let me hold your hand at the end
The sky is pitch black, clouds of smoke and rain spiraling into a magnificent storm. There are thunderbolts. There is fire.
"It's going to snow again," Percy says.
Luke coughs and covers his mouth with the thin rag he calls scarf. "We should find a place to spend the night, then," he answers, adjusting the knapsack over his shoulder. They hear a sudden loud uproar coming from among the clouds, breaking the silence that has covered the world. "And we should find it fast."
Percy nods, his boots making no sound against the fallen ashes in the forest.
Sometimes Luke mumbles in his sleep. He tosses and turns, little beads of sweat forming on his forehead despite the cold. He gasps it's my fault and I did this, and Percy can only watch from the other side of wherever they are hiding in that night.
When morning comes, they keep the fire going and eat the miserable leftovers of previous days.
"It's not your fault," Percy says, voice broken with disuse.
Luke doesn't answer. He packs everything away, he checks on the little supplies they carry with them, he watches the sky (black, always oh so black) and then he spends a couple of minutes staring at Percy, making sure he's all right.
It's when they are on their way again, trying to figure out a destination when he says, "of course it's my fault. I should have died. And I didn't".
Percy averts his eyes and ignores the fact that he's unable to cry anymore.
"Yeah. You didn't".
Annabeth did. She did. Percy was there. He saw it all. Kronos laughed and stroked Annabeth in the chest. The sword cut through her skin as if it was paper, crimson staining her clothes like beautiful roses in spring.
Percy saw her die. He saw her gasp and cough blood. He saw her hold her breath to never let it go again. And yet he couldn't cry. He just left the building, running like a mad man and carrying an almost unconscious Luke with him.
He couldn't cry at Camp either. He remembers Mr D yelling at him, he remembers Chiron saying I'm so sorry, Percy and this is the end, this is war. He remembers Rachel trying to comfort him and Luke having nightmares in his sleep.
And then Nico came and put a hand on his shoulder. He gave him a little smile and said I've seen her down there; she doesn't blame you. And before he realized, he burst into tears, crumbling like a wall of glass under pressure and feeling Nico's arms wrapped awkwardly around him.
Luke wakes him up. It's the middle of the night and Percy wants to ask what's wrong, but Luke puts a hand over his mouth and says, "there is something out there".
Riptide is a solid weight in his hand and he feels comforted by it. His fingers are almost frozen and it's so cold he has to concentrate really hard not to start shaking like a leaf. Luke is right in front of him, but Percy can barely make out his silhouette because of the darkness.
Then, suddenly, harpies. Six or seven. And as they battle them, as they cut heads and arms and feet, Percy feels strong, he feels unbeatable.
(He is unbeatable)
Luke moves, dances and strikes with such grace it's a shame the darkness keeps it hidden. He has always been the best with the sword after all.
(Luke is unbeatable too)
They miss one.
And then, something vicious and sharp collides with Percy's lower back and he goes down on his knees, the pain an unbearable feeling across his skin. He hears Luke roaring his name and feels more than sees the harpy's head rolling on the ashes.
Camp Half-Blood was the first to fall. It was an obscene sense of déjà vu. The blood, the screams, the cries, the sight of unmoving bodies. And for once, he felt lost. He didn't know what to do.
Nico was at his side. He looked scared and tired. He had blood smeared on his cheek and his hands were trembling. Rachel was gone. Chiron had taken her somewhere safe (safe for now). And Clarisse was limping, giving orders to the Ares Cabin.
They were going to die.
"Nico," Percy called. The son of Hades turned his head and looked at him, so young, so innocent. "I want you to go".
"No. No way. I have to—"
Percy put a hand on his hair and smiled.
"You don't have to. You can't save anybody if you're dead".
There was an explosion and the fire started licking the strawberry fields. Nico's eyes were wet, unshed tears breaking Percy's heart.
"You can't either".
"Nico," and this was so hard, "Nico, go to your dad and stay in the Underworld. They can't reach you there. They can't—". Louder screams, hysterical laughs. "They can't reach you there yet and that will buy you some time".
Percy grabbed Nico's sleeve and tugged, pulling him near the lake.
"There's no time. You have to shadowtravel. You have to go". He stopped on the shore, the water a chaotic mass howling from despair. "I count on you. I need you to— Nico, look at me. Look at me—I need you to do this. Please".
Nico was crying, but he balled his hands into fists and nodded. He was suddenly fearless. He was suddenly the hero Percy once knew.
"Be safe," Nico said before running into the shadows.
"I will," Percy answered to no one, "invincible, remember?"
