Over the Love
Athena had become increasingly colder with him. They'd been together for around a year and five months, and he knew by then that something had gone wrong. Somewhere down the line, something had gotten messed up, and now she was closing herself off to him.
He didn't understand how or why.
What had gone wrong? What had happened? What caused her to be upset with him, to turn their rather almost blissful relationship into something miserable?
He couldn't understand it. He didn't know what she was thinking or why she had suddenly became like ice to him. All he'd wanted was to make her happy, to show her how much he'd cared for her. He wanted her to see how much he'd come to love her. And yes, he was very sure he was in love with her, even now despite her chilly exterior to him.
The insults came with the new year, and at first he'd been surprised at the start of them. Taken aback, he could only stare dumbly in shock at her when it first happened. And then she'd said another insult to that. He uneasily covered up his reaction with a silly laugh and a sheepish grin, apologizing for whatever it was and then quietly trying to fix whatever problem she'd had with him at the time.
It was something that only grew, instead of going away.
He didn't want to admit it, but…he felt miserable in this relationship. He was in love with her, no doubt. But each day passed, and the more and more they became farther away from the days where they were happy with each other, and a time where they'd had a high school rapport and then a summer bliss.
He'd been patient, something he knew had been almost beyond him when he was younger. He'd matured after the war, but though he grew patience and matured from his days as a demigod teen fighting against Titans and monsters, he was still a person. He could still hurt and he could still feel.
College felt tiring, dealing with it at the same time. He was trying to juggle the stress from the workload and pressure of college, and the stress of dealing with Athena and her moods and just trying to please her and doing all he could to bring them back to happier times –
Percy closed his eyes and leaned his head against the kitchen counter, hands clenching. He heard the door open and he straightened up immediately, grabbing his plate and sitting at the table, playing it cool and trying to pretend he'd been there and look like nothing was wrong. When she entered, he glanced up briefly and smiled slightly at her. She huffed and turned away, so he turned back to his plate, hiding his dejectedness.
He sat at the table at night as usual, quietly pushing around his food. He could practically see her roll her eyes as she snorted.
"You know, you should actually try to make yourself useful or do something other than waste your time away," she scowled at him.
He just looked up and gave her a tired smile, obvious circles under his eyes.
What do you want me to do?
"How was your day? Not too bad, I hope. Wanna eat dinner with me?"
She scoffed, "It's 'want to,' dimwit. And no, I'm not hungry. I'm going to be in my study."
She brushed by him without another glance or word, ignoring how his smile dropped and he hung his head, shoulders slumping.
It was the twelfth night he'd stayed up waiting for her.
When he woke up the next morning, she was already gone and he just sighed tiredly to himself. He took a quick shower and had been about ready to just roam about Olympus with no clear destination, when he'd gotten a surprised visitor in the form of Artemis.
"Lady Artemis," he greeted in surprise.
"You can call me just Artemis, you know," she said, almost rather playfully. He still kept getting and feeling surprised at her interacting with him these days, and the fact that she was willing to do so in the first place.
"Artemis," he smiled a little, opening the door further and inviting her in. "What can I do for you?"
"Just another visit," she said, returning his smile. "I wanted to see you. You look…tired."
His lips twitched resignedly. "I know…It's…schoolwork," he partly lied.
She probably knew, but didn't pry, for which he was thankful for.
They went over to the kitchen table and sat by each other, and they began chatting about anything that came up. Artemis informed him about the new changes that were currently being interposed around Camp Half-Blood, while Percy listened respectfully to her. He didn't have much to tell her about the goings-on, but tried by telling about what went on in his school, adding amusing anecdotes for her benefit.
At one point a little later, she'd leaned towards him and was gazing into his eyes, and he had to swallow nervously, feeling confused. He tensed up and they were suddenly too close, and he wondered if he should maybe move a bit to put distance. He didn't want to offend her after all, for something so silly, and saying something would definitely quickly spiral things downward.
But she moved away, giving him a small smile, and he dismissed it as he took a sip of his water.
"You…really do look tired, Percy," she murmured.
Idly, he was rather pleased that she so quickly took to just saying the shortened and preferred version of his name, as well as her usage of it at all.
He gave a tired smile, knowing that it was starting to become his usual.
"I know," he said again, but this time said nothing else.
"Does Athena have anything to do with this?" Artemis surprised him by asking.
"I love her," he excused her.
He missed the flinch Artemis gave off, as he stared down at his clasped hands on the table.
"I love her," he said again softly.
Percy closed his eyes tightly, feeling them burn, even as he felt a slim, comforting hand settle on his bowed head.
When Artemis left, he was left alone in the empty, solemn, and lonely home he shared with Athena. He no longer felt like going out, walking around the streets of Olympus. So instead, he lingered around the house, being idle, random, and sometimes going about the place fixing things up, cleaning, and straightening purposelessly.
It was at one of these times, where he accidentally tripped and he broke one of the vases nearby. His heart sunk. It was one of Athena's favorites.
