Communication Lines Are Open

A PJO oneshot

by mew-tsubaki

Note: The Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus characters belong to Rick Riordan, not to me. Oh, and this pairing was discovered by me, so it'd be nice to have a little mention if you write them! Thanks! Read, review, and enjoy!

- ^-^3

"Iris, I have a message…Iris?" Zeus squinted at the mist from the fountain on Olympus. There was a rainbow, all right, but there was no messenger goddess. Well, that just wasn't right. Zeus had a message to send, and he wanted it sent right now!

The lord of the gods growled under his breath. He didn't want to call on Hermes—he didn't need Hermes because he wasn't sending a package to anyone. But it was more than annoying that Iris wasn't there when even Zeus called.

"Hermes!" he yelled, heading for the summit. "Hermes! HERMES!"

Quick as a flash, Hermes appeared at Zeus' side. "Now hush up, you two—we've still got a few hundred shipments to make after this," he told his caduceus. He turned to Zeus. "You called?"

"Why isn't Iris responding?"

Hermes shrugged. "Busy, I guess." He winced, realizing that hadn't been the best thing to say to their king. "Uh, what I mean to say is—"

"'Busy'?" Zeus echoed. "'BUSY'? Iris is too busy even for little old me?" His sarcastic words barely hid his usual temper.

Hermes knew he wouldn't get anything else done if Zeus ended up causing chaos up here in Olympus. "Look, I'll go talk to her. Is there anything I can do for you for now, in her stead?"

Zeus grimaced. "No. It wasn't important."

"What was it?"

"I only meant to speak with Thalia."

Hermes shot George and Martha a look to keep quiet, even though he was just as surprised. Since Zeus rarely contacted his daughter, it must've been pretty important for him even to confess to whom he wanted to send a message. The humiliation earned Zeus Hermes' sympathy, and the fleet-footed god sighed. "All right, all right… Do you want me to deliver the message?"

"No." Zeus was all business once more. "I want you to go to Iris and find out why she's not doing her duty."

"And if she gets sassy?"

Zeus looked as though he hadn't thought that far ahead. "Then I'll—I'll fire her."

"Of course, sir," Hermes replied, though he didn't see how Zeus could fire the goddess of messages and rainbows. Still, didn't everyone have to work with Zeus' whims? Hermes left Olympus before Zeus could come up with any more of those impulses.

- ^-^3

Chaos wasn't present in Olympus, though. No, it was present at Rainbow Organic Foods & Lifestyles.

No sooner had Hermes set foot outside Iris' store than he had to take a step back as various cloud nymphs breezed in and out. There was a loud commotion coming from inside the store, and Hermes' curiosity grew as he made for the door.

"No customers today, sorry," one nymph said as she gently pushed him back.

"What?" He stared at her in disbelief. "I—I'm no customer. I'm Hermes. I need to see Iris."

The nymph gave him a sympathetic look despite her wide smile. "Sorry, Mr. Hermes—but the boss said 'no gods' today. And that's final."

He couldn't believe it. Zeus had been denied by Iris, and now Hermes was being denied by a mere nymph? Something was awfully awry. "Excuse me, Iris!" he yelled into the store.

The hubbub didn't calm down even as he politely pushed past that cloud nymph and searched for Iris. The store seemed busier than he'd ever known it to be, with items flying off the racks. In the back of the store he found the goddess, who was producing goods almost as quickly as they were disappearing.

"Iris," he said, barely gaining her attention. "What's going on?"

"You should know!" she remarked. "You're the god of deliveries, aren't you? This is what they call a rush!"

"But, all these…"

"People? Mortals these days are on the healthy, save-the-world kick. They want organic everything, and I'm one of the few places around to provide organic everything." Her smile was bright when she glanced at him, and Hermes had to blink. Sometimes she really was a rainbow personified.

"That's great and all, but…" He glanced behind him and saw that nymph from earlier. She was glaring at him—she probably didn't like that he'd interrupted the workday. He turned back to Iris and continued in a hushed tone, "…you can't leave the king of the gods hanging, Iris."

"Hmm, what? Oh, Zeus needs to message someone? Fleecy handles that. Has for a while now."

He stared at her incredulously. He hadn't known that. "Who's Fleecy?"

Iris briefly pointed behind him.

Hermes wanted to cringe as he turned and saw that Iris meant the same nymph who had tried to keep him from entering earlier. She wasn't looking their way this time, at least. "Oh" was all Hermes could manage. He faced Iris once more. "Then why didn't she answer? Zeus was as red as Persephone's pomegranates."

Iris gave him a look over the rims of her glasses. "Well, sorry, but I'm no one's lackey, Hermes. This is what I like to do. Sometimes the machine gets broken, but it's fixed along the way. Zeus will forget it ever happened and then everyone will be happy. Okay? So, if you'll excuse me…" She waved her hand, and Fleecy suddenly appeared.

