So this story has three purposes. One, to be read, obviously. I'm a new fanfiction author, so it'd be nice to get reviews and such so I don't feel like I'm posting to myself. (Yes, that was me, subtly asking for reviews. :P)
Two, I wanted to figure out a way for Romans and Greeks to become allies without starting a civil war first.
And three, this is my way of (hopefully) showing how Leyna could happen. XD Personally, I think that Jeyna isn't going to happen and shouldn't anyway. Jason and Piper are happy, and Jason even said in MoA that he never thought of Reyna that way, and after showing up at Camp Jupiter like "Hey, Reyna! I have a girlfriend! You don't mind, right?" I think she deserves better. And by better, I mean Leo. :P So after he fired the ballistae and Leyna seemed hopeless, I decided that instead of yelling at an imaginary Rick Riordan (which I was very tempted to do...) I would figure out a way that Reyna could forgive Leo for that, and he could live, and Leyna could happen.
This was the result... And like I said, I'm a new fanfiction author, so the formatting might be wonky. (heheh, wonky)
Disclaimer: If I were Rick Riordan, I wouldn't be making up an imaginary me and yelling at him. Most likely.
They were nearly halfway to Greece when Nyssa's face appeared in the dining room.
Hazel had only seen an Iris-message once before, and she had sent it along with Percy. So when she was on the receiving end of one, she toppled backwards out of her chair and hit her head on the wall. Frank had never even seen one IM, so he naturally responded by turning into a chameleon and doing his best to blend in with the tablecloth.
For his part, Leo jumped up and ran over to his older sister. "Nyssa!" he exclaimed. "Why have you decided to appear on my wall this fine morning? Did Harley break something again?" He smiled, but Leo was actually quite worried. Nyssa was smart and tough enough that she wouldn't contact him unless it was something really important. And that expression on her face – almost like she wasnervous – was starting to scare Leo.
Nyssa bit her lip and looked around. "Where's Annabeth? And Percy? Did you guys find him? And Jason and Piper? Who's the chameleon and the girl on the floor?"
Leo decided to start with the easiest news first. "Hazel and Frank – Frank's the chameleon, by the way – are Roman… Besides Jason, they're pretty much the only Romans on our side right now. Jason and Piper are upstairs, along with Nico – we found him in Rome, by the way. They're on guard duty while we eat. I'll go get them."
He walked towards the door, but before he could leave, Nyssa broke in again. "And Annabeth and Percy? They need to be here too. Like, they really need to be here."
Leo made a face and turned back towards the IM. "Percy and Annabeth are… um, unavailable."
Nyssa wouldn't take that for an answer. "Where are they, Valdez?"
He sighed. "They're… Well, they're in Tartarus."
"Yeah. They fell through a hole in the ground because this giant spider-lady was pulling on Annabeth's leg and… Anyway, it's a long story, but the short version is that we're on our way to Greece to close the Doors of Death topside, and Annabeth and Percy are going to the Doors too, except through Tartarus. We'll meet up in the House of Hades. But it sounds like you have some bad news," he added quickly, before Nyssa could interrupt, "so I'm just going to run and get the others now and then you can fill us in."
He dashed out the door and flew up the stairs, as if he could escape the bad news Nyssa was carrying.
"Guys," he gasped out when he reached the deck, "you've got to come down – like right now."
Coach Hedge was also on guard duty. He turned around excitedly when he heard Leo's voice. "Why? Is there some monster I can blow to pieces with the new portable ballista?"
Leo shook his head violently. "No monster, Coach. Just Nyssa. You should stay here anyways and man the non-portable ballistae. Yell for us if we get attacked again."
He left the satyr grumbling about guard duty and dragged Jason, Piper, and Nico downstairs.
Nyssa was still saying, "Tartarus?" over and over again when Leo got back. Hazel had fully recovered and was doing her best to calm a demigod, who she'd never met and was on the other side of the ocean, down. Frank was back in human form, running his fingers through his hair and examining the IM warily.
"Seriously, Nyssa," Leo said firmly, "you've got to relax. Percy and Annabeth will be fine, okay? And you cannot tell anyone at camp about this. You guys have too much on your plates right now, what with the imminent Roman invasion and all."
