For he was destined to be a fallen idol.

"…And when I grow up, I wanna be big and strong and just like you!" Beaming, Nathan looked at his half-brother. "And maybe I can learn how to make waves this big!" He stretched his arms, a grin still plastered on his face.

Percy nodded absently. His half-brother's goofy grins and I-wanna-be-just-like-my-big-brother moments were borderline annoying. If that border never ended, of course. If only he could have a moment or two of peace and quiet. Calm, serenity. He longed for the loneliness, the solitary salvation of the ocean. Nathan, however, babbled like a brook.

"And then after dinner we can give Mrs. O'Leary treats! She likes treats. Mrs. O'Leary does like treats, right Percy?"

"Yeah. Mrs. O'Leary loves treats. Hey, there's Lydia and Cory. Why don't you go talk to them? I have to meet Annabeth." Go bug someone else for a change.

Nathan flashed his sunbeam smile one last time before skipping off to chat with his friends, a daughter of Demeter and a son of Hermes.

Percy was tired. He was tired of camp life. It had been nice, for a while. When he was younger, it had been an adventure. Maybe the whole fighting-for-his-life thing had been a little too exciting, but saving the world had been a once-in-a-lifetime deal. Afterwards, everyone had treated him like a hero. He was nineteen now, and the initial Look-There's-Percy-He-Saved-Olympus-Let's-Get-His-Autograph feelings had all but warn away. Even though he was elevated above most campers, his pedestal was being slowly lowered as other campers went on quests, succeeded, and did great things. Normalcy was a dull way of life, and now it was his way of life.

Percy had to face the facts: he just wasn't the hero he used to be. He was wallowing in his broken fame when he came across the one person he had wanted to talk to.

"Sorry, Percy, I have to go." She gave him a sympathetic smile before continuing down the path.

"Annabeth? Where are you going?"

"I've got an interview for an internship. It's a great opportunity! This architecture magazine is highly acclaimed."

Why didn't she tell me? he thought. She always tells me when she has plans like this.

"Great. Good luck." His throat was dry. What if… What if Annabeth didn't think he was good enough as a hero either? What if she had found someone new? Thinking about it, she had been looking at that Ryan kid from the Persephone cabin… Damn! He knew he should've taken that gardening class.

"Wait! Annabeth!" he called after her.

She glared at him. "Percy! I have to go! I'm running late as it is."

Before either of them knew what was happening, he had his arms wrapped around her. "Don't leave me," he breathed. "We should leave together."


"Hey Lydia! Hey Cory!" Nathan ran to his friends.

"Hi Nathan." The boy was unaware of the blush creeping up Lydia's face.

"Do you wanna go down to the lake after dinner?" Cory asked eagerly.

"Sure! Percy showed me this awesome new way to paddle a canoe. He says it gets you wherever you're going twice as fast!" Both of Nathan's friends, also eight years old, seemed excited.

"We've got a while until dinner," Lydia reminded them. "I found a neat place in the woods. There's lots of nice, good soil. It's a good place to sit and think."

Cory and Nathan both shrugged. It sounded like a good idea.

"It's really worth it! I promise!" Lydia assured the boys as all three worked their way through a narrow path thick with brambles and thorns. "I promise! It's beautiful!"

"Wow." They emerged into a sunlit opening in the forest. The sun bounced off the leaves, giving them a glow like stained glass. Wildflowers blossomed in every nook and cranny. Lydia grinned. She sat down, patting the ground beside her. Cory and Nathan took a seat as well.

"I like to come out here just to think. I think about a lot of things."

Both boys nodded. "I think about lotsa stuff, too." Nathan finally broke the silence. "I think about Percy. I wanna be just like him when I grow up. Maybe I can even save Mount Octopus!"

"Olympus." Lydia corrected.

Cory finally spoke. "It would be nice. Being a hero and all. Just like Percy!"

