Disclaimer: Nope, just a fanfiction writer. I would be a man, if I owned it, wouldn't I? So nope.
Story: What if Percy was a little older, and female? What if, at an older age, she wasn't the impressionable 12 year old that easily changed his life for others, but had her own plans, designs? And mind you, nice and sweet as she is, underneath she isn't all that forgiving…
Set AU for "The Lightning Thief", genderbending.
Spoilers: Definitely for the first book for now.
Warnings: Cursing and violence for now…hm, just in case since I'm usually writing it, bit of crazy humor, perverted humor, morbid or sarcastic humor, and maybe some sexual situations…
Pairings: Ares/Percy, Hermes/Percy, Apollo/Percy, semi-platonic (semi-not) Luke/Percy (mostly friendship, one-sided romance), Poseidon/Sally, Hades/Persephone, one-sided Annabeth/Percy, one-sided Clarisse/Percy, Annabeth/?, Clarisse/?, Dr. Chase/Athena…

The Light Before We Land
Chapter Nine: I'm Still Caged Inside (Can't Control Myself)

"Annabeth, do you remember anything?"

The Daughter of Athena shook her head, "Not much. Probably because I didn't do much. As soon as Grover and I got in, they gave us these cards and we kind of just drifted to the games. Once I reached that architect sim game, I pretty much stuck to that and did nothing."

"Same here," Grover mumbled.

Percy inhaled sharply, telling them how she ate the flower and then remembered nothing until she "woke up" in the middle of a club in the hotel, with no idea what was going on or how'd she gotten there.

"Maybe…maybe because it was harder for you to be lured in, they gave you the Lotus Flower to eat. Grover and I just had to smell the air conditioning and then see the games and everything else that looked inviting, and then we were hooked," Annabeth suggested.

"Well, at least we're out. I have to get gas for this thing if I'm driving all the way to Santa Monica. That's a 300 mile trip, so I'll head to a gas station right before I get on the ramp to I-515 North," Percy told them, still feeling edgy and tense.

"…Sooo, Percy, why are you wearing a mini dress?" Grover asked. Annabeth nodded.

Percy freaked out. "I don't know! I told you all of a sudden I woke up wearing this in a club! I have no clue what happened from the time I ate that Lotus Flower dish to waking up then!" And she continued on, working herself into a rant.

Grover shook his head. "Don't worry about it," he told Annabeth. "She gets like that sometimes. Like back in Yancy, exam time is the worst. She's fine with big tests and whatever, but when it's exam time at the end of the year, for some reason she starts freaking out. The only other thing that works her up like this is competitions. There are some other stuff, but those are rarer and not all the time. Like withholding food, but she doesn't panic all the time about it. It's just weird occasions when for some reason she does."

"So she gets OCD about things?"

"Yup."

"I have a phobia of spiders," she offered to Percy, who had finally stopped ranting.

Percy blinked. "Oh, so that's why you didn't like the mention of metal spiders with sharp pointy ends to their limbs and would have bit and scratch like hell if I'd let them."

Annabeth shivered and glared, "Yeah."

"Ah."

"Gas station to your right," Grover interrupted, and Percy immediately pulled into it.

She parked and then addressed the others. "You guys can go out, stretch your legs, whatever."

They nodded and left and Percy breathed out a sigh of relief. The whole time, she felt like the car was pressing in on her and she felt like she couldn't breathe. Not knowing what had happened had grated on her, and she was antsy about what she couldn't remember.

She grabbed Ares' backpack, with the first thing in view was the leather duster she'd gotten from Ares folded up neatly on top of everything. She took that out and saw everything else, plus her clothing that she'd been wearing the entire time on her Quest. She got those out in relief, before freezing. There was a new addition that she knew hadn't been there before.

She shakily reached in and grabbed the red wraparound shades, holding them tightly in her hand.

Percy dazedly leaned back in her seat, staring at it.

Well, she was definitely not going to tell the other two that Ares apparently had had a hand in helping her and getting them out. What was she going to say? How was she going to explain Ares' involvement anyway? Especially since she couldn't remember anything.

She shoved the shades back into the bag before deciding to rummage through it and see if there was anything else she missed and might give her more of an explanation. She found a piece of paper and eagerly dug it out, before reading it and turning incredulous.

Checked in on you, saw you in hotel. Helped you out, so you owe me. Wanted to just spend some time with you, so didn't get you out quickly –still left you a lot of time before deadline. –Ares :)

She started laughing hysterically, wondering what in the hell was wrong with that man. The scribbled note had her staring in disbelief at the audaciousness, and the sheer simplicity and vagueness (with such a lack of details)of the note had her frustrated and blinking in shock at his nonchalance and casual wording. That he was so blasé about it all had her irritated.

Mostly, she was just in disbelief that he wrote such a simple note that was so blunt and yet told her nothing.

"Are you kidding me? What kind of note was that! It's s-so stupid! Checked in on me…why would he need to check in me? And can't you help out of the goodness of your heart! And spending time with me, what in the –…and being so careless about a deadline! He may not care, but I do care about it! It's my deadline! You don't mess around with deadlines!" she ranted.

And that smiley face

She had spent a whole minute just staring at that again, unable to believe its presence or wonder what would possess him to draw a smiley face after his name.

And she couldn't get over how the note was so freakin' careless, offhand, carefree, laid-back, cavalier, and ooh! She could just go on.

The candid note just had her reeling, so she settled for giggling in a constant state of disbelief and rolling her eyes in amazement. But she went back to ogling the smiley face. That she couldn't get over. It was just…seeing the smiley face there was just so funny and weird and just outrageous, especially accompanying such a lackadaisical, dumb note.

"What an incomplete, fragmented, choppy note," she muttered.

The smiley face…

"ARGH!" she yanked at her hair, stomping out of the car and heading to the gas pump.

She huffed as she set up the gas, hesitating before she took her LotusCash card and swiped it, blinking when it worked. Then she went back into the car to wait, crossing her arms sulkily.

"Stupid note, stupid Ares, and stupid dress."

