A/N: I. Am. Back! Whoa, this took forever to finish! But I'm proud to say this is friggin LONG! How's 3500+ words for you guys? I know you'll love this chap so I'll try to keep this simple. I'm leaving for the airport today, and I just had to finish this before I head on a plane. My summer officially begins. And that means. . .faster updates! Hopefully of course. I'll try my best. Enjoy!

P.s. Rick Riordan is the genius, not me.

P.P.s. SHOUT OUT TO ALL MY REVIEWERS! YOU GUYS ROCK! You are all the inspiration for this chapter, and I hope I didn't disappoint you with the long wait.

Take Me Higher

Chapter 10

Thalia really wished she had her own car.

Not only because she had to take a cab every time a friend couldn't drive her someplace, which in itself was a seriously overpriced drain on her finances (with the fact Jason had yet to get back to her on that situation with the child-support check), but because if she did, she wouldn't be driving Nico to his house in his pitch black Mitsubishi Evo while he was in the passenger seat, a new crisp white cast now bandaged over his injured ankle.

They'd been 'evacuated' from the soccer field moments ago due to the huge brawl that broke out between the Goode High players and the Westover players. Thalia had to half carry a limping Nico with his arm over her shoulder back to the parking lot and into the vehicle. Which was not fun, despite the close physical contact between them.

On a normal day, she would've loved the fact that they were in the same car. Alone. Just the two of them with nothing more than a half tank of gas and a killer set of loud speakers blaring out either Green Day or Killswitch Engage (Nico's personal favorite band). But there was no music playing. The awkward silence between them was as heavy as a battleship anchor, and Thalia hated every freaking minute of it.

She was angry, and worried, and traumatized, and felt like crying all at the same time. She also didn't know who to be angry at.

Percy? Jason? That friend of Jason who hurt Nico? Or Nico himself?

She just didn't know.

Percy was an asshole for starting the whole fight in the first place. Jason was an asshole for breaking his promise and getting into said fight. That other guy was an asshole for hurting Nico, which caused Percy to start said fight. And Nico was. . .well, it was like he was giving her the damn silent treatment for fuck's sake!

It was decided; they were all to blame. Screw all of them! She didn't need this shit messing with her life. She had enough of her own problems as it was. No good would possibly come from getting caught in the middle of this little rivalry.

It was in that moment, however, Nico decided to break the silence. "Hey Thals."

She kept her eyes on the road, but listened attentively, "Yeah, what?"

He was glad she wasn't looking at him to see the torn, concerned look he was giving her.

There were a lot of things on Nico's mind. Like how what was supposed to be the biggest game of the decade had quickly degenerated into a massive street fight all in the 5 minutes he'd been in the training room getting looked at by the medics. And how most of that time had been spent as a painful blur of rushing white uniforms, red crosses, and the view of plain ceiling tiles from lying on a stretcher. That is until he felt a hand grip his own, and a soothing voice follow it. He had recognized it almost immediately; it was Thalia's hand, and Thalia's voice. But the most nagging thought he had was why she was even there in the first place.

Thalia didn't go to Spartan games. Period. At least not since last year's incident. So why was she there?

Almost every one of the students who showed up only did so for two reasons: to show their support and, more importantly, to get a bit of vengeance and bragging rights when the other team lost. But the punk teen was smarter than that, Nico thought. She would've at least expected something like this to happen. And if she had, she wouldn't have shown up.

Something wasn't right, he concluded. He knew her well enough to know this wasn't like her. And the wheels inside his head were started to turn, albeit slowly, but turning nonetheless.

"Um, are you. . .okay, Thals?" he finally asked. They were outside the city now, not too far from his house but there was still some distance left.

She ignored the road to give him a side look, half incredulous, half thinking maybe he was the crazy one. "You're the one with the bad ankle, and you're asking me if I'm okay? Did that guy happen to kick you in the head too, Nico?"

He fell back into his seat, thoroughly frustrated, "That's not what I meant."

She scrunched her brows, turning her attention back to her driving, "Then what?"

"Well. . .I was, uh, just wondering that. . .um—"

She sighed, "Spit it out, di Angelo."

They turned a corner to a familiar, lonely road. He took a long moment to find his courage. Once he did, he turned to her, a serious look in his eyes, "Why were you there? At the game, I mean. I've never seen you at one till today."

