"Butterflies can't see their wings. They can't see how truly beautiful they are, but everyone else can. People are like that as well." —Unknown


i.

August 18th, 2009 / Mount Orthrys / 7:04 AM

The moment everything was finally quiet, Reyna instinctively went looking for Jason.

She was losing blood from too many injuries to count, her left leg barely held her weight, and the remnants of her cape were fluttering off her shoulders like the streamers that adorned the mess hall on feast days—but at least she was alive. That was good.

Reyna passed Gwen from the Fifth Cohort, who was resolutely wrapping a bandage around Bobby's ankle—swollen to three times its normal size. Blood stained her hands, but she looked up at Reyna and gave her a smile so genuine it warmed her right down to her feet. It felt good, after all these hours of fighting, to at least have some happiness around her.

"He's over there," she said gently, following Reyna's gaze. When she opened her mouth to ask the questions that threatened to burst from her lips, Gwen responded with, "That's all I know."

Barely remembering to thank the older girl, Reyna tore off in the direction Gwen was pointing, not even caring about the pain shooting through her leg. All that mattered was finding Jason and never letting go. She burst through a line of legionnaires from the Fourth, swept past Octavian without a backwards glance, and—

"REYNA!"

She looked around and was greeted by the sight of Jason barreling toward her with his arms open. Reyna changed course as fast as she could, though it was pretty hard with both a leg injury and a lot of forward momentum. They grabbed each other at the same time and fell to their knees in the muddy grass, both of them breathing hard.

"Gods, Reyna, I thought you'd died—"

She shut him up by leaning forward and kissing him. It wasn't long or particularly romantic or anything like that; she just didn't know how else to convey the overwhelming sense of relief that Jason was alive, and he was here, and he was with her—

Jason just pulled her closer and tugged his lips away so he could bury his face in her shoulder. "Thanks for being here, Rey," he muttered into the fabric of her ruined toga. "You were with me through everything. I guess I've just never gotten a chance to properly say that."

"Better late than never," she said gently, hugging him back.


ii.

October 6, 2009 / Reyna's Villa / 11:32 PM

The insistent knocking on the front door of her villa jolted Reyna awake.

She had, as far as she could tell, fallen asleep on top of her paperwork—her pen had traced streaks of ink across the table and there was a very undignified drool spot on her t-shirt. Her dogs were both pacing the room anxiously, their ruby eyes flashing instantly from Reyna to the door and back again.

It's probably Octavian, she thought wearily, dragging a hoodie over her head that she'd borrowed (read: stolen) from Jason. At least it would hide the drool on her shirt. She shuffled from her bedroom to the front entrance, her flip-flops scuffing against the floor, and eased the heavy door open.

"Jason?"

Her fellow praetor was standing on her doorstep, shoulders hunched and sleeves drawn over his hands. Despite his obvious discomfort, he somehow still had that familiar sparkle in his blue eyes that he always got when he was happy and—

Whoa. Reyna shook herself a little, trying not to let herself get distracted. Focus, Rey. It's probably something with work…or Octavian's being an ass again.

She liked swearing to herself—it made her feel human for a change rather than being the always-perfect praetor. Despite what most people thought, she did have a rebellious side; she hadn't let those filthy pirates walk all over her, after all.

"Are you freezing?" asked Jason by way of a greeting. "Because I swear to all the gods—"

Reyna heaved a sigh. "The temperature in your villa just dropped about twenty degrees again, didn't it?"

"You know me too well," he replied, grinning as well as one could grin with chattering teeth.

"No, Jason," she said impatiently, "it's because you've come to me complaining about this three times in the last week. And I've told you time and time again that I can't do anything to fix it. So don't start trying to butter me up—do you want to spend the night here or not?"

"Please?"

He looked so pathetic with the pleading eyes that she had to relent. Laughing, she stepped back from the door and let him inside. "Come on, Grace. While you're here, you might as well help me with some of this paperwork."

Jason stopped short in the doorway of her bedroom, so suddenly that Reyna plowed into his back. "Good Romulus, Rey, it's a mess in here. What'd you do, fall asleep on the job?"