She grabbed her leather pants, yanked that on, and then started to pull off her dress. With that off, she grabbed her shirt and put it on, pulling the suspenders up. She put the rest of her outfit on, before glancing up. She blinked.

The guy in the car opposite her was staring back dazedly.

Just then, Grover and Annabeth came back and the gas tank was finally filled. She hurriedly got out and returned the pump, before driving away with a red face and not explaining anything to the others.

When that was being done, Poseidon was eagerly waiting for news of his daughter, staring once again at his photo of her. Any day now, he would be getting news of her whenever she reached the Santa Monica Pier. He just had to wait and be patient.

"Are you staring at that photo again?" a woman asked him in disdain.

He frowned, "She's my daughter, Amphitrite. I would like to be able to see her whenever I could, so a photo will have to do."

She rolled her eyes, gesturing to one of his subjects.

"He would like a word with you on a section of the palace that needs reconstruction," she said coldly.

Poseidon sighed and nodded, following him. She sneered before catching sight of the photo laying face down on Poseidon's throne. She picked it up and frowned, narrowing her eyes at the photo.

"Tch, so this is his brat."

She held it delicately in both of her hands before ripping it in half.

"Oops," she smirked.

She turned and left the pieces behind. Unknown to her, her son had been watching curiously. He swam closer, picking up the pieces and putting them together, looking at it. He scowled at it, but the more he stared at the delicate features of his half-sister and examined her soft smile or the light in her eyes, he felt odd. His lips involuntarily twitched slightly upwards.

"Triton!"

Startled, he dropped the pieces of the photo and saw his angry father.

"I didn't do it," he correctly guessed the start of his father's fury. "Mom did. I was just looking at it."

Poseidon calmed slowly, sighing. "Perhaps I should not have stared at it so often. I should go see Hermes to see if he can conjure another copy," he said dejectedly.

His father walked away and Triton bent down and picked up the pieces again. He swam to his room and found godly tape that he used to tape the two pieces together. Too bad godly powers didn't work on Hermes products, for Olympus copyright reasons. He safely tucked the photo in his desk, before swimming back out for his sword lesson.

Poseidon, meanwhile, had teleported to Olympus to find Hermes.

The messenger god was in the "bachelor pad" he, Apollo, and Ares had made for themselves to hang out in as the three unmarried Olympian gods. Right now, he and Apollo were ganging up on Ares.

"Dude, we so don't know why we let you in here," Apollo snickered. "Can you really even be a bachelor with us? Aphrodite is your girlfriend, married to ol' Hephaestus or not."

Ares grunted, "She's not my girlfriend…"

Hermes' eyebrows rose, "You never had a problem with her being called that before. In fact, I thought she really was…"

The war god's face flushed red and he was about to retort back defensively when they were interrupted with the woman herself, leading in Poseidon.

"Here they are, Poseidon," Aphrodite gave a sly smile.

"Hermes," Poseidon gave a strained smile. "I was wondering if you had another copy of my daughter's photo. The one I had…met an unfortunate end because of Amphitrite," he grimaced.

Hermes hesitated, "I'll…look."

Aphrodite's eyes glinted and she laughed superficially, "Don't be silly, Hermes. Don't you have that copy with you?"

He glared at her, before turning and giving a strained smile to Poseidon as he handed him the photo, reluctantly taking it out and giving it over.

"Ah, yes. Must have slipped my mind," he gritted his teeth.

"Thank you…only," Poseidon's grateful smile froze. "What are you doing with a second copy of the photo of my daughter and carrying it around?"

Hermes refrained from swallowing, looking nervously at the sea god.

"A-Apollo warned me that I might need to have a second copy, so I had it just in case," he didn't look at Apollo as he answered.

Apollo's eyes slightly widened, but he put his face to normal and gave a bright grin to Poseidon.

"Yeah, that's right," he lied.

Poseidon accepted that and left with Aphrodite following with a pout.

"So the God of Truth lies again," Ares drawled.

Apollo glared at him, "I'm not exactly bound to tell the truth myself, though I know when I'm being lied to." He turned to Hermes, staring intensely, "Now tell me what's up."

Hermes grimaced, "I can't exactly tell Poseidon I've been carrying it around, much less that I had a copy of his daughter's photo for myself. You've seen how he's slowly becoming extremely protective of her, even if he's not fully aware of it. He'd kill me."

As the two talked, Ares stayed quiet. He twitched anxiously, hoping no one would find out about his little outing to Vegas, and that he'd taken some liberties when it came to the Daughter of Poseidon. He wiped his hands on his pants, licking his lips tensely. He would be in trouble with more than just Aphrodite if that came out, not to mention Aphrodite would make that girl's life hell –and he didn't want that at all.

So what if he decided to check in on her? Good thing that he did, or else she would have been stuck in that hotel forever, or at least be in there way too long that her deadline would pass. And so what if he decided to spend some time with her first, inappropriately taking advantage of her slightly intoxicated and for the moment easily susceptible nature? He made sure not to be too invasive and had controlled himself, which was quite unlike himself to do so.

There was no way in Tartarus he wanted that little tidbit out, or else he knew there would be some consequences.


"Make sure your fingers are positioned correctly," Percy told Grover, driving while instructing him on how to play his reed pipes.

"I still don't know how you manage to teach Grover how to play. Last I remember, he couldn't play a thing in tune, and everyone had agreed he was hopeless," Annabeth told her.

Percy shrugged, "He just needed to know the basics."

"And a whole lot more," Grover rolled his eyes. "She taught me most of what I know of playing back at Yancy, and I know enough to learn the songs she teaches me. I taught myself a few songs too, but eh…you know how that turned out…"

He glanced at her as she started muttering under her breath about Hilary Duff and something about the "classics".

"At least I can now play my satyr songs acceptably," he told Annabeth.

"You should teach me how to play those," Percy cut in.

Grover brightened up, "Sure! Hey, I can play now, and you can learn by ear. You're good at hearing notes and learning them that way, right?"

Percy nodded and he started to play. By the time they'd finished the basics of satyr songs, they'd finally reached the Santa Monica Pier. Once there, she immediately walked into the filthy waters, ignoring the frantic calls from her friends, and quickly encountered a mako shark that bid her to hang onto it. Soon enough, she was speeding down to come face to face with the river spirit she'd met back at the Arch.

