You step carefully off of the creaking ferry, looking curiously at your hand, which is now nothing but spindly, brittle bone, for the flesh has seemingly melted off your body. And you look around at the others who came with you across the River Styx, and their skeletal bodies are shrouded in gauzy, black robes that seem to whisper in hushed tones as they move. You can't help but feel as if they are all watching you, waiting for you to do something, like this is a games of chess and it's your move, but all you can see is black and white checkering on for miles and miles, swirling dizzily around you. The spirits leer at you with bony, grotesque grins and dark, empty eyes sockets clouded with a haze of death.

You look back at the river, oily and hideous, the color of tar, as it churns thickly around dead dreams, infected hope, wishes that never came true, feeling it pull on the spot on the small of your back that used to tether you to the divine, mortal world. The whispers reach a crescendo around you, the dead speaking in a cacophony of complicated, frenzied hisses and odd, high-pitched twittering. Ignoring them all, you walk away, leaving them and their whispering cloaks and hollow eyes behind you. You keep walking, and soon you arrive at three gates, where Cerberus stood, growling and salivating fiercely. It looks at you, and all three heads cock to the side, as though it remembers you and lets out a giant, booming bark, alerting all to your presence. You stand for a moment, remembering the first time you set foot here, when you were twelve and young, and you, Annabeth, and Grover trembled under the Lord of Death's stare. But soon you move on, ignoring the hungry stares that follow you, because remembering is not the same as living. You walk towards one of the gates, not paying attention to which one it is. The guards will know who you are and they will take you to where you need to be. You trust Hades enough to guide you through Death.

The ghostly attendants split apart to create a walkway in an almost reverential manner, because you are Percy Jackson, Son of Poseidon, Savior of Olympus, and you have saved the world to many times to count. And like Chiron and your Father had warned you what seems like millenia ago: heroes never have easy lives. They die young, and rash, and reckless, having a small taste of life but not being able to enjoy it, to savor it. And you, Percy Jackson, are a hero, and you are no exception.

You keep walking towards your final destination along a path that seems older than time itself, yet still not worn by the treads of the many people that have walked this path before. And again, just like you were twelve, you find it unbearably depressing and shameful that so few people have done remarkable good in their life. You are flanked on either side by spirits in silver armor that clanks and creaks occasionally, but you welcome the noise, because it's chillingly silent as you keep walking. But soon enough, you realize that the chess game your life, the game in which you are the king and you've finally been checked, will never end until you finally reach the end of the tunnel.

Eventually, you come to an ornate arch that's made out of twisting strands of silver, interlocking like a writhing mess of snakes, and on top of the arch, written in spindly silver letters, is the word-

Ἠλύσιον πεδίον, one of the spirits murmurs, the word like a wisp of smoke, hazy and incomplete, with undefined edges, and you realize you can understand what years ago sounded like sickly chattering.

The spirits both fall to their knees respectfully as you tentatively step through the arch to peek at the promised splendor that lies in front of you. And you are not disappointed, because you are met with sprawling meadows of rippling, shimmery, rainbow-colored grass that bloom with delicate silver and gold flowers, fountains shrouded by blooming trees, and gorgeous villas, and for a moment you are overwhelmed by all the beauty, but then you spot possibly the most beautiful thing you've ever seen.

She doesn't notice you at first. She's turned away from you, arms crossed in a defiant manner over her chest as a small pout crosses over her heavenly features. You can't tear your eyes away from her, you're completely enraptured, completely captivated, and you hungrily drink in all the familiarity while you rake your eyes up and down her face, memorizing every detail.

As though she can feel your intense gaze, she turns towards you, her eyes locking on yours (and then it's blue and green, just like it's always been) and her face lights up like the sun. Her eyes are two of the brightest supernovas you've ever seen as she flashes you an honest to God Thalia Grace smile before sprinting over to you, ignoring the spirits calling after her, and practically flings herself at you. Your face splits into a grin as you wrap your arms around her securely and realize that miraculously, your bones are covered with warm flesh again, because this girl you're holding onto right now, this beautiful girl, is your life, your world, your everything.

And you can't help but think that this is how it should have been all along, with your fingertips entwined in her hair and one hand around her slender waist. She wraps her arms around your neck and whispers, her breath darting across your ear and cheek, I've missed you so much, Percy. So very much.

