Title: A Hero's Place

Pairing: Percy/Annabeth.

Summary: The young heroes of the world have to grow up someday.

Notes: This is set after the Last Olympian, and just... angst. And a lot of it. Enjoy?

It's not the leaving that's hard, in the end. It's the coming back home.

It's trying to smile through your tears and pretending like you were always going to come back and trying very hard not scream and yell, and take the easy way out of the door once more. People shake your hand, and you think, "What've I done?"

It's laughing when you want to cry your sorry heart out and just acting as though you really care.

They're going to sweep you away and bring you to the brink of madness, to the relief of freedom, to the pain of love, and you're going to roll with the tide because it's easy.

But the thing is there is no place for a hero like you in a painless world.

You can't help but think that life is a particularly hard algebra question. Love divided by pain, times by distrust, add tears, subtract longing, add the square root of happiness and there you have your answer. All of this equals "Alive to the power of coping."

There is no middle anymore, to the questions. There is a start, and an ending, but the in between does not matter.

And somewhere along the way, that fact starts to hurt.

You begin to think that maybe there is no good, and no evil. Maybe there is only a balance of power, and the lengths people strive to achieve it. And people ask you, "Do you feel guilty?" and the only thing you can say is, "Don't ask me that."

She walks up to you and she asks, "Are you okay?" and you stare at her as though you had never met, as though you didn't share her bed, as though she didn't still steal your heart.

As though you don't love her.

It hurts, and it hurts so bad.

And so, as you stand by the tide, just trying to escape the world for a moment, you consider swimming away, just anywhere, just away.

There is a feeling in your gut and you feel for all the world as though you're falling, and you've got no one left to catch you anymore and it hurts, because you're not used to feeling pain. And after all, there is no place for a hero in a painless world.

"Is this it, then? My time?" You ask the sea, who doesn't answer. "I had hoped to stay a little longer. Maybe."

And then this, this is how worlds fall apart. They discard their heroes without a thought, so their hero leaves, and what are they left with? A painless world just beginning to wake up.

When they do awake, they'll realise their kingdom isn't as painless as they would've liked to believe. And, by the gods, it hurts.

It's the little things that get us, in the end. The way people convince you that it's okay for them to do the Pegasi - you're really not needed. The way they won't meet your eye as they shake your hand to congratulate you.

And, sweet Zeus, does it hurt.

But the young heroes of the world have to grow up someday.

So, you stand on the beach, and silently you wonder, "What might I've done?" Because it's not the leaving that's hard; it's the coming back.

And, Hades, you swear you can feel yourself falling deeper, deeper into the ocean and away - just - away. She can still soar, and fly, and you're left waiting for when her feet touch the ground. You jump, and she is too busy souring to catch you.

This is a hero's place - alone.