Since so many asked for more Thuke, here's the companion piece to 'Leave the World Behind'. I figured since I wrote one for Thalia, Luke should get his fair share (of course, the virtual puppy dog eyes on your guys's side helped).
It's natural to run when you're scared, and that's what you do after twelve years of glowing green eyes that shake you to the core. You're pretty sure that if you can just get away from that house with the Beanie Babies and blackened cookies you won't be scared anymore.
At least, that's what you're thinking when you meet her – Thalia No-Last-Name-Or-I-Kick-Your-Butt. She's got that glint in her eye when you crash headfirst into her that says she's more dangerous than she looks (she looks pretty darn dangerous), and you love it immediately. She teaches you firsthand that there are way scarier things than that crazy woman you ran away from, like her sass and spear. Yeah, definitely her spear.
For the first day or so after you agree to pair up, it's a little awkward – you're trying not to give away too much, but she accidentally lets it slip that her mother is just as nutty as yours. Suddenly all the tension is gone just like that.
Then the sweetest and most clever little girl on the planet tries to attack you with a hammer, and she laughs at you. You pretend to be annoyed, but under it it's far from annoyance. But you're too afraid to admit it, so you promise that the three of you will be a family instead. It seems good enough for her.
When your father of all people shows up and refuses to tell you the future and tries to feed you lies about loving you, you storm out of that house and swear that this time you won't ever come back, and you mean it.
Thalia notices your endless dark mood and confronts you about it, but you don't say anything because even though she's your best friend, there are some things you have to keep to yourself. The guilt starts eating at you, but you force it down. You take out the anger and frustration on every monster you meet when Grover the satyr tries to bring her to camp.
You're jealous. It's always about someone else – Hermes is talking about himself, everyone wants to rescue Thalia instead of you, and Annabeth wants your attention all the time. You're the mediator, not the person that means anything. And you hate it.
Sometimes you try and get Thalia's attention, but the stupid satyr keeps hustling you along, stopping for the least amount of rest, hopping around like the goat he is when you want to stop and kill some monsters to death.
And then you hear Annabeth's voice crying out for you in that abandoned house in Brooklyn, and though you love her like a little sister, her voice isn't the one you want to hear.
You feel useless.
Kissing her is the most and the least you can do when you realize Thalia's about to die for you on that stupid, stupid hill surrounded by stupid, stupid monsters. You don't have the time to make it a kiss like you wanted it, so instead you pour all your energy and sorrow and envy and love into it as quickly as you can.
And you realize that she actually had been looking out for you all that time, because she's flickering with lightning out there as the rain pours down on you in here, watching her die while you stand in safety.
Life isn't the same anymore.
Camp is strange. So many people, yet she's not among them. You keep thinking that she somehow came back to life and is just playing with you (like she did oh so many times before) by not letting you find her.
That girl with the short black hair over there – nope, not her. She's not sitting at the Zeus table. (Why do they have tables for godly parents anyway? Why do you have to honor them for something they never did and be kept from sitting with who you want to sit with – who you should be sitting with?)
Those bright blue eyes, framed by – no again. Stupid Apollo-blonde hair, not black.
A spray of freckles across that camper's nose – not right; her skin's more tanned than that.
She's haunting you. You see her everywhere and in everything. It's driving you crazy, and the only time that it feels right is when you're sitting by yourself under the huge pine tree that used to be her, spilling your guts out to her and knowing she can't hear you.
Once in a while you cry, up in her branches where no one can find you.
You imagine her voice teasing you, calling you a crybaby when it happens. Always it's the memory of tickling her until tears leaked out of her own eyes, trailing eyeliner down the side of her face that comes back. It hurts all over again, so you don't cry often.
She's in your dreams, too. Laughing, smirking, punching you, living life. You relish it, because in your sleep she's only paying attention to you.
Then the quest Hermes promised you come up, and you have to leave what's left of her to go on it. But questing isn't what you want anymore. You get so distracted that you don't realize the stinking dragon's sliced you until the pain in your face is rivaling the one in your heart.
When you're back at camp, you get the attention you want, but now it's whispers of your failure instead of whispers of how you arrived with the daughter of Zeus – which isn't all that better.
For years, you have to live with it. You train, and train, and train. Resentment starts to push away the love, and the scariest thing is that you're slowly letting it.
Kronos whispers to you, shoving her out of the way and taking her place. At first you try to push him away, until you hear what he's talking about.
It's a way to have Thalia back.
And even though you know for a fact that she wouldn't want to be brought back this way, you don't care how it's done anymore. If you can see her in person just one more time, it will be enough.
So when you creep up that hill in the middle of the night, it feels as though the entire universe is dead set on keeping you away from her. The rain and wind are blasting into your eyes and tangling your hair back so hard you're pretty sure you're going to be bald by the time you reach her. You can barely move forward, and it's only partly because Zeus feels like protecting his daughter (you snort at this thought with a cold, scornful 'as if'). The other part . . . it's that you know.
You know when you stab that poison-filled needle into her that you're going to be a true traitor to everything you were. You'll be risking every last chance you will ever get, risking her agony, risking her life, risking her love by that one motion.
