#insert 'stddisclaimer.h'

Intentionally OOC where applicable.


by Incendiarist

Heart lesson #4: the unrequited heart.
You can't make anyone love you back.
~ Ibi Kaslik

She smiles in his direction just like she always does. The sun is setting, and he looks absolutely amazing. The way his brown hair turns a reddish colour in the light, the way his smile is practically sparkling…

He doesn't pay any attention to her, though. He's talking to his cabinmates animatedly, not even glancing her direction.

She berates herself for acting like an Aphrodite girl, but doesn't really feel guilty (why should she? Everyone knows that the Aphrodite girls know all sorts of things, and that the other campers really could bear to take a lesson or two from them.). She's attracted to him, and damn it, she is going to make him notice her.

(She ignores the knowing smirks that the girls from cabin ten are giving her.)

Brick by brick...

She partners with him for sword-fighting, hoping that maybe, just maybe, he'd realise that she even exists. He's far better than she is, winning the duel without really even paying attention. So the second time around, she tries a tactic she'd never imagined herself using. No, she thinks. Silena might, or maybe Drew, but I thought I was better that that. (She isn't, of course.)

He swings his sword, and it makes contact with hers. Loosely held, it clatters out of her hands.

'Oh, oops!' she says, completely out of character. 'I'm sorry… I know I'm really bad at this. I just can't seem to figure out how to hold the sword right!'

She almost gags, hearing herself talking like that. Somehow the ploy worked (she knew it would, of course, having carefully watched the much more practiced campers, but she seems to prefer deluding herself.), though, and the next thing she knows, he has his arms around her, and she has to remind herself that he's just trying to help her put her hands in the correct positions on the hilt.

As she leaves, she runs into one of the Athena campers accidentally. She apologises, but the girl (who has really greasy hair, not that it matters. Well, except that people with greasy hair are practically proven to be rude.) doesn't really seem to want to hear it, giving a 'harrumph!' and walking away.

(The incident is quickly forgotten, though, as she ascends back to Cloud Nine.)

...stone by stone...

'You bastards!' She stalks towards the Hermes cabin, the other campers parting like the Red Sea, knowing that they'd really prefer not being strangled by the tree roots that were shooting out of the ground, following the pissed off Demeter girl. (They're acting much more wisely than usual, actually. Even the Athena kids know enough to get out of the way.)

He smirks at her, and she can almost imagine that it's just a smile, and that she really didn't want to murder him, but the bubble bursts as he speaks. 'You know, I was under the distinct impression that every demigod here was a bastard, weren't you, Travis?'

His older brother grins. 'Yeah, isn't "illegitimate child" sort of the definition of the word "bastard"?' (Travis Stoll knows what the word "illegitimate" means? It's a miracle!)

She tries to calm down, tries to speak softly, but damn it, they put chocolate eggs on her cabin's roof, and they'll have hell to pay. Demeter might not seem like that terrifying a force, but they hadn't seen the wrath of nature yet, and by the gods, they would.

A stream of curses that might have been more at home in the mouth of a sailor than a teenaged girl are said (and I, your completely reliable narrator who most definitely isn't, you know, lying about any of this would like to take this moment to cough. Oddly enough, the cough sounds a good deal like the word "screamed".), and she has to be held back by a few members of the Ares cabin (they probably have a death wish.) so she doesn't strangle the twins. But she can glare all she wants, and glare she does.

(Though mostly at Travis, because she isn't actually mad at Connor, even if she won't admit it.)

...created and destroyed...

Eventually, Connor still not having shown any sort of recognition of her pleas for attention (the nerve of the male portion of humanity!), she decides to come to the master of this sort of thing. That is to say, me.

'Well, Katie,' I told her, 'I think you should just make the first move, since he's obviously too stupid to notice your hints.'

'You think so?' she says, amazed that I could be right (why she's amazed is anyone's guess, though.).

'Of course!' I reply, getting up from my bunk, having been sitting there during our discussion. 'And don't hold back, either. He'll have to figure out that you like him somehow, won't he?'

She looks apprehensive about something, and blurts out, 'But what if he isn't paying attention to me because he isn't interested? I mean, what if he doesn't even like girls?'

I shrug in response. 'That, Katie, isn't my problem. And you'll never know if you don't do something, will you?'

'I guess you're right..' she mutters.

I smile. 'Of course I am! I'm always right when it comes to matters of the heart.'

As she leaves, I can already tell she's planning something. Knowing that my advice is practically infallible, I'm sure it will turn out fine.

(But I ask a favour of my mother, just in case.)

...trust and distrust...

She waits after dinner one day. It's late into the summer, and there're fireflies in the air, altogether creating a rather cliché scene (something that my mother set up, of course.).

'Hey, Connor,' she says, standing near the back of the pavilion as campers start to file out for the sing-along at the bonfire. 'Wait up, will you?'

He stays, and they talk for a few minutes. I can't hear the words, but when they part ways, she's smiling happily. I figure that she'll come to thank me soon enough, considering how things must have turned out, so I don't meet up with her now.

