Revenge Is Sweeter Than You Ever Were
OF COLD KILLERS AND LOST BATTLES
"Where to, brother?" Zachariah asked, twisting the keys in the ignition of his rented Volvo. "Las Vegas? San Francisco? Tampa Bay?" he laughed, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. "Party till death?"
Chuckling at his own joke, Zach adjusted his seat and threw his wallet, filled with receipts and a few dollar bills, into the cup holder. Over the last five days of his limited freedom, Zach had only seen Los Angeles, San Diego, and—briefly—Las Vegas on his way to the outskirts of this dust bowl of a town with the nerve to call itself a city. Though the Internet and his brother had brought him up to speed with most things American, a road tip across the country was what he needed.
"Nico?" He finally glanced over at his brooding brother, doubled over in the passenger seat, head in hands. Zach frowned and laid a hand on his brother's back. "What's wrong?"
It had only been an hour since he had awoken his brother from his unexpected nap in the hotel room, ran into his assassin herself, fled the hotel, and bought a rental car. Nico still hadn't seemed to recover from whatever it was that ailed him.
"Uh . . ." Nico shook his head and leaned back against the seat, running a hand over his face and into his newly dyed hair. "I need to send a message." He shoved open the Volvo's door and paused, one foot on the pavement. "Stay here."
Zach rolled his eyes and obliged, turning on the radio and nodding his head to the beat. He watched his brother walk further and further away from the car, searching around the rental shop for a hose to create a mist. Iris Messaging was the only safe way for a demigod to contact others, Zach knew.
A few minutes later Nico came back, shaking his head. He slid into the car and said, "No luck. We need to find a gas station or a car wash. We can make some mist."
Zach nodded and pulled out of the parking lot. "Who are you trying to contact?"
"What?" Zach whipped his head around so quickly he got whiplash. "Annabeth Chase? The blonde girl who is dating Percy Jackson, that guy – if you don't remember – who tried to kill you?"
Nico nodded and stared out the window, stubbornly refusing to look his brother in the eye. "I need to find out where Percy is -"
"No -" Zach slammed on the brakes, tossing them both forward, and grabbed his brother by the neck, forcing him to look into his eyes. "We are not going looking after this guy! He tried to kill you and I just found you. You're not dying on me."
"It's not anything I don't deserve!"
"What do you mean?"
"The things I've done –"
"I don't care what you have done in the past. Fuck, I don't care what I've done in the past. None of it matters. That's done. Our actions then . . . They aren't important."
Nico shoved Zachariah back, eyes flashing as he nearly snarled at him. "You can't just forget everything you've done. The number of people you've killed – the number of people I've killed - in cold blood. Your actions don't go away just because you say so."
A car honked behind them, the driver flipping Zach the bird and cutting him short. He slammed down on the gas pedal and shot off down the road, blinded by rage. I'm different now, he thought. I made mistakes and that was it.
"We are not looking for Percy Jackson."
"You don't call the shots here, Zachariah. I do."
The drive was long and hard, Jordan's exhaustion only doubled by the endless monotony of her own thoughts. There was nothing she wanted to dwell on, but even her best efforts couldn't keep her musings away.
Her life pre-Underworld hadn't been the best. She had lived with her parents, two brothers, and sister until she and Meghan had been sent away to camp at ten years old. Her father had known that she and Meghan were demigods and their trip to camp had been uneventful. They had stayed there every summer and enrolled in public school for the rest of the year, never having been attacked by a monster outside of camp. Then the war started and, like for so many others, it was no longer safe to go home.
She and Meghan were claimed by Aphrodite the day the camp was first attacked, in the chaos of the first wave of assaults. Meghan had almost died from a spear thrown through her chest, close to her heart. That night Jordan had prayed to her mom for the strength to protect her sister and her prayers had been answered by way of a silly hairbrush. It wasn't until a particularly nasty attack that she had discovered what it really was.
Following that, tragedy began to strike at every turn. Many of Jordan's friends were killed in the final battle and soon after Meghan took out Lydia Garfield, Nico-normal-turned-Nico-sociopath had began hunting anyone and everyone connected to Meghan up until Jordan herself.
She had lived in war and died in war.
She could only hope she would not be reborn in it.
"Pull over here," Nico commanded, eyes steely and voice even. He was the brooding grudge type, while Zach was the "heat of the moment" one. Zach's anger had faded as quickly as it had come and he had no problem listening to his brother. He pulled the car over and drove up and into the Shell gas station.
