Brace for a long's author note that you can probably skip: This is basically the illegitimate love-child of looming ship-week deadlines and a plot bunny. I've never written a story about these two that isn't happy or fluffy, so to replace the story that took on a life of its own and will take too long to finish- here is this oneshot.
Now, Ella is quoting throughout the story. I can't give you all the links to the sites that I used, but it's mostly mentioned in the quotes. You guys should see my tool bar right now. If anyone's interested in a video on the flight of geese, please watch Goose We have lift off in UltraSlo.
Enjoy the story after this Desclaimer: stating that I do not own what Ella quotes, or the characters for this story. The lyrics are from Light Outside by Wakey!Wakey!- listen to the song, you'll love it.
"Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."
― Leonardo da Vinci
It was just a series of unfortunate events.
Isn't it always?
It started with Octavian catching on to Ella knowing the sibylline books, the leaked secret eventually dripping down to Gaia's layer (which was probably dark and underground, more or less like a catacomb) and Mother Earth getting her hands on Ella to try and wring the future of Rome out of the harpy- or wring her neck, either or with Gaia. She was psychotic, that one. Thank the gods that she was gone for good.
But now sketches and posters of the build of feathers, bird wings, and diagrams of bone structures were displayed all over Chiron's office. The centaur tapped his marker to his spare hand, studying a white board in which Ella's current wing shape was reproduced.
Ella herself was laying on a hospital bed that had been moved into Chiron's office to give the injured demigods some privacy. Now that most of them were stable, Chiron could invest his time in the more complicated matter that was Ella.
She looked horrible. It made Tyson so sad to say, even sadder to see, but there was no other way to say it. Tangled in her red feathers and hair, they were still finding and cleaning out blood. Tyson had tried to wash her hair, but Hazel had been the one to help since she didn't have to worry about accidentally being too strong. Ella was thinner than ever, harpies lost weight fast, and she was pale and sickly. Sometimes Ella was too tired to even mutter. She didn't even mutter on purpose, it just happened! It made Tyson afraid. It was as if Ella's body was shutting down to save energy. Chiron and others used an eyedropper to drop sugar and water and nectar down Ella's throat.
"Pinioning?" Tyson asked, repeating Chiron.
"Pinioning," Ella muttered. "NSW Guidelines for the Pinioning of Birds, 2. Definitions, 2.1 Pinioning, A surgical procedure performed on a bird's wing to render the bird permanently incapable of flight. The definition of pinioning does not include feather clipping."
"Yes Ella, you are correct," Chiron said. "My dear, I fear that your condition is most dire. We assumed that Gaia had simply clipped your wings-"
"Wing clipping is the process of trimming a bird's primary flight feathers ("primaries") so that it is no longer fully flighted, Wikipedia page last modified on 23 March 2013 at 05:30…"
Having to inform Tyson seemed to produce a positive effect on Ella. It gave her energy, or at least made her spend some.
"Exactly," Chiron said. "Many house birds, or birds in zoo, are clipped. It is not a harmful procedure to the bird, and if the clipping is done correctly the feathers grow back normally."
"Feathers will grow back," Tyson said petting Ella's hair. Good. He'd been scared. When Jason and Hazel had brought her back out of Gaia's layer, Ella had been bleeding and shivering and wheezing instead of breathing.
"I'm afraid not," Chiron said. "It's not that easy. I think that Ella's wings were clipped first- when she got to Gaia's layer first. But then… Ella, I know that you don't like to talk my dear, but Gaia did more didn't she?"
"Can't… say…" Ella managed to choke out. "That is to say, you can say that again, I say, to say nothing of…"
"Ella, you're safe at Camp Half-Blood and among monsters in this room," Chiron said, clicking his hoof to the ground. "Please confirm my theory. Gaia pinioned your wings, didn't she?"
"It is only necessary to perform these procedures on one wing to prevent flight." Ella quoted. Chiron cut her before she could cite the source.
"But she did it to both of your wings for the sheer cruelty of it, didn't she?" Chiron asked.