"Yes, boss?" the nymph prompted.

"Please show Hermes out, Fleecy. And please—don't let any other gods in."

"Roger that, boss." Fleecy gently led the god outside, and she wore a smile the whole way.

But when Hermes faced her outside the shop, he saw how murky her eyes looked—like little storms. "Sorry about that," he said by way of apology. "But do make sure that Zeus isn't ignored again—by you or by Iris. He was quite upset, uh…Fleecy."

The nymph sighed. "I'm sorry, too, Mr. Hermes. I won't let it happen again. But the boss is extremely busy right now…but happy. I don't want anything to ruin that for her. You understand, right?" She frowned a bit, and Hermes felt embarrassed to think he caused that expression.

"Yeah, yeah, I guess…"

- ^-^3

The one person who didn't understand was Zeus, however.

The very next day, Zeus summoned both Hermes and Iris to Olympus. He wasn't pleased.

He appeared ready to pounce when the two gods entered the council room. "I demand an explanation!" he boomed.

Hermes and Iris stood very still. Hermes cleared his throat to speak. "Uh, for—"

"Not from you!" Zeus bellowed. He stared right through Iris. "From you!"

Iris fought a sigh, Hermes could tell, as she stood straighter and fixed Zeus with a stare. "I am sorry, Lord Zeus."

"I didn't ask for an apology. I want an explanation." He flared his nostrils, and Hermes was reminded of a dragon.

"I have a business now. You know this. Even if I didn't, messages never were perfect. Think about all the times demigods haven't created a good enough rainbow to connect. And—"

Zeus, to their surprise, leaned back in his throne. The sight was so unfamiliar that Hermes almost wished the others were present—or maybe just Apollo and Aphrodite, because they'd get a kick out of this. However, Zeus then smirked, and Hermes didn't feel quite so jaunty anymore. "Are you saying that your job is too much for you?"

Iris shut up, but the look on her face was a dangerous one. She'd come to love R.O.F.L. so much that she looked ready to hurt even the king of the gods if anything happened to it. "My shop—"

"I wasn't talking about your shop," Zeus said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "I meant your sacred duties. Your messenger title." He gazed at Hermes. "Hermes is a messenger, as well."

Now Hermes knew where Zeus was going, and he didn't like it one bit. As if he didn't have enough to do already! "Please, Lord Zeus, just—"

"I propose a competition!" Zeus announced, oblivious to Hermes' interruption. "Whoever can perform best the tasks I lay before you will be crowned the Deity of All Communication. All messenger duties will lie with that person, and the other will be stripped of his or her current position."

They stared at him in disbelief. "You can't be serious!" Hermes blurted. "That would change our myths and what we are—it would be the start of the ruin of us!"

Zeus snorted. "Do you really think one transference of powers would hurt us so much, we immortals who have been around since the beginning of civilization? You take my wits for granted, Hermes," he replied.

Iris seemed stuck between a rock and a hard place. "Then…what are these tasks?" she asked, though her voice had an uncharacteristic hard edge to it. Hermes felt for her. He didn't want to do this either, but he'd thought it himself: Everyone had to work with Zeus' whims.

"First, I want a letter delivered to Hades."

"Easy," Hermes said.

"And the letter must be entrusted to someone who works for you. This will help convince me that you have a reliable network of information."

Hermes frowned. He worked on his own. No doubt Iris would have that task in the bag. He sneaked a peak at her, but her face was a mask.

"Second, I want a happy birthday message taken to Thalia—in person."

Hermes wanted to groan. He was male! Was Zeus trying to make this any easier for Iris so that he wouldn't have to fire her? Then again, if Hermes lost, Hermes would be barely anyone… He surely wouldn't be able to call himself a god…

"Third and last, I would like well wishes conveyed to Poseidon. As I understand it, Jackson…I mean, Perseus has given him his first grandchild." Zeus frowned a little then, but he shook it off. "Of course, this task is doubly dangerous, for I would like the same wishes conveyed to Athena."

Hermes wanted to curse. The odds were against him. Even if he had Nemesis' and Tyche's blessings, Hermes still wouldn't feel lucky.

Zeus looked pleased with himself, though. "I think that should do it."

"Forgive my rudeness," Hermes said once he found his tongue, "but you're treating us like demigods, Lord Zeus."

"I am, aren't I?" Zeus grunted. "But look at what the demigods learn when they accomplish their goals. I've begun to wonder if perhaps our old ways have made us soft…"

"Never, sir!" the god of thieves was quick to fib. "Then, if we have your permission to leave, Iris and I will get started right away."

"Fine," Zeus said. "I want these tasks done as soon as possible, Hermes, Iris. I don't care in what order you do them so long as they are completed."

