Challenge: CHB: Capture the Flag Tournament

Round: Five - Once Upon A Time

Cabin and Team: Apollo - Team Red

Prompt: Beauty and the Beast - Write about self-sacrifice.

Bonus Prompts: [object] Throne, [setting] Palace, [dialogue] "That wasn't very friendly."

Summary: "If you seek out the emperor, one of you will die." Jason's life after the breakup with Piper, until the very end.

Word Count: 1744

Fallen From Grace

CW: Major character death and attempted (failed) suicide. Also the mentioned death of a wlw, which admittedly might not be the best choice of action to take when writing.

This fanfiction takes place in the canon universe coupled with the real life timeline (in an AU… for me personally, at least).

Life in Pansenda Valley was a nice change of pace from what his life used to be.

It was definitely more peaceful and quiet. Fewer worries, no quests, no crazy meddling gods and goddesses, no drama. Of course, he still had to worry about things like his personal mission to honour all the gods and goddesses and the odd monster among the staff and student body, and newfound dilemmas like which extra-curricular activities to participate in after class.

He and Piper still talked every once in a while, met up maybe every month to just go out to a cafe and update each other on life. It was hella awkward every time, but they still managed to maintain a decent relationship for a pair of exes.

One last adventure with Piper McLean, through the depths of Southern California.

A maze of word puzzles. A chamber with fiery pools of… essence, lava, he couldn't tell. A young woman bound in burning chains.

If you seek out the emperor, one of you will die.

An ominous message, promising doom to those who took on the quest.

The AP Calculus teacher was exceedingly concerned about politeness and manners. All while talking about limits, differentiation and integration, he insisted on having students ask with mays instead of cans when they wanted to go to the restroom or take a sip of water, and turned around hella slowly whenever he had to write on the whiteboard.

"Mr. Hansen," he raised his hand in the middle of class. "May I speak to you after class?" The teacher gave a stiff nod that seemed more reminiscent of a bow, which only furthered his suspicions.

After class was dismissed, he wasn't going to give the blemmyae a chance to knock him out with his iron head, so he took his chance and stabbed the monster square in the chest (read: between the eyes) with his gladius.

"That wasn't very friendly," was the last thing the blemmyae said before he poofed into a cloud of monster dust.

He was replaced by an Asian woman with a daughter about Julia's age. No one noticed the difference.

Someone had to take on the quest.

He went scouting once, along the southern Californian coast. Tempest took him to Steams Wharf, but he didn't notice anything particularly notable. But he trusted the word of the Sibyl. Maybe he was just unlucky. Or the Fates were just mad at him for going scouting for what would probably be his doom instead of doing his Physics homework.

All the other boys became awfully interested when a substitute teacher took over the position of the humanities teacher, claiming that Ms. Rogers had to "take an extensive leave to take care of her rapidly deteriorating husband". She was quite pretty, but it probably wasn't natural for everyone in his class to volunteer for extra credit whenever she gave out projects, or for a substitute teacher to stay around for months at a time, under normal circumstances. (He also knew that Ms. Rogers had broken up with her girlfriend two weeks prior, and did not a husband at any point in time, nor shown any prior interest in men, so that was definitely something to consider.)

Maybe she's an empousa.

He internally sighed. This was already the fifth monster he had seen on campus since October, it was just that he happened to have not chosen the classes the other three monsters were teaching, or he would have had the chance to kill them all.

But for now, he had to wait. The images in his dreams were only getting more and more nightmarish as the days went by, and he knew the Fates had already snipped his thread (because it wouldn't be Piper's, he refused it to be her).

He really should talk to Annabeth later. He'd made plenty of progress on designing shrines for the many gods and goddesses, so maybe she could give some tips on how to construct them, and how to improve his designs.

The guy who stayed in the dorm room next door, Zachary, asked him before Math class about why he didn't hang out with the rest of the class after school and kept to himself so much. He didn't have much to say other than "having a lot of projects to do". Zachary only shook his head as they entered the classroom, calling him crazy.

It wasn't like Zachary's opinions mattered, nor those of the rest of the class. He just wanted to work on honouring the entire Greco-Roman pantheon before his inevitable untimely demise. And so far, it had been going quite well, just a few more left to design before he finished the list of lesser deities (that he knew of, at least).

Who was it, knocking at the door at Literature class during fourth period? His head turned to the door from his copy of Julius Caesar.

Familiar brown eyes that reflected different colours under the light. Two figures he did not recognize, but knew who they were, Meg McCaffrey and Apollo.

The final adventure awaited.

"Promise me one thing. Whatever happens, when you get back to Olympus, when you're a god again, remember. Remember what it's like to be human."