As you step back, you can't help but note the subtle differences she has been given through death. Her body, silver and delicate, emits an ethereal glow, unlike the strong, vibrant flush she exuded while she was Artemis' lieutenant. And when she speaks, her voice echoes in an airy way, reverberating even when there is no surface for the words to rebound off of. But you console yourself with the fact that her eyes are still the same shade of shocking blue they always were.

She grips your hand in hers and leads you down a pebble-strewn path, and you ignore the various heroes calling out to you, Silena, Beckendorf, Lee Fletcher, too drunk on Thalia's nectar-like presence and focusing only on her, following her in a dizzy high of emotions, the catatonic joy of seeing her just sinking in. She leads you down the winding, dizzy path, towards the sparkling lake that contains the Isles of the Blest, and you reach the beach that spans the shore of the lake, all soft white sand and seashells.

You lie down on the sand, letting it run through your fingers, and faintly hear Thalia do the same over the crashing of the waves. You take a breath and just listen to the water lapping against the shore, surf curling along the edge.

"So. How've you been?" Thalia asks, twisting a lock of hair around her finger. It's gotten longer since you last saw her, much longer, and suddenly you feel a world away from her.

"I've been...better," you answer, picking your words carefully. You look up at the sky, the only thing that does not exude beauty in Elysium, see the rough edges of an untamed cave, stalactites jutting out, reminding you that you are trapped here now.

"What about the monster?" Thalia inquires lightly, and a heavy sense of dread fills you. There are others, still alive, and you left them. You left them to fend for themselves in a world where Chaos reigns and demigods are hunted by a monster whose name has been lost in time.

"I left them," you mumble, and Thalia looks sharply at you. "I...left them. Gave up on them. Gave up on myself." You feel the overwhelming shame and self-loathing build up inside you. "Goddamnit!" you yell, slamming your fist into the sand, but Thalia remains unfazed and unruffled. "How could I leave them like that? How could I leave them at the hands of Chaos? I might as well have just killed all of them! I gave up on them, Thalia! There were more moves I could have played, more pawns I could have captured. I could have helped them!"

"Stop," Thalia says, and you obey her, because Thalia is not to be trifled with when she uses that deadly, quiet tone. "Look at me, Percy." So you do, and you can feel the warm grains of sand caressing your cheek as you turn your head towards hers. Immediately, you start to drown in the deep, vivid blue of her eyes, getting lost in their stormy depths. "You can't do anything more to help them."

"But-" you argue.

"No, Percy," she interrupts, shaking her head. "You did all that you could, you saved lives, you died being a hero, and that's what really counts. There's nothing you can do for them now. If they want to live," she pauses, staring at you, "well, I guess it's up to them."

Checkmate.

You're out of moves. You admit defeat, stop struggling.

"Maybe it's best this way," you murmur. You look at her again. "At least we have each other." You stretch out your hand.

She takes it, you hands intertwining, fingertips meeting atop a beach full of sand and seashells, and the tiniest shock travels up your fingers, as if saying, I'm here. I'm here for you.

"Yeah," She finally says, closing her eyes. "At least we have each other."


Disclaimer: Don't own PJO.

Remember the good ol' days when I used to update twice a day? Yeah, me too. Sorry for leaving you guys hanging for the last couple of months...hehe.

I started this story almost exactly a year ago. The idea started when I was visiting extended family in San Francisco. I just got back from another trip to San Francisco, where I wrote this chapter. This chapter is really important to me (an highly symbolic, try to figure out why ;) ) and I got the idea for it around Chapter 29. I knew I wanted it to be the last chapter in the story, so there ya go.

Now, this is going to be a very long A/N, so bear with me here, people.

I'd like to thank every single person who has ever reviewed, favorited, alerted, or even just clicked on this story. The support I received from you guys made me more happy than any of you ever know. I never thought I'd write a story that got over 400 reviews. EVER. So thank you all so much. I have gotten over 56,000 hits on this story, which is incredible, and over 100 people have favorited it, which is freakin' amazing by my standards. So thank you guys again, because this really means the world to me.

Now I'd like to thank the three communities that added this story to their archives (all of which are awesome, by the way): The Akashic Records, Simply Awesome Splendid Stories, and GodChildShipping (for all of you Perlia lovers, check out the forum and the community; both are awesome.)