Hermes nodded and ushered Iris out of the council room before Zeus could change his mind and give them more or other things to do.

"He's being ridiculous," Iris said, tired, as they left Olympus. "I understand his impatience with me. But I need my shop. It's who I am."

"Yes, well, there's nothing to be done about it." Hermes tried to give her an encouraging smile. "The best of luck to us both, Iris."

She shook his hand before departing in a flash of light. "The best of luck, Hermes."

And that was how Hermes was left without a clue as to how to win this horrid contest.

- ^-^3

Hermes took care of his other work first. While he made deliveries, he asked George and Martha to keep an eye on Iris' shop.

She's not done anything Zeus asked yet, George told him when Hermes paused to catch his breath. She's just continued with business as usual.

"Really?" The god raised his eyebrows. He couldn't figure if Iris wanted to win or lose the contest. She was baffling, that was for sure.

You ought to get cracking on the tasks yourself, Martha reminded him. Pick your poison—Hades, Thalia, or Poseidon and Athena.

Hermes groaned. He was the god of inventions, but he hadn't yet come up with a way to deliver Zeus' letter to Hades indirectly. Though Zeus hadn't ruled out the giving of quests to demigods, Hermes didn't want to send any of his kids to the Underworld, not when it wasn't their time. And mail by means other than Hermes didn't reach the Underworld.

What about that rude nymph you met at Iris' shop? George piped up, seemingly reading the god's mind.

"What about her?" Hermes asked as he switched to smartphone mode and checked his to-do list.

Use her. No one said other gods' servants were off-limits. So go ask her to deliver the letter.

"And why should I do that? Not mention, why would she even listen to me?"

George has got a point, Martha chimed in. She could help you by way of apology for her disrespect towards you. And then you'd have a lackey.

"Uh, gods don't really share servants…"

Good thing, too, since I wasn't planning to work for anyone but you, Martha replied.

"Isn't that cheating?"

Let's call it "creative winning," George mused happily.

Hermes rolled his eyes, but he couldn't deny that they had a good point. Maybe it was time for him to indulge in a little blackmail… He hadn't done any of that since before the war with Gaea, when he'd told Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase to get George and Martha back from Cacus.

With that thought in mind, Hermes headed once more for Iris' shop.

- ^-^3

Fleecy was smiling once again, as though nothing had happened before. "No customers today, sorry," she told him, just as she had a few days ago.

"That's fine," Hermes said. "I came here to see you, actually."

She was taken aback by his bold declaration. "What?"

"You can go anywhere, right?" He looked around and saw that the shop wasn't as busy as it had been last time. "Oh, first, I need you to take your break now."

Fleecy gave him a curious look but did as he requested. She joined him outside the shop and cocked her head to one side. The motion made her wild white hair tilt like the planet Saturn's rings, and the analogy almost made him laugh. He fought not to smirk, though. "What can I do for you, Mr. Hermes?"

"All right, first—stop calling me 'Mr. Hermes.' It just makes me sound old." He didn't miss the mischievous glint in her eye when he said that. "Moving on… I'd like your help."

"If this is about the contest, I already heard from the boss. And you should've known that I would help only her, Mr. Hermes."

Hermes rolled his eyes. Fleecy looked nice, but, boy, she could have an attitude when one got on her bad side. "Look, I'm sorry about before. But that was that, and this is this."

"Why should I help you?"

He decided to try George and Martha's reasoning. "Because you were rude to me before. I'm a god, and you didn't show me the respect that you show other gods—or, at least, the respect you show your mistress."

Fleecy's eyes grew stormier and she huffed. But even she had manners, as her shoulders slacked and she answered, "I didn't mean anything by it. But, I still don't see why I should help you."

Ever the quick thinker on his feet, he grinned. "I do. You see, if you help me, then Iris will have to try her hardest to win, knowing that she doesn't have as much help as she thought she did."

"That's playing dirty, and I'd hate to lose her trust," Fleecy remarked, unimpressed.

Hermes shrugged. "If Iris described the tasks to you, then you already know how easy they will be for her. But for me? Heavens, no! I need a bit of help. But that means that Iris can't slack off, not if both of her jobs mean anything to her. Besides, it might help her find her motivation again to do the Iris-messaging instead of making you do it."

Fleecy mulled it over. "I suppose… But! I'm not doing this because I don't love the job she gave me." Fleecy squared her shoulders. She looked tough for a cloud nymph. "I'm doing this because the boss needs a real challenge to keep her on her toes and to keep her mind fresh."

"That's exactly what I was thinking," Hermes stated, his grin genuine this time. Fleecy was nothing if not amusing.

The nymph eyed him warily, but her business smile was returning to her face. "So, what now?"

"Now I've got business of my own," he said, scrolling through his to-do list and ignoring the snickers he heard coming from his caduceus. "I think I can fit you in tomorrow night, at eight."

