AN: Hey, Kal here. This fic was slightly modified from the Quintuple Game prompt on Veritaville, thought up of by Karma's Inferno and Ariadne's Twine, so kudos to them for coming up with it. Furthermore, thanks to my friend The Midnight Doe for beta'ing this. ^^ Anyway, read on!
Of Chimeras and Hydra Heads
"I feel weird going to a Catholic church, Percy. Don't you?"
Annabeth Chase fiddled with the sleeve of her cream-colored dress—it was one of the few items in her closet that fit Warren Dare's definition of "appropriate church clothes." Coincidentally, it had also cost around five thousand dollars and had been an impromptu gift from her friend Rachel Dare.
The Dares were a socially prominent and mind-bogglingly wealthy family in Manhattan, having recently relocated from Brooklyn to a trendy Upper East Side penthouse. Warren Dare and his wife were notoriously conservative as well as Catholic—and so by default, all the people associated with their only daughter had to be too.
"Well, it's Easter," Rachel whispered back. "My father would go berserk if he thought you guys didn't even celebrate it." She winced. "I had to tell my dad I got a purity ring to cover up the whole Oracle thing, and naturally, he loved that."
Percy stifled a laugh.
"It's not funny!" Rachel exclaimed, glaring at him. "Do you know how lucky you are? Today my mother even told me to put on a turtleneck under my dress because she thought I looked 'Satanic and indecent.' I mean, jeez." She looked over at Annabeth. "Stop giggling!" Rachel scowled.
"I'm sorry," Annabeth said, hiccupping. "I really am, but . . ." she trailed off.
"It's just sort of funny," Percy finished for his girlfriend. "Your parents are nice and all, but they're just so much like stereotypical Bible Belt people."
Rachel scowled again. "Don't remind me. Oh, and you should probably at least try to look like you're listening to the priest . . ."
Percy and Annabeth immediately drew themselves up and focused on the man, who was standing less than four feet away from them. Rachel's family status had gotten them a pew close as possible to the front, though privately both demigods would have preferred the back. There was even an odd thumping noise audible through the front wall—though muffled, it was still no less than annoying.
Annabeth elbowed Percy. "This is just weird," she hissed. "I can't sit here and listen to all this stuff about not worshiping idols when that's basically what we've been doing for years. It just makes me uncomfortable!"
A woman with a pink hat sitting behind them shot a glare at Annabeth.
"Shut up," Percy said through gritted teeth as the Dares turned to look at Annabeth as well. "This is usually the point when something bad happens . . ."
This, of course, only made her more indignant. "But I—" She was cut off as a loud crunching sound interrupted both her and the gospel.
And then the front wall of St. Patrick's Cathedral was suddenly no more.
A massive purple creature poked its head through the new opening, and then to Annabeth's horror, she realized it wasn't just one, but seven heads—with an s at the end.
"Annabeth," Percy said, surprisingly calm for the situation. "Is it just me, or is a giant Hydra attacking?"
The girl paused for a moment, taking in the situation around her. She didn't know what the mortals saw, but they looked panicked, running around in their church suits and dresses. It would have been comical if it weren't for, you know, the nightmarish monster slithering around the pulpit.
"Yeah, actually, I think you're right for a change," Annabeth replied mildly, not taking her eyes off of the Hydra. "Do you have Riptide?"
Percy nodded, oblivious to her barb. "Your knife?"
She rolled her eyes. "Why would I have brought a weapon to church? What do you think I am?"
There was another pause.
" . . . Okay, I guess you have a point."
"Of course I do. Now, try and distract the thing in the front, will you? I'll go try and find something to attack it from the back so I can surprise it."
Percy wasn't so keen on the idea of holding off a less-than-docile-looking Hydra with only his sword, but Annabeth had already run off in another direction. "Great," he mumbled. "This is just great."
He grabbed Riptide, tightened his tie, and ran right into the face of the seven-headed monster.
Meanwhile, Annabeth already had formed a semblance of a plan. Near the entrance to the cathedral, there was a candle stand—already housing dozens of small wax candles flickering with flames.
Each one's supposed to represent a prayer or something like that, Annabeth thought vaguely. With that, she felt a little immoral snatching one, but she figured if she didn't take this candle, whoever placed it would probably have no need for it anyway, having been either mauled or devoured by an ancient Greek monster.
That logic made Annabeth feel a little better.
She took one of the small, cylindrical candles. This, of course, was much too small to do any real damage. What she needed was a torch of sorts . . .
Annabeth's eyes trained on a longer-looking candle sitting in a display near a statue of the Virgin Mary. It was unlit, and had to be at least a couple feet long. It would work for what she was trying to do.
