AN: Anyone up for a good old fashioned PJO short story featuring the monster of the week? This story takes place the day after Percy's 15th birthday, the day after Battle of the Labryinth ends and really doesn't serve any purpose for the rest of the series except to provide Percy with another adventure, but it is fun, and I hope you like it.
Thank you to icy roses for beta reading this for me, catching my mistakes and giving valuable input. Seriously, this story would still be moldering away on my computer if I hadn't sent it your way, I really can't thank you enough.
Disclaimer: I don't own Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus, etc., etc.
Some days, you shouldn't even bother getting out of bed.
When you're a demigod, and you get that feeling, you learn to go with it. It will save you from all sorts of grief like getting your head bitten off – literally.
Some days though, you just have to risk it. Like when a girl from school who's sort of pretty and thinks you're kind of cool asks you to go to the movies the day after your birthday. Those are the days when you grab your deadly ballpoint pen, tell your mom and Cyclops little brother you'll be back in a few hours, and just hope for the best.
I shouldn't have risked it.
Rachel had called that morning, saying I owed her a huge explanation, and that I needed to meet her, and oh yeah, did I want to go see a movie? Maybe a smarter person would have said no, with the countdown for the possible end of the world reading at less than a year, and pretty much every monster in the country out for my blood, but I said yes.
I had a good reason though. I wanted – I needed - to get out of the apartment. I had gotten used to it being just my mom and me there, but this morning it was a lot more crowded. Paul left last evening, but he stopped by early this morning for breakfast, and hadn't left yet. I guess I'll have to get used to him being around, since he's going to marry my mom, but he wasn't the only extra person there.
Tyson slept over after our party yesterday, and Nico had pretty much fallen asleep mid sentence on the floor last night. When I left this morning, he was in the middle of what had to be his sixth nap today. I don't know, maybe it's a child of Hades thing, and they like to sleep during the day. Probably in a coffin.
So seeing a movie with Rachel was not the worse idea in the world, or so I had thought. And it wasn't. It was the walk back to my place where the trouble started. We were having a good time and trading stories. I was telling her about how Grover once ate a hackey sack, and she told me about how a demonstration of hers once got out of hand and ended up flooding her father's country club.
Rachel is really easy to talk to. Most of the time she laughs with me, not at me, she doesn't interrupt me to correct my pronunciation of Ancient Greek, and she hasn't been with me on most of my quests, so she can't accuse me of exaggerating my stories. We were having a lot of fun together, and it wasn't at all about prophecies or choices or the end of the world.
So I wasn't thinking about anything serious when we heard the screams.
A group of kids a few years older than us ran out of an alleyway a few feet in front of us. They were yelling things about "monster" and "exterminators." One even let out a small, high pitched "Help!" as he passed us.
"There's something behind that building," Rachel said, peering around the brick building on our left.
"Really," I said pulling out Riptide. I uncapped the pen and it transformed into my sword made of celestial bronze. "What was your first clue?"
"It's big, whatever it is," she continued. She was seeing something I couldn't through the Mist. "The building's in the way, I can't really see it."
"Right," I said, starting forward. "Sounds like my cue. Be right back."
"Aren't you supposed to use a phone booth or something?" Rachel called from behind me. "You know, protect your secret identity?"
I turned around so that I was jogging backwards down the alley and lifted Riptide in a sort of salute at her. I was trying to be all macho and cool because, hey, I had the chance and I wanted to impress her. "Don't worry, I do this all the time! I'll be -"
I tripped over a garbage can and fell to the hard pavement. Riptide flew out my hand and skittered a few feet away. My head snapped back and would have cracked on the ground if not for a bag full of something soft that sort of squished and formed a pillow instead when I landed. The silver can shot out from under my leg and clattered down the alley in a big circle until it hit the wall with a clang. The rest of the trash scattered behind it.
"You were going to say 'fine' weren't you?" Rachel stood above me with her eyebrows raised and stretched out her hand. "Are you okay?"
I took her hand and pulled myself up. My hand had gotten scratched up when I hit the ground, but the bleeding had already stopped. "I'm fine," I said. My other hand had landed in something sticky, and I tried to wipe it off on my jeans. My mom wasn't going to be too happy to see the hole that had just appeared in them.
"I hope you weren't planning on a surprise attack." Rachel reached over and dusted off my shoulder. It was covered in little pieces of something pale yellow. It was popcorn. There must have been some sort of theater in the building we were next to, because the bag that had become my emergency pillow was stuffed with popcorn. It was leaking out of a hole now, and the wind was blowing it all over the alley like a yellow, mid-August snowstorm. My hand must have landed in someone's old soda. Gross.
She looked down the alley that was now lined with popcorn and brightly colored candy wrappers, like someone had thrown a snack parade. The metal trashcan caught the wind and rolled noisily for a few more feet. "So, I'm thinking I should probably go with you." She pulled a Snicker wrapper off the side of my T-shirt, where some caramel had made it stick. "Maybe I can help."
I went over and picked up Riptide. The point of the blade had a Hot Tamales box over it, and I took that off and crushed it under my shoe. It was probably my pride that was hurt worse of all. Once, just once, I would like to be the guy who could say something cool while he ran off to save the day, and wouldn't trip over anything on the way there.
"I don't think so," I said as I turned back to her. I swung Riptide through her shoulder to make my point. "There's a reason why mortals don't fight these things."
I would have explained that I would have wanted her help, except I didn't know if she could even pick up a celestial bronze weapon, much less fight with one, but another scream came from around a corner down the alleyway.
My grip tightened on my sword. "That's Annabeth."
Rachel's eyes went wide. "Are you sure? What's she even doing here?"
"Don't know, but that's her. I'm sure." I took off down the alley, faster this time.
"What can I do?" Rachel called after me.
"Go to my place and tell my mom what's happened," I called over my shoulder. I wasn't turning around this time. No more popcorn baths for Percy. I increased my speed. "Tell her I'm gonna be a little late." I heard her shoes running back down to the street.
I kept going. The alley was longer than I had first thought. I passed one intersecting passage, then another, and another and was coming up on the last one. I hadn't heard anything in a while, which I wasn't sure was a good thing. I picked up the pace, turned the last corner, and stopped fast.
One of the strangest things I had ever seen was in front of me.
AN: It's short, I know, but there is more on the way. I'm trying to find good places to cut up the story, so that will probably mean quite a few cliffhangers, sorry.