I am terrible, guys. I'm so sorry about the long wait. I really do plan on continuing this. If I had a fatal flaw, however, it would be a tendency to have trouble finishing things. And it's the reason why I really should stick with one shots. But I like this story, and I do have plans, so I'll try my hardest to keep at it.
On another note, I have read Blood of Olympus. And because I know I'm going to get at least one question about this: I don't know if I'm going to include Solangelo. If I do, it won't be for a long time. If I go by the assumption that Will is the same age as Nico in canon, then he would be about 8 years old at this point of the story. I am not doing any pairings with an 8 year old. Add on to that the fact that this story is not centered around romance at all, and even Percabeth will probably just be all subtext, and you'd probably be disappointed by the significant lack of it even if I did include it. This may be disappointing or pleasing news, depending on who you are. But that's how it is.
Thank you to all my reviewers: H. M. Dots, duhorcommonsense, itreallyshouldberaventalon, monster of the shadows, funlove109, ObsessedwReading, Guest, Melodramatic Rainbows, Huntress9894, Guest, DarkSolaris57, and AncientTide. You all rock!
Now, here's the promised chapter. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Rick Riordan.
A month had passed since Alecto had shown up, and Nico was becoming overly paranoid.
He had been thrown into the demigod world at a very eventful time, and it hardly let up from there, so he was used to action, danger, and unexpected monster attacks. He was not used to going to class with one of the most powerful demigods of his generation, and ending the day with not one incident. For a month in a row, too. A monster attack would have been a relief by then; heck, he would have welcomed one.
Well, maybe not welcomed. As much as he hated monotony, monsters were still a pain in the posterior.
He was sure his classmates thought he was insane by now, though. He jerked at the slightest noise, and had to fight to stay in his seat whenever a bird flew past the window. One time Nancy Bobofit appeared out of nowhere, reaching out to grab Percy's shoulder, and Nico snapped. He slammed her against a nearby locker, expecting her to transform into a monster, so he'd have an excuse to stick the celestial bronze knife held been keeping in his shoe into her gut. But then five seconds passed, and he was still staring into the terrified face of a twelve year old girl.
He let her go. She left the trio alone for about a week after that.
It wasn't much consolation, but at least Nico didn't seem to be the only one who was going crazy. Percy was faring even worse than him. As a person completely unfamiliar with the mythological world, the Mrs. Dodds incident did more than merely throw him for a loop – he had absolutely no idea what was going on. It didn't help that every single person at that school other than him and Nico were convinced there was no such thing as Mrs. Dodds.
He appeared to be trying – and failing – to convince himself that it was all just a big trick being played on him by the whole school. Every once in a while he'd mention Mrs. Dodds, watching the people around him as if to gauge their reactions. Whatever he was looking for, he didn't get – everyone just stared at him like they were mentally calculating the distance to the nearest mental hospital.
When Percy confided this to Nico, he responded with, "How is that strange? I think that all the time when I look at you."
Percy didn't appreciate that.
The most agonizing part of the next month was that Nico had no clue when to expect something else to happen. Not for the first – or last – time, he felt a surge of annoyance towards Chronos. The god could have told him something about Percy's adventures. The only thing he knew was that they were going to happen soon. Not much to go on there.
Alright, maybe he couldn't place all the blame on the time god. He could have paid better attention when it was talked about in his time. He was sure people had at least mentioned it. But he couldn't be expected to listen to every little thing his peers vocalized so that he'd be prepared when he went and time traveled. Especially not with his pitiful attention span.
He decided to mentally go over the facts in his head. His dad was involved; the appearance of Alecto confirmed that. He knew that Percy went on his first quest at around this age, so something must have happened to act as a catalyst to send him to camp, and whatever it was, it was going to happen very, very soon. Or maybe it already happened; maybe it was Alecto's attack that alerted them that he was in danger, but "Mr. Brunner" didn't want him to miss finals, so he decided to wait to send him to camp.
No, wait, that would have been stupid. And as stupidly optimistic Chiron could be sometimes, he was intelligent enough not to put something like that off. So they probably thought he wasn't in enough danger yet for them to go against his mom's wishes and force him to camp. And if an attack from one of Hades' personal servants didn't qualify as dangerous enough to them, whatever was coming up that finally spurred them into action was going to be quite possibly big, and most definitely life threatening.
