Disclaimer: I don't own Percy Jackson and the Olympians or the Hunger Games Trilogy. I own the cookies on my counter top and this laptop, but nothing else. Song title and lyrics belong to the song "What the Water Gave Me" by Florence and the Machine.
Warning: must somewhat have general knowledge of Hunger Games to understand this/features prostitution, violence, children killing each other, mental instability, adult situations, etc. / Alternate Universe/ characters may be slightly OOC due to situation/ M rated
Pairing: Percy Jackson / Thalia Grace
What the Water Gave Me
and oh, poor Atlas
the world's a beast of burden
you've been holding on a long time
and all this longing
and the ships are left to rust
"Your father's dead, Mr. Jackson."
President Cronus Snow doesn't at all seem the least sympathetic to his newest victor, his snakelike eyes twinkling in morbid satisfaction as the beautiful fifteen year-old boy staggers under the news. Percy wishes that he still had his trident he received in the arena with him, something to keep him from falling to the floor at what he's just heard. That his father – his warm, gentle, kind father with the small crinkles around the corner of his eyes and cheeks from smiling too much, despite the bleak world he lives in – is dead.
The man who has taught Percy everything there is on how to be a humble fisherman is suddenly wiped from this world so unthinkably easy, as if his mere existence never mattered. No more fishing trips out into the middle of the sea, no more good-hearted competitions to see who can make the better net from scratch, no more pretend sparring out on the sandy shores of the beach with wooden sticks. And then he thinks of his loving mother and how she could be next...Sally Jackson, who drenches all of Percy's favorite treats in blue food dye because she knows that he likes it that way and who's always willing to assist the ill and sick people within her apothecary.
"Is it because I said no?" the younger male croaks when the shock slowly decreases to a numbing ache.
"Percy, my dear boy," the horrible president chuckles to himself, noting gleefully at how Percy flinches violently at the endearment. That's what his father always used to say to him. "I realize that guilt and grief may be one of the more natural responses to a loved one's death, but it was, oh how should I say this...an accident." Liar. All lies. "Your father was leaning too far off from his boat."
He rapidly blinks back burning tears and averts his sea-green gaze to the floor. "So, I can go back to my district then?" He swallows tightly, holds himself together because he cannot cry in front of this man. "I wish to help my mother out for the funeral rites, sir."
A terrifying smile stretches out on Snow's face. "Of course. It would be cruel of you to stay at the Capitol while the rest of your family is mourning. But just so we're clear," – and the man leans in so close, he can smell the poisonous smell of blood and roses – "you will concede to our little business agreement, yes? I hear your older brother is going off on the boats next week and your mother—"
"No!" Percy cries out in a harsh whisper, frantic that he dared threaten Sally. "Whatever you need, I'll do it, I swear. I'll sleep with whoever you want."
"You will serve the Capitol well then, Mr. Jackson," Snow leers at him, his body, before nodding once. "You may leave now."
One week later – a disillusioning week filled of burying his lifeless father to the ground, of his mother clinging onto his taller, broader body and crying restlessly in his arms, of the angry glares he receives from his older brother that implies that Triton fully blames Percy for their father's death – Percy receives his first letter from President Snow.
It's a white cardstock, perfumed with the scent of roses, and it has nothing but a list of names with specific times next to them. Staring blankly at it, he quickly pockets the damning letter of his first 'clients' and continues to hold the sobbing wreck that is Sally Jackson.
Lunch time at school is such a fucking joke sometimes because all Thalia hears is this:
"He's with another woman. That's the fourth one this week!"
"God, he's so sexy...he makes it look like a sin."
"I love the color of Percy's eyes..."
"Oh, gosh," Thalia sweetens her voice to sound like the majority of the giggling girls, managing to catch their attention before she completely before her timbre completely flattens into a bland tone. "Will all of you just shut the fuck up?"
And they'll harrumph and glare at the pretty blue-eyed girl before returning back to that stupid Capitol magazine that always has Percy freaking Jackson right on the cover all the damn time. These girls can get reaped any year now and all they remotely care about is the hot, shirtless guy with a trident? People like these aren't much better than those of the Capitol.
But then again, they're just acting how normal girls should – squealing over every good-looking guy that walks by. They're too busy basking in the present while Thalia's too busy depressing herself over the future.
Percy doesn't really think of anything as he repeatedly fucks Merope Combe, usually placid wife of the Secretary of Defense, but a surprisingly wild animal in bed. With a sharp tilt of his hips, he angles his member up in her in a way that makes her scream without abandon, her gaudily-painted nails running down the planes of his muscled back to take in his rhythmic thrusts.
"Oh, Percy, that was fantastic," Merope purrs into his ear a little while after, when they're both lying flat on their backs. He takes special pride in the fact that he doesn't once shiver in disgust the moment she crawls up his chest to place a wet kiss before she slowly dresses herself, smirking at an expressionless Percy through her ridiculous pair of five-inched long purple eyelashes. "I'll see you next week?"
He doesn't respond. However, to avoid offending the woman and getting in trouble with Snow, Percy lets his empty eyes linger at the woman's enhanced breasts before trailing them down to her hips. She looks exceptionally pleased once he looks back up. The gesture is mistaken for lust in her eyes while all Percy wants to do is vomit at the sight of her.
She drops the money at the table before walking out with a last wink in his direction. He burns every single one of those bills.
"Why so glum, chum?"
"I have a mentally unstable mother to take care of, and depending on what kind of day it is today, she may or may not throw a fucking wine bottle at my face," comes Thalia unenthusiastic voice. Had it been anyone else, he or she would have been downright shocked to hear her speak like that out in the open, but Luke Castellan merely laughs.
Thalia's always been given the stink-eye every time she's with Luke from the other females of this district and she honestly doesn't see the appeal sometimes. So, fine, he looks pretty handsome, but so do all the other sandy-haired, blue-eyed males. What makes him stand out from all those males is the cute ten year-old perched atop his strong shoulders. Every single day while walking home after school, Luke always places his younger sister on his shoulders, no matter how old she's getting, and Annabeth's too happy to refuse anyway.
"Only two more years," Luke smiles down at her a little too cheerfully for her liking, pissing Thalia off how he's so chipper all the time. Oh, that's right, he's got parents who adore him and Annabeth to death.
Hell, with parents like that, she'd be smiling all over the time too.
"Lucky you," Thalia mutters under her breath, but loud enough for her best friend to hear. "I've still got four."
"We've all got to do our time," he says in a sing-song voice, making Annabeth chortle above him.
She gives him her best fuck you look before rolling her eyes. "God, you are such a jack...idiot," she amends quickly only after realizing that the guy's baby sister is still there. After all, she doesn't want curse words infiltrating Annabeth's innocent blonde head.
"A what?" Luke waggles his eyebrows mischievously.
"Oh, thank the gods," Thalia blurts out once she sees her house a couple meters away from where they're walking.
"Hey, wear something pretty tomorrow, yeah?" And she's reminded of the reaping once more, even though she'd rather not think about the darkest day of the year. "Something blue that shows a lot of leg so that it'll distract me from that ever-present scowl on your face."
Ignoring the deep tinkle of Luke's laughter, Thalia reaches up and pulls at one of Annabeth's golden curls, watching the strand bounce a little before it settles back to its original place. Annabeth looks up from the book she's placed on top of Luke's head before smiling brightly at Thalia, bidding her a gentle goodbye. Thalia makes sure to 'accidentally' kick Luke's shin while she's walking towards her house.
Leaving Jason at home with her mother is far from what Thalia has ever wanted – that's why she thinks school is just a waste of time when all you're ever going to learn is the Dark Days and its repercussions all over again. But for some reason, her mother never touches her little brother in a slight way. She just ignores her son, like he isn't even there.
Nevertheless, Thalia's still glad to find the two year-old tyke sitting alone in their living room, trying his best to color neatly on a puppy-pictured coloring page. So, naturally, he doesn't color within the lines. But that doesn't look like a coloring pen-
In Jason's chubby fingers is a gleaming piece of glass.
"Jason!" Thalia can't help but scream as she runs to the small child, gentling prying the sharp piece from his hands before swiftly hurtling the glass out through the nearby window. "Holy shit, kid," she adds after feeling her heart rate decrease from that particular scare, taking her clapping brother in her arms.
"Lia!" the toddler responds just as excitedly, immediately leaning in to rest his cheek against the crook of her neck.
Sprinkling a splatter of butterfly kisses all over his face to make him laugh – and its one of the sweetest sounds in the world – her electric blue eyes narrow at the many shards of glass that loiter all over the floor of their house. She places Jason on the couch, orders him in a gentle voice not to crawl down onto the floor, and starts the tedious task of picking each piece.
At night, Thalia completely ignores her mother's pathetically wasted figure right outside her bedroom while she treks to her own, Jason always kept close and in her arms while she's home. Hearing little Jason's even breathing from beside Thalia in her small bed is the only way to make her fall asleep these days.
Hearing Silena Beauregard's name being called out from the reaping bowl instead of hers does bring a small sigh of relief from her. Thalia gets another year to live and she's quite happy that she'll be alive to see Jason turn three in a couple of months.
There's absolutely no shame when Percy suddenly presses his face into his pillow and cries.
He's supposed to have been out of the room by now, but he lacks the strength to summon any inch of his aching body to pick itself up and walk right out the door. Everything just hurts and he can't help but curl his tall frame inward into a tightly wounded ball, his knees caged against his chest as he trembles violently atop the soiled sheets. It reeks of everything but purity – hard liquor, post-coital sweat, barbaric manipulation, dirty lies, even filthier secrets, and his tainted tears.