I would also like to thank Thalia Marie Grace for nominating this story at the pjofandomawards. Even though it didn't win, I'm honored for it to be nominated.

Next I would like to thank plasticjungle for making me two pieces of fanart:

h t t p : / / i 5 4 . t i n y p i c . c o m / 2 d l 6 7 4 l . j p g

and

h t t p : / i 5 3 . t i n y p i c . c o m / d 6 6 w 2 . p n g

Both are great pieces of work and remember-you make me fanart, I write you a FREE one-shot for any fandom I'm familiar with, with any pairing (but under an M rating). This rule is only excepted by requests for Harry Potter one-shots. I refuse to tarnish JK Rowling's work with my amateur writing.

Next I'd like to say a huge THANK YOU to every single person who has ever reviewed this story:

KoniK47, .Ghosts, HopingFate, plasticjungle, Superstar1, I am so cool (anonymous), i-like-2-snort-pickles (anonymous), pokechu9 (anonymous), max artemis potter, GleekPJOFreak, Thalia Grace Pikachu, Sea Chick, Thaliarox (anonymous), AllShadesOfGrey, PercabethEternalLove, flylikeblackjack, Poseidon93, ghettoinblue, AthenaKidd, Kormk, Arvd 913, Heartless demon wolf, livingondaydreams, Mundster Madman, dragonzftw, Flame-Fist-Ace, Abby-Jade-Love, DrinkingAlcoholicRainbows, jahfreenalam, percylover11111, Neon Shoelaces, So True, IFoundAPickle, SkylerPhoenix (anonymous), 3.1415926535897932384626433, Lord Jace, Victorious Me Myself and I (anonymous), AnnabethChaserocks, In the Closet FanFic Reader, bond (anonymous), abjaekdhaswdhsjh (anonymous), Ocean Muffins32, Chunk Li, (anonymous), XX TEARS DON'T FALLXX, Kilana98, dAuGhTeR oF zEuS, Just Some Anonymous Guy (anonymous), xXAwesomeSauceXx, Riley Coyote, Thalia4ever (anonymous), HuntressOfArtemis39, artyfan, CassandraSnakeCharmer, Athena's Owlet24, riptideter (anonymous), PJOmaniac (anonymous), anon (anonymous), InTheDarknessWithNoLight, Xx Silentheart xX, Me (anonymous), 09090087654226 (anonymous), percyxthaliaforever (anonymous), Sage of Eyes, Super Mario909 (anonymous), R0xas 666, AngelicBlues502, j (anonymous), anjjfvnd (anonymous), Alice Daughter of Athena, ThreeBulletsAtTheDangerParade, The Wizarding DemiGod, Dreams of the Darkness, bulletforyourdreams1712, Owlgrrl, xXPerdiciaJacksonXx, Chemical Dreamer, purple panda (anonymous), tiffc10, (anonymous), dkcjioa (anonymous), Thalia Jackson (anonymous), Thalia Marie Grace, argent98, meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeat (anonymous), toilet trees (anonymous), Smile Sweetly. Laugh Loudly, ferb, HopingFate, KairacahraFlower Goddess, cvgf (anonymous), PerliaHard (anonymous), HappyAce88, ixdookiie, wegude (anonymous), StarcallerPhoenix, FaTaLClanWii, raeganb123 (anonymous), Magikidd, britishmexi27, chessrd, ugf (anonymous), RomanGreekDemi, Magic Kirby, ThatHotAndSexyDemigoddess, Colonel Protoman, WhisperedSilver, Konri Kari, doitforpercypleeas, SaberGirl1005, slytheringirl4life

Thank you to ALL of you. Every single word you guys wrote made me super happy. Oh, and please tell me if I missed/misspelled you in the list above.

Sooooo NEWS: I may update this story once in a blue moon. VERY RARELY. VERY. I will be writing more Perlia one-shots in my spare time, so feel free to check those out. I will also be editing most of these one-shots, because the proofreading is terrible, and as you may be able to tell, my writing style has changed a lot in the last year. Also, the Perlia story I told you about? In the works. I'll post it as soon as I can.

Cheerio! LOVE YOU ALL!

~lilmissf

P.S. Write Perlia! For those of you who love it, we need to build up the archive for Perlia fics! Maybe I'll have a contest. Stay posted :)