"Find your mist or whatever, bro," Zach said, jumping out of the vehicle and stretching. "I want to find some food and -" Zach trailed off, his arms falling slowly to his sides, his eyes glued on something in the distance.
"What?" Nico asked, spinning around and trying to pin down what Zach was staring at. "What?" he snapped, his irritation getting the best of him. All he had seen was a black BMW pulling into the parking lot.
"Uh," Zach shook his head, trying to look nonchalant. "Nothing. It's nothing. Go find your mist. Send your message."
"Get me a Coke," Nico said, "And hand me the keys. There is a do-it-yourself car wash just over there."
Zach tossed him the key ring. "You that worried about how your ride looks?" he asked jokingly.
"Mist," Nico replied, not looking up as he walked back to the car and slid into the driver's side seat. He pulled the Volvo into the car wash and inserted a few coins into the slot that turned on the hose. His hands felt clammy and his stomach was twisted up in knots.
He hadn't spoken to Percy or Annabeth since it had become apparent who had murdered the Carter family in cold blooded revenge. There wasn't exactly any disputing who had done it – Nico had publicly cut down Jordan Carter in a game of Capture the Flag and the rest of the puzzle pieces soon fell into place. Though nobody had been around at that particular time, Jordan's mutilated body had fallen into the river, its currents carrying her blood down past the other campers. He hadn't had time to run before a crowd had formed and weapons were drawn.
Nico had blanked after that, not sure what happened until Percy was swinging a sword and he was running, trying to make it to a safe place where he could shadow away. He'd succeeded, only to spend the next few months tracking down another Carter. The last one, actually, and the most important – Meghan.
Needless to say, he was nervous as hell now. Annabeth wasn't a person he was looking forward to speaking with, but he needed to find Percy and knew Percy himself wouldn't speak to him, especially when Iris Messages could be easily ignored.
His hands – hell, his entire body – were shaking when he covered half of the hose and shorted it out to create a fine mist, a rainbow soon appearing. Swallowing, he reached into his pocket and fingered a gold drachma.
Now or never, Nico. Now or never.
He threw the drachma into the mist, anxiously watching as it disappeared. Oh Iris, goddess of the Rainbow, accept my offering, he thought deeply, squeezing his eyes shut tight. He didn't have enough confidence to voice the words.
Annabeth Chase, Annabeth Chase, Annabeth Chase . . .
It was times like this that Zachariah wished he had his own weapon. Upon his liberation from the Underworld Nico had given him a dagger, but that was it. It wasn't even special, just something Nico had carried around with him – as if he'd ever need it, what with that Stygian blade of his.
And now here Zach was, staring down his own assassin from behind a gas pump. This Jordan Carter girl looked normal enough as she filled up her BMW, but Zach knew better. She must be some cold-blooded killer because Hades would only ever send the best of the best.
She hummed as she filled up her gas tank, some cheesy tune he didn't recognize. She wore a Swiss backpack, blue t-shirt, and jeans, just as he remembered from the hotel lobby.
I need to take her out, he thought. Dispose of her now so she wasn't an addition to his family's growing list of problems. Determined, he raised his dagger, poised to jump out and attack when she turned.
And looked him dead in the eye.
She really is pretty, was Zachariah's first thought. Her eyes were an alluring cognac brown, resembling brandy with golden red swirls that were practically hypnotic. Her hair was a pretty strawberry-blonde with brown highlights to match her eyes, her bone structure defined without being hard and unappealing. Jordan's body was exquisite, all luscious curves and lean muscle.
"Thomas?" she asked, her voice full of confusion and mistrust. "What are you –"
Zachariah shot away, hiding as best he could behind the gas pump, shoving the knife behind his back and trying to decide what to do. He didn't reach any decisions however – Jordan was already in front of him, her eyebrows drawn together in confusion.
"Are you okay?"
"Uh . . ." Zach diverted his eyes, pressed as far back as possible against the pump, not sure if she would recognize him for who he truly was, dyed hair and tattoo or not. She hadn't known who he was in the hotel room but -
"Are you –" Suddenly his shirt was fisted up in her hand, her other hand grasping his jaw and forcing his eyes to meet hers. "Nico di Angelo?"
"Not exactly," he said, and then he shoved her away, throwing her back against the BMW and lunging for her midsection with his blade . . . just as a hell-hound landed with a sound thump behind them.
"Oh my gods . . . Nico," Annabeth whispered, disbelief coloring her face. "What are you . . . ? Why are you . . . ?"
"Annabeth . . . I need your help."
Annabeth, her hand nestled in her golden curls, whispered, "Nico . . . No. I can't help you. I'm practically committing acts of treason just speaking to you."
