Rachel scooted over, patting the space next to her she'd just made. Leo shied away from what was probably the mad grin on her face, only to run into Piper, who had the same devilish smile.
"Tick tock, hotshot," she teased.
"Seriously should've seen that one coming," Leo muttered, making no move up the boulders.
Rachel laughed. "Already did." She gave Piper a wink. "Come on up, repair boy." Leo mumbled something in Spanish and gave her the evil eye.
"Don't make me use special pleading on you," Piper said patronizingly. Leo crossed his arms.
Annabeth leaned over to Rachel, "Now who's the one threatening to kill people?" She laughed and shoved the blonde playfully.
"You know, these might actually be fun," Rachel admitted. She'd never been one for girly party games, because early on in her private middle school she'd already divided the world into two groups: the snooty rich people (like her parents and their coworkers) and the shallow girls whose combined brains wouldn't fill a teaspoon. And then she had had to add a third group for the Greek mythology, which had pretty much turned everything on its head.
Unsurprisingly, everything made much more sense upside down.
"Fine, fine, I'll do it. And I'll survive!" Leo pointed to the sky randomly like he was imitating a super hero. The whole group cracked up, leading to a lot of pushing and shoving to keep everyone from somersaulting off Zeus's Fist. "Just give me a sec . . ."
Leo backed to the edge of the clearing, where he proceeded to squint at the steepest side of the boulders and draw lines in the air. As far as Rachel could tell, he was calculating some stuff, which didn't look very accurate to her.
"Well?" Piper asked impatiently.
"Hang on." Leo drew something that seemed suspiciously like a bonfire and a bucket, presumably of tar, followed by a stick figure. Rachel snickered, earning looks from everyone else that couldn't see what her art-wired brain was processing.
"For the hate of cereal, jump off the cliff already!" Nico turned the puppy dog eyes on Piper. "Make him do it please? I wanna watch him burn."
"Sadist," Connor muttered.
Annabeth glared at Percy accusingly. "Did you let him watch another horror movie the last time he stayed over? I thought I told you to keep an eye on him! And by keeping an eye on him I meant keep him away from those terrible influences. He's going to become a serial killer if you keep this up."
Rachel rolled her eyes as Percy dragged her between him and Annabeth as a shield. "Would you rather he watch Night at the Museum or something that lame?"
"Night at the Museum actually has some educational value."
"I thought you said half the facts are historically incorrect," Percy sulked. "And if it were up to you, he'd be watching Twilight."
"Perseus Jackson, you had better believe I heard that." Annabeth adjusted the knife holster on her bicep meaningfully. "Or you're seaweed and sushi."
"I'd like to kill cereal," Nico volunteered innocently, looking about as innocent as Mrs. O'Leary after she went through a hot dog vendor's cart.
"Score!" Leo gave him a high-five.
"You do know that a cereal killer isn't the same thing as a serial killer, right?" Travis asked, looking seriously concerned for Nico's mental health, although for entirely wrong reasons.
"Pfft. 'Course I do. But killing cereal is better than killing people," Nico explained.
"Actually," Katie shot him a disapproving look, "cereal provides fiber and nutrition, which you definitely need more of. What do you even eat for breakfast?"
Nico stared at her, wide-eyed. "You sound like Grandma Demeter . . ."
"I do not!" Katie objected. "Wait, I don't, right?" she asked her boyfriend imploringly. Travis immediately nodded vigorously.
"Uh huh. Yeah. Totally. Long live cereal and all other grains with . . . stuff."
"You guys are about to miss the show, y'know," Rachel said mildly over her shoulder, turning around and shifting into a cross-legged position, facing the steepest drop of Zeus's Fist. "Be glad I'm nice enough to tell you."
"What, that I'm about to be shoved off a cliff?" Leo planted his hands on his hips in a surprisingly defiant pose for someone balancing on the edge of a nearly vertical fifteen-foot rock face. "I was hoping you'd forget about that, and I could make my great escape and risk having my head mounted next to the boar on Cabin Five," he informed the group in general.
"When'd you get up there?" Connor asked, only just realizing what was going on.
