red and black

They stand at the edge of the makeshift graveyard, sorting through shrouds (customary colorful ones for Camp Half-Blood, purple ones embroidered with a gold SPQR for Camp Jupiter) and passing them out to the demigods who are still helping to cover bodies.

"Hey, Percy," says Katie Gardner softly as she approaches, tapping him gently on the shoulder. "We, um - we need three Athena and five Ares. Please."

Percy pulls the required rolls of silk from the pile in front of him - three gray and five red - and hands them to Katie. Wordlessly, he finds Annabeth next to him and pulls her close.

"Did you know them?" he asks, trying to keep his tone gentle even though he's so angry that he really feels like punching through a wall. "The people who died?"

He feels her nod against his shoulder, and the rage boils up again until it threatens to overflow.

"One of my siblings who died," she whispers haltingly, "was only twelve years old. Clarisse and Malcolm didn't want to bring her, but they had no choice - "

"Nobody had a choice, Annabeth." He tries to make it comforting, to stay brave for her, but the fact of the matter is that nothing he can say will make her feel better about this. Ever. "We were completely outmatched. And her life made a difference in the end."

"Yes, it did," she agrees, resting her head on his shoulder. "But that difference came at a price that wasn't worth paying."

Percy watches the field in front of him as it hums with the quiet motion of demigods with a purpose. Farther on down the rows, he sees a teenager wearing a centurion's toga falling to his knees in front of a body covered in a Roman purple shroud.

Across the field, Reyna catches Percy's eye and mouths, "Dakota and Gwen."

And it strikes him for the first time, how powerless he really is - he can fight monsters and giants and Titans and Gaea and freaking Chaos himself and he still won't be able to prevent the tragically human pain of loss.

He and Annabeth don't let go of each other that night, for fear that one of them might be the next one to slip away.

A/N: Yes, I know it's short. PLEASE DON'T KILL ME!

Wow. The last two months have been kind of a blur for me. I finished middle school (finally) and now that it's summer, I can focus on writing more. I really am sorry for this crap drabble thing, but I felt bad leaving you guys for so long without anything new and without announcing a formal hiatus of any kind.

Not that you should worry about any kind of hiatus, because that's not happening. I'm actually working on… *drumroll*


Oh yeah, it's time to get excited. For the next month or so I'm going to be busting my butt trying to get this thing finished. It's the craziest idea I've had in a long, long time (excluding Baby Got Back, of course, because that was the product of a LOT of Red Bull at 3 AM), but hey, inspiration is kind of weird.

I won't say too much more, but look out for more drabble-y things to keep you satisfied while you're waiting for this huge story, and don't forget to check out my Tumblr if you want updates on how the writing is going (link in my profile!)

EPC :)