Author's Note: I know it's been literally forever since I was asked to write this, but I finally found the motivation (and time, haha)! This was a prompt request from DemigodGirl994 asking for Apollo comforting a sad Thalia one-shot! I hope you like it! Also, I have not ready any of the Trials of Apollo stuff so I don't know if his characterization changed during that or whatever – I'm basing this all off of PJO characterization. Read, review, and enjoy!

Disclaimer: I don't own PJO.

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Thalia stumbled to a small grove maybe five minutes or so from the party. She didn't know what was in that punch, but it was definitely alcoholic. Probably some sort of donation from Mr. D. Thalia had never been drunk before. At least, not this drunk. She was starting to think she was a maudlin drunk. Or maybe it was just the situation.

It was supposed to be a party. And Thalia could kind of get the point, too. Apparently, this was a once a decade event where the Hunters would come together for a huge party to celebrate the lives of those they'd lost. The theory was… okay. Artemis wanted them to focus more on how much love and good times they had for and with the deceased than on how sad they were about the loss of the person. And maybe, when Thalia was hundreds or thousands or years old and had lost everyone and had gone to tens or hundreds of parties like this one, she would come to enjoy them, to feel the release of burdens it was meant to incite. Maybe.

But at the moment, she was simply maudlin and drunk and pretty sure she would puke if she had to look at the shrine with all of the names of the dead on it one more time.

Thalia bit back a curse as she tripped on another tree root. Maybe she should sit down. Thalia stumbled a little further into the clearing before she found a wide, sturdy fallen log. That was going to have to be good enough. She slumped onto the improvised seat, headache pulsing at her temples. Was she supposed to get a headache while drunk? That felt wrong. Wasn't drinking suppose to make her happy? She didn't feel happy. She actually felt quite sad. She jumped slightly when a tear hit her tightly clenched fist. Oh… she was crying.

She was still blinking stupidly at that stupid tear when a voice came from the forest, from the opposite direction of the party, "You doing alright, sis?"

Thalia tensed instinctively but relaxed again when she realized it was just Apollo. Sniffing, Thalia dragged a hand over her eyes, futilely trying to hide the evidence of her tears. The thought that she couldn't hide them, that Apollo knew that she was drunk and crying alone in the woods, just made her angry and she pushed her hands even further against her eyes, maybe trying to dry them, maybe trying to claw them out.

Apollo made a startled noise and lunged forward slightly, trapping Thalia's hands and carefully dragging them away from her eyes. Thalia snarled under the grip, the lightest charge she had (probably the strongest she could manage in this state – she tried to ignore the small curdle of helpless fear that formed at the thought) rippling over her skin and jolting Apollo.

He backed away quickly, grinning nervously and holding his arms up by his head in the universal 'I'm innocent' pose. Thalia narrowed her eyes at him. Probably. Things were getting kind of wavy. Apollo watched her warily for a moment. When she didn't say anything, he walked towards her carefully, settling quietly at the edge of the fallen tree Thalia had chosen as a seat. There was quiet for long enough that Thalia's thoughts tempered back to the somber mood they'd been before. Thalia gave out a quiet sniffle and then cursed herself for it when Apollo shifted.

Voice smaller than she'd ever heard from the sun god before, Apollo tried again, "Thalia, seriously, are you okay? It's – it's okay to not be okay but I can't help if you don't talk to me."

Snorting bitterly, Thalia let out the sort of vitriol she'd thought only Luke in his darkest moments was capable of, "Help me? You, a god, helping me, a demigod?"

Apollo flinched again, squeezing his eyes shut and letting a sigh filter out. His shoulders slumped and he dropped his elbows onto his knees, "Thalia, some of us do want to help. I know that Dad makes it hard to tell sometimes since he's so uptight about it all but we're trying."

"Try harder," Thalia snapped.

Apollo gritted his teeth audibly, "I do. Do you think it's easy for me to watch my children, my cousins, my family get hurt and die while I do nothing? I -," Apollo cut himself off, gritting his teeth again.

Thalia sniffled and eyed Apollo wearily. She abruptly decided to answer his original question, "It doesn't feel right to celebrate when we lost so many. I know we're celebrating their lives or whatever and we're showing them how much we cared about them, but it just hurts so much. Why do people keep hurting us? We're not doing anything wrong! We're just trying to live our lives. What did we do to deserve this?"

"You didn't do anything," Apollo assured her, "This isn't a punishment. You're not atoning for anything, I promise."

"Then why?" Thalia cried. She knew she'd be embarrassed when she sobered up but she was just so sad and all her sisters were out there celebrating at a party that Artemis set up. What did Artemis do when demigods were dying? Did she help them? Did she even try? Or did she use the Hunters to distract herself. Her children weren't dying. Maybe she didn't even care. Maybe Thalia had dedicated her life to a woman who cared nothing for the way Thalia had spent her life having everyone she loved torn away from her.