Fleecy cocked her head to the other side this time, her hair jutting out like Saturn's rings again. It was so funny that it was cute. "Huh?"

"The first task, the visit to Hades," he elaborated. "I'll pick you up then." He held his hand out, and she reluctantly shook it. The partnership was official.

- ^-^3

Work flew by as Hermes thought of the coming evening. He would go collect Fleecy and guide her to the mouth of the Underworld. His plan was that she'd deliver the letter and then return and he'd have her home before midnight.

"That sounds easy enough," Fleecy commented after he explained on their walk from the store. "But you don't have to fly me anywhere. I'm a cloud nymph, you know."

"I do know," he said. "But I'm the god of speed. I can get you there faster."

She smiled impishly. "Want to bet on that?"

"Sorry, but I'd like to keep business and pleasure separate for tonight," Hermes replied. He reached for her hand, not seeing her blush as he tugged her up—and then they were flying.

The flight was short but pleasant. Fleecy weighed nothing at all… She really was nothing but a cloud, he presumed. But when they landed by the Hollywood sign and she materialized by his side, Hermes had a hard time believing that she was only a cloud. She had a form, expressions, emotions; she was more than just a nymph, even.

Hermes shook his mind clear from foggy thoughts as he withdrew Zeus' letter and handed it to her. "All right, here it is. Oh!" He passed her his caduceus. "Have Hades sign for it."

"But I don't see—" The wand changed into a pen, and Fleecy chuckled. "Nice."

Hermes smiled himself, pleased with her praise. He turned her towards the entrance and gave her a little nudge. "Now hurry up and don't go astray. Tell Charon you're doing my bidding, and he'll take you straight to Hades without any of that soul-ferrying business."

Fleecy nodded, but she glanced over her shoulder at him. "Um, would now be a bad time to mention that I've never been here, even for Miss Iris?"

Her honesty wiped the smile off his face, and a tiny seed of doubt was planted in him. Still, he tried not to show that he'd faltered, so he grinned again to encourage her. "It's fine. You'll be fine. And if not—" He winked. "Well, I'm sure I can take someone with me when I come and go."

She sighed, not entirely reassured, but then she slipped into the Underworld. The area around the sign grew quiet.

Hermes hated waiting for anything. He guessed that was one reason why he liked being so fast, because it meant never having to sit still. So waiting for Fleecy to come back, safely, was nothing but an annoyance to him.

He also grew upset when an hour had passed and she still hadn't returned. She was affecting his reputation here! Hermes' delivery service served the gods, but it was reliable mainly for its promptness. If Hermes suddenly had to be elsewhere, he couldn't leave right now because Fleecy had borrowed his caduceus.

The next time the snakes offer advice, don't take it, he mentally noted with an exasperated sigh.

But then there was a crunching sound, and Fleecy emerged from the ground. She was perfectly fine, except she was grimacing with red cheeks.

"What happened?" he asked as she strode past him.

"I think he made fun of me," Fleecy replied, walking as far from the entrance as she could.

Hermes didn't understand. "Why?"

"Because, that stupid little letter was Zeus trying to start a pen-and-paper version match of Words with Friends with his brother. Hades and Persephone said that Zeus was just looking for another thing to be better at than Hades, and then Hades asked why I was delivering it and not you."

"And?"

"And I was honest. I said that I usually work for Miss Iris and, when I said that I was doing a favor for you, Persephone laughed and said that made sense because the light of the rainbow would never be caught dead down there. And then Hades asked how I'd come about owing you a favor and I was honest again, and…"

Hermes sighed. "I'm sorry they laughed at you. Hades has a strange sense of humor that can sometimes border on teasing, and he's rubbed off on Persephone, no matter how much she denies it."

Fleecy sighed, too. "They said that Hermes caught himself a little raincloud."

The god felt his cheeks warm. "All right, now that's a bit much—"

"I'm no raincloud!" she growled defiantly. Her voice sounded like cracking thunder, and little hurricanes brewed in her irises. Her face was redder than ever, though.

Hermes felt for her. All this business of telling immortals what they were and what they weren't… It was exhausting. He reached for her hand and tugged her along again, but they walked a bit more before he set off for the shop.

When they landed back at R.O.F.L., Fleecy's mood had brightened a bit. "Sorry about that."

"No, it's my fault, for asking." Hermes shook his head. "It seems as though all we do is say sorry," he added with a small chuckle."

She stared up at him, a tiny smile toying with her lips. "Maybe."

"You've done more than enough, though. I won't ask for your help with the other two tasks, promise."

"No!" Her eyes widened. Apparently she hadn't expected to say that so loudly…or maybe at all. "I mean, it's okay. Miss Iris will want to know where I went tonight and I'll tell her, but I said that I'd help you. Especially since, since I believe what you said, that Miss Iris might put more effort into this challenge."