Fisting his fingers into his tousled black hair, he opens his mouth and screams soundlessly into the feathery pillow, his unstable gasps ending in an uncomfortable choke as saline tears continue to stream down his face. The scent of his lachryma fervently reminds him of home, of the salty smell that drifts all over District 4 from the endless ocean that separates that land from the rest of the world. What he would give to spend the rest of his life as an average fisherman and hide himself away from all this.
Every single one of these victors, regardless of diverse upbringings, knows that no one ever really wins these Hunger Games. This is where disillusionment comes in to play, mindless of writhing sensibility and mindful of mental suffering.
Picking up the distinct and terrible sound of the door opening yet again, another client's arrival, he frantically tries to make his fetal position even smaller than it already was beforehand, hoping that the gods will be kind to him and just let the bed swallow him whole. Percy is a seventeen year-old man with enough black horrors that no one that age should have to go to and he wants nothing more than wishing that his mother was here so that he can crawl onto her lap like he used to and let her kiss the tears away.
And he's had eight clients this night, very more so than the usual, and it seems as though their kind president is hell-bent on breaking him soon. He jerks his shoulders at the filthy fingers that proceed to touch him everywhere and there. Percy should have taken the offered morphling when he had the chance.
Insomnia is one of the worst monsters to deal with at night and it's something not even Thalia can avoid. When you've spent countless years watching children you've never had the chance to know die on live television, how can anyone sleep?
She plants a tender kiss on one of Jason's sweet, adolescently-plump cheeks before tucking the covers around his miniscule frame and leaving the bed to venture out of their room. It's unpredictable during these hours of the nights because her mother can either be wasting away in her own bedroom or wandering around the house just like Thalia. And just to her infinite luck, Josephine Grace is currently sitting alone at their little kitchen table, staring blankly into space that's always been a bit of a norm in this house for her.
Thalia's just about to turn around and leave when her mother says: "Thalia? Baby?"
"Don't call me that, mother," Thalia returns dully, slowly whirling around to face Josephine. There isn't a wine bottle in her mother's dainty hands, but she doesn't know if that's a good or bad thing. "What? Not going to intoxicate yourself to fucking hell tonight?"
Josephine merely blinks at her daughter's rough taunts, seemingly unaffected. "So much like your father," she finally whispers and Thalia hates it whenever she tells her that because she doesn't at all like being compared to that man. "Strong, independent...beautiful." And this is the part where her mother turns bitter. "Impulsive, rash, good-for-nothing son of a bitch—"
"Gee," Thalia smoothly cuts in because she's heard this speech ten thousand times before. "I think I know why Dad left you for the Capitol." Fucking unstable woman. Fucking crazy mother. "He was smart enough to know what he was getting into, so he fucked you up and left you once before coming back to repeat the same process before leaving you again for good."
Dead silence. (But that really hasn't been uncommon in this house for a long while now.)
Her mother's fingers turn white as she clutches the edge of the table tightly, but in contrast to what Thalia's preconceived, Josephine doesn't find something to throw at her daughter. Thalia had expected the chair to come hurling in her direction by the end of all this.
Thalia shrugs. "Oh, well. Goodnight, Josie," she over her shoulder apathetically, feeling satisfied at the way her mother takes in a sharp intake of breath at the well-known nickname that hasn't been used since he was here.
And as the young girl stalks back into her room, she can't help but wonder sometimes. She knows she hates everything that has to do with the damn Capitol, and her father even more for leaving their family for one of their ritzy jobs, but there are the rare moments where she wishes that her father could at least have had the decency to take Jason and her along with him when he left.
If Sally is ever given a hint of what Percy does, what he indulges in to cope with his job, she would have been severely disappointed. Hell, his father's probably rolling around in his grave every time Percy's coerced to either fuck someone or spread his legs.
The bar is thankfully empty, allowing him to be the broken remnants of the man he once was instead of person he barely recognizes today in favor of what the Capitol wants. He needs the strongest alcoholic drink this place has to offer, and although the whiskey tastes like smoke and wood bursting on his tongue, it does nothing to dull whatever he's feeling.
"Hey there, Four."
The voice sounds just as tired as the owner looks, but Apollo still looks handsome, like the sun sits and rises on his ass. He's a District 1 victor from the Games that have occurred in the decade before this one. What more, his twin sister, Artemis, coincidentally wins the Games right after her older brother. Apollo and Artemis are one of the few people who understand what Percy's going through because they're trapped in the same exact situation as well.
Percy grunts his greeting and takes another hearty shot. "How's Rachel?"
It's always been a sore subject for Apollo to talk about, but he does nevertheless. Rachel Elizabeth Dare is a victor of the Hunger Games who's famous for all the wrong reasons. She would have been a sex slave of the Capitol too, had it not been for the fact that Rachel's been rendered absolutely crazy after winning what is deemed as 'The Failed Games'. The poor, little mad girl of Panem.
"She's good," is Apollo's quiet answer, sounding more like his true self despite the glitter all over his body. "Delphi called me earlier—she said that Rach keeps getting these weird 'visions', but they're harmless really."
"Visions? Like an oracle or a prophet?"
Apollo chuckles because it surely must sound ridiculous. "Yeah, but at least she's not screaming her head off every time someone touches her by accident." Realizing where this conversation is headed, Apollo chirps to a more happy tune. "Do you wanna go to the auction house with me tomorrow? They're auctioning off this really antique car of the pre-Panem days. A convertible Maserati Spyder. It's red."
Red like Rachel's hair. But Percy only arches his eyebrow. "So?"
"So? I have to get it, Perce!" Apollo starts pouting at him, lower lip stuck out and all.
He doesn't have any appointments that day, so Percy's been granted to leave with Apollo for the auction house the next day. And while hoards of Capitol citizens are torn from staring brazenly at the two beautiful men in their midst while yelling out random prices to bargain for the antique cars, Apollo whispers into Percy's ear about something even more dangerous than the Hunger Games.
Something about a rebellion and how male whores like them can contribute to the cause.
Luke is the one the catch Thalia's habit. A habit where the blue-eyed girl doesn't actually pay attention to the gory details of the annual Games, but when the interview with the Head Gamemaker airs on, her orbs are practically glued to the television set.
"Oh my," he jeers at her good-naturedly, nudging his knee against hers. "Does pretty little Thally finally have a crush?"
Forgetting that both Annabeth and Jason are in the room, Thalia slaps him upside the back of his head. "Shut the fuck up, Castellan," she mumbles, but her eyes never once leave the bright screen of her TV or the attractive Head Gamemaker.
There's a deep snort the moment Percy walks into secluded room. "About time, Peter Johnson."
"Percy Jackson," the younger male corrects tersely, causing the other man to roll his eyes.
Since winning his Games all those long years ago, Dionysus' lovely companion has always been and always will be alcohol. He hasn't been sober one day in the entirety of his lonely life as a victor of District 11. But for some oddly-veiled reason, this joke of a drunk is the one in charge of the classified rebellion, along with Chiron, the quiet and intellectually brilliant victor of District 3.
"Apollo tells me you want in," Dionysus stares probingly at Percy, which is a remarkable difference to the hazy state of intoxication that's always lingering around his aging orbs.
His eyebrows furrow above his sea-green eyes. "Isn't this room bugged?"
"If it were, do you think we'd be talking in the open like this, pretty boy?" Dionysus retorts back sarcastically before gesturing over to his partner with a small wave of his hand. "Chiron's got it covered. Anyway, Apollo says you're willing to get secrets for us." When Percy nods in affirmation, the older male settled back in his chair. "You can't tell anyone about this."
"Do I look that stupid to you?"
Before Dionysus has the chance to respond back, Chiron beats him to it. "Of course not, Percy. We're just taking certain precautions, that's all. Everything's all set—trust me—and while that may be the case, we're still looking for someone to represent the rebellion as a whole."
"A symbol," Dionysus continues on, as though this entire thing has been rehearsed. "Someone to be our Mockingjay." A brief passing of silence hovers over the three men as Dionysus pours himself another drink. "A couple years ago, we had a girl that was fucking perfect for the job. We trained her and everything. But she did what stupid girls did best."
"What happened?" Percy inquires and the question causes Dionysus to scowl his best scowl.
"She fell in love and got herself fucking killed before the rebellion could even start."
And before Percy can ask who it was, Chiron looks at him sadly. "Zoë Nightshade."
Thalia finally gets a job a few weeks after she turns sixteen. It's a dangerous job at the large power plant factory in District 5, but she's always been particularly good at dealing with electricity. With a job like this, it's normal for at least one person to die in this type of environment. Even so, she'll continue to work until she has enough money for stability, so that Jason will never have to apply for tesserae.
"Tell me a secret."
"I don't know, Percy. Can't I just give you...?"
A wet smacking sound of lips meeting each other. "I don't want your money, sweetheart." He does something else that has her whole body arching to meet his, amorously throwing a leg back onto his hip. "I promise I can keep a secret."
"O-Okay." There's a high-pitched giggle before she starts again. "Well, you know that my husband's on the board that funds the Hunger Games every year..." she sighs when Percy dips his mouth to the sweet spot of her throat. "He told me that sometimes...sometimes the process of reaping children aren't done randomly."
Percy pauses, horror coiling at his stomach.
"But you can't tell anyone though, my dear Percy. If the rest of the Capitol knew, why, there'd be an uprising at the injustice of it all, and we don't want that now, do we?"
