Ethan had stabbed, right toward Percy's back... and I had a chill run down my spine, like I knew exactly what was going to happen...

I still don't have a good answer.

He would have done the same for me. It's true, we both know it.

He asks me how I knew.

Knew what?

He leans in close, so close his breath tickles my ear, and whispers, His Achilles spot. If I hadn't taken that knife, he would've died.

I imagine what that would be like and immediately wish I didn't. My mind comes up with a vision of a bloody Percy on the ground, his back sliced open like a gutted fish, blood pouring from a green-tinged wound like mine. He's on his side, shaking like crazy, and I don't know how it happened, but his limbs are twisted at funny angles, like they're broken. The circle of enemy demigods back away as Luke - no, Kronos - dismounts his steed and walks slowly toward Percy. He raises his scythe and brings it swishing back down...

I hate myself for almost hearing the scream of pure pain that Percy would probably have let out.

I ask him where the spot is.

He hesitates.

The small of his back.

I break my hand away from Percy's against my better judgement and put it on his spine, which is practically shirtless. His skin seems to tingle. He moves my fingertips to a spot a little above his tail bone. I don't feel anything different, but he shivers.

I saved him. He thanks me.

I remove my hand, but he takes it again.

So he owes me. What else is new?

The sun is higher now than it was before, but it's dull. Apollo isn't there driving the sun chariot, I realize, and so the light isn't as yellow as usual, but more orange. I glance over at Percy and see his eyes dart all over the city, to everywhere he can see. I look too: It's quiet, too quiet to be New York, too quiet to be natural. The silence has a certain thickness to it, so that things don't echo as loud as they should. There are so many lives at stake.

He asked me why Hermes was mad at me.

He says I need to rest. He's right, but I don't care. I don't think we're going to get another moment like this any time soon. That thought hurts.

I want to tell him.

I move my shoulder and wince, wondering how he's going to react.

Luke came to see me in San Francisco.

In person?

(No, he sent a talking monkey dressed like a Disney princess.) It was before the Labyrinth, before...

I can't go on. I hate myself for a lot of things, and trusting Luke is one of them. Loving Luke is one of them.

It was under a flag of truce. He only wanted five minutes. He looked scared. He said Kronos was going to try to take over the world. He wanted to run away, like the old days. He wanted me to come with him.

But I didn't trust him.

Of course not. I thought it was a trick. A lot of things had changed. I told him there was no way. He got mad. He said... he said I might as well fight him then, because it was the last chance I'd get.

I feel myself heat up. This is painful in a way my arm isn't.

He tells me to get some rest like I don't have nightmares as much as he does.

He doesn't understand. Hermes was right. I could've changed his mind. Or - or I had a knife. Luke was unarmed. I could've -

I've never been so glad that Percy finishes for me, because just that slim, slim possibility just about stops my heart.

Killed him? I know that wouldn't have been right.

And that's true. I squeeze my eyes shut, trying not to think about at while simultaneously trying not to cry out in pain: my arm is burning again.

Kronos was using him like a stepping stone. Those were his exact words. Kronos would use Luke, and become even more powerful.

According to Percy, Kronos has already done that by possessing Luke's body.

I'm not so sure. What if Luke's body is only a transition? What if Kronos has a plan to become even more powerful? I could've stopped him. The war is my fault.

I feel like pegasus poo. The guilt that was eating away at my insides is now literally eating away at my arm. It's my fault Percy had to bathe in the Styx, and almost died. It's my fault Beckendorf is dead. It's my fault so many of our friends are injured. It's my fault Thalia lost Luke. It's my fault Morpheus put Grover to sleep for two months and scared the living Hades out of us. It's my fault all of New York city, the city that never sleeps, is as dead as a doornail. It's my fault Silena's a wreck.

I hate myself.

Percy gives my hand a gentle squeeze and takes a deep breath, but lets it out when Connor opens the door and steps out. Percy's breath smells like an ocean breeze.

Grover's back. I almost want to get up and give him a hug, but the wound stops me from it, just like it stops me from so much else right now.

Percy's hand clings desperately to mine as he leaves with Connor, trying so, so hard to keep holding on. He looks back at me with I'm sorry spelled in his eyes. (To Hades with my "To Hades with it all.") Our fingertips brush together.


This is the first PJO fic I've written in a while. I'm happy with how it turned out. Hope you are, too.

This was for Zoe, whose birthday was today. Happy Birthday, Zoe!