Once again, she stared at the Nereid, who watched her calmly back.

"You have done well, Perseas Jackson," she murmured.

She stayed quiet.

"You have come far, and for that I thank you. We all know how you detest your father and the gods. But you must heed his help for this time," she warned her urgently.

Percy gave her an acknowledging nod.

"I have seen your kind before, back when I used to stay on Montauk beach," Percy gazed at her in calm interest. "You and others like you…"

"We have watched you for many years. There has not been a child of Poseidon for a long time, much less a daughter, Perseas."

Percy didn't answer, merely stared.

"I will cut to the point, as I know you do not wish to dawdle and waste time," the Nereid reluctantly started. "You need these pearls, for they will return you to any body of water you wish to go to. We know you go to the Underworld and not many come back. There are heroes who have –"

"And who have special talents," Percy interrupted, still disturbingly calm. "I do not have a specific talent that will get me out."

The Nereid nodded, "And we –Poseidon –gift you and your friends these pearls for a safe return. You only need to crush them at your feet and think of the body of water you wish to go to."

She handed them to Percy, who slowly accepted them, gazing down at the precious pearls with an odd look on her face.

"Remember to not trust the gifts," the Nereid reminded her.

"I'll try to remember that," Percy replied stoically, not looking up.

The Nereid hesitated, but Percy spoke up once more.

"If he's so interested in me, why isn't he here?" Percy sneered, finally looking up with a dangerous and cool gaze.

Alarmed, the Nereid was about to answer when Percy kicked upwards and started swimming up without giving her time to reply.

As soon as she reached land, she reiterated everything back to her friends, before handing them a pearl each.

"Take one and don't argue," Percy ordered. "Crush them at your feet when I tell you to, and don't argue then either."

The two looked mutinous, but Percy shut them down with a look.

"Annabeth, I want you to tell me again what we will come across in the Underworld and all the gossip you can about it and the people there."

Turns out, there was a lot of interesting stuff to be told. But there were some information that she'd picked out that she knew was extremely useful. That's why she drove to Sparky's Pet Grooming at 9221 W Olympic Blvd in Beverly Hills, on the way to their destination in West Hollywood. After she was done there, she took another stop in Beverly Hills nearby, pausing at Emporio Armani Boutique at 9533 Brighton Way.

"Hello, may I have some assistance here?" she called out.

A well-dressed and cared for man appeared, smiling at her patronizingly, though his eyes did rove up and down her body. She arched an eyebrow at him.

"I'm looking for a nice suit for a friend of mine," she gave a sharp smile. "Can you help me?"

"Can you pay?" he purred, smirking.

"Do you ask all your customers if they can?"

He echoed the arched eyebrow, "You're a little too young to be able to afford these suits, sweetheart."

"We'll see about that," she said haughtily, narrowing her eyes with a reflected smirk. "Though I guess I'm not too young to be ogled at."

He gave a half-shrug, "Like all merchandise, look but don't touch."

"And yet most merchandise do get touched. How else are they tested and eventually bought?" she replied wryly.

"But expensive and more fragile pieces don't."

"Unless you're anal enough to really care."

He barked out a laugh, mockingly bowing and sweeping an arm around the store. She huffed and went forward first.

So he began to politely show her around, and she listened with half an ear, the other listening to the radio broadcast in the background.

"Hey! I gave the Percy Jackson a ride to the Greyhound station!"

"When exactly was this, sir?"

"You know –that Greyhound incident? I was the one who drove her and her charges to the Greyhound station, where they got on that bus. See, they were walking along the highway, and they hitched a ride from me."

"There it is, folks. Also, the Greyhound Station is reportedly near Percy Jackson's home. If anyone has any more information on this missing, allegedly undercover agent, please call this number. We need to find the truth and find this young woman, who may be way in over her head."

"How about that one?" Percy pointed out the suit that caught her eye, at the same time smirking in amusement from the broadcast.

The man shrugged, "It is a very fine piece. A micro-pinstripe, slim fit, single-breasted, two-button suit. It's a fair ensemble, pricing modestly at $1,395."

She whistled, "That's what you call modest, eh? Perfect. I'll take the marine."

His eyebrows rose in disbelief.

"I can pay for it," she assured him, though inwardly she wasn't sure even if she didn't show it.

He took the suit and brought it to the counter, her following and catching a glimpse of the front of the newspaper.

'Percy Jackson saves captive animals from illegal haulers!'

She hid her snicker in a cough, missing the odd look the man gave her. She handed over the LotusCard cash, hoping it would work here too, and nearly burst into grateful laughter when it worked and the man's eyes widened.

"Well…I guess I was wrong," he hid his wince.

"Lucky for you, I'm not usually anal about that stuff," she gave a triumphant smirk, collecting her purchase. "By the way, can you give me a head start before alerting the authorities?"

He blinked in confusion before she set off quickly, not wanting to stick around when he got back to the newspaper and realized he'd just served the 'Percy Jackson'.

In the car, she put the suit back into the dark scarlet bag and then remembered her own backpack that Annabeth's been carrying for her ever since she'd gone off to get Ares' shield. Her broadswords were safely in there, as well as everything else, but she put aside the swords so she could sling it across her back later. She drove to West Hollywood, with no luck on finding DOA Recording Studios.

"Alright, we're going to get out and split up and see if we can find directions. Annabeth, can you keep my backpack for a little longer and keep it safe?"

When Annabeth nodded, Percy parked and then they got out and split up. On the way around, she found a TV on display in a storefront, with her stepfather talking to Barbara Walters. She was enraged and nearly went in there to grab the TV and take her fury out on it when it cut to the news, and she saw another familiar face. This time it was the waiter who had served her at that diner.

"You served Percy Jackson, right?"

The waiter frowned and shook his head. "No, I have no idea what you're talking about."

The reporter stared. "We have multiple witnesses saying that Percy Jackson dined here and that you were her waiter. Are you saying differently, even with so many saying that you did?"