There aren't many times in Thalia's life where she receives news that will shock her numb. So when Pisces Robespierre reaches her orange bejeweled nails into the reaping bowl, pulls out a name, and calls out Annabeth Castellan in that fucking Capitol accent, she doesn't feel like she's ever going to breathe again. Except she does, and it's a painfully expelled intake of air as she registers the fact that darling twelve year-old Annabeth, their Annabeth, is actually going to contest in the 73rd Hunger Games.
She hears a shrill scream from the back of the crowd, and that might have been Mrs. Castellan, but she isn't too sure because she's turned to see the expression on her best friend's face. Luke looks as though he's about to cry. But then determination creeps onto his features because it doesn't really matter anymore on who the boy tribute will be. Luke will volunteer in the boy's place for the sole purpose of keeping his baby sister alive, and when the two siblings are at the top two, she knows that Annabeth's the one returning home.
But there's the possible chance the two of them could die in the arena, no matter how determined Luke is. The Castellans are good people and they don't deserve to lose both of their children in a matter of two or three weeks. Thalia's not willing to take the chance.
Thalia can't even look at Luke in the eye while she steps out of her age group and marches up to the aisle behind Annabeth, who gives out a startled sob before throwing her skinny arms around Thalia's frame, murmuring no, no, no, and preventing the older girl from coming up to the stage. Annabeth's a smart girl and it's been a long while since anyone from District 5 has ever won, so she can put the dots together in her head. She doesn't think Thalia will win, and as much as that should be slightly offensive, Thalia secretly agrees with her.
"Annie, let go," Thalia whispers to her sharply, tugging her elbow out from the vice-like grip. Luke is the one to detach the screaming, sobbing blonde girl away from her, lifting his mournful gaze up to Thalia's electric blue one.
There's a secret message being passed between their shared gaze, something that goes along the lines of: Don't you fucking dare volunteer, Castellan. I can handle this by myself.
Scowl on her face, because there's no way in hell she's going to be seen smiling through this, she jumps up to the stage lithely and walks to stand by the district's stupid escort. Josephine's face is paler than usual, eyes wider than Thalia's ever seen, and Jason is crying quietly in his mother's arms.
"How lovely!" Pisces exclaims. She brings the microphone towards the stick-thin girl. "What is your name, my dear?"
She crosses her arms, her irises tightening dangerously. "Thalia fucking Grace." The girl doesn't care about Pisces' loud gasp at her expletive or the gawking crowd below her, she's too busy glaring straight at the cameras.
When Pisces calls out Ethan Nakamura's name and Luke keeps his promise by not saying a word, Thalia relaxes her shoulders because there aren't going to be any more surprises after that. What's done is done – she's a tribute.
The Castellans are all there to visit her at the Justice Building. Each one spends an amount of time crying in Thalia's arms, thanking her through an abundant amount of tears, with the exception of Luke, who only gives her a haunted look and whispers in her ear: "Archery."
Luke knows that she's a prodigy with a bow, but she hasn't touched that weapon since her father left her years ago. He's the one that taught her how to shoot and fight with it, after all.
The moment her family comes in, Jason stumbles on his little legs to get himself in her arms.
(She doesn't know why, but the sight of her brother running like that makes her want to cry for the first time in years.)
"You have to win, please, Lia," he begs, tugging at her stony heartstrings, tears dripping down his cheeks. "Mummy—Mummy says that people die and they don't go home. That people have to kill each other to go home to their mummies and daddies."
Thalia narrows her eyes at Josephine. "You said what?" she grits through her teeth as she juggles Jason in her arms, unable to comprehend that her mother had told Jason all those things while she was either at school or at the power plant factory.
But Jason frantically pats her cheek to get his sister's attention. "Lia, you can kill people, it's okay. You can go home. I won't be mad at you, sissy. I won't. You're the bestest, Lia. You can beat them. You come home or else—or else—" the rest of his threat is muffled by his tearful cries.
She doesn't want to talk to Josephine, not after realizing what she's been telling Jason all this time, because she's too hung up on the fact that her baby brother has just suggested that she kill someone in order to come back home to him. He's only four for fuck's sake and the terrors of the Hunger Games are already beginning to insert themselves permanently in his young life.
Josephine understands that her daughter refuses to say anything to her at this point, but Thalia surprisingly doesn't fight it when the older woman pins a circular golden mockingjay pin that Thalia has never seen her mother wear before onto the collar of her dress.
"Your father gave it to me," Josephine murmurs in a lifeless way of explaining herself. "All I ask is that you wear it to the arena."
Hours later on the train, ignoring the quiet sniffles that belong to Ethan Nakamura, Thalia presses her forehead against the window pane and tries not to think about the way Jason has screamed at her when the Peacekeepers finally barge in and rip the family apart.
("No, Lia, no, no, no, no, no! Wait, mister, I didn't get to say 'I love you' to Lia yet! Put me down, mister! No, no...!")
"If you're planning on making me look like a power plant worker," Thalia drawls, given the memories she has over the years of District 5 tributes coming out of the Opening Ceremonies looking like idiots in their costumes, "you should have told me sooner. I would have brought my work uniform with me."
Hestia smiles at the dry joke. "I think Panem has seen enough of power plant workers, don't you think?" Her stylist has the strangest shade of yellow eyes – the only alteration made to her face to assert herself in the Capitol – but she doesn't look as grotesque as the other ones around here. "District 5 has been known to harness the energy of the earth and sky in order to power this nation, yes? That means all types of power—solar, nuclear, and in our case, electric."
"Electricity, of course, implies technology," Hestia continues to walk around Thalia's robed body. "But we're going to focus on just electricity, and perhaps a little lightning."
"You're going to make electrocute me?" Well...it hasn't been done before, she'll give Hestia that.
"Dear, you'd be electrifying," Hestia quips, nodding serenely to the younger girl's question. "I watched the way you volunteered for that little blonde girl and the way you introduced yourself as well," she added with a gentle laugh. "Let's just say it sparked creativity for me."
"I probably shouldn't have said that on live TV." But Thalia doesn't look the least apologetic for her actions.
"To each their own." And there's something about those strange yellow eyes that make Thalia feel warm and cozy, as though she's sitting right beside a hearth or a fireplace. Hestia reaches out to touch the other girl's long hair, blue-black strands that reach to the elbows. She twirls a dark strand around her finger. "Thalia, do you have any attachments to the length of your hair?"
What does that have to do with anythi—oh.
Percy can't tear his eyes away from her.
In fact, none of the Capitol citizens can take their eyes off the District 5's chariot because the tributes are literally lighting up the entire city as their chariot strolls down the City Circle. Or at least, she is.
He remembers her as the girl-who-cursed-while-saying-her-name, and that moment has been a rather funny one in his opinion. She isn't a power plant and she sure as hell isn't a power plant worker—she embodies electricity. The girl is wearing a simple black brocade dress, but it's glowing in every way that disables it from its simplicity. Not to mention the fact that patterned in that dress are many slender streaks of lightning that look as though they're moving and cackling against the material.
The girl's black hair is cut short, barely reaching the bottom of her neck – but Percy likes her hair this way better – and each strand is dramatically sticking out in perfunctory directions. Her stylist has weaved a certain something into the strands of her hair so that every time her shorn tresses flutter against the wind, they somehow manage to spark with electricity.
But her eyes – Percy feels his throat clog up the moment those impossibly bright blue eyes stray in his direction. His mind goes blank and all he's really doing is just staring. But he remembers that he's around people he knows, so he sends her a saucy wink. Imagine his surprise when she mouths the words: go fuck yourself before winking back.
Of course they're not paying attention, Thalia thinks darkly to herself as the Gamemakers pile around the food that's just arrived. No, why on earth would they pay attention to the girl that has a chance of dying in the arena when there's a wonderfully roasted pig in sight?
She's just shot a volley of arrows at the targets from every possible meter mark and they've all hit the intended bullseyes. Feeling a little more than frustrated, Thalia notches three arrows together and directs it at the banquet table. The arrows fly from her possession before she can stop it, one of the arrows skewering the apple at the pig's mouth and forcefully pinning it to the wall behind it while the other two arrows are deeply embedded in the pig's stomach.
Ignoring the varied shouts of alarm, she draws another arrow from the quiver and aims at a fork that one of the Gamemakers was holding. The aerial weapon rips the fork out of the man's trembling fingers knocking the eating utensil to floor with a loud clang as the arrow continues its short trek until it hits the wall.
The Head Gamemaker finally turns around to acknowledge the female tribute from District 5 when he halts to a visible stop, his eyes widening in disbelief at the young girl. His orbs, electric blue, mirrors the colors swirling in her own uncannily.
"Hey, Dad," she mutters all too quietly for anyone to hear, but Head Gamemaker Zeus can definitely read the words forming on her lips.
For the first time, the Mentors' Lounge is deadly silent. There are no talks of sex, booze, or drugs; no traded insults or thinly-veiled jibes thrown at each other because this is the very moment that changes everything.
The second Thalia throws her entire body on top of a dying Ethan Nakamura, her last opponent, using her back to shield those ungodly muttations from shredding Ethan to pieces, the District 5's computer nearly crashes at how many sponsors Thalia's getting per minute. The Gamemakers aren't calling off the muttations, because while they want Thalia to be saved, they still want a fantastic finale.
While Artemis is tightly gripping onto Apollo's elbow, Thalia's mentor is clicking away at the computer with all her might. It's only a brief matter of time before the arena's sky is loitered with hundreds of parachutes – all for the girl who resembles lightning itself.
