AN: It's true - I'm back! And it feels sodamngood to be updating this again. Sorry to leave you all hanging, but writer's block is worse than... [insert creative really bad thing here]. Thanks to all of you who have reviewed/favorited/alerted this story and/or encouraged/supported me in that awkward two and a half month gap. You guys are the best. Also! I've gone back and redone chapter one. It was kinda atrocious, barely six hundred words. Go back and read it please, I can't stand to leave that kind of impression. And now, since I've kept you waiting long enough:

Double Cross

VIII Percy

December 19

His stomach growled, and he cursed internally.

"Hungry, are you?" Katherine asked mockingly. Her pale features twisted into a pout that looked sickeningly appropriate on her young face. He could only glare up at her, seeing as he was tied to a chair and gagged. He'd woken up in some pretty bad places, but this ranked in the top ten without a doubt.

He couldn't remember the last time he'd eaten. Two days? Three? He knew that he'd been here for six days, though—the wall of his cell now bore six small white lines, scratched in with that tin cup he'd stashed. It was just like those cliché prison movies, except that he wasn't being paid millions, and he wasn't acting.

"Today," she said, "we're going to do something new. I haven't tried it before, so it might not work correctly. Don't worry, though; I'm sure we can fix any brain damage that happens."

Before he could protest, an image was forced roughly into his mind.

A boy with black hair is crouching against a brick wall, gripping a black sword. Nico. His breath comes in short gasps; there's already a thick gash on his dark eyes dart around the alley. He's looking for something. Or something is looking for him.

A low growl comes from a spot a few feet from Nico. He turns and starts creeping towards whatever monster is hiding in the shadows.

Percy wanted to call out a warning or jump in front of his friend or do something because he knew whatever was about to attack Nico was bad, but before he could do anything—

Nico lunges, sword poised to strike.

An unearthly shriek fills the cramped alley, and a dark hulking figure rises from behind an abandoned couch. Nico gasps, staring up at the thing in horror; he seems unable to move from shock. The monster swipes at the son of Hades with an enormous scaly limb. Nico falls limp to the ground, and the creature laughs horribly.

Nico wakes up in a small dark room. Someone is hurting him, torturing him, and he's screaming "No, no, please! No—!"

"No!" The vision shut off abruptly, leaving Percy shaking and breathing heavily in the aftermath. The gag had fallen off somewhere in the midst of the vision.

"Huh," said Katherine. She was staring down at him with a surprised expression, her head cocked like a confused dog's. "It actually worked. The last time I tried, the person went insane after about three seconds. Still learning how to use magic." Her mouth twisted into a frown. "Not that I ever had any help with that," she muttered resentfully.

"What—what was that?" he choked out.

She blinked, seeming to come out of a reverie. "I put a false image into your mind," she explained calmly. "It's like forcing you to watch a movie, except you can't close your eyes."

His frantically beating heart had slowed a bit by this point. "What were you saying earlier… about help? With magic."

"No questions," she barked. A fierce scowl distorted her young face, suddenly making Percy quite afraid of the thirteen year old girl in front of him. "Now, on the count of three—"

Another image crashed into him.

He's twelve, in the back of Smelly Gabe's smelly Camaro. Grover is sitting next to him, his rain-soaked furry legs not helping with the stench, and his mom is hunched tensely over the steering wheel, muttering to herself.

"Just a few more miles. Please."

Grover is explaining something to him, and he tries to push aside the all-consuming panic so that he can try to listen to what this weird half-donkey boy is saying. Only a few words penetrate the thick layer of fear and confusion. The rest sounds like muddled mush.

"Greek gods… your father… camp… old ladies…"

Confusion washed through him. That wasn't how it had happened… not exactly, anyway. And how had they gotten into his memories in the first place?

Then a bright white light is all he can see and the sound of grating, groaning metal and the BOOM of thunder fill the air.

He peels his forehead off the seat in front of him.

Percy felt a small wave of relief. And any second his mom would start yelling his name and Grover would moan about food because that was what happened and of course they couldn't change it because it had happened.

Except in the vision it didn't play out that way.

He looks over at Grover, worried for his best friend's safety, even if he's a barnyard animal. But Grover is slumped against the car door, blood trickling out of his mouth. Percy shakes him, because he's got to wake up so they can get shelter. But the goatboy is still, and…

Ice cold.

Percy's breath catches in his throat and heat pricks his eyes. Grover can't be dead. No, he's sleeping.

He turns to his mother. She is still hunched over the steering wheel, but now she is completely limp. Her face is bloody.

Her eyes are wide open. Staring. Unmoving. Lifeless.

He shuddered as he surfaced from the vision. It wasn't real. It couldn't have been real, because that would have happened in the past and there was no way they could have changed it. That was what he told himself, again and again until he believed it.

Katherine was watching him with an impassive, slightly curious expression as she leaned against the wooden table.

"You react strongly. That's unusual."

"Why are you here?" Percy asked harshly. His voice was raspy and rough from lack of water and days of alternating disuse and screaming. He glared up at her, still shaking from the latest apparition. "Not here, in this room. Here, torturing people, working for her." He spat the last word like a curse.

She sucked in an angry breath.

Tyson is slumped on the edge of a rocky cliff, his single eye torn and bloody. A smirking half-blood stands over him with a knife as his little brother begins to sob. The demigod slashes down, and then he walks away, covered in gold monster dust.