"When I marched him up. He's surprisingly heavy for a skinny sixteen-year-old guy." Piper, who was standing behind Leo, gave him a couple of pokes to the ribs.
"It's muscle," Leo said proudly.
Nico leaned forward. "Where?"
"Y'know, I once heard Frank say that his grandma told him it's good to have chicken muscle," Percy said thoughtfully. "In Chinese," he clarified. "I mean, if you translate it from Chinese, it means chicken muscle. Or something along those lines. At least, that's what Frank said. Sorta."
"Chicken muscle?" the Stolls asked in unison, stifling identical sniggers. Rachel exchanged smirks with Annabeth and Katie. Nico just looked like he wished he'd stayed in Italy with his pizza.
"Something about that being dense and heavier than fat, so you're like fat without looking fat." Percy waved a hand vaguely. "Hey, Leo? Anytime today would be nice."
"What, you'd rather watch me and my suicide committing rather than go and beat off the evil Ares clones out for my blood?" Leo crossed his arms indignantly.
"Your blood, not mine," Percy reminded him with a grin.
"Come on, Valdez, let's get you off that fifteen foot cliff so you can prove your non-chicken-ness!" Piper said brightly. "And as a bonus, if you die, you won't have to worry about having your head mounted on Cabin Five's door!"
"I wonder if he can prove he has chicken muscle by jumping . . ." Travis mused, completely off topic. "'Cause then he wouldn't be a chicken, right? Wait, that's backwards."
"Ow! That was my foot, moron!" Piper suddenly clutched the injured appendage and hopped around precariously, nearly trampling Rachel. She and Annabeth reached out at the same time to steady Piper, but only succeeded in jerking the daughter of Aphrodite in opposite directions. Piper wobbled, somehow managing to kick Leo with her injured foot, which was still raised in the air. A noise that sounded like a cross between a girly scream and a cat's face being yanked out of a plunger announced that Leo had been sent off the precipice.
A loud and ominous thudding followed.
Once the dust and smoke had cleared, Rachel skittered down the gentler slope of the rocks like she was snowboarding, closely followed by Piper and Katie. The former had a bit of trouble, and ended up sliding on the avalanche of loose pebbles Rachel had set off.
"Are you okay?"
"He's breathing," Nico announced, having taken the short way down and just jumped.
"Corth I'b breathing, thupid," Leo said thickly, clambering to his feet and holding a hand to his mouth. Nico reached out to steady him as he swayed on his feet.
"What happened?" Piper made her way over to Leo's other side, wincing a little at every other step. "Gods, Leo, do you, like, store nuts and bolts in your shoes? I'd think that your army jacket's enough."
"Doh not." Leo spat out a mouthful of bright red blood that contrasted sharply with the patchy grass. He grimaced. "Bih my thung."
"Bit your what?" Connor asked, sniggering.
"Bit his tongue," Rachel said, pinching the bridge of her nose. "When Piper kicked him. Life lesson, folks: When falling off extremely short cliffs, do not, under any circumstances, attempt to yell anything on the way down, or even open your mouth. I thought you guys already learned that from the Great Climbing Wall Lava Incident last year."
"It was an accident!" Piper objected. "Besides, if he hadn't stomped on my foot, I wouldn't have been hopping around in the first place."
Travis frowned. "I seem to remember it starting with Percy shooting some satyr in the tail and then denying it when he almost got squished by the walls."
"Talking about Leo's tongue accident, genius." Piper flexed her foot. "Hey, anybody got nectar?"
Leo made a bunch of agitated hand movements involving his mouth, Piper's foot, and a giant 'X'. "Nnngh!"
Katie sighed, digging around in her pockets and extracting a slightly smushed square of ambrosia. "When you have Travis as your boyfriend, you learn to be prepared." She handed the godly food to Leo. "Sorry, I only have one. You guys'll have to share it."
"Yeah," Connor drawled, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. "Share it."
"Shaddup," Leo mumbled, breaking the square in half and gingerly placing one piece in his mouth. He handed the other half to Piper. "Mm, that's better. I really should start bringing the Rambo food with me everywhere." Piper hopped up and down on both feet a couple times and aimed a kick at Leo just to be sure, nodding in satisfaction.
