an ounce of aurora
A PJO oneshot
Note: The Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus characters belong to Rick Riordan, not to me. Oh, and this pairing was discovered by me, so it'd be nice to have a little mention if you write them! Thanks! Read, review, and enjoy! *Note: One spoiler for Mark of Athena, but that's rather evident what it is by saying that Hercules is in the story. ;P
She prays to Circe to forgive her.
If there was one thing Circe had right, it was the fact that all men are animals. Some are fat pigs, some are flighty birds, and some are slobbering dogs. Hylla can't be surer of this when she leaves the rubble of Circe's place in search of something fulfilling. Reyna has returned to California despite Hylla's wishes that they avoid the impending war, but Reyna ignores her. The thought makes Hylla chuckle, for she herself is heading for trouble.
But once, just once, it'd be nice to see the ancient lands. That's why Hylla heads for the direction of Rome. She's not sure what she'll do there, but if doesn't visit now, she bets that she'll spend the rest of her days somewhere, dying from worry over watching over Reyna at Camp Jupiter.
Silly Hylla. There is, of course, a man to ruin the experience.
At first, she doesn't believe who this gatekeeper is. But his temper is renowned, so there's no doubt that he is indeed the legendary Hercules.
Hylla tries to make her presence unknown, but he knows everything that goes on with his island. Besides, she can't see the land of her mother's birth unless she has his permission (ugh).
"You shouldn't be here," he says, and "Go back the way you came," he adds.
Hylla narrows her dark eyes at him and tosses inky her hair over her shoulder. "Don't tell me what to do." The response is accidental and instinctual. She doesn't mean to show him disrespect, but living with Circe for a while can really diminish a girl's sense of society and the outside world.
"You insolent little—" His gray eyes size her up, and Hylla doesn't like how warm her neck grows under his gaze. "Where did you come from, anyway?"
"Circe's resort. I worked under her."
As soon as he snorts, she knows she's said the wrong thing. "Circe? Ha!" It really makes him laugh. "Well, not that the old witch is very tough or anything, but… If you put up with her annoying personality for any bit of time, that shows you've got guts." His eyes glint. "I like that."
"I don't need you to like me," Hylla pushes. "I need you to let me through."
His handsome features harden and he draws up to his full height. Despite how tall she is, she feels embarrassingly like a slip of a nymph next to him. "No can do." He smiles, and his teeth are as white as the fur of an arctic wolf. "But you're more than welcome to stay on my island, if you please."
Hylla tears her eyes away from him, furious and maddening at the heat of her cheeks. "That's fine, then. I'll find my own way."
"Good luck trying!" he calls after her as she stomps away, and Hylla feels she understands why Circe and even the Amazons would choose a life without men.
Hylla has little luck on the island. As hardy as she is, it's tough here to make shelter and to catch food. There's even something in the river that makes her afraid to go near it. Maybe those eyes in the water aren't imaginary…
Every few days, Hylla heads towards what she thinks is a new escape route. Instead, they all turn out to be ways back to Hercules. There's just no reaching the perimeter without him knowing, and she begins to wonder how she even found this blasted place.
"My, you look as though you're searching for something," he teases her for the umpteenth time.
"Yes," she replies. "A way to be rid of you."
Maybe it's due to the fact that she's been stuck for weeks, but his eyes soften nevertheless to a hazy dust color. "All you have to do is ask."
Her hackles go up. "No."
"Because I don't trust men."
His wolfish grin returns. "Then you're in luck. I'm no man—I'm a god."
"I know." And that's just one of the problems, she thinks as he takes pity on her and cooks her a meal. Her stomach growls too loudly for her to refuse even this bit of help.
With no one else around, she takes to enjoying Hercules' company from time to time. He may not be a woman, but he's someone, and sometimes Hylla goes to find him merely to convince herself that she's not gone insane and has started seeing hallucinations.