Nyssa looked behind her nervously, like she was looking for something – or someone. "About that…" she said anxiously. "Well, the Romans are already in New York. A couple of them are at Thalia's tree right now, actually. They've come under a white flag, so we can't shoot them down, and they're calling for our blood." She made a face. "Morons… er, no offense, Frank and Hazel and Jason. Anyways, they're willing to make some sort of deal, but" – she paused and looked around at everyone in the room – "it's… it's impossible."
Leo watched Nyssa closely and noticed the way she wouldn't look directly at any of them. He furrowed his eyebrows and thought. Why was Nyssa so hesitant to tell everyone in the room about this Roman deal? Leo would do anything to stop the civil war that was coming; all of the seven knew how important it was to unite the camps' forces, but Leo felt especially guilty because the rivalry had begun when his possessed self fired on Rome. Was that why Nyssa was so worried? Did she think the deal was too dangerous even to be considered, but she felt that everyone else wouldn't feel the same way? Leo made an executive decision and looked at his closest friends, all with similar expressions on their faces. "Hey, did you guys hear that?" Leo ran convincingly to the closed door. "It's Coach Hedge! He's all like, 'Take that, you pathetic excuse for a monster!' and 'Ha! Your ninja bird skills are no match for my goat hooves!' You guys had better go help him. I'll wrap this up with Nyssa and follow you."
Piper looked skeptical. "Leo, I don't hear anything."
Leo tried to be convincing. "What are you talking about? I hear him loud and clear! You need to get your ears checked, Pipes."
Then the last person Leo expected to come to his rescue did. Frank turned into an owl and flew at the door. He paused a few seconds before returning to human form. "Leo's right," Frank said simply. "There are, like, a thousand birds up there."
Hazel raised an eyebrow at him but didn't comment. "Well, then we'd better get up there!" she said. "Coach could be in trouble!" She flung open the door and raced upstairs. The others had no choice but to follow her. Thanks, man, Leo mouthed at Frank. Frank nodded. No problem.
When they'd all left, Leo locked the door and turned back to Nyssa. She looked confused. "If Coach Hedge is in trouble… Shouldn't you be up there helping out too?"
Leo shook his head. "Sis, you are so thick. I got rid of them so that you could tell me the Romans' deal alone, like you wanted."
Nyssa stared. "How did you know that?"
He grinned. "I know my siblings."
She rolled her eyes, but quickly grew sober. "All right then." She brought her voice down to a whisper. "The Romans… Well, they say that they might let up if we give them someone to blame. Apparently, you guys really demolished their camp or something."
"Hey, it was only slightly destroyed when I left!" Leo insisted. "And it was not my fault that I was possessed by one of Gaea's evil minion spirits!"
Nyssa stared. "Whatever. The point is, this scarecrow kid – who keeps brandishing stuffed bears at us while he talks, by the way, like it's supposed to be threatening – "
Leo nodded sagely. "That's Octavian for you."
"Yeah, him. The scarecrow kid says that if we give him Percy, who apparently swore that things would turn out all right on his life – which was a terrible idea, but Percy was never exactly known for his wisdom – or Annabeth, who is apparently a violation of nature because she's Athena's daughter… Well, he says that Rome will back off. But Leo," Nyssa said earnestly, "we all know that they'll kill whomever we give them, and we simply cannot afford to lose either Percy or Annabeth. This camp would fall to pieces without them. Besides, if they're really in Tartarus like you say" – she shook her head in amazement – "which I still find hard to believe, then we can't give them up. So really this was just a waste of your time. Sorry about that. I've got to go cook up a thousand more weapons now. Bye." She moved her hand to swipe through the message, but Leo was thinking frantically. Annabeth had told them about Reyna's peace offering in Charleston. (She'd basically said, "You'll be painfully executed… But your death might save your camp and everyone you care about.") Was it possible that the offer might still stand?
"Wait! Wait," he said quickly. "Did it have to be Percy or Annabeth? I mean… You said they needed someone to blame. Well, heck. If anyone, they could blame me."
Nyssa stared. "Are… are you saying…?"
"I'll come back to camp," Leo said, with more confidence than he felt. "I'll keep the Romans from attacking."
"No!" she said violently. "I mean… you can't! You're one of the seven too! They need you on that quest! And besides… Harley will miss you. And… And so will the rest of Cabin Nine."