"I know, Annabeth. And – and I swear I will turn myself in as soon as you help me, but I can't right now. I'm in a rough place and –" He trailed off as he noticed just how her eyes weren't meeting his and the way her hands were wringing together, fear and anxiety apparent.
"You don't trust me, do you?" he asked. She was quiet a moment, not daring to reply, and he chuckled, his entire body shaking. "Why would you, though? I'm fucking insane, remember?"
And then it is quiet, the silence filled with all they want to say to each other, but can't. She is the first to break the silence, proving to him how much better she is.
"You laughed," she finally whispered, swallowing quietly after having done so.
"You laughed after you killed her. We all came running and you . . . you were there with blood dripping off of your sword onto her face . . . her blood . . . and you were laughing."
He didn't reply – couldn't. What was he supposed to say to that?
She sighed, still not meeting his eyes, still wringing her hands. "What do you need?"
"I need to see Percy. Do you know where he is?"
"He left a few days ago for the Garden of the Gods with Grover. Why?"
"I can't tell you that – not yet . . . He'll be safe, Annabeth. I'm not going to do anything to him. I'm doing the right thing this time, Annabeth."
"You need help, Nico," she whispered, finally meeting his eyes. "Professional help. Or, at least, please – talk to someone, anyone."
"Thank you for your help, Annabeth. I –"
"I have to go!" Nico slashed through the message with his blade, then turned to face the hell-hound barreling towards him.
"Ah!" Jordan screamed as the blade sliced through her shirt and dealt a glancing blow on her hip. On impulse she twisted her foot around Nico's ankle and shoved him to the ground, then darted away as the hell-hound, its tiny brain unable to process what it was running at, slammed into the car behind her and kept going.
"Oh, thank the gods," she muttered, wincing as her car was totaled. I'm alive, I'm alive, I'm alive – oh, get a grip, Jordan. She jumped up, bow and arrow in hand, staring down the shaft towards the fallen hell-hound. It shuddered and shifted, rising slowly to its paws and growling, staring straight at her.
Breath, Jordan. You haven't done this in a while.
The arrow was shot swiftly, and then, not even knowing whether the other had landed, she shot a new arrow at Nico who was still lying on his back, moaning from the hell-hound nearly crushing his chest.
And that arrow saw miss, landing just a centimeter from his head. The near-death experience must have jarred him into action, because the next minute he was on his feet, dagger in hand.
"We might wanna kill that hell-hound first!" Jordan shouted, her aim unwavering, no matter how hard she shook. "Then we'll figure out just how I'm gonna kill you."
"Not a chance, Carter. That hell-hound is your problem."
"Aw, poor Nico. We both know that isn't true. And – Oh, hell!" The hound charged her, claws out, leaping over the beaten BMW, drool dripping from its mouth.
She shot at it, landing an arrow square in its heart. As it exploded into green dust, Nico lunged at her, stabbing at her chest as she tried to dart away. Nico grabbed at her, twisting her wrist painfully so she cried out. She dropped the bow, pulled out her own dagger, and shot back into his arms, holding her blade to his neck with his own resting just above her heart.
"Think very carefully about what you do next, Jordan. We don't want any . . . accidents, do we?" a new voice asked, quiet and deadly. Jordan swallowed, not wanting to tear her eyes away from Nico to look at this new person, but needing to anyway. He was blond with black eyes, a short sword held just out of her view.
Zachariah, she thought. It must be. She looked behind the blond terror and found green dust still settling on the ground, the only proof another hound had been in the area. Where she and Nico had destroyed half of the gas station with one hound, Zachariah had taken one down quickly and efficiently.
You need to get out of here. You can't take them like this, you know that. Run. Live to fight another day and all that.
"Sorry boys," she said, "but I've gotta split." Grinning, praying it worked, she threw Nico back and hit the ground. She combat-rolled towards their Volvo before jumping to her feet and sprinting, her slight frame being enough to keep her out of reach. She jumped into the front seat, hoping the keys were there as she thought, and hit the accelerator, driving in reverse as quickly as possible until she hit the highway.
"Well done, Jordan," she muttered to herself. "Just fan-fucking-tastic."
A/N: Hello. Hope you enjoyed this. I did not have a Beta. I apologize for any mistakes you may find. I am looking for a Beta at the moment, so if you're interested, message me.
I am also going to be participating in August!NaNo, so updates will be few and far between during August, I suspect. I will still try to update at least once during the month, but if you have ever participated in NaNo, you know how tough it is.