Chapter 1: the boy from the black lagoon
Reyna becomes suspicious. TRIGGER WARNING
It was three A.M. and Reyna still had not seen Thalia all day. It had started normal enough, she had gotten up, gotten dressed, and found a note pinned to the fridge saying that Thalia had gone out to get groceries. That was Thalia for, "We ran out of waffles," so Reyna just went out for lunch with her sister like she had planned.
Now it was Three A.M. and Reyna was prepared to ring the other girl's neck if she did not come home soon. She wasn't answering her phone, and she had only answered her texts with 'I ran into a friend, be back late,' which could mean anything from, she had found a stray dog, or she had been kidnapped.
It's Three-forty-five when she finally gets home, and she's not alone. She's laughing with a 6ft tall, blonde, blue eyed, man with a scar down the side of his face.
"Thalia Grace, where on earth have you been!" are Reyna's first words upon Thalia entering the door. Thalia, has to catch her breath from laughing before answering.
"Hey Reyna! Sorry, we got distracted by the pond, then we decided to go see a movie, then a movie led to a dinner, which led to a street performer. Time got away from us," she summed up and Reyna just face palmed.
"You do realize that this is the second time this month," she grumbled and Thalia shrugs before gesturing to her friend.
"Sorry, I'll pay you back later. This is my Boyfriend, Luke. Luke, this is my roommate and best friend since 7th grade, Reyna." She introduced the blonde man. Luke smiled at Reyna, but something hot instantly boiled in the pit of Reyna's stomach at the sight of this boy with, Thalia. Her Thalia.
"Wait, boyfriend, what?!" she said and stared at Thalia with a questioning look. Thalia rolled her eyes.
"What? I can get a boyfriend! It's not like I haven't had them before," she muttered and Reyna just stared at her.
"Thalia, you've never dated a person before in your life. Literally any guy that asked you out in high-school, you judo flipped," she said and Luke rose an eyebrow at his girlfriend, who only offered a sheepish smile, "so me being surprised about having a boyfriend is a bit acceptable."
"Okay, fine, you have a point. But it's still perfectly likely I could get one if I wanted," Thalia defended. Reyna rolled her eyes.
"Whatever, so how long have you two been dating? Twelve hours?" she asked teasingly and finally, Mr. Scar spoke.
"Two weeks actually," he muttered and Reyna tripped over mid air, going sprawling on the floor, and immediately bouncing back up.
"What?!" she yelled and Thalia winced.
"I know, I know, I know, I didn't tell you, but I was just nervous. Taking Luke home to meet you is a bit like taking him home to meet my parents. It's, just awkward," she muttered, but Reyna was still spluttering for words. The world seemed to be spinning around her. For two weeks Thalia had been dating this, this blonde golden boy?! WHAT THE HECK?!??!?! This was really out of character for Thalia. She NEVER looked at guys. She NEVER even got close enough to one, unless her cousins and brother counted, to hear their voices. How the hell did this one become her boyfriend. More importantly, what did he have that she didn't?!?!
A penis. Well, besides that. He's male. Okay, point taken. Reyna had no shot now, and she'd have to deal with blondey a lot more often now that he'd been introduced. Reyna just took a deep breath to calm herself, before face palming.
"I'm going to bed, it's almost 4 AM. If I hear any kind on noises coming from your room I'm coming in there and chopping off your boyfriend's manhood, goodnight," she grumbled and walked down the hall to her room. Thalia's face was bright red and Luke looked slightly scared.
"Should I take that as a good sign, or a bad sign?" Luke asked Thalia who shrugged.
"Well, you're still alive for now, so I'd take that as a good sign," she muttered.
The next week is torture. He's there, every waking hour of the day and him and Thalia are ALWAYS hanging off of each other. Always flirting. Always rubbing it in Reyna's face. Reyna feels as if Thalia has cut open her chest and is rubbing salt in the wound. She knows that Thalia doesn't understand, that Thalia will never understand. She knows, and that is the only thing that keeps her from screaming. Luke proves himself to be a poor house guest. He's messy, loud, and most importantly, nosy. He's always snooping through their stuff. Especially hers, and the more he snoops, the more Reyna dislikes him. She doesn't understand how Thalia tolerates him, they're polar opposites. Thalia is wild and carefree, Luke is controlling and worried. Thalia is the human embodiment of punk rock, Luke is a preppy asshole who loves pop and can not tolerate Reyna's guitar playing. Thalia is her best friend and shares everything with her. Her emotions are always plain and obvious and so easy to read. Luke is a ticking time-bomb. He bottles us everything until he explodes, and when he does it is not a pretty sight. Part of her wants to call the government and tell them to take their nuke back. Thalia and Luke are so different that Reyna feels like she's having the life force drained out of her whenever Luke is there. She hates him, and hates the fact that it seems her best friend loves him.
Thalia is worried. Reyna has always been a quiet person. Has been since the 7th grade. The first time she ever heard the girl speak surprised her so much that she nearly stapled her finger to the desk. But that was years ago, now Reyna has become a much more expressive and talkative person, and Thalia likes to believe that's her doing. Not anymore, ever since she introduced her "boyfriend" Luke Reyna has been a lot more withdrawn. She's barely spoken to her in the past week, and when she does it's only when Luke isn't there. Whenever he is she just locks herself in her room and turns her music up all the way to drown them out, or makes up some kind of excuse to leave the apartment. Thalia wishes she would stay, wishes desperately that she wouldn't leave her alone with him. But she can't tell her, she can't say a thing, and she's running out of concealer. He's sticking to her like glue, and it is infuriating and scary at the same time. he knows if he stays he's still got her trapped, so he stays. He makes sure she's trapped. He knows every little dirty secret, and he's ready to use them. Especial that one, that one that got her into this whole mess. He won't let go, he's like a leech that's stuck to her back, she just can't reach him to pull him off, and the only person who can is oblivious, and must be kept that way. The leech is stuck, and it's draining. This is worth it, she tells herself, this is worth it. You have to, Reyna is too much to loose. Reyna, is worth it, no matter how bad it gets, Reyna is always worth it.
Luke is frustrated. Thalia's stupid roommate is way to smart for her own good. She already suspects something is up, and Thalia's horrible acting skills are not helping. The girl's room is cleaner then a quarantine zone. Nothing, and Luke knows nothing, nothing in there is anything that could be used to get rid of her. No one is that clean, and anytime he does find something, Thalia already knows, and doesn't care. Nothing, nothing will get rid of that stupid Latino girl, and if Luke can't get rid of her, it's only a matter of time before he's caught. And he's not going back, he's never going back there. He isn't going to make the same mistake the 16 year-old version of himself did. He's going to be sneaky, and he's not going to get caught, even if that means that some people will have to disappear.
Hylla is angry. She's beyond angry, she's furious. Her sister and her room mate are both complete idiots. They are not fooling anyone with their stupid love games, and it's honestly making her sick. She knows that Reyna has a colossal crush on Thalia, like the only way she could be more obvious was if she had a flashing sign taped to her forehead. She's known that Thalia had a crush on Reyna since she met the girl in Reyna's 7th grade year. Her eyes literally changed into hearts when she looked at her. The fact that Thalia just got a boyfriend, when she's the most obvious lesbian she's ever met, her sister included, is like punching her square between the eyes. Hylla did not raise her sister since she was 18 to see her become a complete moron in the lane of romance. Percy, might actually win the bet if she can't get them together withing the next two years. Hylla Ramirez-Allreno does NOT lose bets, ever.
Piper is suspicious. There's a girl that comes into her beauty salon every week on Thursday, and every time she buys nothing except concealer and skin care products. The kind you would get if you were covering up a tattoo, but the girl is tattoo-less. She can tell because of all the different times she's come in. At first she just thought that she must have a scare or something, but the more often she comes, the more Piper can see why she's getting it. The girl is no stranger to the products, but still, a trained eye can see the massive amounts of make up covering her skin. She's basically coated in it, like she just jumped into a bathtub of it rather then applying it. A person with a really good eye can see the bruises underneath, the awkward way of standing, the lowered head at the register, and the constant avoidance of eye contact. After spending three months living with her aunt and step-uncle as a child, she recognizes those characteristics. She tries to be nice, and help the girl, but she always just dodges the questions, and she's worried. Because she didn't come in this week, and Piper has a strong belief that she may not be alive if she doesn't show up. Piper only wants to help, but the dark haired girl, doesn't want help, and her blue eyes are slowly cracking more then her make-up.
Maybe Reyna is just being paranoid, or maybe she just hates Luke so much that her mind is making up more excuses to hate him, but she could've sworn that last night she had awaken to a scream. Thalia's scream. Reyna would know that sound anywhere, because Thalia never screams, unless she's on top of a building, and when she does it it ear piercing and it will shatter your windows. Reyna rushes into Thalia's bedroom, hair hanging loosely around her face, and eyes bleary from sleep. Thalia is curled up on her bed, Luke carefully sat next to her, stroking her shoulders, tears are streaming down the blue eyed girl's face.
"What happened?!" Reyna yelled and ran to Thalia's side and immediately going into mother bear mode. Thalia recognizes it from 9th grade, the worst year of her life, and the year that Reyna basically threatened to strangle the entire high-school student body. But, she can't tell her the truth, can't say the real reason why she let out that god awful, pathetic sound.
"J-Just a nightmare, really Reyna I'm fine," she whispered, not trusting her voice if she spoke any louder. Reyna, was having none of it though. She knew Thalia too well, and she could see her trying to pull herself away from Luke. Her eyes are smoldering as she turns to glare at the older Blonde boy.
"You best go back to your place, I'll take care of her. Go, now," It wasn't a question, and there was no debate in her gaze. Luke started to protest, but Reyna's eyes just hardened, and the boy got the message. Leave now, or Reyna will forcibly drag you out by the throat. He stood and quietly let himself out. Reyna carefully settled herself beside her in Luke's place, and Thalia forces herself not to wince when she touches her shoulders.
"Tell me what really happened? Did that bastard hurt you, because I swear to the gods if he did-" Reyna started and Thalia shook her head wildly, making the world spin mildly, note to self, make sure that she didn't let her head close to the head board from now on.
"No, no, no, no. Reyna, relax please, I'm not hurt, I just... It's complicated," she muttered quietly, and Reyna was obviously not buying it. Although she knew it was wrong to do this to her, it was the only way to keep her next to her, so she put on her best puppy-dog eyes and let her body relax the most it would. "I'm fine Reyna, it was just a dream. Please don't take this out of proportion," she muttered to the older girl. Reyna sighed, caving in, but still not buying it.
"Fine, but you two are not allowed to go anywhere without me from now on. I want to keep an eye on that boy," she grumbled and gently wrapped an arm over Thalia's shoulders. Thalia bit back a curse, and Reyna definitely noticed, but didn't say anything about it. Thalia inwardly cheered at the words "You two are not allowed to go anywhere without me," because that meant that she had Reyna's protection. That meant she would actually have time to let some of it heal. Thalia lay her head on Reyna's shoulder, and let her eyes droop with exhaustion.
"Alright, just please don't kill him if he does something stupid, like accidentally step on my toe," she muttered, attempting to joke. Reyna snorts quietly.
"If he steps on your toe, he will avoid murder, but not a broken arm," she said back quietly. Thalia is asleep before she can hear the end of the sentence.
Chapter 2: What happens behind closed doors
Thalia brings home her new boyfriend and Reyna absolutely hates him. Things don't quite add up about about this mysterious boy, and a lot of people see it, not just the people that Thalia calls friend.
Reyna sighed from her position in the darkened theater. She knew it was stupid, but she honestly couldn't bring herself to leave the two of them alone. If it was worry about what happened behind closed doors, or jealousy that made her follow them around like a lost puppy, she wasn't sure. In any case that meant that she was now stuck in a darkened theater sand-whiched between an older blonde lady and random black guy who looked like he had the plague. Reyna watched the two shapes beneath her, curled up in the light of the movie, her friend's head resting on the shoulder of her Boyfriend, who appeared to be asleep. Dark, barely controlled rage burned in her stomach at the sight of that golden blonde hair. She knew there was something wrong with that boy, and after finding bruises on Thalia's wrists she was starting to have an inkling as to what. Unfortunately something deeply troubled her about that Idea. If Thalia was being abused by Luke, why didn't she tell her, and more importantly, why would she let him. Thalia was remarkably strong for her size, and a great fighter if her years in Karate had taught her anything, so there was no possible way for Luke, even if he was bigger and stronger then her, could do anything to her unless she let him. What could possibly posses Thalia so much that would make her allow someone to touch her like that? What? Of course, that was if he was abusing her, which Reyna doubted by the lose, comforted position her friend was in right now next to him, so that one was out the window.
Reyna sighed again and glanced down the theater aisle until she saw a familiar face and frowned. There, sitting near the front next to a girl with choppy brown hair, was their Bass player Percy Jackson. Was he on a date? Maybe, considering he had a girl with him, and had his arm around her, but she had learned a long time ago to expect the least likely situation with Percy, so a date probably wasn't it. She checked her watch in the weak lighting. Twenty more minutes until the movie was over, maybe afterword she could go interrogate her friend and leave the love birds to make goo-goo eyes at each other in peace.
"Wait, what?" Thalia asked giving her friend a strange look.
"I saw Percy here with some girl, I'm going to go check it out. I'll meet you by the car afterword, okay?" Reyna said and waved at her before taking off down the aisle, leaving Thalia alone with her "boyfriend."
"C'mon honey, let's go wait by the car," Luke said in a sickly sweet tone. Thalia swallowed nervously, and tried to ignore the beat of her heart speeding up, or the fight or flight instincts kicking in as she was dragged by and Iron grip towards the car.
"I swear I didn't say a thing," she pleaded with the taller man. Luke just sent her an Ice cold glare.
"Shut the fuck up, bitch," he snarled and slammed her into the side of the car. Her spine screamed in protest and she could feel old bruises throbbing. "I know you told her, how else would she be to fucking protective. She's been watching us like a hawk. She knows so stop pretending that you didn't tell her," He grabbed her chin and squeezed. Pain laced through Thalia's skull and she instinctively kicked him in the balls.
"I didn't tell her, dick!" she yelled and Luke grunted in pain. Thalia finally realized what she'd done and swallowed nervously. "I-I," she stuttered, but Luke towered over her.
"You're going to wish you hadn't done that," he growled and the only thing Thalia registered of the next couple seconds was pain. Then she lay on the pavement, the taste of blood in her mouth, and a pain in her chest. She coughed and blood stained the pavement. Her vision blured, dancing in and out of focus. Luke hauled her to her feet. She could feel the skin around her eyes swelling shut and for a moment the only thing she could wonder was why he had stopped. Then she heard the ringing of her cellphone. Luke shoved the device up to her ear as she swallowed her shaking breath.
"H-Hello..." she muttered into the phone.
"Hey, Thalia. Sorry, but Listen I'm going to go hang out with Percy and his cousin for the rest of the day. You and your boyfriend can go home without me. I'll be back late probably. Don't get any Idea's though. Okay?" Reyna said from the other end and Thalia swallowed a cry of despair. She was going to be alone, with him. Which meant she was going to need to wear long sleeves for the next couple days, and bandages.
"Alright..." she whispered into the phone.
"Great, see ya later. Bye," Reyna said.
Luke took the phone and pushed her against the car. Her vision cleared for a few moments, so she could see the blood staining his hands and the cold, crazed smile on his lips. She could see the dead glint of his blue eyes, her fingers trembled. Her chest shook, and her entire body ached with what she knew was coming. "Well, looks like it's going to be my lucky day," he murmured.
Chapter 3: Too late
Thalia couldn't remember what it felt like not to be in pain. The last three weeks had been pure torture, every step felt like she was walking barefoot on broken glass. Every movement sent sparks of agony radiating up her spine, but just laying in bed hurt an equal amount. The worst part was she couldn't show it, couldn't scream when she accidentally reopened a cut, couldn't let her face screw up in agony when she was watching a movie with Reyna, and she accidentally touched a spot on her arm that was still tender. Couldn't fall down sobbing and cursing during a concert after she did the splits and felt the muscles in between her legs pop in protest. She couldn't let herself crack, or show the agony that cut through her armor like butter. She lost herself in the music that poured from her words, let her lyrics and songs be silent cries for help, pleas for someone, anyone to save her. But nobody could.
Thalia was stuck, tied up in this web of lies she'd spun herself, and the lines just kept getting tighter. They sliced her skin, and choked her, they slowly and completely tightened, and Thalia didn't know for how much longer she could remain here without dying. Tonight was no exception.
Luke smirked down at her, blue eyes cold and unfeeling, Thalia whimpered helplessly as her blood turned to ice. The first strike was always the least painful, her cheek immediately swollen, old bruises and cuts that had never heals started to reopen as the blows came. Hard, heavy, and painful blows. Thalia was used to it by now. Nothing, nothing. She felt nothing and he continued to hit her. The blows were empty, they no longer held the same fear they had months ago on the poor girl. Thalia lay there, helpless, and numb as the blows continued, until her skin was completely black and blue, Luke snarled, looking frustrated that his toy no longer made shrieks of pain or cried when he hit it. Finally, he moved onto a different topic.
Thalia didn't remember what had happened next, all she remembered was for the first time in months she had shrieked in pain, that her whole body had gone limp, that she truly was helpless. It burned like fire through her body. Agony pulsing through her veins and her skin was ripped. Her breath had left her in loud shrieks.
"Help me!" she had cried, "Save me!" she had screamed, but...
no one heard.
no one came.
no one saved her.
she was alone...
Reyna sighed softly upon entering her apartment, carefully dropping her suitcase on the sofa and falling after it. It was three in the afternoon, but for the exhausted girl it might as well have been three in the morning. She made no effort to get up, and instead just closed her eyes.
"Thalia! I'm back from Spain!" she called into the quiet house. No response. Reyna frowned and slowly reopened an eye. No one. The apartment was an utter mess, clothes covered the floor, pizza boxes lay in random places and for some reason there was a plastic sword balanced on top of the TV. Beer cans littered the floor right next to the couch and all across the coffee table. Reyna suddenly shot to her feet.
Beer cans?! Now she knew something was wrong. Thalia hated alcohol and wouldn't touch the stuff with a ten foot pole. No way in hell she would drink it, especially when Reyna wasn't around. Meaning only one thing. Luke had been here. Reyna suddenly felt something akin to worry spiral around her. Swallowing hard, Reyna ran towards Thalia's bedroom.
"Thalia?!" she called right as she burst through the door, and froze.
Her eyes widened in horror and all her worries, suspicions, and fears came crashing down on her shoulders with the force of a freight train. Her stomach clenched, chest tightened, and she found it impossible to move or breathe.
Thalia lay strewn across her bed in a completely unnatural position. Her eyes were closed, and her entire bed was soaked in blood. Her friend's normally pale skin had turned into one giant bruise, small, infected looking, cuts covered her face and arms. Blood, streaming from the place between her legs showed exactly what had been done to her. So, much blood, and Thalia was scarely breathing. Reyna slowly regained the ability to move and lunged forward, clutching onto her friend's hand, her skin like ice.
"Thalia, oh god Thalia," she pleaded with the dark haired girl, but the girl remained unresponsive. "Hold on Thalia, please hold on," She pulled out her phone.
"Hello, please state your emergency..." the monotone voice said from the other end.
"M-My friend, she's been beaten, badly. She's unconscious and bleeding a ton..." she muttered into the receiver, feeling oddly numb as she stared at the girl she had, for so long, cared for, and trusted.
"Yes, ma'am, we have your location and are sending an ambulance now, please remain calm." Reyna still clutched onto Thalia's hand like it was life line. She couldn't believe this happened. That she had let this happen. Who knew how long that bastard had been doing this to Thalia? Oh god... they had been together for 4 months.. did that mean.. all this time, right under her nose, he had been dong this to her.
Reyna, started to hyperventilate. No, no, no he couldn't have. She would've known, would've stopped him. No one, no one would ever touch her Thalia like that, and live to tell the day. But it had... and he was free, and unconcerned. Rage, pure rage poured through her veins. She had let this happen, and now Thalia was bleeding to death right in front of her. And it was all her fault. Reyna hadn't cried since seventh grade since her dad... bit the dust... but now, at this moment. The proud, stern, and cold twenty three year old, fell to her knees sobbing, and holding onto the one she loved tightly.
Chapter 4: Closets are dark
Thalia awoke to the soft humming of hospital machines. There was a blinding, artificial light above her face, and she was covered head to toe in bandages. She could barely see, and her entire world was spinning. She let out a soft groan of pain and closed her eyes, exhaustion plain on her face. Then, memories, cold and harsh, slapped across her face and Thalia's eyes flew open.
"Luke!" she screamed, flying into a sit up position, only to have her vision wash black. Thalia gasped for air, coldness splashing around her and her stomach shivered. The girl's vision danced in and out of the blackness as pain laced up her spine. Then, there were arms around her, a voice she couldn't understand in her ear, but it felt familiar. That voice, it was home. The voice was murmuring words the girl couldn't understand, but Thalia relaxed into the arms that held her, knowing the arms belonged to the voice. She was safe, she was sure of it, as long as those arms held her she was safe. The blackness rushed up to take her again.
The next time she awoke the arms were gone, an so was the uncomfortable light. It was dark this time, and Thalia slowly opened her eyes, only to have the memories come rushing back as soon as she did. Pain that was no longer being inflicted rushed up her spine, and a sob came between Thalia's lips. Agony, pure agony was racing around her, along with his voice.
"Worthless!" it yelled, "goddamn it you little whore! Disgusting! I can't believe you even have friends!" Thalia could feel the world shaking around her, shattering, breaking apart. Then the arms were there again, gently pulling her close to a familiar warmth. The voice, coming to chase away that of the boy's. Warm, and gentle.
"I've got you, I promise," the voice whispered and Thalia felt the tears slipping and she gently nestled her head in the voice's chest. There was a soft chuckle, then they gently lifted Thalia's face. "Come on buddy, You're going to be okay," the girl promised. Two eyes like those of the embers of a fire, glowed softly at her.
"Reyna," Thalia managed to murmur. Her own voice sounded hoarse and empty, like she had none of it left. She coughed after the word, as if speaking it was poison on her throat.
"You scared the hell out of me," the other girl said gently and leaned down to rest her forehead upon Thalia's. Thalia just stared into those deep dark eyes. Reyna's smile slowly melted away to be replaced by a look of pure sorrow, and pain. A single tear slipped down her cheek.
"Th-thalia," she whispered, and guilt twisted the stomach of Thalia, like a dying snake. "Why?" Reyna asked and Thalia closed her eyes, not wanting to answer the question. Not just because it defeated the entire purpose, but also because she was ashamed. Ashamed of what the answer was, and how pitiful of an excuse it was. No, there was no excuse to what she had let that man do to her. None, and Reyna knew that, but still she looked so hurt, so worried so... Thalia didn't know what to call it.
"Please," Reyna begged gently and lifted her face with her hand. Their eyes met and Thalia could feel the tears threatening to spill down her face. No, she'd done enough crying, she needed to snap out of it and get her shit together. She wasn't some creature to be defeated so easily. How many times had she told herself that? A hundred? A thousand? Whenever she'd had too much of him. This time, however, she couldn't even pretend to believe it, and she closed her eyes.
"Because I'm an idiot, and I was scared," she whispered, that was part of it, but nearly the whole truth. Reyna didn't buy it though, she was too smart for that. Reyna lay a hand on her shoulder, trying to meet her eyes, no matter how much Thalia attempted to avoid them.
"You and I both know It was more than that. Thalia, please. I wont be mad, I promise." she assured and Thalia swallowed the butterflies dancing in the pit of her stomach, not really the appropriate time. She didn't want to speak, she desperately didn't want to say a thing about her motives, but those dark eyes of her friends pried it out of her.
"I-I was an idiot," she repeated, and lowered her face, unable to meet her eyes. "I met Luke, we had been friends when we were younger, I didn't think he would've become so... evil. He knew most of my secrets, but he knew one of them I really didn't want to be shared. So, of course he threatened to if I didn't cooperate. and I did, because I was a stupid, naive little girl. Then, it started to get really bad, and at that point I didn't care anymore, I was going to stop him, get rid of him. I had enough, but... but then he threatened to hurt you if I didn't stay... so I did. Oh gods, why am I so stupid," Thalia whispered and hid her face in hands, expecting Reyna to be at least a little angry. All of this, this stupid pain and torture over a stupid secret that she was pretty sure half the world had already figured out. Instead Thalia was met with a warm embrace and gentle hands playing with her hair. Thalia rolled over and buried her face in Reyna's shoulder.
"You're not an idiot," Reyna promised and Thalia suppressed the urge to protest. There was no point in arguing with Reyna, even if you knew she was wrong, she would still win. "Look, I know all about keeping secrets for no apparent reason, and feeling bad when people figure it out. Even if it's kinda obvious. I've spent our entire adult lives running from a secret half the world already knows, just because I'm scared of admitting it to myself." the taller girl whispered in Thalia's eyes widened. She looked up at Reyna, the other girl's dark eyes glittering in the dim light.
"D-Do you mean...?" she asked and Reyna smiled sadly.
"I think we've both been running from this for too long," she answered and took her hand, Thalia's blood pumped a thousand miles per hour. Was this actually going where she thought it was going? Reyna's nose was resting against hers.
"Say it with me?" she asked and Thalia could barely muster the courage to nod, much less speak, but the glimmer of something Thalia suspected was beyond that of friendship glinted in Reyna. And looking into the eyes of the girl she trusted, she pushed the words to her lips and let them fill the air around her. Reyna's voice at the same moment.
"I'm Gay." they both whispered to each other, and Thalia felt a childlike grin spread across her face. Reyna laughed, actually laughed. A sight so rare that it still made Thalia feel like she was hearing it for the first time. It reminded her of church bells, ringing and echoing in her head.
"How does it feel to get out of that closet, Grace?" she teased and Thalia felt the smirk tugging at the corners of her lips.
"Blinding, there's too much sun," she joked back and Reyna poked her playfully. Thalia smiled, shadows of a boy with blonde hair slowly leaving her mind, in the favor of the light that was her best friend. Her best friend who was oblivious to the fact she had almost kissed her.
Thalia was oblivious to the fact she'd almost done the same.
Chapter 5: Blonde Boys Are Not To Be Trusted
Thalia comes home from the hospital, only to find a special guest waiting for her.
Hey guys, sorry that it's been a while, but writer's block is a dick, also exams. hopefully I'll write more this summer-M
Luke had been arrested a week before Thalia came back to her apartment, but part of her was still scared that when she opened the door to the apartment he'd be sitting on the couch waiting for her. For a solid three seconds it seemed that that fear had come true. In her living room sat a tall blonde haired boy with light blue eyes and a scar on his face. Thalia yelped in terror, and jumped back into the hallway, and was already half-way down the stairs before she registered that Reyna was chasing after her.
"Thalia!" she yelled and Thalia froze around the second floor, panting and shaking. All she could see was him, him and his stupid voice. She was there again, helplessly pinned to the ground as he struck her again and again. Arms wrapped around her and she started thrashing.
"Let me go! Let me go!" fear made her voice crack. She sounded like a child throwing a tantrum, but Thalia was too scared to register it. Luke. He had her, she was sure of it.
"Thalia, calm down, it's me. It's me," the voice promised and slowly Thalia opened her eyes. Reyna was holding her up, looking concerned and scared at the same time. Thalia swallowed down her shrieks of terror and looked around in confusion. Where was Luke? He had just been there, she was sure of it.
"Are you okay? You just started running and then you were screaming like you were having some kind of spasm attack. Do you need anything? Should I call the doctor?" Reyna asked and it took a moment for Thalia to register that she had not in fact been attacked by Luke.
"N-No.. I.. I'm okay. Ju-Just jumpy I guess," Thalia whimpered and started to stand up, only to nearly fall over when she saw the blonde boy descending the stairs, looking concerned.
"Thals, what happened?" he asked and ran over. Thalia jumped and instinctively hid behind Reyna, wrapping a hand around her crutch, prepared to use it as a weapon if the boy came any closer. Reyna looked just as confused as the blonde boy, then understanding flickered in her eyes and she held up a hand to stop the boy from coming any closer.
"Wait," she told him and turned back to Thalia. "It's okay, Luke's gone, I promise. He's gone, and he wont be coming back." she said, but Thalia's expression didn't look convinced. Her eyes were hollow with fear and Reyna could practically see Thalia struggling through the memories of the older blonde boy.
"He's gone, I promise," she repeated and gently grabbed Thalia's shoulders to force her to look at her in the eyes. Thalia was hyperventilating.
"Luke," Thalia mumbled, and started to tremble again. Reyna grabbed Thalia and gently ran her fingers through her hair, hopefully a sign that she wasn't going to hurt her. Thalia blinked, as if waking up from a dream. She stared at Reyna for a couple more seconds, before finally seeming to completely understand what had just happened. She clapped a hand over her mouth and tears started in her eyes.
"Oh my god, Jason I-I.." she whispered and Reyna finally relaxed, releasing her friend, who moved over to her brother who looked just as confused as he was worried for his big sister's mental health. Thalia limped forward and hugged her brother tightly, he gently hugged her back.
"H-Hey it's okay, you've been through a lot," he mumbled and Reyna started to consider that she probably should've given Thalia more warning, but then again she hadn't exactly known Jason was coming until he had showed up at the apartment this morning, still a phone call would've been a good idea.
Thalia felt like she'd just stepped off of a bridge and was falling through the sky towards certain doom. She'd just mistaken her own brother for a psychopathic murderer who had sexually abused her! Maybe now was the time to consider seeing a therapist, but Jason didn't seem to mind. Maybe he understood this was an accident that was completely out of Thalia's control, or maybe he just didn't know enough to understand what had just happened, either way, he helped her up the stairs and back into her apartment.
"You two need anything? Tea? Food? Psychiatric hospital?" Reyna asked, and Thalia laughed weakly.
"I'm fine Reyna, just.. please don't leave us alone," she muttered and tried to convey a silent message with her eyes. Reyna nodded, and understood immediately what she meant. Thalia didn't know if another one of those, whatever that was, would happen again, and she wanted her support right now. Thalia sat on the couch, Reyna carefully flopping down beside her. Thalia let herself relax as she wrapped her arms around her stomach. Jason sat across from them in the arm chair.
"So..." he began quietly and sighed, "if it isn't too much, could one of you explain exactly what happened?" he asked and Reyna and Thalia exchanged glances. Thalia swallowed nervously and looked at her feet. Reyna sighed.
"It's a bit of a long story, but the basics are a man name Luke Castellen... er... sexually abused Thalia," Reyna mumbled and Thalia shut her eyes tightly, trying desperately not to imagine him. Not to see him, trying to force herself not to remember the feeling of his fingers digging through her skin. She swallowed a cry of terror. She was safe, she reminded herself, Luke was gone. Luke was gone. Jason had gone from concerned to outright distraught. He looked at Thalia as expecting her to tell him it wasn't true. Thalia only stared at the bandages covering her arms and legs.
"Thals, you didn't really, actually go back to Luke did you?" Jason asked, Thalia winced so badly that she almost fell off the couch.
"I... I was an Idiot," she whispered and Jason shook his head.
"More like suicidal, did you not remember why he left in the first place? Murder, Thalia! He committed Murder!" He growled and Thalia snapped.
"Well it wasn't like I went searching for him!" she snarled and Jason's eyes hardened. "He came after me! He knew that I used to care about him, so he came after me! He had dirt on me, he had things to hold over my head so he came after me! I didn't just go searching for a man who had killed someone!" Thalia was standing now, and Reyna carefully reached up to pull her back down, but Thalia only shrugged her off. Jason took a deep breath.
"Thalia, I don't blame you for what happened-" Jason began, but Thalia cut him off.
"Really? Because that's sure what it sounded like!" she shouted.
"But, for crying out loud for once in your life can you just let your pride go? Because right now, if it weren't for your pride you wouldn't be in this mess." Jason finished and Thalia stared at him quietly for a moment.
"My pride? You think I got into this mess because of my pride?" she hissed and Jason stood, towering over his sister.
"Yes, your pride! You said it yourself, you said he had secrets, and dirt on you, well if your ego wasn't so big and you weren't so concerned about getting a little bit of dirt on you, then you wouldn't have cared about what he had to say!"
"My ego?! You do realize I'm in a band right? If I had let him say those secrets than it would've been all over the news network before you could say whoops, and that's a whole other can of worms entirely!"
"Now, you sound like mom!" Silence. Dead silence fell across the room, Thalia looked appalled, and Jason looked like he'd just shot someone, Reyna on the other hand looked like she'd just been stretched out like salt water taffy and then used for tug of war.
"I-I," Jason began, but Thalia held up a hand.
"That's enough." she whispered and Jason swallowed.
"Thalia I.. I didn't mean-"
"I said that's enough!" she snarled and Jason winced. "Just go, I'll call you later." her voice diminished back into a whispered and Jason carefully left the room. Thalia sank back into the couch.
"Thalia, please don't," Reyna started, but it was already too late. Thalia dug her nails into the palms of her hands.
"He said I was like mom," Thalia muttered and Reyna sighed.
"Thalia, you're no-"
"Yes Reyna, I am." Thalia interrupted and closed her eyes. "If I'd just not been so goddamn scared about something half the world already knows this wouldn't have happened." Reyna shook her head.
"You have a right to be scared, it's a big thing to admit, and you know that Jason doesn't know what it is. If he knew that Luke was threatening you with outting you, than he'd think twice about saying it was your pride." Reyna tried to reassure, but Thalia just shook her head.
"I don't want to argue anymore tonight, so can you just.. get me something to eat or.. I don't know. Watch a movie?" Thalia suggested, and as worried as Reyna was, she knew better than to push Thalia.
"Alright, you want me to see if I can scratch something up, or just order a pizza?" she asked and Thalia smiled weakly.
"You know who I am right?" she asked and Reyna laughed softly.
"Pizza it is," she said and went to get her phone. As soon as Reyna had left the room Thalia let the smile crumble and put her head in her hands.
"You just had to mention mom, didn't you Jason," she whispered and pressed her eyes closed. She remembered the woman and her curly blonde hair. Beryl Grace, TV star and everyone's favorite mom. Also known as the devil woman and the source of all of Thalia's nightmares up until... well up until Luke really. Great, Jason just had to go and mention her and send Thalia on a trip down memory lane. Was she really turning into mom? Well, Jason was right, it had been her own fault that she'd gotten trapped with Luke. Because of that she had caused emotional stress on the people she cared about. Great, now all she had to do was bleach her hair blonde and have a drinking problem. Thalia tried to chase away the tears, suddenly Reyna walked back into the room, looking concerned, in her hand she held a small orange pill bottle.
"Thalia, why are your pills all sitting in this bottle?" Reyna asked and Thalia looked in the opposite direction. Reyna sighed. "Thalia! Look, I know you've been through a lot in the past couple months, but goddamn it! You have to take your medicine!" she sounded more worried than angry, but Thalia still felt vulnerable, exposed.
"I just... you know I have those things," Thalia muttered and Reyna sighed, opening the bottle and handing Thalia a couple pills the size of a ladybug.
"Take them, now." Reyna said and handed her a cup of water. Thalia swallowed the pills and Reyna placed the bottle in the kitchen.
"I haven't done this in nearly two years now, but I will I have to," she said and Thalia sighed.
"I'm sorry. I just... I don't have an excuse,"
"And you shouldn't. These things are supposed to help you Thalia, they can't if you don't take them."
"Well it's not my fault that I was diagnosed with depression!" Thalia snapped, but Reyna didn't bat an eye at her outburst.
"I know that, but that doesn't change the fact that you have to take the pills," she reminded her and Thalia sighed.
"I.. I know. I'm sorry. Okay? I'm sorry everything over the past 4 months I just can't stand the Idea that I was such an idiot." Thalia calmed and Reyna wrapped her arms around her room mate.
"You weren't an idiot, you were scared, and you have every right to be scared." Reyna promised and Thalia closed her eyes, leaning back against her room mate.
"Why are you so nice to me?" Thalia asked and Reyna smiled.
"Because I love you, dork." she said and Thalia felt her stomach do a little back-flip. She grinned like an idiot, but almost as soon as she did she let the grin fade. Reyna didn't mean it like that, she tried to remind herself.
"I love you too," she whispered and Reyna felt her cheeks flush, glad that Thalia was facing the other direction and unable to see her.
Chapter 6: And I Will Haunt You Fucking Dreams
Nightmares are one thing. Something so vivid that you can feel the flesh being torn off your bones and the blood running down your face are another. At least that's what Thalia says, and she should know, she’s had both. She’s had every nightmare, from falling to her death, to being forced to watch her six month year old brother get a beating from her mother. This, was not a nightmare. This, was hell. Living, breathing, painful, hell. He grabbed her by the neck and Thalia screamed, desperately, helplessly, and oh god it was such a pitiful sound. Everything in Thalia’s being winced at the sound. No, she wouldn’t do it. She refused. She wouldn’t become her mother. Her body thrashed wildly, she kicked at him, but he just slammed her body into the wall. Momentarily stunning the girl, and that’s all he needed.
She was pinned to the wall and no matter how hard she tried to push him away she couldn’t. His fingers dug into her wrists as he planted kisses across her neck. She shivered, his lips felt like fire, burning her skin. Disgust and revulsion running up and down her spine as she curled away from him, her lunch rising in her throat. He growled and dug his teeth into hr skin right at the bottom of the neck, and Thalia yelled, blood pouring from another one of those stupid marks on her neck. She managed to get a leg free and kneed him in the crotch. He grunted, pulling away for a moment and she tried to make a break for it.
Thalia only made it a couple steps before he grabbed her by the back of the neck.
“Get away from me!” she screamed, but he yanked her back, she felt the bones in her arm snap as he yanked her down. She yelled and he sunk his hand into her skin again, sinking deeper than muscle into her. The tears staining her cheeks were hot and felt like fire on her skin. She kicked and thrashed desperately, but it was no use, he had her now, and she felt…. Felt stained. Her skin crawled under his touch. Her stomach lurched as he trailed his fingers down her body. All she could do was scream as he ripped her clothes off. No, not again, not again. She had no where to go, nothing to do. She was already choking on her own blood, but he wouldn’t stop. No, he enjoyed it. He laughed as she thrashed beneath him, desperate to get away. All she could see was him, all she could hear was his horrible laugh, like broken glass on a chalk board.
“Thalia! Thalia!” a voice called, and the voice wasn’t his. It was softer, kinder, more solid. Real. The voice was solid. Her eyes snapped open and in the darkness that was her bedroom she could make out the silhouette of her roommate. Reyna looked concerned and a little startled herself.
“Wh-Wha-” Thalia choked out, her voice hoarse and half-drowned in her own tears. She swallowed, her mouth tasting too much like salt for her liking. Reyna, just pulled the slightly shorter girl into a tight embrace. Thalia blinked the sleep out of her eyes and leaned against the taller girl.
“Thank god. You were screaming in your sleep,” the other girl whispered to Thalia, who winced in response.
“So-Sorry,” her voice was much too scratchy and shaky for Thalia’s liking. Her insides crawling at how pathetic she sounded. “J-Just a bad dream.” No, that wasn’t a dream. That was a fucking memory, and oh god why.
“Thalia,” Reyna mumbled, knowing the older girl much too well.
“What,” Thalia whispered, determined to keep her voice from shaking.
“That was not ‘just a bad dream’ I… I heard you say his name.” Thalia flinched so bad she whacked her head against the head board of the bed. No, no, no, no. A image flashing in her vision, his evil smile, eyes as cold as ice. His voice was grinding into her ears. She clamped her hands over her ears as if to block him out. No, you can’t block out your own mind.
“Fucking cunt,” his voice growled in her ears as she clawed at them. “Miserable little bitch. No one will ever love you, so why do you even fight me? I’m just giving you what no one else will? You think anyone else will even want you? What? With all these fucking scars? You aren’t even worth my spit, so why don’t you just shut your fucking mouth and cooperate?!” Thalia felt her eyes burning with tears she refused to cry.
“Thalia? Thalia, please,” a voice that wasn’t his whispered and her vision cleared for a moment. Reyna was holding her hands, the tips of her fingers were covered in a suspicious red liquid, and that’s when Thalia realized that her ears hurt.Thalia tried for a reassuring smile.
“Reyna, please go back to bed, I can take care of myself,” she tried to reassure the other girl, but Reyna just looked sad at her words.
“Thalia, please don’t lie to me,” Reyna said bluntly and pulled Thalia back into her arms. Thalia could feel the dam in her mind cracking, but no. She refused to cry in front of Reyna. She had already put too much of her emotional baggage on the taller girl. It just wouldn’t be fair to dump more on her.
“Thalia,” Reyna said again and put a hand on the side of the older girl’s face, tilting it upwards so she’d look her in the eyes. “Please, don’t shut me out. You know that I’m your best friend right? I’m here to help you bare whatever’s got you. Look, no one expects you to get over that asshole in a couple weeks. No one’s expecting you to just turn right back into your old happy self, but if you don’t let yourself get it out of your system it’s just going to take longer for you to get better. Please don’t bottle it up.”
The Hispanic girl knew Thalia too well, and sometimes that was a good thing. Thalia felt the tears on the edge of her vision, and turned away from Reyna. Why did the girl have to be so goddamn smart?! The tears on her cheeks felt hot and her body shook in sobs, the urge to throw up overcoming the rest of her senses and she stumbled to the trash can. Reyna stood instantly and gently pat her back as she emptied the contents of her stomach, which the taller girl pretended not to notice, wasn’t much. Thalia’s legs buckled and the taller girl was already there to catch her. She scooped up the shorter girl and carried her to her own room.
“Rey-Reyna,” Thalia tried to protest, but Reyna just shook her head.
“Nope, you’re sick, having nightmares, and very badly injured, you are not sleeping on your own,” she said and Thalia let a smirk play at her lips, bouncing her eyebrows. The taller girl’s cheeks turned the color of the sunset. “Get your mind out of the gutter!” she protested and Thalia let a laugh that didn’t quite reach her eyes, escape her mouth. A sad smile played at Reyna’s lips, like she knew that Thalia’s heart wasn’t in it.
“Thanks,” Thalia whispered, voice almost inaudible as Reyna lay her on her bed. Reyna’s bedroom was much different from her own. Whereas Thalia’s bedroom was covered in posters from assorted metal and alternative bands, with the walls painted red, and floor scarcely left with room to see the carpet; Reyna’s was clean. The walls were painted a dark purple, one even decorated with a mural of a starry sky.
Thalia remembered when Reyna had painted it, she’d had one of her friend’s over from university, some girl named Rachel, and they’d painted the walls together. They’d made so much noise Thalia had walked in, half expecting to see they had murdered someone. Instead she’d found her roommate covered head to toe in purple paint and laughing in a very un-reyna-like way. The taller girl had grinned as soon as Thalia walked through the door and started throwing paint at her as well. They had wrestled for about ten minutes, all three of them covered in paint and laughing like five-year-olds. Thalia’s shirt was still purple.
“Don’t thank me, I didn’t do anything,” Reyna said and carefully pulled up the covers on her bed to allow Thalia to crawl under. The bed was much bigger than Thalia’s own, the sheets a warm maroon color. Once Thalia had lay down and Reyna had draped the blanket over the two of them, Thalia felt like she was being swallowed in the fabric. For a brief second she was reminded of when Reyna and herself were only starting out as friends and Reyna had invited her over for the first time. They had nearly killed each other with pillows, successfully eaten three entire boxes of chocolate, and nearly gotten arrested, all before Hylla got home. Afterward they had both fallen asleep in the fort they had made out of the couch.
Maybe that was when Thalia realized she had a crush on her taller, or at that time, shorter friend. She had woken up before Reyna, only to find the other girl asleep with her head resting on Thalia’s shoulder. Thalia had spent about two seconds being embarrassed, and then she’d spent the rest of that time staring at Reyna. She was quite beautiful when she’d slept. Even as a kid Reyna had always seemed so much older and withdrawn than herself, but when she was asleep she could see her without all the defenses she had built for herself after her father bit the dust. She found the way the other girl mumbled in her sleep adorable, the way she had sleepily buried her face in Thalia’s shoulder was just plain cute.
It was still that way, Thalia knew, but right now Reyna wasn’t asleep. Right now Reyna was holding her tightly and Thalia could hear the beating of the other girl’s heart. Reyna smelled like cinnamon and hot chocolate, two things that Thalia knew she loved. The taller girl was just so purely herself that Thalia found it hard not to acknowledge the fact that she knew she was in love with her roommate. Yes, Thalia could admit that, to herself, but with how unwilling she was to take the chance with Reyna, there was no likelihood of her admitting that to anyone else. Reyna gently held Thalia close.
“I’ll wake you up if you have another nightmare,” Reyna whispered and Thalia nodded, burying her face in the other girl’s shoulder. She remembers when she used to be taller than Reyna. Remembers when she could use her head as an armrest. She remembered half way through freshmen year and the realization that over winter break her friend had grown taller than herself. She remembered the humor sparkling in Reyna’s eyes as Thalia frustratedly attempted to rest an arm on her head like she used to, and now had to step on her tiptoes to even get her arm on Reyna’s shoulder.
Thalia didn’t notice her eyes slowly drifting shut as she fell asleep in her best friend's arms. Reyna smiled at Thalia, who was now fast asleep. The shorter girl’s face had turned into a peaceful expression that was never seen on her face during wakefulness. Reyna kissed the girl’s forehead and for a terrifying three seconds Reyna thought she was going to wake up and she’s get caught, but Thalia just mumbled something like, “you’re too tall,” before settling back into sleep. A fond smile played at Reyna’s lips.
She was beginning to worry about Thalia’s mental health, she’d only been home for three days, and she’d already managed to argue with her brother five times, not sleep for two nights, and wake up screaming whenever she did manage to fall asleep. On top of that Thalia had scarcely eaten anything, no matter what it was, Reyna had even bought Thalia her favorite junk food just in an attempt to get something in her stomach, but Thalia had just mumbled that she wasn’t hungry and proceeded to curl up on the couch and play Halo 4 for five hours. All of Thalia’s smiles seemed forced, and Reyna didn’t want to admit how much her heart ached when she caught Thalia crying in her room. She tried not to let it show that every single sob that escaped the older girl made her body physically ache. She wanted to scream that it just wasn’t fair. Thalia hadn’t done anything to deserve what that man had done to her, but it had still happened, and it still hurt.
Thalia tried to hide it, but Reyna could see her smile cracking. She could feel the playful, carefree, happy Thalia she knew slipping from her fingertips. She knew that she wasn’t just in pain from Luke, something else inside her had died, and she could feel it strangling the Thalia she knew and loved. Oh god it hurt. It hurt like she was the one going through it, but she knew all she could do was hold onto Thalia and try to pull her away from that edge, because she knew Thalia was seconds from going over. Besides. Thalia was scared of heights.
Chapter 7: you're not you when you're hungry
Thalia awoke with the sound of guitar ringing in her ears. Not the had, angry edge of an electric guitar that she’s gotten used to over the years, but rather the gentle strumming of an acoustic. The sound was sweet, and warm, and a whole lot calmer than the sound of an electric blaring right behind her. For a moment Thalia thought she was still asleep, until the acoustic player plucked a note in a way that Thalia knew was specific to one person’s playing style.
“If you keep playing like that you’ll hurt yourself,” Thalia managed to croak from beneath a pile of blankets. She heard a soft huff in response, and finally turned over to look at Reyna. Reyna looked gorgeous as ever, even with ruffled clothes and slightly messed up hair she managed to look put together. She had her dark acoustic pulled on her lap, gently plucking at the strings as if she were scared she’d break them.
“Glad to see you’re finally awake, if you slept any longer I’d have to leave without you,” Reyna murmured, her voice was still slightly raspy from sleep, and Thalia had to ignore the way it made her heart beat twice as fast, and her stomach jump to her throat.
“Leave? Leave where?” thalia muttered, sounding slightly congested from sleep. Reyna looked up at her with those dark eyes that seemed to reflect stars within them, a smile pulling at her lips. She carefully placed down her guitar.
“We have an interview today,” Reyna reminded Thalia gently, and Thalia immediately let out a groan, before flopping back onto the bed.
“I don’t think I’m ready for that,” Thalia admitted, and Reyna quirked an eyebrow.
“Is this a serious, ‘I’m not ready,’ or an ‘I don’t want to have human interaction,’ I’m not ready?” she asked and Thalia was quiet for a moment, before receiving a sigh from Reyna. “It’s the second one.” she decided.
“No.... It’s just, I don’t think I’m ready to answer all those stupid questions they’re bound to ask about what happened and… I’m not ready to talk about… him. ” Reyna was silent for a moment, and Thalia thought she might’ve scared her off, before the other girl spoke again.