That was about as sentimental as Nyssa got. Leo was touched. But he couldn't let this stand in his way. "Oh, come on, sis. You know the odds. Even if you do manage to defeat the Romans, the losses will be terrible on both sides. And we need the fully combined forces of both Rome and Greece if we have any chance of defeating Gaea. And anyway… I'm pretty sure I'm not needed anymore." Leo thought of Hazel. Frank made her so happy… She needed him in her life – someone dependable and strong and ridiculously kind. She didn't need Leo. And Jason might've been Leo's best friend, but with Piper in his life Leo was almost constantly ignored. Not that it was the perfect son of Jupiter's fault or anything… And sure, everyone would be sad if he died – Leo would haunt them all the way to Hades if they weren't – but they all had their perfect other half to comfort them. Leo didn't get a perfect other half. And if the Romans did kill him – and Leo expected that they would – Leo wouldn't need one soon enough.
The thought was so depressing that Leo almost let Nyssa talk him out of the whole thing – she still didn't look convinced, which showed Leo that at least one person cared about him. But just then, Harley ran up to the IM. "Hey, Leo!" he smiled widely. "Look at this! It's my first perfectly forged knife!"
Leo forced a grin in return, ("Great job, Harley!") but he was secretly thinking about this kid's life. Camp Half-Blood was his home – maybe the first good one Harley had known. The same thing was true for most of the kids who were preparing to defend that home at all costs – even if it cost their lives. Leo couldn't let that happen. Even though he'd been working furiously on the Argo II for most of his stay at camp, Leo had gotten to know a lot of kids. Will had a crush on that Hecate girl, Jess Rivers. Travis and Connor were the best friends to have around for laughs when even Leo was out of jokes – as long as he didn't let them anywhere near his tool belt. Katie was the one who had arranged an intervention for Annabeth when she'd locked herself into her cabin the day they found Percy's cabin empty. Chris was the only one who could talk anything resembling sense into Clarisse – and Clarisse herself tried to act tough, but everyone knew how fiercely she cared about her friends. And Cabin Nine? Over the last eight months, Cabin Nine had become the family Leo thought was impossible after that workshop fire.
Yes, Camp Half-Blood was the type of safe haven that Leo hadn't known for years. He couldn't give anyone – and especially not Octavian – the chance to destroy that sort of home. Besides, Reyna seemed like she possessed some common sense. Maybe Leo would have a chance against all of those Romans. And even if he didn't… Well, he would die doing the same kind of heroic stuff that Percy and Jason were famous for. Maybe Leo would even be remembered with a heroic legend similar to Percy Jackson's.
That was why Leo looked Nyssa firmly in the eye (after Harley had wandered off, of course) and said, "You can't stop me, sis. I'm going to do this with or without your approval, you know. I have to, for Cabin Nine, and for the rest of Camp Half-Blood. It's no use saving the world if there's no home to come back to at the end of the day."
Nyssa's eyes were glistening with – no way, were those tears? But she smiled at him with pride when she told him, "You still think you're useless, Leo, I can tell. But that's not true. You guys never would've gotten this far without that ship, Leo – the ship you designed and built."
Leo grinned in spite of himself. "With a little help from Bunker Nine and my cursed Cabin Nine family."
She rolled her eyes. "It was all you, Leo. Everyone knows that. I just want you to know… You will always be needed here. There will always be a bunk for you at Cabin Nine. And I'm pretty sure they need you on that ship too. No one does boss mechanic as well as you."
Leo swept an imaginary hat off his head and took a bow. "Why, thank you." He straightened and looked at her seriously. "I guess I'll see you soon, then, huh?"
Her tears came rushing back, but Nyssa was too tough to actually cry. She blinked them away. "See you soon, Leo. You… Are you sure you won't change your mind?"
Leo forced a smile. "Bye, Nyssa. And remember… don't mention Tartarus, Percy, or Annabeth to anyone. Not even Chiron. Some things people just don't need to know."
Nyssa nodded. "Well-said, Leo. Good-bye." Her words rang heavily in Leo's ears. They just sounded so final. With a sigh and a last glance at his older sister, Leo swept his hand through the image.
"Leo?" Piper was calling through the door. She sounded worried. Leo winced when he heard her. This heroic sacrifice thing was hard enough without pretending that it wasn't happening, for his friends' sakes. "We took care of the birds. Are you ready?"
