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Hazel was the first one who saw them. It was at Camp Jupiter. You two were sitting on the roof of the Hades temple, watching the as the sun fell below the horizon and leached the sky of light. She was shivering from the cold, but was too determined to admit to it. You think she tried to be stronger than she was to impress you. She probably wanted to spend more time with you, or make you stay at Camp Jupiter – something you would never and could never do. But you noticed her shivering, and slipped off your well-worn jacket and wrapped it over her shoulders.

At first she tried to give it back to you, but you insisted that she take it and, eventually, she did. You spent a while longer up there, just talking. You enjoyed it, despite what you told yourself about being dangerous for her. Just talking. You could pretend everything was normal. You could pretend you weren’t living a lie. That you weren’t in an endless search for the person you hated that you loved now that he had gone missing. That you weren’t you.

Then she noticed the uneven, pale scratches on your arms. She asked you about them.

You shook her off, telling her they were hellhound claw marks. She believed it. She wanted to. And she was too young, too innocent to know any better. She hadn’t been forced to leap from the young, innocent child to the outcast yet. You didn’t want her to – ever. After that you took care never to let her see your scratches again. And she never asked you about them or questioned you again. And part of you was glad.

But part of you hated her for it. You knew that Bianca wouldn’t have believed you when you told her they were from a hellhound. She would have known, and she would have fixed it. She would have wrapped you in a hug and protected you from the world. You hated that Hazel couldn’t. You hated that you were the older sibling.
Piper was the second one who saw them. It was on the Argo II. The same night that they fell into Tartarus. You had been rescued from that jar and were still bloody, tired, bruised, muddled and in a state of shell-shock after Tartarus. Your brain could hardly register that you had moved from one hell to another so fast. Your time in the jar had felt like nothing more than a blink, a heartbeat.

Piper had been helping Hazel to clean the cuts that coated your entire body like a second skin as you sat, frozen and staring at the wall. How could they have fallen? You were asking yourself. How could you have let them fall? Why do the others think my life is a worthy trade for his? They tried to remove your jacket. Some part of you was still functioning, and you were aware of lashing out at Piper and giving her a nasty bruise on her cheek. Not that you cared. Percy was gone. But somehow they did remove the jacket.

And under the dirt that clung to your skin like a leech, under the bruises and the wounds still oozing blood, were the neat little rows of scratches. There were more than when Hazel had first seen them.

But neither of them even took a second glance at them. Never thought about what they might be. Why they might be there. Hazel still believed that they were monster scratches, and Piper ate up the second-hand lies like it was ambrosia.

And you hated her for it. Even on that first night, when she didn’t even wonder. When she recoiled from the smell of death around you and didn’t bother to dig beneath your surface and find out who you were, or what you had been through. And there was no one to tell her.

You hated that she let her head be full of stereotypes and that she never tried to break them down, despite her wanting not to be a stereotype herself. You hated that she was a stereotype. You hated that she represented everything about both Camps that you hated. The judgement, the whispers, the gossip. You hated that she added to that cloud of lies when she told Hazel that Annabeth had said you may have a crush on the daughter of Athena. You hated everything about her in the same way you knew she hated everything about you. In the same way you hated everything about yourself.
Frank was the third one who found out. It was after the incident in Venice. You had tried to save your sister and had been turned into a corn plant. You – the Ghost King, son of Hades, Pluto’s Ambassador had been turned into a corn plant. And it wasn’t even Demeter or Persephone who had done it.

You felt like you had failed – as an older brother and as a demigod - in protecting the lives of the demigods who mattered. You had tried to play it off as best you could – it wasn’t your first time turning into a plant and, unfortunately, it probably wouldn’t be the last.

But back on the Argo II, after escaping the searching eyes of the rest of the crew, you had hid in the stables and pulled up the sleeves of your jacket and run your pocketknife along it. You had wept silently, letting out all the emotions you had bottled up for too long.

You had taken off your jacket and scrunched it up in anger and thrown it across the room. You had held in screams and refrained from summoning the dead. You beat the walls and hated yourself for everything you hadn’t been able to do.