“I understand, but we have to do this interview, well at least one of us does, but I don’t want to leave you alone…” Reyna trailed off, and Thalia managed to force out a throaty laugh that definitely sounded a lot more convincing than she felt.
“Reyna, I’m not a two year old, I can live without you for an hour or two,” she reassured, and Reyna sent her a worried look.
“Yeah, I know, you’re not a baby, but I still worry. Besides, what if you have another one of those… panic attacks and-” Thalia cut in before Reyna could go any furthur. She felt like just mentioning the… episodes… might trigger one, her throat already tightened, and she gripped onto the covers slightly.
“How about you call Jason, or someone to stay over, but seriously, Reyna I can take care of myself. I’m just a little… fragile right now,” Thalia was certain that had sounded better in her head. Reyna sent her a look.
“Are you sure you’ll be okay without me?” she asked and Thalia tried for a reassuring smile, but her throat felt tight. Her mind was fighting itself, part of it, the part that remembered her mother, wanted to push Reyna as far away as possible. It wanted her to leave, and not come back, it wanted her to move on with her life, and live it happily without such a useless leech like her. The other part of her brain was screaming not to let her out of her sight. That part wanted to grab onto Reyna and never let go, it didn’t want to let her go to the interview, because it fear she may not come back.
“I’ll be fine Rey, I promise I’ll call you if I need anything,” she promised, and Reyna sighed, looking a little less worried.
“I’ll go call Jason, just try not to kill each other while I’m gone,” Reyna muttered, standing to exit the room.
“I can’t make any promises,” Thalia muttered, receiving a glare from the taller girl. She smiled sheepishly, as Reyna left her line of sight, leaving her alone with her strangling thoughts, and broken memories.
“Thalia!” a voice shook Thalia out of her nap, to meet blue eyes. Thalia responded before her brain could process anything else, flinging herself backward, her arms came up to defend herself from a punch that wasn’t coming. Her voice screamed, loudly, a screeching, pitiful noise that could only be described as desperate. Her fingers dug into her skin, trying desperately to pull away arms that weren’t there, and to escape someone who wasn’t coming back.
Her mind raced, he was there, leaning over her, and pinning her down again. She thrashed desperately, she had to get away, to get away from him. She gasped for air, feeling like she was being suffocated. Hot, the air was too hot, to heavy. Too thick to get into her lungs, and everything was swimming around her. She wasn’t sure if she was even conscious or dreaming at this point. She couldn’t tell what was real, what if she’d never escaped him. What if it had all been a dream, and he still had her in his strangling hold. What if Reyna was still in spain, and oblivious to her friend’s peril.
“Thalia, thalia, it me! It’s just me,” a voice called, and slowly Thalia opened her eyes again. Jason stood next her, his hands gently resting on her shoulders to keep her from falling off the bed. Thalia swallowed the bile rising in her throat. It was just a dream, she assured herself, just a dream.
“Wh-What time is it?” she managed to choke out, ignoring how she sounded like she had just come up from under water.
“Nearly, one in the afternoon,” Jason whispered, and watched as Thalia slowly pulled herself upright, her eyes had some kind of hollow look to them that he recognized all too well. “Did you have another nightmare?” he asked, careful not to say anything that might provoke her.
Thalia nodded slowly, her hair fell loosely around her face, shadowing it from him. She looked smaller than usual, like she was wearing a shirt two sizes too big, but Jason had a feeling it had more to do with her mood.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked. Thalia shook her head, just pulling her knees to her chest. Jason remembered what reyna had told him.
“Just be gentle,” she had muttered through the phone, sounding like she was a mother leaving her kid at home with a babysitter for the first time. “Watch her, no sharp objects, I don’t trust you two with those, and remember to make sure she eats something.”
Jason sighed, “Come on, let’s get you something to eat,” he muttered and stood. He paused for a moment when he realized that Thalia wasn’t following. “Thalia?” he called, looking back at her. Thalia had her eyes pressed closed, and tears streaming down her cheeks. Jason slowly lowered himself back onto the bed next to her. He hadn’t seen Thalia cry since mom died, and that hadn’t been since… god, hadn’t been since she was 16.
“Thals…” Jason whispered, but Thalia just let out a strangled sob.
“I’m sorry,” she whimpered, tears streaming down her face faster, just to be replaced with more.
“Thals, what are you apologizing for?” Jason whispered, and Thalia made a noise like a whimpering puppy.
“I-I can’t… I can’t stop seeing him… wh-when I look at you,” She whispered and Jason took that like a punch to the gut. He wanted to scream, to yell how wrong she was. How he was nothing like her shitty ex-boyfriend, and how dare she compare him to him. But the vulnerability in her voice stopped him. The sound of someone so fragile, and so hurt broke his heart. He remembered the nights when mom wasn’t so… sober and Thalia would hide him in the closet. He remembered how she would always tuck him behind her, even if she was still bruised from last time. She sit in front of him, so in case that mom found them, he wouldn’t be the one getting hurt. He remembered when mom died that Thalia had immediately taken on the role of taking care of him, not that it was much different from before, but still. He remembered how strong Thalia was, how she kept it together even when father had threatened to disown her if she pursuited music. He remembered when Thalia had taken on the “job” with Luke the first time, and how she’d come home bruised and bleeding every night, but she’d at least be able to put food on the table for him.
Jason remembers when Thalia was the one looking after him, no matter what, and how she’d always been there, even when their parents weren’t. Thalia now lay in front of him, sobbing and shaking like a beaten puppy and Jason knew that every little thing that Thalia had ever watched go wrong had to be resurfacing right now. “Thals, I promise I’ll never hurt you.” Jason whispered. Thalia wrapped her arms tightly around her brother, trying to convince herself this was real, that he was really here. Trying to convince herself this wasn’t all some stupid dream.
“Reyna, It’s been awhile since we last spoke.” the bubbly reporter said, smiling widely at the camera with perfect white teeth. Reyna had always felt uncomfortable at interviews, but luckily Thalia had always been the one to talk to the reporter, and she could just fade into the background. Now, Thalia wasn’t here, and it was all up to her. She gulped.
“So, could you please tell us, what has been going on with Thalia and her boyfriend recently? There’s been some nasty rumors running around, and I think we’d all like to know the truth,” it was more a command than a question, and Reyna resisted the urge to sink down into her seat.
“U-Uh… well it’s kinda… private,” Reyna managed to force out, wincing at how weak she sounded. She hated words, words were always so much more difficult that music. That’s why Thalia always wrote the lyrics, she was good with words. Reyna was good with chords, and melodies, rhythms and harmonies. She was good with music, and not much else.
The reporter frowned, “Couldn’t you give us a little more detail than that, surely you don’t want those rumours to keep circulating?” That sounded like a threat. Reyna felt like her throat was closing up.
“I… I really think it’s Thalia’s choice whether or not you should know the details. What I can tell you it that Luke Castellan has been arrested and will not be allowed near my Thalia ever again,” Reyna realized her mistake as soon as it left her mouth. The reporter smiled smugly, having gotten what she wanted.
“What was Mr. Castellan arrested for?” she asked and Reyna bit her lip, she didn’t want to give any more information. Thalia had a right to her prophecy.
“I plead the 5th,” she muttered, and the reporter laughed.
“This isn’t a court of law sweetheart,” Reyna glimpsed the reporter’s name tag. Tanaka. Reyna decided she didn’t like Ms. Tanaka.
“My point is that Thalia has a right to her privacy, and sometimes that includes not sharing very personal details with the public. All you need to know is Luke will not be getting out of that jail-cell ever if I have anything to say about it,” Reyna growled, and the reporter switched gears.
“Why is that, why do you want Mr. Castellan to stay locked up?” Reyna clenched her hands, she couldn’t let the anger at that man get the better of her, couldn’t let the consuming hatred towards the man control her.
“He did bad things, things I will never forgive him for, things no one should ever forgive anyone for. That man is bad news, he hurt Thalia, badly, and she will not be taking an interview for a long time, so don’t ask. Details will be released eventually, but for the time being Thalia’s mental health is my main concern,” Reyna was certain her voice came out a lot more hostile than intended, but the reporter still kept on that sickly sweet smile.
“As it should be,” the reporter announced, finally changing topic. “You and Thalia have been friends for how long now? Nearly ten years, correct?” Reyna nodded, finding it a lot easier to relax when the spotlight wasn’t on recent events.
“Amazing, do you plan on doing anything for your tenth anniversary?” the reporter asked, and Reyna burst into a laugh.
“Tenth anniversary? You say that like we’re married?” she asked, smiling for the first time in a week.
“The way some of your fans are reacting to this would suggest so,” the reporter suggested, and Reyna rolled her eyes. Then, Ms. Tanaka pointed to a screen off to the side that showed a couple pictures. One was a photoshopped photograph of Reyna and Thalia with their noses together, another was a gif from the very same interview she was giver. Her face repeating the words ‘my thalia’ over and over. Reyna felt her face turning bright red.
“You don’t seem to have many comments on that?” the reporter’s voice was teasing, and Reyna looked in the direction opposite from the camera.
“Here,” Jason muttered, holding up the cookie to Thalia’s face, but his sister just turned as if it wasn’t there. Jason huffed, “Seriously?! Come on, you love oreos!” he complained. Thalia just stared at the carpet, holding the blanket tightly around her shoulders. Jason huffed, he was getting tired of attempting to feed Thalia.
“Thalia, you have to eat something! Reyna’s really worried about you, I’m worried about you. Please,” Thalia’s eyes turned a shade sadder if that was even possible, settling on the ground. Finally Thalia rose a hand from underneath the blanket and took the cookie from Jason’s hand. Jason sighed as she quickly finished it off.
“That’s a start,” he whispered, watching as Thalia swallowed and deflated back into herself. She pulled the blanket up over her head, curling back into a ball. Jason sighed, “but apparently not enough.”
The door swung open and in came a very tired looking Reyna. As soon as she entered the door she kicked off her shoes and fell onto the couch beside Thalia. Thalia peeked out from her cocoon and Jason watched, mystified, as with a simple gesture Thalia had already uncurled herself and was resting herself against Reyna’s side. Reyna sighed, twisting her fingers into Thalia’s hair and gently playing with it.
“You can go now, Jason.” it was more of a command than a request, but Jason went with it anyway. He kissed Thalia on the forehead before taking his leave, wishing more than ever he could punch the idiot who had hurt his sister like this.
“You’re cold,” reyna whispered in Thalia’s ear as soon as Jason had left the room. Thalia didn’t respond, too busy trying to remember that this was real, that Reyna was really here. Reyna frowned, and pulled Thalia closer.
“Thals, can you hear me?” she asked, but her voice sounded far away, Thalia felt like her entire world was spinning, probably from lack of food. Instead of responding she just buried her head in Reyna’s shoulder. Reyna felt her heart tighten in her chest. She was getting worse. A sigh escaped her lips, slowly she lifted Thalia off of the couch and carried her back to her room.
“Did you get anything to eat?” she asked and got a quiet nod, she forced a smile across her face, despite the fact it hurt.
“Good, then you’re ready for dinner?” Thalia hadn’t eaten since she’d brought her home from the hospital and at this point Reyna was getting really worried. She didn’t receive a response.
“Come on, I’ll make your favorite. Spaghetti and meatballs,” She whispered, setting Thalia down on the bed. Thalia looked up at her with sad blue eyes, and Reyna could tell the last thing Thalia wanted was to eat something.
“Thalia, you’ve gotta eat something.You’re going to starve to death if you don't,” Reyna whispered, leaning down so that her and Thalia were face to face. Thalia’s breath smelled like pine and mint. Her eyes looked like they wanted to be anywhere except here, but Reyna wasn’t going to back off.
“Fine,” the older girl choked out, her voice was just as tired as her eyes. Reyna nodded, and leaned over to kiss Thalia’s forehead, embarrassment long forgotten in the need to give Thalia constant reassurance.
“I’ll be right back,” Reyna promised before leaving Thalia to her own devices.
Thalia’s cheeks were bright red, and she was sure Reyna could see, but that was okay, because it was Reyna. Okay, this was definitely a dream at this point. Reyna wouldn’t kiss her on the forehead for no particular reason. Reyna wouldn’t carry her around like a baby, wouldn’t look so worried that it made her own heart hurt. Reyna wouldn’t do that, so this had to be a dream, right? A wonderful, long, amazing dream that Thalia hoped she never woke up from.
Chapter 8: drowning drowning drowning
Okay, so I know it's been a really song time since this updated, and I'm sorry, I've just been having massive writer's block for a really long time. That and high school has been swamping me, and I've found I take longer to write now that I actually care about the final product. I make no promises about updates, just as I can. I'm sorry for now and future delays. -M
Memories like flood water, rising and swirling up to greet her, she’s pulled under, desperately clinging to the last threads of reality she has. Her lungs burn, her eyes bulge, she has to breathe, but she’s surrounded by water, by the memories. She is light headed, dizzy and confused, and which way was up again?
Oh god, oh god, oh god.
Water rises, oxygen is a foreign memory, and water fills her lungs, drowning, drowning in memories. Struggling and fighting desperately, clawing for some kind of surface, only to sink deeper into the empty dark waters.
It’s a hurricane. A screaming, spinning, torrent of memories flashing so fast that she can’t make any sense of it. Pushed straight from the water into the weightless wind, spinning helplessly as flashes of forgotten words and thoughts come crashing through.
There’s her 14th birthday, Reyna and her brother decked in matching party hats and laughing like there was no tomorrow. Then her first concert, hair down her back, and jacket gleaming with sweat and water from the rain outside. Reyna’s right beside her, guitar balanced perfectly on her shoulders, she’s smiling that private smile that Thalia’s so used to watching alone during a Pixar movie curled up on the couch.
Then there’s Luke, tall and stoic as always, silhouetted against the thundering clouds as he brushes his long hair away from his eyes. He looks so much younger, so much kinder. Like he did before everything happened with his dad.
Jason’s shouting at her, his eyes accusing and hurt, he’s gripping a t-shirt in a death grip, and he’s crying. He can’t be any older than 9 and Thalia feels her heart break all over again at the hurt in his eyes, “I never asked you to do any of this! I never asked for it! Why?!” His voice is hoarse from shouting and the tears aren’t stopping. Thalia can feel the handcuffs on her wrists chafing, feel the arms of the police officer holding her back as she tries desperately to get to her little brother and tell him it’s all a bad dream.
She’s sitting alone in a cafeteria, the orange jumpsuit feels like cardboard and smells like it too. She stares into the bowl of what she assumes is soup with an emptiness that she’d sworn never to go back to. Her throat tastes like salt, and her face is covered in it, but she won’t let anyone see.
There’s a boy, and his eyes are the greenest thing she’s ever seen. He’s laughing, blue hair crashing horribly with the orange jumpsuit, but he doesn’t seem to care. He’s too busy ruffling the hair of a boy much younger than him to notice the way that the one beside her is looking at him. The dark eyes full of a kind of adoration that Thalia knows gets people killed. So she laughs and shoves him over, it’s her way of telling him to go for it.
Now she’s sitting in an apartment, boxes littered everywhere, and Reyna’s leaning against a stack opposite her, laughing with a hand over her face, clutching a hand of cards, and her eyes are that private look that only Thalia sees. That unguarded expression that Thalia knows is hers and hers alone.
Everything hurts, every fiber of her body aches, but she can’t figure out why, a distant thought, and even farther shout. Nothing, darkness, then she’s lifted up, weightless, someone’s holding onto her hand, and it hurts. Everything hurts, but the hurt in her hand is warm, it’s familiar, and a voice is whispering in her ear, and she can’t understand, but it’s familiar, so she sinks into it.
“It’s okay, I got you, I’ve got you.” The voice said and Thalia blinked, trying desperately to focus on the source, to escape the ocean of memories that threatened to pull her back under the waves. Right back into the deep.
“Wha-where-?” she started, but didn’t get much farther, her throat was sore, aching like it’d never tried to speak before. She retched, and rolled over to the other side of the bed, clawing the trash can over. There went the Italian she had yesterday.
Reyna patted her back, looking equally tired and hurt, which was an accomplishment, to say the least. Thalia had once seen Reyna go for a full two weeks without sleep and hadn’t even begun to show under-eye bags. Thalia, however, wasn’t as blessed. She rolled back over and groaned, burying her face in her hands.
“Never, ever, let me go to that restaurant ever again,” Thalia groaned, and Reyna chuckled.
“You and Hylla both,” She muttered and stood, placing a hand on Thalia’s forehead. The older girl closed her eyes, Reyna’s hand was cool. Reyna soon replaced it with a washcloth, and Thalia shivered.
“Next time we’re getting dinner before a recording session, I’m letting Nico pick,” Reyna commented and sighed, brushing hair out of her face. Thalia watched the tired features of Reyna's face catch the light. Even when her cheeks turned that pale lack-of-sleep color, she was ungodly attractive, and that just wasn’t fair.
“How long has it been since you slept?” Thalia asked and Reyna blinked, looking at her hands to count. After waiting for a second, Thalia let the sigh escape. “You don’t remember, do you?” She groaned.
“No! It was… I dozed this morning?” she tried and Thalia let out a choked laugh.
“Reyna, that doesn’t count.” She said and the taller girl sighed, sitting down next to her on the mattress.
“I’ve been up since… god since you had that really bad panic attack three weeks ago,” Reyna sounded defeated, and Thali sat bolt upright, launching the washrag on her forehead across the room.
“Reyna!” she exclaimed, and dizziness be damned, the girl needed to fucking sleep!
“Lay back down, you’re gonna make it worse,” Reyna said almost mechanically, and Thalia ignored her, leaning her head on her shoulder instead.
“Only once you do too, you need to sleep,” she growled back and Reyna rolled her eyes.
“I’m fine, you, on the other hand, are burning up,” she said and gently shoved her off, causing Thalia to flop back onto the mattress.
“You remember what happened last time you went this long without sleeping? Percy actually got you to join in on karaoke night,” Thalia reminded her. Reyna glared.
“Never again,” she growled. Thalia chuckled, and Reyna sent her a tired look.
“So what was the nightmare this time?” she asked, and Thalia sighed, knowing the question had been coming.
“You are literally the worst, you know that?” she asked, and the taller girl just huffed.
“Yes, that’s why I’m sitting in your bedroom at three in the morning making sure you don’t choke on your own vomit in your sleep,” She said, and Thalia winced.
“Gross,” She muttered, and Reyna sighed, running her hand through her hair again.
“You’re dodging the question,” Reyna reminded her and Thalia sighed. She buried her head in the pillow for a moment, before popping back up.
“It wasn’t... him this time if it makes you feel better,” Thalia whispered, and Reyna shivered just from the mention of the man that still gave both of them months afterward.
“Then what-” Reyna started, but Thalia felt it come from her mouth before her brain could register it.
“Juve.” The silence that rang after the statement was deafening. Thalia curled her knees to her chest and focused on the band posters on the wall, giving Hailey Williams the stink eye.
“It’s been almost twelve years now,” Reyna said finally, after getting over the quiet shock of the statement.
“I know,” Thalia's voice was hoarse, and she felt herself wince. Gods she hated it when her voice did that when she sounded to vulnerable. So much like her mother. “That doesn’t change the fact it still happened, that I left Jason alone with that man for six months when he was nine.”
“You were only twelve Thalia,” Reyna reminded her, but Thalia scoffed.
“Percy and Nico were younger, but they were still there,” She said stubbornly, Reyna sighed.
“Not my point. Look, what I’m trying to say is you couldn’t have stopped them from taking you if you tried.” She said and lay a hand on Thalia’s shoulder. Thalia wasn’t having any of it.
“But dad could’ve!” She shouted and dug her hands into the blankets, “He could’ve done whatever the fuck he wanted, but he was too busy with his fucking girlfriend to even come to the trial, much less hire a lawyer! He let them take me! He let them take me away from Jason! He let me abandon him! He let me-” She was screaming now. Screaming, and yelling, and crying in a hoarse voice that scratched at her own ears. Reyna gently pulled her back into her arms. Thalia just gripped onto the taller girl tighter, shaking and trembling and so full of anger and hurt.
“And then when the asshole that got me thrown in there in the first place shows up, and what do I do? I let him back into my life because we might’ve been friends once. I let him use me and abuse me to the point where I almost let him kill me.” Reyna didn’t respond, just gently rubbing Thalia’s back as she lay her head on her chest, too tired to keep screaming.
“You were scared,” Reyna’s voice was hollow, hollow because of how many times she’d said that. Thalia sighed.
“I’m tired of being scared Reyna. I’ve been scared for way too long.”
“You okay Dude?” Percy asked, resting a hand on Nico’s shoulder. Nico jumped, nearly spilling the paint he had been so carefully mixing.
“Hey! Warn a guy next time!” Nico shouted back, turning to glare up at the gorgeous boy. It still was so fucking unfair that Percy got to look like a fucking god and still be the straightest board he’s ever met.
“Sorry, you just looked very… contemplative,” Percy, and his fucking hero complex. Nico huffed, running a hand through his hair, forgetting there was still wet paint on it. The other boy was really a sight in the garage lighting. Sleep rumpled hair and shirtless, the dim light from the lamp above Nico’s desk gleamed off of his bronze skin, showing off his chiseled chest. The old tattoo of a koi swam up the older boy’s arm, still a vibrant black mark on the boy’s otherwise perfect skin, a stark contrast to Nico’s own, which was horrifically pale.
“Well yeah genius, I’m painting,” Nico gestured to the canvas in front of him. Percy gave him that look that still made Nico want to punch him, despite any claims to no longer being head over heels.
“Not what I meant,” Percy said, and yawned, running a hand through his already disheveled hair. Nico resisted the urge to run his own hands through it.
“Percy, I’ve been nearly three years clean, you don’t need to worry about me like that,” Nico muttered, and went back to his painting, carefully mixing the paint around the container, watching the blue and gray swirl together, darkening and tainting. Blue turning near black with the tainted color. Poisoned.
“I know, but I still do,” Percy whined in his sleepy voice that made Nico think of a child. He snorted and turned to the taller boy, who had sat on the bench beside him. “Why are you painting this late anyway.”
“Artist block,” He muttered and pressed his wrist to his mouth to cover a yawn. “I haven’t been able to paint all week with Thalia and Hylla no longer bugging me all the time. Then suddenly, Hylla called me at midnight to nag me about the new t-shirts.” Percy snorted and his eyes lit up like Christmas trees, glittering that annoying emerald color that made Nico very frustrated. It was literally impossible to get paint that color, he’d tried too many times to count.
“You’re the last person I know I’d expect to be motivated by women,” Percy teased, and Nico fixed his roommate with a death glare.
“Shut up Jackson.” He growled and went back to the paint, Percy laughed. “Speaking of Women, how’s your cousin?” He muttered and decided his paint was the right color.
“Eh, she’s staying with Annabeth, so I dunno. How’s your crush on grace going?” Percy’s trademark smirk lit up his face and Nico groaned.
“For the last time Jackson, I don't like Jason!” He complained, and Percy pouted.
“But you said it was a blonde!” He complained and Nico huffed picking up his brush.
“No, I said it was a Brawn, as in a jock.” He said and carefully ran the paint across the canvas arching and diving in strong, dark waves.
“Oh come on, that could be literally any guy we know!” Percy pouted, and Nico felt himself chuckle.
“Then you’re going to have to get better at your sleuthing skills.” He dipped the brush back into the paint can. Percy was still giving him his best puppy dog eyes, but the younger man didn’t have a weakness to them anymore.
“Baby seal eyes don’t count as sleuthing.” He commented and Percy let out a sigh of frustration, dropping his head on the table, nearly capsizing the paint can onto the canvas, but Nico was already reaching out to catch it. “How’s the new piece coming?”
“Lousy, I just can’t get a bass worked out, the track Thalia sent me is so…” Percy made a wild gesture with his hands, “Angsty. It’s a lot different than our other stuff.” Nico frowned, he hadn’t heard the whole piece yet, only the chords Reyna had asked him to send for the recording, and as far as he remembered, it was a lot of… minor chords.
“Do we at least have a name yet?” He asked and Percy nodded.
“Jaded.” Nico nodded then paused, paint dripping from the end of his brush to splatter onto the floor.
“Do you think it’s about Luke?” he asked softly, timidly. Percy nodded, slamming his head against the table a few times in the process.
“The song practically screams his name,” Percy muttered, and Nico sighed, he needed to have another talk with Thalia it seemed.
“Well at least we know she’s found an outlet other than poor Reyna,” Nico muttered and went back to his painting. Percy hummed softly and looked up from the table.
“That’s actually coming along really well, is that the new logo?” Percy asked, leaning over Nico, and nearly swallowing the smaller boy in his chest. Nico yelped and ended up impaling Percy in the nose with his paintbrush, staining it blue and red. Percy didn’t seem to care, just wrapping an arm around Nico like he was a small animal that might run away, and sticking his face so close to the canvas he almost touched it.
“Careful! The paint’s still wet!” Nico cried, trying to cover up the strangled cry that had escaped him earlier. Percy was grinning from ear to ear. The older boy really was a sight, half naked, sleep ruffled, and with paint all over his face. His eyes catching the light perfectly, and the light bouncing off of his chiseled features, turning the dark blue paint into a starry night sky, and for once Nico saw the appeal of being a photographer rather than a painter. The ability to catch any moment instantaneously and keep it just the way it had been forever. The sight took his breath away.
“It’s perfect! Hylla and Thalia are going to love it!” Percy exclaimed and Nico couldn’t help but smile, because Percy was honestly just the purest person he knew, even if he technically was older than him, and they had met in juvie.
“What’re you smiling about?” Percy asked, and Nico chuckled.
“You look ridiculous.” he answered and picked up the fallen brush to streak it across Percy’s forehead.
“Hey! Get back here!” Percy yelled and picked up his own brush as Nico pelted across the garage, carrying his open paint can with him, Percy hot on his heels with a can of red.
Chapter 9: my demons dance
“Police recently released a report involving Running Dream’s lead singer Thalia Grace.”
The Tv was loud and the newscaster was a smartly dressed woman with long brown hair and eyes like steel. She spoke in a monotone voice that seemed to swallow all traces of emotion from the previous story. Her voice was unfeeling, just as her expression was serious, allowing no room for amusement in the story to follow.
“The report in question involves the singer’s recent rush to the hospital just two weeks ago. The report reveals that a man, Luke Castellan, was arrested on grounds of sexual harassment, assault and rape against Thalia Grace. Fans of the band, or the classic 90’s sitcom, Forever Forgotten, will know that Thalia Grace is the eldest daughter of late actress Beryl Grace and the Mayor of New York. Here’s Drew with more details regarding the case.”
The screen changed, showing a less serious looking woman with far too much makeup, and far too little respect to be considered a real newscaster. Reyna felt her heart stop as she recognised Ms Tanaka from her interviews. Drew smiled dazzlingly at the camera.
“Thank you, Athena, A couple days ago I held an interview with Running Dream’s lead guitarist, and Ms Grace’s roommate, Reyna Ramirez-Arellano. During this interview, Ramirez refused to talk about the reason for Thalia’s hospital visit, but due to this recent development we now know why.” Drew never stopped smiling while she was talking, and Reyna started grinding her teeth, clenching her beer can in her fist so tightly the metal groaned beneath her fingers.
“Calm down Reyna,” Hylla whispered from her spot across the living room. Her sister looked as relaxed as ever, lounged in a simple black tank top and ripped blue jeans. The leather jacket she had been wearing earlier now sat draped across Thalia’s shoulders, who was curled close to her on the floor. Her eyes never left the floor, refusing to meet Reyna’s or look up at the television, where her horrible story was being relayed for the first time to the public.
After they had heard that the police reports were being released to the public, Hylla had called an emergency band meeting. So, naturally, all five of them were now sprawled out in Reyna’s living room, chugging beers and watching as the world crumbled around them.
Percy had his phone in one hand and a can of Budweiser in the other as he scrolled through his twitter feed. Nico sat beside Thalia on the floor, being the only two not drinking, and had his laptop on Tumblr in his lap, watching his feed as questions started to pour into the band’s Tumblr ask box.
“According to reports, at around 3:48PM on Saturday two weeks ago Reyna called 911 and said the following:” there was the sickening crackle of static from a telephone and Reyna felt her stomach drop, the monotone filled her ears and she was back there, gripping onto her best friend for dear life as the voice spoke in her ears.
“911, please state your emergency,” her skin was so cold.
“MM-My friend, she's been beaten, badly. She's unconscious and bleeding a tonne…” her voice shook so badly, sounded so weak. Reyna could scarcely breathe.
“Where are you right now?” The beer tasted like salt as she threw it back down her throat.
“1509 thirty-second street,” her voice sounded so inhuman. Shaking, but also deadly calm at the same time. Reyna was out of beer.
“Yes, ma'am, we have your location and are sending an ambulance now, please remain calm,” Reyna heard the recording end and focused her eyes on the face of Drew Tanaka again, hoping she could feel her death glare through the screen.
“Going by this recording and the reports we can see that Reyna Ramirez had no idea what her friend had gotten herself into, and the hospital reports only recorded the source of the crime as Mr Castellan four hours after Thalia had been admitted. Reports are gruesome and Thalia seems to have suffered many injuries ranging from internal bleeding to broken ribs and a leg. More information still to come.” With that Hylla turned off the Tv and they were all left sitting in silence. The room felt dark without the blue light of the TV. Nico and Percy still had their heads buried in their respective platforms and Reyna’s phone buzzed annoyingly on the coffee table with probably a thousand notifications.
Thalia, surprisingly, was the first to speak and break the soul-sucking silence, “How long did it take for them to arrive?” Her voice had that same hollow quality that Reyna’s had on the recording. Reyna just stared at her strangled beer can. The tin had been crushed by her now bleeding hand, the blood dripped onto the carpet.
“Twenty-four minutes and twelve seconds,” she whispered, Percy was typing frantically on his phone in the way someone does when they’re playing an app game. Except this wasn’t a game, this was real life. And those were real people who he was responding to.
“Di Angelo, status report?” Hylla barked from the kitchen where she was no doubt trying to find the vodka. Nico didn’t look up from his laptop.
“A lot of concerned people, some asking for a full list of injuries, mostly supportive so far,” he muttered softly, dark eyes never leaving the screen. Percy grunted from his position, fingers still flying across the keyboard at a speed the Flash would be proud of.
“Same here, some people are quoting the reports and figuring out for themselves what’s happening,” he muttered. Thalia’s hollow face stayed facing Reyna who stood to walk towards the kitchen and steal Hylla’s vodka bottle for herself.
“Good, last thing we need is more rumours,” she muttered as she passed. Percy only spared her a cursory glance.
“Agreed,” Nico huffed from the floor where Thalia finally shifted her gaze away from Reyna to look over his shoulder.
“Rumours are a hassle, but now we’re heading into the media circus, so we’ll start having to plan out a lot on interviews,” Hylla growled from where she was pouring a dangerous amount of raw vodka in a glass. Reyna took it from her a poured a generous amount into a glass of lemonade.
“Unfortunately that includes you, Thalia, reporters are going to jump you as soon as you leave the apartment, so it’s best we get an interview for you set up as soon as possible,” Percy muttered from his seat, he’d stopped typing and was now scrolling through the feed again. Reyna watched her sister chase down her glass of alcohol poisoning with a pint of water.
Thalia sighed heavily from her seat, eyes still not leaving Nico’s laptop screen. “They sure are eager aren’t they…” she whispered and Hylla laughed without humour.
“Honey, they’ve been eager since they found out you had a boyfriend,” she muttered and Reyna just quietly dropped herself behind Thalia onto the couch. She let the burning taste fester in her throat as she ran her fingers through the older girl’s hair.
“I’ll admit they do seem very concerned with my love life,” Thalia murmured, dropping her head back into Reyna’s lap, letting her continue to play with her hair. Hylla dropped into the chair beside the pair as Percy popped open a new can and started to look through news sites.
“The Washington Post: Grace Suffering Injuries After Last Relationship Went Sour, CNN: Running Dream’s Lead Singer’s Hospital Visit Revealed, Fox-”
“I don’t want to know,” Thalia cut him off, eyes closed as she leant back. Percy nodded and continued scrolling.
Nico huffed, “Just got an Email from the Today show, they want an interview with all of us,” he muttered. Thalia sighed heavier.
“Just leave it,” Reyna murmured, “We’re going to get a lot more of those in the next twenty-four hours. We’ll get all that arranged later. When we aren’t drinking ourselves into an early grave,” with that she took another gulp from her lemonade, letting the burning sensation chase down the bile in her throat.
Hylla seemed to agree with her statement, “Yeah, know what. Put up the phones, how about we just spend the rest of the night partying like we actually went to college,” she said, grinning in a way that usually ended with something broken.
Percy chuckled, “I’m down for that if you guys are,” he said and took a gulp from his can, Nico smirked, closing his laptop. A rare thing alone, but accompanied by him stealing Percy’s can to take a gulp of it himself was almost impossible.
“Better call your girlfriend and cousin over, I’m going to go find the old boombox,” he said before disappearing down Reyna’s hallway.
And that’s how Thalia ended up here, sprawled out on the couch on what was supposed to be a very serious night, that had somehow turned into a party. Thalia didn’t even know most of the people in her house right now, but she didn’t care. Because even if she couldn’t hear herself think and was being smothered by an overly cuddly drunk Reyna she didn’t have to think about that night. She didn’t have to think about him.
The kind of music no one ever listens to while they’re alone is blaring so loud Thalia can feel her skull-rattling, and everyone is singing at the top of their lungs, clutching onto each other like the end of the world is coming and they’re just waiting for impending doom.
The stench of alcohol is almost overpowering and combined with the odour of weed Thalia’s starting to feel lightheaded, but she just can’t bring herself to care. Can’t bring herself to move from her spot on the couch where a certain guitar player has draped herself across Thalia like a large and warm blanket. She’s not even flirting like she usually does when she’s drunk, she’s just laying there, running her hands through Thalia’s hair.
Thalia can’t help but laugh because the whole thing is just so stupidly ridiculous. How she’s surrounded by random strangers and the whole lot of them is high and drunk, leaving her, the one who this whole pity party started for, the only sober one. Even Nico, usually the calmest one of the group is grinding on some blonde boy in the corner, grinning like the stars are in his eyes.
It’s stupid and ridiculous, and so damn funny. Because Thalia is supposed to be the one with the most problems, supposed to be the most reckless and wild one, but she’s sober. She’s sober and tired, and hysterical. She’s laughing so hard she’s crying, and the crying laughter turns to sobs and now she’s just crying. Crying and sobbing into Drunk Reyna’s shoulder. She smells like martini’s and lemons and so strongly of vodka that Thalia’s choking on the smell, but she just grips on tighter, sobbing until her throat is raw and Reyna’s arms are wrapped around her just as tightly as she’s gripping her.
“I’m way too drunk to be much help right now, but I got you,” Reyna’s voice is deep and half asleep in her ear, but Thalia’s laughing again because it’s just so pitifully sad.
“Of course you do,” her own voice is strangled by tears and laughter, and completely drowned out by the music, but she just imagines that Reyna can hear them anyway, “you always have.”
Reyna nods as if this makes perfect sense, and just ends up nuzzling her way back into the crook of Thalia’s neck, laying them back down again. “Which is why we’re over here and not participating in Hylla’s stupid bottle game…” she drawls out and the laugh that comes from Thalia isn’t quite as hysterical this time.
“She’s playing spin the bottle? How old is she? 12?” she has to yell to be heard over the music. Reyna’s smile is too loose and genuine to be sober, but Thalia’s used to being the sober friend at this point.
“Probably, uph,” Reyna lets out a hiccup and drops herself back against the couch cushion, attracting the attention of Percy who comes running over arm and arm with his girlfriend.
“Yo, Reyna! We’re gonna call it a night, but call me if you need help cleaning up tomorrow!” he shouts over the music and Thalia can’t help but notice his shirt is on backwards. His girlfriend, Annabeth is smirking in a way that shows she’s not exactly sober either, but again Thalia doesn’t mind. She swore off alcohol as soon as she could pronounce the word.
“Have fun,” Reyna muttered and waved a hand dismissively. Thalia sat up slightly off the couch.
“You guys got a ride, or do I need to give you one?” she asks, no doubt still a bit red-faced from her earlier crying. Annabeth shakes her head.
“I already called and Uber, but thanks for the offer,” she says and Thalia nods, laying back down on the couch. With that, they leave, and the party continues. It gets louder and louder until neighbours come to complain, but just end up getting dragged into the mess of sweaty bodies and alcohol, because it’s LA after all. No one really escapes a party in LA.
Reyna is beautiful any time of day. She’s beautiful in the early morning light and the afternoon sun. She’s beautiful when is rains and when it snows. She’s just that, beautiful, but Thalia thinks she’s possibly prettiest at night. When her dark eyes and ink-black hair seem to swallow up the world around them and all Thalia can think about is what those eyes would look like compared to a night sky. Not the light polluted sky of LA, but the real, star-filled sky of the country, where people don’t live and man-made light doesn’t reach.
She wonders how the stars would compare to eyes like Reyna’s. To eyes that have their own gravity and their own stars in soft flecks of gold glittering in the depths of obsidian. Thalia knows that she’s biased on her opinion, but for a second just wonders how Reyna must appear to others, people who aren’t already smitten with her. People who haven’t known the girl their entire lives and don’t base their entire existences off of her reassurances.
She wonders and knows that she’ll never understand how that is. Because truly, she’s only known Reyna since she was thirteen, but she feels as if they’ve spent a lifetime together. Reyna smiles at her with those night eyes and Thalia just knows how lucky she is to be left with this goddess on earth as a best friend.
Chapter 10: One night stands like clockwork
Reyna and Thalia have a normal morning, Hylla doesn't
Reyna wakes with a pounding in her head, pushing it’s way forward until it’s throbbing against her skull, right in between her eyes. She groans loudly and burrows furthur into the back of the couch, away from the window, but she hears a loud chuckle in response to her discomfort and knows the torture she’s about to be subjected to.
It happens every time they have, or attend, a party. Like clockwork, she has one too many beers than she should, ends up smothering Thalia into some sort of plush surface, and wakes up to Thalia preparing pancakes and her signature ‘hangover cure.’
Reyna’s never been entirely sure if the cure works or not because she’s taken it every single time she’s been drunk. She just knows that Percy normally doesn’t get around to doing anything productive until a day after a hangover, while she only takes a few hours.
However, such hangover cures as these are never a happy thing to experience. Especially when your roommate is extremely against alcohol and takes pleasure in punishing you for your sins. The smell of tabasco sauce is already making Reyna’s eyes water and she isn’t even in the same room as Thalia.
Not technically anyway, the kitchen and livingroom are practically the same room, separated by little more than a counter and closable shutters on the counter if one wished to separate the rooms. Thalia looks like the opposite of a domestic goddess in the morning light. She’s all sharp angles and shadows, with skin like paper and hair like ink. Her face is full of unmasked contempt and she smirks when Reyna lifts her weary head to glare at her room mate.
“Come on sleepy head, get it while it’s still hot,” and with that Reyna drags herself to a standing position, ignoring the twisting room around her. She remembers the first time this song and dance played, how thalia’s hair had been down to her back then, and Reyna had still been living in her sister’s house.
Nineteen year old Thalia had been lounging in her kitchen, much like now, wearing only her own T-shirt and a pair of borrowed track shorts. Reyna had already woken confused, never have been hungover before, and when she saw Thalia standing around in her clothing she’d nearly had a heart attack.
Now it’s such a normal sight that Reyna isn’t phased by it anymore. At least she wouldn’t be if it weren’t for the clear fact that Thalia wasn’t eating properly. She’d noticed of course, that Thalia only ever ate when she watched her do so, something she’s still not entirely sure why she started to do. What that man has to do with Thalia’s eating habits she’s never been able to squeeze out of the smaller girl.
However, when she’s standing in the kitchen in one of her tighter fitting shirts and it slips over Thalia’s shoulder like she’s wearing something of a giant’s it puts into perspective how bad it’s gotten. Reyna can see the bones of her spine protruding so prominently that the blue of them make her wonder if she’s seeing veins too. With a graceful, and hurried, motion she scrapes her knuckles across the bones and Thalia jumps so badly she nearly throws her pancake into Reyna’s face. Instead the pancake goes flying into the ceiling.
“Reyna, what are you doing?” There’s a slight tremble in her voice that Reminds Reyna why she doesn’t do stuff like that anymore. Why she no longer hugs Thalia when she isn’t paying attention, or surprise her with gifts or plans to go out. It reminds her why everything has to be planned, spoken about in advance, why Thalia can’t even stand to watch Jurassic Park anymore.
“Sorry I just, my mind was wandering,” she corrects herself before she makes the mistake. Before her words spill things Thalia doesn’t need to add to her already whirling mind. Pancake drips from the ceiling and into Thalia’s hair, but she doesn’t seem to notice.
Her face is vacant as if the world has been left far behind her and she’s all that’s there anymore and Reyna knows by now that this is going to be a regular occurrence with them.
“Thalia,” she whispers softly, just like she’s done a dozen times by now. And Thalia shivers, pressing her palms into the counter and screwing her eyes shut.
“Stop,” she hisses, but she’s not talking to Reyna, not really. Reyna takes a step closer and places a steady palm on the shorter girl’s shoulder, and even though her head feels like an anvil and everything is pulsing with light that isn’t there, she’s as solid as always. An unmovable force meeting an unstoppable object.
“Let go of me!” Thalia shouts, trying to thrash away from her, but Reyna, calm as always, whirls her around and brings her to her chest in one fluid motion. Thalia thrashes into her chest, trying to break free, and had it been a few weeks ago she would’ve been able to. Now, however, her arms hardly hold any strength against Reyna’s and her wild movements just glance off of Reyna’s skin.
“Look at me, Thalia look at me,” she’s still whispering, still calm as a pool of still water. Thalia’s eyes are wide and wild, like a horse that’s been spooked. She shakes, moving so quickly and with so much force anyone other than Reyna would’ve let go.
Reyna just takes the blow and tries to catch those desperate eyes with her own. Blue on obsidian and nothing else. She’s trying to quiet Thalia’s mind, get her to focus but there is no quiet.
There’s no quiet because everything is a raging storm and a hurricane is barreling down on her head. There’s no solace and no light because like clouds he’s there overhead, and his words are cracking on her like thunder. Booming so loudly there’s nothing else. Lightning flashes and pain across her spine from a blow that’s not there. It’s a ghost in her brain, ripping out the calm until all there is is chaos and destruction.
She’s brought to her knees soaked through to the bone of despair, agony radiating out of her like a fountain of it. And she cries. Cries and sobs into something solid, but she can’t see what’s there. Can’t see anything but him and the raging storm.
Every time like clockwork she’s woken up to Thalia in the kitchen, joking about her being a bad influence on the children, referring usually to Nico. Clockwork, the soft banter, avoiding the conversation about Thalia’s mother until it’s the only thing left in the room to converse about. Clockwork, the quiet reminder of Thalia’s resolve against Alcohol, and the quiet promise not to ever get that drunk. The promise to never hurt Thalia in that way. Clockwork, the soft smile on Thalia’s face afterword. Clockwork, the hug after breakfast. Clockwork, the kitchen smelling of tabasco sauce for days afterward. Clockwork.
This was never a part of the clockwork. Never has she had to hold a trembling girl in her arms as she sobs violently, trying desperately to dodge blows that aren’t there. The clock has stopped, and Reyna doesn’t know if it’ll ever move again. If it can move again, or if she’s stuck on the minute hand forever because the second hand is in her arms. The second hand is frozen, stuck, and she can’t move her because how can you. How do you get over something like this?
How do you change when you’ll be haunted by the thoughts of it for the rest of your life?
Thalia’s so small. So much smaller than she’s ever been. Reyna feels as if she holds her too tight she’ll break, shatter like glass in her arms. Her shoulders heave as she cries like that’ll somehow save her, like the motion will stop the tear flow, or break it up at least and all reyna can do is hold her because she’s just so damn scared. She’s so damn scared and she doesn’t know what to do about that.
She’s never been scared before, that isn’t a part of the clockwork. It’s not supposed to be. Children get scared, victims get scared, people who face the kind of peril that ends in death get scared. Reyna doesn’t get scared, she hasn’t since she was a child in her father’s home and she refuses to live like that again. She doesn’t get scared, but right now she’s terrified.
She’s terrified because she might lose this time. She might lose. Thalia heaves another sob and Reyna feels herself pull her tighter to her chest as if she gets closer will make her safer.
She can’t protect her, can’t protect her from the things inside her head because the one thing Reyna can’t fight is Thalia’s demons. Reyna’s never been good at staying on the sidelines, never been good at watching others take the punches. She has to be there, has to be there in the thick of the fight.
However, she’s never been good with words, one of the main reasons Thalia was the lyricist rather than herself, and words are the only way to fight this battle. A battle Reyna can’t fight and Thalia won’t be able to win on her own. So they just cry. Thalia into Reyna’s chest, clinging onto her with the grip of a dead man, and Reyna much more silently. The kind of crying you never see, it doesn’t involve heavy breaths or tears. There are no puffy eyes, or harsh noises that grate on ears. Just dead eyes. Just sodden eyes staring straight ahead while the seer stares with all the sadness of the world.
Reyna doesn’t cry, not like she used to. Now she just watches as her best friend comes undone in her arms like it’s the only way her life will move forward. Watches as her world crumbles around her because what can she do except bear witness to mass destruction.
Hylla’s walked this road so many times before she’s gotten the steps memorized by now. Pounding headache, check; late Saturday morning, check; someone in the bed next to her, check; naked, check. At this point she could probably write a novel of just the names of the people she’s woken up in bed next to.
She’s not even entirely sure how it happens because all of the times she’s done it while not intoxicated she’s never understood why it’s so appealing.
People always talk about sex like it’s the endgame of all of existence, and Hylla just thinks: I’d rather get fucked up then fucked. It’s a philosophy she’s not sure why she can’t live by.
This time it’s a girl which is an interesting taste in variety than usual, but Hylla knows that she’s bound to get the same response as always. The girl will wake up, blush, demand it was a one time thing, and send her packing. And Hylla’s fine with that, like she’s said many times before, she’s never gotten anything out of a relationship so there was never any point in pursuing.
She wonders sometimes if that’s why she finds it so hard to understand her bandmates’s constant pining, she’s just never been in love before. She heaves a sigh, running a hand through her hair, glad that she has at least let it hang around her neck than left it up. She hates looking these poor people in the face when they try to explain it was just a hook up. They don’t really need to in her book. She doesn’t care.
Maybe she should just go ahead and leave, save the poor girl the trouble of the awkward explanation and just melt into the background like she doesn’t exist. She looks at the clock, 11 is a little late for the walk of shame, but it isn’t like she’s not done it before.
She stands, reaching for her shirt and keys when she hears the bed shift behind her. Swallowing a groan she turns to meet the, probably, awkward gaze of the girl she has ended up in the bed of. The explanation is on the tip of her toungue, when she realizes she recognizes those eyes.
“Leaving so soon?” the question isn’t shy, the exact opposite actually. It’s teasing, if not a bit mocking and now Hylla wants to smash her face in with a wall. The last thing you ever want to do is end up having a one night stand with someone you haven’t seen since basic training. Or in short, her former sergeant. The blush is completely involuntary and has nothing to do with the fact that she’s not wearing a shirt and under the silver gaze of a woman who had once gut a man from throat to the balls.
“Artemis…” she trails off because what else can she say. How the hell did this even happen, last she’d heard Artemis had been in Washington DC.
It wasn’t exactly like she was surprised by the developement. Her and Artemis had been close friends back during Basic, of course it was mostly a mutual respect for eachother, but the knowledge that you’d just fucked your former commanding officer was enough to make Hylla question whether she had a thing for power.
“Yes?” the former officer asked, standing, not the least bit shy about her body, and now Hylla really wants to throw herself out a window because why is she the one that ended up in this mess. For a solid thirty seconds all Hylla can do is stare dejectedly as her keys like they might hold some sort of answer for her predicament.
“How the hell did this even happen?” she ends up grunting out and Artemis laughs. Actually laughs. Hylla thinks it’s the first time she’s heard her do so.
“To be completely honest I was just as surprised when I woke up. One moment my brother is dragging me off to some party, the next well… I’m sure you understand,” Artemis was never very tall, something that didn’t really phase her, but Hylla now wishes she was so she wouldn’t have to make a point of looking at her. Her silver eyes just hold so much a amusement Hylla wants to throw herself off a building.