There were actually birds? Leo thought with surprise. Sweet! He forced his voice to sound chipper and normal-Leo-ish, not I'm-about-to-offer-myself-up-to-a-bunch-of-bloodth irsty-Romans-ish. "I'm coming, Pipes," he yelled. "Just offering some last-minute forging pointers!" Leo knew this wouldn't be the last time he would lie to his friends. If they knew what he was planning, they would never let him go. And Leo couldn't let them stop him.
He took a deep breath, cleared away a weird lump in his throat, and unlocked the door.
"So… Nyssa told you that they needed extra hands in the forge for the upcoming battle, and you said you'd be right there?" Jason asked skeptically.
Leo cleared his throat. "Yup. That's… that's exactly what happened. Nico… You can do that special shadow-travel thing, right?"
Nico nodded. Man, when they'd first picked up that kid, he'd been in bad shape. But now his eyes were clearer – less haunted, somehow – and he looked stronger. He could actually hold his own in a fight now. Leo figured that the son of Hades could probably manage a simple shadow travel across the ocean with one passenger, and the same journey back by himself. "No problem," he said confidently. "We're still almost a week from Greece. We can shadow-travel to camp, you can make some stuff, and we'll be back before the Argo II needs to land."
Leo suddenly felt uncomfortable. He didn't really want Nico hanging around while he walked up to Thalia's tree and the Romans' white flag. "Actually, man," Leo said, "I might be awhile. There's a lot I'll have to do. It might be better if you take me there and then come back here for a few days. I'll IM you if – er, when I need to get picked up."
Hazel spoke up for the first time. Leo really wished she wouldn't say anything. In fact, he wished they would all just let him walk off and get this over with. "I don't like it," she announced. "Maybe if we had been there while Nyssa was talking to you… But… Well, we're not supposed to go anywhere alone."
"Alone?" Leo forced a laugh. "I won't be alone! I'm traveling to an entire camp of demigods!"
Yeah, and even when I'm captured by Romans, I won't be alone, he thought. I'm sure they'll stick me with a guard so I don't escape or anything. Really, you don't need to worry about that. I probably won't be alone… that is, until after they kill me. And then it really won't matter because I'll be in the Underworld with about fifteen trillion other spirits! Don't worry about me getting lonely, Hazel. I'll be fine in that regard.
Jason sighed and rubbed his neck. "Are you sure you'll be all right?"
"Don't worry about me," Leo said firmly. I won't be in any more trouble than Percy and Annabeth are in right now. It wasn't exactly a straight answer, but Leo was tired of lying. "And I set the ship on half-autopilot mode. You'll need to steer to change course, or if you have to maneuver through monsters or something, but other than that, you guys should be good."
They nodded uneasily, and then Piper sighed. "I don't like it when we split up." She glanced at Jason, Hazel, Frank, Nico, and even Coach Hedge in turn. "When any of us split up." They all nodded again. Then she finally looked at Leo, tilting her head to the side. She sighed and hugged him. "Be safe, Leo."
Leo tried to smile. "Thanks, Pipes." He looked at the others just like she had. Maybe Leo hadn't found his perfect other half yet – maybe he never would. But he had managed to find seven great friends on this quest (Percy and Annabeth included) and… Heck, he'd found eight. He'd count the coach. Leo was feeling generous. "Bye, guys," Leo said simply. It wasn't much of a farewell speech, but it wasn't supposed to sound like one. Hopefully, it would be days before they found out what he'd done. And hopefully, when the time came, they would understand.
"You're a good delinquent, Valdez," Coach Hedge said gruffly. "Kick some monster butt for me over there."
Leo managed a grin. "Honestly, guys. You sound like I'm going on a dangerous mission or something! It's just forging weapons!" At least, that's what you think.
"Well, knowing you, Leo, there's always the possibility that you'll fall into a vat of boiling Celestial bronze," Frank said. It was probably the first joke Leo had ever heard come out of Frank's mouth.
He stared. Then, slowly, a grin spread over his face. All of the tension between them – about Hazel, about fire, about everything – seemed to melt away. "It's a start, Zhang. That was almost kind of decent. It's a start."
Frank grinned. "See you later, Valdez."
Leo cleared his throat. "So, uh, yeah. I'll just be going now." He tried not to remember that it was probably the last time he'd see any of them. He looked at Nico's shoes, not sure that he could keep it together if he met his eyes. "Come on, man."