There are other times when seeing him doesn't help at all. In fact, at those times, Hylla cracks a little because she sees him. He doesn't talk of why he's here, being the gatekeeper of the old lands, but he talks about the lives he used to live.
He was an admirable though stubborn demigod. His strength was unmatched and his presence well-known. Many looked up to him, though he had few who were close to him.
"Weren't you ever lonely?" she asks one night, and he gives her a sad smile.
"Sometimes yes. Sometimes no." He sighs, and he finally doesn't seem so Roman, relaxing like that. Hylla kind of likes seeing that side of him.
"I fell in love a few times." He closes his eyes. "I'm alone now and I miss that love, but when I was in love…I was the happiest man around. Being lonely wasn't on my schedule."
Hylla blushes now, but for different reasons than as of late. The thing is, she's never been in love. And she's always had her younger sister with her, so she never thought about what the future would look like. But now she wants to know, and she's jealous of Hercules. He's alone now, yes, but he's lived life.
Hylla's barely lived, and she hates that.
His hand gently covers hers, startling her out of her reverie.
"I know you don't like me, Hylla," he states. "But you can't hate everyone forever."
"I don't hate anyone," she corrects angrily. "I just don't trust anyone." As an afterthought, she slips her hand from his. She tries not to think about how cold her skin feels without his touch.
Hercules shrugs, unfazed. "Whatever you say."
But that's the thing—it sounds as if he's implying, "Whatever you say, I will do."
It's the kind of magic that Circe wishes she had over men. And now Hylla has that power, and over a god, no less. It's amazing. It's unbelievable. It's—
It's as frightening as the Underworld, and it makes her run away.
All power comes with a sacrifice, though. The more Hylla realizes Hercules has come to trust her ("No demigod—especially a pretty little thing like you—has ever lasted this long here through mostly her own efforts"), the more she wonders who holds the power.
He might catch her food or fashion little weapons for her (daggers in bracelets and knives in necklaces—oh my!), but he gets her to say "please" and "thank you," words that taste old on the tip of her tongue and alien around someone not of her gender.
Then, one day, he's standing by the horizon on the island's perimeter, near the entryway, and the sun is setting. The colors are loud and soft at the same time, and they highlight his edges. The violet of his robes has never looked so regal.
She opens her mouth to call out to him. Even without her summons, he turns and sees her. He gently grins as if to say, "Beautiful, isn't it?"
And that is when Hylla knows she is doomed, because she might have his trust, but he has her heart.
His kisses are both rough and sweet. If she weren't so strong, Hylla thinks she'd break in his arms.
No, that's a lie. He knows to treat her kindly and nicely, as though she's a delicate figurine. After all, she's only a demigod and he's a deity. Look at what happened to all the mortals with whom the gods have consorted before—it's a miracle some of them are even still alive.
And, and the kisses… They are one thing. But anything else is beyond her belief. It's the one thing that terrifies her:
If she gives him all of herself, then what will become of her?
One early morning, her conscience reminds her that this was just supposed to be a stop. She was meant only to visit Rome and see what Bellona did there. Sure, she had no plans for the future, but—but—but this surely couldn't be her future. She's not just another god's consort. She is Hylla…daughter of Bellona, former underling of Circe…maybe even one day queen. Like, queen of the Amazons! Which is a ludicrous thought, because that would mean that she'd have to swear off men forever.
And what woman in her right mind swears off the greatest hero of all time?
He's pushed her again. One kiss became two, two became four, four became seven, which became indecent. Why is it that there's so little different between men and gods when it comes to amorous ventures?
"I'm sorry," he blurts when she does what she hates and cries. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
She doesn't know how special she is. She doesn't know that the last person he ever apologized to was his mortal wife and that he's never been so close with the goddess who's supposed to be his current wife (though, if anyone were being realistic, they'd point out that Hercules guarding the ancient lands kind of hurts a marriage…plus, Hebe has demigod kids of her own, but shh, Hercules is listening) as he is with Hylla.
