For the Girl who Would Never Grow Up
At her brother's funeral, Thalia realizes how much she'd missed. Futurefic.
Children of the Big Three, Thalia decided, were excellent in screwing up their aging.
There had been that Hazel girl, who'd spent seventy years in Asphodel and had come back as she had died – a teenage girl. Then there were her siblings Nico and Bianca, who had been stuck in that stupid hotel for a roughly equal amount of time. Percy had narrowly avoided it by refusing to become a god. And then there was her, who had been a tree for five years of her life, and stayed a day short of sixteen forever. She was only lucky Jason was–
She wanted to laugh.
She knew how odd it would be, a fifteen-year-old girl showing up at a seventy-something-year-old man's funeral claiming to be his older sister, no matter how much she wanted to tell the crowd of funeral-goers what an amazing younger brother he was for the thirteen years he was her younger brother. So she just blends unnoticed into the shadows and lets the people who had been her friends talk.
Leo Valdez, well into his seventies and as spry as ever, talked of how it was only right – how he'd – they'd, in true heterosexual-life-partner-fashion – been devastated when the cancer had taken Piper too early, and now they could be together in Elysium or Heaven or whatever they believed in. He talked about how great a friend Jason had been, how brave he was, and how thankful Leo himself was that Jason had died peacefully in his sleep. It was only right, he repeated, given what he had been through.
Thalia's lip curled up. Leo didn't know the half of it.
Reyna, looking like the queen she could have been, spoke of how she'd loved Jason once upon a time because of the power he had – the power to change things, the power of leadership and loyalty and everything that Romans valued.
Thalia smirked. She'd loved Jason, too; did Reyna think Jason learned those things by himself?
There were others who spoke – college friends Thalia only knows from her brother's stories, work colleagues, the kinds of people Thalia only remembered with a tinge of jealousy, because she would never feel what Jason felt towards them. There was Hazel Levesque, Nico's sister, who tells of how much she admired Jason, and then there were Percy and Annabeth, who said that Jason was a shining example of what a man truly was.
"The world lost a great man," Percy said, Annabeth's hands in his. "Jason Grace was an excellent warrior, a loving husband, and a fantastic brother. May he rest in peace, he deserved it."
The audience clapped, as if they were honoring some lost bromance Percy and Jason shared, but Percy's eyes, as clear sea-green as ever, looked right at Thalia as if he knew, because outside of them, who else knew that Jason had had an older sister who was lost to immortality?
She was proud of him. He probably did.
They called the next speaker then, and her heart did a backflip – her nephew, Jason's son.
He was the spitting image of his father – the same shade of golden hair Thalia had combed for Jason as a child, the same firm jawline, the same expressive mouth. It was all the same, save for his lovely mother's unusual eyes, which flickered and changed with the light. If anything, Thalia thought they made her dead brother's face even more beautiful. Jason's son was absolutely lovely, but then again, if half of your grandparents were Hollywood darlings and the other half was godly, you really couldn't go wrong.
His voice was the same, too, the same firmness and authority, but he spoke as only a legacy demigod could. He talked about how his heritage was unusual – both Greek and Roman, who had heard of that before?
Thalia resisted the urge to roll her eyes.
But Jason's son persisted, talking about how Jason was a wonderful father and mentor. How he wished Jason had had siblings, because his father's past was always a mystery and he wanted to know more about him, and did Jason know how hard it was to be the last surviving member of the family –
Jason's son was older than his father's older sister, and Jason's son had never met her.
She laughed at the irony.
When everyone had left and Jason's son was somewhere making sure they all left safely, she sneaked into the building again and stood over her brother's coffin. She run her fingers over the glass and looked at his peaceful face, his serene smile, and wondered if he's doing okay, because she could only watch over him from so far–
She resisted the urge to break into tears, and before she knew it she's talking to his corpse, mumbling things into her jacket.
