Come on, he says, screams. Come on, you coward. Give it all you've got.

You stand there and you stare and you wonder just how the hell things got like this. What with Luke screaming at you around two in the morning outside the Hermes cabin, and yourself still dressed in your dirty clothes that you ran around in all day. What with you wishing, Just stop screaming, please. Please.

Luke takes a step closer, shoves you into the outside wall of the cabin, demands, Talk. Talk, Percy. Talk big, fight good, be brave. Talk.

So you talk. How, you say, before he digs his fingers into your arms, abruptly stopping you, and you almost whimper in pain. But you don't. You'll be brave, just like he said.

How what, he asks, whispers, grimacing. You wonder what you did to put that look on his face. It makes you want to cry, but all you do is shake your head. It's all you can do, after all. Then he says, one more time, Be brave, Percy.

Your question had been, How? How do you stand there and say and do and be like that? But, no, you won't say that. You won't ever. Because you don't talk big, not at times like this. You're not brave, not at times like this.

No, he says, and he seems to have forgotten you in that tiny space of twenty-five seconds; his whisper grows softer until you're leaning in close to catch the breath of words that whisper through his lips. No, no, no, no… He's repeating it like a mantra.

So, being contradictory like you always are, you whisper, just once, Yes. It looks like you're asking for a fight; Fight good, you remember. Fight good and be brave.

His eyes dart up, catch yours, and a sob chokes his throat. You have no idea what you just did.

For one, he doesn't seem to be wanting to murder you anymore.

For another, tears are running down his face.

You reach up; trap a tear on your fingertip. You bring it close to your face, smooth the tear over your lips. You don't know why you do this. But you do, anyway. Be brave, Luke's voice whispers in your head.

Luke's watching you, watching your hand, your finger, watching the way your lips glisten now that a fresh tear is spread over them.

You lick your lips, just to see.

His tears taste like salt and sadness and betrayal.

Be brave.


[one-shot about Percy & Luke, as a holiday gift from me to you. :D i own nothing but the situation, unfortunately.]