"You're such a stupid Seaweed Brain!" he heard her yell in frustration, and he turned around, surprised that she was home already. He looked around and realized it had gotten late without him noticing…
She called him that a lot, but unlike her daughter it's not in fondness. The nickname he'd actually become rather fond of, was something that brought him a lot of pain now.
He just smiled enduringly, like always (because he loves her), and got on his hands and knees as he started picking up the broken pieces. He painstakingly picked every single piece up, gathered them all together and put them on a table. He labored through the night to fix it as best he could, using the better materials afforded in Olympus.
It was morning, Olympus' version of it, when he'd finally finished and he looked over his work. It was put together as best as it could be, although not completely whole but hopefully as near perfect as it could be. He hoped it would be enough.
He left it on the table and decided it was time to go shopping. At the market, he was happily and enthusiastically greeted by many there, and he tried to return their greeting as earnestly as he could, though he feared that he might have looked as halfhearted as he felt.
"Hey, Percy," a quiet voice greeted him from behind, and he turned around and saw Hermes giving him a small smile.
The god looked tired, but he looked better than in the earlier days of when the war just ended. He was even smiling more now, Percy knew.
"Hey back, Hermes," he grinned at him, feeling just a little more uplifted at this meeting.
"You look more haggard than I do," Hermes noted.
Percy's smile faltered, before he tried hard to keep it on. "I guess I do. Kinda stressed with everything –you know, schoolwork and stuff."
"Stuff?" Hermes raised a concerned eyebrow.
"Yeah, uh, stuff," Percy laughed lightly, but he was starting to feel exhausted.
He blinked and refocused on the man. "Huh, yeah?"
Hermes smiled sadly and ruffled his hair. "Don't wear yourself out, alright? If you need someone to talk to…come to me, okay? I'll let you get around to your shopping. See you around, Percy."
Percy finished his shopping in a tense mood. When he went back home, he saw dejectedly that the vase he'd worked on had been thrown away.
A few days later, he decided to make a trip over to Ares'. He thought that maybe a spar would help him shake things off, maybe even help him sort of relax from everything. As he walked through the entrance, fondly snorting at the unlocked door, he felt rather shocked to enter the god's kitchen and see Aphrodite sipping her drink calmly.
"Oh, I didn't know you were here, Aphrodite. I was just going to see if Ares was available for a spar, but I'll leave. I wouldn't want to interrupt your time together," Percy briefly gave her a friendly grin, and had been about to turn to leave when Aphrodite called out to him.
"Actually, I'd like it if you'd stay awhile," Aphrodite interrupted his leave. "I have something I'd like to talk to you about. Ares would want that spar anyways, so you might as well stay and wait for him. I have him out, buying me a few desserts I wanted to sample."
"There's no 's' on anyway," he said distractedly, coming over and seating himself.
"My, my, Athena's been a big influence on you, hasn't she?" Aphrodite commented in amusement, and Percy blushed.
He hadn't realized what he said and gave her a sheepish grin. "Sorry, it was kind of automatic. Anyways," he grinned wider at her, making her giggle, "what was it did you wanted to talk to me about?"
Aphrodite turned rather solemn, and he felt dread settle in his stomach. Especially since Aphrodite was usually such a bright person…
"You deserve so much better," she murmured, lifting a hand up to cup his face tenderly. She smiled sorrowfully, and he was rather horrified to find tears welling up in her eyes. "She treats you like trash, but you aren't, you know that?"
He flinched back and almost leaned away, but she somehow kept him still.
"If you were treated better, wouldn't you be happier with someone like that instead?" Aphrodite sounded uncharacteristically earnest. "Would you not want someone to love you as much as you loved them, to equally shower affection and love and care upon you, as you have honestly and passionately done so to them? Wouldn't you want your devotion rewarded, to have someone be so ardently in love with you and show it? Why would you have to put up with being degraded, why would you want to?
"If love has its up and downs, its pains and gains, the hurt and yet happiness…there should not be the humiliation and this kind of pain, of insults and shame, of-of-of this taint of love that should be sacred, treasured, and cherished!"
He was surprised by Aphrodite's passionate outburst, but that reaction was dimmed in light of her words, and felt that familiar burn in his eyes that he tried to keep away, like always. He couldn't, because it would be like admitting the problems he and Athena were having.
"I l–" he choked out.
"I know," Aphrodite smiled mournfully.
And then she leaned over and kissed him gently, and he felt the tears spill out that he hadn't wanted to let go of ever.
He missed Athena's brief appearance before the goddess ran away, and Aphrodite inwardly laughed bitterly in the other woman's direction, glad she caught the kiss in angry vindication. The kiss had been only partly planned, in that at the last minute she had felt Athena's incoming presence coming closer, and had decided she wanted the other woman to walk in on a kiss from her to Percy –just to feel at least some kind of pain from it, as the Goddess of Wisdom seemed so oddly fond of dishing out as of lately. But after she'd started talking and had ended, she just wanted to kiss Percy after he started unraveling right before her eyes and didn't care to wait for Athena's presence.
It was only luck or fate that had Athena coming in at the right time anyway, fulfilling Aphrodite's impromptu plan.
