Warning: OOC and sketchy plot, unintentionally slightly AU (maybe), failed angst, and just "hahaha-totally-not-sure-what-I-wrote." Enjoy.
The first time he saw the kid, he wasn't impressed. No one could really blame him of course. The kid was a short, scrawny mess of limbs, with eyes too large for his face and if it wasn't for the dark, jagged horn in the kid's clenched (and slightly shaking) fist, he would've never believed that he killed the Minotaur.
His cabinmates snickered when he stumbled into the cabin, and the son of Hermes couldn't help but chuckle a little too. The kid was just so small and insignificant and despite what the whole camp was buzzing about, Luke had trouble believing that he was a child of the Big Three. This kid couldn't possibly be the oh-so special son of Poseidon he and Kronos were waiting for.
Without knowing why, Luke found himself standing up for the kid. "Now, now, campers," he started. "That's what we're here for. Welcome, Percy. You can have that spot on the floor, right over there."
When Percy's distinct green eyes darted up to meet his own, Luke experienced a bad case of deja vu. But still, the kid smiled up at him (only a little hesitantly) with innocent, trusting eyes, dimples and all, and Luke felt like he had seen it before.
The son of Hermes welcomed him, made him feel wanted and not much of a burden even though Cabin 11 was completely filled, and Percy took the last open spot they had. And honestly, Luke was having trouble even cramming his butt in at the Hermes table. But the kid wasn't too bad. A little slow on the uptake maybe, but he was honestly starting to grow on Luke. Rapidly.
But then, by some stroke of luck, Percy managed to disarm the son of Hermes using his own maneuver. In front of the entire cabin. Luke covered up his unsettlement with smiles and words of encouragement, but still, he wondered if anyone saw the steam coming out of his ears.
For the next few days, Luke watched the kid, trained him, tested him, did his best to narrow down who his godly parent was even though Percy really only excelled at one test (canoeing, seriously?). But he couldn't help but worry that the kid would only be another undetermined demigod. Just another unwanted product of an insignificant of some lovesick god.
For that common occurrence and the gods' overall lack of care (and love), Luke would've left this godforsaken clubhouse of screwed up demigods long ago if it wasn't for the fact that Kronos demanded that he wait. Wait for the child of Poseidon. But frankly, it'd been months since he stole the master bolt and helm of darkness, and Luke didn't see that special demigod popping up any time soon.
But that night, Konos came to Luke in his dreams with orders. The reasons behind them were a little unclear, but the Titan made it obvious that he was not to be disobeyed. Or failed. Like the last time.
Still, Luke couldn't help but feel a sinking guilt in his stomach for summoning that monster into camp because, let's face it, Percy was going to get eaten alive by that monster, "natural" with a sword or not.
Nevertheless, orders were orders and emotions were nothing in comparison to the new age Kronos had in store. So Luke summoned a hellhound, already saying bye-bye to the kid. Only Percy didn't die; Chiron saved him just in time. And Luke watched the hellhound disintegrate with morbid curiosity over what sort of nightmares Kronos had in store for him for failing his orders.
But his worries were quickly pushed away and suddenly everyone was dropping to their knees and looking at a certain green eyed boy in awe. Dropping the flag, Luke swiftly knelt between Travis and Malcolm and muddled over the fact that he was wrong – deeply, horribly wrong. There, twirling above the kid's head, was a glowing green trident. Percy Jackson had been claimed. He was the son of Barnacle Beard, the demigod Luke had been waiting for. Suddenly, the whole canoeing thing made sense.
With an impassive, cold feeling gripping his heart once again, Luke pushed the sea spawn harder than ever, claiming that it was for his own good, that Percy'd need it to survive. Which was true, just Luke only really cared if the kid made it to the Underworld. After that…well, it was unlikely he'd ever make it out of Tartarus anyways.
When Percy chose Grover and Annabeth Chase to accompany him on his quest, Luke wondered in the back of his head when the son of Poseidon and the daughter of Athena got so chummy. As he watched the two demigods stood together on Half-Blood Hill an uncomfortable knot settled in his stomach though he didn't really know why.
Luke blamed it on the small, lurking suspicion that Percy wouldn't use the flying shoes. That not even he would be dumb enough to venture into Zeus' domain. So when the kid Iris-messaged him, Luke took the opportunity to ask if he was wearing the shoes. When Percy claimed that they had come in handy, the son of Hermes inwardly sighed in relief. The plan was still intact, the cursed shoes would do their job.
Oddly enough, that comforting little piece of information didn't make that knot go away. Luke didn't know where it came from, but he subtly hinted that maybe Annabeth stole the master bolt. For some reason the thought of Percy and her being close – closer than Luke was with her and Thalia – absolutely sickened him. The quickest expression of irritation that flashed across Percy's face only made the sensation worse.