The waiter stubbornly shook his head again, "Sorry, I was serving a nice Southern belle." He clamped his mouth shut and turned away.

"I'm sorry, sir…but are you denying serving her? Even your boss has said you have; you even served her when your shift was over!" the reporter was clearly disbelieving.

"Don't listen to him, he's crazy. He doesn't know what he's talking about. And everyone is being delusional. I served no one yesterday," the waiter declared.

"But you were at work yesterday."

"Yes."

"Then how can you not be serving?" the reporter was starting to get frustrated.

"I was being lazy, like usual. I loitered around in the back," the waiter shrugged indifferently. "I have no idea what you're talking about. I don't know a Percy Jackson."

"What about that 'nice Southern belle' you were talking about?"

"I don't know who you mean. I was slacking off yesterday. I didn't serve anyone."

"But you just said –!"

Percy walked away laughing, her anger cooled off. That good ol' waiter. She should've tipped him more.

After a fruitless search, a run in with idiot rich kids playing at being bad boys (whom she promptly beat up and left in a pile), she ran into a weird bed store, hearing familiar screams of help. She broke into the place-with-a-name-she-couldn't-decipher, and stared at the scene. Annabeth and Grover were being stretched on waterbeds with this tall guy leaning over them, muttering about making them fit, saying 'ergo' while snapping his fingers and more ropes sprung up to tie her friends to the beds. Silently, she snuck up behind him and stood behind him nonchalantly.

"Hey, semi-brother," she greeted.

Then she kicked him towards a bed and snapped her fingers, saying "Ergo!"

"Hey, hey! Who are you?" The gray-skinned giant of a man glared at her.

Percy blinked, "I don't care much for Greek heroes, 'cause they usually are too self-absorbed and egotistical for me, but I do know them and their methods. Didn't Theseus, our other semi-brother, like kill you the same way you took care of your victims? Like the Herculean way of violence-returned-violence or something? Because if so, I'm not going to feel sorry for this," she then used her broadswords and swung them crossly, cutting through him and making him disappear in a golden shower of dust.

Getting Annabeth and Grover out, she examined the place.

"Cool beds though," she commented.

Annabeth and Grover grabbed a cheek each and pulled sideways.

"Jerk! Could've got us out faster," Annabeth muttered.

"At least Crusty's gone," Grover sighed in relief.

"Ew. Who was crusty?" Percy blinked.

"What do mean –you know, Procrustes? The monster you just took cared of?" Grover asked incredulously.

"Who? I have no idea who you're talking about," Percy said blissfully.

"You called him your semi-brother –!"

"Oh, look, I think I may see some useful flyers," Percy interrupted, drifting away from them.

Grover mimicked strangling someone, twitching.

"Sometimes…I swear…"

Annabeth just sighed.

"Nice! I found a flyer for DOA! Horrible color though. Who does bright orange? Other than Naruto, I mean. And he's a fictional character," Percy snarked.

"We got an address?" Annabeth asked her when she came back holding the flyer.

"We got an address," Percy grinned. "And it's just a block away. Hi ho, let's go, my merry pirates!"

Percy led the way out, clutching also a stolen coin bag that had once belonged to Crusty's, though she did glance at the 'Million-hand massage' waterbed in interest.

"First Spartans, now we're pirates?" Annabeth grumbled.


Percy parked right in front of DOA Recording Studios, having Annabeth carry her backpack just in case, and carrying the dark red backpack herself. She made sure she'd transferred everything of hers into her own backpack, while keeping the stuff she'd just bought in Ares' backpack. All three of them entered the gloomy looking building, seeing a tall, elegant man with chocolate-colored skin, bleached-blond hair shaved military style, and wearing a silk Italian suit that matched his hair and tortoiseshell sunglasses to go with the ensemble.

Percy did the only sensible thing to do at that moment.

"Ohh, are those Dolce and Gabbana?"

"You noticed?" he grinned, shifting his shades. "These were on sale last Tuesday. Fabulous price, and I say –don't they look dashing on me?"

"Very," she nodded her head. "And the suit! More than fabulous. The black rose pinned to your lapel? A very nice touch."

"I know, right? Italian suits are just incredibly divine. And thanks, love. I try to be fashionable in this day and age."

Percy nodded agreeably again, "That accent of yours matches the style remarkably. Is it a British accent, sir?"

"Charon, love," he gave her another toothy grin. "Yes, it is. I've been trying to emulate the James Bond persona. I think I make a good Brit."

"Absolutely," Percy smiled. "A perfect James Bond. Too bad they haven't casted a Bond with your nationality and skin color, Charon. You would be a perfect cast then."

"Oh, wouldn't that be grand?" he sighed. "But Daniel Craig's been brilliant."

She echoed his sigh.

"Uh, Percy?" Annabeth interrupted uncertainly.

"A moment, Annabeth," Percy said silkily. "Let the grownups talk."

The blonde blinked while Grover just looked on in amusement.

"Now, Charon. We would like to get into the Underworld," she smiled sweetly.

"What a refreshing change. No screaming, no 'This is a mistake!', blah, blah, blah. How'd you little dead ones die, love?"

Percy sniffled, "It was tragic. Little Annabeth there was run over by a speeding zebra in Vegas, and Grover…dear Grover liked alcohol a little too much, even at that young age. Alcohol poisoning for him."

Grover twitched while Annabeth looked lost.

"And I?" Percy continued dramatically. "You wouldn't believe it."

"Try me," Charon leaned closer, looking suitably sympathetic and horrified.

"I…" Percy sobbed. "I was smothered to death by my evil stepdad Gabe Ugliano. He always did have it out for me," she hid her face.

"There, there," he leaned over his raised podium and patted her back. Then he tensed and moved back, staring at them intensely. "You're live ones, aren't you?" he took a sniff. "Godlings, too."

Percy quit her act and straightened, staring back coolly with a playful smile.

"Ah well. Let's cut to the chase, shall we? We need to get to the Underworld," Percy tugged Annabeth closer, ruffling through her bag for the bag of drachmas from Medusa and taking out another bag from the backpack she got from Ares. She opened one and took a single drachma out, watching as Charon's gaze watched the action closely. "I bet Hades doesn't pay you enough."