"Or Annabeth," Lydia pointed out. "She's really smart."

"They're all really brave." Nathan sat daydreaming about slaying monsters and going on an epic quest.

Cory stood up. "Do you guys wanna play Percy Battles the Hydra?"

"Yeah!" Nathan jumped up.

Lydia shrugged and smiled. "Sure."

"You can be Percy this time," Nathan told his friend. "I'll be Grover."

It was a given that Lydia would portray Annabeth. She always did. They'd played this game many, many times. Each, by now, knew their role well. Nathan and Cory took turns acting as Grover or Percy.

"Because that's what heroes do," Nathan had told Cory the first time he'd let the boy play the part of their role model. "Heroes share."

All three swung imaginary swords and knives at the non-existent Hydra.

"Wait!" Lydia stopped. "That's not how it goes. We have to burn the wounds. That's what Annabeth said, anyways."

Soon, the three young demigods were swinging imaginary torches. "We killed the monster!" Nathan shouted.

Cory, Lydia, and Nathan flopped onto the soft, fertile soil. "Maybe someday," Cory began. "We'll get to be heroes in real life."


"We don't have to be here anymore. None of them care about us." His breath was hot on her neck. "Let's leave. We can find somewhere new."

There was nothing particularly charming about anything he said. It was, she supposed, the intrigue. Perhaps the cliché running-away-to-be-together idea was what appealed to her. In truth, Annabeth was sick and tired. Sick and tired of waiting. She didn't even know what she was waiting for. She just waited.

The daughter of Athena could just picture it: a neat little life, a white-picket-fence family. The two of them. In actuality, they didn't have to "run away," but just flat out leave camp? That was about as adventurous as it would ever get for the two has-been heroes.

"What are we waiting for?" she breathed. "Let's go."


Fourteen-year-old Nathan Holloway was lying on his lonely bed in his lonely cabin. Not that he didn't have any other siblings. He did, many of them, but they were out and about at the moment. Poseidon had gone a little crazy after the oath was lifted. One cocktail too many and Nathan knew he'd have to make room for another little brat in six years or so.

Make room… I sound like a jerk. He tried to be careful of that. He didn't want to come off as a jerk to his half-siblings. He was their leader. He couldn't let them down.

He had never hated anyone so much as his half-brother. Nathan was sure that he didn't want his cabin mates to feel the same way about him. Taking a deep breath, Nathan swept the curtains shut. He locked the door. And then he swung at the wall.

"I!" Punch. "Hate!" Pound. "You!" Bang. "Percy!" Thump. "Jackson!" Whack.

Percy had been his idol. Nathan and his friends, they had looked up to him. He, Cory, and Lydia had planned on being the next fabulous trio. They'd wanted to be heroes.

Percy did save Olympus. He's still a hero. You're nothing more than an angsty, hormonal teenager who just wants to be angry about something.

"Shut up!" Nathan roared, emphasizing his shouts to the Voice of Logic with a nice swift kick to the wall. It hurt a little more than he expected it to. Grabbing his foot, he sank to the floor. Sobs racked his entire body, but not from his minor injury.

You trusted him, but he left.

"No shit!" he screamed through his tears. The son of Poseidon let his sadness, his fear, his anger roll down his cheeks in big tears.

Then he put on a happy face. That's always what happened. He punched the wall, screamed, cried, and then glued on a smile. No point in making others sad. He'd play happy for a while, then let the fury and hurt brew and fizz. Finally, like a shaken Coke bottle, he'd let it all bubble over and explode. But the happy face would always come back in the end, no matter how fake, how obviously phony.

Because that's what real heroes do. They grin and bear it. They push through and don't let people down. They never, ever run away.

Nathan knew he wasn't destined for great things, and that he'd never be anyone's hero. He knew one thing for certain though: It was better to never be a hero than to be a fallen idol.

A/N: To my beta, Rachel E Dare: Thank you so so so much. You rock.