"My lord," Luke greeted solemnly, kneeling towards the pit.
"What news of the sea spawn?" Kronos said, voice ancient and icy. Never did like small talk.
Still knelt and head bowed, Luke informed, "Percy Jackson approaches the Underworld as we speak, my lord."
"Percy Jackson," the Titan mused. "Yes, the exchange went well, I see." His voice took on a harder edge. "And he suspects nothing?"
"Nothing, my lord," the son of Hermes said, a small condescending smile spreading across his scarred face. "He is as ignorant as the rest."
"Deception upon deception," Kronos said, thinking aloud in repressed glee. "Excellent."
"Truly, my lord, you are well-named the Crooked One." Luke hesitated a moment before pressing on. "But was it really necessary? I could have brought you what I stole directly—"
Luke flinched at Kronos's disgusted tone. Vlacas, should've just kept his mouth shut.
"You have already your limits," Kronos spat. "You would have failed me completely had I not intervened."
Luke winced and struggled through his words, "But, my lord—"
"Peace, little servant," Kronos commanded. "Our six months have brought us much. Zeus's anger has grown. Poseidon has played his most desperate card. Now we shall use it against him. Shortly you shall have the reward you wish, and your revenge. As soon as both items are delivered into my hands…" The Titan's voice wavered. "…but wait. He is here."
Chills went down his spine, and Luke jerked to his feet, all sense of formality forgotten in favor of panicking. "What?" he said, tense and disbelieving. "You summoned him, my lord?"
"No." Luke could feel his master's attention move away from him. "Blast his father's blood – he is too changeable, too unpredictable. The boy brought himself hither."
The demigod's jaw went slack. No way was the kid that strong. "Impossible!"
The Titan's cold, overwhelming power turned back onto Luke briefly. "For a weakling such as you, perhaps," Kronos snarled cruelly. He slowly focused back on a spot to Luke's right.
The son of Hermes grit his teeth. Although he'd rather bite off his own tongue than admit it, the son of the sea god was better than he originally thought. The kid seemed to have a knack for proving Luke wrong. But then, mind wandering off to Thalia, strong and powerful and fierce, and then Percy...well, once again he didn't impress.
"So…you wish to dream of your quest, young half-blood?" Kronos challenged mockingly. "Then, I will oblige. Hail, the conquering hero!"
Deep in the recesses of his servant's sleeping mind, the Titan hissed, Leave. When he woke up, Luke almost lopped off Travis's head out of pure frustration.
Luke bit the inside of his cheek so hard he drew blood. The new bead was pitch black with trident shimmering in the middle, and it made him green with envy. While it might've been a victory for the kid, Luke saw it as evidence of his greatest failure. He crushed it into pieces when he thought no one was looking.
Luke tasted bile as he announced, "The vote was unanimous. This bead commemorates the first Son of the Sea God at this camp, and the quest he undertook into the darkest part of the Underworld to stop a war!"
He almost puked when they cheered.
"You," Percy said numbly, sea green eyes wide with shock and slowly clouding with anger as he looked up from the scorpion to his "friend."
Took the kid long enough. Annabeth's brains were probably the sole reason the sea spawn even survived his quest. Luke calmly stood up and brushed off his pants.
"I saw a lot out there in the world, Percy," he started. "Didn't you feel it—the darkness gathering, the monsters growing stronger? Didn't you realize how useless it all is? All the heroics—being pawns of the gods. They should've been overthrown thousands of years ago, but they've hung on thanks to us half-bloods.
Percy stared at him like he was the insane one. "Luke," he started, a calm anger coating his words, "you're talking about our parents."
He forced out a startled, slightly wild laugh. Oh gods, don't even get him started on that. Of course Percy would have no idea what the problem was. Luke had to hide from his mother, and his father was no help whatsoever. Whereas Percy's worked at a candy store and got him all the blue candy a kid could ever want and looked at her son like he was the greatest gift she could ever ask for. Luke blinked a little. How the Hades did he know that?
"That's supposed to make me love them?" Luke demanded. "Their precious 'Western civilization' is a disease, Percy. It's killing the world. The only way to stop it is to burn it to the ground, start over with something more honest."
Percy's eyes flashed, and for just a second, Luke saw the family resemblance between him and the old sea god. "You're as crazy as Ares."
The son of Hermes clenched his teeth. "Ares is a fool. He never realized the true master he was serving." He drew a measured breath to calm himself. "If I had time, Percy, I could explain. But I'm afraid you won't live that long."
The scorpion crawled higher up Percy's leg, but to the kid's credit, he didn't appear very fazed. "Kronos. That's who you serve."