Thalia took her time with an answer as well. She had to be careful about this one, or she could give away her secret. She sighed again, "I was stupid. I thought things would be different this time. Boy, was I wrong." Little did he know it was Jason who had promised her it wouldn't turn out like it did.

He raised a brow, failing to notice they were only feet away from their destination. "What made you think that?"

The punk teen responded by slamming the brakes. Forcefully.

Nico, the poor guy, wasn't wearing a seat belt so he unfortunately felt the full impact of the dash board against his aching skull.

He yelped in pain, rubbing his temple, "Jesus, Thalia! Would it kill you to give me a heads up next time?"

She looked smug, hiding her relief that he had changed the subject. Now all she had to do was keep it that way. "Nope," she answered, popping the 'p' happily. "I wasn't the one not wearing his seatbelt in his own car. We're here anyway."

Thalia G. POV

One thing you should probably know about Nico before I continue.

He's rich. And I mean like, filthy rich!

His house is actually a mansion located outside the city. It's got a huge backyard, and a patio, and maids, and about a hundred different rooms. It looked like a gothic medieval castle had collided with the Parthenon (don't ask me how I know what it looks like, just blame Annabeth), but a lot more elegantly. The mansion was all black marble and stone, with pointed high rise towers, sharply arched windows, and Classical Greek columns and statues everywhere.

It was a definitely a sight for sore eyes. Or maybe just Annabeth's eyes. Whatever.

His dad was a doctor, but Nico's family had made a killing in the mining industry before he was even born. He told me they dealt with gold, coal, copper, iron, plutonium, and all those other expensive things coming out of the ground. That's how they could afford the house.

Nico sighed in relief as he limped to the door with my help. "Home, sweet home."

I steadied him so I can look through one of the windows on the door. I frown, "It looks empty."

He laughs lightly, "It always looks empty. Don't worry, Bianca is probably inside." He then rang the door bell.

It didn't take long after that for the door to open, and a new face to arrive. The girl looked about a year or two older than me, around college age I figured. She had olive skin and dark silky hair. She could've been Nico's twin if she was a guy and a bit shorter. She was wearing a gray 'Georgetown' tee and black shorts with dark flip flops. It could only be the famous Bianca di Angelo.

Despite the lack of color choice, she had a really bright smile and friendly features. . .which lasted about two seconds before she noticed Nico's leg in a cast and that he was being supported me.

She looked shocked and concerned, "Oh my God! Nico, you alright? What happened?" she said, quickly putting his arm around her to help me. "Let's get you inside."

He had to jump the steps at the entrance, but we managed to get him all the way to the couch in the living room. Which, of course, was made of fine leather plus this dark wood that was probably worth more than my mom's car, and a kick-ass fire place. We both eased him down before I collapsed on the love seat next to it. Bianca still looked worried, sitting down across from us.

"What happened?" she repeated anxiously. "What's wrong with your leg?"

Nico gave her a look telling her to calm down. "It's just a sprained ankle, Bi." He assured. "The medics said I'll be fine in a few weeks once I get a set of crutches. No big deal. Where's Dad?"

"Dad's at work." She answered quickly. "And how did you sprain your ankle?"

He sucked in a deep breath. "There. . .might have been an incident at the game we had today. The goalie kind of baseball slid into me before I scored."

"It was an accident, though." I added.

Bianca nodded slowly, crossing the room to give him a hug. She sighed in relief, "I'm glad you're okay."

Me and Nico shared a long, silent glance. It'd probably be best if we didn't mention the fight that went down after that happened. Just so it wouldn't add to his sister's stress and concern.

After releasing him, she turned to me with a smile and a hand. "Sorry about that. I'm guessing you're the famous Thalia Grace?"

I shook it. "That wouldn't be incorrect. What gave it away?" I asked slyly.

Her smile widened a bit more. "Nico's description was very. . .articulate. He can't seem to stop talking about yo—"

Nico coughed. Loudly. Giving her the cut throat signal to stop, and hoping I wouldn't notice.

I did. And it made me grin uncontrollably.

"You sick too, Nico?" his sister teased, holding back a smirk. He face palmed himself, looking about ready to die then and there. "I should probably tell Francesca to make you some tea. Come on, Thalia. Seems like we need a more private talk."