They walked into a shadow and Leo grabbed onto Nico's arm. And then they were gone.
"Leo!" Nico had managed to shadow-travel straight into the forges, and Harley was tackle-hugging him. All of Leo's siblings were about fifty times stronger than he was, even the eight-year-old one. The hug was well intentioned, but painful. "I didn't know you were coming!"
Nico looked at Leo sharply. "He doesn't know you're coming? But does that mean-?"
"Nyssa must've wanted to surprise him," Leo said smoothly. "After all, it isn't like good surprises are easy to come by these days, is it? Usually surprises are very, very bad. She must've thought it would be a nice change."
"Are you going to stay for a long time, Leo?" Harley asked innocently.
Leo glanced at Nico awkwardly. He was barely managing to act normal as it was. Leo could not have Nico finding out about his plan. Leo tried for a carefree grin. "We'll see, little dude. Now, where's Nyssa?"
Harley smiled widely. "I'll get her. Man, Leo, it's so great to see you!" He ran deeper into the forges.
Leo had to get Nico out of here before Nyssa came. He didn't know if she would keep her mouth shut. "Dude, you should go. I'm here, and I'm about as safe as a demigod can get. Tell the others I'm fine, okay? I'll IM you…" He didn't add the last part. I'll IM you… if I survive.
Nico was suspicious; Leo could tell. "Maybe I should check with Nyssa first…"
Leo threw his hands into the air with exasperation. "Come on, man! Just go! Please!" I can't take any more of this pretending!
Nico peered at him. "What's going on, Leo?"
"What?" Leo instantly got defensive. "What do you mean, 'what's going on'? I'm just going to make weapons!"
Nico glared. "Don't act stupid, Leo. Nyssa told you about something the Romans told camp, didn't she? I'll bet it had to do with…" Nico's eyes widened. "No. It's like Charleston all over again, isn't it?" They'd told Nico about their adventures a long time ago. Now Leo wished that they hadn't been so thorough. "You're going to give yourself up because you think the Romans will let up on camp if you do!" Leo was silent. "Aren't you?!"
Something steeled Leo's nerves, and he looked Nico straight in the eyes. "You can't stop me, Nico. You know that, don't you? Nyssa couldn't, and she's my sister. So you should save your breath." Leo hoped he wasn't being too cruel. He wasn't trying to be mean, but he was getting jumpy. If he was really going to do this thing, he needed to do it now.
Nico simply nodded. "I'm not going to stop you, Leo. I'm just going to remind you that this is a crazy thing you're doing… But it's brave, too."
Leo bit his lip. "Do you think…? Could you maybe not tell the others? I just think… they have enough on their plates as it is, what with worrying about Percy and Annabeth and all. I'm sure they'll find out soon enough, but I don't want them to find out just yet. Not… Not while there's still hope."
Nico laughed hoarsely. "Hope? You think, against a legion of vengeful Romans, that there's still hope?"
Leo tried and failed to muster a smile. "Hey, you never know," he said, as cheerfully as he could manage. "With my charm and good looks? Anything's possible."
Nico just shook his head. "Okay. Good luck, then. I'll see you later… one way or another." Oh, yeah, Leo remembered. Nico's dad was Hades. Nico visited the Underworld all the time. If this did kill Leo, at least he might still see Nico sometimes. The thought wasn't exactly comforting. "Well, uh, if you do make it…" Nico continued, "IM us. I'll come get you."
"Thanks, man," Leo muttered. He was glad Nico was the one here right now. The others might've argued or tried to act overly optimistic about his odds. Nico told it to him straight, while still trying to be encouraging. He didn't waste time beating around the bush. And… well, he understood about death and sacrifices. He knew why Leo was doing what he was doing.
Just then, Nyssa walked in. She didn't seem to notice Nico; she just looked straight at Leo for a second before closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. She let it out slowly. "Leo…" she said quietly. "Are… are you ready?"
Leo glanced at Nico and gave him a salute. He wasn't sure why. It just felt right, somehow. "Better get going, dude."
Nico nodded and disappeared into the shadows. Like, literally disappeared. He'd shadow-traveled away.
Leo took a deep breath just like Nyssa's. "Yeah," he told her. "I'm ready. Lead the way."