She hastily yanked the candle out of its post and brought it to the wick of one of the already-lit ones in the stand. Within a few seconds, it flared up.
Annabeth glanced over to the other side of the cathedral, where Percy was fending off the Hydra. He seemed to be doing fine, but surely Percy couldn't keep going like that much longer. The monster was larger as well as stronger than him, after all, and within five minutes he'd be cornered.
After pulling her wrinkled Yankees cap from the pocket of her sheath dress and pulling it on her messy curls, she ran over to the monster. Being invisible, she figured she could intervene before her boyfriend got eaten. (Which, incidentally, was a condition Annabeth had a feeling was not covered by invincibility.)
"Hey. Knight in shining armor, at your service," she said as she appeared at Percy's side, taking off the hat and grinning.
He was momentarily distracted from the Hydra as he took in her sudden appearance. "Wait, what—"
"You asked me if I brought my knife, but you didn't ask if you brought my cap, did you?" Annabeth explained in a singsong voice, a hint of a smile still on her face at his bewildered look.
Percy regained himself, frowning slightly. "Um, right. We'll get to your issues later. Now, uh . . . an explanation for the giant candle?"
She rolled her eyes, giving him a signature I'm-Annabeth-Chase-and-I'm-smarter-than-you look. "This is the way Hercules did it. After you lop off a head, I burn the stump so it can't go back. Capische?"
He raised his eyebrows skeptically. "Well, Hercules wasn't wearing a dress that he couldn't afford to ruin and black heels when he defeated the Hydra, either."
Annabeth wriggled out of the strappy platforms and threw them on the floor without a second glance. "Well, thanks, Captain Obvious. Also, I would lose the Armani tie. I think your mom paid a lot for that."
He shot a look at her that made it clear he thought she was insufferable, but put the silk tie down anyway. "Right—happy now?"
"Positively jubilant," Annabeth quipped. "Now we get to kick some ass."
It was hard to argue with that, really, so without a snappy comeback, Percy effortlessly sliced across the Hydra's first head.
Annabeth slipped back into her invisibility cap and quickly burnt the writhing stump without missing a beat while Percy kept the next head busy, not stopping until the neck hung limp and lifeless. Years of fighting as a team turned the Hydra into easy work for the two, and soon all that was left of the monster was eight decapitated heads lying on the floor, staining the wood with thick, viscous purple blood.
"Gross," Annabeth muttered.
"I don't think it's going away," Percy said. "Are we supposed to pocket these things or what?"
She shrugged, still repulsed. "You take them."
"Whatever." Percy scooped up all seven of the reptilian heads and dumped them into a huge brown Bloomingdale's bag next to a pew. The purple liquid still leaked through a bit.
"Hey." Annabeth suddenly realized something. "Weren't we supposed to have a date today after church?"
"Well, that plan was made before the giant Hydra attacked . . ."
"Oh, don't play smart-ass with me. I know that." She elbowed Percy in the gut and gave him a pointed look, trying to hide the fact that the unexpected interruption to the plan really had bothered her.
He winced and rubbed his sides, shooting a glare at her. "I'm just stating a fact. If you still want to go to lunch, we can, though I'd suggest changing first."
Annabeth only sighed, Percy as usual completely unaware of her annoyance.
"Well, so what now?" Annabeth asked, changing the subject. "The Dares probably went back home . . . and next time we see Rachel, we should thank her for covering for us when her parents were probably wondering why we dashed up to that thing." She paused briefly here, apparently thinking.
As a final afterthought, she added, "And we should probably say sorry for ruining the outfits, too."
She then made a face as she wiped purple slime off of her gold bracelet. "Ick."
"I say we go to Saks and return these things," Percy offered. "I feel uncomfortable with expensive things. Usually I end up ruining them."
Annabeth unexpectedly laughed. "I don't know. You look kind of cute, actually. Like James Bond or something."
He snorted, but was unable to keep a red flush from inadvertently spreading across his face at her comment. "Er, well, James Bond did not need to worry about his friend's rich parents getting pissed because he ruined his suit fighting the bad . . . well, monsters, I guess, in our case."
". . . True."
"So we're going to Saks?"
They decided not to go straight to Saks, however—mostly because Percy's suit jacket was torn in several places, and Annabeth's dress had been stained with Hydra blood. It had taken heavy bribery to get the dry cleaners nearest Percy's apartment to get the clothes fixed within the day—more than Annabeth thought was worth it—but nevertheless, the garments looked as good as new when the pair came to pick them up at noon.
They headed to the upscale department store donning jeans and t-shirts, the clothes safely wrapped in several layers of plastic and a nondescript white bag, not revealing the state the garments had been in just a few hours ago. Annabeth had to hand it to the cleaners' staff—they had asked no questions upon setting eyes on the slightly putrid, congealing violet gunk stuck to their outfits, and had dutifully washed them nearly to their pristine original state.