Somehow, you still do it.
And deep inside, you can feel her pain as if it's your own.
She's coming. Waiting in the ruins of black marble on the Titan base, you sense that she's coming.
You try to bargain with her. Try to persuade her to be by your side with every last ounce of your effort.
She says no.
And suddenly it hits you – she's not the same Thalia that curled by your side on the snowy winter nights for warmth. Not the same Thalia that laughed at your jokes and fought perfectly in sync with your moves. She's older, she's harsher, she's tormented, she's just . . . not your Thalia anymore.
It physically hurts: the intensity of her hateful, tear-filled gaze. Only now do you realize how loyal she is, and how you missed the chance of having that loyalty to you. And on that mountain, eye to eye and face to face with her, you ask yourself, Why?
Why did you do this to her? Why did you bring her back when you knew all along it would backfire? Why did you hurt her?
You try one last time to change things. One last time that you'll deceive her with promises of power, to see if you mean anything to her.
She says no.
That's what makes you turn your back. You're reduced to a snarling, unfeeling part of yourself that you forced down until now. All you can do is shove your anger and betrayal into your fighting – but it's so unfamiliar, fighting against her. Funny, how once upon an unreachable time, that same fighting merged so flawlessly with hers, making the two of you a monster-killing machine that never broke . . .
And then you're falling.
Falling, falling, falling, over the edge of the cliff. Down, down, down, because she kicked you. But she kicked you because you are a backstabber. Only she's a backstabber too, kicking you off the cliff. But you backstabbed first, so it's all your fault.
You can't help the scream that shapes itself into her name as you hit the rocks fifty feet below.
The next few years aren't much. Scheming, heartbreak, and anger are all you are, even without Kronos in your body. You wonder a couple of times where Thalia is, and on every instance your answer is that you don't know and don't care.
You're such a liar, Luke Castellan.
The marble floor is cold and smoldering at the same time.
So is your skin.
And your hand.
And your face.
You wonder if this was what Thalia felt when lightning blasted down from the sky and turned her into a pine tree. You come up with the answer of no: Thalia gave herself for you because . . . she loved you? Or is it love you, present tense? Did she ever love you?
But you gave yourself to make up for the years of misery you'd caused her. Yes, you'd caused everyone years of misery, but stabbing yourself in your mortal spot was to make up especially only for her.
Your mortal spot.
The barest hint of a memory surfaces: Thalia, poking that spot with the pointy end of her spear, teasing you for rushing in putting on your armor and ending up with a scratch in a usually protected spot. You'd grinned and made some comeback . . . You'd remembered that in the Styx, too.
All this flashes behind your eyelids in less than a second. You force your eyelids to open, draw in a useless, rattling breath.
Somehow, the only thing that comes to mind is aaagh-owww. No thinking, no real thoughts, just a moan that you're too weak to voice.
Maybe this was what she felt when you poisoned her?
Again, the answer is no. Her pain was much, much deeper. Hers hadn't just been physical pain; hers was betrayal pain and molten-lava-in-my-soul pain.
Annabeth's shushing you gently, you realize. You don't want Annabeth; you want Thalia. Thalia's supposed to be the one cradling you in her lap as you die. Thalia's electrifyingly blue eyes are the last thing you want to see before you're gone. You can't help wanting the girl you hurt the most with you right now, even though you don't deserve it.
Not in this life, anyway.
And that's the perfect solution – you make up your mind right then and there, lying in Annabeth's arms rather than Thalia's on the cold, unforgiving marble of Olympus:
You're going for rebirth.
It's not until you get into the line for Lethe water that you realize you have no clue what happened to Thalia. The prophecy ended up Percy's, so where did the first Big Three kid go? You're pretty sure she's not down here, either (you still believe you would have felt it if she died.)
The answer is found easily enough from another ghost. Thalia's the new leader of the Hunters of Artemis.
The possibility that she'd taken Zoë Nightshade's words to heart only makes you more determined to prove her wrong.
There's plenty of time to think in the line. So you take advantage of that and think. Your thoughts don't cheer you up much.
Your next life is going to be the ultimate punishment from the gods.
By the time you're reborn, Thalia's probably forgotten all about you.
Living another three lives is going to be boring. You hate doing the same thing more than once or twice.
Thalia's not going to be happy if she dies while you're alive without her knowing it, and finds out you're not waiting for her down here.
Then again, you never did know where to stop when it came to her. Even if it backfired and blew up in your face, even if you knew it would backfire and blow up in your face, you would still do it.
Because you lo–
The thought is knocked away as a tiny bronze cup is shoved into your ghostly hands. There is exactly one drop of milky water in it.
This is it.
If your hands could shake, that cup's contents would have spilled all over you, and the next twenty ghosts in line, too.
The water is getting closer to your lips.
You have time for one last thought before you are wiped away: I'm sorry, Thalia.
The drop hits your lips.
And it's too late to do anything about it.
I don't even really like Thuke all that much, except for the drama. And the backstabbing, which is the major part of the drama. All the rest is eh.
Curiously, this one (the sequel) is much more popular than the original . . . although that may be because I actually put some effort into this.