She grabbed my wrist and led me to the kitchen. I didn't resist, this was way too much fun to watch.

"Francesca!" she called. Not even a second later, a short 60-ish year old looking lady in a white apron and chef's hat appeared. Her graying hair was tied back in a bun and she looked like she walked with a limp.

"Hai chiamato per me, Signora?" she said. Whoa, what language was that? I thought.

"Sì, ti invitiamo a fare un po 'di tè Nico? Penso che potrebbe essere malato." She had that sly smile on as she said that. I took whatever she said was supposed to be funny.

Francesca just nodded. "Certamente, Signora. vuoi un po '?"

"Sì, Grazie Francesca." And then she was off to work, filling up a pot with water and lighting up the stove.

I stared at Bianca, confused. "What was that? Spanish? And what did you say to her?"

"Italian," she clarified. "And I. . .just told her to make some tea for us and Nico."

"Because he's 'sick'?"

She nodded.

I had to giggle at that. And I almost never giggle. But this was a special occasion I suppose. "Oh, he'll love that." I replied, tone oozing with sarcasm.

Turns out, Francesca was pretty fast in the kitchen for an old goon. She settled two cups with a brown liquid inside for us on the island next to the oven.

"Bianca," I said to her, holding up my cup. "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

"I couldn't agree more." We clicked our cups together and drank. Hmm, I wonder what kinda juicy info I could get out of her without Nico coughing up a storm in the next room?

Percy J. POV (continuing from Chap 9)

"We need to talk." She said.

I quickly stepped out of my home and closed the door behind me. It was a bit obvious from my actions that I didn't want her to see anything in there. And she noticed this as well.

She glanced at it for a second, raising a brow in my direction, "You not going to invite your girlfriend in to see your apartment, Seaweed Brain?"

I tried for a smile, thinking it might lighten the mood a bit. It failed, and it was already starting to feel awkward. "There's. . .nothing worth seeing in there, Wise Girl."

That was true, of course. Gabe wasn't much of an attraction. Not that I wanted for her to see him anyway.

She looked a little disappointed, rubbing her arm nervously as if she didn't know how to continue. "Do you. . .wanna go for a walk?"

I blinked at her. That was unexpected. "Uh, yeah sure. You have anywhere specific in mind?"

She had a mischievous, not-quite smile on when she shook her head. "No."

Her sly grin was contagious. "Nowhere it is then."

And then we walked out of my building hand in hand.

It was late afternoon outside, and getting dark fast. The street lamps had just turned on once we got to the sidewalk and kids normally playing around the block or sitting outside on their steps were heading in for the day. Annabeth and I practically being adults, there wasn't much of a problem staying out into the night. As long we actually got home, it didn't matter how late we came back. There weren't many cars passing by either. So, with the hushed tone of New York in the background, the lights, the handholding, and the privacy, you might say it was a bit romantic.

And that is what finally seemed to lighten the atmosphere. "So," Annabeth began slowly. "I guess this means we can't go to that new club tonight."

I smiled despite myself. She was taking it slow, not pushing on the whole soccer fight and that shit. "I guess it does. It's no biggie. I'm sure no one is in the mood for a party after everything that went down. I think it's better if we wait another week. Connor and Travis are still recovering, and you know we can't have a good night out without the Stolls."

"Or a safe one." She added. And we started cracking up. I can't tell you the number of times a great party has had to close down because of some crazy thing the Stoll Bros. cooked up. It had to be at least a dozen.

I nodded after we both calmed down, "True. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em."

Annabeth went silent for a moment after that. "What exactly happened to you guys after the game. You all just disappeared for an hour. I called Katie and Silena, and they said the boys were pretty devastated after they came back."

I sighed, my mood dropping a bit. I could tell she was trying to hide her curiosity, but the way she pressed it out into the open, it seemed like she was really worried too. But hey, she had a right to know.

"We got sent to Mr. D's. And. It. Was. Brutal." I answered. "He broke up the team, for the entire season this year. We were all shocked as Hell."

She was gapping with wide eyes, but then quickly closed her mouth and recomposed herself. "Wow. No wonder they were so upset." She gave me a side glance, a spark of concern in those stormy gray eyes. "Are you doing alright, Percy?"