Apollo's voice interrupted Thalia's downward spiral, "There's no good reason." Before Thalia could snap at him again, Apollo continued, "And I know that's not good enough. I know that. But we can't stop the monsters from being reborn. We can't stop them from targeting you. The border Dad set up around the camp is the best we can do. I know that's not enough, but… we're trying. I can't speak for the other gods, but I care about you – about all of you. I love you all because, well, because you're family. I know that recent events haven't really highlighted that as well as it should have. I know that Percy going missing really, really hasn't highlighted that either."

Thalia's jaw clenched at the reminder. Percy had gone missing mere weeks ago. Thalia really would have rather been on one of the many search teams, but this event had seemed mandatory for a lieutenant of Artemis. She probably should have gone with the search teams instead. She felt bad leaving so much of her responsibilities to the other hunters while she went looking for Percy, but she couldn't just leave her cousin hanging. He had saved everyone with his actions just a few short months ago. He had saved Thalia and most of the people she loved. Thalia needed to find him. She wondered if Artemis would allow all of the hunters to help Thalia look. Artemis had a thing against men that Thalia totally understood but would that extend to Percy? She had seemed to like him. Then again, Artemis was a goddess. Did she ever really think about puny demigod lives?

Without her really taking the time to think it through, Thalia blurted, "Does Artemis care about us? Does she love us?" She blushed deeply the second she finished speaking. How could she ask that? Especially to Artemis's brother? She trusted Artemis and she knew that Artemis cared about her. Thalia wouldn't have joined the Hunt if that wasn't the case. But at that moment, drunk and maudlin and more aware than ever about how unfair a demigod's life was, that trust seemed to just slip away.

Apollo's eyes softened at her question and he scooted closer, "Thalia, I swear on the River Styx that Artemis cares about and loves every single one of her huntresses. I swear it."

Those were the words she needed; Thalia broke down into ugly sobs, clutching the front of her shirt as she curled into herself. She felt small and weak and terrifyingly vulnerable, but she was just going to have to hope that no monster was stupid enough to get this close to a party of Artemis's Hunt. Part of her whispered that even if a monster did get close enough, there was a god sat just feet away to protect her. But the larger part of herself had learned a very long time ago to never trust gods to protect you.

"Would she help me find Percy?" Thalia challenged.

Apollo sighed, "I'm not Artemis, Thalia. I can tell you that Percy is a hot topic among the gods right now. A lot of us are looking. If I know my sister, though, I would bet that she's already looking. Have you asked her about it?"

"No," Thalia sighed, "I'm being a coward. I'm too afraid that she's going to say no. Partially I'm afraid because that means that Percy has one less resource being used to find him. The other part of me is afraid because what would it mean about me that I had signed my life away to a person who wouldn't even help me find my cousin? Maybe that's just me being selfish, though."

"No one has ever called you a coward or selfish," Apollo said solemnly, taking Thalia's breath away for a moment before he continued with a conspiratorial wink, "I think even Artemis would be afraid to call you that." Thalia rolled her eyes. Apollo grinned at her before his smile dimmed a little more, "Are you really this upset about Percy's disappearance?"

"It's not right," Thalia ground out, tears prickling at her eyes again, "I don't think any of us have given as much or worked as hard as he has – and this is coming from someone who spent years as a tree recovering from fatal wounds. He's been the subject of a prophecy since before he was born. He was forced to take on such an awful mantle at such a young age. He's had to do awful things and lose important people. He's cursed with more power than a person should ever have to wield. But he got through it. He saved the world and protected as many of us as he could. And now he goes missing? It's not fair! It's not! He doesn't deserve this! And – and for that matter, neither does Annabeth! She's practically a sister to me, did you know that? She was finally happy with Percy! She shouldn't have to lose all of that!" Thalia squinted at Apollo's vaguely stunned reaction and pulled a knife out to wave at him, "And if you tell anyone about any of the things I'm saying, I'll stab you."

"Noted," Apollo said drily. He sighed and rubbed a hand through his hair, "Besides, don't sell yourself short, kid. You've done some pretty amazing things yourself. And you've got power in spades as well. All of you are a pretty powerful generation."

"It should have been me!" Thalia blurted before instantly cursing her traitorous mouth and the evil alcohol she had consumed.

Apollo blinked at her, and when she didn't continue, he asked quietly, "What should have been you?"

"Everything," Thalia cried, "The prophecy, the fight, everything! It should have been me up there fighting Luke! I'm older than Percy! I knew Luke better! I obviously failed when I let these ideas fester back when I knew him so it should have been me! But then I ruined it when I was selfish and accepted Artemis's offer of immortality."