But the department store itself was an entirely different matter—neither of the pair had ever set foot inside anyplace even resembling the store, and had not the faintest idea where to return their items.
"I wish Silena were here or something," Annabeth remarked absently. "Um . . . women's clothes are . . . on just about every floor, great. Let's just go up, Percy . . ."
"How does Silena manage to navigate this place? Or Rachel, for that matter?"
"Rachel led us through the Labyrinth . . ."
"The Labyrinth has nothing on Saks."
"Percy, that's hyperbole."
"What the hell is hyperbole?"
". . . Look, never mind. Let's just do what we came in here for and get out."
"Good enough for me." Percy jammed his hands in his pockets and tried to appear inconspicuous. The fact that the only other guy he saw on this floor was a vaguely metrosexual-looking thirty-something wearing a black turtleneck was not reassuring him in the slightest.
The second floor was useless—merely housing racks and racks of clothing that neither of the pair could afford as well as a throng of unhelpful salespeople. The third was more or less the same. They had just arrived on the fourth floor and, expecting failure on this floor as well, were idly examining the things there when something very strange happened.
Annabeth elbowed Percy without thinking. "Don't you hear that hissing?" she asked.
"Ow! And no!"
"Sorry," she replied, yet still sounding distracted. "But seriously, can't you hear that?"
"Um . . . no." Percy stared at her strangely for a few seconds, and then continued. "Besides, this floor doesn't seem promising, either; we should go up."
"Ugh! But can't you—" She was cut off midsentence for the second time that day.
A very loud hissing sound was heard, and Annabeth was immediately slammed into the shoe display behind her and knocked to the ground, violet bruises already blooming on her arms.
"Are you okay?" Percy asked urgently as he immediately went to her side, instantly forgetting their bickering of five seconds ago as well as everything else going on around them, and grabbing her limp wrist.
She groaned for a moment, and then said, "I told you I could hear hissing. I was right."
He released her wrist. "Nice to see that didn't damage anything permanently—though those peep-toes over there are probably ruined for life . . ."
"Very funny. Now whatever happened to chivalry? I'm the damsel in distress here."
"If I can recall correctly, a few hours ago you said you were my knight in shining armor." Percy snorted, but even as he said it he helped Annabeth to her feet and steadied her against a table.
"Well, that was two hours ago . . ." Annabeth trailed off as she looked behind Percy and got a glimpse of what had injured her in the first place. "What the hell is that?" She paled, looking very much ghostlike.
He turned around, color draining out of his face as he realized the presence of a monster behind him. "Oh, shit—that cannot be a coincidence—"
"What is that, anyway?" Annabeth found herself in the rare position of actually being frightened—this was an unfamiliar monster in an unfamiliar place, and she didn't like it one bit. Predictable, controlled situations were what she was used to, after all—she could deal with Ares campers jumping out at her during Capture the Flag (subtlety was never their forte), but the last time a spider had appeared in her shower drain she had nearly had a heart attack.
"It's a Chimera. I thought you'd know, being the smarter one out of this pair."
"Shut up!" she snapped, though her voice was clearly strained. "It's not funny. You brought Riptide . . . right?"
"Jeez. Yes. Do you have your knife? Are you okay, anyway? I can cover you if you need me to." There was a hint of concern in his voice, and Annabeth felt a small twinge of happiness at his protectiveness—though the last thing Annabeth Chase would have done was let a boy rescue her from anything.
She was barely scratched, anyway, really.
"No," she assured him. "Seriously, I'm fine. I have my knife." She smiled weakly.
Percy gave her a suspicious look. "Because I—"
"Look, Percy. See it this way: if we both keep standing here, both of us are dead. So don't worry about me." She ran off with surprising agility, brandishing her weapon before Percy could call out to her.
Which, of course, left him alone in the face of a gigantic monster. For the second time that day.
Things were going absolutely wonderfully.
Annabeth didn't have much time to formulate a plan—the goat, snake, or lion part of the Chimera was bound to notice her in the next few seconds. Right now, she was nestled in between a wooden shelf housing priceless designer handbags. The glass guarding the display case had been shattered from the force of the impact, and she took care not to place her hand near the sharp shards.
Out of her peripheral vision, Annabeth could see a vaguely familiar-looking dark-haired girl on the other side of the room, examining a pair of painful-looking stilettos. She seemed more or less oblivious to the monster threat, though, and was the only person Annabeth could see on the floor.
She knit her eyebrows together, racking her mind for a battle plan.