And hours later, deep into the night, you had fallen into a fitful sleep. Frank had been the one who had had to wake you the next morning for a meeting. And you could see the nervousness in his eyes. You knew that once – what seemed like a long, long time ago, Frank hadn’t been afraid of you. You remembered how amusing it had been – the lowly Ligonier of the Fifth Cohort, the unclaimed demigod being one of only two that hadn’t feared you.

But that was a long time ago. Before Tartarus. Now Frank was afraid. More afraid than ever. And as you had grabbed your aviator jacket you knew he had seen your arms, the long rows of scars that never seemed to heal. And you knew that he – unlike Hazel and Piper – knew what they were.

But never why. He was much too afraid to ask. And you hated him for it. You hated that he knew, but didn’t do anything about it. That he never mentioned it, or tried to stop it. You hated that he was afraid that you would lash out at even the mention of it. You hated that he never corrected any of the rumours that he knew were untrue.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Leo was the next one to see your scars. It was on the deck of the Argo II. You were sitting on the railing next to the dragon figurehead that Leo had named ‘Festus’. The wind was blowing, wiping through your hair and tearing at your clothes, and snow swirling around the ship, but Festus kept the air around you warm.

You weren’t sure how long you had been out there, but when Leo strutted over, it was an unwelcome surprise. The son of Hephaestus fiddled around, chatting mercilessly. You knew he was just trying to hide the nerves he felt when he was around you. The nerves everyone felt around you.

Eventually you couldn’t stand his chatter any longer, and you slid back onto the deck to go inside to the stables or, even better, up to the mast where no one would bother you. But somehow – maybe Festus did it on purpose, maybe it was an accident, the sleeve of your jacket got caught on a metal prong protruding from the back of Festus’s head.

You twisted around to free the jacket’s sleeve, but you knew that Leo had seen the scars. You stared at him for a small eternity, reading his face. You knew he didn’t suspect anything. And you hated him for it.

Because if anyone should have known when something was deliberate it was Leo. Leo, with his calculated models and plans and buildings. Leo, who knew when things were accidental, and when they were on purpose.

Leo, who you knew wore a mask that hid someone just as broken as you. And you hated that he was so much better at that mask than you. You hated that everyone else ate up his lies as much as they did yours. Because it showed how naïve people were.

And you hated Leo, because you knew he wore a mask, but he never suspected that you did too. He saw the same person the other campers saw, the hollow, emotionless, scary son of Hades. The traitor, the liar, the one that couldn’t be trusted. And you hated that Leo, who should know how you felt more than most, was just as ignorant as Piper.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Jason found out next. Of course he did. After Split, he wouldn’t stay out of your hair. He always wanted to see if you were okay, if there was anything you could do to help, if you wanted to talk about that. And you never did. How could you?

He was the first one who knew for sure what was happening and tried to stop it. He walked in on you in the stables an evening two days after Split. He said he was just assembling everyone for a meeting, then he saw you.

Saw you sitting, hunched shoulders, silent sobs wracking your body, red-hot tears streaming down your cheeks and into your lap, on the cold, hard floor. He moved closer and saw that you weren’t wearing your aviator jacket.

And he saw your arms, the tallies of straight lines, dripping red drops down your pale skin. He saw your hand, clenched tight on the steel blade of your pocketknife. And he stopped and stared. And when he tried to comfort you, you snarled at him. The first person who tried to help, you didn’t let in.

But he had already found out so many of your secrets. And you hated him for that. You hated that he had always had the good life, the easy life, the life of a hero. And how he tried to empathise with you, comfort you. When he couldn’t even pretend to relate to you.

You hated how he gave you the comfort you wanted all those… years? Months? Weeks? – ago on the roof of Pluto’s Temple in Camp Jupiter. Because you knew it was too late. You’d been through Tartarus. And you hated that he feels responsible for you. Like he was a replacement for Bianca.

You hated how he tried to look out for you, but knew nothing about you. Not even your favourite colour – sea green, like Percy’s eyes. But more, you hated why he looked out for you. Because once he knew one little secret about you, he pitied you. It was like he’d forgotten that, for years, you’d dealt with your emotions fine. And that you didn’t need his help. And you hated that he used to mistrust you as much as Frank, Piper and Leo undoubtedly still did.