"You're just the first, aren't you?" she sniffles into a wad of Kleenex. "Sooner or later they're all going to be dropping like flies. Rachel's been getting on lately, I do hope she won't give up on being the Oracle just yet, she was excellent and still is – you did admire her, didn't you? Then there's Hazel, poor girl's been sick a lot lately. Leo can only stay fit for so long, and poor Percy, I hope the arthritis isn't so harsh, because how will I know, I'll never feel arthritis, will I?"
"Where are you now, Jason?" she mumbled. "Are you and Piper frolicking together in Elysium? Did you decide to try for the Isles of the Blest? Nico told me about them; they're lovely, I hope you did. Maybe you did, and maybe I'll meet you in your next life. Maybe I can be your older sister again–"
The doors slammed shut, and Thalia whirled around.
And Percy's there, smiling at her knowingly, Annabeth at his side. "You were always his older sister, you know," he told her. "Even if not to the rest of the world. You were to us." He fingers the necklace at his chest.
And in that instant Thalia's heart almost broke, and she stared at the two of them – Percy, losing most of his hair, and Annabeth, whose hair had grayed to the same shade as that streak she'd obtained when she had the world on her shoulders. But Percy's eyes were still clear and green, and Annabeth's smile was still cocky and knowing. Their movements still had the same grace of hardened warriors, the same alertness and wisdom. Thalia smiled to herself. How long had it been – sixty years? More? – since she'd met them, sixty years since she'd given up her chances of growing old together with them and Nico and Rachel and everyone else. Sixty years since she'd been advising them from the shadows, popping in every once in a while to congratulate them on their graduations, first children, first grandchildren, watching with envy at the things she could never have.
"Look at you guys," she said softly. "All grown up with seven grandkids. Percy, remember that time we had a fight in the creek? Where I struck you with lightning and you doused me with creek water? Remember when I – I became Artemis's lieutenant?"
He nodded, his face nostalgic.
"And look at you, Annabeth, old and yet still so sharp. Remember when I was older than you? Remember when it was you and me and Luke against the world?" A lump formed in her throat at the memory of Luke.
"Of course," said Annabeth, her voice breaking. "And you'll always be that to me, Thalia–"
Thalia turned around again to face her brother's dead body. "And one day both of you will be dead," she said harshly, not caring to look and see their reactions. "You and Nico and Rachel and everyone, and who will be left? Me. Who's always been left as you guys – my whole world – grew up? Who was left behind to bear with the pain of losing all of you? Jason's son doesn't even know I exist!"
She breaks into tears, then. "Look at me! I'm young enough to be your grandkid!"
"Thalia, please, don't be like this," Percy said, taking a step towards you. "Jason wouldn't have wanted it. You know how he always turned to you for help? How he came to you first when he found out Piper was pregnant? You were always his older sister, Thalia, you never weren't."
Thalia touched the tiara at her head. "I love you guys," she said. "I love all of you so, so much, and it's going to hurt so much when you're gone."
"I know," said Percy. "I'm sorry. But there's no other way around it, is there?"
Percy and Annabeth left her there for their picture-perfect family with a few hugs and kisses, and later she's reduced to plucking off flower petals and leaving them over the glass, reliving the times they'd spent together, and wondering if – if Percy was right. And she looked at herself, at her dark hair (now long and braided like Artemis liked), her thin frame (that had grown fitter over the last sixty years), and her face, something she didn't share with her brother. And she wondered if this is what she would still look like when the world grew even older and everyone left her behind. If she would still like music that reminded her of Green Day or if she would carry their pictures around two thousand years from now.
The door slammed shut again, and Thalia was hardly surprised when she finds out who it was.
"Who are you?" Jason's son asked sharply, his tone a mix of confusion and disdain. "What are you doing here?"
She smiled mirthlessly. "Someone your dad knew," she told him, her throat dry. "I'll be going now. Sorry for bothering you. Your dad was great."
He stared at her. "You remind me of someone, did you know that?" he muttered, but he let her leave with more than one suspicious glance, his eyes – Piper's – changing color in the light.
Thalia grinned at him and disappeared into the shadows, her fingers clutching her bow and her eyes sparkling with a wild light.