No one can argue with the fact that the 73rd Games will always be remember for all time. One minute, Thalia's protecting her dead district partner with everything she's got, all the while grabbing a couple parachutes here and there, and the next she's swiftly outrunning the fanged muttations, leading them so deep into the forest with assumedly no plan in mind.
But then she does something frantically to the ground, digging and cutting something in the dirt, and then-
The whole arena blows up.
Explosion, fire, and debris, and Artemis' startled scream isn't coherent enough to break through the thunderous noise that is a commingled mixture of the mentors and the Capitol citizens that are all watching hungrily from outside. Percy's gripping his raven hair like a deranged person, incapable of believing that she's actually blown up the damn arena. The whole nation of a shaken Panem shifts once more when Thalia Grace crawls out from the utter disaster, covered in ash and blood, but still alive. She faints in the middle of all that mess.
Once the cheers have died down, once everyone can actually catch their breath again and while citizens and mentors alike are yelling for the hovercraft to just come already, Dionysus leans over and whispers to Chiron:
"That's how you start a revolution."
Eyes the color of the ocean linger over the well-disguised, depressed slump of her shoulders. Percy can recognize a fake smile any day, and while the attempt is worthwhile, he can see right through Panem's newest victor. Her irises shine acerbically at the drastically surgically-altered people that make up the Capitol population, but she's forced to reign her ire in when they ask to take a picture or inquire just exactly how she managed to blow the arena up.
Thalia's staying silent on the matter though, feigning that it was all just a mistake before she smoothly moves the subject on towards something else. No one but Percy notices it when Thalia slips out onto the balcony when the Capitol officials and sponsors become more increasingly drunk as the night wears on. Politely kissing the woman Percy's been talking with on the mouth, he shoves his hands into his pocket and disappears behind the same door the girl's gone through as well.
Her head is cradled in her hands, elbows pinpointed at the stone railing of the balcony, body hunched forward. The victor's crown is off her tumble of short waves, resting on the railing just a few inches away.
She doesn't turn around at the sound of his footsteps. "Well, if it isn't Percy Jackson," she says emotionlessly, head still in her hands so that her words come out a little muffled. "Oh, jolly, what did I do to have you grace me with your presence?"
Percy smothers his laugh expertly. "Just offering my congratulations to our newest victor, of course."
For a moment, Percy thinks he's said the wrong thing, considering the moment of silence lapsed between the two. But then Thalia picks her head up and turns to look at him. "What does the ocean look like?"
Despite the odd question during this time, Percy perks up because he loves talking about his home. "If you stand on the shore, you'd think the water stretches as far as you can see it, maybe past the horizon," he begins softly. "With certain lighting, it changes color from green to blue to silver and gray. There are times where you can't tell the ocean from the sky, especially during twilight. The waves travel in ripples before retreating, eventually breaking into foam to creep up to your feet if you stand close enough before they slide back in the water. The feeling is cold but comforting, and the smell of saltwater is a scent like no other."
"Beats my district," Thalia crosses her arms around her waist, staring out into the lights of the city ahead. "All I ever smell is the fumes and smoke of the power plant factories."
"You should visit District 4." Percy leans his hip against the railing to smile charmingly at the beautiful girl. Minor dismay fills him because he knows that Thalia won't be able to escape the oppression of forced prostitution, not with gorgeous cheekbones like those. And those freckles are simply adorable to look at. "I'll even let you stay in my house."
"Wow, all the more reason to go!" Thalia declares in mock-enthusiasm and something about her voice makes Percy laugh. Her lips even quirk up for a tiny moment before she sobers up again. "My family's going to die."
He jerks at the sudden statement. "Hey, now don't say that—"
Thalia rubs her hands over her face before her fingers come to pull at her hair. "Fuck, I'm so stupid. Why did I blow that arena up?"
"You don't know for sure—"
"Why do you think Dionysus is always drinking, Percy? The guy's fucking miserable. Remember how he made the mistake of making all the Gamemakers look like idiots in front of everyone in Panem with that force field stunt he pulled? Yeah, I just did the same thing."
Is it terrible of him to think that she's dead on right?
Percy doesn't really think much when his arms shoot out to gather the poor girl into his arms. She puts up a fight for a couple of minutes, cursing his name and pushing against his chest, but then she thinks of her baby brother and her eyes begin to glaze over.
That gesture sort of frightens Percy – because he's seen that look in Rachel's eyes many times before the redhead retreats off into her own little world of confused wonderland – and he holds her tightly, his long fingers stroking patterns in her soft hair. She's still staring off into space, but she vaguely concludes that this is quite comfortable. They've known each other for less than ten minutes, but this, whatever this is, may just be a beautiful possibility between them that's about to be conceived.
"Ah, I see you've heard the news then."
Both victors jump away from each other at President Snow's intruding voice.
"What news?" For a gnawing reason, Thalia doesn't feel like she should be asking him. She already knows.
"I just received news from your district mayor that your house has been burned down," Snow informs her in that dreadfully cold tone of his and even Percy knows what's coming next. "Unfortunately, your mother and brother were in the house during the time of the fire and they couldn't escape it. Please accept my sincerest apologies for this tragedy, Miss Grace."
Thalia takes diminutive pride in the fact that she doesn't at all break into tears at his announcement. She doesn't stagger like Percy's done when he found out about his father's death. For an imperceptible moment, her eyes burn with hatred and loathing and disgust for the small, snake-like man before her. Percy notices this, and perhaps Cronus Snow sees it as well, but it doesn't matter anymore because she's got nothing to lose at this point.
"Thank you for telling me in person. It was so kind of you to do that." This doesn't sound like the girl who's just lost her entire family. No, this sounds more like the girl who fucking cursed while saying her name in live television. It almost sounds like she's mocking him.
Snow narrowed his eyes shrewdly at the girl. "You're quite welcome, Miss Grace." He must have been expecting waterworks from the blue-eyed girl. "Excuse me," he adds in a curt murmur, turning around to walk back inside.
Percy wraps his fingers around hers.
She doesn't grip his hand back.
That's all it says on the curved slab of stone. It doesn't say what a loving son he had been, what an even more wonderful brother he had been – the only positive gift in her pathetic life – nothing. It just looks like an ordinary piece of stone with a random boy's name carved onto it, not a respected tombstone. This is the grave that District 5 has issued her after her Victory Tour. Her mother's looks similar, but in contrast, she feels as though this grave filled with nothing but a name fits Josephine the most.
She hasn't been anything to Thalia other than the woman who shared a house with them.
("Did you hear? I heard the Head Gamemaker's gone."
"Yeah, he disappeared without a trace right after the Games..."
"I wonder who's big enough to fill Zeus' shoes, eh?")
Besides admiration, Thalia's been treated with obvious trepidation because the whole world pretty much knows that given wires and a couple of daggers, she can blow up anything. Luke is distressed that he hadn't been able to get to her family on time, but their deaths weren't on her best friend's fault. It isn't Annabeth's either, though that doesn't stop the tears from filling up those grey eyes. She can't live in this place anymore, so seconds after she boards the train to the Capitol, she puts the key to her Victor's house in Luke's hand.
Once Percy opens the door, Thalia blurts out: "I came here for the ocean, not you, Fishface."
His heart beats just a little faster at the sight of the plain duffle bag by her feet. The fact that she's willing to take up his offer and stay with him for a week or so makes him break out into a boyish grin. Thalia can even meet his momma...
"Come on in, Sparky."
"What the fuck did you just call me?"
She's never seen the ocean before.
But by the time she manages to catch the glimpses of the silver sea gleaming against the gentle rays of the sun, she thinks it's the most beautiful thing she's ever seen, and for the first time since her Games, she's thankful that she's made it out of the arena alive to see such a wonderful sight. Percy's words from long ago doesn't even do the compelling waters enough justice and there's the sudden yearning to sprint across that white sand and get utterly lost beneath the white-crusted blue waves.
Jason would have loved the sea.
Thalia sighs, wiggling her toes into the warm sand in relishing in the sensation of the cold water sweeping past her ankles briefly before crawling back into the plethora of endless blue. She's nibbling on a blue cookie because Percy has a crazy obsession with blue food and he needs his mother to food-color practically everything before he can eat it. But Sally Jackson is kind and loving and just a beautiful person inside and out – she'll always food-dye her youngest son's food blue and Percy will always be in the kitchen to help her.
It's a love that's been deliriously absent in her relationship with Josephine Grace. The first time her father left their family had been a terrible set of years to follow. The second time he left was a little bit better, only because her mother had been pregnant with Jason. She wonders if there are any universes out there that have a preferably sober Josie who likes to brush another Thalia's hair or paint her nails with her or do the general stuff that mothers and daughters are supposed to do together.
Deep in thought, she doesn't realize her cheek is being pinched until she hears Percy's chuckle from beside her. And he's not just pinching her damn cheek – he's holding onto it and wiggling her flesh back and forth.
"Stop it, you moron," she swats at his hand sharply, pushing him away from her until he normally bounces back to stand next to her in the water. She stuffs the rest of the odd-colored cookie in her mouth. "Your mother's pretty awesome."
"She is." Percy doesn't have to pretend to deny it because he knows Sally is one of the best mothers out there. "I wish you could meet my brother too, but there's no way he'll agree to coming here." For the first time, Percy actually sounds bitter.
Should he even tell her? They've only known each other for...but he finds that it doesn't matter.