And you hated that he tried to be a big brother for you. Because that was what Percy saw himself as, and Jason could never replace Percy Jackson. And you hated how he seemed to try to replace Percy. And how he was taking control over everything – the Roman camp, the Greek camp, the Argo II, and even your own life. You hated how thought he could even talk to you about yourself the way Percy could.
Annabeth was the next one who saw the scars. Because you knew, with her, it was only a matter of time. It was on the small gap between her and Percy’s rescue, and you leaving with the Athena Parthenon. After dinner, a time which couldn't come soon enough.

You had left the meal early, because watching Percy laugh and smile and talk, all while sitting next to her, one arm around her, sharing regular kisses on the cheek. It was all too much to bare. But, being the hero that she was, she came to talk to you.

Falsely assuming that you had a crush on her. Conceited daughter of Athena. But that wasn’t the problem. It was just something you’d learnt to deal with. You turned to leave. But she grabbed onto the sleeve of your jacket and wouldn’t let go.

Not until it pulled up enough for the line of pink, still reasonably freshly cut, lines. She tugged your sleeve up further, and there they were, standing neatly in a row along your arm for her to see. Like it was a display. Then she dropped your sleeve. She demanded explanations. She wanted to know all about it, how long, why, when it had started.

As if there was any chance that you would tell her. You turned and walked away. This time, she just let you. And you hated her for that. For pretending to care, but when it came down to it, you were just a lost cause. You weren’t worth the trouble. You hated her for acting like you were her friend, her little brother even, but only when she had some use for you. You hated how she shoved Percy in your face, mocking you unknowingly.

You hated how she discarded you when you couldn’t help her big, marvellous plans for the world, and for herself. You almost smiled to yourself when you knew that she would never really overcome her fatal flaw. Hubris.

But you hated that you will never overcome your fatal flaw either. Because you still had a grudge against Annabeth. And if you thought about it, against everyone. And you hated how she acted so much more perfect than she is, how she thought that Percy could only ever exist in her daydreams.

You hate how narrow minded, and stubborn, and prideful she is. And you hated that you were narrow minded and stubborn and prideful as well. You hated having anything to do with Annabeth.
Reyna found out after the first time she shared her strength with you. She found out all kinds of things you didn’t want her to know on that journey, but after the first time you joined power with her, after you shadow-travelled away and blacked out, she had had to heal you as best she could.

And that meant removing your jacket. Without your permission. You were asleep at the time and you never knew she had seen until a day or two later, when you and her were sitting together, Coach Hedge had gone off to look for something to eat.

She brought it up. At first, you tried to deny it, but she had seen the scars. She knew. She treated you the way you imagined Bianca would. She asked you, gently but firmly. She took away the pocketknife. She gave you ambrosia and unicorn draught to try and heal the scars.

But they were made by a mortal weapon and magic healing wouldn’t work on them. And you hated that. You hated that, now someone was finally treating it like the problem part of you knew it was, it was too late and you couldn’t stop.

You hated that, now that someone took the care to heal you, the scars wouldn’t fade. You hated that Reyna couldn’t do anything because you were in the middle of a quest. And you hated that, later that night, you stole away to acquire a new pocketknife.

And you hated that you knew you would cut again. Soon. You hated that you were going behind Reyna’s back and that she would be disappointed in the same way Bianca would have been. You hated yourself for what you did, and how you couldn’t stop doing it.
Coach Hedge found out soon after Reyna. Your aviator jacket could only stay for so long. After the fight with Lycian you finally, and reluctantly, discarded your aviator jacket. Then you had no way to hide the neat little rows of cuts running along your arms.

Of course, Reyna already knew. But Coach Hedge, once he noticed and realised, was a whole other story. Instead of getting angry and screaming, the way you had expected, he sat down next to you and tried some (rather ineffective) healing charms. He also told you about an unclaimed demigod he knew once, who had cut their arms as well. And they had ended up killing themselves. Those words had hit home for you. Especially since you had considered it before.

And he told you that your life was worth something. And for the first time in many years, you started to believe it. And you hated yourself. Because you were believing it, when the world was at stake, you were believing that your own life was more important. That you weren’t thinking of the greater good.