He nodded slowly, wondering what ran through that head of hers. Fleecy wasn't just amusing. She was interesting.

"Tomorrow, then?" she asked, drawing him from his thoughts.

"Hmm? Oh, yes, yes." He put the caduceus away. "Same time?"

Her smile was mischievous. "Sure."

- ^-^3

The next evening was a little harder. They had to find the Hunters of Artemis, first of all. But Hermes still wasn't sure about getting past Artemis without ticking her off.

"You're not just going to send me in again?" Fleecy asked, surprised as they nibbled on some of Iris' cupcake-things outside of the shop.

He stroked his chin. "No… Zeus can be sneaky sometimes. The first task required use of a third party specifically, but that means nothing for the other tasks just because he omitted that restraint on them." He frowned. "And Artemis isn't someone to mess with…"

"Then how do you expect to get to Thalia?" She shook her head. "Do you even reach Artemis that often?"

Hermes shrugged. "Not really. Artemis prefers packages and memos, if she must be told something. She's all right with Iris-messaging, too. But me? Artemis and her Hunters are off-limits to me, even though I've told her a trillion times that I'm nothing like her brother. I've never hit on her or one of her girls." He sighed. "It's even been years since I last had a demigod child…"

Fleecy said nothing about that, and a couple of quiet minutes came to pass between them. Eventually she said, "So, again, how do you expect to see Thalia? If you're not going to have me give her the message, then what?" She scanned his face and tried to suppress her laughter when she added, "You could always go in drag."

"That's uncalled-for, isn't it?" Hermes retorted, the back of his neck red while she burst out laughing, unable to hold it in any longer. He rolled his eyes. "Sheesh… Me dressed as a female… I can just picture it now—'Hermia's Delivery Service! Here are the cake and flowers you ordered!'" he joked in a bad, feminine tone.

The cloud nymph could only laugh harder. She even had to wipe a tear from her eyes. "Oh, come on. I'm sure you'd make a pretty goddess."

"Thanks a lot…" Hermes picked at the cupcake-like thing again before passing the rest to Fleecy. His eyes widened. "Actually…thanks a lot." He blinked several times in rapid succession.

"What?" Fleecy had stopped laughing by now. "Why? Did you come up with a plan at last?"

He nodded, feeling quite confident. "Oh, yes." He hopped off the fencing Iris had put around the store ages ago and offered his hand to Fleecy. "Come on. There's no time to explain."

She slipped as she moved from the fence and ended up floating into his arms. For a moment, Hermes experienced the sensation of being partially covered in a thin layer of cold dampness…but the cold grew warm as he continued to hold her. He didn't give either of them the chance to remark on their proximity for, in the next moment, he had whisked them away several states over.

There was a hill on the edge of a forest. The hill was big enough to be called a small mountain, but the important part was the fact that the hill had a medium-sized cave in the side facing away from the sun. Within that cave, Hermes determined while using the infra-red binocular mode of his caduceus, were several bodies that he felt sure were Hunters of Artemis. He zoomed in a few times, and he caught Thalia's outline standing guard at the cave mouth. "Bingo," he muttered.

Fleecy poked him in the shoulder. "What 'bingo'? They're there? What about Thalia?"

Hermes motioned her to keep her voice down, and the two of them went and knelt behind the nearest tree. "We've got to be careful. If their wolves are out wandering, they'll know we're here."

"Then tell me the plan," Fleecy begged, annoyed.

"You won't give her the message—but just lead her out here."

"To meet with you?"

"Yes. Your jokes made me think about ruses with clever bait. What could be better than this?" He pursed his lips. "However, as to how you'll convince her, I'm not sure…"

Fleecy grinned, and she looked ethereal in the light of the rising moon. "Leave that to me! Wait—is it all right to be a little mean?"

"I'd advise against it." Hermes frowned. "Sometimes the Hunters get a little overzealous and attack anything, especially if they're provoked."

"Noted." She stood and dashed off before Hermes could halt her and ask what she was thinking. But he didn't dare go after her with the Hunters nearby.

Instead, he watched Fleecy with binocular mode. This has turned out to be quite the adventure, eh? George remarked.

It feels rather indecent, spying on these young ladies…, Martha added.

"Shut up, both of you!" Hermes hissed.

Fleecy could be seen motioning, though not wildly, to Thalia. Thalia, meanwhile, had her arms crossed in front of her chest. She didn't appear to have any weapons in hand, but her bow and quiver were strapped to her back. At one point, Fleecy's motions slowed, but Thalia's shoulders sagged. Thalia glanced behind her, and then she whistled. Two wolves appeared and took her place and—

Hermes wanted to whistle, himself. Thalia actually followed Fleecy out of the cave.

He returned George and Martha to normal, wand form and straightened up, as though this were just another business transaction. It wasn't that long before he heard their voices.