"No, not at all," he followed the drachma that Percy was rolling across her knuckles. "In fact, you have no idea. I have to sit here, babysit these wankers all day, especially having to listen to all their whinging. It's always the same thing –'Please don't let me be dead' or 'Please let me cross for free.' Bloody annoying for a 24/7 job. And no pay raise for three thousand years! How'd you like that? And these suits don't come cheap," he frowned, fingering the lapels of his suit, and glancing down with a look that said he was imagining himself in something even better.

Percy flipped the coin and caught it in her hand.

"I haven't seen a real gold drachma in years," he said breathily, eying her closed hand greedily.

She tilted her other hand and five drachmas spilled out from the open coin bag to clatter onto the ground. He moistened his lips.

"Drachmas," she corrected softly.

"Listen, love, you go down and you're probably not going to come back up. I don't wanna see such a lovely face have to go down so early," he said seriously.

"Oh, I know. But I don't plan on dying," she said confidently.

He sighed and held out his hand, but instead she smiled, eyes closed in a fox-like nature, and tilted her head.

"Do you really want these drachmas?" she asked.

He huffed, "'Course I do. I may like you and think you're a pretty little thing, but drachmas hold my heart, love."

"Not even…for this?" she dropped the coin bags onto the floor to easily whip out the brand new suit she'd bought just earlier.

A very audible suction of breath was heard.

"That's…that's…"

"Armani," she purred. "Brand new. Fresh off the new line."

"Suit," he didn't even hesitate.

She smugly tossed it to him and he snatched it midair, holding it to his face and rubbing against it affectionately, inhaling the brand new smell.

"Alright, I'll take the three of you. Ride's almost full anyways," he folded the suit carefully and tucked it away somewhere at his spot.

"Thank you, Charon. I'll make sure to mention a pay raise to Hades for you," Percy beamed happily at him.

She picked up the coin bags, leaving the five drachmas onto the ground so that some of the poor souls might be able to pass on. She caught up with the others in the elevator, before pausing. In great pain, she measured the coin bags, including the one she got from Crusty's, before throwing that one out of the elevator and into the lobby, deeming it the lesser of the three.

"There, no more 'whinging'," she told Charon. Then she poked Grover. "See? I'm not frugal."

"Whatever," Grover rolled his eyes. "That was the smallest bag."

Charon melodramatically held his hands to his heart.

"A girl after me own heart! Thanks, love."

"Can I have your shades?" Percy blinked, asking suddenly.

"Not a chance."

"Damn."

"We should go shopping together some time though."

Percy nodded sagely, "Definitely. Can I have the rose?"

"Eh, sure. Why not?" he took the black rose off his suit and handed it to her, and she was about to figure out where to pin it, when she sighed and realized, where she was going, anything breakable was hazard.

"Keep this safe, Spartan Pirate," Percy told Annabeth solemnly, putting it into her backpack.

Annabeth stuck out her tongue, having enough.

"Say hey, all those compliments earlier were just to flatter me, wasn't it?" Charon pouted.

"Yeah, mostly to butter you up. Doesn't mean I didn't mean them though," she shrugged.

Charon cheered up and entered the elevator. "Right. Now, no one get any ideas while I'm gone," he announced to the waiting room. "And if anyone moves the dial off my easy-listening station again, I'll make sure you're here for another thousand years. Understand?"

"I have two words for you, Charon," Percy started. "Lady. Gaga."

The doors closed on them.

Then Percy started chattering about Lady Gaga and all the other music he'd like, not even bothered when his clothes transformed into a Grim Reaper robe, or that his shades had disappeared to become empty sockets that was just dark, full of night, death and despair.

Annabeth and Grover (and other souls in the ride) very much did notice.

He, in turn, was listening intently.

The two were so enraptured in their discussion, they didn't even pay attention to when the elevator disappeared and changed into a wooden barge, going through the River Styx and so on. While the rest of the riders watched in trepidation, Percy and Charon were discussing the merits of Barry Manilow, switching from what he'd like to what he did and what Percy thought of it. It was an okay selection, just not broad enough…

"If you like Barry Manilow, you should like Lionel Richie!" Percy heatedly shouted.

Charon shrugged.

"You need an education on music," Percy vowed. "Next time I come here, you're going to be an educated man."

They reached shore, their boat hitting black sand. The dead disembarked, as well as Percy, Annabeth, and Grover, and Charon started rowing away.

"Then come visit!" he yelled. "And don't forget to mention my pay raise!"

"I will! On both accounts!" she yelled back.

They started walking and Annabeth explained what she could, though Percy just stared in interest at the airport-like appearance of the Underworld. When they finally reached the place where the lines finally split into three separate ones, Cerberus came into view. It was a huge Rottweiler, and Percy nervously moved to the front of the group.

"Hey, boy."

It growled at her.

"Anyone have experience with dogs?" Percy muttered to the others.

Grover shook his head in fright, and Annabeth gave her a mournful look. Percy gazed seriously at her female friend for a second, before sighing and letting it go.

"Uh, Percy, can you think of something quick?" Grover squeaked. "It's about to eat us."

Percy turned sharply to the rapidly descending three-headed dog.

"Stop!" she ordered it.

In surprise at the order and hearing the tone, Cerberus stopped.

"Are you a good boy, Cerberus? I think you are. Wouldn't you like these treats?" Percy took out the bag of treats she'd bought earlier.

Cerberus stood still, tail wagging behind it and creating quakes.

"Sit," it sat and Percy threw three large scoops of treats into the air in each heads' direction. She repeated the action until the bag was completely empty. "I don't have any more treats, Cerberus, but I have something else for each of you. I got you a pretty collar to put around your necks," Percy grabbed the three black leather collars from the dark red bag, the dog bone tags jingled as she pulled the collars out.

Cerberus lay low to the ground, paws in front of him as he stared obediently. She took time to pet and scratch each head as she put a collar on each of them, affectionately speaking endearments.

"Good boy," she spoke when she finished.