Once upon a time, Hercules was a vengeful, proud, boastful man. But centuries have passed and, while he can still hold a grudge, Hercules has become a thoughtful, sharp god. He's everything a woman could want.
That's why Hylla feels she's being unfair when she's confused and pushes him away. She wants his kisses and yet she doesn't. And she wishes she knew why.
Another day, another obstacle, and Hylla can't take it anymore.
"Just let me leave," she begs. "I won't even go to the ancient lands. I'll go back the way I came. I just—I need to know if my sister's all right."
He shakes his head. "No. Stay. Stay here." He's too stubborn to say, "With me."
Hylla groans and tries to escape him, but it's hard to fight when he wraps his arms around her. His breath is much too warm on her neck. "I can't. Not anymore."
That's what she says, but her tears betray her, and day turns to dusk turns to night while she cries in his arms.
That same night, he holds her and points up at the sky, telling her of the stars.
"Where are you, up there?" she asks.
He points to a funny-looking square. "Right there. There's the Keystone, making my body, and the stars near the corners sprouting outward are supposed to be my legs and arms." He snorts. "At the time, I was kind of stupid, so I guess that's why I don't have a head."
She chuckles with him. "And what's that beside you?"
"To my right? Directly beside me is a star cluster—no idea what that is. A little more right is Corona Borealis, the crown Bacchus threw into the sky to prove his powers to his wife, Ariadne." Hercules scoffs. "Show-off."
Hylla smiles. It's almost enough to forget the troubles they have.
But then Hercules ruins the moment and says, "I could be a show-off."
She says nothing.
He turns her face to his. "I can do better than Bacchus ever could. I can throw anything into the sky for you. No, better—I can give you the stars, the whole night sky. I'll give you the Southern and the Northern lights—they'll all belong to you." His eyes tack on, "Just do one thing and stay with me."
Hylla's heart breaks. She kisses his lips, which gives him hope, but his shoulders slacken as she shakes her head. They watch the sky for a little longer before she falls asleep, tormented by not knowing what tomorrow will look like.
She's come to figure out why she hates him, hates men. Men don't think women are weak; women just look small and fragile by comparison. Men complete a set began by women, and together they're the whole package.
Hercules was the perfect complement for her, she muses sadly. He was ready to give her all the stars in the sky, and she was ready to believe him.
But her refusal had been so final. So when she awoke after that night, she awoke alone, and he was nowhere in sight.
Serves me right, she thinks. But then the old her, the part of her hardened by Circe's tutelage, bucks up and says she sounds ridiculous. Hylla does not need a man, and she does not need stars.
She doesn't need them.
But she'd like them.
Hylla walks the perimeter of the island. One more day goes by, but she sees nothing of him. His absence increases her longing but solidifies her idea.
Why stop at queen? Why not be queen of the Amazons?
Without Hercules around, Hylla gives up on Rome and gives up on stars and auroras and love. Without Hercules around, Hylla returns west and makes a name for herself. She will be the strongest female demigod ever known. She will make sure of that.
(She neglects the tiny part of her that believes if she becomes that, that Hercules will hear of her and at least think fondly of her and say, "That's my girl.")
:') THERE NEEDS TO BE MORE HYLLERCULES! X000 OMM, OMM! D: GAH! *okay, chillin' with the caps* Sorry, I just got really into this… So much better than doing Calculus hmwk… -.- But yeah. I have a few other ideas for them, but c'mon, PJO fans! Hyllercules needs some love! A note on the star scene—those are taken from my notes from my astronomy class, *lol*, and yes, the Hercules constellation (with Keystone asterism) has no head. XD Which I find terribly funny—sorry, Herc!
Lastly, if you liked my oneshot, my other PJO fics, or the Hyllercules pairing, check out my pal, BlueMango's, stories. She loves minor PJO charries, too, and she's slowly working on her own ideas for the fandom. You can find a link to her both in my profile and in my fav authors list. *end advert* ;}
Thanks so much for reading, and please do review!