“Oh my gods why,” she mutters, and makes a heavy sigh, grinding her teeth together. “Look Serg -er Artemis,” she starts and the look of pure amusement is making it harder for her to form a coherent sentence because god how much more embarrising can this get.
“You always were so straightforward,” Artemis breaks into her sentence and rolls her eyes, still smirking that stupid smirk that makes Hylla’s blood boil. “Look Ramirez, it’s not like I expect commitment from you. You’re a military drop out in a punk band.” Artemis does make a point with that statement, but it still grinds Hylla’s gear.
“Well, I guess so, but still just, gah,” Hylla smacks herself in the forehead and Artemis laughs again. It’s a horrible laugh really, like a wild turkey call, but coming from such an elegant face it’s almost funny.
“Relax, you always were so tense,” with that Artemis passes her to the closet. “Get dressed Ramirez, we’re going out for breakfast. I want to catch up with you.” Hylla’s iceberg is tilting dangerously close to the ocean at this point.
“What?” she asks dumbly and the look Artemis sends her is anything but innocent.
“I want to know what’s going on in your life cadet. You were always my favourite, the only one in your entire squad with a backbone,” with that she tosses Hylla a shirt that might actually fir her along with a pair of sweatpants. “I’m not asking you on a date, I just want a report is that too much to ask.”
Hylla just stares, dumbfounded. If she remembers correctly Artemis never wanted to talk about anything even remotely personal. Then again, that might’ve just been the professional mask she put up. Or, something else. Something much worse.
Hylla notes that despite the room they’re currently standing in in well lived in, there’s no pictures on the walls. That the only decoration on the wall is an old still life of a potted plant. Artemis, though still clearly amused, looks worn out in a way that doesn’t appear from lack of sleep. Hylla begins to wonder if possibly Artemis is asking her to breakfast for more reasons than just catching up.
Maybe, just maybe, she needs someone to be there besides herself.
Chapter 11: fragile lives, fragile hands, fragile lies
Hylla’s breath manifests itself outside her mouth like a tongue of smoke, curling in a misty may before slowly rising into the high above LA skyline. It was rarely cold enough in LA to produce such breaths but, she wasn’t one to complain about the cold. Unlike her sister who was, no doubt, probably burying herself in her bed to avoid the cold floor at this minute.
Hylla doesn’t have the luxury to hide from the cold, instead, she finds herself shoved onto a bus bench with a much too awake former officer next to her, still smirking that awful smirk that’s making Hylla’s blood boil.
“You can stop looking like a cat with a mouse at any time,” she grumbles under her breath, and Artemis just gives her that amused expression that she had earlier. Hylla’s sigh is more drawn out this time.
“And you can stop being so embarrassed. It’s only breakfast Hylla,” Oh, Hylla hates how her name rolls off of the older woman’s tongue, “no need to get all of your feathers ruffled.”
Hylla grinds her teeth for what feels like the millionth time, “For the last time, I am not embarrassed, I just find the whole situation ridiculous.”
Artemis’s chuckle is as annoying as her laugh. While her laugh is like a wild turkey call, her chuckle is rusted bells clanging together. “Sure thing Ramirez.”
“Shut up,” Hylla grumbles and shoves her hands into her pockets, hoping that the gesture will get Artemis to back off.
“So, how’s that sister of yours doing?” evidently not. “I’ve heard that your band had a recent predicament.
Hylla sneers, “I didn’t take you as one for gossip,” dodging the question. Artemis laughs good-naturedly.
“I, am not. My brother and Aunt on the other hand…” she lets the sentence hang and Hylla recalls meeting Artemis’s brother once before. He was loud and obnoxious, in a way completely opposite from his sister's obnoxious silence. Where Artemis was a frustrating mystery, Apollo was an open book no one wanted to read.
“So you’re just snooping for their sake?” she asks, thinking that she might have effectively dodged the question.
“No, I’m genuinely curious. Curiosity killed the small animal and all that.”
“That is not how it goes,” Hylla mutters, fighting the smile because, no that was not funny.
“Whatever, just tell me how your sister’s been doing.” Artemis’s face is one of distracted conversation as if she’s doing too many things in her mind at once. Listening to the conversation, replying, and something much more strenuous are all battling in the woman’s face without her moving a muscle. It’s captivating to watch like one would watch a tennis tournament, unclear which outcome will win. Hylla has to force herself to look away because that isn’t an appropriate way to look at someone you had a one night stand with.
“She’s… well, she’s Reyna.” Hylla murmurs as if that is the answer to everything, and upon receiving Artemis’s confused expression she continues.
“It’s just, my sister has sort of been acting like all of her friend’s older sister ever since she started to live with me. I can still remember walking in on her lecturing Thalia about doing her homework when they were in eighth grade,” Hylla rubbed her hands on her jeans to get some feeling back in them, “and though that’s fine and all, her constantly mothering her friends I’m afraid has left her without the knowledge of how to rely on someone else for her own problems. Everything for Reyna is always, I can fix this, even when she can’t.” Hylla sighs, watching her breath rise into the skyline again. “I worry about her, especially in light of recent events.”
Artemis’s expression isn’t pitying or sympathetic like Hylla was expecting. Instead, there’s a gleam of recognition deep in her eyes that Hylla isn’t quite sure she recognises. “My brother was always such an open book, until recently. A girl, I don’t know too much about her-I think her name is Meg? Anyway, this girl started to hang around with my brother about a year ago. He’s been much more closed lip since. He hardly talks about anything other than his stupid record label anymore.”
Hylla snorts, Apollo records, a joke really in the music industry. At least, the alternative industry, everything that was signed to them was teeny-bop punk. A few of the artists Hylla could think off of the top of her head were Ethan Nakamura, a horrible band called The Naiads, and Dionysus. Hylla shivers at the thought.
“I understand how that’s a punishment,” she murmurs and Artemis smiles, but it doesn’t quite reach her eyes.
The bus finally pulls up with a horrible screeching sound that makes Hylla’s skin crawl. Artemis stands, extending her hand towards Hylla, “Come on, I’m really craving pancakes now.”
Reyna doesn’t think pancakes will ever taste the same after this morning. The wrench that’s been thrown into her clockwork morning aside, she’s just so damn tired. She’s tired and the pancakes taste like salt, and Thalia still looks so small. Dark hair draped over her face like it can shield her from everything in the world.
She’s all shadows and sharp angles, shattered eyes with tense muscles and everything about her just seems like a photograph. Like the ones you see at modern art expos where you can hardly tell what it’s supposed to be because black melts into black and white into white. There’s no grey, no room for any other colour besides the black and white.Thalia’s eyes which had once been a brilliant blue, are now so dark and shadowed they just join the blackness.
Reyna looks down at her half eaten breakfast and feels her stomach lurch in her throat. Thalia hasn’t even touched her own plate, just watching as the syrup soaks through until it’s just a soggy mess.
“You’re doing it again,” Reyna whispers, hoping that it’ll snap Thalia out of it. There’s no real reason to be quiet, but the silence is so oppressing she fears to break it.
Thalia doesn’t move, just stares at the breakfast with those dead eyes. “Doing what?” her voice mimics that void tone of her eyes.
“The thing where you stare at something like it’s going to explode because you can’t tell what your mind is doing,” Reyna might’ve put a little too much of her mother voice into that statement, but it at least gets some sort of reaction from the other girl.
Thalia lifts her head to look at her, and gods she looks even worse than she did earlier. Her eyes are still swollen and red from her breakdown, a bright splotch of colour in the middle of nothing but black and white. Reyna has to swallow an explosion of emotion in her chest.
“Why do you always do that?” she asks, and Reyna doesn’t have to ask her to clarify what “that” is.
“Because I care about you, and no matter what we do you just keep getting worse,” Reyna swallows the words on the tip of her tongue before they can cut into Thalia’s already fragile mental state. “Thalia, you can’t keep doing this to yourself.”
Thalia’s glare usually doesn’t faze her, but coming from the battered and bony form Thalia currently bears, it's almost like the girl from the ring has crawled out of the pits of hell for her specifically.
“It’s not like I want to!” Thalia shouts, and those fragile-looking hands slam on the counter with enough force to break them. “It’s not like I can control the fact that my head feels like someone is constantly forcing their own garbage into it! It’s not like I can control the fact that I sometimes feel like I think in a completely different language that I don’t understand! It’s not like I can stop myself from lying in bed at night and feeling him Reyna! It’s been nearly three weeks and I can still feel him tearing into my flesh like it didn’t mean anything. I can still feel his hands on my skin despite the fact I’ve spent so many hours in the shower scrubbing until I started to bleed. I can still hear his voice when I practically scream at anyone because not even my own voice can drown him out. I can-” Thalia’s shaking again, tears starting in those dark, dark eyes.
Reyna reaches out to try and comfort her again, but Thalia jerks away from her violently.
“You don’t know what it feels like to not even be able to trust yourself alone in a room because you’re scared what will happen if the thoughts get too loud. You don’t know what it’s like when your own heartbeat is drowned out by the sound of the blood in your veins and how your thoughts are concentrating of how it’d look in your clothes. You can’t know what it feels like when your chest can’t contain this constant pressure like it’s about to explode outwards in a scream when you must remain silent. You can’t know what it feels like when you wish with every ounce of your being that it’d all stop when you know the only way it’ll stop is when you’re dead.”
Her voice is hoarse, and Reyna is moving before her mind can fully process what’s going on. All she knows is that Thalia is pressed against her chest again, just like earlier that morning, because the only way she can know that Thalia is alive is to be able to feel her heartbeat.
Thalia’s heartbeat is all over the place, an inconstant rhythm that is racing so fast that Reyna knows what Thalia’s thoughts must feel like. Moving so very fast her voice never has any hope of catching up. Thalia’s still speaking, but it’s all muffled by tears and her shirt now, and all Reyna can hear is Thalia’s heartbeat, and how it gently slows to match her own.
“Shhhhh,” Reyna murmurs because Thalia still hasn’t stopped murmuring even though her shoulders are shaking like a small animal's again. Thalia shudders, trying momentarily to shove her away before giving into the embrace.
“I’m sorry,” her voice is so tired that Reyna wishes that Thalia would just rest.
“Don’t apologise,” Reyna’s own voice sounds so hollow that she can barely hear herself speaking. Thalia heaves a heavy sigh and pulls away. This time, Reyna lets her.
“You’re the one who has to deal with my bullshit constantly,” Thalia mutters, and again she’s just shadows and sharp angles. Reyna bends down to her eye-level and pushes the dark hair away.
“And I wouldn’t let anyone else do so,” Reyna reminds and Thalia’s eyes are even more puffy and red than before.
“Shut up,” Thalia mutters, but there’s no real bite in the words. Reyna takes a breath.
“However, I do believe now is the time to be considering a therapist-” she starts and Thalia groans loudly, burying her face in her hands.
“Really! After that whole episode of emotions, your first reaction is therapist?!” Thalia isn’t nearly as upset as she’s portraying and Reyna knows it.
“Thalia, you just confessed to having suicidal thoughts, what did you expect me to say?” Reyna snaps back because she refuses to let this become light-hearted banter after that.
“I don’t know!” Thalia yells back, but she isn’t angry anymore, “I don’t know… I just… don’t know…” Her voice is aching for something and Reyna can’t figure out what it is.
“I know,” Reyna sighs, taking Thalia’s shaking hands in her own. They’re so thin, so pale and thin that she fears if she were to squeeze them too hard that they’d snap. “I know, and I don’t expect you to, but we can’t keep dancing around this like it isn’t a serious issue, because like it or not this is our lives now. Band be damned, your mental state is so much more important than any of the bullshit we’ve been lacing our conversations with.” Thalia’s gaze drops back to her feet, but Reyna isn’t going to be deterred that easily.
“We can’t keep doing this,” Thalia murmurs back, echoing Reyna’s own words back at her. Reyna bends down further to capture Thalia’s eyes again. Those blue spheres are still missing the majority of their colour like something’s leeched it all out.
“No we can’t, and Thalia I’m not going to let it get any worse, so please, please, agree to go to the therapist,” Thalia’s face is a painting of a grieving emotion so intense that Reyna can feel it in her bones. She can feel all of the hurt and anger, frustration, loneliness, agony, and bitter grief come pouring out of Thalia in a tide that’s just drowning her.
Percy stares out the window of his apartment, admiring the way that cold looks on LA. LA is almost never cold, and though Percy is not a painter like Nico, nor a photographer like Piper he can admire the beauty of it. The beauty of fog covering the usual brightness of and LA morning, muting it to background noise as the colours take over the importance of the window.
The orange and gold of the sun mixing with the cold grey of concrete, black dots appearing and disappearing as they please in the morning bustle. Percy wonders if this is what it’s like to be God, just watching things unfold beneath him with no power of control to stop them. In a way it’s beautiful, in another it’s terrifying.
“Percy, get your lazy ass down here!” Nico yells from below and Percy groans. Annabeth left half an hour ago, leaving him to the mercy of his unsympathetic flatmate. It doesn’t seem like Nico’s ever had a hangover in his life.
“Coming,” He groans and, ignoring his pounding head, swings off of his window perch onto one of the rafters. With the grace of a tightrope walker, he pads over to the other side of the roof and uses the lower rafters as a ladder down to the ground, having to jump the last five feet.
“You know, most normal people don’t climb up into the rafters when they’re hung over,” Nico grumbles and he looks like he just rolled out of bed too. Dark curls stick up in every direction and he’s blinking blearily into a cup of coffee. Percy snorts and pours himself a cup.
“And those people, are boring,” Percy snipes back, pouring half of the creamer carton into his coffee. Nico sneezes.
“Whatever Jackson, I’m going to let you deal with the beast,” He grumbles and Percy groans, lowering his head to the counter. ‘The beast’ in question is currently asleep on the couch downstairs, and past experience has taught both Percy and Nico that whoever wakes her will get a punch to the face.
“I woke her yesterday, it’s your turn,” Percy complains and Nico rolls his eyes.
“No, I woke her yesterday, you woke her on Saturday,” Nico corrects him and sips his coffee which, apparently, isn’t sweet enough for the smaller boy. As he puts another tablespoon of sugar in his drink Percy sips his own and frowns.
“Did you get a new blend?” he asks, Nico nods.
“It’s a really dark one, present from a fan in Germany.” Nico’s eyes are focused on the swirling spoon in his coffee. Percy had been a little surprised to learn that Nico was a coffee person when they’d first moved in together. He’d thought that the only thing Nico drank was the souls of the innocent.
Quickly, he’d learned that despite being able to look scary as hell, Nico was secretly a really grumpy kitten. He liked milk, coffee, soft clothing, big sweaters, electro-pop, musicals, and pastel colours. Despite all of that, Nico still presented himself like a metal band reject. Dark hair that was usually in a mullet with piercings in both ears along with his lip. He wore almost nothing except black and his signature bomber jacket. All in all, it was enough to get the image of scary punk, coupled with his resting death glare.
“Okay, rock paper scissors, the loser has to wake Piper,” Percy says finally and Nico looks at him, amused.
“Alright Aquaman,” he carefully puts down his coffee and extends his hand, hovering it over his other. Percy does the same.
“Rock,” the fist comes down the first time.
“Paper,” the fist comes down again.
“Scissors,” the fist comes down one last time.
“SHOOT!” Percy comes up scissors, Nico comes up rock.
“What!” Percy yells, looking disappointed. Nico chuckles, picking his coffee cup back up.
“Perc, you do scissors every time,” Nico murmurs, and Percy huffs indignantly.
“Fine…” he sighs out and starts to sulk off down the stairs.
“See you with your head attached,” Nico teased.
Piper was Percy’s cousin on dad’s side of the family, like Thalia, but a bit more distant. While Thalia was his first cousin, he hadn’t even really known that she existed until he was out of high school. Piper, however, had been over at his home several times throughout his childhood. Whenever her dad had some urgent thing come up and no time to schedule a nanny, he’d just get one of his assistants to drop her off at Percy’s apartment and leave. It was a bit sad, in retrospect, but Percy was grateful because of that at least that meant that he got to know Piper.
Piper was a mystery, not in the sense that she had secrets, but rather in the sense that it was just her being. A mystery. Choppy dark hair like her father’s and the same dark skin of her heritage, one that Percy didn’t share. They’d use to have fun when they were kids when Piper would tell Percy one of the legends of her people and they’d act them out. It had taken until Percy was eleven for him to realise why Piper had all these stories that he didn’t.
“Pipes,” Percy hisses, nudging the girl with his hand and she groans, rolling over and burying her face into the couch. For all the things Percy has heard people call Piper, grumpy is not one of them, but he guesses that given he gets to see her first thing in the morning that he gets to experience the full package.
“Piper!” Percy yells, yanking her blanket away. As predicted, Piper springs upwards. As also predicted, Piper slams her heel into Percy’s side, sending him tumbling to the ground.
“Jesus, Percy! You nearly gave me a heart attack!” Piper complains, and she somehow manages to make ‘just rolled out of bed’ look good.
“You just kicked me over!” Percy complains, and stands, grunting. However, it’s better than it was on Saturday, Percy’s eye stings in sympathy.
Piper shrugs sheepishly, “oops?”
“Don’t ‘oops’ me Piper!” Percy complains, and the girl shrugs, laughing slightly.
“Oh well, so how was the party Jackson?” she asks, starting up the stairs and leaving Percy to follow.
“Eh, I’ve been to better parties, I pity Reyna and Thalia though, that’s going to be a lot of clean up,” he mutters as they reach Nico’s floor again. The Italian boy has moved to the table, and his eyes are trained on the TV.
“Hey Neeks, what’s up?” Piper asks, and Nico sends all of them a look that stops them in their tracks. It’s a look of panic.
He doesn’t speak, just points frantically at the TV.
“Recently, the Singer’s rush to the hospital has sparked worry about her health, but more than that, her hospital records.” the person talking is a middle-aged man in a tweed suit, and he looks terribly grave like he’s reading someone’s eulogy. “Grace’s hospital records have revealed a troubled past with substance abuse and most shockingly, depression. Coupled with police records it appears the incident with Mr Castellan wasn’t the first time he and Ms Grace ended up in trouble with the police. Ms Grace was arrested along with Mr Castellan when she was just twelve years old. Mr Castellan was charged with murder and Ms Grace with substance abuse. Details on the case are not clear, but it appears that Mr Castellan and Ms Grace were both involved in the murder of Hermes Castellan, Lucas’ father.”
Percy felt his blood freeze in his veins. “No…” he breaths, matching Nico’s panicked gaze.
“It’s on every news channel,” Nico confirms.
Piper looks like a deer caught in the headlights, “This just got a whole lot worse, didn’t it.”
Chapter 12: Hot Lights, Cold Hands, Red Clothes
The lights are too hot, and her hands are too cold, clenching tighter and tighter around themselves as the time continues to tick down. Tick, tick, tick, an unending stream of conversations between people who are moving much too fast. So very fast. Thalia can't understand them, it's all just a whirling meaningless mess. They're all moving so fast, and Thalia's just so slow. She's slow, frozen almost, sitting alone, abandoned underneath all the bright, flashing lights. Abandoned to the flood gates, blind and drowning, trying desperately to make sense of something, anything. But it's all just meaningless anyway, no one notices that she's there. She's just a piece of background, an accessory, and Thalia's fine with that. She wishes it could be more like that all the time.
The lights are still too bright, hot, and blinding as if she'd found her way into a desert. She can taste the sand in her mouth, and feel it in her eyes, but knows that those aren't grains of sand. They're something much worse. Her mouth is dry, and she reaches with shaking hands for the water bottle at her ankle. She can't pick it up, her fingers are shaking too badly.
"Easy there," someone says, and Thalia jumps, like a spooked animal. She can feel the pressure at her back and the growing pressure in her chest with every whirling movement the world throws at her. Reyna hasn't changed at least, a little bit of constance in a world of change. She has the same smile that used to mean something, but at this point is hollow. She has the same dark eyes she's always had, but now they're dead and smoldering, like the remains of a fire that had once reached the stars. In every possible way, she's the same but muted in a sense. Like something very important has died, causing Reyna's colors to dull.
"I'm fine," Thalia mutters and manages to grab the bottle, steadied by Reyna's presence. Reyna doesn't buy it of course and knits her eyebrows.
"Are you sure you're ready for this? Hylla and I can do it alone if it would-" Thalia shakes her head, cutting Reyna off.
"I need to do something before it gets any worse. Rumors only grow, and I need to address the ones already out there before more are created," Thalia's voice is so much smaller than it once was and she hates it. She feels so vulnerable, and the last thing she wants to be is vulnerable. She feels so exposed under the lights, like a frog for dissection. There will be millions of eyes on her, all at once. She hates that it bothers her. She used to love the attention, to bask in the lights and the cameras. She would flip them off as soon as she'd admit that though. Now she wishes more than anything that she could just curl up and hide.
"I don't want you to do anything before you're ready though. Thalia, I'm worried," Reyna mutters, gently placing a hand on Thalia's shoulder. "I don't want you to make anything worse on yourself. You're already dealing with enough stress."
Thalia snorts a laugh, but it's hardly humorous, "I don't think that 'stress' is the word I would use..." she mutters softly. Reyna frowns, Thalia hates it. She hates the way she looks at her like she's shattered glass.
"Thalia-" Reyna starts, but it's too late because Hylla has returned, plunking herself on the other side of Thalia and throwing a protective arm around her before either Reyna or Thalia can question where she disappeared off to.
"You two ready?" She asks. Thalia doesn't miss that she smells faintly of smoke and pancakes. Hylla doesn't smoke and breakfast was four hours ago. Reyna scowls at her sister, an expression that Thalia hasn't seen in awhile. It's a little comforting to see not everything has been flipped onto its head.
"Hylla, where the hell did you go? We were supposed to start ten minutes ago," Reyna's voice is a whispering growl, and Hylla smiles, unaffected by her sister's mother voice.
"I just had to meet a friend, now shush, here comes the reporter," Hylla remarks and Thalia instantly stiffens. She's not ready. She's not. Everything is moving way too fast and she thinks that she's going to pass out.
The reporter is a tall woman with a kind face and long dark hair like Reyna's. She gives Thalia a smile as she approaches, and Reyna almost instantly takes up a protective position. Hylla smacks the top of Reyna's head with her empty water bottle.
"Hi, I'm Silena Beauregard and I'll be your interviewer. It's an honor to meet you three." The reporter seems nice enough. She doesn't ring any immediate alarm bells in Thalia's head, which is probably a good sign. Hylla smiles winningly and offers her hand for the reporter to shake.
"Hylla, but you obviously knew that," she says and the reporter laughs. She looks to be about Hylla's age. Thalia vaguely wonders if Hylla's honestly trying to flirt with the reporter. Reyna scowls again, which gives Thalia the impression she's not unfounded in her suspicions.
"Sorry to keep you waiting, Ms. Beauregard, we just had some confusion on the arrival time," Reyna says, and Silena turns to Reyna, flashing another blinding smile that's much more sincere than any reporter Thalia's met before.
"It's no problem, takes them forever to set up all the cameras and such anyway." Thalia's a little less nervous now. If the interviewer is this non-threatening maybe she won't have a heart attack in the first twenty seconds of talking.
"What're they doing anyway?" Hylla asks as she watches a pair of camera men chase each other around the equipment waving some sort of flag. Silena rolls her eyes but smiles good-naturedly.
"Those are the Stolls, don't ask me what they're doing, because I honestly don't know." they all watch as the pair of brunette boys manage to tackle each other over a couch, yelling and kicking the whole way.
"You sure this is a good idea?" Thalia means to whisper the comment to Reyna but ends up mumbling it out loud. Silena gives her a look and Thalia desperately wants to sink into the couch and disappear.
"You're nervous?" the reporter asks rather than getting offended at Thalia questioning the integrity of her coworkers. Reyna looks relieved and Hylla is holding back a snicker, she can tell.
"Why wouldn't I be?" Thalia responds rather than try to deny it. It's more obvious than the color of the sky at this point. She's shaking, her entire body trembling because she can barely contain the adrenaline pumping through her veins. Silena nods sympathetically.
"I'll admit that in your place I'd be just as bad, if not worse. But that's the beauty of this not being a live interview. If at anytime we ask a question you don't want to answer, or we go into a topic you don't want to share, we can delete it." Silena smiles again, and Thalia feels a large weight pulled off of her shoulders. Thank God.
"Thank you," Thalia whispers, letting her eyes go back down to the water bottle clutched in her still shaking hands. Silena nods again.
"You're not the only person who's been through this sort of thing before, and we understand it's difficult. You can stop the interview at any time, just give us the word." With that, some burly man has made his way to the camera station and gotten the tumbling Stoll brothers under control.
"Two minutes!" he yells and Silena stands, nodding to reassure Thalia one last time before she makes her way over to her chair, which faces opposite their couch. Thalia deflates back into the couch and Reyna places her hand on Thalia's back to reassure her one last time before the camera starts rolling.
"You're not doing this alone," Reyna whispers and Hylla nods in solidarity. She's visibly sobered up from her giggling earlier as she claps a hand onto Thalia's shoulder.
"We've got you, now, here we go."
The camera starts.
"So, you've decided to have an airing party for the very same interview you gave yesterday?" Artemis questions Hylla who's sprawled herself out over her entire couch. Hylla, who's much taller than herself and leaves absolutely no room for her on the sofa. Unless she wants to lay on top of her, which she isn't opposed to, but isn't necessary at the moment.
"Well, it's what we did when the police reports got released, so it might as well happen again," Hylla remarks and combs a hand back through her hair. "Besides, Thalia needs the moral support."
"Is that what that Party was?" Artemis asks, not even attempting to hide her smirk. Hylla's expression sours immediately.
"Shut up alright, I'm trying to be generous here," Hylla complains, and Artemis just laughs, a motion that is just as annoying as it's always been, but Hylla's getting used to it.
"Clearly, you're offering me entry back into your sister's house after what happened last time. Even with alcohol on the table." Artemis watches as Hylla's face blooms a brilliant red color.
"If you're going to be about it that way, you can just spend the night in your house, Jesus!" Hylla yells, sitting up, and Artemis grins, having gotten what she wanted. She plunks herself down on the couch next to Hylla and stretches.
"You know, for a punk rock drummer, you're incredibly easy to fluster," Artemis purrs and Hylla's face doesn't have any chance of going down at any point. The red color has spread from her cheeks to her whole face.
"Did you- did you literally do that just to get me to move?!" she yells and Artemis only gives Hylla a smirk.
"Your blush is an added bonus," she remarks and Hylla drives her face into her palms, which rewards her with Artemis's chuckle again. Even after everything, the fact that she can still laugh makes Artemis feel a little guilty. Surely, she shouldn't be able to function. She's lost pretty much everything, but here she sits. In the middle of her apartment, with a different woman who she cares for in a completely different way. What would she think of her now? Artemis wonders. Would she hate her? Would she be happy? She hopes she'd be happy, Artemis is tired of grieving.
"In all regards, yes I'll come to your little party, as long as you promise me that you won't attempt to bed me again," Artemis mutters and Hylla flips her off, but she can tell behind the taller girl's hands there's a smile. As much as Hylla may refuse to admit it, Artemis has grown on her. She's all around a good person with something that's happened to her. Hylla can tell. She's softer now, back when Artemis had been Hylla's superior she'd hardly batted an eye at whatever hijinks her fellow squad members had gotten into, and was known for giving some of the harshest punishments. Now, Artemis was more of a teenager than Hylla was, and she was the one still in her twenties.
"Deal, as long as you promise me the same," Hylla muttered and the older woman smiled.
"Then we're agreed. I have to ask, however, do you ever plan on returning to your own apartment? You've been crashing here for the past four nights." Artemis raises an eyebrow when Hylla only shrugs in response.
"I mean, I can go now, but I thought you could use the company. This place is big, and there's only one person living here." Hylla's as perceptive as always and Artemis vaguely wishes she wasn't.
"I'm not opposed to it, I just thought you might want to eventually sleep on a bed rather than an old couch that hasn't been cleaned in years," Artemis says. Hylla chuckles.
"I'm a drummer in my sister's band Artemis, my 'bed' is a camping mat on the hardwood floor," Hylla smiles at Artemis's risen eyebrow. "It's not that she doesn't pay me, she does. I just make sure she gets the larger cut. She needs it more."
"So you'll allow yourself to live like a college dropout?" Artemis asks, incredulously, and Hylla laughs. It's a throaty noise like a starting lawnmower.
"Artemis, I am a college dropout," Hylla reminds and reaches over Artemis to grab the remote and turn on the television.
"Not what I meant," Artemis mutters, but decides to stop arguing because Hylla's pulled up Netflix and this is a much more interesting subject, given for the foreseeable future Hylla will be living on her couch.
"Whatever, now, what do you wanna watch?"
"Thank you, Athena, I'm here today with some special guests. Hylla, Reyna, and Thalia of Run Away Dream. Can I just say it's an honor to be here with you all today," Silena looks just as beautiful in HD as she does in real life. Her hair tumbles in a black wave across her shoulders and leaves her face the perfect amount exposed so that you can see the striking contrast of her features with the shadows cast by the large lights hidden behind the camera.
It's a familiar scene, Thalia thinks. The band sprawled out in front of the TV with alcohol in hand, but now the sense of anxiety is muted. Mostly due to the fact they have more control this time of what's getting put out there. However, it has yet to fade completely. The addition of Hylla's "totally not girlfriend" Artemis hasn't helped much.
"Well thank you for having us!" Hylla says on the TV. She doesn't look quite as impressive as Silena, but the makeup they smacked her in the face with before the interview has at least made her face visible. Her dark brows in particular catch Thalia's eye.
Nico's got his laptop perched on his stomach again, but this time instead of being beside Thalia he's sandwiched in between Percy and his cousin Piper on the sofa. Percy has Twitter in hand, and Piper's pulled up Instagram, all three of them going into information relay mode.
Hylla and Artemis are both laying on their stomachs in front of the Tv, Hylla has already poured her glass of alcohol poisoning vodka and Artemis is nursing her own glass of the stuff. Reyna's made herself at home beside Thalia in the armchair. Due more to Thalia's request than anything else, Reyna's not drinking tonight. Instead, both of her arms are curled around Thalia's middle, holding her close.
"So, the big question on everyone's mind is, how're you doing Thalia?" Silena tosses a little of her hair over her shoulder and Thalia visibly shrinks on screen. She looks awful, Thalia doesn't know if anyone else will notice, but she can see the bags under her own eyes. She can see the way her bones protrude in places they shouldn't and how her pallid face does little to hide the redness of her own eyes. She looks like a living ghost.
"I'm... well I'm alive," the television Thalia says and in real life, she winces. She sounds pathetic. Silena nods encouragingly.
"It's been a hard few weeks," Reyna intercedes.
"I'll bet, I think I speak for all your fans when I say that we're glad that you're okay. Though, some have wondered why this information was kept for so long?"
"It's... I think I needed time to... come to terms with it myself before... before we admitted it to the world," tv Thalia's neck is bobbing, she's shaking so bad she looks like a hyperactive chihuahua. Reyna squeezes her from behind, gently letting her know that she's there. On the screen, Hylla drapes her arm over Thalia's shoulders and Reyna takes her hand.
"It's come to the attention of the media that you and Mr. Castellan had a history. Can you... elaborate on that?"
Thalia's eyes are glued to herself. Watching as in a few seconds of horrible silence her own face takes on the worst expression of despair she's ever seen. "I... We were friends when we were twelve. Or.. I was twelve. He... he lived in the apartment across from ours. We went to school together." Her voice is shaking so much. Reyna's hand tightens on her own.
"We... My mother wasn't the best about... taking care of me and Jason," Tv Thalia takes a breath, "she often times forgot to feed us, and I needed money. So Luke and I would go out and, be horrible menaces to society." Thalia watches her face twist horribly with the attempt at a joke.
"Nothing really bad, pickpocketing mostly, sometimes a little gambling. I did what it took to feed my brother, Luke was really just the help. Then one day, he comes to get me for another 'job.' I went with him because that's what we did. He led me into his house and I think that's when I knew something was wrong. Luke didn't like people in his personal space, and he hated his father even more. When he lead me into his apartment I knew... I knew something was off. I didn't... I didn't know what he was going to do until it was already done." Her voice sounds mechanical, her face is even worse. Void of all emotion. Thalia feels sick.
"How did Mr. Castellan and you reconnect?" the screen shows no change, but Thalia remembers crying for a good solid ten minutes after that confession.
"He, uh, well... he came after me in a sense..." Tv Thalia trailed off and Reyna took it from there. Spinning her sob story about how Luke came after her when she was grocery shopping threatening to go public with information from their childhood if she didn't cooperate. Reyna, bless her heart, doesn't break composure once. Giving honest answers that somehow don't reveal too much, but just enough to satisfy the public eye. Something Thalia's sure she used to be capable of. Now she just watches, frozen, as her past-self hides behind Reyna.
In the present Reyna's stroking Thalia's forearms, trying to calm her down, but Thalia can't calm down. She's shaking again, her shoulders trembling while she pretends that the earth isn't crumbling beneath her feet.
Piper and Nico are both mumbling to themselves, rapidly clicking reload on their respective webpages. Percy, on the other hand, is giving Thalia an expression she recognizes. The expression he gave her The first day they met. All the way back in Juvie. Thalia wants to melt into a puddle and cease to exist.
"How long did this go on?" Silena asks, and Reyna can't answer that question. So Thalia only croaks out a response. One so soft they had to subtitle it. '4 months' flashes across the screen and Percy jumps when his phone lets out a stream of notifications so fast that Thalia fears that it'll break.
Thalia turns away from the screen. She's done. Without so much as a word she stands and leaves the room, heading straight for the bathroom.
"Thalia!" Reyna calls after her, but she's already gone, locking the door behind her.
Her mind is an echo chamber and all she can hear are the questions repeating over and over in her head. How could you do this? Why didn't you reach out for help? Did you enjoy it? Did you enjoy him? Millions of voices from people Thalia doesn't know. Hundreds of thousands of people screaming with questions and concerns that don't help her in any way shape or form. She's drowning in the voices. In webpages. In other people who don't really know her.
She's choking on it and when she looks in the mirror she doesn't know who's staring back at her. Thalia Grace has startling blue eyes, a sprinkle of freckles that dot her whole body. Thalia Grace has a crooked smile that shows of teeth that are a little too sharp for comfort, she has black hair that sticks up in every direction and a body that's lean and taut so that all the teenagers swoon when she wears crop tops. Thalia Grace oozes confidence. Thalia Grace laughs when people threaten her. Thalia Grace can kill with a story. Thalia Grace is dead.
The girl who looks back at her has eyes like a smog-filled sky and freckles that have faded into skin that's as pale as paper. The girl has stringy black hair that hangs around her face limp and dull, her face is distorted into an expression of grief, but what she's grieving she isn't sure. The girl's body is skinny, protruding bones in places the human body is supposed to have muscle. Her shirt hangs off of her like a coat rack and the knuckles on her hands pop with blue veins that shouldn't show until she's eighty.
Reyna pounds against the bathroom door. "Thalia please, come out of there." her voice is shaking.
The girl in the mirror is shaking. She's so thin, so fragile. Her breaths expand in a way no human's body should move unless they're dying from starvation.
"Thalia," Reyna's voice cracks.
The girl in the mirror's eyes are dilated, and there's something terribly cold in them. Something primordial.
"Thalia please!" Reyna's voice rising and her hand slams against the door. She's full of desperation and warmth. There's a horribly loud crashing noise from inside the bathroom, and her heart leaps into her throat and all she can think of are Thalia's words.
Not even be able to trust yourself alone in a room because you're scared what will happen if the thoughts get too loud. Reyna's heart is throbbing horribly. When your own heartbeat is drowned out by the sound of the blood in your veins and how your thoughts are concentrating of how it'd look in your clothes.
"Thalia Elizabeth Grace, open this fucking door!" Reyna shouts. There's no noise from the other side. Reyna's breath catches in her throat. She can't see anything except the door. Except the one thing that's keeping her from holding Thalia and never letting her out of her arms again. Never letting her set more than a foot away from her.
The door is on the floor. The girl in the mirror is cracked, half of her face replaced by drywall and there's something red on her clothes.
Chapter 13: The Blonde Therapist
“It’s nice to meet you, Ms. Grace, my name is Dr. William Solace.” He’s blonde. Of all the things her therapist could’ve been, he just had to be blonde. Thalia wonders if this is some sort of sick cosmic joke.
Sure, after the little episode with the mirror she’d known that she wouldn’t get out of it. Reyna had been very adamant about getting her a therapist after that, and she wasn’t about to let Reyna simply waste her their money on a doctor that she simply refused to trust based on hair color.
Or eye color. He was blue eyed too , shit. She tightens her grip on the cheap wooden chair she sat in. The kind that looks comfy and expensive but is really just cheap plastic and polished plywood.
“Before we begin, may I ask what happened to your hand?” He’s younger than Luke at least. In fact, the guy can’t even be older than her, which is minorly disturbing. He must’ve been some kind of child prodigy, she decides.
Thalia glances down at her hand, it’s bound in gauze and duct tape, the best Reyna could do. Blood is still visible through the layers of white. She swallows thickly.
“Punched a mirror…” she mutters, trying not to seem concerned. Dr. Solace raises his eyebrows, which makes him look even younger than he already does. She can’t decide if it’s just his face or if he really is a lot younger than herself.
“Why would you do that?” he asks and Thalia sinks in her seat. This is almost as bad as that damn interview.
“I was stupid, now can we please move onto something else, Solace,” she growls the name out like it hurts, half because she wants to drop it, half because a therapist named Solace. Really?
“Sorry,” Dr. Solace replies and straightens his papers, glancing over them. “Alright, according to this you’re on a daily dose of trimipramine, is that right?”
“Yes,” Thalia says, remembering she hasn’t taken her medicine for the last week. That probably wasn’t very helpful. Dr. Solace nods and jots something down.
“And, I’ve read the reports, as well as seen the newscasts, but I want to know, from your mouth and no one else’s, what happened between you and Mr. Castellan?” Solace turns to look back up at her, and Thalia feels her throat close up. Her hands shake, her mouth is dry. She can’t speak, and so instead of answering she looks down at her shoes. The old combat boots are cracked and peeling. Dr. Solace watches her with concern.
“Not one for talking, eh?” he asks and Thalia looks back up to glare at him.
“You just asked me to talk about a man who would pin me to a bed and shove his fucking sausage in me until I started to bleed for his own enjoyment, what the fuck do you expect!” Her voice sounds alien to her ears. It’s been so long since she’s been able to feel anything other than despair the boiling rage in her stomach scares her. Dr. Solace smiles.
“According to what your friend Ms. Ramirez-Arellano said, you’ve been stuck in a severe state of depression since your return from the hospital?” He asks, and Thalia knits her eyebrows. Did he really have nothing to say about that outburst?
“Uh… I’d say so,” Thalia agrees, trying to understand the man before her.
“Well, Ms. Grace, I’d like you to answer a question for me, truthful this time,” he combs a hand back through his hair, and Thalia swallows her nerves. “Have you been taking your medicine?”
Thalia sighs, and leans forwards on her elbows, raking her fingernails across her scalp violently. “No! Okay. I haven’t been taking them.”
“Why?” is Dr. Solace’s immediate response. No scolding, no explanation on why she had to take them like Reyna had given her that morning when she’d found the pill bottle hidden deep in the spice cupboard.
“What?!” Thalia’s so startled she can’t answer the question. Dr. Solace smiles, a grin of slightly crooked teeth that’s so infectious Thalia nearly smiles herself.
“Why? Why haven’t you been taking your medicine? Is there a reason, or have you just not felt motivated enough to-”
“There’s a reason!” Thalia interjects. She hates it when people just immediately assume she doesn’t want to do something. She gets that she’s stubborn, but seriously?! She has more personality than blatant refusal to do things.
Will lifts his eyebrows, and nods encouragingly for her to explain. Thalia takes a deep breath to ground herself. “It’s… It’s not that they don’t work, they do, but I just can’t stand the idea that my moods and emotions all depend on this stupid little capsule. It feels… fake almost. Like I can’t really be happy. It’s like… getting drunk at a college party. Everything feels great and dandy while you’re drunk, but as soon as the alcohol wears off you can’t… it all just seems so stupid. It’s just... fake.” Thalia digs a hand into her scalp, letting her nails bite into flesh until she can feel a stickiness under her fingertips.
“So, first thing’s first, how long has it been since your last dose?” He’s frowning now, an expression that finally makes him look a little older like he does actually belong in the office. His eyebrows draw together and Thalia’s hit with how the expression looks nothing like the scowl she was used to seeing on Luke’s face. That makes her feel a little better.
Thalia’s mouth is so dry, “Two weeks.” She murmurs.
“Alright, let’s try putting you on a different prescription first, and then if you’re still having this problem we’ll try getting rid of the pills altogether. Is that good?” Dr. Solace has turned back to his computer, smiling and bouncing his leg while he types. In that split second, when Dr. Solace looks at something on his desktop and smiles, Thalia wonders what part of Luke she ever saw in him.
“Great,” she murmurs and watches as he punches in a few keys, and the printer behind him fires to life, spitting out a few sheets of paper that Will soon signs before the ink has even had a chance to dry.
“Alright, I recommend getting this filled as soon as possible, and it doesn’t automatically refill, so if it works you’ll have to tell me,” Solace smiles and hands her the papers and then sits back in his chair while Thalia takes a minute to shuffle around and put them in her bag.
The office is nice, in the kind of way that makes her feel just comfortable enough not to consider it a hospital, but just uneasy enough not to lean back in her chair. The walls are painted a beige color, the same one that every important person seems to have on their walls. There’s a potted plant on the right side of the desk. Unlike other therapist offices she’s been in there’s no doctorate on the walls declaring what school the person in front of her went to, or how qualified they are for their job. Instead, there’s an entire square three feet of wall covered in pictures of dogs. Not even stock photos, just pictures of dogs. In half of them there are blurry images of Dr. Solace, like he’d dropped the camera while it flashed.
“Can I ask a question?” she murmurs and looks up at Dr. Solace who had just stopped himself from falling out of his chair. He looks up at her and nods. His hair flops around unceremoniously. “How old are you?”
He laughs a contagious sound. It’s so purely happy that Thalia can feel her cheeks twitching upwards. The motion is almost alien. “If I had a dollar for every time I’d heard that I’d have enough money to fund the cure for cancer.” He declares loudly, which is a weird way to finish that statement, she thinks.
“So you’ve been doing this for a while I take it?” she asks. Solace shakes his head, still smiling faintly.
“Only four years, but it feels like an eternity. To answer your question though, nineteen,” he finishes and Thalia almost falls out of her chair.
“What?!” she blurts for the second time in the last ten minutes. Again, Solace laughs. A nineteen-year-old is her therapist. A man four years younger than her. He’d been doing it for four years he said, meaning he’d started when he was fifteen .
“I know,” Solace wasn’t surprised, she guessed that reaction was normal. “I graduated from school when I was fourteen. It’s a long story you don’t need to get worried about, but I always wanted to be a doctor.” Will sighs and stands, walking around his desk to stand in front of her.
“You’re not here to hear my life story, however, you’re here because from what I’ve been told, your depressive state has taken a severe dive since your encounter with M-”
“Don’t call him that,” Thalia interjects, rubbing her temples. She just can’t take all this stupid ‘Mr. Castellan’ shit. It’s making her feel sick.
“Lu-” Dr. Solace corrects himself and Thalia interrupts him again.
“Don’t call him that either.” She has to press her hands into the armrests to keep them from shaking.
“He-who-must-not-be-named,” he says finally, but he doesn’t get exasperated like Reyna had the first time they’d had a very similar exchange. Dr. Solace’s hand begins tapping on the front of his desk. A nervous tick, she decides. “That’s to be expected, all things considered. So, let’s get one thing straight, Thalia. How do you feel towards the individual?”
Thalia’s throat is closing, her hands are tightening death grips on her arm rests. “I hate him. He ruined me, he abused me, he-” her throat tightens too much to continue. Even as she spits the words she has trouble believing them. Dr. Solace sees straight through her.
“You miss him.” He doesn’t make it a question. It’s simply a statement. A declaration of fact.
“I hate him,” Thalia repeats. Her throat breaks. Her voice shakes.
“You might,” Dr. Solace agrees, but he squats down so he can look into her eyes. His are a bright baby blue, two shades lighter than Luke’s. “But that doesn’t change the fact a part of you misses him. You can feel him, you still believe that he could come waltzing through this door right now.”
Thalia lurches back in her chair, away from Dr. Solace. She’s shaking, trembling like she’s been dropped into Antarctica with nothing more than a bikini. Her mouth tastes like iron, and the blunt of her nails dig into the wood on the chair, leaving scratch marks as she jerks backward. Dr. Solace doesn’t move an inch or speak. He leaves them in baited silence. Nothing more than Thalia’s harsh breathing taking it up.
“I… I…” her voice sounds pathetic. She hates how weak it sounds. Dr. Solace looks so horribly calm. She hates it. She hates how he can just look at her and there’s no judgment. There’s no disappointment. There’s no pity. There’s no hurt or anything for her to poison with her words. He looks at her and all that’s there is a kind concern, not someone who looks at her like she needs to be fixed. He doesn’t look at her like she’s broken.
“Thalia,” His voice is so gentle, she hates how she can’t find a hint of hurt in it. Like he doesn’t see that she’s poisoning her with her despair. She hates that he can touch her and not get burned. She hates that he’s just so damn calm. She hates him. “If you want to get over this, the first thing you have to accept is that he’s gone.”
Hylla wakes up alone. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just one she isn’t used to. For the last two weeks, she’s been waking up with Artemis in the kitchen, calmly sipping a cup of tea and reading a newspaper like she’d jumped twenty years into the past. It’s a sight she’s gotten used to pretty quickly. However, this morning is not the case. The kitchen is empty, and the entire apartment is silent other than the soft hum of a heater, keeping out the January chill, which had failed to fade over the past week.
Hylla finds a note taped to the fridge, in the handwriting of a twelve-year-old boy who has had too much coffee, Artemis had scrawled the words, “Went 2 Recording Studio. Brother called.” Hylla almost wants to laugh. Artemis has proven an excellent host over the past week, and Hylla decided that she’s probably not leaving Artemis’s couch anytime soon. Considering Artemis’s indifference and constantly distracted nature she honestly thinks that she could completely move into the house and she wouldn’t notice.
However, Artemis not being present leads to one small problem. Hylla is a terrible cook. Not only is she a terrible cook, but Artemis refuses to keep anything that is premade in her kitchen. Everything she eats has to be made from scratch, from some organic farm, and naturally occurring. There isn’t even oatmeal in the pantry. This leads to Hylla attempting to make eggs with the stove, and then later to Hylla half drenched in water from the sink and a black pan. It was an electric stove. Artemis is going to kill her.
Fortunately, she manages to hide the evidence by pitching the pan out the window and cleaning the stove with a disposable sponge. Artemis arrives back in about half an hour, looking thoroughly exhausted, and ready to punch a hole in the wall. A burnt pan definitely would’ve gotten her killed. Artemis crashes onto the couch Hylla’s been sleeping on for the past week, and screams into her pillow.
“I take it that your brother did something stupid?” she asks, calmly spreading butter on a piece of bread, opting to skip the toasting part and potentially cause another fire. Artemis screams again, this time the pillow doesn’t get the full blast and she finds herself with ringing ears. “That bad?”
“Apollo, the idiot, is going bankrupt,” Artemis declares after about a minute of silence and staring at the ceiling like it could somehow save her.
“Really? Did it take him that long? I figured he’d go out of business after he signed that poor kid. What was his name again? Grover?” Artemis glares at her with the heat of a thousand suns. Considering Artemis’s entire house’s aesthetic is cool colors, and quiet, understated decorations, it’s easy to forget that Artemis can be both loud and hold enough anger to burn down small nation states.
“Hylla, if he goes bankrupt he’ll move in,” She says as if that alone is a global catastrophe that would require several hundred disaster rescue teams and years of slow recovery. Hylla swallows a smart comment about that.
“Okay, so how do you plan on stopping that?” she asks, careful to avoid saying anything that may cause her premature death. Artemis sighs, sitting back up. Her eyebrows have drawn together in an expression of thinking.
“Well, if he were to, say, sign an artist that was good then-” Artemis begins and Hylla breaks off into laughter, literally hunching over the kitchen table to keep herself from falling out of her chair; Artemis fixes her with her death glare.