It sat on its haunches, tail wagging again as well as its tongue lolling out happily.

"I got you one last thing," Percy said. "Actually, three things since it's for the three of you," she pulled out three carefully wrapped things out of a box from the bag. "How about some extra rare boneless steak, guys?"

One by one, she tossed the steaks, each head coming after theirs. She immediately ushered the others under Cerberus and then to the metal detector. She hesitated, looking back at it as she heard it moan pitifully. It was staring back at her dolefully, all three heads whimpering. It had clearly done a 180 to look at her, looking expectant at her as it waited for her to come back.

She winced, heartstrings being pulled.

"Oh, Cerberus," she murmured. "I'll come back soon. I promise. I already told Charon I'd come back, and I promise that I'll definitely make time for you, sweetie. I'll even bring some more snacks, even some steak. Would you like that?"

It let out a mournful wail.

"Cerberus, love," she said tenderly. "You're such a good boy," she finished sadly.

Then she grabbed a hold of the others' hands as they ran and sped out of there, even as the alarms blared behind them. Once they hid to escape the ghouls, Grover spoke out.

"That was really close."

Annabeth sniffled and Percy glanced at her curiously. The blonde mouthed 'I'll tell you later' and she nodded.

"He just needed some attention. Everyone needs a little attention every now and then," she muttered. Involuntarily, her mind wandered to Poseidon at that, and she bit her lip angrily. But then she heard the painful keening of Cerberus from a distance and she winced. She was really tempted to go back and just spend some time with the dog.

They started on their way to Hades' palace, which was like a dark beauty of an architectural masterpiece. They quickly passed through Persephone's Garden, though Percy was very tempted to try a pomegranate if it weren't for the fact she knew she would never be able to leave if she did. The smell was very tempting though…

Annabeth had to help her keep a tight grip on Grover from trying to grab the biggest piece he could and sampling it, though the blonde had to keep an eye on Percy as well.

They traversed through quickly, and it seemed like no time had passed as they stood in front of the doors that no doubt hosted Hades inside. The doors opened without anyone prompting and they shakily entered.

Percy tensed. Hades was the third god she'd met, but he was the first who struck her as godlike.

He was imposing. If it wasn't the fact he was at least ten feet, it was the black silk robes. If it wasn't those, it was the crown of braided gold. His skin was albino white, his hair shoulder-length and jet black. He wasn't bulked up like Ares, but he radiated power. He lounged on his throne of fused human bones, looking lithe, graceful, and dangerous as a panther. He looked like any of the charismatic leaders of old, whether they were influential dictators like Caesar to controversial leaders like Napolean Bonaparte. Even Adolf Hitler held a resemblance –the man was evil but he had the magnetizing charisma and was a powerful speaker…

It was the intense eyes. Mesmerizing and forceful. The kind of eyes of a man who wasn't just part of a battle, but led it –they were ones of leaders and commanders.

She felt insignificant and foolish. She felt like she didn't know anything, that he knew more than she. If anything, he should be the one giving orders. He should be her master…

"Stop it," her voice cracked.

He gave a dangerous smile.

"Are you ordering me around, little niece?" At first glance, his voice was oily. Listening back to it in her head, she recanted and thought it was more velvety, edged with danger as much as it had with his smile. It was a smooth voice, heavily tinted with an oppressing power.

Probably because of whom she was.

It was with a dazed thought that she thought that if it had been any other normal situation, she'd probably like to fall asleep listening to Hades' voice (when it wasn't veiled with power meant to oppress her of course).

"I would cut to the chase, but I'm…intrigued. You have a god's blessing on you," Hades murmured.

Percy blinked, remembering that.

"Not just any god…but my wife's. Now why would Persephone bless you?" the Lord of the Dead tilted his head to the side in curiosity, and Percy could feel the two besides her fidgeting. She herself was getting antsy, and the new information she'd learned didn't help.

"I…don't know?" she answered hesitantly.

"If my wife gives you her blessings, there must be something special about you," Hades conceded. "That alone tells me you could not have stolen it."

"Stolen it?" her voice was weak again. Not only was she confused, for once she was truly lost. And not sure what to do. For that matter, what in the world was going on and why were she and the others not god toast yet?

"My Helm, little niece," his voice turned frosty, narrowing his eyes and starting to concentrate, "is missing. But if you did not steal it, who has?"

"I –" Percy squeaked as Hades suddenly appeared beside her, shrinking to be as tall as Ares was, though he still towered over her. He gently picked up the backpack Ares gave her with his thumb and index finger, face completely stoic as he slid it off of her. He dropped it to the ground and waved a hand jerkily from one side to the next, the backpack zipping open. And then she heard it.

The unmistakable sound of crackling.

She blankly looked down and saw the light blaring out of the bag, crackling lightning unrestrained in its movements as it thrashed. She could only count on the backpack being a godly item as to why it wasn't breaking apart on the seams, as well as it protecting whatever else was in the backpack.

"Pretty little liar," he purred. "I should've known. Zeus' Lightning Bolt. I guess you are the Lightning Thief, little niece."

Wincing, she did the only thing she could think of. She tossed Annabeth and Grover as far as she could out the doors, screaming at them.

"Get back to Camp!"

Before they could protest or barge back in, the doors slammed shut in their faces, leaving her alone with Hades in the room. But when she turned to face him, he immediately backhanded her and she flew to the side. She hit the floor hard, skidding some ways away. She staggered up, but the moment she looked up, Hades was in her face. It was like slow motion, just a moment of eye to eye contact and then time sped back to normal, he lashing out with a kick to her stomach that had her crashing into the wall.

How many times has that happened on this Quest?

She fell to the ground with a thud and groaned. Looking up, she saw Hades speeding towards her, and she grimaced. But she was not going to just sit there idly. The pearl she had slid out and she scrambled to grab a hold of it. He slammed his foot on her hand and she screamed.

She forced herself up, and in a split second dodged to the right, evading the jab Hades aimed at her midsection. Narrowing her eyes, she did a handstand and caught him at his chin with a foot. But he twisted and immediately twirled into a kick that hit the back of her knees.