Big tears welled up in her eyes, and that was all that Chiron needed to hear. Tyson was still lost, but he just pet Ella's hair and kissed her forehead and told her that it was okay.
"I'll leave you two alone," Chiron said eclipsing himself.
Most of the Argo II's crew waited outside- the exception being Frank, still getting treated for his own critical injury in the infirmary and Jason who was in New Rome trying to put order in the chaos of Rome and get the political prisoners -notably Octavian- in order. But the rest of the Argo II's crew were right at the door, listening through the walls. They must have all jumped back from the keyhole when they'd heard Chiron on his way out.
Hazel's fists were closed.
"Gaia cut Ella's wings to stop her from flying, didn't she?" The daughter of Pluto said angrily.
"Yes, child," Chiron said.
Piper put her hand in front of her mouth. Percy's hands made fists.
"Why?" Leo said. "Why would stinking earth lady do that? Weren't her fingers in enough damn pies?"
"I can't confirm it, but for torture, I think. Perhaps Ella tried escaping, and nearly succeeded thanks to her endless wits. Either way, Ella isn't going to answer our questions anytime soon- nor will she receive them," Chiron said pointedly. Gazes dropped.
"Can you fix it?" Percy asked.
"Heal her," Piper corrected.
"No child. An entire joint- the pinion- was cut off. That stops the growth of a set of feathers called the primary feathers. Without them, it's impossible to achieve the acceleration needed for flight."
His pupils, still dazed and exhausted and insomniac and not very good at science on a good day, were dazed.
"Think of pinioning as the equivalent of my taking out all the bones in your wrist and hand. Your hands would be useless. It's often used on free-roaming birds at zoos, chickens even. I don't know if Ella's human hands will still be functioning after this, the anatomy of birds and harpies differs and I haven't seen such a thing before. But her wings? Their use is definitely gone now."
"Forever?" Hazel asked weakly.
Chiron shrugged sadly. "Pinioning is irreversible. I'm very sorry."
"Does she know?"
"Of course she knows, she's Ella," Percy said.
"Unfortunately, you are correct on both bases, Percy."
It was some days later that Tyson walked into the room only to see Ella jump off her bed. She tried to maintain altitude, but she plummeted. There was no gliding down, nor trace of a straight decent. She plummeted, and Tyson ran to pick her up- hoping that she hadn't made anything worst.
"Ella had to try," she said softly as Tyson lay her down. "Ella had to try and fly."
She didn't talk for the rest of the day.
I know you want to stay in bed
But it's light outside
It's light outside
Her wings had been bandaged and covered in enough ointments for them to heal. Infection was no longer a risk. Ella still wanted to stay in bed.
"Ella, the sky is sunny." Tyson told her.
"Current Results, Research News and Science Facts, New York Central Park: Sunny days; 107, Partly Sunny days; 127," Ella said uninterested. Harpies didn't like lying down, but she had grown used to the bed and the position she needed to keep to give her wings, her useless stumpy wings, a chance to heal over.
"But it's super sunny." Tyson tried to tempt her.
"107 Sunny days," Ella repeated. "Not today."
Tyson looked out of the window. It was so pretty outside. Pretty as Ella. The harpies were playing basketball with some kids from Cabin 7, dominating the court. Whenever one of the rougher players got too close, the harpies flailed their wings- sending feathers flying.
"Is Ella scared of seeing other harpies?" Tyson asked as he understood.
"Ella not scared," she said. Tears accumulated in her eyes.
"Ella doesn't need to go at the front," Tyson said. "Ella can sit on the back porch. With book. Annabeth's books. Tyson can go get some."
"Book?" Ella perked up. "Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll- born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson to Francis Jane Lutwidge and Charles Dodgson in…"
"Tyson find Through the Looking Glass for Ella," he said.
Ella perked up. "And Around the World in 80 Days- originally published Autour du monde en 80 jours by Jules Verne in 19…"
"Yes. And Tyson made cinnamon buns," he said. "Cinnamon buns are outside with apple juice. Books will be outside soon."
