A/N: So, House of Hades did not help make my feels any less dead, so I have decided to write more angsty fanfiction. This can be seen as a quasi-sequel thing to "Of Sight and Sound," but not really because they're actually not all that connected, except for the obvious.
I apologize beforehand for any OOCness or errors in mechanics. Feel free to provide constructive criticism.
Disclaimer: Rick Riordan is a troll. I am not. Therefore, Percy Jackson and the Olympians and the Heroes of Olympus series do not belong to me.
Everything's okay, really, it's all over.
He'd been naïve, really, to believe that it would all be over once they escaped from Tartarus.
It had been a hope; a desperate wish for something that he, somewhere in the back of his mind, knew would never come to fruition.
Because Tartarus had left scars, scratched into his mind and embedded into his skin. It had changed him, in ways that Percy couldn't even begin to describe.
The pull of the pit, he found, did more than drag him and Annabeth down into the fiery depths of the unknown. The whispers of darkness had yanked at his conscience and his heart, beckoning him to do things that he never would have even considered before all this had happened. They warped his reality, emerging from the dark corners of his mind; drawing out every hateful thought he'd ever known.
It was only because of Annabeth, really, that he hadn't gone insane or turned into one of the monsters there.
But she had paid a terrible cost for his salvation.
I'll make your tears stop, I will, trust me.
It was their first night back in the world of living, where the sun and the trees and the sky and the moon existed, replacing the endless realm of fire and dirtied water and stone that had plagued them for so many days.
She was screaming, eyes clenched tightly shut, fingers grasping the sheets in a death grip. He'd tried to wake her, he really did, shaking her and calling her name, as if he could wipe away the memories of inferno and endless hordes of monsters with his love alone.
Tears were running down her cheeks, dampening the pillow, and he had hated those drops of water more than anything.
His voice cracked, and he felt tears of his own falling from his eyes.
"Please," he repeated, putting all the force he possibly could behind the words. "Wake up."
And she did, grey eyes popping open. She gasped for air, wearing a face of confusion and terror that melted into immediate relief upon seeing Percy and the room they were in.
For an instant, he dared to believe that she would be all right.
Then she flung himself into his arms, sobbing into his shoulder. He'd tried to soothe her, running his fingers through tangled blond hair and whispering words of comfort.
He held her for a long while, waiting until the last of her cries had faded and only hiccups remained. She drew back, wiping her eyes.
He did not ask what her nightmare was about.
Instead, he leaned forward and kissed her. Annabeth's hair tickled his nose as she slowly relaxed.
"Go back to sleep," he mumbled against her lips, when they finally broke apart.
"I can't, Percy. Every time I close my eyes, I just…" She looked more broken than he ever would have imagined. He pushed those thoughts to the back of his mind, leaving them to join the dark memories of Tartarus.
"Just try. Please? For me?" He whispered, rubbing circles on her back. "It's okay now, everything's okay. I'm still here, you're still here."
Anything to get her to stop looking so tired.
She nodded, eyes drifting shut.
Many minutes later, after she'd fallen asleep he snuck out to the deck of the ship. The rolling waves of saltwater calmed him.
He could still taste Annabeth's tears in his mouth.
Turning his eyes heavenward, he sought guidance.
"Dad…Dad, if you can hear me, I really need your help. Annabeth…she's so hurt, so scared. I don't know what to do. I know that you're probably busy and all, with the whole schizophrenic act going on, but please. If you…if you're listening, just…tell me what to do, because I don't know."
He dimly registered that he was crying.
"I don't know what to do," he gritted his teeth. "How do I make her stop crying? I can't even stop my own tears!"
He received no answer.
Below, the sea drifted on, calm and undisturbed as ever.
I'll fix what's broken inside of you; I'll put all back together, I promise.
On one particularly bad night, when the nightmares had reached their peak and she was shaking harder than a leaf in a gale, she'd asked questions that had crushed him, and filled him with guilt.
It started with her apology, something that he should have been saying to her, not the other way around.
Unable to meet his eyes, she focused on a particular spot on his chest. "I'm sorry," she finally whispered, after the silence had become to heavy.
He didn't understand at first.
"Hey, it's okay. We all need a good cry now and then. I'm your Seaweed Brain, remember?"
She shook her head numbly. "No…that's not what I mean. I'm sorry for dragging you into all this. Percy, I know that you have nightmares too, about T-Tartarus. It's my fault that you do…I pulled you down there with me. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry, Percy."
He felt a cold chill run down his spine. Annabeth blamed herself for the fact that they both went to Tartarus.