Impulsively, his fingers stretch out to latch around hers, palm pressing against palm, digits overlapping in a soft embrace. Thalia doesn't look down to see their intertwined hands, because the sunset that's minutes away from embarking is far more important, and he thinks worriedly that he's moving way too fast for her. Worry his bottom lip with his white teeth, he beings to pull away his hand from her hers, only to be conscious of the way Thalia's pale fingers are molding themselves permanently around his sun-kissed ones.
It's the first time she's properly held a boy's hand. She's never been this close to even trying it with Luke.
And there's no way in hell she's going to admit out loud that she likes holding his hand.
Biting back a blushing smile, Percy tells her everything. His time in the Games, the real reason behind his father's death, why Triton moves out of the house after seeing so many magazines with Percy and a constantly different woman on it, and finally, his nighttime job. He doesn't, however, tell her that he manipulates certain people into sleeping with him in order to get secrets about the Capitol and Snow. He's a bad person, he knows this, but do all bad guys get to hold hands with strong, pretty girls like Thalia?
"If you can be anything at all, what would you be?"
"A pine tree."
"Because you don't have to do anything. You just stay there, that's it."
"But you'll eventually get cut down to make paper—"
"So? At least I don't have to compete in some stupid game to kill off innocent children." Pause. "What about you? I'm guessing you'd be a fish then?"
"Wow, that's so original, Sparky. Thanks."
"You don't have to throw a hissy fit."
Ignoring her. "I think I'd like to be someone who matters. Someone important, you know?" A hero, perhaps.
"You don't think you matter?"
"Not in this world—no."
"Well, you..." You fucking matter to me, Fishface.
The drunk of District 11, Dionysus, tells him he's a fool for falling in love at this time. Percy knows.
Dionysus may use wine as a crutch, but Thalia thinks the old man is much smarter than that. It's there, sparkling through his hazy eyes, even if most other people automatically smell the booze oozing from his breath first.
"Zoë Nightshade fucked everything up before it had a chance to start." That's a terrible beginning, but Thalia wisely keeps her mouth shut. She tilts her head slightly, inclining that she's giving the drunk all her divided attention. "Her father, Atlas, trained her from the beginning, and damn it, the girl looked like she was ready to lead a revolution. You could just see it in her, and for a while, we all thought that this was going to work, but you know what that girl did?"
When no one speaks, Thalia rolls her eyes. "I thought that was a rhetorical question."
The man barks out a laugh before slamming his hand down on the table. "You have a mouth just like Zoë, kid," Dionysus points a finger right in her face before continuing on. "You watched her Games, didn't you? She fell in love with that idiot Career from One."
Thalia nods. "Hercules."
"Hercules," Dionysus mimics, not to mock her but the very name itself. "One moment the whole wide world is watching Zoë suck face with the guy, and the next he's got a knife plunged in her throat and she's suddenly choking on her blood." Dionysus looks angry, and maybe she can see the young victor in him from twenty or so years ago. "If you're going to do this, kid, I'm asking you not to fuck yourself over by making the same mistake."
"I don't think there's a chance of me going into the arena again, considering my time's over," Thalia responds with a slight edge in her tone.
"Shit still happens outside the arena," Dionysus begins to dish out the wine. "I just want you to stay alive. We'll need your face to shoot a couple of propos and lead a couple battles here and there. Nothing more."
An eyebrow lifts up on Dionysus' face. "Just like that?"
"Yeah," she throws back curtly, finalizing her decision because the sooner this fucked up dystopian government ends, the sooner Percy can stop having his body be used by a multitude of wretched, vile creatures that make up the Capitol's population.
Thalia's almost as busy as Percy is nowadays, her publicist constantly calling her back to the Capitol for another involuntary photo shoot that's sure to be stretched out on one of the billboards that overlook the city, another special appearance on some television show she doesn't even remotely care about, another extremely wealthy citizen's birthday that she has to attend.
But when they can, and they fight tooth and nail to do so, they make time for each other like it's an unspoken golden rule.
Technically, she's supposed to stay in District 4 four a total of seven days this time. Percy doesn't find that nearly enough time, so he somehow talks her into staying for another week...or maybe three. Yet she hasn't heard from her escort, Pisces, in a while, so Thalia figures that Snow is letting her on some sort of vacation before she resumes with her duties. Those four weeks are filled with unbridled amusement that's not seen or heard in the Capitol because they attempt to do everything under the sun while she's there.
Percy teaches her how to swim, and while she's a very adept first learner, the only part he really remembers vividly is instructing her how to float on her back. ("Fishface, get your hands off my ass. What you're doing has nothing to do with teaching me shit.") Jokes aside, the memory of his fingers splayed over her smooth, opalescent skin will forever be branded in his mind.
And now, Thalia's thigh-deep in the beginnings of the sea, the hemline of her white and red sundress dipping slightly into the waters as she gazes at the glorious sunrise that turns the sky into lines of purples, oranges, pinks, and yellows. Hair almost tickling her shoulders now, elbows and arms crossed at her torso, simply inhaling in the breeze she isn't accustomed to anywhere else.
She's so heartbreakingly beautiful that Percy is unabashed and unashamed to stare at her heedlessly. Its undeniably easy to imagine the two of them in this same scene a couple years down the road; perhaps she's sporting an elegant wedding ring on her finger or there's a small baby bump residing in her stomach. He even dares to dream seeing her still standing in that ocean, except that her raven hair is sprinkled delicately with grey strands – if they're fortunate enough to even live that long.
"One day," Thalia murmurs, breaking their comfortable silence and jolting the male away from his fruitless visions of the future. "One day, I'm going to move here and build a house right next to this place."
Percy snorts, despite the fact that he wants the same dream so badly. "You? Build a house by yourself?" He wrangles his swimming shorts free of the many specks of sands before treading the water. "I'd like to see that happen."
As she's nudging her elbow deep into his side at that comment, Percy knows that he won't ever let Thalia build a house by herself. If anyone was going to do the work, it was going to be him alone. Maybe if he's allowed to woo her properly, when Snow is dead and burned deep to the ground, he can build her a nice house by the ocean and they could live there together.
Imagination gets the better of him once more: a bedroom decorated in the softest hints of baby blue and grey. There are large, casement windows that are always thrown open to let the sun warm their white, canopy bed when they aren't there, making it look like their own little heaven that is basked in pillows and warmth. He'd kiss her awake every morning, peppering even more all over her face and into the crown of her dark tresses, possibly drag her from the bed when she's too lazy, and definitely making love to her all the time.
It is with regret when he hands Thalia her bag, the engine of the train rumbling from behind her. So he clings onto her tightly as he always does when they're forced to part, his large hands practically molding her entire body to his.
He kisses the temple of her head. "I'll find you when I get to the Capitol." He closes his eyes in a brief moment of bliss as Thalia hums in agreement, the sound muffled as she's pressed against his chest like a lover before she pushes him away and calls him a sap.
"We can even go to our favorite café," she waggles her eyebrows up at him suggestively, eyes lighting up at the mere mentioning.
"It's always food with you, isn't it?"
Sadly, Percy only whispers the words I love you once she's on the other side of the train doors.
It isn't until he hears the soft tone pilfering the silent air. "Oh, Percy."
The female's familiar voice is like a balm that instantly soothes away any mental or physical pains Percy might have had. Wide eyes still filled with tears, the Capitol's sex symbol transforms to the image of heartbreaking when he turns around to her.
He had promised to come to her row house at the Capitol for their many sleepovers, but he never shows up. It's then she gets a call from a certain Apollo that has Thalia rushing mindlessly to here, to this room where Percy does his business, where she sees him bunched up atop the bed. She's been told that there are few times throughout the years when her Fishface completely breaks down, and this rarity of a moment most likely happens after the last of the many clients finally leave.
"Thalia," he breathes that one name in a papery murmur, not even bothering to cover his indecency. People may have kissed the ground she waltzes on, but Percy lives for every word spoken by her, every smile breached, because she repeatedly saves him with all those things.
Retaliating to that acknowledgement, Thalia responds in the best way possible. The corners of her raspberry-tinted lips curve upward into one of the most beautiful smiles ever to grace her face, a smile in contrast to the wry, amused one she constantly wears when Capitol public entertainment is involved. That smile softens his heart tremendously, wrapping his whole body in a big fuzzy blanket of alleviating goodness, a warm little bubble that makes him feel cared for and protected and infinitely loved than he has ever felt before.
Because she's learned how to smile again whenever he's around. Now she doesn't smile much, but he's still the reason behind most of those infrequent smiles nonetheless.
She continues to smile that extraordinary smile as she proceeds to do what no other had done to him before. Percy is more than used to his clients ripping the clothes off his body before fucking him, but no one has ever dressed him back while on the job. Still stuck in this sweet oblivion that Thalia has intentionally put him in, he only vaguely notices that his tears have come to an abrupt halt. There's the quiet whisper of cloth sliding up his bruised skin before she nimbly buttons up the shorts that now hang from his hips.
Percy barely lets her settle herself comfortably on the bed next to him before he all but attacks her. His arms make a desperate grab for her slender waist, frenetically reeling her in until she's practically molded into him, his cheek resting against her chest while the natural fragrance of honeysuckle subtly radiating from her washes away any lingering scents of grating sex and booze.
"Apollo called me," she offers it as a simple way of explaining as to why she's actually here. Even though the smile is gone now, there are faint traces of that wonderful expression here and there, and Percy still looks at her like she's his only lifeline. "I would have come sooner, you know..." The apology is there without having to be voiced aloud.