Ella blinked, as if it was a trick. She finally decided to trust him.
"Tyson carry Ella outside?"
She asked it like there was some kind of question.
So know I am going to stay right here
Because you saved my life once
You saved my life
"Tyson can go play basketball," Ella said. Her right wing, more violently damaged, was in a sling. She must have seen his eyes wander.
"No thank you," Tyson said. He liked watching Ella read. Someone had to turn the pages for her and push her glass of apple juice closer to her when she needed it.
"Tyson go play basketball before Tyson has to go back to Poseidon's –Neptune, Roman god of the sea- forges."
"Tyson on holidays," he announced to her. It'd hardly seemed to matter now- but hey, if she'd asked...
"Why? Pourquoi? Que?"
"Tyson isn't sick."
"Feels like it," Tyson said. Ella pouted, and drank some more apple juice.
And I will try to get you out because it's beautiful outside
"Nooooo!" Ella shrieked. Tyson had carried her to the front porch so that she could read and have a view of camp.
"Yes!" Tyson said desperately. "See? Cinnamon bun! And apple juice! Right there! For Ella!"
"People, campers, Romans, Greeks, legionnaires, demigods, one mortal, two praetors, seven half-bloods shall answer the call…" She rambled nervously.
"People not bother Ella," Tyson said. "Cliff-hanger bother Ella."
That was ultimately true, and so when Tyson handed her the book, she just went with it and read.
Every day, Tyson carried her farther and farther with cinnamon buns and Russian literature as lures, until they sat by the Central Hearth to read or watch others read.
And we'll fall
A basketball landed at their feet and hit Ella's legs as Tyson walked back to her with more apple juice.
"Pass it," a guy on the court yelled to her. He was from Cabin Five, Tyson didn't know him. He didn't like Cabin Five. Cabin of meanies.
Ella couldn't pass. She sat on one of the stones around the hearth, with one of her arms still in a sling. Because her mobility had suddenly been stolen from her, she wasn't about to jump off the stone. She would never get back up on her stone again, and it was scary to her. For the first time heights were foreign. As if suddenly Tyson was scared of water- the idea made him shiver.
"What's wrong with you?" The guy yelled again. "Can't do it? Flightless bird, are you? Like a dodo."
One of his brothers laughed. Even from this far, Tyson could see –no, feel- Ella's eyes swell up with tears and her mumbling to start quoting whatever Gaia had told her when she'd been under the knife.
Tyson dropped the glass of apple juice and ran.
Right to the meenie.
He pushed him on the asphalt and yelled at him not to talk to Ella that way or else he'd get his nose broken and maybe a tooth depending on how well Tyson aimed.
And do our best and I love you all the while
"Tyson is sorry," he told Ella. They were back in the Big House. He hadn't wanted Ella to cry outside, where people were still yelling at the kid from Ares after realising what he'd just told Ella- who'd lost her wings while being tortured, her refusing to tell Gaia and her crooks about Rome's future. She'd had to hold in so much mumbling… "Not everyone is nice," he said.
"Ella knows. Ella isn't crying anymore. Sèche tes larmes. Ella wants to go back outside."
Tyson must have jumped. He was so started.
Because you saved my life once
Because you saved my life once
Malcolm stopped by when he saw that Ella was back outside.
"Is it your first time reading John Green?" he asked nodding his head towards the book.
"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves," Ella said.
"Aha," Malcolm said. "Is Looking for Alaska as good as TFiiOS?"
"Nothing is better than Augustus Waters was a self-aggrandizing bastard. But we forgive him. We forgive him not because he had a hearts as figuratively good as his literal one sucked, or because he knew more about how to hold a cigarette than any non-smoker in history, or because he got eighteen years when he should've gotten more."
Malcolm smiled. " 'Seventeen,' Gus corrected."
One of his sisters chirped in. "'I'm assuming you've got some time, you interrupting bastard.'"
Ella smiled and giggled.
She hadn't giggled since she'd been pinioned.
He hadn't smiled in a while either.