The next minute, they were all running for their lives.
He hears a mumble. There is light. He tries to move, but the pain on his lower back is almost unbearable.
"Don't die on me. Don't you dare die on me".
He opens his eyes and the world spins.
—a fire. He can feel the cold, he can almost taste it. But he's warm, he's wrapped in clothes and bandages and arms. His head is resting against a—
"Everything is going to be alright. The wound will heal".
—shoulder. A human shoulder. It's nice. There are hands on his back, holding him, caressing him. He can hear a beat. A drumming noise. It's—
"You're so pale. I wish... I wish the sun would touch you again".
"Luke?" he asks.
Strong arms hold him tight.
Percy closes his eyes and his mind shifts into a dreamless sleep.
He wakes up. His eyes hurt. He closes them and falls asleep again.
"Be strong, son," his father says in his dreams. "You can't give up now".
He can feel the cold, he can taste the ashes fallen from the sky, he can hear the nothingness, he can smell death.
Luke gives him water and keeps him warm. He tries. He whispers to him, he lulls him to sleep.
"Be strong, Percy," and, "you can't give up now".
He still doesn't know how he managed to find Luke after the destruction of the Camp (how Luke managed to find him). He just remembers walking down the road, no destination whatsoever, the world a chaotic group of people screaming and dying, and then a car stopping by his side, Luke calling his name.
He didn't have a home anymore. He didn't know where his mom was or where the other demigods were heading. He was starving, exhausted and unable to care about anything anymore. So when Luke said "we should stick together" and opened the passenger door, Percy didn't even hesitate.
They ran out of oil two days later in the middle of nowhere. The sky was starting to spit ashes and fire. Luke told him it was better to think of it as snow. They have referred to it as 'snowing' ever since.
He wakes up for the ninth time in a row. He has a fever. His body is trembling and sweating and he feels so cold he wants to die.
"Don't say that," he hears Luke say. "Don't you fucking say that".
They found dead bodies while looking for supplies. They were piled up, flies dancing around them. Percy doubled over and threw up, until tears ran down his cheeks. Luke remained blank for a couple of seconds.
He lost it ten miles later, ashes and black rain falling from the sky.
"This is all my fault," he said hysterically, "I did this. I killed them".
Percy tried to calm him down. He couldn't bear it. He tried saying soothing things, putting a hand on Luke's shoulder, but nothing was working.
"We are all going to die. I killed us all," Luke continued, his body shaking with such force Percy thought he might break.
He hugged him. He held him tight, Luke struggling against him.
"It's okay, Luke. It's—," he tried. His throat burned from the lies. He couldn't stand it. "It's going to be alright".
He felt hands grasping him painfully by the biceps.
"I'm so sorry, Percy. I am. Forgive me," and it hurt so much to see him lost, to see him broken beyond repair, "I should die. I should... Kill me," he pleaded and Percy closed his eyes, feeling Luke's forehead against his own, their breaths mixing in little puffs, "just fucking kill—"
"Shut up," Percy whispered. "Shut up, dammit".
They both shattered then. The both shattered and nobody could have put the pieces together again.
Percy kissed him, his mind full of thoughts, of regrets, of memories. Luke kissed him back, his fingers tangling on Percy's hair.
They never spoke about it.
He wakes up. The fire is glowing, warming his exhausted body. They have this rule, they always keep the fire going, no matter where they are. It reminds them of the Gods. Of Hestia. It reminds them of home, of their families.
It reminds them of who they used to be.
Luke is cooking something, his brow furrowed in concentration. He looks pale and tired.
"Hey," Percy says, voice scratchy.
Luke looks at him and smiles.
"Are you hungry?"
He nods, all his muscles complaining as he tries to sit up. Luke makes him drink fresh water every two seconds. Percy appreciates it.
That night, Luke hugs him from behind and holds him tight.
"Don't scare me like that ever again," he murmurs in his ear, his breathing evening out.
"I won't," Percy answers, but Luke is already asleep.
They keep walking.
They keep fighting.
(They don't know what for)
Percy likes to believe that deep down there's still hope. That not everything is lost.
It's hard, though.
There's no home to go back to, no path to follow. They are haunted by monsters, by Titans, by ashes of a long lost battle. By cruel memories that wake them up in cold sweat in the middle of the night.
"We only have each other," Luke whispers sometimes.
Just the two of them. Percy no longer cries, no longer thinks.
And they keep walking.
a.n. okay, so there's that. i have a terrible obsession with writing about angty kids trying to survive the apocalypse.