She almost crumpled, but instead she ignored the pain and uprighted herself. Again, he didn't give her any time for a pause, but she crossed her arms in front of her face to block his downwards kick. She winced at the pressure, but held up. After that, it was just a series of blocks, jabs, and kicks and a combination hereafter. It hurt to block, but she'd rather not have a direct hit, if the holes, broken debris, and whatnot around was a sign of her uncle's strength.

And he was just toying with her. She could tell. She wouldn't be here still, if he was being serious.

Backed into a wall, in frustration, she slammed her fist into the ground, startled when the ground cracked and a fissure started from where her fist was and then started to rapidly come faster towards Hades. The god nimbly jumped back and avoided the large explosion in the ground where he had been. Unfortunately that move had exhausted Percy unexpectedly, so she sort of just stood there in a daze. Hades gained back the advantage and suddenly appeared in front of her. Before she could do anything, his hand closed around her throat and had slammed her back against the wall.

She felt debris hit her and she coughed up at the dust. Tired and in pain, and still feeling lost, she just lay limp in his grasp, hanging in his grip against the wall.

"Well, my pretty little liar?" he asked silkily.

Percy blinked slowly, staring at him.

"You have such sad eyes," she murmured dazedly. "I always thought you would be so lonely."

Hades stared at her intensely, his hand slowly letting go of her. She slid to the ground.

He scoffed, the pearl appearing in his hand. "Take that pearl of yours and leave." He tossed the pearl at her and turned to leave, heading to his throne.

What? Why? What had happened?

"Wha –?"

"I said leave," he said shortly.

Warily, she took the pearl. But she didn't go just yet. She watched her uncle closely, seeing him staring off to the side indifferently as he sat on his throne in a deceptively languid pose. His face was a blank slate, but his lips were pulled into a stern frown.

"I'll," her voice cracked. "I'll find your Helm for you, Uncle," she promised.

He didn't think anyone would help him, or give him any sort of justice. She could just tell. He set out after her himself, without saying anything to anyone about his missing Helm or anything at all. And of course he couldn't allow anyone to know his most powerful weapon was missing.

And she realized, getting through the Underworld, succeeding in this Quest…it had been all too easy. He wanted her to come here. He wanted to make her suffer and face punishment at his own hand.

"I didn't do it," she quietly said, standing up. "And I'll prove it. When I do, I'll come back to visit you, and I'll keep you company while Persephone is away."

She dropped the pearl at her feet and stomped on it.


Strangely, she was thinking of Santa Monica when she crushed the pearl. It was what came to mind, remembering how she got the pearls. She had meant to go to Camp with the others, but incoherently her mind just blacked out and then started to remember the Santa Monica visit in brief glimpses.

She cursed when she realized that was where she was, resurfacing above the waters. She swam to shore and glared, seeing the current bane of her existence already there waiting, missing his shades and looking odd with dark brown eyes tinted red. Without his shades and leather duster, he almost looked like an ordinary guy. If it wasn't for the huge motorcycle he was straddling, the aluminum bat against his shoulder, and his usual intimidating aura, height and build.

"You…" but the first thing to come to mind to start yelling at him for was not what she'd intended to say. "Could you have written a more stupid note?" she twitched.

He coughed, "Well, uh, I was sort of in a hurry to not be caught missing. Sorry."

She shook her head, bringing herself out of it.

"Anyways, glad to see you alive," he said, actually looking genuinely pleased. "I was worried you might not make it."

"And I'm hoping you won't," she growled, taking out Riptide and transforming it into a sword. Her broadswords had fallen off sometime during her battle with Hades, so she was finally going to use Riptide. It burned welcomingly, seemingly excited to finally be in use and ready for action.

"I don't even want to hear what you say, and I'm pretty sure I know already what you're going to say. I don't care how much of a fight you want between the three idiots who rule the world, I'm going to kick your ass to them and back here," she snarled.

He held up his hands, the action bringing the bat to swing lazily downwards and only held onto by a thumb.

"Come on, give me a break. It wasn't all me either. You know, gods can't steal other gods' shit and stuff. Before I met you, the whole plan was for you to die in the Underworld, Daddy Dearest gets pissed at Corpse Breath, who would've had the Lightning Bolt so Zeus gets pissed at him. Then there's still this little thing Hades is searching for," Ares took out a ski mask that turned into the Helm of Darkness.

"And he'll be mad at both Poseidon and Zeus because he doesn't know who took it," she clenched her hands tighter around Riptide. "How convenient."

"Would have been," he grimaced, "until you actually entered the picture. With you actually in the game, opinions and decisions are changin' a bit, darlin'."

She pursed her lips, glaring heatedly.

"You got me nervous there for a moment, back at the diner," he shrugged, but in contrast his voice was strangely soft. "You're a little too observant for your own good."

"If I'd stayed on that inkling a little longer, I might've figured this all out sooner."

"I was afraid of you doing that back then, though I was relieved when you didn't. Got to say, you looked good in my jacket," he lazily smiled.

She growled, "It's mine now."

He waved it off, "Of course, sure. Hope it ain't in that backpack though, 'cause then it might as well be toast. That backpack is actually the Bolt's sheath. I messed with it a little, to have a kind of delayed reaction with the Bolt returning until you reached Hades."

"And if I die along the way, it wouldn't be a loss, would it? You still had the Bolt," she grinned viciously, eyes lighting up eerily, and unknowingly almost like when Clarisse had faced her wrath the first time.

Ares shifted uneasily, "Not quite. You see, you're a lot more important to us than we first thought. And I, uh, don't get to tease and mess around with a pretty little thing like you, if you'd died –"

"Stop fucking around and joking!" she screamed and her gaze was slowly becoming just as eerie as it had with Clarisse that time. He could even hear faint echoes of waves and storms now.

"You really want to get into this, don't you?" he asked quietly.

"Is there any other way to do this?" she grinned maliciously, eyes glaring with that terrible gaze.

He looked at her and sighed, transforming his bat into a sword.

"Traditional, if you please. You sound as bloodthirsty as I usually am," he remarked.

"The situation warrants it. Now get the hell off your bike."