Tears she knew he didn't want to shed came anyway, and he buried his face into his hands as he moved away from her. She tenderly gripped his head, trying to will any comfort she could, baring a few tears herself.
"There are a lot of people who love you, Perseus. So many others," she murmured.
He cried harder.
When Ares came just a bit later, he was taken aback and a little uncomfortable. Awkward and out of his depth, he just held up the various desserts in his arms to show Aphrodite, and she nodded and smiled at him, before gesturing to the table. Still quiet, he headed over to the table and began to methodically put down his bounty, focusing heavily on it with a one-track mind so he could ignore Percy's quiet crying.
When Percy finally lifted his head up and saw Ares, Ares gave a discomfited grin and mock salute. Percy tried to grin back, but gave up quickly. Uncomfortably, Ares roughly grabbed a chair near them and sat down, pulling one of the desserts towards him. After minute hesitation, he self-consciously nudged over another dessert towards Percy and then a spoon. After a moment, Percy picked up the strawberry confection (and damn it, Ares knew he shouldn't be remembering that brat's favorites) and then the spoon, and quietly started to eat, sniffling every once and awhile.
Still too bothered about all the atmosphere and situation, Ares began to loudly and boisterously recount his week, and his run-ins with others –as well as his irritating and bratty sister, Eris. Aphrodite gave him a grateful smile and he relaxed a bit more, getting a little more eager and more at ease talking.
"I have to go," Percy said a little later, and they looked at him in surprise.
"Stay, Perseus. There's plenty of more dessert to share around, and you could use some relaxation time and hanging out with friends, yes?" Aphrodite tried to persuade him to stay.
"Yeah! And don't you wanna spar or somethin'?" Ares added.
"I have to go home," he murmured, glancing out their window. "She'll be home soon."
"Alright," Aphrodite agreed reluctantly. "…Be safe."
"See ya then," Ares frowned.
Percy tossed them a smile that seemed to grow smaller each time, before he left them behind in the quiet.
At his home, Athena was still not back. He sighed to himself and started to prepare dinner. He put his plate on the table and sat on his chair, looking blankly at it. He didn't even have an appetite…
In the quiet and privacy of his home, he felt a little more okay with shedding a few more tears to himself.
When Athena finally came home, he was still just pushing food around his plate. When she walked over to him, he lifted his head in surprise to look at her. Her mouth was opening and he could see her own eyes tearing up, but she wasn't saying anything. The lips he remembered kissing so softly kept opening and closing a couple times, but still nothing came out. Instead, she came over further and kneeled between his legs, leaning against him tentatively, closing her eyes as she placed her forehead against his and reluctantly shed a couple tears. He couldn't help tensing a bit, and he felt sad and horrible that this was his reaction to her.
"You know…I don't tell you this enough…I forget to…but you are incredibly beautiful to me," she murmured, lifting her hands up to grasp his head between them blindly. "I'm so, so sorry, Perseus. Please."
He doesn't know what to say, so he doesn't say anything at all.
He had a hard time sleeping that night, and instead stayed awake through it. He was exhausted, but he still got up and put on a jacket, leaving the Olympus villa he'd been living in for some time now. Instead, he walked through the streets of Olympus, feeling conflicted.
His phone rang and he answered it, not sure how to feel when he heard Annabeth's voice. But they slowly grew into a smooth conversation, and Percy really missed her. Biting his lip, he made a decision and asked her if it would be alright if he came over, and her enthusiastic agreement made him relieved. Hanging up, he headed towards Olympus' exit and was only delayed when he surprisingly ran into Zeus of all people.
"Perseus, good evening. I didn't expect to see anyone else out here, so late," Zeus tilted his head at him in acknowledgement.
"Lord Zeus," Percy greeted, and he hated how tired he sounded. "I was going to go visit a friend."
"A lot on your mind? If you don't mind me asking," Zeus asked him.
Percy stayed quiet, before shrugging. "I guess. Nothing too big, I hope. It might help just visiting a friend to, I don't know…get my mind off of things. Maybe see if there's a 24 hour Starbucks open for us to stalk."
Zeus laughed, a great big rumbling sound that sounded rather oddly comforting.
"Sounds like a good plan. Burn a few coffees or espressos in my name, won't you? I'm in the mood for a little indulgence tonight."
Percy smiled a bit. "Sure. Will do. See you around, Lord Zeus," he gave a little wave and went on his way to the elevator.
Blinking, he turned around to face the King of Gods curiously.
"I hope you find some peace tonight at least," Zeus murmured sincerely.
Percy's lips barely twitched up. "Me too."
And he finally made it to the elevator, where he waited until he reached the lobby of the Empire State building, going through the dark room in silence, before finding the garage entrance. He found his car, a gift from Paul, and started it. Within minutes he was making his way to Annabeth's, hoping there really was a Starbuck's open. He wanted something hot to warm him up.
He was nearly halfway there when he had to stop at a stoplight. He sighed in aggravation, since there was no one else around practically, except some stragglers around late opened stores and people on the sidewalks.
The stoplight turned green and he looked into his mirror, the green light reflecting in his eyes. It made their sea-green shade oddly warped.
He drove forward and another car rammed into his side.