Piper excused herself from the dinner table much earlier than usual. Leo looked up with an eyebrow raised, silently asking if she was alright. She nodded and tried to look as tired as possible (not exactly hard), which seemed to appease him. Nobody said a word as she left the room.
Back in her own room, Piper shed her clothes and slipped into the nightdress Lacy had presented her with back at camp. Thinking about the gesture reminded her just how much she missed Camp Half Blood, even though she had barely been there long enough to call it home. But, however depressing the thought was, she'd fitted in there. For once, she wasn't the freaky, difficult child of an international star. She was just Piper, and hell did she miss it. Gaea had messed everything up for her. For all of them.
Will we ever catch a break? All I want is a normal life at camp with Jason. Is that so much to ask?
The reason for her early departure that night had been much the same: homesickness, combined with a different kind of sickness that she put down to Percy and Annabeth's absence.
With a sigh, she collapsed on the bed. As her father had used to say, maybe things would be better in the morning.
Sleep didn't come easily. Piper lay there in the darkness for what felt like hours. Wood creaked occasionally whenever Festus did his routine checks, and she was pretty sure a small bug was flying around the room far above her head. The sheets on the bed tangled themselves around her limbs every time she moved. Every passing second made it worse.
Leo had clearly tried his best when fitting out the rooms, but Piper just couldn't appreciate it right then. She felt confined, trapped even, and the sheets weren't helping matters.
It wasn't much longer until she snapped. She let out a frustrated growl, flinging her arms out. The sheets were thrown across the room (shortly followed by both pillows and the bed's blanket), all crumpling against the door and sliding down into a messy heap.
With the bedcovers gone, Piper rolled over onto her back and took a deep breath in. She held it for a few moments, then exhaled slowly. It was a trick she'd used ever since she'd been a child to calm down. A few minutes spent repeating the procedure should do the trick. If it didn't, nothing would.
Piper had pretty much resigned herself to another sleepless night when a sudden change in air temperature made her tense up. Her eyes flew wide open, and she was blinded by bright light. Somehow, the bulb on the ceiling of her room had turned on. She groaned and sat up, ready to slide off the bed and go and turn it off again.
However, she was stopped by the sudden realisation that she wasn't alone. Perched daintily on the end of her bed, wordlessly watching her, was a girl she'd only seen a single photo of. A photo pinned to the noticeboard of a young camper in the Aphrodite cabin. Her warm, gentle face hadn't changed at all.
Piper nearly fell off the bed in shock. She fumbled around for something to cover herself with, mentally cursing herself for throwing absolutely everything. Her hands came back empty, and she sighed. Silena smiled and offered her a jacket that she seemed to pull from nowhere. Piper accepted it wordlessly, unable to speak.
Silena stayed silent for a few moments more while Piper's tongue unfroze. When it did, her words came out in a rather less sensitive manner than she would've liked.
Silena chuckled. "Yes, I am."
"Am I dead too?" Piper asked, suddenly feeling her blood run cold. Had the Argo been blown up? Had she died instantaneously, which is why she didn't remember it?
"No, Piper. You're just asleep." Silena assured her, but Piper couldn't fully relax.
"Why are you here?"
The smile faded from Silena's face, and she took a few moments to answer.
"The war has started, Piper." She said slowly. "And I think you know that. It may seem hopeless right now, but you will pull through."
Piper raised an eyebrow. "You're visiting me from the afterlife to give me a pep talk?"
She hadn't meant it to sound so scathing and sarcastic. Thankfully, Silena didn't seem offended.
"You could look at it like that if you want." Silena let out a small sigh, but her mouth twitched into the hint of a smile. "I guess I'm really here to just say 'Don't give up, you're more important than you think'."
Piper groaned internally. "I've been told…"
Silena stared sadly. "But you don't believe it. Oh Piper, you shoot yourself down so often without seeing your true value. Everybody matters. Don't let a few past mistakes make you believe you're worthless…" She let her gaze fall and shook her head sharply. "You're key to us winning this war. I tried to get to you while the mess with Thanatos was happening, but Elysium is a lot further from the entrance to the Underworld than I could manage."
"What's so different about now, then?"
"Children of Hecate aren't the only demigods capable of magic." She said coyly, shimmering slightly. "Mine's limited, but I caught you at the moment you slipped from consciousness to sleep. The demigods in Elysium may be dead, but we're very much still here. When the time comes, we'll support you."
On the last word, Silena's breath hitched. Her eyes widened, and her gaze unfocused for a heartbeat. When her eyes found Piper's again, she spoke much more hurriedly.
"My time is up, Piper. I hope I don't see you again for a very long time."
"Wait!" Piper reached out, panicked. "Can't you tell me anything? About the future?"
"That's beyond me, dear Piper." Silena murmured. She smiled fondly, reaching her own hand out to touch Piper's. "I can give you nothing more than my support, and my gratitude."
"You stood up for me in camp when I didn't deserve it. That meant so much. Piper McLean, it would have been a pleasure and an honour to share a cabin with you."
Their fingers were almost touching.
"Whatever happens now, I'll be there to welcome you when you join us. Just don't let Gaea make that anytime soon. Go kick Dirtface's butt and show her who's boss."
Piper giggled at the last part, the words much more coarse than Silena's usual gentle tone. Their hands met and for the briefest of moments they stayed there, fingers brushed together, sisters that were torn apart before they could know each other. Piper felt like she could stay there forever, like it would never end.
All of a sudden it did, and Piper was falling.
She didn't even have time to release the scream building in her lungs before she hit her mattress. Piper was pretty sure she hadn't actually moved at all, but the jolt back to reality had been an unexpected shock to her body. It had taken her breath away. Her thrashing arm connected with the wall with a crack, and she instinctively rolled backwards to get away from it.
The bed vanished from under her and she fell ungracefully onto the wooden floor with a loud crash, taking the bedside lamp and cabinet with her in a flailing mess of limbs.
Piper winced, knowing the noise would've woken the others. Jason was such a light sleeper. Sure enough, within seconds, Leo and Jason were at her door. More precisely, they were through her door. The pillow pile acted like a doorstop, which only panicked the boys more. Leo actually broke the hinges as he charged in, lamenting the twisted metal as Jason rushed over to help her up, garbled questions pouring from his mouth asking if she was alright.
It took a full five minutes to assure him that she was fine. He barely seemed to believe that she had just rolled out of bed, and that the noise hadn't been a monster crashing through the boat's outer wall into her room. Leo was easier to get rid of, but she didn't miss that he went right, towards the deck, rather than left to his bedroom. Better safe than sorry, she supposed.
When she was finally alone again, Piper retrieved a pillow and laid back down on the bed. She felt a lot warmer than the first time she'd tried to sleep and, weirdly, more comfortable. With a start, she realised she was wearing Silena's jacket still.
Piper smiled. It wasn't still there by accident. She closed her eyes and curled up on the bed.
"Thank you, Silena."
And, even though Silena hadn't really said anything that really inspired confidence in Piper, she felt more at ease than she had in months.
Piper fell asleep surrounded by the sound of a gentle voice whispering softly to her.
"You are not alone."
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