The stiff wind that blew off the water was salty—stinging Piper's cheeks, making them tingle and burn uncomfortably, but she didn't really care at the moment—she was just too exhausted. Lazily, she turned her head to the right; her forehead hit Jason's shoulder with a bump. Hurriedly, she tried to move back out of his personal space, but warm fingers wrapped securely around her wrists and held her where she was.
"No, Pipes." Jason's voice was half a whisper. "Stay right there. Please."
"That's what she said," muttered Leo from across the circle.
Piper was ready to make a snappy retort, but Percy—who was sitting to her left—beat her to it. "That doesn't even make sense, Valdez."
Leo grinned impishly. "Come on, Jackson, you of all people should know by now that I specialize in not making sense."
Percy rolled his eyes. "True story."
The circle of demigods lapsed into silence—the comfortable kind of silence, where they were content to listen to each other breathe and revel in the ever-present thoughts of I am alive, I am alive, I AM ALIVE that seemed to constantly run through their minds. Piper leaned back on her elbows, freeing her wrists from Jason's grasp so she could rub circles on the back of his hand with her thumb, and surveyed her best friends.
To her left were Percy and Annabeth—so tangled up in each other's arms that Piper couldn't tell where one person ended and the other began. Both of them looked exhausted, but there was light in their eyes that hadn't been there during the battle this morning.
Perhaps, though, that was because of the ring sparkling on Annabeth's left hand (which had earned the happy couple a dunking in the canoe lake courtesy of one Clarisse La Rue). As Percy had said, it was practically deja vu for the two of them—which of course made all the older campers crack up.
Leo, Frank, and Hazel were all piled up, with Hazel's head on Frank's shoulder and Leo's head in the daughter of Pluto's lap. Privately, Piper was glad they seemed to have worked out their differences.
And then there was Jason—gods of Olympus, Jason—smiling at her in the darkness, his face bleached pale by the moonlight. She thought he'd never looked more handsome.
Percy opened his mouth to say something and was quite suddenly interrupted by (who else) the Hermes cabin. Well, its head counselors, to be exact.
"Call 1-800-PICKLES4LIFE to win our prize of the week—Travis Stoll's boxer shorts!" Connor shouted as he ran by, waving a pair of bright pink boys' underwear above his head.
As Piper was expecting, Travis himself came sprinting down the beach a moment later. "CONNOR, WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT GOING THROUGH MY UNDERWEAR DRAWER?"
"THAT IT'S CREEPY AND WRONG!" came Connor's voice from the distance.
"EXACTLY!" Travis picked up his pace and kept chasing after his brother, slipping a little in the sand. Gradually, the sounds of his pursuit faded away.
The campers on the beach watched the scene with looks ranging from confusion (Frank and Hazel) to exasperation (Katie and the other Demeter girls) to amusement (Percy and Annabeth) and downright disgust (Clarisse).
Chris Rodriguez, who Piper didn't really know all that well, noticed the look on his girlfriend's face and got to his feet about twenty feet down the beach from where the Seven were sitting. "I'd better go solve that before Clarisse has a conniption. Wish me luck."
"You'll need it!" shouted Malcolm from Athena as Chris jogged off.
"Oh gods!" Chris yelled back over his shoulder in mock horror.
Percy sighed and shook his head. "Man, I really missed it here."
Grinning, Jason replied, "It missed you too, Perce. Nobody could shut up about you for two seconds while you were missing. It got kind of annoying, actually."
"Shut up, fool!" Percy said in his best imitation of a ghetto voice.
(Spoiler alert: His best wasn't very good at all, as evidenced by the way Annabeth punched hm and told him to shut up.)
Jason smirked and said, "Shutting," as the circle burst out laughing.
Piper leaned back against Jason's chest with a satisfied smile. They were safe. The Seven had saved the world—and hopefully there wouldn't be any more mythological apocalypses for a while so the heroes could sit back and relax. Plus, their homes had been saved as well. She didn't suppose she could ask for a better turnout than this.
She looked around at her friends, and it happened simultaneously—all of them grabbed hands at the same time so that their circle was unbroken. Through Percy's hand on her left and Jason's on her right, she could almost feel the combined heartbeats of her six other friends, thrumming steadily through her body as regularly as her own. It was like the seven of them had meshed into one.
She had never felt more alive than she did in that moment.
Caelum denique, my angels, Piper thought, using one of her favorite Latin quotes that Jason had taught her. "Heaven at last."
A/N: Jesus, guys, sorry this isn't longer or more detailed or better quality or whatever. It's my friend Aditi's birthday, and I swore I was going to post something tonight for her, so this is it. God. I am so sorry—I had to get something up, but school's being a pain in the ass and I'm literally DYING over here. My whole brain is kind of going "what the HELL?"
Also, if you know what book series I got "caelum denique" from, kudos to you—you have good taste in books. (For the unenlightened: The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare.)
Don't forget to review!