I know you want to rest your head
And just forget the night
Forget the night
So you know I am going to stay right here
I'll sit by your side
Sit by your side
Once Chiron had told him that Ella was having night terrors about her episode with Gaia, Tyson had abandoned Cabin Three to sleep curled up on the armchair in Ella's make-shift room in the infirmary- now nearly empty except for a few huge injuries who still weren't treated right; a handful of comatose demigoddesses, amputation cases like Frank, a boy from Rome on a ventilator, a girl whose unrecognizable burnt face had been surgically reconstructed and who still couldn't wake up and identify herself…
He always woke up before she did when she had a nightmare. Instincts, her muttering, he didn't know why he did it. But he was always kneeling by her bedside when she started thrashing- and he tried whispering to her because she might accidentally hurt her wing, or any other part of herself really, while thrashing.
When she screamed and woke up, he was next to her already. She scooted over, he climbed in next to her, and she burrowed against his chest to feel better. Sometimes she cried. Tonight she cried.
He sang one of the songs that they sang in the forges to her. It was about a Cyclops running away with a mermaid, but he changed a few words and omitted a few rather embarrassing verses that he didn't even sing along to when he was underwater. Alternatively it was also a drinking song, but Tyson made it a lullaby for Ella. It was very improvised but Ella fell asleep again. She even made that small wheezing sound. Tyson had to casually reposition her so that she didn't sleep on her wing and cause further circulatory damage (that was his new word of the day- Chiron had taught it to him and Ella had used it in eighteen sentences).
Monsters didn't usually get dreams. Cyclops did once in a blue moon, because part of them was godly. If a monster had nightmares, it was bad. Not like demigods- demigods had dreams, good or bad, for better or for worst, all the time. He remembered never being able to sleep right in the labyrinth because Annabeth and Percy kicked and thrashed around. Percy was having all those dreams about Icarus and Mr Mrs. O'Leary's Owner…
It hit Tyson like a cannonball.
Icarus… Daedalus… the wax and leather wings.
It him Tyson all at once.
If a man could put wings on a boy, he could give wings back to a girl that needed them.
He asked Chiron for all the maps and pictures of wings that he had, Poseidon for more sick leave, Leo for a spot in the forges like Tyson had had with Beckendorf.
Hazel spent time with Ella so that Tyson could sneak away.
He got some graph paper and advice and even a PowerPoint presentation on flight from Annabeth and Malcolm and the other sister who'd quoted Joshua Gable or whoever it was with Ella.
He knew what he was doing.
It took a few tries, but he was satisfied by the end of October.
Ella frowned at the contraption that Tyson showed her.
"What does Ella think?" He asked, trying not to look too excited. He needed her to be really excited.
"One of da Vinci's most famous inventions, the flying machine (also known as the "ornithopter") ideally displays his powers of observation and imagination, as well as his enthusiasm for the potential of flight. The design for this invention is clearly inspired by the flight of winged animals, which da Vinci hoped to replicate. In fact, in his notes, he mentions bats, kites and birds as sources of inspiration: ."
"Ella…" Tyson sighed.
"Unfortunately, as da Vinci himself might have realized, while the flying machine may have flown once it was in the air, a person could never have created enough power to get the device off the ground," Ella finished.
"Not true," Tyson said. "Annabeth saw design. Annabeth helped. Annabeth says that wings work."
"It's true, Ella," Annabeth said. "Especially on someone as accustomed to flight as yourself- surely this isn't much more different than a prosthetic limb for humans…"
"They're not so bad," Frank said knocking on his leg. "You get used to them."
Ella frowned at the contraption.
"Not the ornithopter," Tyson said. "This works."
Ella hopped away crying.
Tyson sat down next to Ella once he found her. Unsurprisingly, she'd gone back to bed.
"Tyson wanted to help. Not make Ella sad."
"Tyson didn't make Ella sad- tearful, sorrowful, nostalgic…"
"Ella trusts Tyson. Ella knows that designs are good. Quality. Excellent. Crafty."
"Okay," Tyson said. He was getting excited. "You want to try?"