You, Annabeth Chase, are an idiot. Think of something—anything! Don't tell me you can't defeat a simple monster. "A simple monster" might have been slightly stretching it for the situation—but really, this was Annabeth we were talking about.
She glanced over inadvertently, where Percy was trying to distract the lion-headed side of the Chimera while simultaneously trying to bait it closer to Riptide. She let out a long sigh.
Pull it together, Chase!
She got up, brimming with new energy. Her boyfriend was not going to die because she couldn't figure out a battle plan in time, she was not going to die either and most of all, she was not going to let that Seaweed Brain defeat a Chimera all by himself. She just wouldn't let him.
She gripped her knife tightly and skirted around the creature, trying to find a blind spot in its vision, the bronze hilt slipping slightly out of her sweaty palms. She silently prayed to every god she could think of.
Annabeth crouched down under the animal's flicking, reptilian tail, about to raise her arm to chop the entire thing off. That would give Percy a chance to attack the front while it was preoccupied with finding the whereabouts of its old body part.
She took several deep, steadying breaths, but the knife still felt undeniably shaky in her hands.
Suddenly, the entire Celestial bronze weapon slipped from her slick grip and landed on the floor, making a loud clang.
Annabeth resisted the urge to squeeze her eyes shut and run as far away as she could—she knew the Chimera had to have heard the sound, and it was going to see her as soon as it turned around. So why wasn't she hearing the usual cacophony of growling, hissing, and bleating coming from the monster?
She cautiously picked up her knife again and looked around the room.
"Take that, you!" screeched high-pitched a female voice. Annabeth's eyes trained on the dark-haired girl from earlier, taking the painful-looking stiletto and sending it sailing into the eyeball of the monster. Annabeth narrowed her eyes in disbelief.
A loud howling noise came from the wounded monster. Annabeth watched as Percy gave it one final stab, thrusting Riptide into the goat section's vulnerable underbelly. The Chimera gave one final groan, and then dissipated into golden dust.
The unfamiliar girl rushed over to Annabeth and Percy. She smiled at them; her eyes were a bright, sparkling blue, and her teeth were a dazzling white. "Hey! I didn't know you guys came here!"
"Hi, Silena," Annabeth responded dully, sounding miffed that the Aphrodite girl and Percy had been the ones to off the monster and not her. "We don't, usually. We were just returning some stuff."
"Oh." Silena's pretty blue eyes grew wide as saucers. "I didn't know there was going to be a monster here, though. I just came for the Easter shoe sale!"
Annabeth and Percy shared a look, both suppressing a slight smirk.
"Well, us either," Percy said. "You okay?"
"Fine? Of course not!" Silena said huffily. She picked up the shoes she had thrown at the monster earlier—both of the beautiful lacquered heels were engulfed in a disgusting-looking yellowish slime, and the red soles were marred by what looked like acid stains.
Annabeth looked puzzled, so the daughter of Aphrodite elaborated. "These were the last size six Louboutins on sale," she pouted. "The last ones I wanted! And then a stupid monster had to come in and ruin them! Life is horrible, isn't it?" She turned on her heel and strode away, looking ready to complain to one of the salespeople.
"Did I hear her right?" Percy asked Annabeth after the girl was long gone.
"Yup," she answered in a deadpan tone. "Just got attacked by one of the deadliest creatures in mythology, and all she cares about is her new shoes."
" . . . There's something to be said for that."
There was an awkward pause as both of them surveyed the wreckage surrounding them. A fortune's worth of high-heeled shoes and handbags were strewn across the floor in various states of damage; their display shelves and cases had toppled over. It took a while before Percy finally piped up and said something, ill at ease-looking as he was.
He fiddled with the hem of his shirt. "Um, listen, Annabeth . . . uh, I kinda feel bad that we didn't get to have our date today."
Her heart slightly perked up at this, though her face still showed an indifferent mask. "And?"
"Well, I was just thinking that we could reschedule for tonight or something," he stammered, running a hand through his hair and looking uncomfortable.
The corners of her lips turned up in a smile. "That sounds good." As she entwined her hand in his, she realized this: even though her Percy was hopelessly insensitive and could be dumber than her cat sometimes, he could be absolutely adorable too.
He took her hand in his lightly, and Annabeth smiled contentedly, turning to look at him. For a few seconds, it was just them standing in silence, enjoying the undoubtedly brief peace.
"Mhm. Have I mentioned that sometimes I love you, Percy?" Annabeth murmured after the pause. She nuzzled into the curve of his neck, which smelled like seawater, ashes, and the undeniably metallic scent of blood—but those seemed like minor matters to her.
"Only last Tuesday—but you know the feeling is mutual." And with that, he leaned down to give her a kiss.
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