"Just a little further now…," Fleecy said.

"He's really here?" Thalia sounded skeptical but hopeful.

Fleecy didn't answer. By that time, they'd gotten close enough for Hermes to step out and take a gentlemanly bow.

Thalia recoiled. "You lie, nymph!" she snarled at Fleecy.

Fleecy frowned. "I didn't want to, but it was all I could think of—"

"Hermes, at your service, Lady Hunter," the god said as smoothly and respectfully as he could. He stood tall and locked eyes with the demigod. "You misunderstand. Fleecy was acting at my discretion, you see."

Thalia tensed. "And what would the messenger god have with the Hunters of Artemis?" She scowled at Fleecy. "My brother appears to have nothing to do with this."

Hermes understood what Fleecy meant now about being a little mean. However, he could understand—it was well-known that the Grace siblings got along great together and that neither of them liked their father very much. "I just have a message to give you, Thalia."

"It better be good," she huffed.

"Your father extends a happy birthday wish," Hermes replied. "Of course, now it's belated. But he wanted to convey that nevertheless. He's had a hard time reaching you," he added on as an afterthought.

To their surprise, Thalia softly chuckled and then scoffed. She almost seemed…happy? "Gods, he's such a…" Whatever she thought, Fleecy and Hermes wouldn't know for she didn't finish her sentence. Thalia groaned. "He already sent a message. But I'll give him a little credit for being thorough this year."

Hermes felt panic gnaw at his stomach, but he didn't let Thalia see that. He bowed again. "I'm sorry for the interruption then, Lady Hunter."

Thalia gave him a sad smile. "It's all right, Lord Hermes…thank you." She glanced at both of them. "Both of you. And sorry," she added to Fleecy before the Hunter returned to her post.

Hermes turned on the spot, forgetting Fleecy in the rush of the instant. She grabbed onto him at the last possible second—good thing, too, since he'd headed back towards the way of R.O.F.L.

They didn't quite reach R.O.F.L., though. About a mile away, Hermes landed along the roadside, wishing to walk the rest of the way. Only when Fleecy tugged on his arm did he remember that she was there.

"It's not just some silly contest," he stated as if asked.

"I didn't say it was," the nymph said quietly.

"Zeus is threatening our way of life."

"I know."

"I'm going to win this."

Fleecy was quiet. "I'm not so sure."

He looked at her. "But, with your help—" He paused. "Did you know that Iris had already completed the task?"

She shook her head, scared and wishing he'd believe her. "No, I didn't! I've actually not done as much for Miss Iris recently. I… I'm afraid she's been relying on another of the nebulae." Fleecy looked ready to cry, and Hermes thought of rain at that sight.

"Well… If I've got one and she's got one, then the last task will change it all." He wondered how Iris could've managed that without him knowing, as he'd had George and Martha keeping an eye on her. But apparently Iris had some tricks up her sleeves.

Fleecy held onto his arm and said nothing.

"Hey, you think I'll lose? Don't count me out just yet." He took a while to think. "Maybe we should complete the last task tomorrow morning, just in case…"

She nodded, and R.O.F.L. came into view. Fleecy gave him a quick look and patted his shoulder. "Then I'll see you tomorrow, M—Hermes," she corrected. "Good night."

He waved at her back, but he had to wonder… Would it really be a good night?

- ^-^3

"I only need a little bit of your help this time," Hermes told Fleecy the following morning.

Fleecy had met him outside the shop as usual, but this winter morning actually felt like winter, and their breaths came out in puffs of smoke. She wore a jacket over her R.O.F.L.-copter shirt, but the jacket was also as bright a yellow as her shirt. "Just a little?" she asked. Despite having some control over the weather, the cold still reddened her nose.

"Yes," he said, looking away. "If you could use your powers to guide me to Poseidon, that would be plenty. Navigating his domain's tricky."

She nodded. "And Athena?"

"Right… I'll get Poseidon and you get Athena?"

"That won't be cheating, will it?"

Hermes frowned. "At this point, I'm a little desperate. Just carry the message to her through the wind—I mean, on a cloud," he corrected when she began to furrow her brow. Only nephelae, actual wind nymphs, had control over the wind.

"All right." She grabbed his arm. "Then let's head for the Pacific Ocean." She closed her eyes and listened to the sounds of the air. "Poseidon's that way today."

He nodded, and they sped off. Hermes didn't want to think of the tasks ending yet, though. Part of him would be relieved when this trial was over. But another part of him wondered how he'd see Fleecy again without the competition as a reason. There was nothing that would justify their meeting again in the future, aside from this contest, and Hermes hated that.

When they reached the Californian coast, they stood at the edge of a beach. Fleecy looked above them and grimaced. "There's a storm coming, blocking out the sun. The waters will be a little rough today."

