After the Battle
Frank didn’t know where to sit.
At Camp Half Blood, all of the demigods sat at specific tables, based on their godly parent. Frank had tried to sit at the Ares table, but he didn’t know anyone, and he missed his friends. So, after that, he went and sat at the table the visiting Romans had been assigned, for the duration of their time here. All it did was remind him how much everything had changed, how he didn’t really belong there, not anymore.
And no matter where he sat, no matter whom he talked to or what he did, all he could think about was Percy Jackson.
When anyone smiled or greeted him, he remembered the way Percy had treated him when he first arrived at Camp Jupiter. Percy was everything Frank, at the time, thought he would never be: charming, funny, strong, and just tough as nails. But Percy never considered himself better than anyone; and, at the Roman camp, that was a rare find indeed.
Everyone at Camp Half Blood was so full of grief, that watching them do normal things like eat, clean, fight, or race was like watching someone swallow broken glass. Frank could’ve never guessed what an impact Percy had had here. Everyone spoke in hushed tones, as if the air itself would split apart if one of them was too loud. Frank hated the silence, but he also liked it; for anyone to be laughing, joking, even smiling would seem wrong.
Percy, in just the short months Frank had known him, had become his best friend. And now, the mysteriously brave and disarmingly likeable boy, the best person (besides maybe Hazel) that Frank had ever known, was dead.
And it was Frank’s fault.
“You okay?” asked Hazel beside him, nudging him with her sharply pointed elbow.
The simple answer: No. Frank was not okay. He was collapsing and dissolving, disappearing before the stars. He wanted to talk to Percy. He didn’t want to talk to anyone.
“Yeah,” he said instead.
Hazel nodded in a wave of brown curls, and Frank could tell she understood the true meaning in his words. Hazel and Percy had become fairly close as well. He remembered how she’d collapsed into his arms, sobbing out the words, “No, not him . . . Please, no . . .” when Frank had told her about Percy. And all he’d been able to do was stand there dumbly, rubbing her back with his too-big hands and wishing he could go back in time.
“Do you know if Annabeth’s come back yet?”Frank asked, trying to distract his brain, even for just a sliver of a moment.
Hazel shook her head again. “No,” she answered slowly. “She’s been gone for two days . . . And Nico . . .”
Nico di Angelo, Hazel’s half-brother, had disappeared into the inky blackness from whence he came after the battle with Gaea. He didn’t say a word to anyone. Jason had been the one to tell Nico the news, and Frank hadn’t been there; he saw from out a glass window, and even from that far away, Nico’s pain had radiated from his features. He’d actually slumped to the wet grass, and, although Frank couldn’t hear, he saw his shoulder shake up and down, and knew he was sobbing into the dirt.
Frank hadn’t known Nico cared about Percy so much. In fact, he’d always seemed stand-offish, rude and gruff with Percy, even in the rare moments he was kind and gentle with others. But, Frank supposes, he never really knew much about Nico at all.
Now, he and Hazel sat in the stables, their hands twined together and their hearts beating in unison. Of course, this place rang with Percy; his godly blood made him able to communicate with horses.
They were keeping Blackjack, Percy’s old and faithful horse, company while no one else could.
Frank hadn’t know that horses—or Pegasi— could feel sadness, or be able to display grief so openly.
Blackjack’s wings hung low on his shoulder bumps, nearly scraping the filthy stable floor. He hardly ever ate, and the bones in his sides became more and more evident with each passing day. His legs were almost always bent, as if he were preparing to collapse. But he always had his ears perked up, waiting for a call he would never receive.
Frank and Hazel had packed sandwiches and were eating in near-silence. Almost every time they’d visited, the two of them had observed the horses being quiet. It was the kind of thoughtful silence that implied understanding; it was as if they were being polite.
Hazel rested her head on Frank’s shoulder, and he didn’t move away. His body warmed to her, and he pulled her closer with one arm.
“What do you think is happening to him, right now?” whispered Hazel.
“Nico?” Frank clarified, wrinkling his forehead slightly.
“No,” she breathed, “Percy. What’s happening to Percy?”
A rock lodged itself in Frank’s esophagus, and he thought Whatever’s happening, it’s happening because of me. But he replied squeakily, “At this point, he’s already in Elysium, there’s no doubt. I’d be surprised if the gods didn’t preserve him in the stars forever, after all he’s done.”
“Do you think he’ll choose to be reborn?” said Hazel quietly.
“No,” Frank answered immediately, thinking of Annabeth. “Percy’s never been much of a perfectionist. And . . . he wouldn’t just leave like that.”
“You’re right,” confirmed Hazel. “I just . . . I miss him.”
She was nodding into Frank’s shoulder and he knew she was drifting. He turned and planted a kiss on her scalp, right where her hair began to sprout. “Me too, Hazel. Me too.”
And together, they fell asleep on the cold, concrete stable floor.
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