He shakes his head, deferring the apology. "You didn't know."
"So this is it?" Her tone timbre is bland, her nose wrinkling in distaste at the lavish room.
"Yeah," Percy chuckles humorlessly, the sound muffled the clothes covering her torso.
"Artemis would always tell me what it was like whenever I asked," Thalia tenderly strokes his soft hair, fluidly averting her gaze to the ceiling when she feels him peer up at her through his lashes. "You know, Snow told me he regretted killing my family." Her murmur is too quiet, dipping octaves lower than what was considered normal.
"I didn't think the man was capable of regretting," he mutters back near inaudibly, equally as quiet.
The slight vibration of her body indicates that she's laughing. "I could have easily been like you, Fishface, contributing more to his budget as a sex toy. But Snow couldn't use anyone as leverage against me because all my family members were dead. That was his first mistake."
"You still make him a lot of money." And it's true – Thalia brings in as much money as Percy does through other means. Endorsing products she wouldn't usually approve of, acting as meaningless escorts to wealthy citizens at social soirées, etc.
Thalia habitually arches an eyebrow. "Could have been more though."
And Percy stops her there – the mental image of Thalia selling herself like he does on a regular basis scares him most of all.
Expertly catching the gorgeous girl off guard, Percy drags the length of her body down until her head shares the same pillow as his. Her fingers tentatively reach out to wipe at his tear-streaked cheeks, berating herself slightly for thinking that the male still looks pretty beautiful even when rendered broken, impalpable pieces inside and out.
Naturally, it that conception makes her think of Artemis and what she'd usually say. ("That boy's too pretty for his own good. Fucking hell, he's as pretty as you, Thals.") And then she'll make a semi-offensive remark at how wonderful the two of them would be together and how the Capitol will ecstatic for the couple. Hand still moving about in Percy's hair, she doesn't at all notice his eyes deepening in color, pupils dilating, and the way his orbs roam over every crevice of her face as if he's trying to memorize her.
His hands dip under the hem of her shirt, and she's really too deep in thought to be missing how he's touching her, his much larger and tanner fingers splaying themselves freely against her cold skin. The lack of warmth beneath that smooth alabaster screams at him to touch her all the time, to hold her tight, to kiss every inch of her until she's scorching hot. Heroes need their own heroes too, and while Thalia's playing salvation to others, privately being the Mockingjay and all, who's there to save her?
Thalia's bright blue eyes widen fractionally when she finally notices Percy touch her lips to hers.
It lasts approximately three and a half seconds before she pulls away with an awkward 'Um' because she quite can't possibly believe that her this guy is actually attempting to kiss her. Before she has the chance to tumble off the bed, the male lowly growls at her, actually growls at her, and she finds herself pinned tightly between the bed and the front of his strapping body. The hands digging into her hipbones prevent her from escaping while the lips on hers are relentless in their ravaging.
She doesn't want to hurt him even more by fighting him – those purple bruises look particularly nasty, making her so very outraged that he's been treated this way for four or more years – so Thalia reluctantly complies to kisses that should make any other female swoon at the gratifying intensity behind them. However, she does feel a certain pleasure shoot up her spine when he starts suckling at her bottom lip.
Percy isn't drunk off his mind like he usually is for his many appointments, implicating that this is all done on a clean conscience. His hands slide hotly against her flat stomach, stroking rhythmic circles around her navel. He plunges his tongue in and out of her mouth, suggesting other physical activities that involve similar thrusting motions of penetration. Her heavy eyelids gravitate back to the ceiling when Percy leaves her lips only to travel down the arched column of her neck.
Maybe the male from the sea-faring district really does know what he's doing, all considering the fact that a nearly imperceptible noise of approval sprouts from her as he's gently taking some of her pale skin into his mouth before sucking on it rather hard. And then his tongue is on her skin again, lapping up the new love bruise in apology for biting too hard. They're breaching dangerous territory now and she doesn't want anything else to occur other than kissing or whatever this is, especially when his hand trails down to unbutton his shorts-
"No." Thalia pulls away from him completely, detaching her neck from his velvet mouth and swiftly rolling across the canvas of the large bed until she's practically teetering over the curved edge. "Anything but that, okay?"
He tries not to feel too frustrated by her numbing rejection. "Why? What's wrong?"
"I don't want to sleep with you," she throws back in her trademark blatant way, efficiently hurting his feelings in the process, but it is by no means intentional. The beginnings of an affliction expression make their way onto Percy's face and she quickly does her best to amend the situation so that he doesn't break again. "We could kiss again if you'd like..."
If you'd like. Like she has no choice in the matter and she's doing all she can to appease him...
"Oh, god," Percy swallows his dry throat, backing up to the headboard in panic. He looks at Thalia – who's already lost so much – and he can't believe that he nearly forced her to engage in something that he wanted without even asking her. "I didn't mean...I didn't..." he stammers, unable to manage a comprehensible sentence because-
This doesn't make him any better than the Capitol citizens that seek his company during the night. His mother has taught every single good value and moral that she knows, but none of them has to do anything with rape. His face visibly pales, losing all remote color, as he remembers that Thalia did try to resist him from the beginning until he grabbed her and smothered her body against the mattress.
Percy had almost raped her.
As he's acknowledging his dark reality, the wheels are turning in Thalia's head. "Shit, it wasn't like that, Percy," she rapidly responds to the sick pallor of his face, cautiously reaching for him only to watch as he presses more fully against the headboard. Something gnaws in her at the sight of Percy looking like a frightened kitten. "You didn't—"
But Thalia isn't granted the opportunity to explain exactly what he did or didn't do because Percy jumps from the bed and shakily buttons back together the shorts that sit low on his hips. Trembling with self-hatred, he bolts from the room, not even bothering to find the rest of his clothes or put on his shoes.
He's no better than Snow or the rest of them.
"Have you seen Percy?" Thalia tugs at Apollo's arm when they happen to be in the same studio together.
It's been three weeks since 'the kissing incident'. She hates labels, but she doesn't know what else to call it.
Apollo gives her a gentle look, which she immediately hates, before he touches her cheek. "Thals," he leans down to whisper quietly in the crevice of her ear. "Sally's dead."
And it's a good thing Apollo's holding her because Thalia may have fallen to her knees right then and there.
She finds him sitting right next to the shores of the beach, knees to his chest, arms wrapped tightly around them. He looks small and it worries Thalia greatly at the fact that he's just staring at everything and nothing in particular.
He's slowly rocking himself back forth and no one can blame Percy Jackson for looking slightly lifeless in that moment. It's to the point where not even the ocean looks like it will be able to heal him. He doesn't look up at the sound of Thalia's feet padding quietly in the sand nor does he acknowledge her outright when she cautiously sinks down right beside him.
Besides President Snow, they're the only ones that know why Sally is dead. Percy's been warned that there would be repercussions if he's suddenly made himself unavailable to the Capitol citizens and he's done that a lot since Thalia's entered the picture. Kissing Thalia was the pushing point, and of course, Snow found out and issued for his sweet mother's murder. Despite what has happened or whatever Thalia's thinking right now, Percy doesn't at all regret kissing her.
His sea-green eyes close at the sudden breeze that wafts across his cheekbones. It reminds him of his mother kissing his cheeks and he's shocked that he doesn't feel the burning sensation of tears prickling at his eyes when thinking of Sally. (Is it because Thalia is here or is it because he's cried too much already?) He turns his head and presses his face into Thalia's neck, inhale and exhale. She smells nice. She always smells nice. The tip of his nose skims her jaw, silently seeking comfort.
Thalia wraps an arm around his broad shoulders, lets her chin drop to rest against his head.
She assumes that time passes, though she's not really sure.
"Does this mean you're free?" Thalia asks two, three, four – who really knows? – hours later. Her arm's getting a little sore from hugging him close to her, but she never once complains. "You don't have to take in clients anymore, right?" All your family members are dead. Yet, saying that out loud will make her feel like a total asshole.
Percy doesn't lift his face from her neck. "Triton, remember?"
The same brother that doesn't even want to see you? The same brother that blames you for both your parents deaths even though it wasn't even your fault to begin with, Fishface? The one that hates you? Really, you're still protecting him?
Because Thalia isn't sure if she would have done the same.
The next and possibly last time Thalia sees Percy is during the Quarter Quell. They're in the arena and Chiron's intent on destroying the arena like Thalia had done two years ago and the memories keep coming to her-
(...Hestia's dead because she's made a special dress for Thalia. One that started sparking halfway through her interview with Aeolus Flickerman, one that cackles with electricity until that pretty little yellow dress rips and shreds away into the gown of the Mockingjay...
...eighty-nine year old Delphi of District 1 volunteering for a bedraggled red-haired woman who keeps screaming during the reaping...
...Clarisse La Rue of District 2 attempting to kill her with a spear...
...Percy desperately sneaking secret kisses with her before the 75th Games start because any one of those might be their last...)
She's torn away from Percy's arms as the arena explodes...and they're both going in two completely directions.
The hovercraft that saves Percy also includes Dionysus, Chiron, Clarisse, Apollo, and the former Head Gamemaker, Zeus.
The hovercraft that 'saves' Thalia has a bunch of Peacekeepers. And Rachel Elizabeth Dare.
Apollo, Chiron, and Clarisse all have to physically restrain Percy from punching that fucking drunk in the face again.