"I promise. I will try my utmost to remember my human experience, as long as you promise to tell Piper the truth about the prophecy."

"Deal. Speaking of which, the girls are probably waiting."

Piper took the news surprisingly well.

Once again, to Steam Wharf. A chain of yachts, floating palaces on water.

Was this the place where either he or Piper died? (No, it couldn't be Piper, he wouldn't let it be her.) The lavish display of an immortal, sociopathic god-emperor nicknamed "Booties" with more pride than a group of lions?

Their mission didn't quite work out as well as they intended. (Of course, since the life of demigods practically revolved around the principles of Murphy's Law, maybe it shouldn't have been this surprising.)

He and Piper were ambushed the moment they stepped onto the Julia Drusilla XXVI. He tried to fight them off, and she tried to Charmspeak them to leave them alone (just like those days on the Argo II), but the pandai were skillful and fast enough to land a hit on his eye and hold them at arrowpoint, and neither Apollo nor Meg managed to escape from their clutches either.

They passed by Caligula's library, which proudly showed off the McLean family possessions as though to rub in Piper's face who was in charge. He told her that they would take back her family's stuff when they escaped. (He tried not to think of the prophecy: if you seek out the emperor, one of you will die.)

Eventually, they managed to escape (with the pandai conveniently giving them all the instructions on where to go in their antagonistic monologuing, what was this, a novel for kids and teenagers?)... and he utterly gave away their position by sending a lightning bolt down to electrocute half of the pandai in one go.

They agreed to split up after the skirmish, with him and Meg going after Caligula and Piper and Apollo going after his caligae.

Of course, since demigod lives worked oddly similarly to a cliche horror movie, they were all eventually captured, though Apollo did get the shoes they came looking for. At least the mission wouldn't be in vain, as long as they didn't lose them.

He found that he could delay the pain of being cut to pieces by shards of godly metals. Though it didn't really erase the fact that he was slowly being sliced to death by a thousand cuts of celestial bronze and imperial gold, it definitely helped that he could prevent his nerves from sending messages from pain whenever he got cut by shrapnel. Not so much by the fact that he was being contained in a tornado prison. He was a son of Jupiter, a child of the air, so how was this air beyond his control?

Was this how Percy felt when he was drowning in the storm that time they fought with Kym against Polybotes?

Then of course, Caligula started going on his own customary victory monologue from his throne about how he operated on the Exact Words trope… until he slapped Piper. If he could summon another lightning bolt and electrocute Caligula where he stood, he would, but for now he could only settle for concentrating on summoning his strength, to break free, to channel his rage at this… he didn't even know if he could find a word obscene enough to describe the god-emperor.

And then Apollo straight-up threatened to commit suicide, and proceeded to stab that talking arrow of his into his chest.

That was the last straw.

The Julia Drusilla XII exploded. He exploded it, Caligula's throne room. And broke free.

He had accepted the possibility of death months ago.

"I'm Jason Grace. Former praetor of the Twelfth Legion. Son of Jupiter. Child of Rome. But I belong to both camps."

The world was screaming. Wind battered at the debris of the yacht.

Pain was shooting up his limbs with every arrow lodged into his flesh, but what mattered was to buy them time, to let Piper, Meg and Apollo escape from the emperor's wrath.

If you seek out the emperor, one of you will die.

Besides, weren't quests supposed to be partaken by a multiple of three each time? When he and Percy talked about the history of Hercules and Zoe Nightshade back in June last year - gods, it hadn't even been a full year since then - he mentioned that five questers had gone that time, and only three returned alive. Last year, Leo had died (though he did come back) when a quest of seven was issued and taken on. As Herophile had said, one of them was doomed to die on the quest to seek out Caligula, and he had long accepted that this could… would be his final quest.

He turned to Apollo, and told him to remember - what it was like to be human.

Then just like almost a year ago, as Michael Varus had told him, born a Roman, die a Roman, and stabbed him in the back, Caligula did the same. And this time, seeing Tempest carry his fellow questers to shore, away from the emperor, the monster that would be his doom, he went quietly.

For anyone wondering, this whole fic was a last minute thing, and I wrote it in the last twelve hours it was due.

I do not take AP Calculus and barely know anything about the subject. I missed the class that took the Mathematics Extended Modules (which taught Calculus in both) by a few places, so the little I know comes from my STEM-teaching parents. And for anyone wondering, that mentioned little girl about Julia's age would be me, if my parents had moved to SoCal for whatever reason.

And I swear I almost cried writing this. At 2:40am. Send help.

And it's almost an hour later when I posted this. SOS. I need sleep.