The air got colder, and Luke was itching to roll his eyes. Stupid kid. "You should be more careful with names," he warned.
Percy's eyes darkened with understanding. "Kronos got you to steal the master bolt and the helm. He spoke to you in your dreams."
On the nose.
"Serve me," lulled a cold, powerful voice.
Bodies littered the ground. His friends' bodes to be exact. Some bodies were limp and twisted ways that Luke didn't think were physically possible. Others were torn and gruesome like their last moments were spent as a monster's chew toy. But no matter what, their glazed eyes stared up accusingly at the sky.
They had absolutely nothing on the less recent corpses though. The ones that were currently in the decomposing stage. The stench of rotting flesh invaded Luke's nose, and he gagged, closing his eyes and blocking out the feel of blood soaking through his shoes and staining his feet red.
In the distance, he could hear a celebration on Olympus. The Muses were playing party music (at least, that was what it sounded like to him), and Luke could just invision twelve, all-powerful Olympians lounging in their thrones, sipping nectar while their children's corpses were scattered all over Camp Half-Blood like fallen angels. The thought made his thoughts cloud with absolute rage.
This wasn't happening. Luke squeezed his shut even more. It was just a nightmare. Unsurprisingly, those words didn't hold much comfort.
"The gods are plague on this land," the voice continued.
Luke swallowed and met the younger boy's eyes evenly. "He spoke to you too, Percy. You should've listened."
"He's brainwashing you, Luke," Percy warned, hand twitching slightly towards his sword as the scorpion crept even higher.
"You're wrong," Luke said forcefully, glaring. "He showed me that my talents are being wasted. You know what my quest was two years ago, Percy? My father, Hermes, wanted me to steal a golden apple from the Garden of the Hesperides and return it to Olympus. After all the training I'd done, that was the best thing he could think up."
"That's not an easy quest. Hercules did it."
The voice lowered. "If it weren't for the efforts of half-bloods, the gods would have been overthrown. If it wasn't for godlings like you, the gods would have fallen from Olympus down to the depths of Tartarus long ago. So unappreciated," the voice soothed. "So unloved."
Luke breathed raggedly out his mouth, shoulders relaxing as he soaked in the voice's words. They were right. Completely right. How had the gods ever thanked them? They used them like pawns and threw them away when they got tired. No happily ever after – nothing. Just a life of laurel wreathes and glorified errands.
"Yes," Luke murmured.
"What has you father ever done for you? For all your prayers and sacrifices, what has he given you? Other than giving you the 'honor' of completing a quest that had already been accomplished. What has Hermes done for you, other than let you suffer your entire life?"
"Exactly," Luke croaked. "Where's the glory in repeating what others have done? All the gods know how to do is replay their past. My heart wasn't in it. The dragon in the garden gave me this"—he jabbed a finger it the pale, white scare beneath his eyes—"and when I came back, all I got was pity. I wanted I wanted to pull Olympus down stone by stone then, but I bided my time. I began to dream of Kronos. He convinced me to steal something worthwhile, something no hero had ever had the courage to take. When we went on that winter-solstice field trip, while the other campers were asleep, I snuck into the throne room and took Zeus's master bolt right from his chair. Hades's helm of darkness, too. You wouldn't believe how easy it was. The Olympians are so arrogant; they never dreamed someone would dare steal from them. Their security is horrible. I was halfway across New Jersey before I heard the storms rumbling, and I knew they'd discovered my theft."
The scorpion was sitting on Percy's knee now, but he kept his voice level. "So why didn't you bring the items to Kronos?"
Luke's smile wavered. "I ... I got overconfident. Zeus sent out his sons and daughters to find the stolen bolt— Artemis, Apollo, my father, Hermes. But it was Ares who caught me. I could have beaten him, but I wasn't careful enough. He disarmed me, took the items of power, threatened to return them to Olympus and burn me alive. Then Kronos's voice came to me and told me what to say. I put the idea in Ares's head about a great war between the gods. I said all he had to do was hide the items away for a while and watch the others fight. Ares got a wicked gleam in his eyes. I knew he was hooked. He let me go, and I returned to Olympus before anyone noticed my absence." Luke drew Backbiter and ran his hand along the beautiful and deadly blade. "Afterward, the Lord of the Titans ... h-he punished me with nightmares. I swore not to fail again. Back at Camp Half-Blood, in my dreams, I was told that a second hero would arrive, one who could be tricked into taking the bolt and the helm the rest of the way—from Ares down to Tartarus."
Percy's face adopted a betrayed, accusing glare. "You summoned the hellhound, that night in the forest."