"She's the fucking Mockingjay!" he hisses somewhere underneath Apollo and Chiron from where they've pinned him to the floor of the hovercraft. He thrashes like a wild animal underneath the weight by mass atop him. "How can Thalia be the face of the rebellion when you let the Capitol take her, you dumb fuck!"
Dionysus is yelling things at Percy too, but there's blood all over his now swollen face, so it makes the younger male from District 4 feel only slighter better. He's saying that they're going to get Thalia and Rachel back-
And, oops, that's the second slipup Dionysus' has made because Apollo doesn't know that Rachel, his Rachel's been taken yet.
"What?" Apollo snarls, and he's not even holding Percy down anymore because Dionysus suddenly looks like a target for his clenched fist.
Percy slips out of Clarisse and Chiron's hold, ducking nimbly at those who're trying to grab him, and he tackles Dionysus to the floor. Apollo beating the crap out of Dionysus with him only justifies that the drunk fool has made a deadly mistake. Once Apollo's hands close around the old man's throat, the hovercraft crew composed of District 13 all need to separate the three men.
She can hear Rachel's screams from her tiny cell room here at the Capitol, so much that it's permanently embedded in her brain. She hasn't even known the girl for very long, not by a margin anyhow, but her mind's already thinking RachelrachelrachelRachelrach el...
Where was Percy? Was he okay? Gods, do they have him too somewhere in another cell?
Rachel...Rachel...Rachel – oh, look, there's a light. A man...is it Percy?
"Good evening, Miss Grace."
No, it's not. Don't be stupid, Thalia.
That leader of District 13 is a woman with silver eyes and white hair – President Lupa. But no matter how much she claims she's trying to achieve better for Panem, no matter how much the citizens of the underground district respect this woman, one look in her eyes and Percy already knows that she's almost exactly like Snow – ruthless, power-hungry, vindictive.
They've assigned Percy to therapy because he keeps tying and retying these damn knots. He doesn't exactly listen to the doctors' orders, only answering when he ultimately has to, and continues to tie together a really complicated knot that Poseidon has taught him before he ever entered the Hunger Games. No one can do this knot but him and he thinks that Thalia will be really proud of him if he gets the chance to show it to her. If only she'd walk through those doors that keep him confined in her, it'll all be fine.
"Mr. Jackson?" Huh? Percy's father is dead. Who's calling for Poseidon? "Mr. Jackson, sir?"
He makes a loop with the knot before pulling. "Yes?" Percy mumbles when he realizes the inquiry was for him, never taking his eyes off of his makeshift artwork because Thalia might come in and he needs to be the one to show it to her. No, he's not crazy. With hooded orbs, he slowly lifts his eyes to meet the gaze of one with electric blue eyes-
"No," the little blonde boy shakes his head with a sad look on his adorable face. "That's my sissy."
Percy clutches the knots with white-knuckled hands. "Jason," he breathes like he can't believe it because this six year-old boy is supposed to have been dead for two years now. "How—How long have you been here, Jason?"
Jason's face contorts into a thinking expression. "Since Lia won the Games."
"And you've been here this entire time?"
"Yeah," Jason nods, fidgeting nervously with his small hands. "I said that I wanted to wait for Lia 'cause she promised that she would come home, but the people wouldn't let me stay. Mr. D said you know her."
"Mr. D?" Percy parrots with a slightly confused expression.
"Mr. Dion...Dinos...um, Dyna...?"
"Dionysus," the older male supplies helpfully, the corner of his lips lifting upward for the first time since he's arrived to this place. Fingers tightening over the knot, he continues. "Is your mother here too?"
For a brief moment, Jason looks as though he's about to burst into tears. Water swirling in those abysses of blue yonder, it makes him think of how he's never seen Thalia cry in all the time he's known her. "Mummy died in the fire," the boy says quietly. "The people were too late."
"Hmm," Percy hums soothingly, his smile turning brighter for Jason. "My mother died too."
"Yeah?" Those eyes...oh, Sparky, I miss you.
Thalia pinches her elbow with her nails as she takes a seat. "Thank you for having me, Aeolus."
"Of course," the man, who's hair changes every year, reaches out to pat at her cold hand. She almost recoils at the touch and nearly blathers out a name that's somewhere between Percy and Rachel. "It must be hard for you, knowing that most of your friends are behind the rebellion that is currently taking place."
"Yes." She has to lie – she can't say that she's the Mockingjay because Rachel will die if she does such a thing. She would have been fine with regular torture, but putting someone like Rachel against her, where the poor girl's life was in Thalia's hands...she's stuck.
"And Luke Castellan," Aeolus prods forward, unaware that her nails of dug deep into her elbow at this point. "He's never been in the Games, but he was a friends of yours in District 5, yes?" She nods stiffly. "Did you know that he was deeply involved too?"
She blinks owlishly at the strange-looking interviewer. "No, I didn't. I honestly don't understand why they would go against the Capitol like this," – this is all scripted, please don't believe a word of this, Percy – "You've seen the news, haven't you, Aeolus? These rebels are doing so much damage to the districts: innocent people are dying, a derailed train that used to be filled with highly toxic waste is now spilling all over district soil, there are unnecessary bomb droppings everywhere...the rebels don't see that this isn't helping anyone."
Aeolus moves his head up and down in complacency. "I suppose you are calling a cease-fire then, my dear?"
"I do believe that a cease-fire would benefit Panem as a whole—" No, no, no! Don't forget your script, Thalia, because Rachel will die and Apollo will get so mad at you and Percy will never come save you, and Snow will keep drugging you with poison, and if Jason was still alive-
"Thalia?" Aeolus leans in and peers at her vacant face in concern. "Thalia, are you alright?"
The pale girl in the pretty dress fumbles with her fingers, trying to restrain her jerky movements atop her lap. Honestly, she doesn't remember how she got this way. There'd been a table, and tiny needles were poking into her skin, but the real pain didn't start until the roar of the machines turned on, when the green fluids start to flow into her blood veins. Oh, and Rachel's screaming from a different room, though she still hears it because the redheaded girl never stops.
She sees the frown start to develop on Snow's face to the right of the cameras. "Right, sorry, Aeolus," she amends with a bright smile, seeming so outwardly bipolar. Her body inches towards the main camera for dramatic effect, just like Snow's told her to do. "Apollo, Artemis, Luke, Percy...how do you think this will end? What will be left? No one's safe. Not in the Capitol, not in the districts—" she inhales rather sharply, pressing the heel of her hand against her knee to still her shaking leg. "All of you in Thirteen—you'll be dead by morning."
Something's happening, she's not quite sure, but she hopes that they'll all forgive for lying. She's failed just like Zoë, only worse. She's a bad bad bad Mockingjay – and suddenly, the screen behind Thalia pops up with a clip of Percy.
"Percy?" She whispers the name like a prayer, inaudible to everyone but herself.
"...such a young man when he rose to power. Such a clever one to keep it. How did Snow do it? Poison." That's Percy's voice that's filling up the entire studio! The same flawless tenor voice that lulls her to sleep, makes her think of sea salt and sunshine and green. "He even drank the poison himself to deflect suspicion. That's why he's always wearing roses that reek of perfume...they cover the scent of blood from his mouth sores—"
"Turn the camera off!" That's President Snow screaming at the crew the shut the whole interview down.
Thalia remembers someone knocking the camera off the stand, another someone tackling her body right out of the couch before her world, for what seems to be the millionth time during her stay in this living hell, fades to black.
Jason Grace is the first to scream the minute Chiron ends his interception of the interview. Small tears cling to his eyelashes as he runs away from Piper McLean, the cute dark-skinned girl who's been Jason's best friend since his first arrival here to Thirteen, and Percy has to grab the boy and hold him to prevent him from crashing wholesomely into the large TV screen of the room. Percy has to hold him because if he doesn't, he's afraid he's going to kill Lupa for not doing shit to prevent any of this from happening.
"They hurt her," Jason murmurs against Percy's shoulders. "They hurt my Lia."
Percy grips his ball of knots in one hand, but the other arm is firmly pressed around Jason's back, holding the boy tightly. He wants nothing more than to break down and lock himself in the nearest storage closet. Thalia's been hurt and Percy's failed her because it looks like they've been torturing her for a long while. She looks noticeably tiny while sitting in that plushy couch and he can just imagine tucking her breakable body in his arms before whisking her away somewhere – where she can be a tree and he'll be a fish and they'll be happy.
A pale-faced Zeus comes to stand by Percy, his hand reaching out to stroke his son's hair. Jason doesn't know that Zeus is his father, and both men know that the elder won't be telling the little boy anytime soon. That hand stops in midair, dropping limply to his side.
"Do you care now?" Percy narrows his eyes brutally at the former Head Gamemaker.
Zeus mumbles something to himself, but it sounds a lot like: I've always cared. The man makes eye contact with Luke from across the room, sharing a meaningful gaze before they nod curtly to each other.
"Tomorrow," Zeus tells Percy, and that's the only thing he says to the green-eyed male.
It doesn't matter if people in District 13 whisper about Percy, about the devastatingly handsome boy who's gone absolutely crazy and likes to tie knots over and over, because they're going to battle tomorrow. And Percy will be at the forefront of it all.
"Thalia, look at me," President Snow demands, his voice quiet and poisonous as a snake, "and tell me your full name."
He enjoys playing this sick game all the time, verily liking the way he's slowly breaking Thalia in the same way he's done to so many others in the past. They've just finished their routinely work of pouring aching poison into her body, and vaguely, she knows that this must be the awful form of brainwashing she's only ever heard about in horror stories in her district.