The god lit up. That was the best news he'd heard in a while. Without the sunlight, there would be no prism effect within the water, no rainbows for Iris to communicate with the sea god easily. Maybe, just maybe, he had some of Tyche's luck with him after all.

Fleecy observed him. "But now what?"

Hermes put his cap away and readied his caduceus in hand. "Now I get creative and pay a visit to Poseidon." He stared at her earnestly. "I know I can trust you to take care of Athena for me, Fleecy."

She bit her lip, but the hint of her bright smile—not something that Hermes often got to see, he suddenly noted—began to appear. "All right, then, Hermes. Good luck!"

"To you, t—" He didn't finish, because he was too surprised by Fleecy pecking his cheek before she flew away in a flurry. Hermes watched after her, but he was still quite stunned.

Get going, you big buffoon! Martha chided him.

You'll have your cloud nymph after. But let's keep your reputation intact, please, George said.

"Right, right…" Hermes shook his stupor off and used the magic of his wand to produce a waterproof, breathable layer of air around him, and then he dove into the sea.

If he had free time, Hermes supposed that he might enjoy scuba diving. As it stood, however, he was always busy. Maybe being stripped of his title could be a good thing… He shook his head. No, that wouldn't do.

The deeper he got, the more an anxious knot developed in his gut. He didn't understand why. Poseidon's kingdom was coming into view. Hermes would win this, no doubt.

But then the depths changed around the god. Hermes looked all around him, and suddenly things looked a lot better, a lot cheerier, a lot brighter—and lighter.

Way above, above the surface, the clouds had moved on, and the sunlight was pouring in. Hermes wanted to freeze, but he powered on instead, trying to beat the beams of light piercing the surface, trying to swim past the shuddering light that created one too many rainbows this far below. Hermes could even see Poseidon from a distance, Amphitrite at his side and Triton talking with them. Hermes could do this. He would win this, without a doubt.

But a large chunk of light had made its way all the way down to Poseidon. It shimmered, and Hermes could see the color spectrum waving within it. The next thing Hermes knew, Poseidon's face lit up, while Triton made a rude gesture and Amphitrite scowled.

Hermes slowed. That was it. It was done. And Iris had won.

He floated within speaking distance of Poseidon, who noticed him. "Hermes!" Poseidon said cheerily. "What brings you down here?"

Ever the businessman, Hermes put on his most winning smile. "A message, Lord Poseidon."

"Go on, then. Though I don't think it could top the news I just received."

"Your demigod son, Perseus Jackson—"

"Yes, he's had a child! Even Zeus has congratulated me. My Percy's had a boy of his own." Poseidon beamed. "About time, too. He's been married to Annabeth for years…"

Hermes nodded. "Yes, sir. Well, that's all, then. Have a good day!" And he turned around before Poseidon could question why he'd just heard the same joyous news twice.

- ^-^3

"Well."

Hermes and Iris stood before Zeus again, barely more than a week later from the previous time. Hermes did his best not to fidget where he stood. He hated being here. Clearly Iris had won. Now Hermes wouldn't be much of anyone, or much of anything.

Zeus cleared his throat and kept shifting his gaze from one to the other.

Iris was confident, it seemed. Her face wasn't a mask like before. No, this time she had a hint of a smile on her face. She reminded Hermes of a demigod fresh out of a battle—and a victorious one, at that.

"The contest is over. The winner is—"

Hermes and Iris held their breaths.

"—both of you."

Hermes couldn't believe his ears. "But, Lord Zeus, Iris completed two of the tasks before me. I only completed one."

Zeus laughed, highly entertained by their sufferings. "While I wished for them to be completed quickly, I only demanded that they be completed best." He gestured to Hermes. "You were the only one to reach Hades. That was a point in your favor." He motioned to Iris. "You got to Thalia first. A point for you. You also reached Poseidon first. A second point for you."

Hermes felt confused. "But that would mean…"

Iris' confidence had been punctured, and she deflated a bit. She had to know what was coming next.

"However, only Hermes managed to reach Athena, even if he didn't go himself. So, Hermes, you also earned your second point." Zeus laughed again, as if he'd had the most brilliant plan in the cosmos. "In the end, you are both qualified to remain messenger gods."

Hermes wanted to strangle someone. All of this felt like wasted effort.

At least Iris looked relieved. Hermes couldn't blame her. He was glad, too, that neither of them had lost, in Zeus' eyes.

Speaking of which, the king of the gods shot them a look and waved them off. "What are you sticking around for? Go about your business as usual—but!"

They both froze in their tracks.

"Let this be a lesson to you, Iris, that you ought not to turn down the lord of the heavens ever again.

Iris nodded, and then Hermes ushered her out of there.

Outside, the two gods took the elevator down in the Empire State Building. They were quite for a while, until Iris cleared her throat. "I'm glad that's done and over with."