Idiot, Luke thought. Who else? Grover? "We had to make Chiron think the camp wasn't safe for you, so he would start you on your quest. We had to confirm his fears that Hades was after you." He looked up from his new sword and gave the kid a reptilian smile. "And it worked."
"The flying shoes were cursed," he guessed. "They were supposed to drag me and the backpack into Tartarus."
"And they would have, if you'd been wearing them." You little liar, he thought. Handy indeed. "But you gave them to the satyr, which wasn't part of the plan. Grover messes up everything he touches. He even confused the curse."
Luke stared at the scorpion idly. "You should have died in Tartarus, Percy. But don't worry, I'll leave you with my little friend to set things right."
"Thalia gave her life to save you," Percy accused. "And this is how you repay her?"
Luke's temper flared. How dare that little sea spawn talk to him about her death. "Don't speak of Thalia!" he shouted. "The gods let her die! That's one of the many things they will pay for."
The voice laughed condescendingly. "What have the gods ever done for their children? Zeus didn't even save Thalia Grace. He turned her into a tree; she wasn't a daughter, only a danger, a threat—"
Luke could feel the rough bark of her pine tree rub against his arm.
"I can bring her back, Luke," the voice comforted. "I can do what Zeus failed to accomplish. All you must do is steal the master bolt of Zeus."
Thalia… It wasn't fair. She was a hero, she sacrificed herself for them and Zeus. Didn't. Care. The son of Hermes's eyes finally opened to glare up into the sky. The gods would fall. He'd make sure of it. They would pay.
"You're being used, Luke. You and Ares both. Don't listen to Kronos."
"I've been used?" Luke's voice took on a shrill, wild tone. "Look at yourself. What has your dad ever done for you? Kronos will rise," he swore. "You've only delayed his plans. He will cast the Olympians into Tartarus and drive humanity back to their caves. All except the strongest—the ones who serve him."
"Call off the bug," Percy ordered, raising his chin defiantly. "If you're so strong, fight me yourself"
Luke silently debated whether or not to just lop off the kids head and be done with it, but the pit scorpion already had the sea spawn as good as dead. Not to mention, there was no knowing just what Percy was capable of now. Luke had spent the entire time underestimating the kid. It wouldn't happen again.
Luke pasted on an easy smile. "Nice try, Percy. But I'm not Ares. You can't bait me. My lord is waiting, and he's got plenty of quests for me to undertake."
He stared at the kid solemnly before a smirk tugged at his lips. "Good-bye, Percy. There is a new Golden Age coming. You won't be part of it."
A week later, Silena Beauregard informed Luke that Percy still lived. And he wished with every fiber of his being that he had just run the little nuisance through.
Luke's stomach twisted painfully as he poisoned Thalia's tree, watching mutedly as its needles turned brown. This wasn't what he had in mind at all. Kronos was his master, and he would do his bidding, but this…
The bark made a strange hissing noise like it was about to blow and some of its branches were already starting to wither.
Well, Luke thought the Titan would take a different approach to resurrecting his friend.
Kronos assured him that Percy would play his part like the good little pawn he was, but Luke couldn't help but be wary. If the sea spawn failed, then Thalia will be truly gone. And if she – no. That's not an option. Percy Jackson had to retrieve the Fleece. If he didn't, all consequences be screwed to Tartarus, Luke would kill the kid himself.
Luke dully realized that if he was thirteen, he never would've thought of murder. It shouldn't bother him. Luke was a stupid, naïve child, after all. Heck, he barely remembered that year, but he was pretty sure he was robbing candy stores. Still, he wondered if he'd changed too much. And maybe, just maybe, not for the better.
Luke scowled and shook that thought out of his head. No. What he was doing was justice, there's nothing to feel guilty about. The gods can't keep treating their children as tools or errand boys. It's time for a stand. And that's what Luke told himself when he saw Percy Jackson again.
Luke found it a bit odd that it was the same three from the last quest, but that's so like Camp Half-Blood. So against new ideas and chances, one screw up and it game over.
Backbiter was at the son of Poseidon's throat before Annabeth could even register that Luke was there. Pathetic. And here he thought he'd actually have some good, competent opponents on his hands instead of the new recruits that couldn't tell a blade from a handle.
"Hey, cuz," Luke said. "Welcome back to the States." And he thought they'd already won.
But slowly, his plan – and calm façade – cracked bit after bit as Percy tricked him with the Iris-message, stalled Luke from flying after Clarisse, and was saved by the Party Ponies. The kid stole his pegasus too.
So maybe Percy wasn't a complete idiot.
Sweat dripped down Luke's face and he stared into those familiar, beautiful blue eyes in numb pain. This wasn't what he expected at all. Everything was crumbling around him, leaving him isolated with nothing but a gold sarcophagus, an evil blade (which he didn't even have at the moment), and an army made up of both demigods and monsters that he didn't dare turn his back to for a second.