Those stories are just to scare little children to sleep, but Thalia's been through this procedure so many times that she's stopped registering in the numbing pain that settles in after her fifth or sixth time. (Percy where are you red is the image of little children lying dead in the cold snow Percy are you dead Percy who are you?) She's so close to that cliff, nearly there and tumbling off-
"My name is Thalia Grace." Her voice is mechanical, obviously scripted. "I am eighteen years old. I am a victor from the 73rd Hunger Games and it has been an honor and a privilege serving the Capitol since my victory. The rebellion is my entirely fault because I blew up the arena during my Games. I should not have blown it up and I am terribly sorry for all the damage I have caused. I am forever loyal to the Capitol, to President Snow, and should anyone ask, I am not the Mockingjay."
She grips the edges of the bed, the very bed that had her body writhing on top of as they struck needles inside her a few minutes prior, and patiently waits for the last part of her recitation. It's the worst part to say, because because because.
"And?" It's immoral the way Snow smiles at her in that moment; however, she doesn't exactly see things anymore. She stares off into space, creeping closer and closer to resembling the mad Rachel by the daunting minute.
"I hate Percy Jackson," she lets it flow effortlessly, but a huge part of her doesn't even know who this Percy Jackson is anymore. The Capitol's done it – they made her forget. "I do not love him and I never will. He should die along with the revolution."
Why do they keep making her talk about Percy Jackson? Who is he and why-
"Very good," his awful voice croons and Thalia's gaze is lost once more. In her fragmented mind, she wonders if Rachel's willing to invite this blue-eyed girl to her mad little tea party of hers. She hopes they serve black tea lemonade. She loves black tea lemonade.
President Snow sets a plate of delicious food on Thalia's folded legs, accompanied with a silver fork and spoon. It's a five-star meal, one she hasn't eaten since before the Quarter Quell, which seems infinitely long ago. He's rewarding her for turning crazy.
"Miss Dare is dead," he tells her when she puts a piece of the sauced steak in her mouth. When she doesn't flinch at the news, he frowns ever so slightly, but he presses on. "You can tell, can't you? It's awfully quiet around here without our redheaded companion."
Rachel Elizabeth Dare means Apollo and Apollo means Artemis-
"You've done quite well, Miss Grace," Snow watches the languid way she eats. "The Capitol officials and I have agreed that it is safe to air out another interview. Tying up loose ends from the last one. What do you say, hmm? Pretty blue dress will do..."
DionysusZeusChironApolloRach elLukeAnnabethJosephineSally Artemis-
Names she knows but has no face to match them with.
"...mustn't be like last time. I'll have to make sure there won't be any interceptions this time..."
(The sound of Peacekeepers running outside all around the city. People dying people screaming and the battle has already begun without her while the president is still going on and on about an interview...?)
Throwing her dish out from her lap, Thalia swiftly grabs the wires that are always tucked under the bed and throws herself at Snow's smaller form. She bats his hands away with a strength that's been subdued since her arrival in the Capitol. These are the wires with the miniscule sharp needles on them, the ones to poke into her white skin and line it with red dots to poison her. Elbowing the man roughly in the gut, she quickly coils the wires around his neck, wrapping it around and around until the ends are short.
Her fingers, not shaking but strong, grab at those ends and she yanks it until they close around Cronus Snow's neck steadfastly. She keeps pulling, registering in the choking gasps of the man beneath her as the needles drive themselves into the surface of his skin. His blood – like the pretty roses – is starting to coat along the fibers of the wires and it's dripping to pool on the marble floors. The crimson liquid reminds her of Rachel's pretty curly hair and the wires around his neck are beginning to look like a bloody scarf.
Snow dies looking into her eyes, looking into Jason's eyes.
The City Circle of the Capitol is full of horrible stragglers.
Percy's killed many people today with the gun held to his chest, but the majority of them are the Peacekeepers and the Capitol officiates that have brought Panem to ruin. He's still frozen from the concept that Lupa has willing set bombs on innocent children, bombs that have inadvertently been developed by Luke because the blonde man had believed that they would be used for other things. Percy hasn't brought his knots with him, so he can't compulsively tie them when he feels on the brink of insanity.
He's just looking for a sign, anything at all. Short, free-falling strands of blue-black hair. A rather thin figure, near painfully so. Eyes that can light up an entire city with just one look. Freckles that adorn the upper cheeks and the bridge of her nose. He looks like a maniac with his hair mussed up by his fingers, threatening to rip it out hundreds of times that day. He's pushed people out of the way uncaringly, running after numerous of familiar women to find that they aren't at all Thalia Grace.
And then she's just there. By the rubble of dirt that used to be one of the Capitol's largest fountains.
In a blink of an eyes, he's right in front of her, abruptly surrounding her with his warmth. As he burrows his nose deep into her neck, smelling that deep beneath the scent of the Capitol, the natural honeysuckle is still there. The gun drops from his other hand as he curves his fingers around her small hips, promptly lifting her weightless body off the floor so that her feet are dangling. But he notices a little too late that her arms are still stretched past him awkwardly, not twining at the nape of his neck like they should be.
Realizing that she's not responding in anyway, Percy gently sets her down and pulls away. His quivering hands push the hair out of her miraculously unmarked face to reveal slightly widened eyes. It's the look of a stranger-
She clears her throat. "Are you...are you Luke Castellan?"
His entire world crumbles.
"No," Percy manages to shake his head through his shock and distress, pushing back her hair again. "No. No. I'm Percy," he murmurs, biting back the desperate hint that's waiting to taint his voice. "Your Fishface, remember? Fishface and Sparky forever."
"Percy," Thalia tests the name like she's never said it before, voice sounding throaty because she's been screaming a whole lot. "Jackson?"
He nods, his tone a mere croak. "Yeah."
The girl looks at the boy in front of her, tilting her head to the side. He looks so sad now, a complete turnaround from whence he's attacked her with that powerful embrace moments beforehand. She doesn't like the fact that she's hurting him because hasn't she hurt enough people? She's killed Rachel and she's killed Jason, and well, those two are the only people she knows right now, but she's sure she's killed more people than that.
Her name touches something inside her, shooting her off like a canon.
"My name is Thalia Grace. I am eighteen years old. I am a victor from the 73rd Hunger Games and it has been an honor and a privilege serving the Capitol since my victory. The rebellion is my entirely fault because I blew up the arena during my Games. I should not have blown it up and I am terribly sorry for all the damage I have caused. I am forever loyal to the Capitol, to President Snow, and should anyone ask, I am not—"
"No, shush, no," Percy murmurs to her, peppering kisses at her forehead and her cheeks. His heart breaks at the robotic monologue, twisting and gutting him all in one fluid motion. God, he can't even imagine what else they've done to her.
"...the Mockingjay," Thalia finishes quietly, but it doesn't make sense because it's been broken off from the rest of her sentence. Should she start over? Bad things to happen when she refuses to do so. "My name is Thalia Grace. I am eighteen years old. I am a victor from—"
She stops in place, blue eyes widening further because the shake of Percy's shoulders conclude that he's about to cry.
Glistening little diamonds cling to those dark lashes of his as he presses his forehead against hers. His expression is heart-shatteringly pained, eyebrows furrowed and eyes clenched tight together. His nose brushes against hers tenderly, his trembling hands falling down her face so that his fingers were inches away from cupping the front columns of her neck. They continue to shake in place and when Thalia makes the decision to slide her own hands up to wrap around his strong wrists, stilling the quivering, he breaks.
The two of them are stuck in that position for a while, him unable to look at her while she can barely take her eyes off of him. The tears cascade down his cheeks in slender rivulets and she can't help but push those tears away with her cold thumbs. She's done this before, she thinks, wiping his tears away. She can't explain it, but she knows she's been here before.
Something propels her to fully lean on her tiptoes to kiss him.
And she doesn't know why she does it but-
"If you can be anything at all, what would you be?
"A pine tree."
Thalia does know him and she knows that this male, this Percy Jackson, means something remarkably important to her. She's willing to find out. His touch doesn't make her want to flinch away because she understands that this is just a beautiful possibility between them that's about to be conceived. Or maybe it already has.
Percy breaks the kiss reluctantly, only to mouth his way over to her jawbone. "I'm so sorry," he whispers against his skin, pressing her body tighter to him because she's the only one that belongs there. "I wanted to come for you and I was about to—" The whispers ends harshly and he's back to methodically stroking her hair. "It's okay if you don't know who I am because I'll help you remember, okay? I'll fix you with everything I have, Sparky. We'll build that house in District 4, next to Apollo and Rachel—"
"Rachel?" Thalia repeats in a slightly startled manner. The mentioning of Rachel reminds of the Capitol and she's about to sprout out the monologue all over again before Percy cuts her off.
"Jason and Rachel—they're both alive." His spirit soars at the smile that stretches across Thalia's face. He kisses her nose. "Remember that house we were planning on building by the beach? I'll build it for you and Jason can stay with us. You don't have to worry about anything anymore, Sparky, because it's over." He leans in and drops and even more gentle kiss on her lips.
Percy parts an inch away only to say quietly: "I'll love you enough for both of us."
Fishface and Sparky forever. Thalia's blue eyes brighten and the tips of her fingers reach up to touch Percy's cheeks.
She's going to walk into this blindly, to trust in this male she doesn't at all know, but intuitively does.
"I believe you."
and time goes quicker
between the two of us
oh, my love, don't forsake me
take what the water gave me
So...leave a review? All thoughts and comments are kindly appreciated. :)