“Look Artemis, no self-respecting artist would sign themselves to Apollo Records unless they were desperate. And I mean, really desperate. No offense, but he’s a joke, at best, in the music business.” Hylla immediately knows she’s fucked up. The look Artemis is giving her is absolutely evil. There was no other way to describe it. “Not to mention-” she stutters, trying to correct her mistake, “that even if he did, somehow, miraculously get someone to sign, he would have to keep all the money that person made to pay off his debt. And I mean, all the Artist wouldn’t see a single penny in their mailbox.”
Artemis’s mouth widens in a smile that could kill Achilles, “If only I knew someone who already has a relatively stable job in the music business who already knew how to properly advertise for herself and doesn’t need the money from a second exploit.” If looks could kill Hylla doesn’t want to think about where she’d be right now.
“No,” Hylla says finally, standing and walking over towards Artemis to emphasize the point. “No way, I’ll be a laughing stalk within the first week.”
“Oh, well,” Artemis leans back against the couch. That evil smile stays firmly on her lips. It’s such a smug thing and Hylla’s blood boils when she sees it. “I guess that Apollo will have to move in, and you’ll have to go back to sleeping on your bedroll.”
“What?!” Hylla exclaims, she’s standing directly in front of Artemis right now, who looks very pleased with herself. “Since when does Apollo moving in equal me leaving?!”
My landlord only allows two people per apartment.” Is the nonchalant reply Artemis gives, she’s finally taken her eyes away from Hylla, but she doesn’t feel any safer when she’s free of them. In fact, she feels as if she’s in more danger.
“Fine!” she yells, defeated. Artemis looks back up, victorious and proud of it. “But only because I already started selling my Apartment.” She mutters, playing with her sleeves to avoid Artemis’s face.
“What?” Artemis says, incredulous, “When were you going to tell me that you were moving in?” She’s scowling and Hylla’s thrown right back into the hot seat.
“Well, it’s not really moving when all my sole possessions are already here.” Hylla waves a hand at the suitcase that sits at the end of the couch. Artemis blinks, noticing it for the first time despite the fact she’d literally watched Hylla trip over it the previous day.
“You have more clothes than that,” she says indifferently. Hylla snorts.
“Yeah, they’re in your closet.”
“You’re trying to prank me,” Artemis accuses. Hylla begins to march towards Artemis’s room, the older woman in tow. She yanks open Artemis’s closet door to reveal about twelve or so shirts and pants hung on hangers right next to Artemis’s considerably lighter wardrobe choices.
“They’re in, your closet,” Hylla repeats, watching Artemis’s face go through several different emotions in seconds, finally settling on confusion.
“How long-” she starts.
“Four days.” Hylla finishes and closes the closet door. “In case you hadn’t noticed, you’re not the most observant person.” Artemis scowls.
“I still expect you to tell me when you’re about to become a permanent resident of my home.” She huffs and turns on her heel to stalk back towards the couch. “If you’d told me I might’ve gotten around to cleaning up the second bedroom-”
“You have a second bedroom? And you’ve been forcing me to sleep on the couch?” Hylla tries for mock offended. Artemis rolls her eyes.
“Yes, I do have a second bedroom, one that you’ve lost your potential privileges to.”
Hylla pouts and Artemis’s smile comes pulling back at the corners of her mouth. She’s glad, she realizes. She’d never peg herself as someone who’d try to please someone else, but Artemis’s smile has grown on her just as much as her laugh has. It’s a thing that the world would be much duller without.
“If I do the stupid artist thing will you let me have the bedroom?” she asks and Artemis’s reserved smile grows fully, crinkling up her eyes.
“Only because you asked so nicely, I’ll set a meeting up for you and Apollo later this week.”
“That soon?” Hylla questions as Artemis goes flitting into the kitchen. Too fast for her to follow, just slow enough for her to watch from a safe distance and keep up with.
“The sooner the better. The more money he loses the more likely it is he’ll be in here before the end of the month. You should probably look into getting a demo going.” Artemis’s head is hidden in the pantry, so she misses the face of utter despair Hylla pulls. Deadlines. She hates them.
“Artemis, I can play, like, three instruments,” she complains. Artemis shrugs.
“That’s what electronically synthesized music is for my friend. Besides you have friends who play other instruments. You’re the one who should know how to do this stuff,” Artemis finally emerges from the pantry with an armful of spices and assorted things that Hylla knows are ingredients but has no hope of naming.
“No way I’m getting them involved. I can’t possibly compromise our record label. One person dealing with another recording studio is already a large risk. I’ll have to stick this out alone,” Hylla suddenly comes to a realization. “Fuck. That means I can’t tell Reyna.”
“You sure about that? How are you going to keep it a secret that you’re an artist for Apollo Records, and still become popular enough to rake in enough cash to keep him from moving in?” Artemis asks, pulling out one of the knives and beginning to dice vegetables on the cutting board. Hylla considers this for a moment, before beaming with an Idea. Artemis can already tell she’s not going to understand what she’s about to blurt out.
“Mystery Artist,” she says and Artemis glowers at her. Hylla laughs. “No, think about it. An artist with extremely personal music and an intriguing name, but no face. Everything about the Artist, other than the record label is a secret.” Artemis doesn’t let up her glower.
“That’s the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard.” She doesn’t even try to sugar coat it. Hylla doesn’t let up, however.
“I’m telling you, with the right marketing campaign it could work,” Hylla says, bouncing on her feet excitedly. “I’ve already got a name figured out, HTK.”
“Hylla, everything these days is sold with sex appeal. If they can’t see your face, no one will be interested.” Artemis makes exaggerated movements as she chops her onions.
“I disagree,” Hylla states simply and sinks into one of the barstools.
“Oh?” Artemis pauses what she’s doing to pull her hair back from her face and then proceed to wash her hands again.
“Curiosity is one of Humanity's defining features. I’m telling you, if marketed properly, a mystery artist could gain quite a following. One that would explode upon that Artist’s reveal. Especially if said artist was someone already relatively well known.” Artemis finally looks up to give Hylla her full attention. There's a sort of childlike gleam in her eyes, and an excitement written across her face that reminds Artemis greatly of her brother when they were kids. It makes her chest ache. Because thinking about those days leads to thinking about her . And she knows exactly what she would say in this situation.
“You’re sure about this?” she asks and Hylla grins, flashing perfect white teeth. Artemis sighs heavily. “Fine, now get in here and help me chop some vegetables.”
Chapter 14: 2 Million Follower Nosebleed
Never Have I ever
Thalia's been going to therapy sessions with Will for three weeks now, and she's already improved so much. Three sessions a week and she's begun eating again, she remembers to shower at least once a week, she has the energy to play her guitar, and she remembers to put her dishes away. It's little things, but Reyna is grateful for them.
Reyna doesn't expect Thalia to ever be the same as she was before Luke, but if she can sing, and smile, and possibly ever laugh again, Reyna thinks that their lives will be just that much better. She's yet to get a laugh from Thalia, but she smiles when Reyna ruffles her hair before leaving to get groceries. She grins when Reyna runs after Hylla screaming for her socks which Hylla is currently wearing on her ears. Thalia even snorts when Reyna and Percy fight over which one of them can lift more and end up picking up objects around the house, including her.
However, the improvement isn't without its low points, though Thalia is better about it Reyna practically has to force her to take her medicine. Thalia flat out refuses to do anything that involves dealing with people outside of the band, including meeting with their manager, which leaves Reyna and Hylla to deal with her alone.
Thalia also sleeps, a lot. Will had told her that the new medicine would take some adjustment and cause Thalia to sleep more often, but Thalia falls asleep anywhere and everywhere. Once, Reyna caught her sleeping with her face in a bowl of cereal. It's gotten to the point where Reyna can leave Thalia alone for maybe two minutes and come back to Thalia fast asleep burrowed into the spot she had just vacated. Overall, Reyna is still worried, but she's improving, and Reyna will make sure to help wherever she can.
But, when Thalia comes home one day from her therapy meeting and immediately throws herself into the couch and screams, Reyna nearly has a heart attack.
"What happened?!" she shouts, skidding into the living room, sliding across the wooden floor on socks and half dressed, her hair isn't even braided yet. Thalia doesn't respond immediately, instead, she screams again, face buried in her pillow. Finally, she sits up and looks Reyna directly in the eyes.
"Someone took our movie job," she growls and Reyna blinks rapidly.
"What?!" she asks and Thalia reaches up to rub her temples.
"You know that song we were supposed to write for that one kid's movie?" Thalia asks and Reyna nods, stepping closer to sit down next to her on the couch. "Yeah, well apparently they found someone else who'd do it for cheap." Thalia's shoulders have dropped, and her head has bowed, but the scowl on her face is reminiscent of the Thalia who had fought tooth and nail for their record deal with Athena Studios.
"Who?" Reyna asks, finally able to calm down her heart beat to finish braiding her hair.
"I dunno, some indie artist I've never heard of," Thalia mutters, and looks back up at Reyna, still scowling. "HTK."
"That's a weird name, are they a DJ?" she asks and Thalia shrugs.
"I doubt it, usually these kinds of companies look for specific sounds, a DJ isn't exactly reminiscent of our style." Thalia pulls out her phone and begins googling the name. Reyna glances over Thalia's appearance, searching for any other potential causes of stress, but Thalia looks good today, which is always cause for celebration. Her hair is clean, meaning Thalia at least showered this morning, and she's wearing jeans and a black t-shirt that shows off her stomach with a large rip in the front. It's more effort than the sweatpants and t-shirt she'd been wearing for two weeks straight.
"That's weird," Thalia mutters, knitting her brows. "There's nothing on them, only that they released and Ep... two weeks ago?!" Thalia yells the last part. Reyna's own eyebrows meet and she pulls the phone from Thalia's grasp, scrolling through the search results. A lot of Tumblr pages and a youtube channel. She clicks on the link and opens a video titled simply, 'Insane.'
The clicking monodrone from the phone caught Thalia's attention, who craned her neck over Reyna's shoulder to look at the video. There was no central person in the video, simply a crowd of people standing still. The camera zipped through the crowd to focus on different people's faces, all of which was twisted into an expression of grief. Reyna felt shivers when a girl who looked far too similar to Thalia popped up. Behind it all, a song played, but the sound was heavily electronic. Not unpleasant and not quite dubstep, but it was different, to say the least. Actually, it was quite catchy. The song ended and the video stopped, facing the crowd with flames licking at the edges of the shot like a photograph. It crumbled black before burning away leaving the letters HTK in their wake.
"That didn't show the singer," Thalia mutters, disappointed. Reyna nods, going back to the google page and looking closer at the Tumblr pages. Most of them have one thing in common. A question. Who is HTK?
"I don't think that she's public," Reyna murmurs, and Thalia's eyebrows raise.
"A mystery artist?" she questions, "and a new one at that, how the hell did she get a movie deal within two weeks, much less an EP?!" Reyna shakes her head looking through the google, finding a Wikipedia page.
"She's signed to Apollo Records," she murmurs and Thalia's face twists into an expression of astonishment.
"What?!" she explodes, stealing the phone from Reyna's grasp. Reyna cranes her neck over Thalia's shoulder. The Wikipedia page is short, listing simply that the artist's identity is a secret and that she exploded in popularity overnight after the release of her song, 'lost mind'. There's no photographs, no early career, no sponsors, nothing. Just a schedule of songs that have been released, a chart detailing her signing details and that's it.
"How much is 'exploding in popularity'?!" Thalia mutters and Reyna shrugs. Thalia goes back to the youtube channel to look at the subscriber count.
"Four million?" Reyna questions, eyebrows twitching.
"In two weeks," Thalia finishes for her, hands clutching tighter on the phone. Reyna sits back on the couch, trying to comprehend that.
"Are you thinking-" Thalia begins and Reyna finishes for her.
"That we're about to have some competition if we don't start getting more involved, yes." Reyna watches as Thalia stands and begins pacing.
"Okay, but how?" Thalia questions. Reyna rolls her eyes. She hates it when Thalia paces, and Thalia knows that. Reyna likes to have full control over any situation, and planning while ADHD is constantly distracting you isn't fun. Thalia pacing just makes it a hundred times harder to focus."
"Well a good first step would be for you to stand still," Reyna grumbles and stands to stop Thalia from walking. At the same time, Thalia turns in her pacing pattern and succeeds in head butting Reyna in the mouth. She grunts in pain and Thalia springs backward.
"Sorry, shit," she mutters, watching as blood spurts from Reyna's nose. Reyna places the back of her hand to her nose and glares half heartedly over at Thalia while the smaller girl smiles sheepishly.
"This is why we don't pace in apartments the size of a fast food freezer," Reyna grumbles and walks off towards the kitchen to try and find some tissues. Thalia follows behind trying to get Reyna to put her hand down so she can fuss over her.
"Rey, I'm sorry," Thalia apologizes as Reyna presses a tissue to her nose. The sharp pain in her left nostril begins to dull.
"If you're sorry, then you'll allow me to choose what we should do for publicity and not do something dangerously stupid that'll possibly get you killed," Reyna responds in a heartbeat, giving Thalia a pointed look. Thalia raises her eyebrows.
"Well that was specific," Thalia mutters and Reyna rolls her eyes, pulling the tissue away and folding it over before placing it back against her nose.
"You know what I mean, last time you almost fell off of hoover dam," Reyna grumbles and Thalia shivers.
"Point taken, then what is your suggestion?" she asks and Reyna sighs.
"We do a live stream, we haven't done one in months and it'll get attention at least. Then we begin work on the next album ASAP," Reyna watches as Thalia ponders her words, nose wrinkling the way it does when she's thinking.
"Are you sure the live stream is a good idea?" she asks and Reyna almost laughs.
"Thals, last time they saw you you were on NBC nearly crying your eyes out, trust me, they'll wanna see how you're doing now," Reyna realizes that came out a bit harsh too late, but Thalia barely flinches.
"Fair enough, but I'm not doing a Q and A," she says before reaching behind Reyna to grab a bottle of Ale-8 from the fridge. Reyna pulls away her tissue only to see more blood. She curses and discards the tissue before reaching for another one. Thalia glances at the damage and grimaces. "You need an ice pack?"
"I'm fine," Reyna shrugs her off and applies the fresh tissue to her nose. Thalia shrugs. "If not a Q and A then what do you have in mind?" Reyna asks and Thalia smiles.
"Hey guys, to everyone just joining in we're about to get a round of Never Have I ever started with suggestions from you all! So please, don't forget to tweet us with the hashtag #NHIERAD," Percy shouts full volume at the camera, already fully tipsy despite the fact the game hasn't even started yet, but Thalia's become used to his shenanigans and just rolls with it.
It's just the band in their living room, no Piper, not Annabeth, no Artemis. Just the five who actually play instruments. Hylla's pouring cups of whiskey for the unfortunate souls who are playing, all except Thalia who's currently clutching a cup of milk and watching amusedly as Nico and Reyna squabble over whether or not Star Trek or Star Wars was better. It's a debate they've had many times and there's still no clear sign of a winner.
"Look, I don't care how cool the special effects are, Star Wars is just a hero's journey arc. It's boring," Nico says, full on geeking out. Reyna is calmly resting her feet in Thalia's lap and shaking her head.
"Hero's journey arcs are in every single kind of western media, there's no way around it." Reyna makes sure she's taller than Nico, sitting up straighter to try and intimidate him. The chat on the stream is currently having the exact same debate that Reyna and Nico are. Thalia has to hand it to Reyna, she was right about the live stream. It had exploded with more viewers than they'd ever had before and the number only grew with each passing minute.
"Alright!" Hylla calls, screwing the cap back onto the whiskey bottle. "If you two will quit geeking out over there, we can get started," she murmurs, rubbing her hands together.
"This isn't finished," Nico concludes but turns back to face the camera, as does Reyna, smiling victoriously. Hylla begins passing out cups.
"Alright, for everyone who has no idea what's going on," Percy begins, "the way the game works is we'll read one of your suggestions, and everyone who's done it has to drink. Now, we've all got cups of whiskey, except Thalia, and basically, we keep going until we're all thoroughly drunk."
"Or until Thalia is physically incapable of drinking any more milk," Nico mutters and Thalia reaches behind her to smack his knees.
"Eh, play nice!" Reyna mutters, separating the two with her feet. Nico rolls his eyes and grabs his cup, as does Reyna. Percy's already sipping from his despite the fact no one has read anything off.
"So, what's up first," Thalia asks Hylla who's browsing Twitter. Hylla grins.
"Never have I ever been out of the country," she reads and Thalia fakes offense.
"Oh, that's targeting!" she complains but watches as everyone in the room drinks except herself, which leaves her with a cackling Hylla and a chat full of two million people asking why.
"Not my fault you're a good 'ol American girl," Hylla teases. Reyna rolls her eyes.
"Please, Thalia looks like the girl that robs 'good 'ol American girls' at knife point," she stands to steal the phone from Hylla's grasp. Thalia raises an eyebrow.
"I don't know if I should be proud or offended," she mutters and Reyna reaches down to ruffle her hair.
"I mean that in the best way possible," she mutters and Thalia ducks to avoid her hand. Hylla rolls her eyes.
"Get a room already!" she shouts. Percy laughs in agreement. Reyna kicks her sister's shin.
"We already have an apartment," Thalia reminds Hylla who doesn't seem deterred.
"Never have I ever made out with an inanimate object," Reyna reads and everyone except Hylla drinks, who doesn't drop her smile.
"Why in the world would you do that in the first place?!" she asks loudly. Percy sits up.
"Listen Hylla, not all of us were attractive enough to get to kiss people whenever we wanted during middle school," he hiccups and Nico rolls his eyes.
"You're already drunk Percy, we're gonna have to put you on milk as well," he murmurs jokingly and Thalia laughs.
"Come to the Dairy side," she says in her best Darth Vader impression. Percy shoves a socked foot in her face.
"Shut up," he mutters and takes the phone from Reyna's outstretched hand.
"Never have I ever cried my way out of a speeding ticket.," he reads and both Nico and Thalia take embarrassed sips. Reyna gasps, grinning.
"I remember that," she says excitedly and Thalia glares at her.
"Not. One. More. Word." she growls. Percy laughs, having regained his dignity, and dumps the phone into her lap. Thalia takes it and looks down for about two seconds before producing her results.
"Never have I ever shoplifted," Thalia reads and Percy drinks, no one bothers asking why they've heard the story before. Nico takes it next, scrolling through the feed for a solid minute looking for something he deems funny.
"Y'know, I'm pretty sure you've shoplifted, Hylla," Reyna mutters and Hylla raises her eyebrows playfully.
"What? Me? Your noble and charitable older sister, shoplift?! How scandalous?" with that, she takes a large gulp from the cup. "I won't deny it though."
"Here's a good one," Nico says, grinning in his way that tells Thalia she's gonna regret giving him the phone. "Never have I slept with another band member."
The room falls silent. Everyone looking at each other. At first, no one moves, then, slowly, Hylla lifts her glass and sips. Reyna and Nico raise their brows. Thalia looks down at her glass of milk, and necks all that's left to avoid talking. Percy carefully sips his own glass.
"What?!" Reyna bursts out. Thalia's face is blood red, Percy is pointedly avoiding eye contact. Hylla simply plays with her glass, taking another sip.
"Okay," Nico puts the phone down and turns towards Hylla. "Spill, now."
"You know that Percy and I dated before we were all a band," Hylla mutters, rolling her eyes.
"We weren't talking about Percy," Reyna interrupts, giving Thalia a look. Thalia's face turned a darker shade.
"Remember that night in Vegas..." Thalia mutters finally after a period of awkward silence. "Hylla was drunk off her ass, I was high as fuck. Shit happens."
"We agreed never to talk about it again," Hylla mutters and finishes off her drink.
"So..." Reyna trails off, rubbing her face. "WHAT?!" Thalia smiles sheepishly.
"Sorry, we just... didn't want it to get out... and now the whole world knows, shit." Thalia mutters, remembering the camera.
All of them look up at the camera.
"Fuck." Hylla, Percy, and Reyna say in unison. Those watching the Livestream will report it was cut off immediately after that. What really happened was that Nico threw his shoe at the camera and knocked it over.
"Hylla!" Artemis yells as soon as Hylla gets back into the flat. She's all but moved in at this point. Around six boxes of assorted items are propped against the wall, waiting for Artemis to finish cleaning the second bedroom that she's refused to let Hylla see. She's not entirely sure why, but she remembers that Artemis looked terribly sad when Hylla asked to see it the first time. So she didn't ask again. Hylla doesn't like it when Artemis looks sad.
"What?!" she shouts and drops her bag beside the couch. She's a little tipsy from the game and regretting everything she's ever done in her life because of it. Artemis appears in the front door of her bedroom wearing a sweater and shorts. Her reading glasses are propped on top of her head and she's grinning wildly. Ever since Hylla agreed to do the artist thing for Apollo Artemis had really taken over as her manager.
"You've got a movie deal!" she exclaims and in Hylla's fuzzy brain the words 'movie deal' is only vaguely familiar.
"Cool, for what?" she asks and begins to shrug off her coat.
"A kid's movie called Castle," Hylla hums interest and walks over to Artemis to hopefully understand what exactly she's talking about.
"How'd we get a movie deal within three weeks again?" she mutters and Artemis shrugs.
"You were right, people love a mystery," she answers and then narrows her eyes. "You're drunk, aren't you."
"Not drunk, maybe a bit tipsy," Hylla murmurs back and leans against the door frame for balance. Artemis rolls her eyes.
"Yeah, nope. Lay down, I'll get you some water," Artemis mutters and pushes Hylla back towards the couch she's been sleeping on this entire time.
"I'm fine," Hylla complains but sits down anyway. "I didn't even get a full pint."
"Well then you need to learn to hold your alcohol," Artemis murmurs and Hylla mocks offense.
"Hey! I have a very high alcohol tolerance I'll let you know." Artemis returns with a glass of water with cubed ice and gives her a serious look.
"You can say what you want," she sets the glass down, "it doesn't make it true." Hylla simply rolls her eyes and takes a couple sips.
"So, movie deal, anything else interesting happen?" she asks. Artemis sighs, going through her mental checklist.
"You got an Email from someone named Kinzie, and Apollo wants to know about when you'll get a full album going?" she asks and Hylla groans.
"Artemis, I wrote five songs in two weeks, I'm tired," Hylla complains and Artemis rolls her eyes.
"I'm not saying you have to have it tomorrow, drama queen. Apollo hasn't even given you a deadline yet. Relax your panties."
"Screw you," Hylla mutters and stands, popping her back and moving towards the kitchen.
"Where are you going?" Artemis asks and Hylla doesn't answer, instead, she stretches up and pulling a bottle of vodka down from the cabinets. "Oh hell no." Artemis runs over to try and stop her, but Hylla has both the advantage of height and having already gotten the lid off the bottle.Hylla coughs down a good couple gulps before Artemis can pull it away from her.
"I am not cleaning up if you throw up," Artemis growls at her, but Hylla rolls her eyes again.
"Artemis, I'm not drunk," Hylla mutters and Artemis just fixes her with her deadliest glare.
"Tell that to me when you nearly get yourself killed doing some shit you thought was a good idea," Artemis growls and Hylla holds up her hands in surrender.
"Fine, I'll stick to water, geez," she mutters and heads back to the couch. Artemis sighs and shakes her head thoroughly. "What's got you so crazy about this anyway?" Hylla asks. Artemis gets that sad expression that Hylla has seen far too often when she asks questions about the lack of pictures or the room she's not allowed in.
"Today is... February thirteenth," she mutters looking at the clock which is past midnight.
"Yes...?" Hylla questions. Artemis shakes her head.
"Nevermind. It doesn't matter," she mutters and turns to go back into her bedroom. But Hylla stands and pulls her back.
"You keep doing this. Artemis, what happened?" Hylla asks, trying to get some sort of answer from her. "What happened that means you don't keep pictures around? Why can't I go into the second bedroom? What's significant about February thirteenth?!" Artemis just looks at her with that sad expression. She doesn't answer, just pulls herself away and closes the door behind her when she leaves the room. Hylla can hear the lock click.
Chapter 15: Hiding
Thalia has some family issues, Hylla finally finds out what Artemis's deal is
If Thalia didn’t answer the phone call, maybe it never would’ve happened. Maybe the world would just continue on turning without the horrible stitching pain in her chest and none of the rest of the day would’ve panned out. Unfortunately, the phone call came at nearly two in the morning after Thalia had been lectured by both Reyna and Will, and neglected to take her pills. In the short run, Thalia was neither happy nor awake, that might’ve made a difference, it might not have. Whatever the case, it was done, and Thalia was going to have to live with the consequences.
She recognized the ringtone as she had picked it out specifically for him, if for nothing than to remind her how she was supposed to speak to him, but at the current time, she just can’t find it within herself to care. She sits up, dragging tired limbs from a lumpy mattress and groaning the entire way. She glares at the blinding light of her phone, unable to figure out why the hell he is calling her at 2 AM.
“Jason, what the fuck-” she begins, garbled throat and leaden tongue making it a chore to even attempt at speaking. However, instead of the apology she usually gets from her brother, she’s met with silence. She blinks, shaking herself further awake. Something is wrong. Her stomach drops.
“Jason,” she calls into the receiver again, waiting for an answer. She receives a heavy sigh that in no way prepares her for what she’s about to experience.
“What the living hell were you thinking?” He gives no explanation and offers none of the exasperated tone that she’s used to wallowing in from him. Instead, she’s met with anger, fast, hard, and blinding. The hair on the back of Thalia’s neck stands up.
“What are you-” she begins, but he’s not done.
“You know exactly what the fuck I’m talking about!” He roars, his voice is so loud that Thalia falls off the bed, bad memories twisting in her brain and causing her hands to shake.
“J-Jason I,” she tries to take comfort in his name, to remind her that this is someone else, someone different. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Jason shouts again, this time Thalia loses her grip on the phone, but his voice rings through the room, loud and clear.
“Don’t you fucking give me that! We’ve had nothing but each other since I was born Thalia! Nothing! You were the closest thing I had to a parent, you listened to everything I had to say! You taught me how to cook, how to tie my shoes, you changed my goddamn diapers when you were three! We were all we had. I told you when I got mixed up with a gang! I told you when I kissed a girl the first time! I told you when I lost my fucking virginity! I trusted you, with every secret I ever had, I trusted you with my entire life and its contents and you couldn’t even tell me you were fucking GAY!” His voice breaks after that, dissolving into ugly sobs and Thalia is paralyzed, tremors running down her spine, twisting her intestines and ripping out her heart beats. She can’t breathe, can hardly think. She splutters, desperately fighting for anything to say, but comes up with only his name.
“Jason…” it falls from trembling lips to fall dead on the floor, too soft to make it to the phone which lays on the floor. Jason’s face stares up at her mockingly, a happy face from a happier time. Jason’s eyes crossed, glasses perched on Thalia’s face, which smiled next to her brother, sticking her tongue out.Her heart aches at each broken sob that comes from the crackling static phone.
She reaches out, scrambling to take the phone back into her hands and comfort him, remembering the little boy she would hold tightly at night. “Jason, I-I didn’t want to… I didn’t know how I… I…” her own words are a jumbled mess and Jason comes crashing right back through.
“‘I didn’t’ bullshit! You couldn’t even fucking tell me you had an abusive asshole on your ass for four months, and then I find out that you’re gay and have fucked your best friends older goddamn sister. I mean, what the shit Thalia! It this a goddamn soap opera, what else are you hiding?! What other fucking mess did you create because you were too caught up in your bullshit to tell your own brother your problems?!” His voice is shaking horribly, he always did have a temper, just like their mother. Unlike her, however, he was never able to hold onto it. It would dissolve into ugly crying and then despair and Thalia could never deal with the second part. She couldn’t.
“I wasn’t hiding anything! Don’t you think I would’ve told you if I could get over my own bullshit?! It took me ten years and extreme psychological trauma to even admit it to Reyna! Much less anyone else!” She recognized her mistake before she could even finish her sentence, but it was too late to backpedal, Jason was seething.
“So you decided that telling the whole goddamn world was easier than admitting it to your younger brother who’s seen you goddamn poop?!” He screamed. Thalia yanked herself away from the phone, shaking like it had somehow burned her.
“Jason please…” she pleaded, but he wouldn’t stop, she was just fanning the flames. She felt like she’d been dumped into a kettle, being boiled alive by everyone’s rage. Jason’s anger was one thing, Reyna’s had been twice as bad, possibly because at this point she was really all she had left. As soon as the video had ended Reyna had kicked everyone out, and if Thalia didn’t actually live in the apartment she’s sure she would’ve kicked her out too. Instead, she’d simply refused to speak to her for the rest of the night, no matter how many times Thalia had apologized, which was three times worse. Thalia wasn’t entirely sure whose anger hurt worse, Jason’s boiling rage, or Reyna’s freezing one.
“You don’t get a ‘Jason please’ you don’t get any fucking excuse! You lied to me, you lied right to my fucking face for years, and you actively deceived me. You left me in the dark while you suffered for what? For fucking what? What are you so goddamn afraid of?!” he shouted and Thalia could feel every last drop of her resolve come pouring out of her. She could scarcely speak, but it came out in a tidal wave.
“I’m afraid of turning into her! Dammit. I’ve been afraid of it since I can remember. Do you want to know what I’ve been hiding? You want to know what still keeps me up at night and constitutes sixty percent of my nightmares to this day despite all of the shit Luke put me through? You wanna fucking know?! Well, guess what! No matter what the hell you thought of mom was wrong! She never loved us, she never loved anything more than that goddamn bottle! She didn’t give you that food I did! She didn’t get up at three AM to go work at a fast food restaurant in order to pay for rent! Mom never held you as a child. Mom never even knew your goddamn name, and if she did she never cared enough to use it.” Now that she’d started talking she couldn’t stop, it simply poured out of her like a tidal wave.
You want to know where the scars on my shoulders came from? It was a bottle of vodka when I was seven and you were hidden in the depths of a closet fast asleep. You want to know what I’m so goddamn afraid of? Why I refuse to tell anyone when I’m about to throw myself off a fucking building and hold everything in until I explode? Because mom didn’t! Because mom threw all her problems and emotions at us, she forced us to feel her emotions until we regurgitated whatever drunk nonsense she was splattering like breadcrumbs. I learned to shove it all down until I couldn’t hold anything else because I’d rather explode where no one else can see me then pull everyone down into my bullshit along the way.” Thalia’s voice is raw from crying. The line fell silent, neither Jason nor Thalia had anything else to say.
Thalia sits still, heavy breaths and shaking hands. She listens desperately for Jason’s breathing, just like she had in the closet all those years ago. Letting her entire world hinge on the sound of his breaths. He was alive. He was safe. She chants the words like an incantation.
“If you’re so afraid of turning into her, then you need to look in the mirror,” Jason’s voice is worse than anything Thalia had ever felt in her life, slashing through any hope she might’ve had for this conversation.
“Because you’re going down Thalia Grace,” he spits their last name and Thalia flinches, “You’re going down and you’re pulling all of us with you. You’re going to fucking strangle us when we do, because of all this talk of keeping it bottled up, you’ve fucking exploded, and we’re your casualties.”
“Jason,” she hisses his name, but she can’t form words.
“Don’t call me again. Don’t even fucking text me. You want to pull your life apart at the seams, fine, but leave me out of it.”
“Jason!” Thalia yells, but the line goes dead. Leaving her with nothing but the meledrone. With shaking hands and blurry vision, she desperately hits the dial again. It goes straight to voicemail. She tries again. Again no response. She keeps dialing, hitting the button over and over again until she can recite Jason’s greeting in her sleep.
“Hey, this is Jason Grace! Sorry, I can’t get to the phone right now, but I will as soon as I’m done. Leave me a message, and have a lovely day!” His voice echoes over and over again like a sick joke. Thalia feels sick, her skin crawling and throat convulsing with each breath.
“Please,” she whimpers into the phone, dialing again. It has to be her eleventh time. This time, it doesn’t even get rejected, it simply rings until it hits the voice box. She doesn’t stop, she just keeps calling.
Reyna finds her like that, eight am, curled into a ball, covered in tears and trembling so badly she thought that she might actually explode. Any anger that Reyna may have previously held against Thalia the night before evaporated like alcohol. Just the simple state of her made it a million times worse, clutching a phone and repeatedly hitting a button. Reyna wasn’t sure who she was trying to call, but it didn’t look good.
“Thalia,” she says her name gently like Will had taught her to do. But Thalia doesn’t respond, she simply continues hitting the dial tone, crying into her knees. Her eyes have glassed over, blue and empty, staring through red veins and salted tears at a glowing phone screen. Something in Reyna’s chest clenches painfully.
“Thalia,” she repeats her name again, reaching out to try and pull the phone from her grasp. Surprising her, Thalia lets it fall from her fingers easily, eyes staring straight through where the phone had once been, trying to dial something that was no longer there. Reyna’s chest aches.
“Thalia,” she says her name once more, taking Thalia’s hands in her own. Thalia’s head snaps up suddenly, meeting Reyna’s gaze, and yanking herself away.
“Where’s my phone!” she yells it like an accusation, and before Reyna can ask what she means, Thalia’s spotted the glowing object in her hands. She lunges for it. “Give me my phone!”
“Thalia, stop!” Reyna says it like a command, catching the shorter girl when she lunges for the object and pushing her back against the wall. Thalia’s crying again, tears slipping down her face as she reaches desperately for the phone.
“Please! PLEASE! I have to call him! I have to-I have to” she repeats the words like a broken record. Reyna doesn’t know if she can take much more of this. She thought that she was getting better, she had been for so long, but right now it’s back at square one, holding Thalia tightly as she sobs violently into her chest.
“Please… I have to call him,” she whimpers. Reyna finally looks at the phone, only to find Jason's contact staring right back up at her. Something in her chest tightens.
“Thalia, what happened?” she asks softly, reaching down to cup her face. Thalia sniffles, trying to wipe away her tears, but more come to replace the ones she takes away.
“I happened,” she declares with all the guilt in the world and Reyna feels her heart break for the thousandth time. She carefully pulls Thalia close again, feeling her melt into her, crying again.
“You aren’t anything to be ashamed of, I’m sure whatever the hell he’s going on about isn’t your fault,” Reyna whispers, but Thalia shakes her head frantically.
“He was angry about- just like you last night and I- I couldn’t- I wasn’t- I messed up- I- I,” Thalia’s sentences are chopped with sobs and Reyna just holds her, trying to keep the panic from settling in. Thalia comes first, her own emotional baggage can wait until she gets Thalia to calm down.
“Shhh.” she strokes Thalia’s back, waiting until she’s stopped babbling and just relaxes into her. It takes a full twenty minutes, but Reyna doesn’t need to go on a run, not really. She just waits, carefully holding her. When Thalia’s been quiet for a minute or two she finally speaks.
“I wasn’t mad at you last night, not just you, not really,” She reassures Thalia, who only sniffles in response. “It’s just… I don’t know. I’ve known you the entire time I’ve lived in the US, and just… the fact that I now know what happened between you and Hylla I just needed to process okay. I wasn’t mad at you, I’m not mad at you.” She runs her fingers through Thalia’s hair. Thalia doesn’t respond for another two minutes.
“I don’t really know how to explain that night,” she says finally, surprising Reyna with the firmness of her tone. “I don’t. It was… an accident we both agreed. Hylla didn’t even remember how we got there, I did though. I remembered the whole damn thing. I guess there was something wrong with my brain, I don’t know I just…” Thalia sighes. Reyna purses her lips.
“You don’t have to talk about it,” she reassures, she actually prefers it if she doesn’t.
“I know just… god, everything is a mess!” Thalia yells suddenly, pulling herself away from Reyna and burying her face in her hands. “I’ve got goddamn PTSD from a man who sexually abused me, Mommy issues, daddy issues, my brother won’t even goddamn talk to me because I fucked up so bad, I’m dragging everyone I know into my emotional baggage, and now my own best friend can't even look at me without being reminded of the fact I fucked her sister once because of how much of a horrible human being I am! Not to mention someone is stealing all of the things we worked so hard to earn as artists, and I can’t even talk to you about the real problem because I can’t even admit it to my goddamn self!”
“Thalia!” Reyna yells and Thalia shrinks, snapping her mouth shut so fast that she can hear her teeth click. Her hands remain clenched at her sides and Reyna reaches out to take them in her own. “Look, I don’t care about the Hylla thing, okay. I don’t blame you, you’re an adult and you’re allowed to sleep with whoever you choose.” If Reyna’s being completely honest with herself she does care, she cares a lot.
Thalia and she had been friends for such a long time, and Reyna had been crushing on her for such a long amount of time that it does in fact sting to know that Thalia had got it on with her older and very encouraging sister. However, she is a lot more upset with the older sister who always encouraged her to confess to Thalia than she is with Thalia herself.
“And look, you aren’t dragging anyone with you anywhere. We’re your friends, and it’s our job to be there for you when you fall. You need us right now, and there’s no shame in asking for help. We’ve been over this before, Thalia I’m not being hurt by you, I promise.” Reyna tries to catch Thalia’s gaze and reassure her, but Thalia looks close to crying again.
“I just… I’m so tired of all of this Reyna. I’m tired of being sad and in pain all the time. I just want it all to fucking stop.” Her hands are clenching around Reyna’s. Reyna gently shifts so that Thalia is leaning into her again.
“I know, but I don’t know if it’s only going to get worse from here.” she hears herself whisper it, but she can’t bring herself to look Thalia in the eyes again. She just leans forwards, burying her face in Thalia’s shoulder. Thalia hugs her back, Reyna drinks in the scent of mint and pine mixed with the over powerful odor of salt. She doesn’t have the energy to complain.
Hylla wanted to scream with everything in her chest, because dammit she just wanted to know for once. She had respected Artemis’s privacy for so long, let her keep her secrets, let her pretend that there wasn’t a giant elephant in the room for too long. Not the elephant was breathing down Artemis’s back and had its trunk wrapped around Hylla’s neck, squeezing until she couldn’t breathe. Artemis still refused to acknowledge it, watching with resigned eyes as Hylla squirmed and gasped for breath.
At least, that’s what it felt like, dancing around each other for the next day and a half. Artemis avoided her, leaving the house when Hylla had down time, and being asleep when Hylla returned from a recording session with Apollo. She kept it up for a solid week, managing to avoid Hylla at every twist and turn.
Not this time though, this time Hylla had planned ahead. She’d stayed up all night, waiting for Artemis to open her bedroom door. This time she wasn’t going to take no for an answer. This time, Artemis would answer her questions and would explain why the hell she never spoke about her own past but asked so much about Hylla’s. She’d answer, and Hylla had a full proof plan for it.
When the door finally did open it was five am, two hours before Hylla usually got up, and Artemis didn’t even exist her room, simply she stared at Hylla with exhaustion in her face like she knew all along that this was coming.
“Did you really stay up this entire time just to force me to talk about this?” her voice was dry, devoid of emotion, but after a week of no communication, it was like music to Hylla’s ears.
“Look, the way I see this, there are two ways this can go. You can keep your mouth shut and ignore that this ever happened, or you can spill and finally talk about whatever this is with someone because believe me I even asked Apollo and he didn’t know what made you so upset.” Hylla stares Artemis down, waiting for a response, for either the door to shut in her face or for her to attack her. Neither happens. Instead, Artemis just sighs, a rueful smile spreading across her face, she almost looks pained by the expression.
“You remind me so much of her sometimes it hurts,” Artemis’s eyes have never looked so sad and Hylla finds herself pulled in by them. She feels the question on her lips and doesn’t hold back.
“Who is she?” she asks and watches Artemis’s smile melt into something so much sadder.
“Was. Who was she.” she corrects before stalking back into her room, but she leaves the door open. Hylla takes it as an indication to follow.
Artemis’s room is just as Hylla remembers it, empty, quaint, and cold. The cool colored walls meet a cream colored rug and a blue bed that’s just as cold and empty as the rest of it. Part of Hylla wonders if Artemis even sleeps in the bed because it’s always immaculate and always cold. The only time she’s ever seen it messy was when she’d slept in it herself.
Artemis pulls open a nightstand and pulls out the first picture of a person that Hylla’s seen in the entire apartment. A woman with long black hair and dark skin stares out from the photograph, lips pulled into a smile that reminded Hylla hauntingly of her sister’s. The woman wears a spotless formal uniform, her eyes glinting in the bright flash of the camera.
“This…” Artemis’s voice was horribly sad, the kind of sad that makes your own chest lurch into your stomach. Hylla tore her eyes from the picture to look at Artemis whose eyes had begun to leak tears. “Was Zoë. Zoë Nightshade.”
Hylla didn’t interrupt Artemis, instead, she simply sat next to the shorter girl on the bed and placed a hand on her shoulder as encouragement to go on. Artemis breathed deeply, closing her eyes and counting to three before continuing. A tear found its way down her cheek, but her voice remained remarkably level. Hylla was glad, she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to handle it if Artemis actually began crying.
“She was… we met a long time ago. When I was in Basic she was as well and we quickly became the best of friends. I… it was 2003, neither of us thought we could’ve been anything besides friends. Don’t ask, don’t tell, all that. But… I don’t know it just happened. We were dating, and pretty soon we were living together outside of the force as well as in it. When I was training you and your squad members she was overseas. But… she never told me that’s where she came from.” Artemis trails off, staring at the photograph with the same sad expression. Hylla tries to understand.
“What do you mean she was from there?” she asks and watches as Artemis reaches up to wipe at her eyes, trying to recompose herself.
“She never had a happy life, she was abandoned by her father at the age of twelve because she refused to accept his views of the world. So she ran away, ran all the way out of the country, fought and scavenged and picked her way all the way from Iraq to the United State of America. I mean, she was only fourteen when she got here, and she somehow managed it. I’ll never figure out how. She joined the army after she grew up, and we met and she just… never told me. I wish she’d told me.”
Artemis stared at the photograph once more before tearing her gaze away to look at Hylla.
“She was gunned down by her own father. No one else in the whole goddamn Pentagon wanted to admit it but I knew. I saw a picture of the shooter and I knew it was him. They had the same face, same hair same jaw same everything. She was killed by her own father. I never got to know if it was out of cold blood or simply because he was shooting at them for the fun of it. I don’t even know if the man knows he killed his own daughter. I just know that he killed her, and he walks free to this day.”
Artemis stops herself, closing her eyes and sucking in a breath to try and quell the rising pain in her chest. Hylla feels her own heartache. She reaches out to try and hug Artemis, but she pulls away, standing and walking out of the room. It takes a minute for Hylla to follow. When she does she finds the second bedroom door it open, and it’s like a time capsule.
The room is just as clean as Artemis’s but much more lived in. Photos of two women are all over the walls, Artemis and Zoë lounged against the metal hull of a tank, both in fatigues and grinning at the camera. Zoë stands about a good foot taller than Artemis, dark hair falling in her face. Another photo shows the pair decked out in formal uniform, medals gleaming on their chests. Artemis has planted a kiss to Zoë’s cheek, and Zoë looks absolutely ecstatic about it.
Another photo, one that Artemis glances at with sorrow in her face, shows Zoë and Artemis in what looks like could pass for wedding attire, but there’s no priest in the background. Zoë is wearing a white suit shirt and jacket, but her pants stop around her ankles. Artemis wears a similar outfit minus the jacket, both of them are grinning like all the stars in the sky have infiltrated their hearts.
Finally, Artemis stops by a chest on a shelf, where she pulls out a box, and Hylla immediately recognizing its significance. An engagement ring.
“When we… when that photo was taken,” Artemis gestured at the photo where Zoë and Artemis appear to be exchanging wedding vows. “Don’t ask don’t tell hadn’t been repealed yet. So we had a ceremony but agreed not to get properly married until we could express ourselves without fear of being discharged, but even afterward we were constantly in and out of the house. We hardly had time for a meal together much less a proper ceremony. But… we agreed that after Zoë’s last trip we’d retire and get married, properly. She… she never came home.”
Artemis’s gaze wouldn’t meet Hylla’s and Hylla just stared at the ring in Artemis’s hands until she finally noticed that water had dripped onto the diamond. She looked up only to see Artemis trying to stop the tears that stained down her cheeks. Hylla rushed forwards, taking the smaller woman in her arms. Artemis simply cried an ugly sound that made Hylla regret anything she’d ever said about Artemis’s laugh. Because Artemis was, in fact, such an elegant person.
Artemis was the night, no other way about it. She was cold and dark, but beautiful at the same time. She held the healing sleep and the ugly dark. She held the gentle moon and unforgiving stars. She was winter and fall, and darkness painting it’s way through to take all that you held dear.
But she was also the one that held you at 3 AM when everything you know has come crashing on its head. She was the soothing cicadas that would call, and the soft howls of newborn wolves calling for the first time. She was the sleeping children and the protective mothers. She was both protection and the danger and that was something Hylla had come to recognize.
The night was a woman who had lost too much and took not enough.
Chapter 16: Fevered Dreams
Act I ends and Act II begins
The cold doesn’t leave.
It’s LA and spring is on the way so, by all means, it should be warm. It is warm. Seventy today, which is amazing weather, and even warm for March. But Thalia’s cold.
She’s been cold for a long time like it’s turned her bones to ice and now she’s melting into the rest of her body. Frozen and chilled, she walks around like a ghost. Her breath misting windows and turning pavement to frost in her wake. She’s cold. Much too cold.
Reyna’s warm, she’s always warm, but Thalia finds that she can’t go near her without the fear of burning to a crisp. She’s freezing, and Reyna is the sun, and she’s so damn scared of burning. She’s already been burnt and not even the ice in her own bones can freeze off that pain.
So she hides, hides in her room, hides in Will’s office, hides in stranger’s cars and around street corners. She hides from the sun, from any source of heat she can see. She hides from Reyna, from Percy, Nico and she hasn’t even heard from Hylla since the night. She assumes that Hylla’s freezing too in her own way.
Thalia hides. She runs, avoiding any question or slip of tongue that’s thrown her way. Once when she went to the record store around the corner to avoid Reyna she ran into a mob of cameras and went charging the other way, clearing a fence and two people’s cars in the process of trying to get away. It’s like a manhunt, everyone seems to be after her. It’s like she’s the last piece of ice in the freezer on the hottest day of the year. She doesn’t even fucking sleep anymore as Reyna will wake her up if she hears her crying in her room.
So Thalia just hides. Will tries to help, of course, he does it’s his fucking job, but she doesn’t even speak to him anymore. She’s gone so long without using her vocal chords that she’s almost forgotten what her voice sounds like. Okay, long is a stretch, it’s been about a week and a half, but it feels like an eternity.
Thalia ran into Reyna that morning in the kitchen. Reyna didn’t even get to speak to her, just gave her that same sad look she had the morning after Jason’s phone call. Thalia couldn’t take it. The moment their eyes met she was out the door, hearing a single desperate call of “Thalia!” at her back.
Now she’s sitting with her feet hanging off the side of the golden gate bridge. Thalia hates heights, is fucking terrified of them, but for some reason, the vision of water far beneath her feet doesn’t make her skin crawl. It feels comforting almost, and so she just watches waves move beneath her in an endless sludging motion. It’s hot. So very hot outside, but Thalia’s shivering in her coat, her hands are like ice folded against each other and she just watches the waves.
“You're going down and you're pulling all of us with you. You're going to fucking strangle us when we do, because of all this talk of keeping it bottled up, you've fucking exploded, and we're your casualties.” Thalia jerks up ramrod straight and slams her fist into the pavement at her side. There's no one there, she reminds herself, and she turns to glare at passing cars. Cars whipping by faster than anything Thalia had ever seen, blowing the wind into her face and tearing her hair into her eyes, but she doesn’t care. She lets the tears fall, glad for once they weren’t from her own beaten chest. She closes her eyes and just lets the sound of motors, wind, and water take her, melting into the sound, begging to become part of it and just cease to exist.
Thalia dreams, dreams of just living away. No brothers who get angry, no people who scream her name anytime they see her, no pity in strangers faces, no overly friendly therapists, no lingering pressure in her chest. She dreams of a small house, perhaps a cabin, in the middle of nowhere. It’s old, run down and small, but it’s clean and away from the constant screaming city. And she’s alone, no not alone. There’s a girl, a girl with the most beautiful dark eyes and the rarest smile that makes Thalia feel the most accomplished she’s ever felt in life.
She dreams of Sunday afternoons in the winter, socked feet on cold wooden floors, and laughter filling a cold house, turning it warm. She dreams of aching chests from laughter and the scent of cookies in the oven. She dreams of sparkling grape juice and the scent of champagne on the other woman’s breath, she can taste it as well, but it’s not the champagne she’s getting drunk off of. She dreams of older days, of weathered hands on a guitar whose strings shriek in protest to too many plays.She dreams of a smiling face with laughter lines and freckled skin from too much sun. She dreams of the happy days when she can just lay there listening to the other woman playing and just forget anything else has existed. She dreams, and dreams and dreams,
And then she wakes.
