Disclaimer: Anything recognized belongs to Rick Riordan, not me.

Happily Ever After

Thalia's still stuck under twenty tons of marble when the Fates walk down the path leading from the throne room. From her spot on the ground, she can't see much, but she can tell they're carrying something... and as they draw closer, closer, she can recognize shroud and green and body and dead and over, and she's suddenly a little dizzy and so far, far away from the reality of it all; and she wants to wake up and escape this nightmare, but no, her legs are pinned, her body rooted, and there's no running this time.

She watches as the Fates pass, numb with disbelief, and it's only when they're gone - when he's gone - and her breath has become short and her fingers cold and the statue lifted that she wishes she'd gotten the chance to say good-bye; wishes he'd looked at her with his blue-blue-blue eyes, blue like Luke and blue like love and blue like life; blue like them, not gold and greed and gore and KRONOS that blocks him out, shuts him away in a cage bathed in poison.

She's back at Camp Half-Blood the next day, granted temporary leave from the Hunters. She finds Percy and Annabeth strolling aimlessly about the valley, and as the latter races up to her with the former not far behind, she notices that he takes her hand; hesitates, but grasps onto her fingers like he never wants to let go. And when Annabeth responds by throwing him a quick smile and squeezing his hand, a gentle, gentle pressure, Thalia feels claws tighten around her chest, puncturing a lung and making it hard to breathe again; but she forces an eyebrow to quirk, forces herself to look and feel satisfied when they blush, forces a laugh and grin and hug.

"Watch it, Jackson," she says, the fake smile abandoning her easily. She basks in the realness of the threat, of her protectiveness over Annabeth. It's almost like the old days: the little seven-year-old girl with her father's hair and her mother's tenacity - only it's not like that at all, can't be. He left them, he left them, because she, Thalia, had disappeared, and she came back to an all-grown-up Annabeth with a few scars that hadn't been there before; scars that Luke left ingrained deep, deep into her skin.

And Thalia didn't forgive him, just didn't, because how could he do this to her? How could he have forgotten all that they had promised; all that they had been?

And only now, when she can still remember all that and it's too late to remind him; when she has forgiven him and it's too late to tell him, does she realize that she had loved him; still loves him, and no eternal pledge is going to change that, no matter how hard she tries, tries to unlove him.

So she watches Percy and Annabeth with envious eyes; watches them get married, have a child: little Luke, with Annabeth's - his - blonde hair and Percy's sea-green eyes; and Thalia's named godmother, still fifteen and still in love with his namesake. A refusal is on the tip of her tongue, but Annabeth looks at her with the same pleading, intelligent gaze as the little girl in the alleyway, and she can't, can't, can't say no.

And so it goes on, a never-ending loop: She fakes a smile and tries not to cry, tries to be strong; to plug all the cracks in the dam, keep it all back. It's never easy: Luke's smiling at her, a smile that lights up his green-blue eyes; she doesn't know who's who anymore, but that smile hammers against the walls of her heart, and she thinks Luke will haunt her forever.

Thalia leaves their house without looking back, hot tears stinging in her eyes and burning in her throat; without saying good-bye, as she always does. She collapses to her knees in an alley down the street and sobs; cries and cries and cries until she thinks she's cried all the Luke out of her, but she never does; never can, is never able to.

"Why?" she gasps to the air shredding in her already-punctured lungs. "Why? Why do they get their happily ever after?" She pounds the cement with her fists, wishing she can crack it; break it; make it just like her, shattered, in pieces, so that she's not so alone. "Why don't I get one? Where's mine?"

But she gets up; walks away; sleeps at night, with nightmares of gold and forced smiles and cages and tears and fractured sidewalks; with dreams of blue and him and her and happily ever afters.

Fin.

AN: Well, what do you think? I wasn't so sure about the ending... or any of it, really...