"There are many who don't wish to sleep for fear of nightmares. Sadly, there are many who don't wish to wake for the same fear." –Richelle E. Goodrich
The last time Percy slept soundly was Damasen's hut. In Tartarus.
When you start wishing that you could go take a nap in Tartarus, you know something's wrong.
You know everything's wrong.
it wasn't percy's fault he couldn't sleep
would you turn off the lights
if you saw your worst nightmares in the darkness?
if the shadows were like a veil,
a curtain, closed when the lights are on
but, yanked aside, takes with it all light and joy and laughter
and leaves only you,
ripped of your armor of lightheartedness
with no glorious pen sword,
no weapon to protect yourself
from your past
from the monsters, the memories that control you
would you wrap yourself up in blankets
if you still remembered what if felt like to be six feet under?
if you still felt the choking, smothering embrace
of mother earth
plotting to rip away
everything you ever had
everyone you ever loved
and keep you alive
just long enough
as you watched the ones you would give up the world for
and know that you should have saved them?
would you lay back and relax
if you still remembered the claws of the arai
digging into your flesh
watching the girl you love
cry your name
over and over
and over again
believing that you abandoned her
believing that you left her alone
in the darkness
and you can't reach her no matter how hard you try
and it almost reminds you of your own life
your own story
because you hope
that everything will turn out alright
that the people whose lives you value above your own
will make it out alright
but it doesn't
and they don't
and somehow you're still left standing
for of what use is a hero that cannot bear the weight of the sky?
and you would give your life a million times over
if it would save them
but you can't
and it won't
and so you're left standing on a street corner
waiting for the day
when your sword doesn't move fast enough
and for once, you're not the last man standing.
just for a change.
would you close your eyes
if the faces of the ones you failed
burned behind your eyelids
every time you even tried?
no. i didn't think so.
Demigods are raised to take care of their own problems.
Be it with their brains, their brawn, or their god-given powers, they're trained to deal with whatever crazy tortures the Fates throw at them.
And they're meant to do it on their own.
One of the first lessons you learn as a demigod is that you can't rely on your parents. They gave birth to you, sure. They might even care for you, if you're lucky. But in the end, we're all just kids, really, and we're fighting and dying in their little family feuds.
If that's not terrible parenting, I don't know what is.
If you're a half-blood, your friends are the only one that can help you when the time comes. And sometimes, even your friends can't help you.
A little voice in the back of your head whispers, "Can't or won't?"
So, as a demigod, the one thing you know for sure is that if you have a problem, you deal with it yourself.
And if you can't deal with it, you ignore it.
Percy's friends thought he was fine. Or, at least, they hoped so.
Deep down, they saw the signs.
They knew what it meant when the circles under his eyes only grew darker, when his smiles and laughs went from easy to forced to nonexistent, when there remained a glow under his cabin door long after everyone else should have been asleep.
When he put Frank in the infirmary during a friendly spar in the name of training.
When he snapped at Hazel, practically his little sister, when she asked him how he slept.
When he pushed away even Annabeth after she asked him to tell her what was bothering him.
They had been trained from childhood to identify threats, to be aware of their surroundings.
Of course they noticed.
Noticed that his had always seemed to be fingering his pants pocket.
Noticed how he never seemed to let his guard down, even around his closest friends.
Noticed how he would disappear for hours alone, the only proof of his absence a pile of decimated dummies in the training room.
But they chalked it up to post-Tartarus stress and hoped it would go away with time.
They didn't even dare to think about what it meant if they were wrong.
Oh, yes, they saw the signs.
They just didn't want to believe in them.
Because it hurt them, it cut their souls to ribbons to admit that their friend wasn't all right.
Maybe it was a little selfish of them.
But when you're fighting a war children were never meant to fight, laying down your lives for those you love, giving everything up to save people you might not ever see again-
Is it so wrong to be a little selfish?
Percy couldn't sleep.
It had nothing to do with the evenings he spent staring at the ceiling until his eyes burned, unwilling to succumb to the blackness because of the river that burned behind his eyelids.
Or the hours he spent capping and uncapping his sword, just for the security of its bronze glow until the sun's rays cast away the hideous palace of night.
Or the nights when the darkness seemed to envelop him, swallow him whole, eat away at him from the inside until the splintering cracks became too much to bear and he didn't go to bed at all.
Nope, it had nothing to do with that. Nothing at all.
(When did he start telling himself lies? No, better question, when did he stop believing in them?)
Contrary to popular belief, a hero's worst enemy is not the monsters.
It's the nightmares.
Review! Let me know what you think!
3/18/16: Updated to fix minor typos.