Percy made a pained noise somewhere in the back of his throat. It wasn't real, it wasn't real. "Why?" he rasped. "Why do you do it?" Her fist collided with the side of his head, but he barely noticed. He had a headache already anyway.

"You idiot," she snarled. He was shocked to see an almost hysterical light in her eyes. "Why do you think I'm here? Oh, you thought your noble request would make everything better. Didn't you? You thought that once everyone had a cabin and people actually thought about the minor gods' kids every once in a while, things would change!" She was shouting now, but he was too stunned to reply.

It was starting all over again, he realized. The children of the minor gods weren't getting enough respect, so they were joining anyone who promised them revenge. He had to tell Annabeth somehow—

"Gaea gave us a home," Katherine continued. Her voice was loud and definitely in full rant mode now. "She gave us power and a family and everything we never got at Camp Half-Blood. Even with the gods claiming their kids, nothing will ever be different unless someone forces them to respect minor demigods.

"Do you have any idea what it's like to be completely invisible? To be completely ignored just because your parent isn't one of the oh-so-great Olympians? No," she spat contemptuously. "Of course you don't. I was only at Camp for three weeks—no, you didn't know that? You were too high and mighty to notice a little daughter of Hecate—three weeks and I could tell how much more respect the Olympians' kids got, let alone the Big Three."

"I—" He wanted to say something, explain that yes the gods had some growing up to do but things were getting better and couldn't she see that it really wasn't as bad as she thought?

She cut him off, her voice dangerously quiet. "When one of the satyrs found me, I went with him because I thought I would be going somewhere I belonged. Where I wouldn't have to worry about monsters or being a freak or my dad always saying that I was 'special.' That's what they said—that Camp was like one big family, kumbaya and oh let's sit around the campfire and all that crap. And I believed it. But I was obviously wrong, wasn't I?"

"It's—it's not—" He found himself unable to finish; his throat was too dry and he knew somewhere deep down that she was right.

She didn't bother with a reply, instead bombarding him with another awful vision—

Camp Half-Blood is in flames. The fierce orange light dances from building to field to forest with heart wrenching speed, devouring everything in its path. He can only watch in horror as each cabin catches fire and burns to rubble. Cabin Three is the last to go; it collapses in bits and pieces until only small, charred chunks remain.

Monsters have somehow crossed the borders and the campers seem totally unprepared for the attack. Demigods fall by the dozen as the horde of monsters overwhelms them.

"Percy!" He turns to see Annabeth yelling at him. "What are you doing just standing there? Help us!"

He tries to explain that he can't, he can't move or talk or fight but no words come out. Annabeth shakes her head in disgust and runs off the join the hopeless battle.

In the next five minutes, every single demigod is taken down by a monster.

The first thing he noticed when the nightmarish vision ended was Katherine standing over by the table with her arms crossed. Her expression had hardened into a cool mask that showed none of the maniacal fury exhibited just a few moments ago.

Then he noticed that there was something wet on his face. It dripped onto the corner of his mouth, and he could taste salt. Tears. But he didn't remember…

"You're done for today." Katherine's cold voice came from behind him; he tried to look around to see her but found that to be kind of difficult when tied to a chair. "Someone will come to get you." She stalked out of the torture chamber, leaving him with only the silent room for company.

The guards didn't come for another half hour, although it felt so much longer than it actually was, which gave him plenty of time to think.

Too much time, actually.

He was pretty sure he was going to go crazy soon. Between not eating in days, going without water for so long, torture, being locked up… yeah, he would probably lose it. He closed his eyes and prayed to any god who would listen: get me out of here.

He wondered if anyone—especially the people who had been around last time—knew that Gaea was rising again. If she was wreaking havoc on the surface, which she undoubtedly was, it couldn't be that difficult to figure out. And the gods, or Chiron maybe, they'd have to realize it eventually.

A thought struck him. Was Gaea the reason the gods had closed Olympus? Had they known she was rising, and withdrawn to let the demigods find out for themselves?

Were they going to help fight her?

You idiot, of course they will, Percy reassured himself. There was no way they could abandon their kids like that. He'd made them promise, right? They were probably just… planning, or something.

He sighed, knowing that Annabeth would have come up with the perfect plan—both for fighting Gaea and getting him free—if she only knew. He remembered her disappointed, desperate face from the vision, saw her run away to fight and die… A shudder racked through him. No, none of his friends were dead. They were just trying to trick him, just using one more method of torture.

None of his friends were dead, but they were all in horrible danger.

Would it never end? He felt like the Fates never stopped toying with them. To be honest, Percy was so tired of the constant threats and worry and fighting and fear. None of them would ever have the chance to just be normal. They were too busy fighting and hiding and getting kidnapped and tortured…

He needed to stop this war before it could begin.

He needed a plan.

Update (9/12/11): Hello my lovelies. Nice to see you all again. Breaking news - I had an idea. Shocking, right? Unfortunately, this idea (which I fully intend to work into the story) will force me to change the beginning significantly, along with several parts in the chapters I've already posted. So in order to do this, I'm probably going to start from scratch, mark this story complete and rename it something along the lines of "Double Cross original," and then go off on this whole new plot arc. As a result, this won't be updated for a looong time. I'm going to have to rework a large part of the story, and the change will make this an even heavier AU. I'm hoping you'll like the new parts; it's something that I'm pretty sure hasn't been explored yet anywhere. It's going to be super angsty but also hopefully leave room for more of the classic Percy humor that this story is seriously lacking.

Get pumped!

Until next time,