And as I go back to my cabin, I send up a prayer of thanks for my mum's cooperation.

(Now for part two of the plan.)

...love and hate...

I used to think that love was forever. That was the way it was meant to be, in it's purest form. Then I studied histories, the things that my mother had a part in, and I realised that she had always adored tragic love. So I followed in her footsteps; she was the goddess of love, after all. (But if I was going to be honest, I'd have to say that I just wanted her to notice me for once.)

My plan was simple, really. I would forge a relationship that was under my control, and mine alone. And then I'd break that relationship down, brick by brick, stone by stone.

I can, of course, create love, in a sense. Well, obsession and lust would be more accurate wording, but I hardly think it matters. When it all comes down to the bare bones of the matter, there's hardly any difference between the two.

Now, I didn't create the feelings that Katie had (strengthened them a tad, maybe...), but I did create the feelings Connor had. Low maybe, but if my mum wants tragic, I'm going to give her tragic.

(Though I may have felt a little guilty about it.)

...ashes to ashes...

Connor and Katie are happy. Really, they are. It just makes me feel more guilty about what I'm doing. I mean, they're actually happy. I never actually thought that it would work; that the charms I placed would actually make them fall in love. The whole idea I had, it seems like a dream. (The sort that doesn't actually come true, mind you, not the prophetic dreams that demigods sometimes have.)

But it's too late to back out now. If they're going to be pissed off at me, I should at least get something from the whole debacle.

So, despite that little voice in my head that tells me not to do anything I'll regret, I break the charms. Nothing changes immediately, though, and it has me worried. What if the charms are permanent? The little voice in my head brings up a different theory, though. What if they're actually in love? it asks.

(And at first I laugh at the idea, but it seems less ridiculous by the second.)

...dust to dust...

It's been weeks. I'm starting to think that maybe the voice in my head is right. They must have fallen in love.

It's insane. It shouldn't have happened. Everything that I knew about them went against it. But the voice pipes up again. Opposites attract, it says, and I sigh. It's right, and it's won.

I can't break them apart, and I'll never be able to please my mum, but there's something oddly satisfying about how it worked out, advice really worked, and it's a gratifying experience. Maybe mum is wrong, and tragic isn't necessarily better, I think for a moment, but I know better than that.

(There are just exceptions to every rule.)

...broken and repaired...

Everything is falling apart. Katie is sobbing into my arms as we stand watching his shroud burn. The smoke rises and curls in the evening sun, almost as though his soul was rising to Olympus. (This is ridiculous, of course. Souls go to the Underworld, not Olympus.)

It was just a stupid accident during Capture the Flag. If he had been wearing his armour, maybe he would have lived. Maybe that Athena girl with the greasy hair wouldn't be standing there looking a mess because she had done what she was supposed to do. She shot true, and now she feels guilty about it.

When Katie's calm enough, we go to the Athena girl and tell her that it wasn't her fault. He was an idiot, and he paid the price with his life. I'm shocked to hear Katie say it; I didn't think she'd ever be able to forgive the girl (her name turns out to be Lily.) for what happened, comfort her even less so. I almost smile; she's stronger that I thought she was.

(She's stronger than I am, too.)

...brick by brick...

Everything's fuzzy when I wake up. I'm in a room in the Big House, and there's a bandage wrapped tightly around my arm. The room's empty except for me, and I don't feel like I'm about to drop dead or something, so I get out of bed and walk down the hall. Annabeth is exiting another of the rooms, and she smiles when she sees me.

'Drew! You're awake! How are you feeling?'

I tilt my head. "What do you mean? What happened?' I had a few memories; the war for Olympus especially, but I had a fuzzy vision of a funeral, of a girl with long brown hair making a eulogy. What I didn't know was how these memories were connected. (Or if they even were.)

Annabeth looks at me with sympathy in her grey eyes. 'During the battle you were poisoned by some sort of monster; you've been unconscious for a week.'

It makes sense, of course. Whatever the funeral I had a memory of must have been a fragment of a dream I had while I was in the Big House.

When I walk outside, I'm shocked by the atmosphere. The campers are all solemnly going about their work; no Hermes campers are pulling pranks, no little kids are playing Hide 'N Seek. It's foreboding, the change everyone's gone through.

(I see a young Athena camper using markers to draw a flower on a shroud, and I feel a pang of sorrow.)

...stone by stone...

I know that the dream I had was important somehow; I remember the clarity of it, even though I don't remember what happened, say for a few flashes of memory here and there. I felt remorse, too; though I don't know what it was for.

I'm helping decorate shrouds with a few other members of my cabin. Silena died during the war, so now I'm head counsellor. I always thought I would be happy to take the position, but I don't now, not under these conditions.

I remember how Silena had betrayed us, how she was a spy for the Titans. I remember how, when her boyfriend, Beckendorf, died, it changed her. I remember how she died to help us win the war. In her last moments, she supported the gods. It was all thanks to tragic love. Without it, the Titans probably would have won. My mother always did adore tragic love...

(I look around the camp and watch as Katie Gardner and Connor Stoll share a smile.)


and destroyed.