It's true. The dark part of his mind whispered traitorously. It's all true. If she hadn't gotten herself tangled up in that string, your dreams, your life would be so different.
He shoved that part of his mind far, far away.
His life would be different, he supposed. He wouldn't be haunted by memories that he could never shake; he wouldn't feel the phantom burn of the Phlegethon River in his throat.
"Annabeth…if I hadn't come with you, it would have been worse. I would have spent the entire time worrying about you, day and night. Do you…do you honestly think that I could live without you?" He cradled her closer to his chest, willing away the wetness at the corner of his eyes.
"But Percy, you could have died. Because of me. If I just forced you to let go, you would have had a far better chance of staying alive! How can you not blame me?" Each word that she spoke sent another dagger of self-hatred and guilt through him.
He hated himself for not being enough, for not being capable of stopping her tears.
Why am I not enough?
"I could never blame you," his voice was a ragged whisper. "Not in a million years. Besides, there's a huge difference between being alive and living."
Annabeth looked up, eyes rimmed red from crying. For the first time that night, he stared into her gray orbs, clearly reading every emotion that flickered across her face.
"What's that?" She sounded as if she already knew the answer, but needed to hear it, just for reassurance.
Reassurance that he was more than happy to provide.
Because it's all that you can provide, the snide voice hissed in his head, cackling wildly. He ignored it with difficulty.
"Living is a life with you, Annabeth," he hoped that his words were enough.
That same night, he stormed out onto the deck of the Argo II. The wind ripped at his skin and the rain fell in sheets around him, the liquid bouncing right off his skin. He looked to the sky, at the place where his dad was supposedly watching over him.
"I believed that you would help me!" he screamed at the air, not caring if he looked insane to the rest of the world. "You're a god, right? Then fix her! Make her stop crying! DO WHAT I CAN'T!"
Thunder rolled across the sky and lightning arced through the gray clouds, gray like the eyes filled with anguish and pain every night.
Percy almost laughed. "Oh, that's right," his voice was eerily calm. "I, a mere, insignificant, foolish demigod have absolutely no right to speak to such high and mighty beings with such disrespect. Well, Uncle Zeus? Go ahead, smite me. I dare you. Or do you need me to do something for you again?"
He received no answer.
When he came back, after his long tirade at the gods, he and his clothes were soaked to the bone.
Poseidon visited him in his dreams, a week later.
His father's appearance was startling, almost, and he felt a sort of vindictive satisfaction at the god's bedraggled appearance.
"Percy," he started, the wrinkles in his face becoming more prominent than ever. "I apologize for not communicating with you beforehand. I, like all other gods have been busy."
Percy nodded curtly. "Right. So, where's Athena in all this? Is she watching Annabeth right now? 'Communicating' with her?"
Poseidon frowned. "The last time your friend and Athena met, they did not…have the most pleasant of conversations. Athena's state was quite…a predicament."
"Basically, you're saying that Annabeth is facing her nightmares about Tartarus all alone."
"She has you, my son," Poseidon attempted to offer words of comfort.
"Right, but I'm not enough, Dad. I keep trying to help her, to comfort her, but she's still so…broken. What do I do?" He posed the question that he had asked so many nights ago, his cold countenance giving way to the sorrow that he felt inside him.
Poseidon looked away. "It is not my place to say. I care about you, Percy, I truly do, but I admit that I have a…limited understanding of this subject."
"So you won't help. Great," Percy felt it, the dark whispers of Tartarus brushing against his conscience, reminding him of the emotions he had felt down in the pits of Hell. Of the way that he had wanted to torture Arachne, the way that he had wanted her to suffer.
His father noticed his tone of voice and the indentation between his eyebrows increased further. "I haven't changed, Percy, even if my Roman counterpart is clashing with my persona. I am still your father, either way."
"Well," Percy began to walk away. "Too bad. You may not have changed, but I have. I was in Tartarus, where Annabeth and I prayed to you, to Athena, to all of the gods, for every day we spent there."
Poseidon extended a hand toward him. "Percy-," he began.
He never got to hear the rest of his father's sentence, however.
She screamed, bolting upright, clawing at her eyes, just to make sure they were still there.
He fell back into the familiar routine, smoothing Annabeth's sweaty hair and murmuring sweet nothings of comfort into her ear.
"Do you think the gods are still watching over us?" Annabeth's question, so similar to his own, yet so different, came in a broken sob.
She received no answer.
I don't know what to believe in anymore, Annabeth.