And in a sudden realization, Nico recalled the horrible weather that had been plaguing New York for the past month. Zeus and Poseidon were both furious about something, if that was any indication. And Percy was involved. The most logical assumption would be that Zeus had discovered Poseidon had broken the oath, and was trying to kill Percy. But he knew it wasn't close to being as simple as that. He strongly doubted Chiron would send Percy on a quest if that was the only reason his life was in danger. It would have been an unthinking and purely idiotic move. So there must be another factor, he concluded.
All he could do now was wait, and hope that some new information would be revealed to him before everything hit the fan.
Percy needed to talk to Nick.
Hearing the conversation between Grover and Mr. Brunner didn't clear anything up for him. If anything, it only cemented his belief that all that with Mrs. Dodds had actually happened, creating more questions for him that weren't being answered. And as Nick was the only other person who knew what Percy was talking about whenever he mentioned the former math teacher (barring Grover, who was insistent upon lying about his lack of memory), he figured he could confide in him. He had suspicions that his friend knew more than what he was letting on, so he thought that he would maybe be able to make heads or tails of everything.
He confronted him the morning before finals. "I need to tell you something," he said to him.
Nick looked dubious. "If this is still about the 'Nobody remembers Mrs. Dodds' thing, I think you've told me enough about it. Me, and everyone else in the school."
"It's not that," Percy protested, then paused. "Well, I guess it's a little but about that, but not enough to be really considered about it. It's actually more about Grover and Mr. Brunner, and secret conversations in his classroom in the middle of the night."
Nick eyed him, and Percy knew his attention was piqued. "Tell me."
He did. He explained how Grover was worried about him leaving for the summer, and seemed to think that he was in some sort of danger. He also mentioned their use of the term 'Kindly One', and how they mentioned something about a summer solstice deadline-
Nick jumped slightly. "What did you say?" he demanded.
Percy blinked. "'Kindly One'. Yeah, I know. It's weird, and to make things worse, apparently they're at the school. Although if they're kindly, I don't see anything to worry about. They'll probably just give away free cookies or something. Speaking of cookies-"
"Percy." Nick rolled his eyes, exasperated. "I meant about the summer solstice. Something about a deadline?"
"Oh." He didn't see how that was more interesting than a mysterious person who gives away cookies, but decided to humor him anyways. "Yeah, Mr. Brunner said something about not wanting to rush me, then Grover said something about the deadline, then Mr. Brunner said they'd have to fix it without me." And then, because Percy was really starting to get hungry: "You know, my mom makes these really good chocolate chip cookies."
Nick said, "Oh, really," but Percy could tell he wasn't really listening to him anymore. His eyes were glued to a spot over his shoulder, and he had to turn around a few times to make sure no one was standing directly behind him.
"What are you looking at?" he eventually asked, because he couldn't for the life of him see what was so fascinating about that wall.
Nick blinked. "Nothing," he muttered.
Percy didn't believe him. But he let it go, because there was one more thing he needed to tell him. "They mentioned you, too, you know."
"What did they say?" He didn't look too surprised, but interested enough that Percy knew he had his attention again.
"And what about Nick?" Grover asked.
There was a slight pause before Mr. Brunner's voice came again, sounding more uncertain than before. "I must admit, I did not expect another one here. If he is powerful, then both he and Percy may be in more danger than I originally predicted. We may not be able to afford to wait any longer."
"What do we do, then?" Percy could hear the palpable nervousness in Grover's voice. "I – I can't fail my duties again, sir. You know what would happen."
"For now, we should just concentrate on keeping the two of them alive until fall-"
"And that was when I dropped my textbook, and had to hide so they wouldn't know I was there," Percy finished.
Nick's shoulders lost some of their tension, and he groaned. "Great timing there, Perce. Really." He rubbed his temples. "I need to think about this."
"What do you think it means?" Percy asked, because he really was at a complete loss.
Nick looked up at him solemnly. "I think we'll find out soon enough."
The last day of school couldn't have come sooner for Nico. It was both worrisome and a relief, because he knew it might be the last day of normalcy he would have for a long time. Scratch that – it would be the last day of normalcy. And he didn't know how he felt about that.
He, Percy and Grover were all riding the same bus back to Manhattan. Nico told them he had some distant relatives that lived there he could stay with, which was only a half lie, as the gods technically did live in the Manhattan area, although he wasn't staying with them. No way in Hades would he ever do that. Not even if the underworld froze over.
The truth was, he was counting on some dangerous thing happening before that so he could just be whisked off to camp with no hassle. If nothing did happen, well, he could always just occupy himself on the streets of NY for a little while.