"Well?" Luke croaked, doing his best to talk around the lump in his throat. Gods, that glare was never meant to be directed at him. At monsters and mortals low enough to hurt a couple of "defenseless" teenagers, but never him.
Thalia trembled with blatant fury as Annabeth, bruised and dirty with a grey streak marring her blond locks, struggled out of her bonds and screamed, "Don't kill him!"
Luke closed his eyes briefly. So this was what it boiled down to. Thalia Grace and Annabeth Chase, his two girls, the ones he trusted more than anything in the entire world, arguing over whether he lived or died. Talk about girl issues.
"He's a traitor," Thalia accused, raising her spear threateningly. "A traitor!"
"We'll bring Luke back," the daughter of Athena begged. "To Olympus. He…he'll be useful." Annabeth was never one to give up easily, especially now that she was a beautiful young woman…. Where in the freaking depths of Tartarus did that come from?
Luke shook that thought out of his head, sneer in place. "Is that what you want, Thalia? To go back to Olympus as a hero? Too please your dad?"
Luke knew he'd hit a nerve even before the girl flinched. That was one of the many secrets Thalia had shared with him in confidence. One of the deepest truths she kept buried. And here Luke was throwing it right back into her face.
Thalia, sopping wet and makeup running, looked absolutely nothing like the fierce daughter of Zeus that Luke knew. Her eyes appeared more like a rainy grey than electric blue, and it pained Luke to look at them. At her. To look and see Thalia so vulnerable and small was worse than coming face to face a Fury.
Luke felt her forehead and winced. Thalia was burning up, and they'd already used what little nectar they had. Luke dabbed at her face with a damp rag that came from Zeus knows where, keeping her head in his lap.
"Are…" She choked a little, and her eyes glanced around their safe house, not focusing on anything. "Are you ever curious?"
Luke hesitated, looking down at her in confusion. "About what?"
Thalia wet her lips and clumsily brushed her sweaty locks out of her face. "If you're hero?"
The son of Hermes furrowed his brow. "We kill monsters and—"
Thalia shook her head. "No. I mean—I meant if your dad thinks you're one. Yeah, we've killed lots of things, and we're hanging in there, but is that enough to make a god proud? Even if they are our dads?"
Luke stared. It could've been just the fever talking, but it sounded too…accurate to just be a sickbed confession. Too thought through.
"All" – Thalia let out a watery laugh – "all I ever wanted was to make him proud. To show him I'm a hero, and I'm just as good as-as any—"
A sob tore its way from her throat, and Luke hugged her tight, rocking her back and forth. This was worse than anything he'd ever faced. This was a scared little girl hiding behind Aegis and a leather jacket, and seeing Thalia like this made Luke feet like he was looking into a mirror.
When the daughter of Zeus finally calmed into a state of hiccups and exhaustion, Luke buried his face in her hair and muttered, "I wonder that every day."
In a desperate burst of adrenaline, Luke made a desperate grab for her spear.
Electric blue eyes narrowed the same time grey eyes widened. "No!" Annabeth shouted. But it was too late. Luke should've known that Thalia wouldn't just sit pretty while he disarmed her. On reflex, the daughter of Zeus kicked her former friend away.
Annabeth's scream was the last thing he heard before it all went black. Stupid garden. No matter how hard he tried or who he had on his side, Luke could never win there.
"Annabeth," Luke begged. "Come with me. We'll run away together—us against the world. Just like how it was before. I know you miss it. I miss it. Please…"
The daughter of Athena's hand crept to her hip, no doubt reaching for the dagger he gave her all those years ago. She swallowed but that didn't make her look any less intimating. "I don't believe you."
Those four little words felt made Luke feel like she was kicking his Achilles spot. "We can be a family again," he tried.
Grey eyes bore into his, and he wondered just when she stopped being a little girl and started being a clever, fierce half-blood that'd make any god proud. "I think it's a little late for that."
Luke felt like he was dying now. "Kronos…" The air turned colder, and he shut his eyes, releasing a shaky breath. "…he has plans for me. A-and I can't do it. Please," he pleaded, feeling completely shameless even though he was groveling now. "Annabeth, I need you."
Her guarded expression didn't even falter at his confession. Here he was, bearing his heart for all to see, and she couldn't have possibly cared less. Annabeth raised her chin and pushed her shoulders back, striking a remarkable resemblance to her mother.
She sucked in a small breath and met his eyes dead on. "But I don't need you."
Luke stayed on her porch even after she shut the door in his face.