"Maybe," she replied sarcastically, flopping back down in her chair. Over on her bed, Aurum and Argentum had curled up next to each other, their ruby eyes watching the two demigods intently.

Jason sat down in the chair next to Reyna—and while Aurum (who was always more protective of Reyna and her property than the more laid-back Argentum) growled deep in his throat, neither dog moved an inch.

"Okay," she said, hastily sorting through papers and making two piles. "That right there is work on the camp—construction, rebuilding, you know the drill—and the other stuff is all war-related. I know for a fact that Bobby and Genevieve put in suggestions about going to check on activity around Mount Orthrys…it sounded like a good idea."

He pulled the first pile toward him and dug in his pocket for a pen. "I'll take the boring stuff—I know you daughters of war like the violent side of being a praetor."

Reyna rolled her eyes and jabbed his shoulder with her elbow. "Shut up, Grace."

But when she thought he wasn't looking, she had to crack a smile.


iii.

October 12, 2009 / Senate House / 5:45 PM

As soon as the senate had mostly cleared out, Reyna dropped her head into her hands. She was overtired, sore, and completely worn out from three days of nonstop searching, and they were no closer to finding Jason as they had been on the morning that he'd disappeared.

She felt a gentle hand on her shoulder and glanced up to see Cassia Wate—a nine-year veteran of the legion and a centurion from the Second Cohort—looking at Reyna scrutinizingly.

"You look like Styx," the older girl decided. "Stop beating yourself up, Rey; you need to relax."

Instead of arguing like she probably would have done were she actually energized enough to care, Reyna heaved a sigh. "I know," she said. "I think I'm going to go take a nap or something."

Cassia nodded and lifted her hand from Reyna's shoulder, allowing her to stand up and pull herself together. "I'll come get you in time for dinner," she said gently, definitely a change from her usual brusque manner. "Otherwise, if anyone asks, I'll tell them you're working on important legion stuff or something."

Reyna rolled her eyes. "Your skills in excuse-making are severely lacking, Centurion Wate."

"What can I say? The legion drilled lying out of my system a long time ago."

The praetor had to smile as she left the senate house. Making her way back along the Via Praetoria, she came to the spot where her villa and Jason's sat side-by-side, his on the left and hers on the right. She was about to turn into the right gateway, but something stopped her.

It only took her a split second to make the decision. She whistled clearly, and in a moment, Aurum and Argentum had come running from the house. They neatly leaped the gate in perfect unison and came to stand at Reyna's side.

She turned left.

Jason's villa was just as she remembered it—the neat front room used for receiving guests, then the chaotic mess that was his personal living space. She found his fridge empty except for half a container of guacamole—he's just so weird sometimes, she thought amusedly—and dirty laundry still piled up in a basket in his living room. He'd obviously been meaning to take it down to the aurae so they could wash it, but hadn't gotten a chance.

Reyna turned into his bedroom and was hit by a wave of nostalgia when she saw what he'd covered his walls with.

Pictures.

She couldn't resist moving closer; each picture had a neatly written caption underneath and the date it was taken. She saw Jason at two years old, asleep on his adoptive mother (of sorts) from the Fifth Cohort's—Giselle, Reyna believed, she retired from the legion when Jason turned seven—shoulder. She saw him with his arms around his friends, talking at dinner, standing at muster, being raised to praetor.

But the one picture that caught her eye was the picture hanging right above his bed—a picture of the two of them kissing on Mount Orthrys.

In which victory is very, very sweet. —Jason and Reyna: August 18th, 2009.

And Reyna had an epiphany.

She loved Jason Grace. And now she might never be able to have him.

She sank down on Jason's bed and let herself feel the pain until she couldn't gather up the strength to feel anything anymore—and then she curled up on Jason's sheets, the fabric smelling of ozone and the outdoors, and slept for the first time in three long, draining days.

When she woke up, she had a fleeting sense that everything was okay—then she pieced together that there was no person to go with that comforting smell, and it fell apart again. It was all she could do to drag herself from the villa and into her own to get ready for the day.