Thalia sits up and squints at the speaker, it’s too bright out, and when did it get so goddamn cold? Thalia blinks, hard, once, twice, three times before her eyes focus. None other than Piper goddamn McLean stands above her giving her the risen brow.
“Piper.” She acknowledges and ignores the rasp in her own voice, pressing against the pavement to stand. She must’ve fallen asleep while hiding from Reyna earlier.
“Where have you been?! Reyna’s been worried sick, she even thought about calling the police, dear lord you look awful-” Piper’s speaking way too fast and Thalia’s world tilts strangely as she attempts to stand. She staggers, swaying and definitely would’ve fallen over the railing if Piper didn’t catch her. It’s up until that moment that Thalia realizes that her jacket is missing.
“M-My jacket…” she mumbles, but it silenced as Piper’s expression changes from motherly stern to concerned.
“Jesus Christ Thalia, you’re hot,” she mutters, then seems to realize what she said. Thalia tries for a grin, but Piper just flicks her between the eyes. “Not what I meant. You’re warm, I think you have a fever, how long have you been out here?”
“How long have I been away from the apartment?” Thalia responds and watches Piper’s face bloom into nothing short of horrified.
“Two days, that’s it we’re getting you home now, then possibly to a hospital.” Piper begins to pull Thalia towards the street, fumbling in her pocket for her phone, but Thalia’s having none of it. She yanks herself away from Piper and tries to stumble away, all she can see is Reyna’s sad expression, the pity in her eyes. She feels her skin crawl, her stomach lurches into her throat.
“Thalia.” Piper’s calling for her, but Thalia’s on the ground, trying to remember how to breathe. Piper grabs her around her shoulders. Thalia wants to fight her off, wants to pull herself up and run in the opposite direction and just forget everything she’s ever had to do or deal with. Piper’s stronger than her and lifts her easily from the pavement. “Thalia listen to me.” She cups her face and Thalia wants to scream, wants to cry and run and do anything except stand there, and she just watches Piper’s face because she doesn’t have the strength to lift her own arms.
“Look, I know that this whole entire mess has been hard and the fact that the entire fucking world is watching is just making it worse, but listen to me when I tell you that you’re not the only person who’s suffering here. As much pain as you’re getting your friends are dealing with just as much, and you running away every time something bad happens doesn’t make it any better. Reyna hardly even leaves the apartment anymore because she’s scared of not being there when you come back home and possibly do something stupid. So please, just come with me. Let me take you back to her before she rips this entire city apart to find you herself,” Piper’s voice is surprisingly even and Thalia feels like a lead weight has been settled onto her shoulders. Jason was right, she’s been so damn concerned with trying to alleviate her own pain she didn’t even notice what she was doing to Reyna. Fucking shit.
“I’m sorry,” is all Thalia can manage. Piper’s face doesn’t lose that expression of concern and she drags her to the curb, balancing her against her shoulder to keep her from falling over. She then pulls her phone out and starts calling for an uber.
“I’m sorry.” Thalia hears herself say it again but doesn’t remember moving her mouth. All she does remember is losing the feeling in her legs and strong arms wrapped around her waist.
“I don’t know I found her on the side of the golden gate bridge.”
“What the hell was she doing there? She’s terrified of heights!”
“She loves the bridge, something about the water not bothering her.” Reyna.
“Whatever, she doesn’t look good, should we take her to the hospital?”
“Are you kidding? Thalia Grace makes second hospital trip after being found unconscious on a bridge?! I can see the headlines now, the last thing we need is more media coverage.”
“Well none of us are trained doctors, for all we know she could be sick with something really serious, we are going with she’s sick right?” Percy.
“Well I don’t usually pass out on bridges normally so, yes I do think it’s safe to assume she’s sick. Also, she has a fever of fucking 103.8. Jackson.” Nico.
“Someone didn’t get his coffee.”
“Guys, is now really the appropriate time?” Piper.
“I’m calling in a friend, he’s trained in several medical fields. He should be able to at least tell us how serious it is and if we need to seek actual medical attention.” Reyna’s voice is even, but hoarse like it was sometimes after concerts.
“Guys I think she’s waking up.”
“Thalia, can you hear me?!”
“Percy, she’s sick, not deaf.”
“Shut up, death boy, I’m trying to help.”
“You’re helping to give me a headache.”
“No one asked you, Piper!”
“Will all of you shut it!” Reyna’s voice breaks through the squabble and the other three fall silent. “Nico, you finish the call, tell Will what happened, he already knows the address. Piper, go fetch me a cool cloth. Percy, go call Hylla and Annabeth over, we might need back up if she tries to bolt again. Go.” Thalia feels the floor shake with retreating footsteps, but she just can’t find the strength to open her eyes. It feels vaguely like a dream, but the feeling of Reyna’s fingers through her hair is much too real.
“R-” Thalia tries to get her tongue to work, to apologize for being a horrible person and even more horrible friend, but Reyna cuts her off.
“Shhh, you’re sick and have a really bad fever so don’t even think about it.” Reyna’s just as stern as ever, but Thalia can hear the slight tremble in her voice. Her heart breaks.
“I’m sorry.” It’s barely a whisper from her lips, but Reyna’s fingers still in her hair.
“Thalia you don’t have to-”
“Got it,” Piper has reentered the room and Thalia hears her set something down on the floor. A bucket, she realizes.
“Thank you,” Reyna replies and she can hear the sloshing of water and then something cold is on her head. Her already cold body shrieks in protest and she tries to move away. Reyna grabs her and presses her back into the couch to keep her from moving away again. A second pair of arms wrap around her to keep her in place.
“Don’t move,” Reyna’s voice is a growl in her ear and Thalia struggles again to open her eyes to no avail. Reyna’s breath is hot on her face, the exact opposite of the cloth and Thalia's going to have vertigo.
“i-I,” her voice sounds slurred, the same way her mothers was when she was a child and she feels sick. Her throat closes at the notion.
“Shhh,” Reyna presses the cloth to Thalia’s forehead once more and Thalia shrinks away from it instinctively. Reyna climbs on top of her to keep her in place. Thalia can hear footsteps returning.
“Annabeth’s on her way, Hylla said something about having her own sick room mate to deal with,” Percy sounds like he’s speaking underwater. Thalia doesn’t understand. She’s freezing and Reyna’s on top of her and the world is just spinning faster and faster beneath her. There’s someone she doesn’t recognize in her house and Nico is talking to her therapist. Fucking wonderful.
“Go get Nico, and tell him to get William here now.” Reyna’s growling, physically growling, Thalia can feel her chest shaking with the noise from their current position. She hears Percy’s retreating footsteps and then the room is quiet again, Reyna carefully wiping at Thalia’s face with a cool cloth as Thalia tries not to scream every time the cloth makes contact with her skin.
“If you ever run away like that again I’m going to put a leash on you,” Reyna growls after while of silence. Thalia almost laughs at the statement, but laughing requires too much of the energy she doesn’t have.
“I love you too,” Thalia’s words are distant and slurred and she can hardly even hear herself think anymore. Reyna stills again but then continues with her motion.
“Love you. Now get some sleep. You’re gonna be in a lot of trouble later.” Reyna’s just as stern as ever, but Thalia catches a glimmer of warmth in her words.
She doesn’t feel quite as cold.
Reyna’s never felt more like throwing herself out a window and she once killed her own father so she knows the feeling. But this is a different level than her father. Papi was a wicked man who she had never had any real feelings of affection towards, the only reason she’d felt anything for his death was because it was by her own hands.
This is different, this is someone she cares about. She feels powerless, watching helplessly as Thalia lays there in a fevered stupor mumbling things that make no sense and sweating like a dying pig. Her skin is so pale that Reyna can see the veins in her face and neck. Gone for two days, she’d been concerned of course, but she figured that Thalia was smart enough to find somewhere else to stay and was just avoiding her. Of course, that was probably true given she’d been hiding in her room for about a week, but this was so much worse.
Piper had told her she’d found her on a run, just laying propped up against the side of the golden gate bridge, unconscious and dehydrated. They’d since been able to get some water into her system, but her entire body radiated heat like a space heater. It was unclear if she passed out from being sick, or got sick because she passed out in direct sunlight and stayed there for forty-eight hours.
Reyna wants to scream. Did the universe just like causing her pain?! First, she’d had to live with the knowledge she’d let her friend get abused by a fucking asshole for four months right under her nose, then she’d had to deal with Thalia’s depression and refusal to do anything about it. Then, of course, Jason had to be the biggest fucking dick on the face of the planet and she was seriously considering flying to New York just to smack his face into the next dimension. Now Thalia’s sick, possibly dying, after avoiding her for a week and she just feels done.
Reyna is done. She’s done with everything. She’s done with life, with the fucked up media, with strangers and friends and other people and just everything. She’s done with her older sister who’s been hiding from her just as much as Thalia has over the past week. She’s done with the sleepless nights terrified that if she does fall asleep she’ll wake up with a corpse in the room beside hers. She’s just done.
Thalia mutters something about fires and Reyna shakes herself back to reality only to find that Piper’s watching her with those intense multicolor eyes.
“You don’t look so good maybe I should take over.” Piper’s voice is just as calm as always.
“I’m fine!” Reyna growls the words and watches Piper’s eyebrow raise. Reyna winces at her own voice. “I’m sorry, it’s just-”
“You’re tense.” Piper walks over and takes the cool cloth from Reyna’s clenched fingers, gently pressing it to Thalia’s forehead. Thalia mumbles something that certainly isn’t English and moves her face into the couch.
“Am I wrong to be?” Reyna asks and Piper shakes her head.
“Of course not, but you have to understand this, Thalia’s not going to get better anytime soon. You and I both know I’m not talking about the sickness.” Reyna takes a deep breath and Piper looks up at her with those soulful eyes. Truth be told Reyna had always felt uneasy around Percy’s other cousin, from the day they met she’d felt like those multi colored eyes knew too much about her. Now she’s just captivated as Piper reads to her the contents of both her and Thalia's souls.
“You have a good heart Reyna, and you’ve had your fair share of hardship in life, in fact, more than your fair share, but Thalia’s just the same. You know that of course, you’ve known her much longer than I have, but this isn’t the kind of thing you get over. So you have to start treating it like one. She’s not ever going to completely heal. Stop acting like you can fix her, you can’t. You can’t, Will can’t, Jason can’t no one can accept herself. So be patient. Be careful, be patient and be supportive. Let her gather her strength in her own time. Now, I’m not saying leave her to her own devices, but give her what she needs. Give her time,” Piper turns back to Thalia and flips the rag over so that the cold side it resting against Thalia’s head.
“Give her time, and relax. You need a vacation just as much as her. So, my advice, pull out of the public eye completely. Get rid of any upcoming interviews for the next year at least. Just stop. Let yourselves be normal young adults for a while. It’s what you both need.”
“We don’t have the luxury of slowing down,” Reyna has to physically restrain herself from yelling. She hates being read like her entire life is just something for other people to look at and guffaw. She feels exposed and used, and she hates it. “We worked for this position, we spent years of practically begging on our knees to get a deal with a respectable record we don’t have the luxury to take a break.”
“Please, with the way things currently don't tell me that Athena records aren't begging you guys to take a break.”
Reyna hates it even more that she’s right.
“Look, I don’t know okay! I just don’t fucking know. I don’t know what I’m doing and I can’t even admit that because everyone is always depending on me to be the strong one! I’m supposed to be the person who has their life put together and is ready to help anyone else and lend my strength to others. But I don’t have enough strength for myself these days, much less her!” Reyna gestures frustratedly at Thalia who doesn’t move to acknowledge her existence. Reyna doesn’t even notice she’s crying when the tears hit the carpet.
“All I want to do is stop it all but I can’t! It just comes crashing back down on our heads any time we fix it. I’m tired of fixing it. I’m tired of… I… I’m just tired.” Reyna finishes softly and presses her face into her hands “I’m fucking tired. Of everything.”
“Then rest,” Piper doesn’t look the least bit phased by her outburst. “Take a break. Both of you, three months at the very least. Get off the grid and just fucking live. God knows that you’re going to explode if you don’t.”
Reyna doesn’t have the strength of will to shout at her again so she just grabs Thalia’s hand and holds it against her chest. She watches as the fingers slowly curl around her own. Thalia’s hands have always been so fragile, thin fingers and bony knuckles, but they’re also long and calloused from playing guitar pretty much since she could walk. Reyna gently squeezes her hand back and Piper smirks gently from her position.
“What now?” she questions. Piper chuckles.
“You’re not subtle at all, I hope you know that.” Reyna’s face blooms red and she looks up to glare at Piper, but she’s averted her gaze down to Thalia. “Don’t think that I didn’t hear you two earlier.”
“She has a fever, she doesn’t know what she’s saying.” Reyna retaliates. Piper hums.
“Drunk man’s talk, sober man’s thoughts.”
“Can you fucking read minds or something?!” Reyna questions, about having enough of this cousin of Percy’s who apparently knows everything.
“No, I’m just good at reading people, and you, my friend, have it bad.”
There’s a knock at the door and Reyna springs upwards to answer it, glad for the distraction. Will Solace stands there, out of uniform for once, and looking winded.
“Sorry, my car broke down I had to catch the train. Where is she?” He mutters, not even offering a greeting and barging in to look at Thalia who lay on the couch just beyond the front door. Reyna rolls her eyes.
“Good to see you too Solace,” she mutters and Will waves his hand dismissively. Piper smiles at Will and waves.
“She’s been like this since we found her. Sometimes she’ll wake up and say something, but usually, it’s not really coherent.”
“Did she show any signs of sickness before she ran off.”
“Not that I noticed, but she didn’t seem to be sleeping well.” Reyna offers. Will mutters something to himself and kneels down to pull a thermometer from his bag and placing it in Thalia’s ear. It beeps and he glances at it, hissing.
“What?!” Reyna asks.
“Ice bath, now.” Will commands and Reyna runs towards the bathroom while Piper and Will lift Thalia and lug her down the hallway, dodging both Nico and Percy along the way as they exit Reyna’s bedroom. She makes a mental note to question why they were in there later.
Reyna’s barely turned the water on before Will sets Thalia down next to the tub. She doesn’t stir just lets her head lull to the side of the tub and rests her cheek on her shoulder. Will begins to strip her top and Reyna banishes both Nico and Percy from the room instantly.
“What happened to her jacket anyway?” Reyna questions Piper as she begins with Thalia’s pants. Piper shrugs.
“It wasn’t on her when I found her, I think it got nicked.”
“Shit.” Reyna curses and Will’s begun to turn off the faucet, he’s already taken off all of Thalia’s top layers and Reyna mentally forces herself to keep her eyes to herself.
“What?” Piper asks, she’s knelt down next to Thalia’s head and is supporting her neck.
“It was a gift from her brother and they aren’t exactly on speaking terms right now,” Reyna mutters and begins to lift Thalia to put her in the tub. She pretends not to notice the sheer amount of scars on Thalia's shoulders and stomach. Areas where that man would’ve touched. It makes her feel sick.
When Thalia’s skin makes contact with the water she gasps and freezes up. Reyna doesn’t stop until she’s lying safely in the bathwater. Will runs to the kitchen to retrieve a cup. Meanwhile, Reyna soothes a shivering Thalia whose eyes have finally opened since she first arrived. She’s staring at Reyna like she can save her from certain death and Reyna just feels more like the world is on her shoulders.
“It’s okay, you’ve just got a really high fever and we’re trying to bring it down. THe water not actually that cold, see.” Reyna dips her hand into the water to prove her point. Thalia shivers again in protest. Will returns with the plastic pitcher they use when they eat on the deck and fills it up before beginning to pour it over Thalia’s head. Thalia yelps in protest, gasping and trying to shove him away. Reyna reaches forwards to keep her arms down, Piper keeps Thalia’s head above water.
They continue like that for a good while, every two or three minutes Will will check Thalia’s temperature and either tell them to do it again or wait a minute. Finally, he gives them the green light to pull Thalia out of the tub. They wrap her in a towel and then put her in a robe and lay her back on the couch. At this point Thalia’s exhausted and asleep again, and Piper, Will, and Reyna are soaked. Reyna offers Will some of her clothes and lets Piper have at Thalia’s closet. They reconvene, all six of them (Annabeth having arrived while they were washing Thalia), around Thalia.
“So, what now?” Nico says, to the point as always.
“We keep a watch over her, can’t have her running off again.” Will mutters. Annabeth nods, standing between Piper and her boyfriend.
“We’ll set it up in shifts. Reyna, you should probably go rest too, you haven’t been much over the past two days,” Annabeth looks like she already knows Reyna’s response.
“I’m fine.” Reyna lets the words hang hostile in her mouth. Piper, Nico, and Annabeth all simultaneously give her death glares. She responds with her own.
“Reyna, you’re going to sleep if we have to put a watch on you too,” Nico growls back at her and she sighs heavily.
“Fine, I’ll take third then.”
“I’m on first because I’m probably the least exhausted person here,” Annabeth says. Nico nods.
“I’ll take second.”
“And if she wakes up?” Percy asks.
“I’ll talk to her,” Will says and Reyna nods appreciatively. Piper doesn’t look quite so convinced.
“I’d like to sit in as well if you don’t mind.” She mutters. Will looks confused, but nods. Annabeth nods.
“Percy, go find some blankets and pillows looks like we’re all sleeping here tonight.”
As much as Reyna hates the idea of five extra people in her house she’s happy that she’s not going to have to deal with this alone.
Chapter 17: Beginnings
"You're still on watch?" Nico glances up to meet the steel blue eyes of one Will Solace. Will looks a mixture of perplexed and concerned, like he's remembering something, but can't quite get it. Nico sighs, leaning back and letting his back pop with relief of finally moving after four hours of being hunched over.
"I didn't want to wake Reyna up. She hardly sleeps anyway, I thought it'd be better to give her some extra time." Nico watches Will glance down the darkened hallway towards the older woman's room. Reyna was certainly scary when she wanted to be, and she had explicitly told Nico to wake her up in time for her watch, but after hearing her finally get to sleep (she snored quite loudly) and knowing Thalia wasn't going to be going anywhere for at least another day, he'd let her sleep through the entirety of her watch. Hopefully, that wouldn't result in his death later. Will Solace exhaled in a puff of air, inflating his cheeks before letting it escape.
"That woman doesn't know the definition of self-care." With that, the blonde settles himself down on the floor beside Thalia. The girl in question has still failed to awaken fully and Nico can tell her fever is coming back with each passing hour. Thalia's face is slick with sweat as she shivers, pressing her face into the back of the couch.
"To be fair I think she learned it from her roommate," Nico murmurs. Will snorts, running a hand back through his hair. Blonde, golden blonde. He remembers the way it danced in the light like sunlight through the trees. He remembers blue eyes in a darkened room and a laugh that cut through the chorus of a crowd like a solo meant just for him. Nico has never been one for parties or hookups, he tends to shy away from strangers and avoid getting attached to them. William Solace, however, was a special case.
He remembers that night, the way Will had laughed and let him have his fun without ever getting too close to his boundaries. He hadn't expected much, nor had he ever expected to see the younger man again, but here he sits next to the man whom he'd shared a dance with nearly three weeks ago.
"Can I ask you something?" Will's voice is soft, like a note on the breeze. Nico sucks in a breath and attempts to squash the ball of anxiety growing in his chest.
"How did your band get together?" Will's blue eyes never leave Nico's and he feels breathless.
"I... It's a long story," He whispers. Will smiles warmly and Nico's chest seizes.
"We've got plenty of time. No one else will be up for another hour or two." Will crosses his legs like a child and reclines against the base of the couch. Nico swallows, hoping his chest will relieve some of its pressure.
"A band?" Nico asked, dubious. Thalia grinned at him, blue eyes glowing with that crazed light that had initially made him afraid of the older girl.
"Yup!" she exclaimed and popped the p. Behind her, her much calmer roommate, Reyna she had introduced herself as, smiled vaguely.
"It's not a final idea, but we already have a singer and a guitarist," she volunteered. Nico shook his head, running a hand back through his mullet.
"And why should I care? I have to finish high school, Thalia," Nico reminded the older woman. Thalia waved him off dismissively.
"Please, punk rock kids don't need to finish high school. Plus everyone knows you're literally the best pianist in San Francisco." Her wild hair moved as she flung herself around animatedly. Reyna rolled her eyes.
"Don't listen to her, finish your education." She interjected and Thalia turned to pout at her much taller companion.
"Look, as much fun as it is watching you two eye-fuck each other, I have a paper due in English and you're blocking the way to my dorm room." Nico tried in vain to step around the pair of college girls, both of which moved to block his path. Thalia much more enthusiastically than Reyna who simply looked amused by the whole ordeal.
"C'mon Neeks, I know you've always wanted to be in a band!" Thalia pleaded, giving him her best attempt at puppy eyes.
"I thought I told you not to call me that." Nico glared Thalia down and she simply stared back.
"Pwease." He had no idea how she could dilate her eyes on command. Nico turned his death glare on full throttle. It's ineffective.
"Fine!" He conceded finally and Thalia cheered, jumping skywards and throwing her hands up in fists. Reyna leaned away to avoid getting punched in the face. "I'll give it a go, but if it doesn't go anywhere then I'm out."
"Deal! And no need to worry, I've already got a drummer and bassist on the back burner," Thalia has never looked so enthusiastic about anything in her life, it's a little unsettling if he's to be perfectly honest.
"You... do?" Reyna asked, giving her much shorter companion a raised brow. Thalia glared back at her.
"Yes, I do. Your sister?" she said as if that's obvious. Reyna knits her brows.
"Are you sure? She doesn't really strike me as terribly... punk? She's in a military regiment." Reyna crossed her arms. Thalia rolled her eyes.
"She's in an indie band on the side with my cousin," she reminded her. Reyna's eyebrows just knit tighter together.
"The black haired one?" she asked and Thalia nodded with gusto.
"Oh, that does explain a lot," she murmured under her breath. Thalia simply turned back towards Nico.
"So, I'll text you when we're ready for our first practice!" she exclaimed. Nico sighed heavily.
"Why did I agree to this?" he muttered to himself, but Reyna's smile told him she heard him and had a very similar thought process. Thalia had already begun to skip off in the direction of god knows what when Reyna spoke.
"Just let her have her fun, I doubt this will last longer than a month or two." Reyna was visually and, as far as Nico could tell, behaviorally the opposite of Thalia. Where Thalia was wild and close to exploding in a fiery display of energy at any given moment, Reyna simply stood there. Her entire being radiated a calm sort of power, whereas Thalia practically shoved everything she said down your throat, Reyna's voice was an invitation to listen. He had no idea how the two could possibly be friends.
"I hope so, I have to take the ACT in October," Nico complained and watched Reyna laugh softly. Or rather, chuckle. He doubted that she would laugh openly.
"Relax, a kid like you could use some way to blow off some steam, and I think that even if this is only another one of Thalia's escapades, we'll enjoy it while it lasts."
Before Nico could ask what an 'escapade' was supposed to mean a voice interrupted them.
"Reyna, hurry up!" Thalia stood a good dozen yards away, watching them with what one would only describe as impatience if they actually knew her.
"That would be my cue," Reyna sighed and turned to go, but not before placing a hand on Nico's head and ruffling his hair. "See you around, di angelo."
"I was in my senior year of high school when Thalia, who was living with Reyna and working as a waitress at the time, came after me with this absurd idea of being in a band. She barely knew how to play guitar back then, and Reyna was really just letting her do it because she thought it would blow over," Nico chuckles slightly at the thought. "Obviously, it didn't. Thalia literally spent three days tracking down Reyna's estranged older sister just so she could try and convince her to join the band."
"Estranged?" Will asks, a single golden brow risen. Nico nods, pulling a hand back through his hair.
"She... well... Hylla and Reyna's relationship has always been somewhat rocky. After she moved out of Hylla's home to go to college they, just sorta, lost contact. Hylla moved to Fort Knox, and Reyna stayed in San Francisco for college. The first time they saw each other in three years was at the first band practice we had." Nico winces, remembering the occurrence.
Hylla was the opposite of how Reyna had described her. Nico had been told Hylla was this military regiment woman with a strict sense of honor and duty with little to no emotion and extremely bad with children. The woman sitting at the drum set however, has a tattoo lacing all the way from her shoulder to her mid back and is wearing far too little clothing to be considered decent. Her jeans so ripped they leave nothing to the imagination and Nico is reaffirmed in his belief that he's gay.
"Howdy," she states, dark eyes filled with a mirth and playfulness that no human being should ever hold that much of. Nico stares at the woman and wonders if perhaps she's Thalia's sister instead.
But no, despite the clear difference in personality, Hylla does look remarkably similar to her younger sister. They have the same dark eyes, even if Reyna's are much more serious and they possess the same nose. Hylla is a bit taller and Reyna has thicker eyebrows, but in a dark room, Nico doubts he'd be able to tell the difference.
"Uh... hi?" Nico questions, carefully setting down his bag and glancing over the keyboard he'd helped Thalia move into the garage earlier that week. "You're Hylla, right?"
"The one and only. You're my little sister's friend, Nico." She doesn't make it a question. He simply watches her as she combs a hand back through her hair. Reyna tended to keep her hair up in a braid, but Hylla let hers hang around her shoulders in a glossy mane of black.
"Yes. Though I would use the term 'friend' loosely, we've only known each other for like, a month," he muttered and Hylla laughed. However, that was cut short as the garage door was flung open, and a seething Reyna came marching through. Nico had seen the older girl angry before, but not like this. Her eyes radiated so much heat he nearly fell out of his chair.
"Hi, sis," Hylla remarked calmly, not even bothering looking up from where she was messing with her drum set. Reyna's shoulders rose and fell as she huffed, visibly shaking with rage.
"That's it?! That's all you have to say after disappearing for two fucking years?!" Her eyes bore straight into the top of Hylla's head. Hylla slowly rose her head to meet her gaze. She seemed disinterested.
"I told you I was getting moved to Fort Knox," She volunteered and Reyna's entire face turned into such an impressive scowl that Nico actually did fall out of his chair. Neither sister acknowledged him, instead holding each other's gazes.
"That's not an excuse. I want an explanation, now." Reyna's fists curled at her sides and Hylla simply exhaled, standing and popping her back. She moved to her sister's side and stooped down slightly to her height, Reyna's glare somehow got angrier.
"Hate to tell you this, but my life doesn't revolve around you," Hylla smiled sardonically and Reyna slapped her across the face. Hylla stood still as the room was bathed in silence. Reyna didn't let up on her glare.
"I deserved that," Hylla murmured finally and Reyna sneered.
"No shit Sherlock," her voice had taken on an icy calm. Her shoulders continued to shake.
"Look, I'll be the first to admit that I'm an asshole who didn't talk to you for a while," Reyna seemed unimpressed with Hylla's confession, "But! I'm not the only one at fault here!"
"I called you, every day, for two months," Reyna stated flatly. Hylla winced.
"Yeah, well, I sent Christmas cards," she interjected. Reyna's face was teetering dangerously close to another explosion of anger and clearly, Hylla couldn't tell she was playing with fire.
"I will give you two days to come up with a better excuse, and then if not I'll kick you back to Fort Knox." Reyna's words were scarcely more than whispers before she turned on her heel and smiled pleasantly at the door where Thalia entered, practically bouncing up and down. Hylla sent Thalia a pleading look for help, but the shorter girl didn't seem to notice as she immediately began speaking energetically to Reyna, waving her arms animatedly. Finally, Hylla sent him a look as if asking as if he'd seen what she had. He could only muster a slow nod in fear as Reyna calmly listened to Thalia's speel.
"I'm sure that Reyna may have well gone ahead and killed Hylla if she didn't manage to get Thalia in on the situation," Nico chuckles slightly and Will quirks the beginning of the smile.
"How about you?" he asks next and Nico frowns, knitting his brows.
"What do you mean?"
"How'd you and Thalia meet?" Will clarifies and Nico sucks in a deep breath.
"It's... not something I like talking about, I'm sure Thalia doesn't either." Nico glances over at the older woman once more, she's settled back into the confines of sleep once more, but her eyebrows remain knit in discomfort.
"She told me that you were in juvie." Nico whips his head around to meet the younger man's eyes. Will doesn't look hurt or disgusted by the notion that Nico had been incarcerated once. "Why?"
Nico can hardly breathe. Not that it matters really, it's what he asked for. Not many people throw themselves off the fourth story of their apartment building and hope to live to tell the tale. Of course, he just did happen to live. Of course, he happened to be that lucky person that survived the fall. The doctors had called it a miracle, his father had cried at his bedside for a full hour, praising whatever forces out there that they hadn't stolen his son too.
Hazel hadn't come in to see him yet, but even she sent her gratitude for his survival. Everyone was just so fucking happy that he was alive, and he fucking hated it. However, they had neglected one key detail.
Suicide was illegal, or rather, attempted suicide. You couldn't punish a corpse, but a living person was free to be incarcerated at any given time. And, of fucking course, in the grand city, he lived in it was punishable by six months in juvie. Being alive, great, fucking fantastic. He just loved being forced to continue living after he had actively tried to stop. Being alive and sentenced to live in an enclosed space with other teenagers who had committed far worse offenses, just dandy.
Nico glared at the driver of what he only knew to call, the prison bus. Everyone else on the bus looked like they actually knew what was happening. One kid who sat two seats in front of Nico even had earbuds in. How he'd gotten them in this far was beyond him. Another boy with blue hair lay across three seats, staring disinterestedly out the window.
"Alright, that's everyone," one of the officers said to the driver who nodded and began starting up the engine.
"Wait!" another officer called and half the bus load turned to watch as one final inmate came stumbling out of the gray building where Nico had left pretty much every measly thing he owned. This one was a girl, short wild black hair not unlike his own. He didn't get to see much more of her as, as soon as she came stumbling out of the door she made a break for it. Charging full speed towards the electric fence that surrounded the entire compound, Nico wasn't entirely sure if she was trying to get away or get herself killed. He wouldn't deny the thought had crossed his mind.
"Stop her!" the officer who had been dragging the girl shouted and several others went charging after the offending teen. It took two officers tackling her and an actual tazing, the first Nico had seen, to get her to calm down enough for them to drag her back to the bus.
With a final heave of effort, they shoved her on the bus and slammed the door shut. Everyone stared. Some of the older kids looked vaguely impressed. The girl straightened slowly, wiping dirt from her face and spitting on the bus door, her hands were bound in handcuffs, but she didn't look like she could care less. Her eyes flashed with a crazed light, electric blue eyes crackling with energy.
"Ma'am you're gonna have to sit down," the driver barked, not looking particularly interested. The girl turned, looking as if she was debating strangling the bus driver with her hand cuffs before finally stomping off to find a seat.
In a strange, cruel twist of fate, Nico was the only person left with an open seat. And so he ended up sitting next to a possible murderer. With each passing second of the moving bus, he became more and more convinced that was the case.
The girl wasn't unclean, far from it actually. She had pale skin and glossy hair like she'd washed recently, and a certain healthy glow about her like she was one of those weird people that got up with the sun and ate their vegetables. However, there was that crazed look behind her somewhere between rage and pure childish delight. It made Nico's hair stand on end just being this close to her. Like her very being radiated electricity.
"Will you quit staring," she growled at him finally and for a moment, and Nico was struck with the fact he was apparently sitting next to a young Joan Jett. Her face was even scarier up close, and as she leered at him, face drawn into a snarl, her sharp features cast shadows over her pale skin. Nico swallowed nervously.
"I-I..." he stuttered, trying desperately for an excuse. The girl's scowl deepened.
"Look, bucko, neither of us wants to be here, no one fucking does, so if you shut your yap and keep your eyes down, I'll refrain from tearing your throat out with my teeth."
Nico nearly shit his pants. He'd just wanted to die, was that too much to ask for?
The girl laughed. It was a horrible cackling noise like a cartoon Disney villain, head thrown back and everyone else on the bus stared at her like she was a freak. Nico sank back in his seat, praying for the first time in his life.
"I'm just messing with you, lighten up kid," she remarked once she'd gotten her breath back. Nico blinked, giving her his best 'wtf' look. She grinned, showing off teeth just a tinsy bit too sharp for comfort. "Thalia." She offered one of her cuffed hands. Nico stared at her for a moment, wondering once more if she was perhaps an actual murderer. He figured if she was it was best not to piss her off.
"Nico." His voice barely made it to a whisper and he took her hand with his own shaking one. She shook it, having to move both arms to do it. Her grin didn't vanish once it had been released.
"What're you in for?" she asked, then laughed at her own joke and Nico simply gave her another incredulous expression. "I'm kidding dude, lighten up!"
"What about this situation calls for lightening up?" he asks. She shrugs.
"We're going to jail, it doesn't kill you to at least try and make it more bearable," she murmured and Nico just shook his head.
"Is that what you call that attempting to jump an electric fence? Lighting up?" He asked and watched as her grin turned sharklike.
"No, I call that Lightning up."
Nico gave her a death glare as she cackled at her own joke. Around them other inmates began to tune her out, simply rolling their eyes and going back to whatever they were doing before.
"Puns, disregard for authority and attempting to run away from police while in a fenced in facility, clearly, you're the exact type of person I need to be socializing with," Nico grumbled dryly. Thalia rolled her eyes, nudging her with her shoulder.
"Relax, okay. I'm not even in here for anything I did. I'm a good kid." Nico gets the feeling that there's a bit of sarcasm in that last statement, but the open declaration of not being at fault does spark something of curiosity in him.
"Really, then what're you in for?" He watched as Thalia heaved a sigh, shoulders rising and falling exaggeratedly.
"Assisted murder, though they can't prove that so I'll be out in a few months." She seemed nonchalant about it, but can anyone be nonchalant about admitting to assisted murder?
"What?!" Nico whisper yelled and Thalia shrugged.
"I told you, I didn't do anything, I was framed." she seemed confident in this belief, but the claim of them not being able to prove it is a bit contradictory.
"Look, my ex-boyfriend is the one who did the stabbing, I'm just the person in the wrong place at the wrong time." She declared finally and Nico just shook his head.
"Crazy. You're absolutely crazy, I'm gonna die here." He declared finally, sighing heavily and placing his face in his hands.
"Oh, for the third time, relax. You stressing out over it isn't going to make it any better," she grumbled. Nico simply took deep breaths to attempt to calm his racing heart.
"I didn't ask for this, I didn't try to fucking kill myself to end up in fucking juvie with psychos and lunatics who will drive me insane far before they actually kill me!" Nico exploded and despite that Thalia didn't look surprised at his confession of attempted suicide. She simply nodded as if she agreed.
"Yeah well, we don't ask for a lot of the things life hands us." Nico stared at her in disbelief.
"That might just be the smartest thing you've said yet."
"Oh shut up, just because I'm going to jail doesn't mean I haven't had at least something of an education," she muttered, but there was a glimmer of amusement in her smile. Nico cocked his head, curious as to why she didn't say anything about his attempted suicide. Was it just because she thought it'd be rude, or perhaps because she had similar thoughts.
"That makes one of us," he grumbled back and Thalia rose her brows into her bangs.
"What is goth boy a redneck?" The amusement has lit up her eyes as well.
"Goth boy?" he questioned.
"Oh please, with your hair and bags under your eyes you're lucky I'm not calling you vampire boy." Her tongue is sharp.
"Like you're much better. You're paler than I am." Thalia grins once more, pointed teeth glinting in the rising sun.
"I think this'll be the start of a beautiful friendship." She declared and Nico rolled his eyes.
"Please, as if I'd let it be." He wasn't going to admit he found her at least tolerable. Thalia's grin didn't fade.
"Sure thing Goth boy, I can already tell that you love me."
Reyna dreamed of the past. It was something she'd always done, even as a child her dreams would take her back to the days before Mom disappeared, back when Father was a good man and Hylla was simply another child. When she'd moved to Los Angeles her dreams would take her back to when she'd been hiding from Father in the backs of closets and around street corners. When she and Hylla would sneak into the kitchens of local restaurants looking for their next meal and naming stray cats on the roads.
Now, she dreamt of Thalia and her building forts out of couch cushions and fussing over English homework. She dreamt of Thalia's concentrated face glaring down at an offending math problem and the pout she received whenever she used her shoulder as an armrest sub consciously during conversation. She dreamt of Hylla dressed in uniform coming back home late at night after a beer or two with 'the girls' as she always put it, and how every morning afterward she'd always make Reyna swear up and down that she'd never drink.
She dreamt of a simpler life where her biggest concerns were what grades she'd make this term rather than whether or not Thalia was going to be alive the next day. She dreamt of a girl with light still in her eyes and a smile that didn't look forced. She dreamt of shy days, watching Thalia from afar simply because it made her heart pound and cheeks flush, and not because she was concerned as to whether or not the fact she was wearing sleeves was significant.
Reyna dreamt of when things were happy. The first days of a band that didn't quite sound right, and a sister who apologized up and down for a week straight. She dreamt of a Thalia who shouted into the microphone with all the energy she had and both on and off of the stage radiated energy and warmth. She dreamt of a group of people brought together by music and not by the horrible tragedy that had befallen them.
Reyna dreamt. And she hated it. She hated it because that wasn't how things were anymore and it just made everything else feel worse. She was spiraling, suffocating in the present. She dreamt of a younger Thalia with chubby cheeks smeared with chocolate and hair standing up thanks to the sweat of another Halloween. Reyna woke to an empty bedroom with cold walls and empty sheets. She woke to a Thalia curled into a couch covered in sweat from a fever and crying silently as nightmares raged through her mind.
Reyna woke to a Thalia who only smiled when she had to and didn't know the meaning of the word joy. She woke to a shell of someone she used to know and a very overly critical Piper McLean who simply looked at her and told her she needed to slow down her life and take Thalia out of the public eye.
But that scared Reyna a million times worse than what she already dealt with. Because if she was alone with Thalia, with no other contact or outside influence like Piper seemed to be suggesting, she didn't know how long she'd make it before losing her mind. She was already constantly filled with the growing fear that Thalia might attempt to kill herself if left to her own devices. The prospect of that being the only thing she had to think about nearly made Reyna go running off into the streets of San Francisco herself.
Thalia was simply too much of a ticking time bomb at this point, and as much as Reyna cared for her and loved her, she knew that it was best in her own personal life that she just, stop. She simply couldn't take it all herself anymore. Will helped a little of course, but to be constantly responsible for someone's life, that was too much. Reyna felt like her entire world would come apart at any given moment.
All the same, what she knew and what she did were two very different things. As soon as she had learned that she'd missed her watch she'd practically drop kicked Piper from the room in order to begin it. The other girl had simply given her a suggestive wink before disappearing out of the room.
Now she simply sat alone in a room with a sleeping Thalia who whimpered every twelve seconds. She knew because she had counted the intervals. The older girl simply whimpered into the couch and Reyna felt her chest pound in a very different way it did when she was a love crazed high schooler. She supposed she'd had time from then to turn a love sick crush into a literal, deep affection for Thalia. Eventually, the few inches the chair beside Thalia's sleeping was from the girl became too much and Reyna sat on the edge of the couch, running her fingers through Thalia's hair and quietly listening to her breathe, reminding her that she was still alive.
"You're killing me here Thals," she mutters after a while, but Thalia doesn't respond. Of course, she doesn't she's asleep. She doesn't care, it's the first real conversation she's had with her in at least a week. Ever since that stupid night. She never should've agreed to do that.
"I know that you're dying on the inside but... goddamn it." Reyna can't do this, she just can't. The hand that's not currently running through Thalia's hair is clenched tight in the folds of Reyna's pajama shorts.
"I can't watch you do this shit anymore. I literally spend half of my days worrying about whether or not you're going to be alive tomorrow and I spend the other half worrying about whether or not I'm going to be alive if you aren't!" Thalia's as silent as ever but now that Reyna's started she can't stop. That tumor of bitter worry in her chest explodes.
"Because goddamn it I can't watch you kill yourself over this. I know it's hard, I know what happened isn't something you can get over, and that all of this media circus shit is just making it worse, but every fucking second I spend watching you turn yourself inside out and drive yourself into the wall is one where I feel like I can't breathe." Reyna can feel the tears on her cheeks, but she refuses to acknowledge them. "You're part of me. At this point, I don't even damn know who I am without you. It's always Thalia and Reyna, Thalia and Reyna this, Thalia and Reyna that, Thalia and Reyna, lead singer and guitarist."
Reyna nearly screams, but she pauses to catch her breath and calm her shaking chest. "I... I'm not whole without you, this past week has made me realize the full extent of that. At some point, Reyna stopped being an individual person. She... I... I'm not." she stops. Thalia's hand is in hers. She blinks and looks down, electric blue eyes stare at her from sweat slicked skin and the girl sits up, clearly strained.
"You're Reyna Avila Fucking Ramirez-Arellano." She says it with such conviction Reyna feels as if she's being told she's the queen or something of that magnitude. "And you're my best friend."
"Y-You weren't supposed to hear that," Reyna blurts, unable to form any other thought. Thalia doesn't smile. She just closes both of her hands around Reyna's.
"Too bad, because I did." Her eyes are intense, and there's more life in them than Reyna's seen in a long time. "Look, I get that I'm an asshole and I've been basically dumping everything that I have on you for the past couple months. No excuse, I'm an asshole and I've been expecting you to be this sort of cure-all for my problems. But you aren't, and you don't have to hold in all of your shit too. Alright? We're both fuck ups who deal with too much shit on our own, so fuck holding it all in, okay! Fuck that. Fuck you. Okay. Fuck you and the fact that you bottle up literally every single emotion you've had since grade school. If I'm going to dump all of my shit on you, you get to do the same."
Thalia hasn't looked so sure about something in so long Reyna almost starts crying again. Almost.
"Thalia that's not fair to-" she begins, Thalia cuts her off.
"It's totally fucking fair. You've been dealing with my depressed ass for ten years, I get to be your rock too Rey." the fire is back in her eyes. Reyna's entire being relaxes just the tiniest bit. Some of that worry in her chest melts.
"Thalia fucking Grace, I hate you," she says finally and the smile does come back to her face. It's not huge, it doesn't light up the world or even the room, but it's genuine. It isn't forced. Reyna smiles.
"I love you too."
Chapter 18: Feeling
It was a long process, took a full day to get Artemis to agree to it, and lots of chocolate. It then took a full week of moving boxes and finding places to put pictures that Hylla refused to let Artemis throw away. Because apparently seeing the photos was too painful, but Hylla knew that if they just got rid of them that Artemis would regret it for the rest of her life.
And so Hylla’s ended up with three boxes full of photographs of a woman she’s never even met sitting underneath her new bed and an engagement ring sitting in her bedside drawer. Then, of course, there was the other issue.
Apollo, the idiot, somehow managed to infect both himself and Artemis with the flu. This left Hylla running errands for both of them and attempting to make sure Artemis didn’t work herself into an early grave. Despite everything, Artemis was still annoyingly dedicated to that brother of hers and invested in Hylla’s admittedly weird career choices. It seemed that the longer that Artemis and she were stuck together the more weird past things that Hylla had gotten involved with were popping up. Starting with her relationship with a hippie at one point and not limited to just bad choices she made in high school.
Artemis, evidently, just loved digging up Hylla’s secrets while harboring a fever of 102 and a runny nose.
“I swear to god Artemis if you don’t get off my email and into bed I'll put you there myself and sit on you!” Hylla growls after opening her laptop only to find her inbox has already been sorted through. Across the house, she hears Artemis call back.
“Fight me!” it’s followed by a coughing fit and Hylla rolls her eyes. For a woman six years older than herself Artemis really needs to learn what the hell she’s doing to herself.
“Don’t make me come in there! I spent all of last night at your brother’s house, keeping him from choking on his own mucus, I am not in the mood!” Hylla isn’t actually that tired, Apollo’s house has amazing wifi and the most comfortable furniture that Hylla’s ever seen, but she’d still rather sleep in the bed she spent four hours hunched over an IKEA manual to build. She doesn’t get a response from Artemis and just when she’s about to turn back to her computer she hears the crash of plates in the kitchen. With one last groan of frustration, Hylla pulls herself upwards and drags herself into the kitchen to face her workaholic roommate.
She finds Artemis glaring at a stack of plates she had knocked over like it had somehow personally offended her. Hylla simply rolls her eyes, scoops up the porcelain and then, after dumping it in a sink and muttering about cleaning up later, she scoops Artemis up like a child and carries her into her room.
“Hylla!” Artemis complains and tries to free herself from her grip, but Hylla simply ignores her until she’s safely set the older woman on her bed and sat on top of her.
“I wasn’t fucking kidding,” she growls and Artemis glares back at her. Her nose has turned a bright pink color and her eyes look red with lack of sleep. Hylla glares at her harder. “Did you even fucking sleep last night?”
“I finished going through your email,” Artemis answers and Hylla gives her the most disappointed look she can muster, she has vivid memories of chasing a sick Reyna around the house in order to get her in bed as a child, she’d rather not repeat that.
“Yeah, I'm not leaving until you fall asleep,” Hylla decides and stands only so Artemis can properly adjust herself in the bed. The older woman glares at Hylla and she’s reminded vaguely of an angry cat. “Pouting won’t work.”
“I’m not pouting,” Artemis pouts and Hylla shakes her head exasperatedly.
“How old are you, five?”
“Older than you.”
“At least I’m not a thirty-year-old pouting in duck pajamas.” Hylla grins smugly and Artemis whacks her half-heartedly on the shoulder.
“They’re geese pajamas.”
“My apologies.” Hylla finds her way to the other side of the bed where she flops down unceremoniously. Artemis rolls her eyes.
“You’re the worst,” the older woman decides and Hylla flashes her best smile.
“That’s why I’m here.” With one final sigh of exasperation, Artemis simply yanks her blankets over her head. After a moment of silence, she springs back up and gives Hylla scrutinizing look. Hylla raises an eyebrow. “What?”
“I just realized you’ve been avoiding your sister for two weeks,” Artemis snaps and Hylla sighs heavily.
“Took you that long? And I thought I was being obvious.” Artemis’s eyes narrow and Hylla shrinks under her gaze.
“Hylla. What happened?” Her voice is stern and Hylla is reminded that Artemis was her commanding officer at one point, despite how long ago that might feel.
“Nothing, I’m just letting her sort her own stuff out for a little.” It’s not a complete lie, but Artemis doesn’t look convinced. Finally, Hylla sighs once more and holds up her hands in surrender. “Fine, Jesus. I might have a tendency to sleep with people I’m not supposed to when I’m drunk and-”
“Woah there!” Artemis yells looking mildly horrified and it takes Hylla moment to figure out why.
“Not that! Eww, get your mind out of the gutter!”
“You’re the one who put it there, to begin with.”
“Do not blame me for that-”
“Anyway,” Artemis cuts in, rubbing her temples, “what did you do exactly?”
“I slept with the girl she’s been crushing on since, like, middle school.” Hylla murmurs, not wanting to actually admit it. Technically Thalia had been the one to do it before. It had been a strange night for the both of them and Hylla had repressed those memories deep, deep down.
Artemis winces and then gives her a head shake, “What is it with you and literally everything in your life is a result of sex with the wrong person?!”
“I don’t know! I don’t even like sex,” Hylla blurts and almost instantly regrets it. She winces, screwing her eyes shut and turning to face the wall. That’s not a facet of her personality she likes to deal with. She can hear the question before Artemis asks it.
“The hell is that supposed to mean?” she asks and Hylla throws her hands up.
“I don’t know! What’s anything supposed to mean?! What’s the universe? What’s life? What’s the appeal of a relationship between two people that hinges on fucking chemicals in the brain? I don’t know, I don’t care.” Hylla finishes her speech by kicking at the wall. After a moment of silence, she sighs and all the tension in her shoulders droop, leaving her the most vulnerable she’s ever been in front of Artemis.
“I don’t know. It’s something I do when I’m bored or drunk, or just plain stupid, but when I’m sober, I feel sick. My first time I was sick for a week afterward and refused to ever even see the poor guy again. Reyna never found out about it and I never told anyone.” Hylla can’t look Artemis in the eye. Hell, their entire relationship is built off of a one-night stand they shared after a wild party. One Hylla’s glad that she can’t remember.
“Hylla. Look at me.” Artemis murmurs and Hylla winces at the sternness in her voice. However much she doubts that Artemis is going to kick her out over something as stupid as this, she does seriously fear the judgment in her gaze. Slowly, she turns to meet it.
“You’re not stupid, and it’s not weird. Certain people just don’t enjoy or want sex.” Artemis looks calmer than Hylla’s ever seen her and she feels mildly comforted by that.
“If it were just that then I wouldn’t do it when I was drunk off my ass,” Hylla mutters and Artemis rolls her eyes.