Annabeth wasn't lying, and he wondered just when that change occurred. He and Thalia were her family. They found her all alone with nothing but a hammer to defend herself with, and they immediately took her in. Annabeth needed a big sister, but most of all, she need him. So just who would Annabeth choose over—
Luke's blood went cold. Jackson. Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon and the most unreliable pawn anyone could ever have. Of course. Who else could it possibly be?
He walked away wishing he had just killed the kid when he had the chance.
"Family, Luke," Annabeth said, blood trickling from the corner of her mouth and eyes shining with unshed tears. "You promised."
Ironic, considering the last time the two actually talked, but nevertheless, Luke fought for control. He could see Percy and Grover struggle towards the blonde, but Kronos was too strong for them. Too strong for all of them.
"We made a deal," she whispered again, too quiet for anyone but Luke to hear.
The blonde screamed and kicked and almost nailed him in his soft spot. "No more monsters!" she shrieked. "Go away!"
"It's okay!" Luke tried to comfort her, which wasn't super easy considering how much she was fussing. "Thalia, put your shield up. You're scaring her."
Thalia immediately tapped Aegis, and it shrank into a silver bracelet. "Hey, it's all right," she said, holding her hands up nonthreateningly. "We're not going to hurt you. I'm Thalia. This is Luke."
"Monsters!" she accused. Screw his Aegis theory, this girl just did not like to be held.
"No," Luke promised. "But we know all about monsters. We fight them too."
Slowly, the girl stopped struggling. She studied the older kids with large grey eyes, and Luke got the vibe that, in some ways, she was a lot more intelligent than both of them combined. It was a pretty big blow to his ego, but still…
"You're like me?" she said suspiciously, eyes studying them, calculating.
"Yeah," Luke said. "We're . . . well, it's hard to explain, but we're monster fighters." A major understatement, but he wasn't completely sure if the little girl would be ready to embrace the whole half-blood concept just yet. "Where's your family?"
"My family hates me," the girl said, little arms starting to tremble in Luke's grip. "They don't want me. I ran away."
Thalia and Luke locked eyes. Oh, they knew exactly what she was talking about. They knew how the little girl felt better than anyone.
"What's your name, kiddo?" Thalia asked.
She raised her chin a little. "Annabeth."
Luke smiled softly, hoping it didn't come across as creepy. He didn't do kids. "Nice name. I tell you what, Annabeth – you're pretty fierce. We could use a fighter like you."
Annabeth's eyes widened, and all suspicion and cunning intelligence gone, she looked just like a little girl. Scared and all alone and starving. "You could?"
"Oh, yeah." Luke turned his new knife and offered her the handle. "How'd you like a real monster-slaying weapon? This is Celestial bronze. Works a lot better than a hammer."
Maybe under most circumstances, offering a seven-year-old kid a knife would not be a good idea, but when you're a half-blood, regular rules kind of go out the window.
Annabeth gripped the hilt.
"Knives are only for the bravest and quickest fighters," Luke explained. "They don't have the reach or power of a sword, but they're easy to conceal and they can find weak spots in your enemy's armor. It takes a clever warrior to use a knife." A smile tugged at the corners of his lips. "I have a feeling you're pretty clever."
Annabeth stared at him with adoration. "I am!"
Thalia grinned. "We'd better get going, Annabeth. We have a safe house on the James River. We'll get you some clothes and food."
"You're…you're not going to take me back to my family?" she said. "Promise?"
Luke put his hand on her shoulder. "You're part of our family now. And I promise I won't let anything hurt you. I'm not going to fail you like our families did us. Deal?"
"Deal!" Annabeth said softly, eyes filling with pure faith as she looked up to him.
Luke staggered, gaining a sliver of control. He stared at Annabeth's bloody face and the familiar knife she clutched in her hand. "Promise."
The son of Hermes gasped, struggling to maintain dominance over his body. Di immortales, Kronos was strong. "Annabeth…" Luke stumbled forward uncoordinatedly. "You're bleeding," he said, dazed.
Annabeth licked the blood off her lips. "My knife." She tried to raise her weapon, but it fell out of her shaky hand, clanging loudly onto the marble floor. Annabeth looked to the sea spawn. "Percy, please…"
The leader of Camp Half-Blood surged forward and scooped up her knife. He swiftly knocked Backbiter out of Luke's hands so quickly he didn't even see what maneuver the son of Poseidon used. The wicked blade skidded into the hearth, but Luke hardly cared.
Annabeth was hurt and that was all that mattered at the moment. He took a clumsy step forward, obviously powerless to harm her, but Percy immediately jumped between them.
Feet apart and shoulders set and sea green orbs darkening dangerously, Percy practically growled, "Don't touch her."