And you hated that it had taken you so long to start to believe that your life wasn’t so awful. You hated that, for four years, you had been so stuck in self-hate and depression that you hadn’t thought about the fact people thought your life was just as worthy as theirs.

And you hated that it had been a fifty two, or one hundred and four – if you look at it that way – year old satyr, in the middle of ancient ruins, with a giant dusty statue, that had made you think that way. Because you tried to be strong for everyone. And it wasn’t strong to have someone else make you think that way.

But part of you knew it was false. You knew that you were starting to recover. That you had Coach Hedge and Reyna. That they had started to help. But that night you still ran the blade along your arm. And you hated yourself for that.
It was after the battle with Gaia that Percy finally found out. It seemed so ironic that the person who first drove you to scar yourself every night was the person who was the last to know. But after you had admitted your feelings to him, then you figured that you didn’t have anything else to loose.

And with the glares that Annabeth was giving your arms, it was only a matter of time. Like everything to do with Annabeth was. So one day you caught him on his own and rolled up the sleeves of your jacket – you had gotten a new one, a bomber jacket. And you explained. It was strange, telling someone about it out loud. It was the first time that you come to terms with yourself enough to admit it. And, just like your crush, Percy had the right to know.

And he listened. He stared at the pink scars running along your arms. He listened as you explained, voice wobbly and unsure. And when he didn’t react and you broke down crying and apologising he wrapped you in his arms. His embrace was like the ocean, cool and calming and smelling faintly of the sea. He told you that you had nothing to be sorry for. That he should be apologising for never realising. Never noticing. For all the white lies that he had sucked up.

And you didn’t hate him. You didn’t hate him, even though he had believed white lies. Even though he had led you on for so long. Even though he had caused you so much pain. Even though he did nothing to make you forgive him. You forgave him for everything. For your sister. For the broken promise. For the neglect. For being taken for granted. For almost not being rescued from the jar. For everything he had ever done to hurt you or lead you on.

Because finally you were moving on. Finally you were overcoming your fatal flaw. And you may just be the first demigod to do so entirely. Just like you were the first for generations to know of both camps. Just like you were the first to survive Tartarus. And for once, you didn’t hate anyone or anything.
Now you intertwine your cold, pale fingers with Will’s warm, tanned ones. You two are sitting together on the roof of the Hades cabin, watching the last light of the sun fade. Watching the last sunset-stained cloud grey. But it is all beautiful to you.

Because you have moved on. Because you have Will now. And although you have never officially admitted your feelings for each other, everyone agrees you act like a married couple. And tonight you feel brave. Because how can this be harder than Tartarus?

But sometimes it is. And so you’re glad when Will’s hand clenches slightly on yours, giving you an excuse to look at him. And even in the dying light, you can see his sky-blue eyes, his spray of freckles and his waves of blonde hair. His cheeks are tinted pink.

His mouth opens. When he talks, he doesn’t tell you that it’s getting late and the cleaning harpies will be here soon. He doesn’t tease you. He smiles bashfully and tells you that, for a long time, he’s had a crush on you. And that he’d like to be your boyfriend. And you freeze in shock. Because no matter how much he acts like it, some part of your brain was insisting that it wasn’t true. That he didn’t like you.

So when he starts to stutter and look away, you embrace him in the way Percy embraced you. Even though you are smaller than him, and smell of cold earth and death. Will smells of springtime and sunshine and faintly artificial, like medicine, but in the best way. And he’s warm.
When you push away from each other you tell him that you feel the same way. You tell him everything. And, one more time, you roll up your sleeves, and expose your scars. You tell him all about why you started, why you couldn’t stop. Then you tell him that you haven’t cut your arms since returning to camp. And when he asks why, you just mutter his name into the twilight air.

And he runs his hand along them gently, and the last of the sunlight glows in his fingers. And when his hand moves away, you see that at last, the scratches have begun to fade. And you smile. You tilt your head up so that your deep brown eyes gaze out through your unkempt curtains of black hair and into Will’s sky blue eyes. And words leave your lips, two words that you haven’t spoken for over four years.

“Ti amo.”

Because for the first time in a long time, you feel real love.