Rachel started back up to her spot on the boulders, only to find Percy and Annabeth locked in a weird scuffle of sorts over pen-Riptide, with Annabeth digging her knuckles into Percy's scalp and Percy holding onto her for balance, laughing all the while. Somehow they managed not to tumble off the rocks and play tug-of-war vigorously with a ballpoint pen at the same time, something only Percy and Annabeth could ever manage to pull off.
Deciding that starting a collection of bruises wasn't worth sitting next to her best friends, Rachel settled down near Nico, who raised an eyebrow and grinned. "Enjoying this game so far?"
"Oh yeah," she said, gesturing above her. "Time of my life."
"Y'know, we've only gotten through one dare," Nico observed. "Are these things always this slow-moving? Because if they are, I'm changing my vote to Twister."
Rachel hummed in consideration. "I think the whole demigod package deal has something to do with it. Why, you'd rather smell people's feet than watch Leo 'bigh hith thung'?" she mimicked. "Or are you just afraid of dares?"
"I am afraid of dares. Especially that Dare," Nico said, pointing at her. "It's pure evil. Don't you remember how many quests you've sent me on?"
"Well, there was that one time where you sent me to France to get some special paints and whatnot, and an empousai stalked me to the Louvre. Plus that other time when you made me fetch you a cappuccino, and I nearly died because of it."
"Oh yeah . . . it was a really good cappuccino." Rachel's stomach growled in protest of thinking about coffee, having been deprived of food since lunch. "Listen up, people!" she called, climbing to her feet. All heads turned to her, Travis losing his thumb war with Katie because of it. "Who's hungry?"
There was a chorus of groans and "Me!"s. Rachel nodded. "Leo, your turn."
"Wait, what?" Leo looked up from his (literally) heated debate with Piper, confusion etched across his face. "How'd you get from hungry to my turn?"
"Weeell," Rachel stretched out the word, planting her hands on her hips, "what usually happens is after the daree finishes the dare, they get to truth or dare the next poor victim – uh, person."
Leo perked up. "Awesome! I get to make someone do whatever I want? Like, hang them from a tree by their ankles and dress them up as Barbies?" He grinned not-very-subtly at Piper, rubbing his hands together.
"You really should have gone over the rules of the game beforehand, Rach." Annabeth tightened her ponytail and chucked Riptide back at Percy. "And maybe an idea of where this is going."
"Hey, I said Leo would jump off a high place, didn't I?" Rachel shot back. "And no, you have to pick someone other than your dare-er, or you guys could just be beating each other up all day," she said to Leo, who slumped and stuck out his bottom lip comically.
"That's not as much fun."
"Rachel . . ." Percy frowned at her. "What kind of demigod-risking plan are you coming up with now?"
"One that'll solve our starvation issue," she said mildly.
"Oh, I get it!" Travis said suddenly. He carefully edged along the rock to where Leo was sitting and whispered something in his ear. Leo grinned and fist bumped him.
"Nico," he said, swiveling around at a perilous angle to face the son of Hades. "Truth or dare?"
Nico's eyes flicked to Travis suspiciously, then to Rachel, who mouthed 'chicken' at him. "Dare," he said slowly.
"Go to the kitchens and swipe us some food." Leo rubbed his stomach. "I'm starving to death."
"Drama queen," Piper murmured.
Nico eyed him skeptically. "Is there some sort of catch here?" he finally asked.
"Nope," Travis answered. "No catch at all."
Suddenly Nico relaxed and shrugged, though his dark eyebrows were still raised. "Alright then. If you're sure." He hopped off Zeus's fist and stared for the bushes, taking each step carefully and glancing over his shoulder at them. "What?"
"Nothing," Rachel promised, flashing a smile. "Absolutely nothing at all."
Once Nico was safely out of hearing range, Percy shook his head defeatedly and looked around at them all. "He's screwed, you know."
"We know," Katie assured him. "But on the bright side, if he pulls this one off we'll have food for our little stakeout."
Rachel slapped her forehead. "Aw, man! I should've told him to get me a cappuccino while he's at it."
I think this is the point where crap gets spewed. I have this odd habit of Making Things Up As I Go Along and Never Writing Everything Out Before Posting... Yeah.