Luke looked into the kid's eyes, and it suddenly clicked together like a strange, abstract puzzle. Percy's eyes were full of justified hate and power, but lurking underneath it all was a betrayed, broken look made specially for Luke. Oh gods. He knew exactly where he had seen those eyes before. Luke had seen them long ago, before he snuffed out their trusting glimmer.
The first time Luke ever saw him, the kid gave him candy.
At the time, he was just a random, everyday boy hanging out at Sweet on America with a big, dimpled smile and animated sea green eyes. All of his mom's coworkers would smile at him and sneak him little treats when they thought no one was looking, and he talked to practically everyone that walked by.
And then there was Luke. A thirteen year-old runaway all alone and hungry enough to sink so low as to rob a candy store. Pitiful.
The teen shuffled his feet a little in hesitation before subtly slipping a chocolate bar into the inside of his jacket, cursing himself for not being rational with what little money he started out with. Stealing was low and dishonest, and it made him feel unbearably guilty, but it was either that or starving. Or worse, going home. That wasn't even an option.
Luke swallowed down his remorse and was just two little steps from the red, white, and blue doors when a little, preadolescent voice said accusingly, "You didn't pay for that."
The runaway sucked in a shaky breath and turned around, cursing under his breath. Crap. If this kid tattled… "I don't know what you're talking about," he lied.
The little boy frowned, kicking his feet in the air from the too tall chair he was perched on in the corner. The kid was young, at least five or six, and he was wearing a Tigger T-shirt and flip flops, tightly holding onto a clear plastic bag filled to the brim with blue candy.
Luke's blood boiled a little with envy. Oh, he knew what kind of kid he was. He was someone with a nice, loving, normal mom, not some freak job like his. The runaway grit his teeth a little. He would give anything to have what that boy had.
The kid's eyebrows squished together and he stared up into the bigger boy's eyes. "Really?" he asked, a little unsure.
Luke nodded his head once. "Cross my heart." That line always worked with kids.
The younger boy's face softened in naïve belief before hardening into a distrusting stare. "Oh yeah? Then where's your receipt?"
Or not. Dang it. Too good to be true. Luke sighed and his shoulders slumped in shame and loss. Ratted out by a six year-old. Brilliant.
He raised his hands in defeat. "Okay. You got me, kid," he said frustratedly, reaching into his jacket to tug out the Hershey's bar.
"Here," he continued bitterly, tossing the candy bar onto the clean, wood floors where it skittered to the little boy's elevated feet. "Take your stupid chocolate."
He didn't need it. He'd be just fine. At least that was what he was trying to tell himself. His stomach felt like it was starting to eat itself, and he was feeling constantly dizzy. He'd been on his own since he was nine, but now he was actually starting to shoot up a bit, and oh gods, he was so hungry. To his horror, he felt something wet run down his pale, hollowed cheeks. Luke quickly brushed his tears away. Crying in front of a little kid was just unforgivable.
He whirled around and stomped out the candy store. Stupid kid. He had a nice, loving mom who'd give him all the food he wanted and didn't give him nightmares. He didn't know what it felt like to starve, to be alone and unarmed against monsters so horrible and bloodthirsty that sleep was too risky to even think about. The kid didn't know what it felt like to see monsters no one else did – a freak show with ADHD and dyslexia. He was just a six year-old who didn't understand what it took to survive in a demigod's world.
The teen almost missed the quiet, padded footsteps coming up behind him. "Hey!"
Luke closed his eyes and took a deep, measured breath. "What now? Need a pat down to check if I have anything else hidden on me?"
The boy's chubby, young face scrunched up into a scowl, but he looked more like a mental chipmunk than anything else. "You're kind of mean," he muttered. The kid looked at Luke with a triumphant smile before holding his blue themed candy bag out to him like it was the most precious thing in the world.
The older boy only stared blankly. What the Hades was he doing now?
Seeing his confused look, the kid held out his hand higher and urged, "Here. Take it."
Luke blinked before hesitantly reaching out, feeling awkward. "Wow, kid. Uh, thanks," he said a little disbelievingly. "You're sure you don't want it?"
The six year-old smiled a little and shrugged. "Blue's my least favorite flavor anyways."
That wasn't the truth. He didn't know exactly why – maybe it was a perk of being Hermes's son, but the demigod was really good at distinguishing between honesty and lies. It wasn't exactly hard to tell that the kid was giving up his favorite candies for a complete stranger.
Nevertheless, the runaway grabbed them, stuffing the bag into his worn out backpack. "Thanks," he said, ignoring the lump in his throat. Luke gave him a small, surprised smile and ruffled the boy's hair. "Means a lot, kid."
Percy just smiled up at him with natural innocence and happiness glimmering in his young eyes.