But as she used her early-morning exercise period to sprint to the Fifth Cohort barracks, intent on asking Gwen to borrow some concealer for the circles under her eyes, Reyna made herself a promise.

I will find you, Jason Grace. I won't give up on us.


iv.

July 10, 2010 / Camp Half-Blood / 9:28 PM

Reyna sat in the "rec room" of the big blue farmhouse on the grounds of Camp Half-Blood, trying not to fidget or mess up her hair or anything that would make her look anything less than regal. If she had to work hard make herself presentable for her own camp, leaving an impression of perfection on the Greeks was going to be doubly hard.

She could safely say that she'd never seen anything the likes of this before—a meeting around a Ping-Pong table with cheese crackers? Octavian would be having a fit. Luckily, however, right now the campers were in serious mode—at least, according to the young blonde boy named Malcolm, who had introduced himself as a son of Athena.

At least the Seven were here—all of the Seven, which made Reyna happier inside than she was letting on. Percy and Annabeth both looked like death (which was very much an understatement), but at least they were alive. That was really all Reyna could ask for.

The strategies for the war against the giants had been decided, and the campers were splitting up to go to various activities. Percy and Annabeth were immediately dragged into a relentless conversation about tactics that Reyna could barely understand—though perhaps that was because the campers kept slipping into Greek.

She was about to go rejoin Gwen and Dakota across the room when a hand caught her shoulder.

"Rey?"

She knew who it was without even having to turn around.

"What do you want, Jason?" she asked coldly.

"Just to talk to you."

Reyna knew Jason well enough to know that he was working hard to keep his tone light. She sighed and had to relent.

"Fine," she said.

The two of them ended up on the Big House porch, looking out over Camp Half-Blood. Reyna had to admit that it was pretty here, but something felt wrong about the place—like she was on enemy territory. She wondered if Jason had felt this way when he'd first come to camp—and if he still felt that way now.

"So…" Jason said, turning to face her. "Reyna, I can't say it enough, but—I'm sorry. I am so, so sorry. It's just that—"

Reyna held up a hand, and Jason respectfully fell silent.

"It's not 'just that' anything, Jason," she said. "I know it wasn't your fault that you got kidnapped without your will and had all your memories taken away. It's not that you found yourself a girlfriend, because she's very kind and a serious fighter—not to mention she's beautiful—and she seems right for you. No, do you know what my problem is? It's that you don't remember us, Jason. The two of us—our friendship. It might've gone romantically eventually—who knows? But you just threw that aside when you came back to Camp Jupiter with the Greeks to pick up Percy, Frank, and Hazel—you focused on your new family instead of the one that has always been there for you."

Her voice was hard now, tight and cold and much more like her usual pissed-off praetor attitude. "I bet you didn't know that Gwen's older sister's son was stillborn, did you? Or that Dakota's drinking has gotten a lot worse? Or that Cassia's brother died while we were out searching for you?" Reyna's voice rose with her increasing hysteria. "Can you find it in your heart to care about us anymore, Jason? Or are you just going to leave us when we need you most? And most importantly—are you going to leave me?"

"Gods, Rey." Jason looked to be on the verge of tears, but he blinked them away.

Somewhere in the back of her head, Reyna's Ways Jason Grace Has Retained Some Aspects of His Roman Background list had another mark checked off: Doesn't cry.

"I'll always love you. You're my sister and my best friend and my closest confidant and it'll be that way until the end of time, Reyna, because I love you."

"I love you, too," she whispered.

And suddenly they were hugging and crying and whispering into each other's shoulders and Reyna had a sense of the world settling back into place again, that everything was okay.

Because she had her Jason Grace back again—better late than never.


A/N: Sweet Poseidon, this took me a long time to write. I'm REALLY, REALLY proud of this one, though; it's one of the most difficult fics I've ever written, mainly because I don't think we've seen a lot of Jason and Reyna's dynamic before. Reviews would be much appreciated. :)

I included the little date/place/time thing at the beginning of every section as a tribute to Reyna and her compulsive punctuality. You know her, being the perfect praetor and all...she's probably got her entire schedule down to a science. Plus it was just kind of a cool thing I wanted to throw in there, so there you have it.

EPC