"She's a tree." He repeats, standing at the top of half-blood hill. He's shaded underneath the branches of the tall line tree that showed up this morning. "She's a tree."
"I'm afraid so, my boy," The centaur beside you says, "But she now provides this camp with eternal protection." The centaur clasps a hand on his shoulder. "She gave her life for you and Annabeth, and Grover. It is only fitting - "
He whirls around and yells at the centaur. "Only fitting?! She's a tree! I don't see how turning anyone into a tree is fitting!" He feels the rage build up inside him, and he turns back to the tree and starts clawing at the bark, trying to rip through it. "If she's in here, then she'll be in here, we just gotta dig far enough, and she'll be there, she's always there, she's always there!" He ignores how his hands are bloody and there is sap and bark caught up in his fingernails.
"Luke," The centaur says calmly, "Thalia is no longer human. Zeus preserved her in the form of this pine tree. Do not fool yourself into thinking otherwise."
"Bullshit!"Luke cries out, trying to blink back the swelling tears in his eyes, "She's in here, or she's not anywhere!" He feels strong hands firmly pull him back from the tree and he flails his limbs as he is lifted off the ground. "Let me go! Damn it, put me down, I can't leave her alone, put me down!" The centaur carries Luke into the large white farmhouse and puts him in a small white room. He closes the door as he leaves.
Luke bangs his fists against the door, trying to break it down, he kicks it and tries picking the lock. The door doesn't budge. In his frustration, he punches the wall with all his strength. He hears a crack and let's out a cry of pain. He can feel that his hand is broken, and tries one last time to break down the door by slamming his body into it.
He bounces off the door and dejectedly goes and sits against the far wall. He cradles his broken hand gently and lets the tears stream down his face.
"Damn it, Thals," He whispers, "You're always making me look stupid, you know?"
He imagines her response, "That's because you are stupid, you blockhead.", and he can picture how her electric blue eyes would sparkle with mischief and she would give him a self-satisfied smirk. With a resigned sigh, he closes his eyes and falls asleep.
In his dream, it's him and Thalia, sitting by the edge of a lake on a warm summer's night. He remembers this night. How could he forget?
"Rough day today," Thalia says, rolling her shoulders, "The kid is completely exhausted." She jerks her head in the direction of where the hideout is. Luke looks back over his shoulder and nods.
"She's not the only one," He says, "I feel like I've been hit by a ton of bricks."
"You did get tackled by that hellhound," Thalia remarks.
"That would explain it, then," He says with a laugh. Thalia laughs with him and them lies down on her back with a contented sigh. He follows suit and looks up at the stars.
"You know, Luke," She says wistfully, "This is the life. No rules, no parents, nobody telling us what to do, what to eat..." She trails off.
"It's pretty great," He agrees, "That is, if we find food, and if we don't mind getting chased by monsters everyday for the rest of our lives." She reaches over and pushes his shoulder playfully.
"You know what I mean, smart-ass."
Luke laughs and turns his head to look at her. She's staring up at the sky, and he drinks in how the moonlight makes her skin look like it's glowing silver, and how it highlights her freckles that are splashed sporadically across her nose. She looks over at him.
"You're beautiful," He whispers. Thalia blushes and lowers her gaze. Luke feels his stomach drop, and he quickly stands up, and mumbles out and excuse about having to go check on Annabeth, but he doesn't really hear himself because the blood is rushing in his ears and he feels like he just wants to fall into the Underworld and never return, because she doesn't think of him like that, of course she doesn't, why did he even say that, it was a stupid thing to say, and he's mentally berating himself for even thinking it.
As he's nearing the hideout, he feels a hand grab his. He freezes, and turns around. She's standing there with an annoyed look on her face.
"For the love of the gods, Castellan, you can't just run away after you tell a girl she's beautiful!" She reprimands him. "Give them a second to breathe, would you?" She gives him an easy-going smile, and all of a sudden words are tumbling out of his mouth.
"I'm sorry, Thals, I just - that is, you see, - you're gorgeous, and then you didn't say anything, and you're my best friend, so I thought - well, I didn't want to offend you, you see - but I was nervous so I panicked, and you're still stunning, obviously, but - "
He's cut off by Thalia's lips on his. It's sloppy and new, and neither of them really know what they're doing, but somehow it works for them, and Luke isn't sure he'll ever be able to stop kissing her. She's the perfect size, not so short he's bent in half, but still small enough that he has to bend his head down and she's on her tippy-toes. They pull away in need of air.
"Sorry," She says, not sounding sorry at all, "But you need to learn when to shut up and just kiss people."
Luke smiles and the dream dissolves.
He wakes up on a thermo-rest on the floor of what he guesses is cabin 11. Sunlight is trickling through the shutters on the windows, and he sits up, blinking his eyes blearily. He notices that his hand isn't aching anymore and simply has a bandage wrapped around his knuckles. Luke rolls his neck around to get out the kinks, and wipes the sleep from his eyes. Remembering his dream, he stands up and races out the door, out of the ring of cabins, and up to Thalia's tree. He stops in front of it and gently lays a hand on its trunk.
"You're so frustrating, Thals," He mumbles, "What the heck were you thinking, getting yourself ki-" He chokes on the last word, "-turned into a tree."
"Just saving your sorry ass," He imagines her replying, "Yours, the kid's and goat boy's. Stop being so damn mopey and do something to get me out of this damn foliage!"
He chuckles. "But you're dead, Thalia. You're dead, and you aren't coming back." He smiles sadly up at the branches. "You're dead, so they turned you into a tree. You aren't coming back, Thalia."
"Then stop wallowing in whatever the hell you're wallowing in and go help out the kid," He hears her say, "Go do what you gotta do. Save the world, like you said you would. But first, get a change of clothes. You smell like hobo piss."
Luke rolls his eyes. "Whatever, Grace." He walks away from the tree yelling back, "Same time tomorrow?"
"Always,"She whispers in the wind, and he stands up a little straighter.
A/N: And here we are. Some more of my soul that gets poured into the tragedy that is Thaluke.
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