"That is not your fault," Apollo protested, "Fate is set. It would have been Percy no matter what you did. And I'd much rather it be Percy because you became a huntress rather than because you were dead or something. Surely Percy doesn't blame you."

"He doesn't," Thalia affirmed, "But that makes it worse. He should. I – I saw his face when I accepted immortality. I could tell he was trying to hide it, but he realized right in that moment that I had sealed his fate. I did that."

Apollo's eyes softened further, and he closed the distance between them, carefully wrapping his arm around Thalia and tucking her head under his chin, "You did not do that, Thalia. I promise that it would have ended up like that no matter what you did. That's just one of those unfair things. You've done nothing but support and protect Percy. You've done everything you could for him. I'm sorry you're having a hard time seeing how amazing you are. I'm sorry that no one's ever thanked you for how much you sacrificed. You have done so much for the world, Thalia. You're a hero."

Those were the words she hadn't known she was waiting for. Whipping around suddenly, Thalia nearly tackled Apollo in a fierce hug. He squeaked in surprise for a moment before settling around her in a tight hug.

The two of them sat there for a long time, just hugging each other and pouring all of their desperate, sad thoughts into the air around them. Eventually, Thalia slipped into a relaxed sleep, slumping almost into Apollo's lap. He laughed softly and settled her more comfortably over his lap and the fallen tree they were sitting on. He was still looking softly at her when Artemis stepped lightly into the clearing.

For a moment, they were silent before Artemis said softly, "You are good with children."

A muscle in Apollo's jaw jumped but he just asked, "How long were you there?"

"Not long," Artemis promised before adding slyly, "This time." When Apollo glared at her, she rolled her eyes, "I came to check up on her several times. I did not want you to hurt her further."

"Just existing hurts her further," Apollo returned bitterly.

Artemis sighed, settling onto the ground in front of them, "There is nothing we can do about that, brother. We must simply watch over her and help her as much as we can. Starting, I believe, with finding Percy Jackson. I wonder how many of my girls feel the same way she does. I know she has a more personal connection to Percy and the current generation of demigods but there is a chance that he managed to win over more than my and my lieutenant's hearts."

"It shouldn't matter," Apollo growled, "It shouldn't matter if it's upsetting your girls or not. All of us gods should be out here scouring the mortal lands for him! We make the demigods fight for us. We expect them to keep the rest of the mortals safe and sound and then we – we do nothing. We don't acknowledge them. We don't thank them. It shouldn't be their job! They shouldn't be expected to throw their lives away simply because they were born! It's – it's not fair. It's not right."

"You can take that up with Dad if you really want to," Artemis said sarcastically. When Apollo gave her a look, she shrugged, "I don't know what you want me to say, 'Pollo. We're going to be able to do even less for them than we can do now if we try to rebel against Dad's decrees. For my part, I'm going to take care of the people I can, and that's my girls. Do what you can."

"It's not enough," Apollo sighed.

"It has to be," Artemis replied.

Together, they looked at the brave demigod sleeping in Apollo's lap. The world wasn't fair. Not all men were created equal. The demigods got only pain and heartache for existing. It was as heartbreaking as it was impossible to change. Apollo felt a lump rise in his throat and he bowed his head over his half-sister, trying to hold in his sobs. He didn't want to wake her, nor did he want her to wake to see that he had been crying.

Apollo had only come to mess with Artemis a little bit, but when he'd seen Thalia sitting listlessly on that log, he hadn't been able to resist going to see if she was alright. He needed to comfort her, not the other way around.

If this was all he could do for his children, for his siblings, then he was going to do it and do it well. So, Apollo straightened himself up, brushed a lock of hair out of Thalia's face, and told his sister, "Go ahead and return to your party, Artie. I've got her."

For a long moment, Artemis stared at him, considering. Apollo despaired at the clear mistrust Artemis had. That was another thing he had failed at. Artemis had not always been so suspicious of men. If Apollo had just tried harder and paid attention more… but that was in the past and it would not change. He could try to help as much as he could but he was sure that no part of her heart would return to the carefree girl she had once been.

Finally, Artemis nodded to him and slipped off into the night, in the direction of slightly muffled noise from what was probably a grand party. After Thalia's words, Apollo had no desire to see the plaque with the list of dead. He knew that the number of demigods and hunters who died in Manhattan had been unforgiveable.

Gritting his teeth, Apollo made a promise to Thalia. He would not let something like that happen again. He couldn't. He would do what he needed to do to help the demigods, not what his father wanted him to do. He could only hope that it would be enough.

Author's Note: I did not know how to end this, wowza. I know it's super short but, uh, college sucks, haha. I hope you enjoyed it anyways! Thanks for reading!