"Agreed," the god said.

"…I'll try to answer more of the Iris-messaging from now on, you know. I'll try not to foist it off on Fleecy all the time." She ducked her eyes in embarrassment. "I still feel that was awfully close, even if the contest was a bit much."

"Agreed," Hermes replied.

"You were clever, though. I never imagined that Fleecy would be so helpful. She wanted to challenge me, though. I understand that. Gods, she's like another of my demigod children—I love her a lot. Treat her nice, Hermes."

"Agreed." He blinked. "Wait. What did you just say?"

Iris smiled broadly. "Don't play games. We both know you're smarter than that." She shook his hand. "Good game, Hermes. But tell Fleecy that she's working overtime for free for a week for being dragged into helping you."

Hermes had no idea what she was talking about, though. "But Fleecy isn't here. Zeus summoned only us…right?"

But the goddess of rainbows said no more. She left the elevator ahead of him and then disappeared in a flash of light. When Hermes left and strolled through the top floor of the building, he saw someone left in her wake.

It was Fleecy.

"So? How'd you do? How'd you do?" Fleecy seemed confused, bouncing with optimism but frowning with pessimism. Her hair bounced along with her, and her eyes kept changing colors—white to black to gray to black—in no certain order. Seeing her be so…Fleecy made him smile.

"It's fine. Iris and I tied."

Fleecy let out a happy cheer.

"I still feel that I lost, to be honest." He recounted Zeus' awarding of points as they did the mortal thing and went downstairs on their own feet.

Fleecy shrugged. "Well, I told you that would happen."

"No, you said you weren't sure that I'd win," he corrected.

"Still, Miss Iris is sharp." Fleecy made a face. "But I bet she got another cloud nymph to change the weather for her in the last task…"

"And look how far I got with your help." Hermes held the door open for her, and he watched as she seemed finally to experience a New York winter as she twirled around in the magic of the buzzing, jostling crowd. She came back to his side, of course.

"It wasn't too bad, helping you," she remarked nonchalantly, but she giggled.

"Iris knows what you did for her, by the way, and she appreciates it," Hermes informed her.

Fleecy's expression was pure joy. "Really?" Her shoulders slacked with relief. "Phew!"

Hermes smiled…and stuffed his caduceus in his pocket so that he didn't have to hear George and Martha's running commentary (something along the lines of Kiss her already, you fool! and Bring her into the family business! We could get things done twice as fast with her help!). "While I do feel that Iris really won, I don't think I totally lost," he murmured.

The cloud nymph glimpsed at him before looking at the new snow that was falling. "Hmm? Did you say something?"

"No. But I should get you home, Fleecy."

Her smile faltered by a fraction, but she nodded and grabbed his arm. "All right…" He didn't object when she took his hand.

Back near R.O.F.L., Hermes and Fleecy were slow to return her to the shop. Several times, Hermes opened and closed his mouth, but he just wasn't sure what to say. Sheesh, he couldn't recall the last time when he'd been so tongue-tied around a woman!

"Well, I guess this is goodbye, then," Fleecy said sadly, but she didn't let go of him.

"I suppose so," the god confirmed. Again, he had to ignore George and Martha growling from his pocket about romancing the cloud nymph until the next century.

"No more tasks."

"No."

"Back to business."

He sighed. "Sorry."

Fleecy chuckled. "Don't be. I hate that we only ever say sorry to each other, too, you know. Besides…" She patted his cheek, her touch like the rain kissing his skin. "Who said you weren't allowed to make deliveries to the shop? Or at least to a certain R.O.F.L.-copter?" She grinned, a gesture that was infectious.

"Then I'll just have to make sure that that R.O.F.L.-copter gets deliveries," he teased. He took her hand and kissed it, an action that made her blush, and then he winked before he took off.

George and Martha bemoaned him about it for the rest of the day. Why couldn't you have at least said "goodbye"? Martha whined.

You should've kissed her! George howled.

"Because," Hermes retorted, "I don't want that to be goodbye, Martha. And, George, I'd like to start with flowers first."

- ^-^3

833333 I DIED. X333 I officially love them, *ASDFGHJKL*. 8333 I blame my friend, BlueMango, for that, because her idea to write Hermes/Iris (her pairing, btw) made me think of Hermes/Fleecy and just *asdfghjkl* HERMEECY WOULD MAKE PRETTY LITTLE CLOUD BABIES! X33333 *stops fangirling* So yeah. Hope you liked the fic! ;D

Lastly, if you like my oneshot, my other PJO fics, or the Hermeecy pairing, check out my pal, BlueMango's, stories. You can find a link to her both in my profile and in my fav authors list. She has a way with minor characters, too! :D *end advert* ;]

Thanks for reading, and please review!

-mew-tsubaki :'}