"Ella wants to try," she agreed. "But Ella is scared. If design only works on paper… Ella doesn't want to lose her wings again."
She sniffled and Tyson put an arm around her.
"Ella still smart and funny. Ella still clever and nice," Tyson said. "Ella never lost her wings. Ella just can't fly."
He kissed her hair. Ella shot up to her feet and kissed Tyson on the lips. It was quick and it ended quickly too. Tyson was barely quick enough to register.
"Ella try design," she declared.
I think you always knew you would be
I think you always knew you would be
"Now remember," Annabeth said as Tyson carefully tied the harness to Ella. "This is new. It may not work for you- that doesn't mean that there's a flaw in the design, it's just a question of getting used to it. Like Frank- his prosthetic leg is perfectly measured and custom-made for him by Leo and Lord Hephaestus himself. But he still has to use crutches to get used to it."
"Ella like Tyson more than Leo and Lord Hephaestus," she said nervously. She quotes the entire story of Hephaestus' birth out of nerves as Tyson finished up.
The harness was beautiful. Red leather straps- carefully dyed to match Ella's natural colours- each a different length to loop and curve around her wings and bones and remaining feathers. Tiny laces were meant to wrap around bunches of stronger feathers- ones that wouldn't be constrained or ill-at-east by the presence of the leather strings. Latched onto the straps were feathers- Tyson had weighed them over and over, tested wind resistance and material strength… They were as close to feathers as you could get without plucking a harpy- which Tyson didn't want to do or think any harpy on earth would allow him to. Hopefully they were closed enough to replace the essential primary feathers that Ella was lacking.
It was a big project, but Tyson wasn't nervous. It wouldn't hurt Ella- he'd asked his friends from the Kitchen to test it over and over just to make sure, and they could all fly. He just didn't want to see her face if they couldn't progress quickly enough. He didn't want Ella to start crying again. She'd done enough of that in Tyson's view.
She played with her wings for a few minutes, tilting them, raising them… the harness followed her movements perfectly.
"Ella ready?" Tyson asked.
"Ready as I'll ever be, page…"
Tyson kissed her cheek. She stopped mumbling.
"Go get 'em," he said.
They'd all skipped Capture-the-flag to be in the Central Green alone as they tested this. It was a big moment, and Tyson was nervous.
"When you're ready, Ella," Annabeth said.
Ella took a deep breath and unfolded her wings.
At 300 frames a second, you'd see the perfectly mastered details in the art of flight. You'd see Ella's chest sticking out, her wings slowly batting forwards in the first beat as her feet arched off the ground. Her equivalent of toes unglued themselves from the ground, her wings folded themselves backwards for the second beat as Ella achieved liftoff. Her feet kicked back towards her. She angled herself- Ella was no longer straight, but leaning forwards a bit. Change of altitude- she got higher. And higher… and higher…
"EUREKA!" Ella yelled from the sky as she looped around the Central Green. "A TRANSLATION OF A WORD ATTRIBUTED TO ARCHIMEDES!"
Tyson couldn't help himself, he screamed out in victory. Frank let go of a crush and whistled. Annabeth clapped and cheered and tugged on Tyson's arm. Ella circled the cabins once, twice… She started losing altitude, but it was completely controlled. She landed right in Tyson's arms, throwing her newly-found wings around him. Their noses were touching.
Tyson's heart was beating fast. It worked! It worked! Maybe Ella would wear the wings all the time now to mask her injury, or maybe she'd be confident enough and comfortable enough to walk around with imperfect and battle-worn wings. Maybe she'd want to hide the harness, keep it as camouflaged as possible –more than it was then- or maybe she'd put stickers on it and decorate it and make it flashy. Maybe she'd want another pair… Maybe she'd want them to work on a few hitches… Whatever it was, Tyson would do it. For a repeat of the look on her face, Tyson would do anything.
"That was perfect, Ella," he said for now.
"You're perfect," she said giving him a quick peck on the lips.
I think I always knew you would be
I think I always knew you would be
Because you saved my life once