“And if life were simple then all of us would feel a lot better.” Artemis smiles and Hylla can’t help but do the same.
“Point taken, but seriously, I don’t know what I’m going to do about the Reyna situation. Last time she was this mad at me the only reason I survived was that I got Thalia in on it, now I’m pretty sure that she’s in the doghouse too,” she murmurs and watches Artemis chuckle.
“You’ll figure it out, you’re family.”
“That doesn’t mean much in my family,” Hylla says honestly and Artemis hums in contemplation. She looks less sick now that she’s seated still for possibly the first time in hours.
“You might not think so, but trust me, Family always means more than you’d think. I should know, my brother’s Apollo.”
Percy hates sleeping on the floor. Sure, it’s better to sleep on carpet than concrete, but it still freaking hurts in the morning. So when Piper kicks him awake he’s less than thrilled.
“What?” He grumbles only to find that he’s apparently not the only person that Piper’s awoken. Nico, Will, and Annabeth are all glaring at her in about equal states of disarray.
“You’ve gotta come see this,” Piper announces, ignoring the glare they’re all giving her and walking towards the door into the living room. Since they’d all ended up crashing in the kitchen it’s not much of a walk. With a groan of pain and a popping of his back, Percy stands and follows his much too awake cousin along with his other exhausted friends. Annabeth isn’t even at coherence yet, simply leaning against his shoulder with heavy eyelids. It’d be almost cute if Percy didn’t feel much the same way. Nico and Will don’t look much better, but Percy almost wants to ask why they were sleeping so close together in the first place. He decides that’s a conversation for when they get back to the apartment.
“Be quiet,” Piper orders once they’ve all dragged themselves over to her and she opens the door to reveal a sight that was, in fact, worth the wake-up call.
Reyna lays fast asleep atop Thalia who simply sends all four of them a middle finger in retaliation. Which leaves Percy with two takeaways, the first of which is not that Thalia’s awake.
“Something you’d like to tell us, Grace?” Percy smirks and Thalia’s eyes narrow.
“Go fuck yourself, Jackson,” She hisses and Reyna, apparently only mostly asleep, places a hand over her mouth. Percy attempts to stiffen his giggles and Annabeth smacks him on the shoulder, but he can see her smiling too.
“How long have you been awake?” Will questions and Thalia begins blushing, her cheeks flushing red as she glances guiltily at Reyna. Nico tries to hide a snicker.
“Not long,” Thalia squeaks and Percy watches Piper’s shoulders shake visibly with laughter. Thalia’s ears turn red. “Shut up, all of you, alright.”
“We aren’t making any noise,” Annabeth murmurs, smirking while Thalia glares at her hotly.
“Not one word Chase. Not one.”
“I think after the heart attack you gave all of us, we’re allowed to get some ribbing in.” Annabeth’s smirk is deadly and Percy’s reminded of why he started dating her in the first place.
“Fuck off,” Thalia growls and Reyna pats her face again. Percy snickers.
“Medicine, now.” Will orders and begins rooting through thalia’s kitchen. Thalia rolls her eyes but doesn’t protest which is better than what Reyna had said yesterday about Thalia’s medication habits. Will returns with a glass of water and capsule. Thalia takes it but doesn’t bother to raise her head from the pillow.
“How long have I been out anyway? I didn’t get a straight answer from la reina.” Thalia gestures to Reyna and Will sighs.
“Well according to your friends you passed out on the golden gate bridge nearly three days ago. Since they found you, you’ve been pretty much out of it.” He glances at his medicine bag and Thalia follows his gaze, wincing.
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have run off.”
“No shit Sherlock,” Nico grumbles and Piper smacks him in the stomach. He doesn’t wince, but Thalia glances over to glare at him.
“You’re not much better di angelo.”
“She’s got a point,” Percy mutters back and Nico kicks him in the shin.
“That’s not an excuse Grace. What the hell happened?” He snaps at her and Thalia sighs, turning her gaze back to the sleeping girl on her chest. Finally, she responds.
“Jason cut me off.” They all hang in suspended silence.
“What?” Nico blurts and Thalia simply shakes her head.
“I just messed up alright. He got mad, accused me of keeping too many secrets, and then told me to stop calling him. He blocked my number I’m pretty sure.” Thalia’s voice has that same hollow quality that it has when she talks about Luke.
“Bastard,” Nico growls and yanks out his phone. “That’s it, I’m calling him-”
“Don’t bother,” Thalia whispers and Nico gives her a strange look.
“Thalia he can’t just-”
“He did.” Her voice is more resigned than he’s ever heard it. “Reyna called him the other day. He told her he wasn’t going to talk to me until I got over my bullshit.”
“You don’t have to ‘get over’ anything. He’s being moronic and close-minded!” Nico’s voice is getting louder and Thalia’s is shrinking.
“I messed up. I’ll live with the consequences.”
“You shouldn’t have to!”
“Guys calm down,” Piper tries to intervene, but Percy pulls her back before she can get herself hurt. Nico’s shoulders are shaking and Thalia looks on the edge of tears.
“He doesn’t get to act like this. He has an obligation-” Nico’s almost crying as well. Thalia explodes.
“He has nothing! Nothing! I messed up. I left him when he was nine years old with that woman. He has no obligations to me.”
“You raised him.”
“I raised him wrong.” Thalia’s shoulders droop under a weight that only she can see. Nico’s gaze turns somber and he shakes his head.
“You didn’t do anything. It’s his fault.”
“It’s. His. Fault.” Nico insists and grabs his phone. “I’m calling him. He has a lot of explaining to do.” With that Nico exits into the hall and they all hear the lock click behind him.
Leo hates working. Of course, he loves fixing things and cars are freaking awesome, but the prospect that what he’s currently doing is ‘work’ makes him want to throw his wrench through a windshield. However, he does have to pay the bills somehow and his roommate doesn’t do shit so he doesn’t exactly have any other options.
“Ring. RIng. RINg. RING.” Speaking of the roommate. Leo groans and rolls out from under the car to grab the cellphone.
“Valdez Garage. What can I do for ya!” He yells into the phone and yanks out his headphones. He hates being stopped in the middle of his repairs.
“Who?!” the voice on the other line yells and Leo recognizes it as male.
“Valdez. Leo Valdez. The best mechanic in New York City,” he barks back and hears mumbling on the other line.
“Must’ve gotten the wrong number. I’m looking for a Jason Grace.” The other man sounds angry if not a bit tired. Leo yawns and glances at the clock. It’s only three am.
“Grace? Never heard of him.” He mutters and the other man curses.
“Well sorry for taking up your time-”
“Wait!” he yells. “Tall, blonde, scar on the upper lip?!”
“Yeah, that’s him. You know him?”
“Yeah! Superman’s in the other room with his girlfriend!” Leo pulls the phone away to scream after his football quarterback roommate. “Grace! Phone’s for you!”
“Superman?” the voice on the line asks and Leo laughs.
“Yeah, y’know because he’s Clark Kent? Didn’t catch your name anyway?”
“I didn’t throw it,” the other voice mutters, but is followed by an exasperated sigh. One that Leo knows is accompanied with a smile. “Nico. Nico di angelo.”
“Oh. You’re the Vamp boy.” Leo mutters and tucks the phone under his chin in order to take off his gloves. Jason hasn’t made any noise, meaning he’ll have to go wake the idiot up.
“Vamp boy?” Nico questions.
“Yeah, Vamp boy. Jay showed me a picture of you and I said you looked like a vampire, even more so than his sister.” Leo’s stomach growls and he decides on a detour before making his way to wake up his roommate.
“Seriously?! Why does everyone keep saying vampire!” Nico complains and Leo laughs.
“Well the hair and complexion aren't very helpful,” He volunteers.
“Well for all I know about you, you could look like an orc or something.”
“No way,” Leo mutters and pushes aside Jason’s protein supplements in order to look for his pickles. “I’m a Santa elf at best.”
“Santa elf?” Nico asks and Leo nods, then remembers the other man can’t see him.
“Yep. It’s what the J-Man calls me.”
“Do you ever call Jason by his actual name?” Nico asks and Leo shakes his head.
“Nope. I don’t call anyone by their own name. Like you, Vampboy.”
“Can you please just give the phone to Jason?” Nico asks and Leo rolls his eyes.
“Patience Vamp boy, I’m working on it. Who knew vampires were so impatient.”
“I’m not a vampire,” Nico growls.
“Whatever. Jase, get your ass down here!” Leo yells once more and hears stumbling down the stairs. Bleary-eyed and not even wearing a shirt Jason Grace appears in all his glory. His glory being nothing more than a pair of chicken wing boxer shorts.
“What?!” He snaps and feels his face for his glasses which Leo had spotted on top of the fridge.
“Phone’s for you,” Leo mutters and hands the phone to the taller boy before wrestling with his pickle jar.
“Hello?” He listens to Jason as best he can in the meantime. The blonde boy doesn’t sound terribly happy. Then again, he hadn’t all week, so maybe something bad happened at work. Or he ate a bad hoagie. Leo’s felt worse from doing that.
“Nico,” Jason mutters and his voice has lost all traces of calmness. He’s mad. Very mad. Leo glances at him to see he’s doing the damn statue face he does when he gets in an argument.
“Nico.” He repeats but goes silent once more. On the other side of the line, Leo can hear Nico yelling faintly, but can’t make out his words.
“Listen here di angelo. I’m an adult, I’m allowed to make my own decisions and I don’t have to listen to someone who lies to my fucking face for years.” Jason’s voice is icy calm. Leo winces.
More yelling ensues on the other line. Jason sighs impatiently.
“If you can’t talk like an adult I don’t think we need to have this conversation at three in the fucking morning. So, if you don’t calm down then I’m going to hang up and we’ll talk again later. Or maybe never considering you seem to be looking at this from only one side.
“No, you’re the one being irrational. My sister, who I told everything to has lied to me since the day I was born. She keeps everything in until she explodes and brings everyone who cares about her down with her. She’s toxic and crazy and every inch the same bitch my mother was.”
Silence hangs in the apartment and Jason is seething. The phone continues blaring yelling. Things Leo can’t and doesn’t want to understand. Jason’s always struck him as such a calm person. The anger in his eyes makes him feel sick.
“I am not obligated to her in any fucking way.”
There’s more yelling until Leo can see Jason’s face snap.
“She’s not Bianca!” he shouts and Nico finally stops shouting at Jason. “She’s not Bianca and I’m not you. So Fuck off and don’t call me until you’ve considered this from someone else’s point of view.” Jason hangs up the phone and throws it across the apartment where it smashes against the opposite wall and they sit in silence. Jason’s shoulders rise and fall in waves. Leo slowly chews his pickles.
“You okay man?” he asks slowly. Jason looks up at him, but instead of the glare he’s expecting, he’s never seen Jason look sadder in his life.
“I just want this all to go back to how it was.” He whispers and starts for the stairs.
“Jason,” Leo calls after him and the blonde freezes to look back at him.
“You’re allowed to feel. You know that right?” Leo’s pickles taste like salt. Jason sighs and the muscles in his back drop.
“I don’t feel anything anymore Leo.”
Chapter 19: Hazelnuts and Skiing
Thalia and Reyna get some much-needed downtime. Jason makes a new friend.
Silence. After listening to people fuss over her for nearly twelve hours and constant poking and prodding from Willi it was almost foreign. It seems that everything in Thalia’s life was racing at breakneck pace towards something, probably a cliff, and she had no way of stopping it. But here, now? Now it was three a.m. and the house was quiet as you could hear a pin drop. The only sounds were the hum of the air conditioner and gentle rummaging of Reyna going through papers at the desk in her room.Thalia sighs, a little miffed that Reyna had left her alone on the couch to fend for herself. And of course, “fend for herself” really just meant having to lift her head in order to reach the straw craned about three inches to the right.
Also missing the warmth of a certain latina. Thalia groans and shuts her eyes, praying to whatever that her brain will shut up. She’s tired. So fucking tired she can physically feel the muscles in her body straining to simply keep her hands up. The light from her phone burns her eyes. She wants to sleep, badly, but it seems after someone sleeps for two days straight and nearly a third, the fourth day she becomes an insomniac.
“You okay?” she hears Reyna’s voice faintly from across the apartment and winces slightly.
“M’ fine,” she croaks but is certain she doesn’t sound it. After Nico’s shouting match with Jason, no one had been left in a good mood, several people looking ready to kill Jason, but that hadn’t been the problem. The problem had been Annabeth muttering that she understood his point of view. That had stung.
Annabeth and Thalia weren’t particularly close anymore, but back before the whole mess with Luke, Juvie, and high school Annabeth had been her and Luke’s neighbor. Like the sister that Thalia never had. Then, of course, Luke did happen and she became the scary girl who was a convicted murderer.
Annabeth had looked at her and told her that hiding so much of herself wasn’t a good thing for anybody. The people she trusted nor herself. Some crazy part of Thalia. Some dying flame that refused to completely blank out no matter how much water was doused onto it, wanted to shout at her. It wanted to yell and scream and tell her she was wrong and didn’t understand. Thalia had pushed the fire into the void she put everything else these days and just simply nodded along.
Reyna comes padding into the room, hair a mess and slight rings beginning to form under her eyes. Thalia sighs, apparently she’s not the only one who’s tired.
“You sure?” she questions and covers a yawn with the back of her hand. Thalia’s familiar with this Reyna. Sleepy Reyna. The one who’s both susceptible to snuggles and ready to strangle anyone who suggests she should go to bed.
“I’m not the one about ready to fall asleep on her feet Pegasus,” Thalia whispers hoarsely and smiles wickedly at Reyna. The taller girl glares back but her eyes are too droopy to actually be threatening.
“Call me Pegasus one more time and we’ll see who’s asleep,” she grumbles, but instead of returning to whatever she was doing she slowly made her way over to sit on the floor with her back to the couch, right next to Thalia’s hands. With tired hands, she drops her phone against her stomach and reaches up to pull out the bushy remains of Reyna’s braid.
“Is that a threat or a promise?” she whispers in the taller girl’s ear and relishes in the shiver she entices. Reyna shoots her another sleepy glare.
“Don’t count your chickens before they… crack their eggshells,” Reyna waves dismissively at the remainder of the sentence. Thalia can’t help but laugh. Not giggle, because as many things as Thalia is, she is NOT a giggler.
“Hatched, buddy. The word is hatched.” she reminds and Reyna shrugs weakly.
“Look, I’ve spent the last twelve hours dealing with a shit ton of young adults who behave like Kindergarteners, the last week with you, and the last month or two with life, and in case you forgot chica, el inglés no es mi primer idioma. Excuse me if I’m not putting effort into making words go, buddy.” Reyna’s speech is a collection of mumbled words and half pronounced phrases that Thalia can barely make sense of, but she catches the end of it.
“Making words go?” she questions, not hiding the amusement in her voice. Colorfully, Reyna mutters some things in Spanish Thalia knows for certain aren’t nice. They lapse into a silence, Thalia’s fingers still combing through Reyna’s hair absentmindedly. They both know what they should be talking about, but they want to avoid it at all costs. The future. What the hell do they do now?
Thalia knows that jumping right back into the life of a punk band isn’t going to work, but she can’t simply abandon it either. Music is the only plan she ever made for her life, mostly because for a person with her background and history the only other option really was McDonald's. And Thalia hated McDonald's. With a passion.
Reyna doesn’t know how to tell Thalia that they need a break, a long break. A break from everything. A break from life. Her shoulders feel sore and Thalia’s breath is just barely touching the back of her neck, finally, she breaks the tension with a sigh.
“So you know how I’ve always wanted to go skiing?” she starts and Thalia stills for a moment before continuing her process of pulling out tangles. She hums faintly in acknowledgment. “I was thinking, we’ve all been under a lot of stress, and other shit has happened, and right now San Francisco is a little less than welcoming, so-”
“So?” Thalia breaks her sentence, pinching a piece of hair so she can get the knot out of Reyna’s hair without causing pain. “What do we do with the Album? Put it on hold, or just chuck it?”
“How about neither,” Reyna straightens her spine and feels some of the vertebra pop. “We release the seven songs we already have early as an EP and then take a vacation to Colorado. A long one.”
“How long?” Thalia questions, eyebrows knit, hands stilling in her hair once more.
“Three months at least,” Reyna recalls Piper’s words earlier. Take a break.
“Three months?!” Thalia almost yells, “How the hell are we going to pay for that?!”
“I’ve been saving up,” Reyna confesses, however she doesn’t want to state what she’d actually been saving up for. Reyna doesn’t get embarrassed, but she has to physically restrain the urge to blush.
“For what? Your retirement?!” Thalia questions. “We can’t afford both rent here and a cabin, or RV or something.”
“That’s why,” Reyna states, “we won’t be going alone.”
Thalia groans, “Don’t tell me.”
“Nico, Percy, Piper, Annabeth, and Will will be sharing the cabin with us, I already started making reservations.” Reyna’s tone is monotone, but she has to repress a little annoyance at the fact that Hylla had refused her invite, stating she had to stay for “work” whatever the hell that work was, Reyna didn’t know.
Thalia groans louder and she hears the smack of her palms to her forehead. With a huff of exasperation, Reyna whips around and stands, only to sit on Thalia’s lap.
“You can complain all you want, doesn’t change we’re going.”
“Look, I love skiing as much as the next native Californian,” Thalia begins, and Reyna’s not exactly sure what to make of that statement, “and I love the idea of going away from this mess, but bringing literally the whole gang with us? That’s a bit much.” She’s sitting up now, leaning back on her elbows and looking at her with deadly serious eyes. Reyna’s struck with how, even with only a week’s difference, the pattern has changed. Thalia’s eyes always seem to do that, shifting patterns just as easily as Piper’s switched colors. Like clouds drifting across a stormy sky.
“I get you don’t like people,” Thalia pouts at Reyna, who flicks her on the nose in retaliation. “But! Keeping in contact with people who love you and support you is one of the things Will talked about, remember?”
Thalia groans again and flops back against the bed.
“Next you’ll be a vegan and be throwing kale at me, telling me I need to get my act together or I’ll die of heart failure.” She says it as if she’s prophesied Reyna’s turn to the dark side.
“I’m not the one who punched a guy in a cowboy hat for wearing an eagle feather.”
“EAGLES ARE SACRED!” Thalia argues and Reyna rolls her eyes.
“Yeah, yeah, star spangled banner and all that.” She watches Thalia swipe at her weakly, not really bothering to actually aim, and, consequently, nearly stabbing her in the eye.
“Watch the hands Freckles,” Reyna growls and is met with mischievous eyes. Thalia swipes at her again, more controlled this time, and Reyna snaps at it instinctively. She laughs, reaching up as if to poke her between the eyes and Reyna leans back slowly to get away from the offending finger.
“Dork,” Thalia declares, finally giving up and retracting her hand. Reyna sighs and straightens, just in time to receive a finger to the nose. “I win!”
“Oh, it’s on, Freckles.” She doesn’t give Thalia chance to react and goes in for the tickle. Thalia shrieks, squirming in her grip and laughing louder than she has in months. It feels light, airy, real, like this moment is the first solid ground she’s reached after months at sea. She wants to stay here, drinking in Thalia’s laugh and getting high off of the scent of mint and pine as the light dances in stormy eyes.
“Fuck! You! Eyebrows!” Thalia shouts between laughs and turns around to retaliate, and Reyna laughs. She laughs and for once the tears streaming down her face don’t hurt. For once the ache in her stomach makes her want to smile more. For once Thalia’s happy. That’s all that matters.
New York has never felt so lonely. So empty. Empty sheets, empty bed, empty nightstand where a phone once sat. Empty kitchen lacking in a roommate. Empty train car, empty sidewalks, empty hallways. Empty.
Jason has never felt so empty, his head feels like a hollowed out jar. Where sweets and love once fell is now empty and grey. His chest feels hollow and uncharacteristically light, like one gust of wind is enough to send him far far away.
Away. Jason’s never wanted to go there so much in his life. Away is promises of better, of families that he’s missed and a sister who tells the trust. Away is promises of a mother who cared, a father that listened. Away is the promise of things that don’t exist. Fantasies with no hope of coming true.
Jason glares at a tabloid that sits next to him in the checkout line. THALIA GRACE’S FLING WITH LEAD SINGER OF HESPERIDES. Jason can feel the blood in his veins boiling beneath his skin.
“Sir?” a voice calls and Jason looks up to meet the concerned face of some poor high-school girl. Her eyes glitter like polished gold and her hair is a perfect halo of cinnamon curls. If Jason were a bit younger and a little less angry he might’ve found her attractive, as it is all he can manage is, she looks like a young Reyna.
Reyna who wasn’t quite as quiet, who laughed when people told jokes, who could look people in the eyes without trying to scare them. Reyna who’d bump her shoulder against his when they went to the skating rink on Saturdays. Reyna who’d link her arms with Thalia while the latter was skateboarding so she didn’t fall. Reyna who still knew what trust meant.
Jason ground his hand against the counter, setting down his groceries with the other.
“That’ll be all,” he hisses through gritted teeth. The girl frowns at him, eyebrows drew together in the exact same expression a fifteen-year-old Reyna would give him when he’d gotten himself into another impossible situation. However, he's struck with the fact she looks familiar.
“Sir, are you alright?” Her words are soft, like snow and her eyes are pools of liquid gold. Jason smiles, his teeth hurt.
“I’m fine, just stressful day,” he murmurs, hoping she’ll just drop it. Surely she has more important things to take care of than the weird stranger who scowls at magazines. Instead, he watches her cast a glance at the magazine he’d been glaring at earlier then back at him.
“Y’know that Grace girl has been in the news a lot lately,” she murmurs and Jason wonders if she thinks she’s helping or if she’s just trying to make small talk. He wasn’t that outgoing as a teenager, then again he’s still technically a teenager at this point, so who is he to complain?
“She’s… uh… my sister actually…” he mutters and watches the girl’s eyebrows rise.
“Really?” she questions and Jason shrugs. The store is uncharacteristically empty for ten am on a Saturday. The girl leans across her counter and Jason catches a glimpse of her name tag. Hazel.
“Yeah… shit happens,” he mutters softly and Hazel knits her brows in concern.
“That can’t be easy. My brother’s been in the news a lot recently too…” she shrugs in sympathy and turns back to bagging his groceries.
“Your brother?” he questions and she smiles vaguely.
“You should probably know him if your sister is Thalia. Nico di angelo?” she offers and Jason nearly faints right there.
“You’re Nico’s sister?!” he shouts, then winces at his volume, glancing around to make sure he hasn’t scared anyone. No one seems to even be in the vicinity. Hazel chuckles good-naturedly.
“Yeah I know, we don’t look very much alike. Different moms.” she offers and Jason gulps nervously.
“No, no, just… I didn’t know that he had any other siblings besides Bianca,” he hopes he doesn’t come across as weird. Hazel chuckles again.
“Yeah, well we’ve only met once so that’s reasonable. I was never close with dad.” With that, she finishes bagging his milk and apples, then begins punching things into her cash register. “You can swipe your card now.”
“Cash actually,” Jason corrects and she makes an o with her mouth before turning and punching in a few more things.
“Your total is $14.65,” she mutters and Jason shuffles around in his pockets.
“But seriously, I get the dad thing. When I met the guy he wasn’t the most… hospitable,” Jason offers and Hazel laughs.
“That’s putting it mildly. When I met him and his wife, they could barely even look at me, not that it mattered. I don’t exactly look like dad. Nico seems to have gotten his looks.” She takes the crumpled bills from Jason’s hand and punches a few more things into her cash register.
“I take it you take after your mother then?” he questions and she shrugs.
“From what I’ve seen in pictures, yes. Now though, I don’t think you could tell.” Hazel runs a hand over her halo, a nervous habit Jason guesses because there’s hardly anything wrong with it.
What school do you go to?” he asks because he has the strangest feeling he’s seen her somewhere before.
“Juilliard,” she says and grins the way someone who’s achieved something great does. She looks proud, Jason now knows where he recognizes her from.
“You were in my studio the other day! I knew you looked familiar,” he announces, and she cocks her head like a confused puppy.
“You go to Juilliard?” She asks and Jason nods.
“Ballet.” He explains and waits for the inevitable snicker he receives when he tells people that all 6ft 4 inches of pure muscle and blonde physique is a ballet dancer and not a quarterback. Hazel doesn’t laugh, instead, her eyes get huge, and she nods with great respect.
“Now I remember, you’re really good,” she says, and this horrible, candy pop sweet, smile appears on her face. Jason should’ve known that was the beginning of the end. Right then and there, when he looked a 17-year-old girl and the eyes and saw someone who needed to be protected. Someone who reminded him greatly of someone he couldn’t protect.
“Thanks, what’re you studying?” he asks and she laughs, blushing slightly.
“I’m afraid I’m just a plain old artist. I was at the studio picking up my boyfriend’s things, he’s a danger too, hip-hop. You might know him, Frank Zhang?” Jason faintly recalls the image of a Chinese boy staring in utter terror as dancers’ bodies contorted in ways that weren’t humanly natural.
“The Canadian?” he asks and Hazel laughs again. It sounds like wind chimes.
“That’d be him. Honestly, he’s such a stereotype, almost embarrassingly polite and sweet, I think the worst thing he’s done in his life's forget to take out the trash.”
“Maybe we should all meet up sometime, I think you’d like my roommate Leo, he’s a sculpturist,” Jason volunteers, mostly because some part of his brain has decided this girl, this stranger he’s met in a strangely abandoned Target in downtown New York needs protection. Honestly, if she wanted she probably could’ve thrown him over her shoulder. This was New York, the more innocent looking the person the more likely they were a serial killer. Instead of tearing into him with a concealed knife, Hazel smiled that that was an excellent idea.
“I think that’d be fun. Here, take my number.” She pulls out a set of post-it notes in the shapes of stars (because of course, they are).
“See you around Hazel.” he takes the note and she smiles. Her teeth are ever so slightly crooked, like a third grader who just grew their full set. His heart melts a little.
“See you around Jason.”
The cabin is beautiful. Rich mahogany siding and deep, stained wood floors that would make wine jealous with their brilliant warm color. The furniture is brand new, bright, and deep leather, matching the cabin floor in just the exact same as the wood and Thalia wants to melt into the floor.
Everything here is so peaceful, gentle flakes of snow coming down to rest on an expanse of white untrodden by anyone. Thalia can feel the silence seeping into her bones, and for once it feels so good. No city, no bustling people, no screaming teenagers or claustrophobic street corners. For once, Thalia can almost see the appeal of becoming a country artist.
“Guh,” Nico is in literally four layers of coats and carrying a bag bigger than he is tall. “WHY IS IT SO DAMN COLD?!”
“It’s called freezing Nico,” Piper snaps back, looking fashionable as always in her bright blue ski jacket, “it’s how snow is made.”
“Don’t get smart with me, McLean.”
“Alright people, that’s quite enough,” Reyna’s the last one through the door, closing the door behind her and discarding the dark blue scarf that had been hiding the lower half of her face. She sighs and walks over to begin piling logs into the fireplace.
“Yo! Reyna, what’s the wifi password?” Percy calls and Reyna sighs, rolling her eyes.
“Cooolstorm,” she calls and he nods pulling out his phone, soon accompanied by Nico and Piper. Thalia simply turns to look out the window. Finally. She’s alone. She’s away, from all of it. She wants to laugh, to shout, to go outside and just run until her face freezes off. She sighs heavier than she ever has in her life, and plops herself down in an armchair.
“What the hell!” Percy’s voice interrupts, “Twitter’s blocked!”
“And Instagram,” Nico adds.
“And youtube.” Piper finishes and Reyna straightens, nodding.
“Yes. All social media is blocked because we came here to get away from that. Not back into the fire.” With that, she turns back to the fireplace with three young adults gaping at her back in disbelief. Thalia laughs, letting the sound ring out of her chest unrestrained because it feels good. It feels so good just to let go.
“What is wrong with you?!” Percy exclaims, but Thalia’s not sure if he’s referring to her or Reyna. Fortunately, before Reyna can react the door bursts open and in comes a huffing Annabeth carrying four bags worth of luggage. Percy and Piper’s luggage.
“What?” she huffs and sets down the bags with a loud THUD. Steam rises from her mouth into the cold cabin which Reyna has yet to get the fire started in.
“She blocked the wifi!” Piper exclaims looking scandalized. Reyna rolls her eyes.
“Oh, relax. It’s not blocked in the lodge which is literally just down the road so if you really want Twitter just walk, like, ten meters down the road.”
“Can you say that in American measurements?’ Percy asks and Reyna huffs, turning back to her fireplace.
“Reyna, look I get that you want this to be a ‘relaxing vacation’ but three months without wifi is a bit excessive,” Annabeth volunteers and Reyna sighs.
“I’m not leaving it off for the whole time, just the first few weeks while we all calm down. I mean, come on, we’re always so wound up we can’t even take ten seconds to let me build the freaking fire!” Reyna’s gaze burns into Percy’s skull and he backs away with his hands raised in surrender.
“Okay, okay, Jesus!”
“Anyone else have something smart to say?” Reyna growls. Thalia simply laughs again, standing up and stretching and popping everything in her back. She feels lighter than she has in weeks.
“That you are literally the best,” she volunteers and, before she can lose the nerve, tackles the taller girl in a hug. Reyna stumbles backward, nearly dropping both herself and Thalia into the fireplace, but manages to brace herself against the mantle.
“I-er, uh-” she mumbles, blinking owlishly. Thalia can’t stop the smile that threatens to split her face in two.
“Seriously, I owe you, big time,” she whispers the words in Reyna’s ear and she doesn’t fail the sudden heat coming from Reyna’s face.
“No problem,” her voice is steady, but Thalia can feel the shakiness of her breath on her face. With one last squeeze of thanks, she releases Reyna and snatches up her bag.
“I’m gonna go our room, I call window side!” and she’s out of the room like a rocket, sprinting up the stairs two at a time and leaving five stunned young adults in her wake.
“What just happened?” Percy asks, staring after Thalia.
“I believe,” Piper whispers, “we have just witnessed the beginning of something that’s either really good or really bad.”
“She’s…” Reyna doesn’t finish her sentence, simply staring at the staircase that Thalia had just vacated.
“That’s the Thalia I remember,” Nico says for her, and there’s a rare smile on his face. Reyna nods, then slowly turns back to the fireplace and, with shaky movements, begins piling wood back into the fireplace.
“Soooo,” Piper says, “what’s this about ‘our room’.” she makes air quotes with her index and middle fingers. Reyna rolls her eyes at her thin attempt at subtlety.
“We all have to share rooms,” she says flatly and watches Piper deflate like a balloon. “There are only four bedrooms.”
“Well then only four of us have to share rooms,” Nico says, “the couples take two and then Pipes and I get our own rooms.”
“No can do pal,” Reyna mutters and begins attempting to light kindling for the fire. “Because two reasons. First, there’s only one couple here,” she ignores the glares she receives, “and the last bedroom is for Hylla when she joins us later.”
“I thought she wasn’t coming?” Percy asks and Reyna shakes her head.
“She wasn’t, but I talked to her roommate about it, and she said they’ll join us later in the endeavor, apparently Hylla got a job working with her brother.”
“Hylla has a roommate?” Annabeth’s eyebrows raise and Reyna sighs.
“You remember Artemis.”
“I didn’t know they were roommates,” Annabeth mumbles.
“Well, they are now. Anyway, she’ll be here, so no one gets that room. So, Percy and Annabeth I assume you’ll want the other master suite which leaves the kid’s room for Nico and Piper.”
“Other master suite?” Piper’s teasing tone is back and Reyna turns from the young fire to glare at her.
“Yes. The other master suite.”
“You’re sharing a bed with Thalia?” Piper’s smirk is enough to make Reyna’s blood boil. She pushes the kindling into the logs and then straightens, brushing soot off of her knees.
“I don’t have to explain this to you,” she growls, and the responding laughter is enough to send the hair on the back of her neck on end.
“Jesus, you two need to get your shit together.”
“No, I’m with Piper on this one,” Nico says, a hint of a smirk on his lips. Reyna glares daggers at him. “You two really gotta do something or you’re going to drive the rest of us crazy.”
“Thalia’s not in it for a relationship right now.” Reyna snaps.
“Did she tell you that?” Annabeth asks and Reyna blanches.
“Well no, but-”
“But,” Annabeth cuts in, “it sounds like you’re making a decision for her.”
“She just got out of an abusive relationship!” Reyna argues and Percy sighs.
“Reyna, she can decide for herself when and if she’s ready for a relationship. She’s a big girl and besides, we all know she can take care of herself.” Percy’s the most serious she’s seen him in a long time. “You won’t hurt her, you know that.”
Reyna sighs and lowers herself into a leather armchair. “I don’t trust myself not to.”
“She’s not glass Reyna,” Percy tells her, slowly approaching as if he might frighten her off. “She’s been through a lot, that doesn’t make her fragile.”
“Percy you haven’t seen her like I have,” Reyna’s voice is suddenly on the verge of cracking and she hates the sound of it. “You haven’t seen her in the middle of the night staring at herself in the bathroom mirror because she doesn’t know what to make of the reflection. She doesn’t know what to make of the person looking back because she can’t recognize herself. You haven’t held her in your arms while she spills her guts into you because you’re the only damn thing she has left.”
“I have.” Percy’s voice is stern, but not angry. Never angry. Percy is a lot of things, but emotionally unstable isn’t one of them. “I’ve held her. I’ve watched her and I did it all long before she met you, Reyna. She’s not fragile. She’s not broken. She’s hurting, but she’ll get stronger. Trust her. In the end, she’s the best thing she’s got.”
Hylla’s mouth tastes like week old tacos and she wants to slam her head through a door frame.
“I’m not saying you have to do it tomorrow!” she mocks and crashes backward onto the couch in the living room. “He hasn’t even given you a deadline yet! Relax your panties!”
“Okay,” Artemis complains from the kitchen where she’s hunched over the stove with a knife, “how was I supposed to know he’d move up the release date?”
“You’re my manager!” Hylla snaps back and Artemis rolls her eyes, but there’s a smirk pulling at the corner of her mouth.
“I take it recording went well?”
“Please,” Hylla groans and drapes an arm over her head, “if I never sing again it’ll be too soon. I have no idea how Thalia does this shit!”
“It’s called endurance sweetheart,” Artemis volunteers and Hylla’s face blooms red.
“What?” she asks, glancing up, then, realizing what she said, laughs. “Oh relax, you’re just stressed.”
“Shut up!” Hylla buries her face in the nearest pillow and screams. Artemis breaks into a fit of laughter so loud Hylla hears pounding on the other side of the wall from their neighbors telling them to shut up.
“Speaking of Thalia,” Artemis manages once she’s stopped laughing long enough to breathe, “I got a call from your sister earlier.”
“Oh?” Hylla mumbles, too tired to care.
“She invited us to join her and your bandmates on a little skiing excursion.” Hylla vaguely hears Artemis’s knife hit the cutting board a few times. She hums in vague interest. “She said you initially turned her down due to work.” the knife comes down a little harder than last time, Hylla glances up to meet silver eyes.
“Hylla.” Artemis’s face is serious, and Hylla can tell she’s fucked. “Did you not tell your sister about your HTK business?”
Hylla gulps. “Noooooo.”
Artemis sighs heavily and sets down her knife to facepalm.
“I swear to god, sometimes you’re Zoë and other times you’re Apollo,” she wipes her hands on a towel and comes into the kitchen in an old apron printed with bold words that say RESPECT THE COOK.
“Hey! It’s not exactly easy telling your sister that your biggest competitor for music spots and on charts is a member of your own band!” Hylla says in her defense, backing up on the couch as Artemis advances towards her. Artemis just shakes her head, throwing her apron over her head and on top of Hylla instead, tackling her into the couch where she yelps.
“You need to sort out your family issues!” She exclaims while wrestling Hylla with an apron over her head, which gives Artemis an unfair advantage. Hylla rolls off the couch, taking Artemis with her.
“I am perfectly fine, thank you!” she growls, having trouble pinning Artemis beneath her given she’s so damn fast. The older woman grabs her in a headlock and rolls them over again, leaving Hylla on her stomach.
“No you aren’t, we’re going to go skiing, and you’re going to talk-erf,” Artemis grunts as Hylla tries to shake her off, “to her.”
“Make me!” Hylla yells and weasels her way out of Artemis’s grip with brute force alone. Artemis yelps at the sudden loss of height and falls to the floor as Hylla scurries towards the kitchen, laughing and tossing taunts in her direction.
“Oh, it’s on.” Hylla hears Artemis call, but she’s already armed herself with a bag full of popcorn. Artemis rounds the corner into the kitchen and Hylla begins tossing it at her. She yelps and ducks behind the table, coming up with her own bag of Cheetos.
“When did you get Cheetos?!” Artemis exclaims and Hylla laughs maniacally instead of answering, giving Artemis a healthy glob of popcorn to the face and diving down the hallway towards the bathroom.
Artemis chases after her, now wielding a wet dishcloth as a weapon as Hylla makes a mad sprint for the door, hoping to get into the stairwell before Artemis catches her.
“Come and catch me you bastard!” Hylla yells over her shoulder only to catch glinting silver eyes just behind her. She yelps like a dog and slams the door shut behind her, which blows open as soon as she’s made it down the hall.
Artemis is hot on her heels, but that leaves Hylla with the advantage of height, taking stairs two at a time she climbs higher and higher through the apartment building, dodging neighbors and annoyed senior citizens as she races to the rooftop where she’ll make her last stand.
“You are doing the laundry for the next week!” Artemis’s voice is dangerously close behind Hylla and she begins to sweat, turning to three steps instead of two.
“Only if you do the dishes!” Hylla tosses back and, in a second of distracted humor, trips, sending both her and Artemis crashing on top of each other somewhere around the 15th floor and heaving with breath.
Artemis’s face is pulled into the biggest smile that Hylla’s seen since she met the woman, even before the whole thing with Zoë, and Hylla can’t help but smile back. She’s not entirely sure what she’d call Artemis now, she’s obviously not romantically involved with her given that Artemis will never love anyone again given Zoë and Hylla’s still not entirely sure where she stands on that front, but ‘friend’ feels somewhat an understatement now.
Looking up into those silver eyes and breaking down into laughter while drenched in sweat on a Thursday night? That’s not something friends do. Sleeping in the same bed because they were up all night talking about literally anything? That’s not something friends do. Becoming so in sync that they begin to finish each other's sentences when they’re just talking to each other? That’s not something friends do.
Artemis isn’t her friend, Hylla knows that, but she can’t think of anything else to call her. She’s left confused, frightened and above all, happy. Whatever this is, she likes it. She likes Artemis. A lot.
Sorry this one's so short, my brain is shot because of the ACT, but I didn't want to screw up my update schedule so this is the best I could do. Hope you enjoy! -M
Chapter 21: Pancakes
Reyna is chewing on broken glass. The comforting taste of iron reminds her she’s alive and she’s left with the monodrone of waning sleep as her company, smiling with broken teeth and listening to the hum of someone long, long gone.
Thalia’s laughter comes fluttering into her ears and Reyna scarcely has a warning of the bed shifting before the sudden weight of bones and paper skin crashes on top of her. Thalia’s still a mess of black and white, angles too sharp and lines too thin, but she’s alive and Reyna can drink in the sharp pine scent all she wishes without the fear of losing it at the moment. She’s never felt more grateful in her life.
A starry sky of dots on a white night sky greet her as the warm breath comes over her face. Thalia grins, showing off razors and blades sharpened for the kill and Reyna bares hers back, letting the morning sun turn her skin a polished bronze.
“Someone’s happy,” her voice sounds choked and broken and she’s never felt happier to hear it that way. Thalia laughs, it’s such a gentle thing in comparison with the girl who wields it.
“I’m just… I’m happy to be away from it all, you know?” Thalia presses her face into Reyna’s shoulder, resting there and bringing a hand up to play with the loose strands of Reyna’s hair. Reyna makes a quiet noise of understanding but is followed by an almost harsh tone of pain when Thalia shifts and jams her elbow into her unprotected stomach.
“Thalia!” Reyna squeaks and Thalia laughs apologetically, carefully moving away back to her half of the bed, immediately Reyna misses the warmth, shifting to try and get her back, but it’s too late and Thalia’s beginning to sit up in the bed. Reyna grumbles in protest.
“Calm your butt, Clingy,” is Thalia’s sharp reply, but Reyna has little care for the words when Thalia’s smiling like the last few months never even happened. Her chest thuds loud enough that she’s sure that Thalia can hear it.
“I’m not the one who was on top of me the entire night,” Reyna mumbles in protest and smiles when she receives a pillow to the face.
“Shut up, Reyna.” Thalia’s face is a shade of pink that Reyna associates with peaches and cotton candy. She doesn’t fight the grin on her face.
“What was that about you being cold?”
“I said shut up!” Thalia whacks her again and Reyna raises her hands up in defence.
“Alright, alright!” Her chest feels heavy, not with a restrained scream, but instead from barely controlled laughter. It feels good, not to hide for once. Thalia grins self satisfactorily and stands, stretching her arms wide. Reyna pretends not to notice when her shirt rides up her stomach a bit.
“So,” Thalia claps as if she’s about to begin a cheer, “do we finally get to ski today?!” Thalia had of course been asking that question since they arrived and despite being cooped up in the mountains for a little over a week now they’d yet to actually adventure away from the cozy Cabin. Whether that was because they were all extremely tired and jet-lagged, or out of sheer laziness, was anybody’s guess.
As it turns out, however, a week without wifi and the only sources of entertainment being each other and a stack of board games Percy had found in a closet, things were bound to become chaotic. Reyna answers Thalia with a noncommittal shrug and stands to pop her back. Thalia pouts at her and Reyna simply smirks in response.
A loud crash brings them back to their senses and shouting from the living room ensues. Reyna sighs heavily.
“We should probably check that out,” she grumbles. Thalia sighs as well, but her smile isn’t dampened by the possibility of Nico and Percy breaking something else.
“We should,” she murmurs and the devilish grin taking over her features makes the hair on the back of Reyna’s neck stand up.
“Why do I get the feeling that’s not what we’re about to do?”
“Because I have a better Idea,” Thalia declares proudly and moves to stand on top of their bed. In all her star wars shirt and mickey mouse boy shorts glory.
“That being?” Reyna crosses her arms, leaning against the wall and watching fondly as Thalia energetically bounces on their bed.
“We sneak out!” Reyna snickers lightly, unable to take other girl seriously when her hair is standing up in a manner that would make Einstein proud. “I’m serious!” Thalia complains.
“Oh I know, and that’s why I’m laughing.”
“Oh, shut up,” Thalia jumps off the bed to attack Reyna with tickles, but Reyna simply catches her hands, holding them above her head and smirking.
“Thalia, it’s about 14 degrees outside and our coats are downstairs, we aren’t sneaking out,” she says mildly. Thalia pouts, giving her the best puppy eyes she can manage. Reyna rolls her eyes in response.
“You’re mean,” Thalia complains finally and Reyna laughs, releasing the smaller girl.
“I’m practical.” She corrects, receiving a jab in the side for her trouble. She retaliates by pulling Thalia into a headlock and rubbing her knuckle into her hair.
“Aaagh! Uncle, uncle!” Thalia yelps until Reyna releases her, grinning smugly and opening the bedroom door.
“C’mon grumpy pants, it’s time for breakfast.
Thalia certainly didn’t expect to feel so much better so soon, but she has to admit, the sudden lack of judging people is nice. No prying eyes, no hidden cameras to worry about, she doesn’t have to put on an act anymore and it feels so liberating that some part of Thalia never wants to leave. Not that she could’ve in the first place.
Reyna was really running the place like a low scale prison, no one was allowed to even mention social media or news headlines or they’d receive the fiercest glare that Thalia had ever seen from the girl, and that was something. Whenever Percy and Piper got ready to head down to the lodge Reyna would glare into their backs until they had disappeared from sight completely.
Thalia's certain that if the press ever does actually find them up here that Reyna would quite literally fight them. She appreciates the gesture, of course, the ability to stand outside without fearing for questions to be thrown at her was enough to tie her over for the lack of internet memes. Apparently, that wasn’t the case for their companions.
As Thalia descended the stairs she’s greeted with a scene from a Hallmark movie gone wrong. Nico was laying underneath a large pine tree which Thalia was almost certain should be in the basement. Percy was donned in a string of Christmas lights and flashing as if he was about to begin a rave in the middle living room. Piper, however, hung off the mantle, laughing her ass off and wearing what looked like a Santa costume with the beard over her hair.
“Do I even want to know?” Reyna asks, looking both amused and exasperated, which is an accomplishment. Annabeth stands in the opposite doorway shaking her head fondly.
“No,” Piper wheezes between laughs, “you really don’t.”
Percy sticks his tongue out playfully at his cousin, wiggling in his cocoon of Christmas lights while Nico manages to get himself partially unlodged from beneath the tree, spitting out clumps of plastic pine needles.
“Why are you guys trying to reenact the story of Christmas in the living room?” Thalia asks, nudging the tree with her foot.
“Thalia, Santa isn-” Annabeth begins, but Thalia holds up her hand to stop her.
“I refuse to believe that the story of Christmas did not include at least one dysfunctional goth and jolly fat man.”
“Are you calling me dysfunctional?” Nico spits pine needles at her, Thalia grins, baring her teeth.
“So you admit you’re goth?”
“Okay,” Reyna interrupts, pushing herself in between the two before Nico can tackle her. It doesn’t stop him from rubbing pine needles into her hair, however.
“Suck on that, Pinecone face!”
“Oh, it’s on Count!”
“Guys-” Reyna tries again to get between them, but Thalia was already prepared, tackling both Nico and Reyna to the floor and proceeding to get a face full of hair that’s either Reyna’s or Nico’s. Piper’s laughter comes back in at full force somewhere to Thalia’s right and there’s the distinct following of Annabeth’s to accompany it.
“Plegh,” Thalia complains into the wall of hair and someone begins pushing at her abdomen until they’re pulled apart, and Reyna spits out a clump of pine needles.
“Was that strictly necessary?” She deadpans and Thalia can’t hold back the cackle that comes running up her throat, throwing her head back and just letting it flow out of her. It feels so damn good laugh, like a million pounds lifting off her chest to let her breathe for the first time. Any traces of annoyance or exasperation evaporate from Reyna’s face like alcohol, leaving her with a warm, unguarded expression that Thalia knows is such a rare thing these days. Thalia’s smile seems to double in size.
“Hey, if you two are done eyefucking,” Nico interrupts, “could you get off of me Grace?” The smaller boy fidgets beneath her and Thalia comes to the realization she somehow ended up sitting on Nico’s chest, however, the comment has made Reyna’s expression go back to the mask of exasperation and Thalia feels a little disappointed.
“No, for that comment I’m going to be sitting here for the next hour.” She declares and lays back on Nico’s face, effectively shutting him up.
“Well don’t blame me if you starve to death,” Annabeth mutters, watching from the doorframe to the kitchen. Somehow she’d been up long enough to change out of her Pajamas and into one of Percy’s many swimming hoodies from high school. Percy and Annabeth don’t have too terrible of a height difference, but for some reason, the hoodie dwarfed her usually imposing form. “I made pancakes.”
Something in Thalia’s stomach sinks. A breakfast gone wrong and the stench of Tobasco sauce. The memory is raw and sharp and stings like salt in a wound. She tries to hide the wince, but she can tell by Reyna’s expression she caught it.
“That’s fine, I’m not hungry anyway.” It’s a lie, like so many other things, but it’s just a little one. A little white lie. It won't hurt anyone, it won’t hurt anyone. It won’t hurt any-
You lied to me! Shouting, tear-streaked cheeks, a glowing phone in a darkened room, the inability to breathe. You lied right to my fucking face for years!
Thalia can’t breathe. The room is suddenly silent and she can’t hear anything. Annabeth’s mouth is moving, but there’s no sound coming out. Piper is laughing still, her shoulders shaking, Percy is grinning, Nico is smiling lightly as if they’re all sharing in a private joke, but Reyna’s eyes are unmoving on Thalia’s face. Thalia mutters something of excuse and runs, flees, charges up the stairs into her bedroom and slams the door shut behind her. She still can’t breathe.
The walls are closing in around her, the room is going dark, she can’t see, can’t breathe, can’t hear. Left in nothing but the dark and her mind. He’s there. Tall and striking. Blonde hair blue eyes, a scar running dow-
No. Not him. The scar is too small, on the wrong side of the face, and too far down. It’s not him. It’s Jason.
