Hello there! First of all, seeing as I made no sense for the umpteenth time, what basically just happened is that Mary's mom passive-aggressive'd Apollo into saving Chris. In my head, Apollo had held Chris responsible for Mary's death, but finally decided that if Mary's mom didn't blame him, he could forgive him too.
Thing number two: Last week, my email thought it would be fun to start chucking 95 percent of fanfiction emails into junk, hence my review whoring. I do apologize for that; I was just a little worried because I thought I had gotten exactly 1 review for chapter 56. Thanks so much to everyone who reviewed! It made my day to know I hadn't lost everybody! :D
Thing number three: This is maybe, possibly, sort of the last chapter. I think everything major is wrapped up, and I don't have much of anywhere to go from here. This is certainly the end of the main plot, at least. There may be one more fluffy one á la chapter 49, but only if I get a good idea for it. If this does turn out to be the last chapter, I just want to say holy flipping flipflops, I flipping love you guys. I had so much fun writing this story, and on behalf of Chris and Clarisse, thank you so much for showing the minor characters some love. ;)
I had expected to see some random Apollo kid when I opened my eyes, or maybe Mary's mom, or maybe, possibly Clarisse. What I got was the godling. That godling. Amphi-whatsit.
He tensed, and I realized he was busy wrapping gauze around my arm, which felt cut to the bone. When did that happen?
"I'm sorry," he said.
I stared at him blankly. "What?"
"I'm sorry. I had never been off Olympus before I got lost down there. I didn't know humans saw things like that."
"What, that we don't like it when you kill us?"
"Yeah. I still don't get why. Isn't that what Hades is for?"
"Not the same," I snapped, barely resisting the urge to slug him. She says let it go, said Nico's voice in my head. "You can't change anything in the Underworld. Once you're dead, you're done. You don't matter anymore."
If you ever did in the first place, of course.
"Oh," he said, but I could tell he didn't really get it. "Sorry for trying to kill you, too."
He frowned. I noticed his face was bleeding ichor, like maybe he'd actually fought Kronos's army rather than hiding somewhere and waiting for it all to blow over. "Really," he said. "I didn't know. Do you forgive me?"
I hesitated. "Yeah. For that. If you want forgiveness for killing her, ask her yourself. That's not mine to give."
"Okay," he said simply, and something told me he actually intended to follow through.
"Over there!" a voice called. "Hey, Chris!"
Alice and the Athena boy came wading through the wounded demigods that were littered throughout Olympus's streets. They both looked pretty banged-up, but nothing that wouldn't get better. Their elbows were hooked together. Something told me they'd spent the past few hours like that.
"Hey," I said. "Clarisse okay?"
"Yeah, they brought her up here and thawed her out. She was pretty pissed," Alice said, clearly trying not to smile. "She's in the throne room with Ares. She told us to find you, and that you'd better be alive or they'd have another war on their hands."
"Bleh, no thanks," I said, stumbling to my feet and following them. "What happened, anyway? Did the gods beat him?"
"Don't think so. Something about Percy, but I'm not sure. I heard something about Luke coming through for us in the end."
I remembered how he had hesitated in the street. It didn't surprise me that he'd changed his mind, somehow.
The throne room was in utter chaos. Gods, godlings, demigods, satyrs, nymphs, and who knew what else charged in every direction. It took me a minute to locate Ares, but those glasses were hard to miss. He was on some kind of rant about drakons. Clarisse seemed pretty happy with whatever he was saying. She was clearly distracted and kept fiddling with her hair and looking over her shoulder, but she smiled when he patted her on the back.
Suddenly, her eyes fell on me. I expected her to smile or maybe even excuse herself from Ares. What actually happened was that she took off at a dead sprint, launching herself into a hug that would have tackled me to the ground if I hadn't been ready for it.
"Uh, hey, Clementine," I said, hugging her back. Over Clarisse's shoulder, I saw Aphrodite grinning like the Cheshire cat and clasping her hands just like Silena always had.
