"...and so Jesus went all frolicking zombie on everyone and effed up all the nonbelievers or some shit and and then he ascended into heaven like haters gonna hate," finished Phoebe with a wave of her hands. She looked expectantly at the other Hunters, as if waiting for applause.
Thalia rolled her eyes and said, "Don't think that's really how it went down, Phoebs. And anyway—"
"—I know, I know. A: We aren't Christian and B: I need to be politically correct and all that crap." Phoebe leaned back, staring at the flickering flames in the middle of the girls' circle. As an afterthought, she added, "And C: We shouldn't be dealing with the metaphysical. Who brought up Easter, anyway?"
From across the fire came an excited "I did!" from Chantale, which made everyone laugh. Thalia had always liked this particular daughter of Ares for having a sense of humor that didn't involve blood or maiming or painful fiery death (well, most of the time, anyway).
"It's coming up, isn't it?" asked another Hunter—Chelsea—who sat three places to Phoebe's left. "I haven't celebrated Easter for a long time... not since I joined Lady Artemis."
Thalia nodded in understanding. "You were a regular mortal before you joined up, weren't you? Wow, I'm almost jealous." The demigods among the group laughed, knowing exactly what she meant.
Chelsea just grinned sheepishly. "Sorry for being normal or whatever."
Lucy (a daughter of Demeter) scrambled to get away from Chelsea, a look of mock horror on her face. "What is this thing you call normal? Is it contagious? Stay away from me, I might catch your normal!"
The group couldn't stop laughing for a very long time. It was only Chantale's sudden shocked gasp that made everyone shut up and focus on said Huntress.
"Wait," she said, eyes wide. "Where's Lady Artemis? Wasn't she supposed to meet us tonight?"
The circle went silent. For her part, Thalia was thinking hard. She wouldn't just ditch us unless it was important—holy crap what if it's THAT night tonight gods of Olympus I am screwed.
She jumped up, feeling everyone's eyes lock onto her immediately. In a barely coherent jumble of words, she mumbled, "OhgodsIhavetogorightnow."
"What?" Phoebe asked in alarm, rising from her spot as well. "Thalia, it's dark. I don't want you to go alone—"
"Don't worry, Phoebe," Thalia said, reaching up to adjust the silver circlet that marked her as lieutenant. "I won't be long."
Before anyone else could protest, Thalia sprinted off into the woods.
She knew where she was going before she'd even had time to think about it: a small clearing fringed with grass tinged silver by frost and moonlight. In the exact center of the circle sat a teenage girl with long reddish-brown hair, her head tilted back to look at the stars.
Thalia took two steps forward. "Artemis?" she asked in a calm tone. (When the girls were around, she always called her my Lady, but she normally cut the crap when the two of them were alone.)
The girl looked around. Her eyes were unfocused and so sad—so horribly bitter—it made Thalia's heart ache./p>
"My lieutenant," she replied quietly. "Come sit with me."
Thalia did as she was told, sinking onto the grass beside Artemis. She looked up at the sky, where Zoë the Huntress floated in the stars—right beside—
The realization hit Thalia so hard she felt like she'd been punched.
The word Orion, as an unspoken rule among the Hunters, was completely taboo. Thalia had never heard the story before, nor had she asked any of the other girls about it (as Phoebe had so helpfully put it, anyone who talked about it was "totally and completely screwed"). Still, she decided—better late than never. "Artemis, will you—will you tell me about him?"
The goddess was silent for a long time. Finally she raised her head and met Thalia's eyes. "Perhaps I could tell you about him," she murmured. "I've kept it to myself for too long."
Artemis took a deep breath. "He was amazing, Thalia. Such talent with the bow—I had not met such a mortal in many years. I wouldn't speak to Apollo for a long time after the... incident. Still" —she sighed and turned her gaze back to the stars— "brothers will be brothers."
Thalia found herself nodding. Before she could stop herself, she blurted, "I had a brother once, too. I don't know what happened to him, though—just that we went out with our mom one day, and I went to get something, and when I came back—he was just gone."
The words were running together now, but Thalia couldn't help it—she just wanted to get it out to someone, this secret she'd kept for so long. "He lost a fight with a stapler when he was two, and he had these gorgeous little blue eyes that used to light up when he laughed—" She choked up at that point; unable to say more, she just rested her head on her knees.
Artemis reached over and touched Thalia's shoulder. Subconsciously, she thought she should flinch away from the contact, because ordinarily her response to any physicality at all was a resounding fuck no. But something felt... different this time.
"Do not despair, my lieutenant," said the goddess gently. "You know, the things we love have a way of coming back to us in the end."
A/N: My first fic of 2013, and one that marks an important date: I've been writing for this site for exactly one year as of today. Time flies, doesn't it? Honestly, it feels like yesterday that I joined. 365 days and manymanyMANY cases of writer's block and filled-up notebooks later, I'm still going.
THANK YOU for all the support and positivity, guys. You're amazing. I know I can't bring my lazy ass to write a really heartfelt response to every review I get, but the awesome moments when I get email alerts from are priceless. I value each and every one of those reviews, and I appreciate the fact that complete strangers liked my work enough to comment on it.
Also, in regard to the above fic, since there might be some confusion: The reason Artemis calls Percy a man instead of a boy was (most likely) because he reminded her of Orion. So Percy is Orion's way of coming back to her. (Percy isn't Orion reborn—we know that much from Uncle Rick—but they're both sons of Poseidon. Percy just reminds her of Orion, which is why she had more respect for him than for other men. As for Thalia—well, we all know she gets Jason back in the end, anyway. :)