Thalia’s choking, coughing, retching, begging for oxygen and noise. He steps forwards, again and again, pinning Thalia against the wall and digging his fingers into her arms, shouting words that don’t make sense and-
Her eyes snap up and she’s looking Reyna in the face, her eyebrows drawn together to the point where Thalia fears they’ll meld. They’re alone, in their room, and Thalia is sitting in the corner of the room clawing at her own skin. She feels sick.
“I…” Words won’t work, but Reyna doesn’t dignify her with a response anyway, instead, she drops to her knees beside her and take her into her arms instead.
Thalia can’t think, her brain is a jumbled mess of words and concepts and visuals. Luke. Jason. Knives. Bullets. Blood. A mirror, dripping pancake batter. You lied to me! A forgotten phone. Muted shouting, a hand ripping through drywall.
No. The word is in her throat and she’s choking on it, but she can’t speak, can’t move, can’t breathe. Reyna’s hands are around her shoulders.
“Thalia.” Not a demand, a reminder.
“Breathe.” She can’t. She can’t. She can’t.
Water, sunlight, screaming guitar, blaring sound waves, music, laughter coming to her ears and deafening her.
“I… can’t…” words, broken and whispered and desperate, but produced. Tangible. Reyna doesn’t order her, doesn’t demand anything, she simply strokes her back and quietly reminds her to breathe, occasionally nudging her face with hers.
“Can you talk about it?” Reyna’s voice is gentle but she catches the difference in her phrasing to Will’s. It’s not a “do you want to?” it’s a “Can you?”
Because Reyna knows by now what Thalia wants more than anything is out of this mess, out of her own brain and she wants more than anything to be able to just talk about it all like it means nothing.
But she can’t. Reyna isn’t asking her if she wants to explain because she can already tell she does, she’s asking if she can. If she is able to.
“I… I don’t…” does she know? She’s alive. She’s moving, and she feels better than she’s felt in weeks, in months. But she still lost it, over what? Pancakes? The word makes her feel sick. A clockwork morning gone wrong.
“Take your time,” Reyna’s just as stable as always, just as unmoving as a rock. Thalia hates her for it.
“Pancakes,” is what Thalia’s reduced to, without reason or explanation, for some reason that word feels like poison on her tongue. A knife in her stomach. She waits for Reyna to laugh, to make a joke, or at least act confused. All she receives is a soft hum followed by a hand through her hair.
“I figured,” she mutters softly and Thalia closes her eyes, for once glad that she doesn’t have to look at Reyna in order to understand her. “You flinched when Annabeth mentioned it. Does it have to do with-”
“Yeah,” Reyna sighs and drops her hair from thalia’s hair, instead she curls it around her protectively, like a mother with a child. "yeah…”
“You’re really good at this,” Thalia chokes out dryly. Reyna produces a soft laugh, but it doesn’t sound right and both Thalia and Reyna know why. Reyna runs her hand through Thalia’s hair once more.
“Are you sure this whole vacation is helping?” She asks finally and Thalia opens her eyes to look back at Reyna. Her eyebrows are knit, but she’s still looking at Thalia with that same watchful eye. The gaze of a sister, Thalia thinks. Or, perhaps, something more.
“Reyna, I haven’t felt this… this…” she can’t grasp the proper word and instead settles on something else. She takes Reyna’s hand. “I feel more alive than I have in months.” Reyna’s eyes flicker down to their joined hands, then settle right back on Thalia’s. There’s something oddly nervous in them, an expression Thalia isn’t used to seeing on Reyna.
“I’m just…” she sighs and straightens her position, sitting up and pulling her shoulders back. “I know that I’ve been, kinda harsh over the past week, but I’m just trying to make sure that we get what we need out of-”
“Reyna.” Thalia bites in and Reyna’s eyes find hers once more. Obsidian on electric blue. “You didn’t do anything. I just… I need time. I think we both knew it wasn’t going to magically go away overnight.” Reyna’s shoulders slump.
“I know, just… you were doing so much better…”
“And I’ll keep getting better, I just need time, and you’re helping, you’re fine, okay?”
Reyna sighs and instead of trying to speak again she simply looks back at their joined hands. Thalia follows her gaze, wondering why she keeps looking at something they’ve done a thousand times, but something feels different about her gaze.
There’s something there that wasn’t there before, or maybe Thalia just didn’t notice it. Reyna squeezes her hand once more before standing and letting it drop. For some reason, Thalia’s throat feels dry.
“I’m, uh, gonna go get breakfast… I… I’ll bring something up for you.” With that, the great Reyna Avila Ramirez-Arellano runs into a wall, apologizes to it, turns bright scarlet red, and then proceeds to fumble her way out the door. Thalia is at a loss for words.
Chapter 22: Afraid of Love
Reyna descends the stairs to find her friends crowded around the TV watching with awed expressions. Anxiety immediately bubbles to fruition in her stomach, causing her to nearly miss the last two steps in her hurried progression. Pitter, patter on floorboards as she runs with ferocity to the Television, nearly bodychecking Percy out of the way.
Fortunately, it has almost nothing to do with the bad, unfortunately, it does have to do with something else horribly terrifying. Apollo records. The bleached blonde thirty-year-old producer grins winningly at the audience as the familiar Silena Beauregard sits across from him. She looks less comfortable, which is minorly concerning given that this is her studio.
“Thank you, Athena. Today I’m joined with the producer of Apollo records to talk about the new smash hit, HTK, which very little is known about at the time,” she turns away from the camera to look at Apollo who doesn’t and clears her throat. He still doesn’t react and she rolls her eyes. “Apollo, it is so very good to see you again, how have you been?”
“I’m thankful you asked Silena,” Apollo grins, finally acknowledging her existence. Turning his blinding smile in her direction, the curtain of glossy golden locks turning to follow him. Silena’s smile strains. “It’s been an interesting last few months, I’m afraid a good few of my artists have left me.”
“Yes, we heard that you were in a good bit of debt,” Silena gives him a faux nod of sympathy, “but I think I speak for some people when I say we’re glad to have you back.”
Apollo’s 100-watt smile amps up tenfold. Silena winces as if he’s blinding her.
“Well I couldn’t do it without my wonderful sister,” he shifts in his seat and Silena suddenly lights up.
“Your sister?” she questions and Apollo blinks as if taken aback.
“Oh, shoot, did I say that? She’d hate it if I talked about her in detail, but I guess she does deserve some of the credit,” Silena’s smile shrinks a little, “she helped me sign HTK, of course, and she’s really been great about keeping her motivated over the past couple weeks.”
“You know HTK personally then?” Silena asks and Apollo nods, his enthusiasm coming back full force.
“Quite well, extremely talented girl, she does it all herself, I must say working with her for the last few weeks has been such a gift.”
“What can you tell me about her, I understand her identity is a secret for the time being?”
Apollo laughs and looks at the camera, flipping his hair with the motion and shooting the camera another blinding smile.
“Well, she’s extremely talented as I’ve already said, and a very hard worker. She produced that EP within a week mind you, that takes skill.”
Percy makes a vague noise of surprise and Annabeth elbows him. Nico shakes his head.
“That’s not humanly possible,” he mutters.
“Shut up.” Piper hisses.
“Not to mention she’s going to be releasing an album within two weeks time.” Apollo finishes and Silena smiles. Cheering is heard from somewhere offstage and Apollo smiles winningly at the camera once more.
“Everyone, Apollo giving us insight on the new Artist, thank you!” Silena calls to the unseen artist and Nico turns off the TV.
“So HTK has an album in the making,” Reyna observes. Annabeth nods, staring off thoughtfully.
“I would say after that usually a tour is in the making, but given no one knows who she is and she seems keen on it staying that way I’m not sure how that would work,” She mutters.
“Is it just me or does she sound really familiar?” Percy asks and they all give him a strange look.
“What do you mean?” Reyna asks and Percy shrugs.
“I dunno, it’s just her singing voice sounds like someone I know, but I can’t put my finger on it.”
Nico hums in thought.
“And what’s this about Apollo’s sister. I thought he didn’t appreciate anyone but himself, why’s he suddenly putting emphasis on her?”
“Maybe someone finally talked some sense into him,” Piper jokes and sighs, stretching. “Can we talk about this over breakfast? I’m hungry.”
“Is Thalia joining us?” Annabeth asks, directing her gaze away from the wall to focus on Reyna. She very nearly bursts into a blush remembering her very poor exit from their bedroom. Since when has she ever apologized to a wall? She doubts that Thalia will let her forget that easily.
“Nah. It’s a… long story.”
Piper sighs, “Y’know, I really wish you’d stop saying that when we ask you about her past.”
“What else am I supposed to say?” Reyna growls, following the group into the cabin’s dining area. “Explain to you the very complicated inner workings of our childhood?”
“It wasn’t that complicated,” Annabeth mutters rolling her eyes. “From what I remember, you and Thalia didn’t talk to anyone besides each other for the entirety of high school, and somehow still managed to get complete opposite grades.”
“I talked to other people!” Reyna complains, “I was president of the student council Junior and Senior year.”
“Yes, and mostly because everyone was completely terrified of you.”
“You two went to the same high school?” Piper asks and Annabeth laughs.
“We lived in the same apartment complex.”
“Yes, and you never talked to either of us.”
“Because I was scared of you,” Annabeth mutters rolling her eyes, “you weren’t exactly the most friendly pair, and half the time I had no idea what anything you two were talking about.”
“You two practically invented your own language in High school,” Nico remembers, smirking at Reyna as he pours himself a cup of coffee. Reyna rolls her eyes.
“Not you too.”
“No I’m serious,” He interrupts, “can any of you tell me what a Klarg is?” Percy and Piper both give him a strange look while Annabeth laughs, setting out plates on the table.
“I remember that! And then when Reyna gave her speech at the beginning of the school year and talked about being ‘drenns’!”
“I still have no idea what she was talking about.” Nico chuckles and pours Reyna’s cup of coffee before handing it to her. Reyna glares at the both of them.
“For crying out loud, a klarg is a pornstache, and a drenn is an apathetic teenager.”
“Is that it?” Annabeth asks, sipping her glass of orange juice. Reyna narrows her eyes.
“I swear to god, we were teenagers, we did dumb stuff.”
“Like invent your own language?” Nico asks and Reyna gives him her best death glare.
“Why would you even have words for that?” Percy asks, serving himself pancakes and drowning the stack in a puddle of syrup. Piper is smirking like a cat with a mouse. Reyna hates it.
“Mclean, don’t even think about it.”
“Well I mean, I didn’t invent a new language with my best friends in high school, but maybe that’s just me.”
“I will dump this coffee on you,” Reyna deadpans. Piper laughs and the others join in, leaving Reyna trying very hard not to blush and clutching her coffee cup in frustration.
“For the love of god Reyna, give it up,” Annabeth says once she regains the ability to breathe. “I’m pretty sure the whole damn world knows you two are in love by now.”
“We’re not!” Reyna squeaks indignantly, and they start laughing harder.
“You are,” Percy says, “honestly you guys are worse than Annabeth and I were.”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Nico interrupts, giving his roommate a meaningful look. Percy begins blushing and Piper doubles over in laughter. Reyna sighs in relief of no longer being the center of attention.
“You’re not off the hook yet, Ramirez,” Piper interrupts Reyna’s sigh. “If you and Thalia don’t get your shit together soon you’re gonna drive all of us insane.”
“There’s nothing to get together.” Reyna lies so very obvious and brings a hand to her face to try and quell the heat there. “It’s not that easy.”
“Look,” Nico breaks in, “at this point I’m pretty sure even you can tell that she likes you back, dare I say, love. So what’s the friking holdup?”
“I don’t know!” Reyna says finally and sighs, leaning back against the counter. She feels exhausted. “I don’t know. Alright? I just know that I do love her, and I care about her more than anything, but at this point, I think we’ve passed the point of no return. We’re both so damn scared of acting on it that we’re just stuck.”
The kitchen is silents for a minute and Reyna watches mutely at her steaming coffee. The mist rising and touches her face and she sighs, watching it curl away from her.
“I just… I don’t know. I… Maybe it’s the fact that we’re both really bad when it comes to expressing emotions? Maybe it’s just all the shit that’s happened in the last couple month have made both of us scared to be in any sort of relationship?”
“Reyna,” Percy says gently and slowly she lifts her face to look at him. He’s fixing her with one of his serious faces. “You’re never going to figure anything out if you don’t try. If it really does go downhill, after knowing her for 10 years, do you really think you’d break apart?”
Reyna sighs, watching her reflection in her coffee once more.
Artemis is going to kill her brother.
At least that’s what Hylla hopes it means when she finds her pacing the living room growling about how he’s going to receive something very sharp up his ass soon, and that she’s not talking about his love life. Because that is something she does not need to know about.
“What’s got your knickers in a twist?” Hylla asks, reaching up into the cupboard for a tea bag. Artemis snaps her head to glare at her.
“My idiotic brother mentioned me in his stupid interview,” she growls loudly. Hylla raises an elegant eyebrow.
“Oookaaay?” She questions and Artemis sighs, thumping down hard on the couch.
“You do realize that means that we’re gonna have to deal with press soon right?” She asks and Hylla laughs.
“Arty, look, I doubt that whatever he said wou-”
“He said I was HTK’s manager and friend.”
“Yep, we’re doomed.” Hylla puts the Kettle on to boil. “So, any last requests?”
“This isn’t a joke Hylla,” Artemis interrupts and stands to walk into the kitchen. Hylla rolls her eyes.
“Press really aren’t the end of the world Arty. As long as you just get a good hoodie and keep it up they won’t even recognize you. Besides, do they even know what you look like? I doubt most people knew that Apollo even had a sister,” Hylla tries to reassure.
“Did people know that Thalia had a brother?” Artemis asks and Hylla winces, setting down the mug she’d pulled from the cabinet.
“Okay, that was different.”
“Was it?” Artemis asks and Hylla sighs.
“Jason and Thalia are both children of people who were relatively famous before them. You two made your own way.” Hylla’s struck with the fact that Artemis is almost uncomfortably close to her right now, which has become more of a normal occurrence since their play fight in the stairwell. So has the question that seems to be hanging over Hylla wherever she goes. Who is Artemis to her now?
“Well, what do we do if the press does come after us?” Artemis asks and Hylla shrugs.
“We give them vague answers and move on with our lives.”
“And if people become suspicious of you because you’re with me all the time?” she asks and Hylla shrugs.
“Let them speculate, people know better than to believe everything they read in the news these days.”
“Really?” Artemis asks, raising her eyebrows. Hylla sighs.
“I dunno, say I’m your girlfriend or something, I don’t care,” Hylla blurts without thinking and would’ve facepalmed if not for Artemis’s nonchalance about the comment.
“You don’t exactly look like my partner,” Artemis mutters, giving her judging look. Hylla makes an offended expression.
“Excuse me, lady, but I think I would make an excellent partner.”
“Sure thing Ms. One night stand.”
“Oh, shut it!” Hylla argues back and kicks her shin playfully. The kettle squeals and Hylla turns off the burner, picking it up and pouring the water into two mugs and dropping in the tea bags before setting the pair of mugs down on the island. Artemis moves to sit before the blue cup and Hylla drops a bit of almond milk in her mug.
“We do already argue like a married couple,” Artemis observes and Hylla snorts in agreement.
“Really? I didn’t notice?” Hylla asks and Artemis rolls her eyes.
“Shut it,” she sips her tea, making a humming noise, but then knits her eyebrows and looks up at Hylla. “And since when have you been calling me Arty?”
Hylla almost doesn’t catch the blush in time to stop it. She nearly chokes on her tea but manages to swallow it with only minimal coughing. Artemis smirks.
“Shut up, okay, it was a spur of the moment thing.”
“You did it twice.” Artemis deadpans. Hylla blushes bright red.
“Oh, just, urghhh,” She turns back to her mug and drains the cup, Artemis chuckling softly in the background.
“You, are a complete dork. I hope you know that.”
“As if you’d let me forget.” Hylla snaps back and receives an elbow to the stomach. She reaches out and messes with Artemis’s hair with is returned with a pinch on the hip and suddenly they’re on the ground, a tangle of limbs and laughter. Hylla can’t fully tell where she ends and Artemis begins but doesn’t really want to because this somehow feels right.
It feels right to be in a heap of wrestling laughter without having any expectations from it, for Artemis to just be that. Artemis. Not a partner, more than a friend, and just be. Artemis doesn’t have to be anything other than herself.
Hylla feels like the universe has finally accepted her as a part of it, and accepts it with open arms.
Jason never expected that this is where his tendency to parent his friends would lead him, but then again, he didn’t expect a lot of things in his life.
Sitting around in a SkyZone at twelve in the morning watching as three people, at least two of them legal adults, ran around screaming like five-year-olds.
Hazel and Leo are currently engaged in a dodgeball tournament, mercilessly pelting both him and Frank in rubber balls and laughing maniacally. Hazel was the sweetest person Jason had ever met, but give her a dodgeball and suddenly that kind cinnamon smile was pure evil.
Leo on the other hand, he knew for a fact already was evil.
And then there was Frank, currently buried under an ever-growing mound of dodgeballs and begging for mercy.
Jason has the weirdest friends.
“Oi, Superman, get your ass in the game!” Leo yells, chucking the ball at him and missing his hair by only an inch. Jason ducks in order to dodge the second ball aimed at his face, Hazel chuckling gleefully from her position behind Leo.
“Alright, you two are not allowed to be on a team together,” Jason complains and receives a ball in the place the sun don’t shine. He gasps, the air suddenly pushed from his lungs and sinks to the trampoline, immediately pelted by ten more dodgeballs. Where they came from he has no idea.
“Victory for Team Lazel!” Leo shouts at the top of his lungs and Frank sits up hurling one final ball fruitlessly over the line in the center of the court. It lands at his girlfriend’s feet, who laughs before walking over to help him up.
“You okay Frank?” she asks and he grumbles lowly.
“I just don’t get why you guys had to choose such a violent game.” Frank is a panda of a man. He’s got short, spiky hair; big, brown eyes; and was somewhat round in shape. Despite that, Jason found out the hard way that Frank was an incredibly good dancer when properly motivated. After some none too kind probing from Leo, Frank had demonstrated his talent in Hip-hop and Jason had since learned to expect the unexpected from Frank.
“Oh relax camarada,” Leo calls, throwing his arm over the much taller boy’s shoulder. He pouts slightly and Jason chuckles. “We’re just having a band building exercise!”
Jason, Hazel, and Frank all groan.
“Leo, we did not agree to that.” Jason reminds the Santa elf and Leo makes a dismissive gesture at him.
“Please. If you want to get back at your sister, what better way to do it, than with her field of expertise?” Leo exclaims and jumps up to pull Jason down under his arm as well. Jason rolls his eyes.
“Leo, I’m not that petty.”
“Well I am,” Leo exclaims, “and we are all musically inclined students and one of the best Art schools in the country. What are they? A bunch of college dropouts in San Francisco. We’ve got this in the bag, buddy.”
“I hate it when you make logical sense,” Jason complains. “Besides what would we even call it?”
“If you say Team Leo, I am leaving this hug,” Hazel adds and Leo pouts before releasing the three of them. Jason straightens himself up and pops his back.
“Fine then what’s your suggestion?”
“Horsehead,” she says and Leo rolls his eyes.
“Leo,” Jason mutters, nudging his roommate, “play nice.”
“You got a better Idea, Christmas?” Frank asks and Leo shrugs.
‘Definitely not.” Jason mutters and laughs.
“How about Be Anything?” Frank adds and Jason hums in thought.
“I like it, where’d you get it from?”
“It’s something my mom used to say,” Frank mutters and shuffles awkwardly.
“Alright! Cheers, to Be Anything!” Leo calls and Hazel raises an eyebrow.
“We don’t have drinks, Leo.”
“Fine.” Leo picks up four dodgeballs and offers one to each of them. “Cheers to Be Anything!” he declares once more.
Jason laughs and raises his dodgeball.
Chapter 23: Love in All forms
Quick author's note: Merry early Christmas! It's been a while, and I'm not sure if I'll get to update anything again before Christmas because this break is supposed to be when I'm writing all my essays and stuff for college, but I'm really bad at procrastination so we'll see where that goes. Anyway, this one is a bit heavy on the feels. Good feels, bad feels, you name it, it's probably there. Anyway, I just wanted to wish you all a happy end of the year. -M
Hylla goes tearing down the ice-covered trail, head thrown back with laughter and a bright red Artemis hot on her heels. She can’t help the fact that shoveling snow down someone’s back is the classic prank and considering she’s seen the stuff maybe once in her life, it was a completely irresistible prank.
Of course, Artemis probably did not agree with that.
Hylla doesn’t even make it ten feet before the sudden weight of the shorter woman is on her back and she’s laying face first in the snow, the cold biting at her nose and cheeks as she writhes beneath her former commanding officer.
“Aw, come on, we’re even,” she complains with a mouthful of snow. Artemis simply snorts and begins inserting snow into Hylla’s coat.
“We’re even when I say we are!” Hylla yelps at the contact of ice on skin and rolls over, taking Artemis with her.
“Hell no!” she shouts, “It is on, ice queen!”
“I’m ice queen now?” Artemis asks, grin not hidden even the slightest by the scowl on her face. “Whatever happened to Arty?”
Hylla elects to ignore the color rushing to her cheeks.
“You’re going down.”
Artemis lets out a broad laugh and smacks Hylla in the face with a handful of snow before scurrying off in the direction of the cabin. Hylla has to take a second to clear her vision, but she has the advantage of longer legs. Soon they’re wrestling in the snow once more, playful insults flying off their tongues. Artemis is the same woman who Hylla would get scolded by all those years ago for getting a haircut, but she’s also the same woman who threw popcorn at her in their shared apartment in retribution for Hylla stealing her favorite towel.
Hylla loves it.
“What the literal hell is going on?!” They’re shaken from their playful wrestle by a voice equal measures confused and sleepy. When Hylla looks up she’s greeted by stormy blue eyes and hair sticking up so impressively it really isn’t too much to assume that the woman had suffered a recent electrocution.
“Howdy, Thals,” Hylla mutters and stands, pushing Artemis into the snow one final time for good measure. Unfortunately, Artemis saw her coming and tugged her down with her, landing them once more in a tangle of limbs and wet coats. Thalia shakes her head slowly, blinking slowly as if she’d just gotten up, which makes Hylla a bit concerned since it’s about four in the afternoon. She’s not even wearing proper- wait a second is that Reyna’s shirt?!
Suddenly Hylla’s not in the mood to play wrestle anymore. She’s on her feet walking briskly towards Thalia, broad smile threatening to split her face in two. Artemis lets out a quiet grunt of displeasure at the loss of her prey.
“So, Thalia!” Hylla exclaims, leaning heavily on the doorframe. Thalia’s tired face turns into one of confusion, eyebrows knitting together and eyes squinting. “Care to tell me why you’re wearing my sister’s shirt?”
Suddenly Thalia’s face is full of color and her eyes are blown wide, she looks down at the shirt adorning her body as if it’s somehow betrayed her and begins spluttering for an excuse.
“I-I was-I didn’t- she-we -I,” she can’t even get a proper sentence out and the color is steadily creeping down her neckline and beginning to meet her collar. Hylla chuckles.
“Huh, Thals?” she prompts and receives something sharp in the side. Artemis shoves her out of the way with her elbow.
“Quit being mean, your sister’s romantic endeavors are not your concern.”
“W-we’re not-! We didn’t!” Thalia’s voice is on the bridge of turning into a squeak. Hylla doesn’t even attempt to mask her laughter, letting the movement shake her shoulders and leave her leaning heavily against the doorframe, cough following after the laughter to rattle her chest. Artemis gives her another disapproving look.
“What was that about not being sick?”
“Shut it, alright Arty?” Hylla wheezes back and that stupid smirk has reappeared.
“Shut up!” Hylla lets out a squeak of her own and Thalia’s at least lost some of the color in her cheeks to the point where she looks relatively human again.
“Ahem. Anyways,” she begins as footsteps descend the stairs, greeting them with the sight of a fully dressed and slightly winded looking Reyna. Her hair is pulled back, not in a braid like usual, but instead in a bun tucked up into a hat.
“Thals, I need you to-oh,” she breaks off when she notices the other two women standing in their living room. This is what Hylla wanted to avoid, the inevitable awkward conversation of ‘so I fucked the girl you’ve been crushing on since seventh grade!’ it wasn’t exactly the easiest topic to discuss. Reyna’s eyes barely even spare Artemis a glance before they’re boring directly into Hyllas and she hear the words as clearly as if Reyna had actually spoken them.
You, me, conversation, now. She swallows down the shame bubbling in her stomach. The last time Reyna had given her that looks he hadn’t spoken to her in two years after a long bit of miscommunication and very, very bad time management.
“Thals, why don’t you show Artemis to her and Hylla’s room, me and Hylla need to have a quick conversation.” the look that Thalia flashes her is somewhere between pity and the smugness of seeing your sibling get caught for something you did. She discreetly gives her the finger, but she simply sticks out her tongue and tugs Artemis up the stairs by the arm. Artemis simply give her, her best ‘you better not screw this up’ look.
Hylla’s doomed and Reyna’s eyes are fire.
The hot cocoa taste exactly like Hylla remembers Reyna used to make it in San Juan. Sweet, deep, and rich like a finely aged wine. It almost lulls her into a sense of security, but Hylla knows better than to give into Reyna’s plans. She’s always been a tactician, a sneak, and a Chessmaster. Fortunately, Hylla always has been as well. As Reyna sips her own mug of Hot Cocoa she keeps fixing Hylla with that same calculating glare like she can extract the information she wants simply by glaring at her hard enough. Hylla grinds her palm against the counter and fixes Reyna with her own death stare. She doesn’t even blink.
After another sip of cocoa without breaking eye contact Reyna sighs and places down the mug on the counter.
“So long have you and Artemis been fucking?”
Hylla entire face bursts red and she makes a noise like a dying bat, squeaking beyond the range of humanly possible to hear. She very nearly falls out of her chair and spills cocoa all over herself. Reyna’s expression doesn’t change, it doesn’t smirk, doesn’t laugh and offer her a joke, she’s dead serious. Hylla can’t breathe properly.
“I di-we’re not-!” she bursts out once she can form actual words other than incoherent squeaking. Reyna’s expression somehow becomes even more exasperated.
“Do you seriously expect me to believe that you’re not fucking the extremely attractive woman you live with?”
‘D-but-y-you live with Thalia-!” Hylla sputters, her face feels as if it’s about to burst into flames. Reyna doesn’t let up.
“Yes, but Thalia and I have been friends since seventh grade, you and her met, what, two months ago?” she questions. Hylla wants to crawl into a hole and die.
“We- she- it’s complicated!” she settles on finally and stared dejectedly at her mug of Cocoa. Reyna doesn’t let up her calculating look.
“You have fucked her thou-”
“Reyna!” Hylla bursts out, whirling on her sister once more. She can see the barest beginnings of a smile on the corners of her mouth, but her eyes are as deadly as ever.
“Hylla, honestly at this point, I’d be surprised if you didn’t,” she says and sighs into her own mug, steam curling away from her mouth and rising into the kitchen ceiling. Hylla swallows her retort and lets her own shoulders droop.
“I.. I’m sorry,” she mutters finally and Reyna closes her eyes, shaking her head frantically.
“It’s not… I don’t want you to be sorry for just, being you,” she sighs once more and fixes her with another glare, but this one isn’t angry if anything it’s confusion she sees in her sister’s expression. “I just wish you’d told me, for crying out loud, I’m not just so hopelessly in love with her I can’t talk about this shit!”
Hylla can tell by the way her expression morphs she didn’t mean to say it that way, the guilty way her eyes suddenly shift back towards the living room. Love? It’s about time she admitted it.
“Reyna, it just… it just happened, okay? Both of us were out of it, I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened if we were both sober, and on top of that,” she fixes Reyna with a glare before she can interrupt her, “I know you love her. Okay, I’ve known both of you since-forever. I knew you were in love with her since the fucking ice cream incident your junior year of high school.”
Reyna’s face suddenly flushes to the point beyond recognition, Hylla’s got the feeling she looked like that not too long ago. She doesn’t let it stop her.
“I’m not sorry because it happened Reyna,” she sighs and runs a hand back through her hair, “ I’m sorry because I couldn’t trust you enough to come forward about it, and before you go tromping after Thalia, I told her not to either. It was just… too much. Too much all at once.”
Reyna’s expression is one that Hylla’s all too familiar with, her thinking face. The one when her eyebrows scrunch together and her eyes take on that steel quality that used to scare the pants off of her. (A five-year-old giving you the expression of a hardened soldier was simply a terrifying sight.) Now, all she can think is that this is her little sister. This is the girl she raised from age twelve to age eighteen and even longer than that if you counted when they still lived in father’s house. And this little girl is now the grown-up woman with the tense shoulders, dark glares, and someone she can talk about relationships with.
She’s never felt more proud in her life.
Finally, the thinking face recedes and Reyna drops her shoulders back down.
“Hylla. I’m sorry it’s just… a lot of shit’s been going on these past few months,” she presses her hands to her face and Hylla snorts.
“Shut up,” there’s a hint of a smile in Reyna’s voice and Hylla can’t help but latch onto it. “I’m trying to be serious here.”
“I know,” Hylla tells her, “and I’m telling you, I already know. Hell, Reyna, I’ve practically raised you! I know it all, I know you better than you sometimes.” Reyna smiles, finally. It’s one of the first real smiles she’s gotten from her in a long time.
“Look, what I’m trying to say is, I’m sorry for blowing up. For, everything.” She runs a hand up her face, pressing her fingers against her eyelids then into her forehead.
“Hey,” Hylla interrupts, nudging her sister with her shoulder. “What was that you said earlier? About not wanting me to apologize for being me? That goes for you too, buddy.”
Reyna chuckles, leaning her head over onto her sister’s shoulder.
“You haven’t called me buddy in a while.”
“Yeah, you’re more of a mother hen now.”
“Oh, shut up,” she nudges Hylla, but the smile has yet to disappear. Hylla smiles and hooks her arm around Reyna’s shoulders.
“Just… remember you don’t have to do it all, okay? There are other people who can bear responsibility.”
“Thank you.” Reyna’s voice has suddenly dried up and Hylla knows why. She has always done it all. It’s what they’ve always done. Whether it was on their own, or caring for an old drunk, they’ve always done it all themselves. Hylla sighs and presses a kiss to the top of Reyna’s head. Reyna smiles, it’s a weak one, but genuine. Hylla wishes that she’d do that more often.
“So, mind telling me why Thalia’s in your shirt?”
“You and Hylla are okay sharing a bed, right?” Thalia Grace isn’t what Artemis expected, then again, is anyone ever what we expect? No, Artemis knew that all too well now.
She’d heard of Thalia Grace, the punk rock singer who took no shit and kicked asses along the way. Then, of course, she’d heard of Thalia Grace the victim, the girl who’d been ruined by a man with a wicked smile and cold eyes, who’d been torn apart into little pieces until there was nothing left. She’d heard of Thalia Grace the child, the little girl with an unhealthy Chocolate addiction and smile that could cut like a knife.
This, however, is none of those. This is a girl wearing a shirt a little too big to be hers and black hair that sticks in all directions in a way that Einstein would be jealous of. She’s got bright, stormy blue eyes and a sprinkle of freckles across her nose that remind Artemis of a puppy’s whiskers.
This isn’t even the same girl she met maybe a month ago who smashed her fist into a mirror. It can’t be. That girl had limp black hair that hung around her head like a shadow and piercing blue eyes that could kill the devil himself. That girl was boney in ways that weren’t natural and seemed to command the very shadows as she moved.
This girl is a single snowflake that found it’s way in from the cold, she looks a bit like a lost child in her sleepy apparel.
“Yeah, it’s fine,” she hears herself muttering, but finds that her mind and mouth aren’t linked, she can’t stop thinking about the last time she went skiing.
Bright laughter, cramped cabin, nights spent crammed into a bed only meant for one person and dark, dark eyes that could put all of the nights on earth to shame.
It makes a familiar burning sensation crawl into her chest, but she lets it simmer there, there’s no point in trying to put out something like that because she knows by now it won't go out.
“Cool, well I’ll leave you to it, just uh… give me a call if you need anything.” Thalia’s already halfway down the hall, hands shoved into pajama shorts and chewing on her bottom lip like a shy schoolgirl. Artemis lets her go, she has little to gain from stopping her.
The cabin smells like firewood and pine. Her bedroom looks hauntingly similar to the one she had all those years ago. Same blue sheets and birch bedposts, it’s significantly bigger than the one she had last time, but just the same feeling of the mattress. Too springy, too poorly insulated.
She never would’ve admitted it to Zoë, but she got cold quite easily, and as such had absolutely no problem of being forced to sleep so close to her partner. Zoë, who always radiated heat like a star and tasted like honeydew. Her brother was always the one being compared to the sun, and Artemis had to agree. But if he was the blinding sun, and she the cool moon, Zoë was her stars. She was warm and constant. She smiled with all the beauty of crystalline gems in an empty blue expanse.
Artemis was always the one incredibly bad at giving and receiving affection, however, Zoë always pushed her into being the mushy one. What, with her calculated looks and smug expression, Artemis just had to kiss it off of her, it wouldn’t be right to just leave it there.
Zoë would always just laugh at her hijinks and rest her forehead against hers.
“Calm down Habib,” that silken voice, like the morning sun slowly greeting the day, turning the world golden and crimson with its light, chasing away the stars and moon. Artemis always loved Zoë’s voice.
It was the most musical thing she’d ever heard. Her voice was always the last thing she’d be aware of before she slept, gentle Arabic lullabies in her ear as she clutched onto Zoë’s torso, blinding smile piercing the dark room.
“دوهة يا دوهة
و بالزمزم رشوها
بابا سافر مكه-”
Off to sleep. Down, down, down. She loved her stars, her partner.
Then she woke, alone, in a different time, different cabin, cold sheets, and empty bed. It takes Artemis about two minutes to process she fell asleep and even longer to process that she’s not with Zoë anymore, that there is no Zoë.
Her chest burns.
“Artemis!” Hylla’s voice barely gives her a second of warning before the door bursts open and, covered in still steaming hot chocolate, grinning from ear to ear, and breathing as if she’d just run a marathon, Hylla stands in all of her glory. Artemis doesn’t have time to process this before she’s been lifted from the bed and shoved into the closet, followed swiftly by Hylla and they ’re shut alone in darkness.
“Hylla, what the-” she begins, but Hylla claps her hand over her mouth. Shouting is heard from outside their door but gets progressively smaller as whoever’s making the noise makes their way down the hall. Hylla then begins snickering, the sound it so sudden that Artemis startles, smacking their heads together.
“Ow! What is going on?!” she whisper yells and Hylla begins full out cackling if she’s trying to hide she’s not doing a good job.
“Sorry! I just asked Reyna about something and she started to get all flustered and-hey, are you crying?!”
Artemis didn’t even notice the moisture on her cheeks until Hylla pointed it out, how she could tell in the pitch black is another conversation.
“I-It’s not important.” Her voice sounds hollow even to her own ears.
“Artemis, hey,” Hylla’s voice has taken on that horribly soft quality, the kind that Artemis fears she could fall into. As gentle as Zoë’s voice was, it was never to the point of Artemis fearing she couldn’t stand on it. Zoë was always that, solid. Something she could hold onto and grip tightly, something she never feared of losing until she did,
Hylla’s not solid, never was. She’s fluid, like a river or lake, grabbing her in a vice grip and pulling her under, down down down until she’s drowning in her. Hylla pulled her in at the deep end, and there’s nothing to pull her back up.
“I’m not… there’s just… a lot here. A lot of history.” Her voice makes her so mad, broken and raspy and sharp like shards of glass, it makes her feel sick. Hylla pulls her in tight into her chest and Artemis is drowning. Drowning in cinnamon and peppermint, and the distinct scent of hot cocoa all at once. Her head is spinning and she can’t breathe without becoming intoxicated in the scent, all overpowered by something that’s just so very distinctly Hylla.
It makes her never want to move.
“I’m here, if you want to talk about it it’s okay if not, that’s okay too. I’m here for you, that’s my job,” Hylla releases her and gives her the biggest smile she has, nudging her arm affectionately, “and yours is to make sure I don’t kill myself by pissing off my younger sister.”
Zoë sighs heavily and shakes her head, a smile pulling at the very edges of her lips.
“Do I even want to know?”
“That would be my cue!” Hylla shot her one last bright grin before charging out of the closet and then the bedroom, down the stairs with a blur of purple and black following close on her heels.
“You are dead!”
Chapter 24: A Much Needed Conversation
Read the Title
Reyna’s clothes are much too big for her. They didn’t use to be of course, in fact at one point in time Reyna’s clothes would’ve been too small for Thalia, but those days had long since passed.
High school came and Reyna no longer stood at Thalia’s shoulder, but rather the opposite and Thalia was forced into the agony of forever looking up into the eyes of a woman who already had so many things to hold over her. Like good grades, a moral compass, and the actual ability to exercise willingly. Truly, Reyna had too much to hold over Thalia, and what did Thalia have in return?
Just years of photos taken at the perfect timing in order to showcase Reyna’s sleep deprived antics and most regretted life decisions. Of course, it wasn’t quite as much as half a foot in height, but she cherished it all the same and Reyna learned to keep the teasing to a certain agreed upon level.
Unfortunately, she had no such things to hold over Hylla’s head.
“So, a little birdie told me that someone’s finally making a move on my sister,” Hylla’s smirk is pure evil and her eyes are focused in for the kill. Thalia tries to meet her gaze with her own.
“For the last time, I was wearing her shirt because Percy threw my suitcase out the window!” Thalia snaps at the older girl who only howls with laughter, not even bothering to hide her glee at Percy’s “accident”. How someone could “accidentally” chuck a full suitcase out the window is beyond her, Percy had never explained in detail and she had never given him the chance to come near her suitcase again for fear of a repeat incident.
They’re currently resting at the top of a ski trail, Thalia finally managed to convince Reyna to let them go; unfortunately, due to poor planning, Reyna and Annabeth’s competitive streaks, and Piper’s need to record anything mildly interesting with her camera, Thalia had ended up alone at the top of the mountain, with a very inexperienced Hylla who is currently trying not to slide all the way down the mountain on her butt. Somehow she still manages to look dignified in bright neon yellow skis.
“Well, I mean, there are other people’s clothing in here Thalia,” Hylla volunteers, “and I doubt that all of your clothes were in that one suitcase. You’re supposed to be here for a full three months.”
Thalia’s ears are turning pink and it has absolutely nothing to do with the cold.
“I swear to god Hylla I will kick you down this mountain,” she growls at the woman, who promptly slips on a patch of ice onto her back, leaving Thalia gazing down at her still laughing form.
“You totally stole her shirt didn’t you?” Hylla’s grin is cheeky and she reminds Thalia vaguely of a thirteen-year-old Jason trying to give her girl advice after dating one girl in middle school for a week. Her chest aches.
“Hylla, we sleep in the same bed, why would I need her shirt?!” Thalia finally yells, exasperated, she no longer cares if she’s being subtle or not, she long gave up that fight with Hylla. Hylla whose known her since she got out of Juvie, who was the first “adult” who hadn’t looked at her like she’d just killed their puppy.
Hylla doesn’t miss a beat, sitting up, scattering bits of snow and beaming at her.
“So you admit that you like how she smells?”
“Oh my God Hylla!” Thalia promptly shouts and slams her palms into her face. Hylla begins cackling once more, entire body shaking with the movement while Thalia reminds herself to breathe properly and not strangle Hylla, no matter how much she wants to.
“I missed this,” Hylla finally manages once she’s stopped laughing long enough to breathe. Thalia wants to pretend she doesn’t know what she means, but she does. She’s missed being able to talk to her without fear of breaking her. She’s missed it too, even if she still doesn’t feel as strong as she used to be.
“Me too…” she whispers and focuses on the blobs farther down the trail, presumably shouting as the purple blur whacks face first into a blue one and a red blur comes zooming in after, tackling both of them. Hylla hums noncommittally, when Thalia drags her eyes back over to her she’s giving her this curious look, the same one she gave her when she was graduating High School and spent an entire two hours ranting about how she had no idea what the frick she was going to do with her life.
“What did I do now?” she asks, ready for another round of teasing, but Hylla’s smile doesn’t quite return to her face. She stands and brushes her pants off.
“Nothing,” she says without any hints and begins back down the mountain, leaving Thalia to watch with confusion as she wobbles her way another couple meters down the trail before falling onto her back and starting the process all over again. The hell is ‘nothing’ supposed to mean?
“Hylla, wait up!” she shouts after her and begins her own way down, catching up to the wobbling woman easily.
~ ↟ ~
Reyna is so very done with this bullshit.
It started with the ski expedition, which both Thalia and Percy had been begging her about endlessly since they began the trip, but it had actually been Annabeth who had ended up dragging the lot of them up the mountain. Then, after a slightly over competitive race, and Thalia giving Hylla private lessons on how to Ski, Piper had begun making a big deal of leaving something at the house and so they’d had to make a thirty-minute trek back to the cabin. Shortly after, Nico had asked her to retrieve him his gloves from the kitchen and she’d found Thalia already waiting in the space. Thalia had held up a mug of coffee in offering, just in time to nearly drop it when the door slammed shut behind Reyna and Hylla shouted through the wood.
“TALK TO EACH OTHER, DAMMIT!”
Now Reyna’s left with a very awkward and oddly quiet Thalia and a burning in her face that probably won’t go away for another good three hours.
“I swear to God Hylla,” she growls under her breath at the door and then glances at Thalia who is, very pointedly, not looking at her.
“Coffee..?” she offers once again, a lot weaker this time. Reyna would have to be blind to miss the bright pink in her cheeks. She is going to strangle Hylla later, or at least dump her out the window.
“Don’t play dumb, you and I both know why we’re in here,” she grumbles, half to herself, half because she is so far beyond done at this point. The color in Thalia’s cheeks begins creeping all over her face.
“W-we do?!” she squeaks. Reyna rolls her eyes and takes the mug from Thalia’s hand.
“For crying out loud, we’d have to be blind, deaf, and extremely injured in order not to understand at this point,” she murmurs and drains Thalia’s cup in two gulps. Thalia doesn’t appear to notice, the color filling her skin is beginning to worry Reyna with its deepness. She doesn’t respond to Reyna’s sentence and she sighs, running a hand back through her hair.
“Look… the way I see it, we can either do the whole ‘feelings bullshit’ talk right now or, we can sneak out that window, run for the lodge, get some dinner, and have an actual conversation on our own terms without a bunch of hormone-ridden young adults eavesdropping.”
They hear a chorus of grumbling and mildly offended mutters from the other side of the door. Reyna gives it her best death glare despite none of the people on the other side being able to see it. Thalia doesn’t quite respond for a few seconds before saying in the most bewildered voice that she’s heard from Thalia in a long time, “Is… is this you asking me on a date?”
Apparently, Reyna wasn’t quite as over this as she thought.
The heat that immediately rushes up to her cheeks and down to her collar nearly gives her vertigo and she has to set the mug down in order to keep from dropping it. She finds herself admiring the grain of the table instead of Thalia’s incredulous gaze and internally curses herself for still having problems with this.
“Uh… well I mean… if… you wanted it to be. But uh, oh for crying out loud!” She claps a hand over her face and screams into it, trying desperately not to melt into a puddle right here and now.
“Can… can we not have this conversation with a bunch of people eavesdropping on us, please?” her voice sounds muffled, strangled, and somewhere between irritated and scared shitless, which pretty much sums up her entire existence.
Thalia’s laughter breaks into her pity party and she very carefully peaks from between her fingers to see her, laughter unbidden, and bright pink in a way that reminds Reyna of cotton candy. She swallows.
“We… are both… really bad at this, aren’t we?” she asks between laughs, pink color descending down to her hands at this point. Reyna finds the laughter pulling its way up to her throat as well.
“Yeah… I guess we are…” she murmurs and the fondness in Thalia’s expression isn’t unfamiliar, but it feels new now that neither one of them are denying what they already know.
“So, wanna get out of here and have that talk?” she asks, standing and offering a slightly shaking hand to Reyna. She stares at it for a moment, part of her wondering if she’s dreaming, before finally taking it and standing, smiling at her shorter companion. Thalia beams back and heads towards the window, pulling her coat over her shoulders. For a fleeting moment, Reyna is struck with the image of a much younger, much more carefree Thalia, clad in ripped black jeans and a studded black jacket, grinning like a psychopath as she descended the fire escape outside her bedroom window. Her stomach flips over.
“C’mon,” Thalia’s eyes are filled not with the carelessness that had been there in their youth, but rather a certain wonder and awe that reminds Reyna of a child doing something they aren’t supposed to for the first time. She lets the smile pull up the corners of her mouth, and follows her out the window.
~ ♔ ~
“You think they’ll be okay?” Percy’s voice isn’t quite as optimistic as Hylla expected it to be, but to be fair she had expected a lot more protest from Reyna then just quiet resignation, but she was quite proud of her younger sister. She watches the silhouettes of Reyna and Thalia crossing the frozen trail below, occasionally stopping to bump into each other and laughing the whole way.
“Yeah. They’ll be fine?”
“So how long do you think it’ll be before we can’t get them to shut up about how in love they are?” Nico buts in, leaning calmly against the kitchen door frame. Piper laughs.
“You’re joking, right? They already do that.” Annabeth wacks her friend over the head with a newspaper.
“Oh shut it, this is the best thing for them right now, alright?” She casts her glare at the lot of them, arms crossed in front of her chest and face set in a scowl. Hylla lifts her hands in surrender.
“Calm down blondie, we all want to see Rey and Thals get their shit together, alright? And some of us have been waiting a lot longer than you have,” she smirks as Annabeth’s glare lands on her with a vengeance.
“Blondie?” she questions.
“You’re literally the only person in here who doesn’t have dark hair,” Hylla points out and, after doing a quick head count, Annabeth seems to agree.
“Fair enough. So, are we going after them?” she asks and Nico rolls his eyes.
“Guys, seriously? Look, I get trying to get them to talk, but there’s a line. They need time, you heard them, they intend on talking it out. When they get they’ll probably already be dating, so just let them have their time.” With that Nico turns and retreats up the stairs. “I’m going to read in the meantime.”
Hylla sighs, “As much as it pains me to say it, I agree with Death-breath. They’ll get it sorted out, or I’ll both their heads together until they do, for now, let’s just kick back.”
She follows Nico up the stairs, leaving the other ‘lovers who need to get their shit together’ alone to their own devices. However, when she enters her room, instead of being greeted with empty sheets waiting for her return she’s met with Artemis calmly flipping through a book, glasses perched on her nose, and hair pulled back into a messy bun. She flips down one of the pages of her book and looks over the top of her glasses at her.
“How much of that did you hear?” is the first and only thing Hylla can get to come out of her mouth. Artemis chuckles softly and sets the book on her nightstand before sitting up.
“How about, all of it?” she asks. Hylla calmly drives her face into her palm. “I just don’t understand why you all are so obsessed with your friend’s love life.” Artemis stands and stretches, exposing the base of her stomach and the nape of her neck. Hylla blinks a few times to get her brain to focus.
“We’re just tired of listening to their whole ‘woe is me’ bullshit when we all know that they’re going to end up dating eventually. We want them to get themselves sorted out already.” She crosses her arms defensively, but Artemis simply gives her the ‘really?’ face.
“What’s that expression? Get the log out of your own eye before trying to get the spec out of someone else's? Or something like that.”
Hylla stares incredulously at Artemis.
“That is more than a spec, mind you!” She complains and Artemis laughs, turning and opening the blinds, nearly blinding her with the sudden light. In the winter light, Artemis is gorgeous, pale and sharp like a knife. Hylla finds herself subconsciously shifting so that her hair slightly hides her face, creating some sort of barrier between them so Artemis’s burning eyes can’t pierce her.
“Regardless, you need to get your own love life figured out before you go messing with your sister’s,” Artemis offers and turns towards her, leaning against the window seal. Hylla crosses to stand beside the older woman and sighs.
“I’m happy how my life is right now, I don’t need to go on a major self-discovery journey to figure it out.” Her arms find their ways around her middle protectively and Artemis simply rolls her eyes in her direction.
I’m not suggesting you do, I’m just saying you need to figure out whom, and how you want to spend your life. You’re coming up on your thirties, and I hate to tell you, but as a thirty-four-year-old, thirty is old! I don’t care who, romantically or platonically, you need to figure yourself out. Don’t go throwing stones in glass houses.”
Hylla’s left only with confusion as Artemis turns towards the bedroom door, sighing in contemplation. She sends Hylla a look she doesn’t quite recognize, a warmth there that she isn’t quite used to.
“Figure it out.”