Clarisse turned and glanced at Ares guiltily. He looked a little miffed, but waved his hand in an oh-don't-mind-me gesture.
"Nice job," I said. "With the drakon."
"I can't believe she did that," Clarisse muttered.
"Me either. It kind of… made sense, though, you know? I mean, with Beckendorf… I think she's probably okay with it."
"Well, I'm not. If I'd just—"
"Hey, Clarisse, remember how you always told me you'd knock me out if I blamed myself for Mary's death one more time?"
"That. I mean, I wouldn't knock you out, but… you know. Don't start that. You couldn't have possibly known how that would end up."
Clarisse punched my shoulder lightly. "Whatever, punk. Thanks for not dying."
"I try. Now, go let Ares finish his story before he fries both of us. I promise I won't get myself killed if you turn your back for two minutes."
"I'm holding you to that."
As soon as Clarisse was gone, someone else tapped my shoulder. I turned to see Hermes standing behind me. His expression wasn't nearly as exuberant as the throne room's general mood.
"How are you?" he said quietly. He didn't quite look me in the eye.
"Um, alive, I guess."
"I can see that you're alive. I meant, how have things turned out for you? I apologize once again for allowing you to be caught in the crossfire. One would think I would have learned by now that attempting to change fate never works."
"Nah. If you just let it do its thing, what's the point?" I shrugged. "Look, I'm fine. Really. I've had an interesting couple of years, but I'll be okay. Don't worry about it."
"I don't think I'll ever stop worrying about you."
"What's that supposed to mean?" I grumbled, trying to ignore the warm and fuzzy feeling that came from knowing he had ever worried about me in the first place.
Hermes finally looked me in the eye, raising one elfish eyebrow. "I mean that you have a certain knack for landing yourself in trouble, no matter what I do," he said, half-smiling and throwing a glance at Clarisse.
I shrugged again. "If I'm gonna get myself in trouble anyway, who better than a daughter of Ares to watch out for me? Even if she is the trouble I'm in half the time."
Hermes gave me a look that clearly said your funeral, but smiled and half-hugged me before walking away.
Hermes was the only Olympian to actually talk to me, but a couple more caught my eye, deliberately or otherwise. Apollo and Dionysus in particular seemed to be caught in internal battles as to whether or not to shoot me a death glare. In both cases, I actually managed to keep myself from glaring at them. If they were considering letting it go, I could at least not go out of my way to antagonize them. Both gods eventually nodded. I returned the gesture, careful to keep it from looking smug.
I went outside and leaned against one of the pillars, watching people bustle around. Olympus was already starting to look amazing again. All the wounded demigods had been taken care of. Now the minor gods were turning their attention to the statues and landscaping. I couldn't help smiling. If nothing else, maybe this whole thing had helping the Olympians put their priorities a little more in order.
"So that's over? You playing chicken with half of Olympus?"
I turned. Clarisse was leaning against the pillars next to me.
"Looks like it. Can't say I'm complaining. In retrospect, I may have been slightly out of my league on that one."
"Yeah, just a little." She was silent for a few seconds. "I'm surprised."
"Look, it seemed worth it. We just finished fighting a war."
"I'm not criticizing you. I'm just surprised 'cause I think that might be your fatal flaw. Refusal to forgive. Even yourself."
I blinked. "Oh."
"That's why I was so worried about you when you were having nightmares and all," she said, her eyes on the ground. "I didn't think you'd ever get over it. I thought you'd drive yourself insane all over again or something. You seemed like you had a death wish for a while there."
"Nah. Not while you were around. I love you." I blinked, wondering where the Hades that had come from. I mean, I meant it, but since when did I have that kind of guts? Now she'd probably punch me in the face and—
"I love you too."
I probably could have come up with an answer to that, but I decided to go with the response Silena and Mary would have approved of and just kissed her instead.
Yeah, I'd be okay.