This wasn't the naïve, trusting boy who stumbled into Cabin 11 anymore, awkward and unsure of himself. And it definitely wasn't the innocent little boy with a dimpled smile who gave it candy. No, this was a capable young man, brave enough to stand up to a Titan and who wanted nothing more than to keep his family safe. And Luke was the reason they were in danger. For the first time, the son of Hermes felt an aura of power that rivaled even Kronos's.
Luke's control wavered. "Jackson…"
No! he told himself. Think of Annabeth, Thalia—Grover. You can't let them down! Not again. Luke gasped. "He's changing. Help. He's…he's almost ready. He won't need my body anymore. Please—"
His body felt both unbearably cold and hot at the same time, and Kronos bellowed, "NO!" The Titan stumbled towards the hearth, reaching for his sword. Percy tried to stop him, but Kronos pushed him out of the way with such force he landed next to Annabeth and hit his head on the base of Athena's throne with a sickening crack.
Kronos reached for his scythe only to pull back, howling in pain. Luke seized control again and collapsed, clutching his hands. "Please, Percy…"
Percy struggled to his feet and glided towards his foe. The son of Poseidon stood over Luke, baring Annabeth's dagger – the cursed blade.
The son of Hermes wet his lips. No, Percy'd never find the Achilles spot. And even if he did, there was no guaranteeing that he'd be able to keep Kronos under wraps. "You can't…can't do it yourself. He'll defend himself. Only my hand. I know where. I can…can keep him controlled."
Luke's skin screamed in agony, like the Titan was barbequing him from the inside out.
Percy raised the knife to strike. Then, he looked at Annabeth and Grover, who was cradling her in his arms, trying to protect her, and Luke could see that Percy had put the pieces together too.
"Please," Luke moaned urgently, pure fear gripping his heart over what he was about to do. "No time."
Percy slowly, unsurely turned the knife around and raised its handle out to the son of Hermes. His eyes were panicked and wary, but Luke could've almost convinced himself that he was a teen again. And Percy was just a little boy, only instead of an orange top with Tigger's face pasted onto it, he was wearing a Camp Half-Blood shirt and Greek, leather armor. And instead of the cursed blade that would end his days, he was taking a small bag of candy.
Yes, he told himself. That's it. Luke's stomach was still filled with terror and his arms shook in agony. He twisted the knife around and struggled with a strap on his armor, telling himself that it was just that faulty zipper on his backpack. That he wasn't about to…
Luke closed his eyes and drove the blade into his Achilles' spot and screamed in agony. It burned every bit of his being like he was back in the Styx, it felt like he was being severed from the world. Every breath felt like he was bearing the weight of the sky again.
"Good…blade," Luke grit out.
Percy knelt next to him, eyes unreadable, but Luke focused his attention on Annabeth in daze. "You knew. I almost killed you, but you knew…"
Tears gathered in her eyes and she whispered, "Shhh. You were a hero in the end, Luke. You'll go to Elysium."
Luke managed to (very painfully) shake his head. "Think…rebirth. Try for three times. Isles of the Blest."
Annabeth sniffled, tears starting to finally drop. "You always pushed yourself too hard."
And that was just the problem. Wasn't it? Luke raised his hand, and Annabeth touched his fingertips.
"Did you…" Luke coughed up blood, fighting to breathe. "Did you love me?"
Annabeth's face took on a guarded, distracted look, and she bit her lip. "There was a time I thought…well, I thought…" Her grey eyes darted over to Percy before resting back on Luke. "You were like a brother to me, Luke," she said quietly. Her grey eyes hardened in relaxed assurance. "But I didn't love you."
It hurt, but it wasn't unexpected. Percy and Annabeth. The kid who he met in a candy store, and the girl he adopted in an alley. Who would've thought? Luke nodded, fighting back a cry of pain.
"We can get ambrosia," Grover spoke up. "We can—"
"Grover. You're the bravest satyr I ever knew. But no," Luke said with finality. "There's no healing…" His body racked with coughs, and he gripped Percy's sleeve tightly. Luke eyes bore into the son of Poseidon's. "Ethan. Me. All the unclaimed. Don't let it… Don't let it happen again."
It was cruel to be asking so much of Percy, but he fought Ares when he was just a kid. He foiled Luke's and Kronos's plans over and over again, and bore the weight of the sky without the curse of Achilles and refused the let it crush him. Percy…the demigod who rallied the camp for what could've been their final stand here in Manhattan. If anyone could possibly keep the gods in check, it was Percy Jackson.
"I won't," Percy said. "I promise."
Luke gave looked up at him with nothing but trust in his eyes and just before he closed his eyes, he thought, I was wrong about you, Percy. We were all wrong.
You're a hero.