He easily swung a leg off and started to stride towards her. She didn't wait. She rushed through the waters, running through the shallow end, still feeling the aches and pains of her latest labors. She wondered why she was healing so slowly.

The next minute was sort of a blur. He was moving so slowly towards her, as if he didn't think she would be much of an opponent and like he was reluctant to even fight her. She didn't rightly care, so she just sort of darted to the side in a way that looked awkward, before doing a weird twist before thrusting out her sword in a downwards arc.

"Even a god king can bleed," she said quietly.

Ares stared at her in shock, then glanced down at his bleeding ankle. The quote made his lips slightly twist up sardonically.

She straightened up and watched him solemnly.

"I guess I should be taking you seriously, shouldn't I?"

She just held out her sword and moved into a basic stance.

After that, he was taking her completely seriously. There was no taking advantage of his ego, no trying to outsmart him. This was Ares in his element, calculating, brute force, and skill.

Athena wasn't true war; she was plans and battle strategy that won you a war.

Ares was complete war itself, from every angle.

Because in war, is there really time to think? Plans of the big picture obviously are followed, but in battle there are no real rules, no strict pattern everyone must follow through. There is react, survive, and the skills learned to help you. There is adrenaline. There is will. And there is finding a way to live.

He never stepped into the water. He knew she was the one in control in it and that if he stepped into her territory, she would use it against him. She never stepped outside of the shallow waters onto land, because she'd lose whatever little advantage she had with the water.

He led the pace and had control of the fight from the very beginning. It frustrated her, though she forced herself not to be time and again. He was a god and the god of war; she shouldn't be so surprised or frustrated about this. It was to be expected. She had to focus on finding whatever little opening she can, one that might even give her a lucky break and win this thing.

Without either one willing to escape having the waters as a boundary, it looked like they were dancing in and out, making a weaving sort of fight that was almost beautiful.

There was no way to goad him and anger him, using his pride and ego against him, when he was a driving force against her and she had to use all her focus on defending and striking against him. She had luck in catching him off guard and getting him every now and then, but he was able to predict her and match her. He wasn't making it easy on her, and he wasn't letting her off easy. With both working as hard as they were, it was turning out to be more of a stalemate than either expected it to be, though the odds of the battle leaned against her at times.

Then he had an opening and she knew it would hit her straight in the heart. He thrust out with his sword, but she saw the minute hesitation on his face, disbelievingly watching as he then became determined and his wrist twisted and moved the sword away from her heart and to her shoulder, puncturing and going all the way through. She staggered at the force and bit back a scream, but her glare became full force once again. While it wasn't that terrible gaze, the anger and confusion in her eyes was enough for Ares to take an uncertain step back.

She roared and pulled the sword through her even more, surprising Ares and unbalancing him towards her. She tackled him into the ground, leaving her water and pummeling him with her other hand, as the one attached to her injured shoulder lay limp at her side.

"Asshole! Why the hell didn't you follow through? You had the hit! Why didn't you take it?" she screamed at him, hitting his face repeatedly, before tiredly collapsing against him.

"You know that feeling you have? When you know you're about to do something incredibly stupid? I actually listened to that feeling this time," Ares chuckled weakly.

She hit him across his face again, though her strength waned and it was a weak hit.

"Idiot. You had the Bolt. Why the hell did you have to drag me into this mess? With firepower like that, you had all the power in the world. Why bother with Hades? With me?" she muttered.

She cursed herself. She could at least have the strength to push herself off of him, but it was like she was deadweight. And Ares was just letting her stay on him. It compounded on her anger and confusion.

"Why didn't I?" he muttered dazedly. Then he shook his head.

"You said you weren't the only one in this," she blinked, trying to remember. "You caught the thief. Something convinced you to let him go…tell me!" she ordered, a mad gleam entering her eyes and a renewed energy entered her. "Tell me so I can understand those dreams!" she didn't even know why she suddenly blurted that out.

His face turned stoic and he stared at her calculatingly.

"I met you and I fought off those dreams. You forget about them too," he declared.

He somehow slipped away from under her, standing from a ways away. She shakily pulled herself up, kneeling on the sand as she stared blankly at the ground.

"You have already proven yourself, little hero. And until you learn to acknowledge and believe in your skill and strength, every time you raise your blade in battle, every time you hope for success, you will feel my curse. Your fate is sealed, Perseas."

His form glowed and he revealed his divine form, and then soon after he disappeared.

Percy kneeled there expressionlessly and unmoving.

Started 11/30/10 –Completed 12/5/10

A/n: So…who caught that Ambrose Sera was Ares (clues: Gerard Butler's height, tinted red eyes, owing him two meals, the name, weapon knowledge, love of violent games, etc)? Sera (taken from Justice League) is Ares backwards, and Ambrose is the Greek name meaning Immortal –Immortal Ares! Haha. As for dates, this is supposed to be 2001 (like in PJO timeline), but I have a lot of references (Gaga, Craig as Bond, America Idiot) that's passed that, but oh well. Anyone notice that when Annabeth promised she'd visit Cerberus, she never did (in the books)? Also, again –my Hades is Lucifer from Angel Sanctuary. Plus, no one guessed that Persephone was the one who blessed Percy. I thought it would make sense, considering as Hades' wife, her blessing would do more in protecting her from monsters.

Thanks to those who wished me a happy birthday! (CBDinNyc, MusicOfTheDawn, Kaiyira, VampireInDisguise)

LUVERofhowJesswontmakeit: Ahaha, I know, I know. I'm working on this one for now, but I'm trying. I'll get to work on the others soon.

Ghost: Thank you!

Phoebe turner: Thanks!

MusicOfTheDawn: Yes, correct! That was Ares and those were some of the clues.

Ella: Nice try! Nope, not from Vampire Academy, though good series.

P.s. Vote for me in the Veritas Award, pweaty pwease? *.* (uses hypnotizing eyes on you) Mwahaha! Sorry, I'm being weird. Vote for me if you want, but I'm pleased either way. This got nominated –that's cool itself (cheesy grin). http:/ www. fanmortals. webs. com/