~ ⚡ ~
Thalia’s been staring at a glass of coke for the past five minutes and she still doesn’t really know what to say. Reyna’s gaze is boring into her own plate of steak, idly pushing around pieces of vegetables and meet until she’d organized the entire plate into several small sections of individual ingredients. It had seemed all hunky dory while trekking through snow, the only sources of warmth being each other, but once they’d entered the cafe, all small speeches and over the top declarations of love had died in her throat.
Now she’s left with a cold bowl of soup and stale words on her tongue. Her shoulders begin to ache from the muscles in them clenching. She breathes in and rolls them to try and get feeling back in them. Reyna startles at the movement, snapping her gaze upwards and Thalia’s left with the sudden stare of her…. What does she even call Reyna right now? Friend? Girlfriend? Companion? Her stomach is churning.
Reyna blinks and coughs into her hand awkwardly.
“Oh, I just.. I um..” Thalia can’t take this, the boiling in her stomach is making her breaths hot and painful.
“C-can we just cut to the chase?” she asks, desperate and that immediately seems to sober Reyna up. The color that had begun to fill her cheeks goes down slightly and she swallows heavily, shifting in her seat so that she’s facing Thalia head on.
“Right. Sorry just… we’ve been putting this off for a really long time…” she sighs and pops her knuckles, a nervous tick that Thalia’s known since middle school.
“Really, didn’t notice?” she volunteers and Reyna’s smile is a fleeting, but welcome thing.
“How… I’ll just come right out and say it,” she decides and straightens herself up. Thalia recognizes the muscles clenching in her jaw and the way her eyebrows knit like she’s preparing for a fight.
“I… Goddammit,” she deflates instantly and Thalia empathizes. She leans forward and takes Reyna’s hand.
“Look, I already know so-”
“No.” Reyna insists, but she doesn’t putt away from her touch. “I.. I need to say it, to… I don’t know… make it real I guess? Part of me can’t believe this has all happened in, what, half an hour?”
“Tell me about it,” Thalia offers and finds her gaze meeting Reyna’s. Reyna’s shoulders have dropped and the worry lines that have come on much too early for her have left, leaving only a slightly terrified looking girl. One that Thalia’s known almost all her life. She feels her stomach drop.
“I love you,” the words are out of Reyna’s mouth and both of them know there’s no taking them back. Reyna winces, and Thalia can tell by her expression she meant to say it a lot more eloquently, but she decides that’s okay because she’s been trying to choke out those words for the longest fucking time.
Reyna opens her mouth to try and clarify, or maybe give explanation, but Thalia shuts her up with a hand clapped over her face. She squeaks in surprise and Thalia can’t stop the grin from nearly splitting her face in two.
“You, are the most ridiculous, uptight, commanding, oblivious asshole I’ve ever met,” she literally can’t stop smiling and Reyna’s face is priceless, the perfect mixture of confusion and shock that she just feels this burning urge growing in her chest to kiss it off of her. “And God, am I happy that you finally said something.”
Thalia both thanks and curses God that there’s a table in between her and Reyna because she only has a little bit of warning (the table making a loud clattering noise) before suddenly She’s been grabbed by the collar and hoisted upwards, something warm and soft making contact with her lips.
Kissing Reyna is something she never quite thought she’d have to put into words, but she finds the only thing that can come to mind is the feeling of falling, filling her stomach, chest and all of her limbs. She’s weightless and she can’t breathe, but if it isn’t heaven she doesn’t know what is.
She sucks in a breath, desperate for oxygen and Reyna’s hands thread their way to the back of her head, tugging at the hair there. She can hardly process what is happening, but some part of her doesn’t want to. It wants to stay in this moment and just soak up the taste in her mouth that is so purely Reyna that she can’t begin to describe it. It’s bitter like coffee and sweet like caramel and Thalia’s just melting, melting into the table and Reyna’s hands, her head is swimming.
And just as sudden as it came it’s gone and Thalia’s left with a dazed expression and Reyna staring at her in a mixture of shock and amusement along with a smidge of embarrassment that Thalia’s honestly too dazed to feel herself.
Chapter 25: Emotionally Challenged
Sorry this took so long and I'm sorry that this is off of my usual schedule, but I've been stuck with writer's block for a month at this point and I'm just so happy I finally got something out! Dear god, this was killing me. I make no promises when updates will come in the future, but thanks for sticking with me. -M
It starts like this:
Hylla simply walks downstairs, prepared to face her sister and Thalia coming back in the cabin as lovey-dovey as possible and getting to tease them mercilessly for it. Instead, she walks down the stairs only to find Annabeth laying on the couch with both Percy and Piper curled around her, snoring soundly. Hylla takes two seconds to process this before about facing and heading back up to her room, deciding this is a problem to deal with another time and not at 12 o’clock at night.
That’s fine, at this point she should just come to expect Percy getting into weird relationships, god knows there's wasn’t anything close to normal. She winces at the thought, she hasn’t actively remembered her relationship with the younger man since they broke up, which was for the best.
Hylla stops at her bedroom door and, rather than entering, slides down against the piece of wood. Artemis’s words echo in her head. you need to get your own love life figured out The words swim around her head like smoke and Hylla shakes her head, trying to dismiss them.
She’s always been hysterically, hilariously, horrible when it came to love or relationships in general. Back when her father was a good man and Mom was around, she was the disobedient daughter that acted out simply for attention. Then, after her mother had left them she’d always blamed herself for making her father into the monster he became. He couldn’t deal with a bitter daughter that would do anything for acknowledgment, even if that included things such as drug running or selling herself for a little pocket change.
After they left that man in the dust for the US, Hylla’s relationship with her sister, the only relationship she’d ever held steady, became strained. Reyna blamed herself for their father’s death and threw herself into her schoolwork, while at the same time Hylla threw herself into her work. They hardly spoke those years, little reassurances, movie nights with Thalia, sure. But Hylla pushed her sister away. She didn’t want to be a parent, she didn’t want to be their father.
Then Reyna turned 19, and Hylla left.
Hylla threw herself away from her sister the moment she was capable of taking care of herself. She ran away to Fort Knox and met a boy with bright green eyes, scars running down his arms, and a tattoo of fish coiling up his spine. So she threw herself at him too.
She threw herself at this boy who she didn’t know because it was better to fuck it up with a stranger than to fuck it up with someone she’d have to keep seeing after all was said and done.
But Percy wasn’t like the other people she’d used throughout her adult life. He didn’t let her get away with just chaste kisses that didn’t mean jack shit, and wouldn’t let her live with the sex alone. He’d look her in the eyes and promise he loved her, he’d tell her secrets about his childhood, take her to meet his mom, and get her into the music she still loved.
She never did love him. She respected him and learned to value him as a good friend and a strong person, but it didn’t matter how nice of a guy he was, how good at sex she was, how gentle his kisses were or how honest he was, she couldn’t love him. She told him as much, and he accepted it for all it was. They were friends, good friends, friends with benefits, most certainly. That was until Reyna pulled her back into her life.
Then Annabeth appeared and Percy shut her out. She didn’t mind too much, he was just as he’d always been. Painfully polite, too kind, too smart in a way that most people couldn’t see. She respected his choice for a normal relationship with a girl who could love him back.
Besides, it fit that she couldn’t even keep that kind of relationship going.
Then Artemis popped into her life. Hylla sighs heavily, letting her head fall back against the door to her room, she can hear Artemis’s snores on the other side. She may respect that woman, but she snores like a motorboat. She smiles ruefully, gosh, of course, she’d be the kind of woman to finally put up with her.
Artemis had been an interesting captain when she’d served under her, strict, but she obviously cared enough not to leave her cohorts behind. She never let her people give up, she pushed everyone to their limit and made sure no one got away with anything more than they were allowed to. Hylla had respected her, but behind her back made just as much fun of her as the other people in her squad.
Then, Artemis had become the sad, but sarcastic roommate who was all too generous and an absolute she-devil at the same time. She became Thursday nights and Netflix, Sunday mornings and pancakes. She became late nights at the recording studio only to come home to Artemis waiting with some sort of meal that Hylla could only dream of being able to produce and some sort of ridiculous tale of what happened at the gym that day.
Hylla still smiles thinking about how much her life has changed over four months. She’d gone from living in an empty apartment, sleeping on a bedroll when she couldn’t manage to get into someone else's bed, to living with Artemis. Artemis who let her sleep in her bed, but never expected anything from it. Artemis who had, somehow, managed to kill Hylla’s party lifestyle without her noticing. Artemis, who smiled at her and caused her to just slow down and drink her tea every once in awhile. Who had given her a look and convinced her to go out of her way to help Artemis’s brother’s struggling company.
“Get your own love life figured out,” Hylla scoffs and pulls her knees to her chest. What the hell was that supposed to mean? She didn’t have a love life anymore. All she had was Artemis and while she surely was attractive and more than worthy of her affection, any time she had questioned the possibility of kindling something with Artemis something came up. Or rather, someone.
Zoë Nightshade, Artemis’s great, late love. Sure, Artemis saying that could have been her way of trying to hint that she was interested in Hylla, but Artemis was never that subtle. She was always direct, always driven by pure emotion. No, if Artemis wanted Hylla to make a move, she’d make Hylla make a move.
“Right?” Hylla asks the quiet cabin floor. The floor down not respond, neither do the walls or the ceiling, the only thing she gets is the sound of wind against the siding and the fire crackling downstairs. It’s frustrating and confusing and Hylla wants to do something. She can’t just sit here in the hallway, she can’t go back into her room because the main source of her problem is in there, and she can’t go downstairs without dealing with the other problem
She sighs and glances up at the other side of the hall where a window sits there, taunting her with a look at the lodge just down the gravel road, glinting with the lights still on. Hylla looks at it, the promise of nightlife, the promise of strangers who don’t give a crap who she is or what she’s been through, people who will never want to know any more about her than what she can provide within one night, and makes a choice.
It’s not that hard to open a window anyway.
~ ⚡ ~
Thalia finds it’s hard to talk about feelings when someone else’s tongue is in her mouth.
Of course, there’s really no need to talk when such an act makes it pretty clear what those feelings exactly are.
The hadn’t stayed in the restaurant long after that discussion, but they hadn’t gone back to the cabin either; in fact, Thalia isn’t quite sure where exactly they are right now, too caught up in the fact that Reyna is kissing her. Reyna, who she’s known all her life. Reyna, who she’s been crushing on since seventh grade, who gets flustered by being stared at for too long and apparently apologizes to walls when she gets nervous, is kissing her like it’s the last thing she’ll ever do.
Pressing her back against a wall somewhere and pinning her to it by her wrists, Reyna’s mouth is hot, needy, and the sweetest thing Thalia has ever tasted. She can hardly breathe without the fear of becoming high off of the scent that is just so very purely Reyna.
She already feels the highest she has in her life.
Some distant part of her wonders if she might be having the best dream she’s ever had and she’s going to wake up tomorrow morning with none of it having happened, but that thought process is squashed down when one of Reyna’s hands begins trailing it’s way down her arm to grab her waist.
The touch is so real, so gentle that Thalia melts into it, melts into Reyna, letting the taller girl finally pull her mouth away long enough to get at the underside of Thalia’s neck. A sound that’s somewhere between a growl and a moan makes its way up her throat when Reyna begins nibbling at the edge of her jawline. Reyna chuckles, a sound that Thalia’s never even dreamed of hearing in this circumstance, which makes her knees want to spill her to the floor.
Then one of Reyna’s hands touches the small of her back.
Not even under her clothing, just grazes the small of her back where a long, deep scar runs and suddenly, Thalia doesn’t know where she is.
There are arms around her, teeth on her jaw, and fingers on her back. Suffocatingly hot sheets, a grunt from a man with a wicked smile and silver scar glinting in the light of the city coming through her window.
Thalia shoves him away.
“No!” it's a shout, a scream, and a plea, a plea for help, for safety. She can feel clawed hands digging into her spine, ripping her way through her skin and spilling red, crimson blood all around her, she feels sick, she can’t breathe.
“Thalia?” It’s his voice.
“Don’t touch me,” it’s a plea, she’s begging, not ordering, not demanding, begging. Pleading for him not to come any closer. She knows he won't listen, that he never does. She knows he’ll just keep going until she can’t feel her legs and her whole body feels sick and gross until she’ll be standing in the shower later, scrubbing at the bruises until the skin turns red and raw.
“Thalia.” His voice again, but it sounds distorted this time, slightly softer, more feminine. Thalia pulls her knees to her chest, heaving, she can’t breathe. She can’t breathe. She can’t bre-
“Thals.” It’s not his voice. He’d never call her that.
Thalia’s eyes are wide and watery and Reyna looks like an amalgamation of three different people. None of them are Reyna. There’s Luke’s scarred eye, his cold frown, Jason’s disappointed slouch and scarred lip, but there’s someone else there too. A woman with long blonde hair and the palest blue eyes that Thalia’s ever seen, twisted scarred lips and cigarette-stained teeth. She reeks of alcohol and all Thalia can think of is countless nights trapped in a closet, praying that just this once she won't find them, just this once she’ll go to bed, just this once.
“Please,” her voice is choked and broken and cracking like a child’s. The person sits in front of her, on her knees, and Thalia can see the tears spilling from dark, dark eyes.
Eyes like ink.
Thalia wants to stop existing.
“Thalia.” the word is cracking, breaking, and just as pleading as Thalia’s own and before her the three people fade, leaving her with just Reyna. Just Reyna’s pleading face and the ache that she can’t do it. She can’t get away from those people who destroyed her.
Thalia doesn’t reply, instead, she just reaches out, and takes Reyna’s hand in her trembling one.
Thalia’s hands have always been so fragile looking, boney, thin, and trembling. Reyna’s hands, however, have always been a builder’s hands. Calloused, strong, and warm. They’re always so warm. Thalia grips it tighter than she ever has and just stares at the hands, trying to convince herself that it’s okay. Trying to take comfort in the familiar skin tone, in the familiar feeling of calloused hands and rough skin. She grips it tight. A lifeline.
She can’t meet Reyna’s eyes.
Reyna takes Thalia’s other hand in her own. A weak smile makes its way to her lips.
Smiling doesn’t hurt anymore.
A little bit of warmth sparks in her chest.
“I’m sorry,” is all Thalia can manage. Her voice is rough, soft, and so damn weak, so damn fragile and vulnerable.
So much like her.
She shivers. Reyna’s hands squeeze her own.
“Thalia,” she whispers, and the crack in Reyna’s voice makes Thalia wince again. “Look at me.”
Thalia doesn’t move, just continues staring at their linked hands.
“Thalia,” Reyna says her name again, and Thalia just breathes, her chest is shaking. Reyna releases one of her hands and reaches towards her face. Thalia flinches away, the hand stops. Thalia swallows thickly.
“I…” her voice won't make syllables.
She hears a sigh from Reyna.
“I knew this would happen,” there’s no anger in her voice, no disappointment, just resignation.
Thalia finds it in herself to look up. Reyna’s eyes haven’t left her this entire time, dark depths staring at her with something between sadness and understanding.
Thalia wants to cry again.
She tries to speak, to explain, to make up some sort of excuse or assure Reyna she’s fine.
But she’s not fine.
Her voice won’t work.
Reyna watches her with pity.
Thalia stops trying to speak and returns her gaze to Reyna’s hands.
His hands were so much larger than hers. They dwarfed hers so that when they clenched around her wrists they’d leave bruises all the way around.
Reyna’s hands are just the slightest bit bigger than hers, fingertips just barely making their ways over hers.
Thalia brings the hand to her lips. It smells like Reyna, not him, she feels the muscles in Reyna’s hand tense when she kisses the back of it, but when she looks back up at Reyna’s face she’s smiling. It’s a smile like Thalia used to see on her face when they first met, closed lip and fragile, but it's genuine. Thalia smiles back.
Her cheeks don’t hurt.
Her chest does.
~ ♔ ~
The fact that when she wakes up and she’s in her own bed back at the cabin gives her an inkling as to how her night went. She tries to push herself up, but as soon as her head leaves the comforting darkness of the blanket she’s hit both sunlight and such a strong bit of nausea she blacks out for a few seconds.
When she can see straight again she’s back against the pillow with the blanket pulled over her head once more. She simply groans. Her vocal chords protest, turning her groan into more of a wheeze of pain. The room is silent at least, no blaring alarm clock, no snoring bedmate.
No snoring bedmate.
Hylla’s eyes fly open and, despite the pain and how much her body protests she throws off the blanket only to discover that, indeed, Artemis’s side of the bed is vacant.
And so is the room other than herself.
Panic begins to turn in her stomach. What did she do, what did she do?!
She tries to get to her feet, flipping out of the covers and sheets, but almost as soon as she’s upright the blackness begins encroaching on her vision again. She fights it, pushing onwards to her feet, the world pitches sideways, her vision swims between blackness and blurry spinning surroundings. Part of Hylla wonders if she’s still drunk. She makes it to the door before the blackness fully takes her vision.
She doesn’t remember what happens next, just that the next time she opens her eyes she’s back in the bed, only this time, the room isn’t empty.
Sitting in a chair beside the bed looking very disappointed and angry is Artemis.
Hylla’s only ever seen her this angry once before and that was back when she served under her and one of her squad members thought it would be a good idea to try and prank the captain. That hadn’t ended well for her squad member. He’d gone home later that week with a wild look in his eyes.
Hylla stares at Artemis in fear and Artemis stares back. Her eyes are piercing silver, tearing into Hylla and all she can do is wait in complete terror. Artemis doesn’t speak for a full five minutes, just giving her the death look to end all death glares. Hylla wonders if this is her punishment in hell, to forever be subjected to that gaze.
“Ramirez.” Artemis’s voice is brittle and cold and Hylla feels like a spike has been driven up her spine. She gulps.
“Ar-” she begins, her voice is hoarse and cracks on the single syllable she manages to choke out before falling silent again. Artemis raises a hand in warning, and when she falls silent again, she brings it to her face, rubbing her temples.
“Do you remember, anything, from last night?!” the tone is somewhere between angry and panicked now. Hylla’s chest clenches.
Hylla opens her mouth to respond, but all that comes out is choked air. She closes her mouth and, very slowly, shakes her head in defeat. Artemis sighs and stands up, moving to the nightstand she retrieves a glass of water and an aspirin. She holds out the pill and for a minute Hylla just blinks at it, before realizing what Artemis wants. With a guilty look, Hylla sticks out her tongue and Artemis places the pill on it before bringing down the glass. Hylla drains the cup in two gulps. Her throat aches and everything still feels like she’s wading through layers of cotton balls.
Artemis sits back down and gives Hylla a calculating look. She still looks angry, but less like she’s going to throttle her, and more like she’s considering dangling her out of a window for a couple hours.
“Do you have any idea what happened?” she asks and her tone is harsh, biting. Hylla winces. Again she tries to speak, to explain, but her voice won’t work so she’s left shaking her head guiltily again. Artemis’s expression morphs from angry to worried sick in .2 seconds.
“You could’ve gotten yourself killed!” she shouts and Hylla winces at her volume. Artemis doesn’t even look apologetic, “Do you have any idea how fucking drunk you were?! You came back at four am unable to speak in more than two words at a time!”
Hylla grits her teeth. Artemis is shaking, her shoulders trembling.
“Do you have any idea what could’ve happened? How many people would take advantage of a girl like you drunk off her ass?! How you would have fucking killed yourself choking on your own vomit, which I had to clean up by the way!” she’s seething. Hylla’s chest is clenching so very tightly, she doesn’t understand why, but God does it hurt.
“Ar-” it’s a choked syllable, but the look Artemis gives her shuts her up immediately.
“And then-” Artemis’s face turns from angry to desperate, confused, and a little bit hurt. Hurt in a way that Hylla’s only seen her look when she talks about Zoë. “And then,” she continues, “you had to start babbling on about some stupid shit that made no sense-”
Artemis’s eyes are boring into Hylla and for some reason, despite being able to remember anything from the night prior, Hylla has a clear flash of one moment.
Artemis, sick with worry, desperate, and absolutely terrified staring up at her as she fell forwards slightly into the older woman, Artemis wrapping her arms around her to keep her from falling and hurting herself. She remembers the intoxicating scent of Artemis filling her nostrils and she was just so damn close. She remembers how her lips tasted. How Artemis didn’t push her away immediately, how she had kissed back.
She remembers how she had sunk backward in the kiss, how Artemis had pressed her against the bed and for one fleeting second she felt right.
Then Artemis pulled away as if she had been burned, staring at Hylla with absolute terror and horror on her face. How her hands had shaken and her whole body had gone rigid.
Artemis is giving her that same look. Terror engraved in her features and Hylla can’t take it. She rises from the bed and ignores the twisting world around her. Artemis tries to push her back down, Hylla shoves her away, she can’t take that expression. She knew it.
She manages to get to her feet.
She ruins everything she touches. She makes a run for the door, Artemis tries to stop her, grabbing her wrist.
“Hylla,” it’s a desperate call and Hylla glances back to meet terrified silver eyes. Fear and hurt bubble in Hylla’s stomach.
She turns to flee.
Stronger this time, an order not a plea.
Hylla doesn’t stop this time, she’s halfway down the stairs. The world is twirling violently, her legs are shaking.
“Hylla!” Artemis yells. Angry this time. The order of a sergeant, not a friend.
Hylla stops by the door. She’s only wearing pajama pants and a tank top and it’s likely below 20 outside. Artemis reaches her and Hylla stares out the window. She can’t look at her face, can’t face that expression of terror.
Afraid of her.
She feels sick and it has nothing to do with the hangover.
Artemis grabs her by the chin and forces her to look at her. She stares at her. Artemis’s expression is still scared, but it’s also determined. It’s also confident.
Hylla doesn’t know what to make of it, all she can do is stare. Artemis gives her the deepest glare she’s received yet and Hylla half expects her to slug her in the face.
She deserves it.
Artemis stands on the tips of her toes and crashes their lips together.
Chapter 26: Ground Rules
Zoë smells like citrus and nutmeg. She tastes like coffee and whiskey, burning in the back of Artemis’s throat in the most pleasant way possible. She can’t help but fall prey to those deep, dark eyes because they seem to consume everything in existence, and when she looks at her with that expression, like she’s the first star to appear in the night sky, she falls ever so much more in love.
And Zoë, dear god Zoë, looks at her like she’s the only thing that exists. She looks at her like a starving man looks at a feast. When Artemis is with Zoë she feels the holiest she’s ever felt, and Zoë makes sure that she always knows why. Her laughter rings full in her chest and tickles the back of Artemis’s neck in the mornings.
Mornings, when the sun comes streaming through their blinds and Artemis is just smothered in the scent of nutmeg and the warmth that is Zoë. When she meets dark eyes and a soft smile before anything else in the world comes into focus. Zoë is mornings, coffee, and warmth at her back while she attempts to make an omelet without burning it. She’s low laughter, quiet breaths, and full days where words aren’t needed because all it takes is a look and Artemis immediately knows what she wants.
She wants Zoë sitting at their kitchen island watching with fondness in her gaze as Artemis burns her fifth attempt at an omelet and the smoke alarms scream in protest.
She wants Zoë in her arms, kissing her against the wall, running her fingers through dark, dark hair.
She wants Zoë. Citrus, nutmeg, coffee, and whiskey.
She wants Zoë, forever.
When Artemis proposes it’s a cold winter morning in Washington DC.
The ground is coated in snow and she can hardly breathe without feeling it sting her lungs. Zoë’s face is red from the cold and her lips are pulled into a rueful smile as Artemis falls a final time on the ice-slick pavement.
So when Artemis drops to a knee in front of the Lincoln memorial Zoë looks at her with the most bemused expression, ready to help her up once again. Except those dark eyes settle on a simple silver band clutched in Artemis’s freezing hands, and everything freezes.
Zoë’s face is shocked, Artemis can tell, and her breath steams from her mouth, rising into the sky like a ghost.
“Zoë…” Artemis doesn’t even get to finish her sentence before Zoë’s arms are around her neck and she’s pressing kiss after kiss against her frozen cheeks.
And Artemis laughs. She laughs and slips the band onto Zoë’s fingers, kissing back every chance she gets and she doesn’t feel the cold anymore because Zoë is there. Zoë is there and that’s all the warmth she’ll ever need.
It’s a cold winter morning when they come to her apartment door. December 21st to be exact.
Artemis remembers the way the sun streamed through the window to rest on her pillow. She remembers that she made her omelet without burning it once. She remembers how she’d watched the morning news, guffawing at another ridiculous political debate. She remembers how she’d muttered to herself how when Zoë got back they’d have to talk about moving to Canada.
She remembers that when the doorbell rang she’d taken a full five minutes to drag herself up from the blanket on the couch. She often wonders what would’ve happened if she simply hadn’t gotten up, if she’d just stayed there in ignorance perhaps she could’ve gotten to sleep that night.
She remembers the man’s curly black hair, his pale face and spiderwebbed hands. She remembers the slight lilt of an Italian accent. She remembers how the rain outside had turned his coat a deep mahogany color.
She remembers dropping the mug of tea clutched in her hand.
She didn’t leave her apartment again until the funeral came, and then she stood at the graveside for three hours in the freezing rain. She watched them fill up the earth, covering the light wooden box in a deep dark color that seemed to swallow her heart with it. She had simply stood, unable to feel anything other than the rain on her back and a horrible aching feeling in her heart.
She went home that night and drowned herself in Eggnog, cursing apollo for the gift and drowning in the scent of nutmeg. Drowning in the scent of whiskey and nutmeg and trying her damn hardest not to remember what was on the top shelf of her cabinets.
She woke up the next morning with the scent of whiskey and face against the cool wooden floorboards.
She locked the door to her old bedroom the next day.
Hylla smells like cheap champagne, cinnamon, and peppermint. Her grins are laced with a sharp kind of glee, like a child that stole a pair of safety scissors. Her laugh is loud and rowdy and when she’s happy all Artemis can do is go along with whatever ridiculous plan she’s concocted.
Once upon a time, it was sleepy mornings and the sun coming in through the window.
Now it’s city lights dancing in the dark night and teeth being the only visible thing in the darkness. It’s constant chatter, laughing so hard her chest hurts and breathing in the cool night air in gasps. It’s sitting in her bed late at night and watching with fondness as Hylla rants about something ridiculous her brother did. It's chasing her through the hallways at ass o’clock in the morning and screaming her name because she decided that she wanted to steal her work laptop in order to keep her off of it.
Artemis doesn’t even know what “it” is but she finds that it’s in the way that Hylla looks at her not like she’s a goddess, but rather like she’s an old friend. How she sees nothing but familiarity in her gaze and how she’s warm, but not hot.
Her eyes are dark, but there’s a glint of mischief in them that lights up like a Christmas tree and sets Artemis’s blood on fire.
~ ♔ ~
When Artemis kisses her there’s no tenderness.
It’s hot, rough, and pleading and all Hylla can do is sink into her as Artemis pressed her back against the door. There’s the thunk of her skull against wood, but all Hylla can do is succumb to it. Because, God, Artemis wants her.
It’s plainer than Hylla’s ever seen it in her life. Artemis’s pressing her spine into the door and kissing her like someone straight out of the desert drinks water, and Hylla’s left gasping for breath when Artemis finally releases her mouth.
Hylla can’t even find the will to open her eyes and the next thing she knows is that hot mouth pressing into hers again, breathing hot and hitched against her lips, hands balling in the base of Hylla’s shirt, and Hylla presses back.
Her hands come up Artemis’s back, tangling in the back of Artemis’s hair and tugging. Artemis growls in Hylla’s throat, tugging on her lips with sharp teeth and Hylla can taste her own blood, but the pain is sweet. Her hands are just pulling harder, sliding through silky red locks and Artemis starts sliding her hands up Hylla’s shirt, trailing fingernails against her skin.
Hylla’s never been one for simple touches or teasing, but Artemis’s touch sets her whole body on fire and next thing she knows she’s got Artemis pressed into the door. Her eyes slide open and she’s met with wild silver glaring right back at her, daring her to continue, egging her on. She catches Artemis’s lips with her own this time and Artemis lets her drag her teeth down to her throat.
Artemis’s skin is smooth and cold and it tastes like Hylla’s found some sort of forbidden fruit that could kill her if eaten wrong. But good God is Hylla hungry.
She nips at the skin at Artemis’s collarbone and Artemis carves her nails into Hylla’s back, a growl of her own making it between her lips into the top of Hylla’s head. Hylla lets out a breathy noise somewhere between a chuckle and a moan and then she’s the one pressed back against the wall.
At some point, they left the door in preference of a surface that didn’t have a doorknob.
Artemis is breathing like she’s just run a marathon and Hylla is lost in lips like wine and fingernails scraping down her back. She’s melting beneath Artemis and all she can think is that if she wakes up now she’s going to kill someone.
“whAT THE-” a voice comes from nowhere and Artemis springs away from Hylla and, without her support, Hylla goes sinking to the floor. Her knees melted long ago and she’s almost surprised to find that she still had legs. She’s dazed, breathing heavily, and probably looks a mess, but despite that, her eyes never leave Artemis.
Artemis who is bright red in the face and breathing like a marathon runner, biting her bottom lip and sucking on it. Something in the pit of Hylla’s stomach stirs.
“HYLLA FUCKING RAMIREZ-ARELLANO!” a second voice roars and it takes Hylla much too long to drag her eyes away from Artemis’s heaving form. Especially when those glinting silver eyes have yet to leave her as well.
Reyna and Thalia stand in their pajamas on the stairs, Thalia blushing worse than she’s ever seen, and Reyna looking absolutely mortified.
“NOT IN THE LIVING ROOM!” she roars and Thalia steps back as if to hide behind Reyna, but Hylla finds that her brain is still having trouble keeping up. Whether that’s from the hangover or Artemis is anyone’s guess. When did they get back? What time is it? She blinks once, twice, three times before managing to remember usually situations like this require speaking.
“I- uhhhhhh- blgmf-” unfortunately it appears that Hylla has yet to remember English, or Spanish for that matter, or language in general. Is it getting hotter in here?
Reyna just stands there, staring at Hylla, then Artemis, then back at Hylla before sighing very heavily and putting her hands to her face.
“Okay, I think we need to have a talk.” Reyna decides and trains a look deep into Hylla’s eyes. She gulps.
~ ↟ ~
Waking up with the realization that she was finally, actually, for real, dating Thalia was one thing.
Walking downstairs to find her sister and Artemis aggressively making out against the wall beside the door was another.
To be perfectly honest though, Reyna wasn’t quite sure what she expected. She’d known her sister was interested in the other woman and had even insinuated that she knew they were more than just involved. But knowing and seeing are two very different things.
For crying out loud Hylla was her sister. The only person she’d known her entire life and watching the same woman who would eat an entire large, stuffed pizza in one sitting kissing and very nearly ripping off the shirt of another woman was too much.
It was too much, and at this point, Reyna wanted very much to take a cup of bleach to her eyes.
Artemis at least had the dignity to look sheepish about the incident. Hylla, on the other hand, just stared at the other wall like it was the most entertaining thing in the world. Artemis had to physically drag her from the floor and into the Kitchen before she could recover enough to speak in words. Even so, it took a remarkable full ten minutes for her to regain the ability to speak in full sentences, and that was in Spanish.
Reyna had managed to make four rounds of scrambled eggs and coffee before Hylla could comprehend English again and, only then, had the presence of mind to start blushing.
Reyna was at least beyond the initial shock at that point.
“Welcome back to the land of the living,” Reyna grumbles through her mug while Hylla began turning an impressive red color.
“Oh my God, Reyna I- I-” she splutters, face turning closer to a purple color.
“Don’t even, I don’t want to hear it,” she mutters and simply gulps down another mouthful of coffee. Hylla’s face doesn’t start going down. Artemis looks equally mortified, unable to look at anything other than her plate of eggs.
Thalia, on the other hand, is draining her cup of coffee in order to avoid speaking.
After the ‘kissing incident’ they’d just decided to call it a night and deal with the specifics of whatever the hell they were now in the morning.
“By your faces, I’m guessing you two haven’t had the full discussion of this yet?” Reyna mutters and sips her mug again. Damn, she kinda wishes she’d brought her own coffee, this lodge coffee tastes like crap.
If it was possible, which it apparently was, Hylla’s face turned an even deeper red color. Reyna wondered if it was possible to pop a blood vessel by blushing too hard. Reyna sighs and shoots Thalia a look. Thalia simply shrugs and takes a bite of her eggs.
“We should form a club,” she mutters offhandedly and Reyna raises a single eyebrow in her direction.
“What kind of club?” she asks and Thalia swallows her mouthful.
“Embarrassingly bad at this,” she gestured to the four of them sitting at the kitchen counter, “club.”
Reyna chuckles faintly. “You’re not wrong,” she murmurs before glancing back at Artemis and Hylla who were now giving each other sheepish looks.
“Look,” she sighs and massages her temples, “I honestly don’t care what the hell you two are doing, but a couple ground rules,” she begins. Hylla’s face snaps back to her and she swears she hears an audible cracking noise with the motion.
“We need ground rules?” she guffaws and Reyna rolls her eyes.
“We’re going to be stuck under the same roof for another month and a half and I’d rather not walk downstairs to you two having sex on the couch every morning.” she doesn’t even bat an eye at Hylla’s mortified face and downs the rest of her coffee in one gulp, grabbing the pot to fill up her cup again.
“Wha-bu-” Hylla sputters and Reyna ignores her spluttering, turning her gaze instead on Artemis.
“And I’d also rather not hear any screaming, trust me I lived with her during high school, she’s not quiet,” she grumbles and Hylla begins sinking beneath the counter. Thalia appears to be trying not to burst out laughing.
Artemis isn’t much better than Hylla, but she’s pressed her lips into a hard line and seems to be trying to control the red color that’s filled her face, nearly turning it the same color as her hair.
“I’d say the same goes for you two, but I get the feeling you’re still in the ‘figuring out what the hell we’re doing’ stage,” she murmurs and sips her coffee, clutching it in two hands to keep it from shaking.
Reyna shrugs. “More or less,” she murmurs.
Thalia chokes on her eggs.
Hylla begins whimpering from beneath the counter.
Reyna looks at her coffee, then the coffee pot still full of scalding black coffee, and sets down the mug in favor of drinking straight from the pot.
“Rule number one,” she starts after taking a long, scalding pull from the pot. Artemis looks vaguely terrified. “Keep it in your room.” she takes another pull and Artemis wrinkles her nose. Even Thalia looks slightly worried.
“Rule number two,” she mutters, she’s going to need to make more coffee after this. “If I walk in on you two ever again, you’re sleeping at the lodge for the night, that clear?”
“Reyna,” Hylla whimpers from beneath the counter and Reyna just fixes her with a cold glare.
“Don’t care,” she barks, “final rule,” she looks back up at Artemis, glaring her dead in the eyes. “If you two wake me up, I will kill you.”
With that Reyna throws back the rest of the coffee pot.
Chapter 27: Interlude
Hey guys, I haven't written anything in a while and I've just been having this awful writing block for months now, but I'm working on it and hopefully once school ends I'll be able to get back into the swing of things, in the meantime here's an old drabble I started way back after I wrote the last chapter. It's been a while, but I honestly don't think I can do anything else with it and I don't want to just scrap it, so just take it as the end of Act 2, beginning of the final act of this mess. Thanks for sticking with me! - Milo
Getting 'Be Anything' off the ground was a lot easier than Leo thought it would be.
Really, he had been kidding when he said they had it in the bag, he knew that getting into the music world would be a lot harder than he'd suggested. However, Hazel's dad was apparently loaded and owned a record company.
So that happened fast.
All it took was a couple phone calls and a half-assed demo they made during an all-nighter they were supposed to be studying and boom, they had a record deal and were supposed to be working on an album.
Except they had one big problem.
Surprisingly enough it wasn't Leo's weird feelings regarding their violin player ("Frank, do we really need a violin in a pop-punk band?" "I'm classically trained!"), but instead, it was one thing in particular.
Jason's fucking girlfriend.
Drew Tanaka, fashion model to be, and queen bitch of the universe. In Leo's opinion, the lady put Jason's mom on a run for her money when it came to being a fucking Bitch.
That was with the alcoholism taken into account.
Drew was, in the nicest way possible, a narcissistic, psychopathic, megalomaniac, with a clinging problem and bad breath.
To be perfectly honest, Leo had no idea how they ended up dating in the first place.
Drew had just kinda claimed Jason when they showed up to school, and while that was hardly the weirdest thing to happen in Leo's life, it was weirder that Jason let her keep hanging around. Maybe originally it was because he was too nice of a guy to just tell her off, but in more recent weeks Leo was beginning to suspect it had something to do with his sister.
Leo had never actually met Thalia, just heard stories from Jason. Stories that ranged from talking about her like she was the real-life equivalent of Superman, to calling her the embodiment of Satan himself.
Leo never really knew which ones he was supposed to take seriously.
In recent weeks it'd been more of the latter he'd heard, but when Jason was alone he recognized that look of guilt on his features, the way he'd stare at his new phone, watching his news feed whenever a new story about the 'troubled singer' would come on. He'd watch as Jason would burn tabloid magazines on their deck and pretend that he was still sleeping at night.
If the noises coming from Jason's room were anything to go by he had a good idea why Drew was sticking around.
Jason was hurting, and he was taking it out on the only person he could, his girlfriend. He drowned himself in meaningless kisses on Drew's face and sex that Leo knew for a fact one person was enjoying far more than the other.
He might even feel bad for Drew if he didn't know she was getting it from more than just his blonde roommate.
Of course, Jason didn't seem to care and the more they tried to get together to work on the album, the more Jason would disappear off with his girlfriend at obscene hours of the night to relieve some stress. It was grating on Leo's nerves. To be perfectly honest, he had an idea as to why he didn't like it, but he wasn't going to be acknowledging that idea for at least another week, and not while he was sober.
The album was nearly complete and Jason was still holed up in his room on Friday nights pretending that none of it existed. Again, Leo knew it had to do with his sister. Jason had some real family issues and while Leo didn't necessarily think it fair to blame the victim, he didn't want to see Jason sitting alone in his bedroom staring at the ceiling for five hours straight ever again.
There was a permanent ban of alcohol from their apartment now, one that Leo would not be lifting for a long time.
So, when Leo's calmly enjoying his pickles (he finally finished his jar opening machine, suck on that vacuum seal!) and he hears the sound of keys failing to turn their lock followed by several loud thumping sounds, he knew how to make himself scarce. With all the grace of a giraffe on roller skates, Leo deposits the pickles in the fridge and makes a mad dive down the stairs into the garage, just as the door blows open followed by several loud noises that Jason definitely wasn't making.
"For crying out loud Grace," he grumbles faintly, snatching up his pair of headphones and blasting something, anything to drown out the cacophony upstairs. Nodding along to the beats of some electronic synth that Hazel swore was supposed to be a modern take on jass, he tried his best not to hear the thundering coming from upstairs, instead focusing on another item.
The freaking album.
Sure, they were mostly done, but Leo still had to properly overlay Jason and Hazel's vocals so it'd more resemble an actual song rather than a broken record chamber. He wasn't entirely sure what sound they were going from, but he likes to call it his own special kind of pop-punk with a healthy dose of teenage angst he'd stolen from Jason's hidden diary, not that the blonde knew that.
But hey, he had to have something to read when it got to be three o'clock in the morning and the soothing sounds of someone banging the headboard weren't really cutting it.
God, Leo really needed to sleep.
Suppressing a sigh, Leo began sifting through the contents of his audio files, trying to find the correct ones and pretending that he wasn't currently running on red bull and refusing to take his ADHD medicine for two weeks straight.
Upstairs the couch made a weak wheezing sound.
Leo popped his knuckles.
Loud, human sounds echoed off the walls.
Leo turned his music up louder.
There, now he won't be able to hear anything except screaming synthesized saxophones for the rest of the week, but he can at least breath without thinking of the human disaster happening upstairs.
It's a full twenty minutes before Leo is shaken from his task by the front door slamming so violently the ceiling above shakes.
His earbuds land forgotten on the floor and Leo immediately begins running up the stairs, but he's only made it a quarter of the way up before a loud noise takes the breath out of him.
A scream, long, harsh, and something between angry and sad, broke through the house. Leo just swallows and continues his rampage up the stairs. He makes it to the top just in time to witness Jason, heaving and topless, slam one of the couch pillows into the wall. The living room is already a mess as it is, couch cushions thrown in different directions, the throw blanket that used to be on the back of the couch now resting over the TV. Pictures have been knocked off the wall, resting in cracked heaps on the floor.
But Jason is a hurricane in the middle of the carnage.
He's bloodshot eyes; wild, grasping hands; barely contained sobs; and he's biting down so hard on his lip that Leo can see blood beginning to dribble down his chin.
However, he doesn't seem to sense Leo's arrival. He just lets out another, ear-splitting scream and slams a fist into one of the abandoned couch cushions.
Leo remembers why they no longer have a punching bag in the garage suddenly.
"Jase..." Leo means for it to be a more demanding call than that, but instead, it comes out as a quiet whimper. Jason's gaze snaps up from the pillow to bore into Leo, and he can't help but take a large step back.
Jason's eyes are wild and untamed, like a horse that's been spooked, shaking in their sockets, bloodshot, and such a piercing electric blue Leo can feel the hair standing up on the back of his neck. It doesn't help that Jason is 6ft1 of pure muscle and has the physical skills to strangle Leo with his feet.
Leo, on the other hand, is 5ft7 of pure skin and bones and the strength of a twig that's been soaked in a river for a week.
However, Leo has the advantage of knowing Jason for two and a half years now, and living with him for most of that time.
"Jase," Leo calls again, louder this time, and he punctuates the word by stepping towards the blonde. Jason responds by dropping his shoulders the smallest bit, his face softens just the slightest. For the first time, he seems to notice the wrecked living room.
"Jase..." Leo begins once more, coming within arm's reach, and tentatively reaching for Jason's shoulder. Jason's always been a physical person, Leo was never quite able to figure out why, but he guesses that's yet another piece of Jason he'd have to get from his sister. "What happened?"
Jason shakes his head, dropping into the (now cushionless) couch and hanging his head like a man heading to the gallows. Leo frowns.
"Drew fucking Jeremy again?" he attempts to joke, but Jason just sighs, shoulders curling in on himself. Without anything better to do, Leo simply drops onto the couch beside him. Jason tenses for a second, before all the fight seems to leave his muscles in one fell swoop.
"I dumped her..." he whispers, voice barely making it above a whisper. Leo's eyebrows shoot upwards.
"Woah, okay," he mutters and receives a half-hearted glare in return for the exclamation. "Sorry, I mean, good for you buddy... I uh... you've been meaning to do that." Leo still can't mask the utter shock in his voice, that was not the outcome he was expecting of this week. Honestly, he had half expected to hear that Drew was pregnant by the end of it.
Jason shakes his head, running a hand back through his hair, but the exasperated sigh that comes next is fond.
"You do realize that breakups aren't something you congratulate someone on," he reminds Leo gently and all Leo can do is roll his eyes.
"Look, buddy, I respect your life choices, but Drew was a straight up bitch," he's never benefited from lying to Jason and he's not about to start now. Jason punches his arm and Leo winces, before settling back into position. Jason's gaze is far away, settled on a frame lying a few paces away, shattered and broken over his own face, leaving only Thalia staring back at them, a large crack splitting her Cheshire grin in two. Leo sighs.
"Okay, so what was all the screaming about, because we both know you weren't screaming about Drew," Leo mutters and defeat drops Jason's shoulders yet again. Not for the first time, Leo wishes that Jason had the decency to put on a shirt because that chest is just too distracting when they're trying to have a heart to heart.
"It's nothing," he mumbles and Leo's not having it.
"Okay," he stands, grabs Jason by the wrist, and attempts to drag the taller boy from the couch. Lucky for him, Jason is a bit off balance, and he manages to knock him off the couch and onto the floor before Jason realizes he should be trying to put up a fight.
"Leo, what the hell?!" he protests from the floor, scrambling to regain his footing, but Leo simply rolls his eyes.
"You've been throwing yourself at Drew for the past two weeks, now you're going to sit your ass down at the table, I'm going to make my amazing tacos, and you're going to fucking talk about what's got you crawling around your own ass." and without further warning Leo marches towards the kitchen, Jason in tow behind him.
At first, it's not that successful.
Jason sits in total silence while Leo grills the taco meat and begins flaying vegetables to add into the homespun shells he made a week ago. Leo tries to coax him out of his shell, but the blonde simply broods deeper on the countertop until his forehead is nearly resting on the linoleum.
Then Leo plunks down a full plate of tacos and Jason finally perks up enough to talk.
In stilted, half-formed sentences while shoving food in his mouth, but it's progress.
"I just," He swallows a full taco in one bite and Leo is almost certain he only saw him chew once, "I feel like nothing that's happened this last month has been real, y'know?" he gives Leo this pleading, baby blue-eyed look and Leo's reminded of the slightly awkward freshman he got paired up with in Chem, muttering into his textbook about polyatomic ions.
"Jason, look," Leo sighs and pries one of his tacos away from Jason's grabbing hands. "You and I both know what the root of this problem is. You have psychological issues regarding your sister and Mother, and while I've always respected your privacy, I think at this point the best course of action is just to freaking talk to someone, dude." Leo bites his taco with gusto and Jason's shoulders droop.
"I... I just... I can't..." he whispers and Leo sighs.
"Alright, what did you tell me when I refused to start talking about my mom," he reminds him and Jason just droops further, leaning over his plate boneless and defeated.
"That holding it in just makes it worse."
"You can't be the Mom friend all the time. You're allowed to have feelings too. You're upset, your sister lied to you. You feel betrayed, and that's valid, but cutting her off? You're doing just as much damage to yourself as you're doing to her."
Jason lets out a long-suffering sigh.
"I'm killing her..." Jason whispers softly. Leo shakes his head.
"You're killing yourself."
"I..." finally Jason straightens and gives Leo this desperate look. "When I was seven... Thalia took me out into the desert outside of town, she said she was gonna show me how to properly pitch a tent and we were gonna spend the whole night out there."
Jason produces this sweet, rare smile that Leo's seen so many times and Leo knows he's about to get another Superman story.
"We spent the whole time arguing over who got to sleep on the bedroll, and she pushed me into a cactus at one point," he chuckles weakly, far away expression, "but when the sun finally went down and we were left with just the fire and the stars, she told me a secret."
He sighs and shoves his hands into his pockets.
"She said, 'y'know that man who we always see on the TV. The one constantly getting into trouble for assaulting women and pulling stunts?' I said I did, I'd seen him enough times to recall his face. I'll never forget how she looked at me then, with this expression of utter pain, pity, and regret. She bit her lips and balled her fists and then told me the truth. She said, 'Thats our father'."
Jason runs a hand back through his hair and Leo finds himself sinking onto the barstool next to him, placing a hand against Jason's. He's always known that Jason was larger than him, but the size difference in hands is almost ridiculous.
"She told me the truth, even when she herself didn't want to believe it. When I cried later that night she just held me, just held me to her chest and promised me that we would not become our father, that we would never become our parents, and I believed her. I believed her because what did she have to gain from lying to me?" Jason retracts his hand from Leo's and Leo just looks into bright blue eyes, watching him wipe desperately at the moisture there. Leo sighs.
"Jason," he whispers and Jason whimpers.
"Sorry, I sh-"
Leo pulls him in tight before he can protest any more and he's greeted with a blonde head burying itself into his shoulder.
"I... I want to believe her," he whispers, "but I don't think I can. She lied. I broke her. I am my Father, and she is our mother, or we're on our damn way to becoming them."
Leo shakes his head thickly and drops to his knees in front of Jason, taking his head in his hands.
"You are not your father," he promises, Jason doesn't look like he wants to acknowledge his existence, but there are the barest beginnings of a smile. "You will never be that man. I promise I won't let you. And Thalia... Thalia's just lost. You'll figure it out eventually, family always does."
"You and I have very different definitions of Family," Jason whispers and Leo laughs.
"My aunt called me the Devil's child, hermano," He reminds, Jason blushes slightly.
"Sorry," he whispers and Leo just shakes his head, standing up again.
"Yeah, my family is a bitch, but it's not that. Some of my family has reached out to me now that I'm older. My cousin Lance even offered me a place to stay when break comes, but what I'm saying is that from what I've heard Thalia cares about you, and you care about her. You'll figure it all out." Leo offers a smile, and Jason lets his escape him to, but before Leo can cross the kitchen to start making more taco meat, Jason's voice calls out to him again.
"Wait, Leo," Leo turns back to him and Jason's half risen out of his chair, "if you want me to make up with her, what's with the whole band thing?"
Leo smirks, "That's just to get her attention."