I sucked in a deep breath, "Yeah, I'll be fine. It's just. . .unfair, you know. I try to defend Nico, and then all the guys have to pay for it? That's not right, and I was only fighting for my friend. That Jason kid got what was coming to him."

It was her turn to sigh and look at me. "You're such a Seaweed Brain. You know it didn't have to end like that. The smart choice would've been to help Nico, not get yourself into trouble over fighting a guy that had nothing to do with Nico's injury."

I stopped walking and gave her a look. "You're saying if a friend of yours got hurt, you wouldn't have confronted the people involved? If Juniper or even Piper had got a sprained ankle, you wouldn't try to get back at that someone?"

She stared back at me dead in the eye. "No. I would've waited for a more appropriate time before doing that. And don't you turn this on me," she snapped. "This is about Nico. Look, I know what you were trying to do, and I'm sure he appreciates everything you did for him, but I know he can fight his own battles. Let him stand up for himself, he's not a kid."

I opened my mouth to say something, but my mind stopped me before I could. I turned away, running a hand through my hair in frustration. Why did Wise girl have to be so right? It wasn't fair, because it was so hard to argue against her logic, and she knew that. But that didn't make me feel any better.

I took a moment to respond, still not looking at her. "Maybe. . .that hadn't been the smartest move I've ever made."

I could practically hear her smirk and raise a brow behind me. "Ya think?"

I finally looked back. "Hey, don't push your luck 'cause I agreed you were right. That's to be expected of you, not me."

Annabeth stepped closer to me, still smirking and wrapped her arms around my torso. I put mine on her hips. "Yeah. But that's why I love you." She finished it off with planting a kiss on my lips.

How could I disagree with that?

We broke for air, and I smirked back despite myself. "Well then, that makes one of us."

She giggled, and I closed the gap between our mouths again.

And then Annabeth's phone decided half-way between our session to ring. Like I said, Fate freaking enjoys messing with my life nowadays.

We broke again for her to answer it. "Yeah, Dad." She said talking into her I-phone 4.

"Uh-hu. . . .Now?. . .With Percy. Why?. . .Can I just have. . .Ugh, okay fine but. . .Yes, I'll be there. . . .Okay, bye Dad."

She groaned and lowered her head into her hands once she hung up.

"Everything ok?" I asked a bit worried.

"Yeah, everything's peachy. Listen, I have to go, Percy. I'll see you tomorrow at school, ok?"

"Yeah, definitely. So this is goodnight, Wise girl. You need a cab?"

"Nah, I like walking. I'll see you later. Take care, Seaweed Brain."

We smiled and embraced each other one last time. The hug was a bit longer than usual, like neither of us wanted to return to our homes anytime soon. Her blonde curls smelled great, like lemons and strawberries. It was almost intoxicating. And then we released each other. She went ahead, jogging down the street to God knows where. I watched her all the way till she turned the corner before heading back to my own place.

That wasn't as bad as I thought it would've been. It was always great to talk to Annabeth, no matter what we were talking about we always had a way of staving off the tension and stress that came with serious discussions. That was just a testament to how great we were as a couple. Nothing ever affected us too much for it to damage our bond.

I kept thinking about that all the way to my apartment door.

But then I froze, my blood literally turning to ice and my eyes widening in fear.

This wasn't happening. This was not happening to me. My day couldn't possibly be this bad. Fate wasn't just messing with my life, she was trying to fucking murder it, painfully.

For on the pale, faded blue door of my apartment was a lazily hanging note nailed in.

Nice try, punk. You thought you could get away with that match. Smart.

But here's the problem, causing that little stunt of yours doesn't change a God damn thing. I didn't win my bet money, and that's because of your fucking dumbass brain. You were told to take a fall. And you didn't. Now here comes the pain. You'll be seeing me real soon, punk.

Watch your back, kid. I'm getting repayment; one way or another.

And I don't have to tell you who's coming for you, do I?

A/N: Ohh, shocking! Terrifying isn't it? I had to channel my inner punk/metal beast for that note. So I might not see your reviews for a few days cuz I'll be at the airport, but when I do get internet access, show me some love people! REVIEW!

And for those 85% people (all Americans) who won't understand what I'm about to say, you're forgiven for not knowing. For those 15% (most Europeans) who do, know that I love you people.