Grover was his usual twitchy self throughout the bus ride, and although it wasn't anything odd, Percy seemed more bothered by it than usual, as if he knew the difference between "normal" Grover, and "slightly more nervous than normal" Grover. Nico knew he himself couldn't; heck, if he hadn't already known that that Grover knew there was a high possibility of them being attacked, he wouldn't have noticed anything out of the ordinary.
Then Percy opened his mouth, and Nico knew he was going to say something stupid.
"Percy, don't-" he began.
"Looking for Kindly Ones?" Percy said.
Grover jumped about five feet into the air, and Nico groaned, mentally face-palming. I can't believe how much of an idiot he can be sometimes.
Percy then went on to explain how he had heard Grover and Mr. Brunner's conversation that one night. "I honestly didn't hear much," he said. " . . . What's the summer solstice deadline?"
Grover opened his mouth, but Nico interrupted him. "And don't even try to lie out of it this time. You're a terrible liar."
"It's true," Percy agreed. "You're a really bad liar."
Grover turned red in embarrassment. "I – I wasn't going to-" He seemed to notice their unamused faces, because he stopped, his eyes flitting around the bus. "Listen, not here, okay?" He handed them each a card. "If you have any questions, I'll be here. You can come find me."
Nico didn't even bother reading the card. It hurt his eyes to just look at it. Whoever invented cursive, may they burn in the Fields of Punishment until their skin peels off and their eyes turn black and melt like marshmallows being held over a roaring fire and their scream echoes around the underworld for millions of years and-
Percy was squinting at the card, his head cocked like a puppy's. "What's Half-"
"Don't say it!" Grover squeaked in a moment of panic. "It's my, uh, summer address."
Nico stared at him. "Dude, you have a summer home? Screw my relatives; I'm coming with you." He glanced at Percy, who had a slightly downcast expression on his face – from what, Nico didn't know. "Are you coming with?"
He shook his head. "Nah. My mom's waiting for me." He turned back to Grover. "So, I can just come visit your mansion anytime I feel like it?"
"Yeah. Or... if you need me."
Percy blinked. "Why would I need you?"
Sometimes, Nico was surprised at how insensitive Percy could be at times. He supposed it came with the territory, as probably the only demigods who really watched what they said were children of Athena. And Athena kid, Percy ain't. But it seemed that he had developed some small level of control as he got older, control he obviously didn't have now.
Grover didn't answer Percy. He just turned a red shade and stared down at his lap.
"Grover," Percy said, "What is going on here?"
He never got an answer. Black dust came from the dashboard and a rancid smell filled the bus. Nico tensed, his hand reaching toward his shoe in case a monster jumped them in the confusion. Grover was probably equally wary, although you couldn't tell past his constant coughing.
Anticlimactically, nothing happened. As they all got off the bus and had to wait while the bus driver fixed the bus, Nico kept a careful watch of his surroundings, ready for one of the passengers to transform into a three headed beast. The only thing he saw out of the ordinary was a small fruit stand with a few old ladies across the street, knitting ginormous socks that would probably fit a titan-
-And all staring right at him.
Nico couldn't believe his rotten luck. Out of all the things he could have run into, it had to be the Fates. He should have known he'd attract their attention, what with him not even supposed to be there. He'd just have to keep Grover from seeing them-
Too late. Grover was as white as a sheet, his eyes switching back and forth between Nico and the Fates. "They're looking at you," he said hoarsely. "Please tell me they're not looking at you."
Percy cocked an amused eyebrow at Nico. "I think they are, Nick. Weird, huh? Think I could fit into those socks?"
"Your feet or your body?" he answered absentmindedly, his mind a mile away. Upon closer inspection, it seemed the old ladies weren't knitting the socks at all – it was more as if they were unraveling them.
Then they opened their mouths and spoke, in a cacophony of scratchy voices Nico could somehow hear with perfect clarity, even though they were whispering from fifty feet away.
"The clock has turned backwards before the end.
The king of ghosts is to change what's written.
All that was predetermined is now unsure,
And only one holds the keys to the future."
When last word escaped their mouth, they were only holding a bundle of yarn no longer recognizable as a sock. Nico realized he had been holding his breath the whole time, and let it out shakily.
Percy blinked. "Did you guys hear that, or was it just me?" he asked slowly, uncertainly.
Grover's eyes were wide, and he was quivering like he was going to collapse. "Change of plan, guys," he said faintly. "Neither of you are going home. You're both coming straight to camp with me."