Blood Makes the Knife Holy
The children of the Big Three, both Greek and Roman, all wake up deep underground after sharing a foreboding dream. To make things even less convenient, Percy gets separated from the group. And loses his powers. And doesn't have shoes. So what's going on? And what does this all have to do with Annabeth?
Rated T for language. Pre-existing Percabeth and Jason/Piper, but this story isn't much for ships. Set some time after the Giant War, with some obvious liberties taken. Also caves. Why do these kids always end up underground? Can't be good for the complexion. Lookin' at you, Nico.
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Percy was having a great day until he got shot by a magic arrow. It wasn't even his fault-he was just standing there, stuck in a cave, with Thalia and Jason and Hazel and Nico. Lost and cold and trying to keep everyone from devolving into a shouting match, which he wasn't good at in the slightest, since he was usually the one edging around a fight. And it didn't help that they were in near-total darkness. Or hungry. Or without water.
… So maybe he wasn't having the best day, but he always tried to be a glass-half-full kinda guy, and the arrow really trashed his efforts. Things had started well enough. It was a warm June morning when Percy rolled out of bed and found his way toward the smell of breakfast. Everyone else seemed to be up already, and he wondered when it was exactly that Chiron started letting him sleep in. Maybe saving the world twice merited a belated wake-up call.
After some Belgian waffles and a demonstration on how to keep your elbows in during a sword fight, Percy found himself on the sand by the Sound. A few Aphrodite kids were lounging on beach towels, soaking up as much sun as they could fit into their allotted down time. Percy waved when they greeted him, but continued walking along the stretch of sand until he was far enough away to not invite conversation. Then he plunked down on the side of a dune and readjusted his aviator sunglasses.
So far, a good day. No caves, no spats with Thalia, no magic arrows. But it was possibly the last moment of reprieve that he would find, because after sitting for only three minutes, watching the waves lap against the shore, who should shuffle up behind him but Nico di Angelo.
Percy knew he was there before Nico did anything noticeable to announce his presence. He sat in silence for a few beats, waiting for Nico to say something, but when he continued to squat a few feet up the dune, hesitating, Percy leaned back onto his elbows.
"Wow, you've been out here for a whole two minutes. You sure you can handle all this sun," he asked, not looking away from the water. Behind him, Nico huffed and shuffled forward.
"Don't be an asshole," came his quiet reply. He nestled down next to Percy and looked toward the Aphrodite kids, who were giggling amongst themselves.
The two cousins shared another moment of silence. Percy was never sure how much patience he had for Nico-sometimes it felt endless, but often he felt wary of him. Nico had lied to Percy one too many times. Their relationship now was a series of deep breaths and awkward silences.
"I... had a dream, last night," Nico finally said, breaking the silence. A bit of dread rolled up Percy's spine-how often was it that dreams lead to something positive? At least not for a demigod like Nico. Percy was still for a moment before nodding, prompting him to continue.
"It didn't make a lot of sense, but it involved the children of the Big Three, and Hazel said she had a similar dream. I was wondering if you did, too."
Finally, Percy looked toward him. Nico couldn't see his eyes behind his sunglasses, but the reflection of the ocean was a good substitute.
"Nothing demigod-related," he said, in a deliberate way that gave each word a strange amount of weight, "but I did dream that I won the lottery and bought a house made of kitchen sponges."
Nico frowned at the reflection in Percy's sunglasses. Whether or not he was being serious or mocking him, Nico couldn't tell, and some part of Percy liked it that way.
"Nothing about being underground, or... or ogres?"
Percy's right eyebrow arched up from behind his sunglasses. "Ogres, Nico?"
"What, you're going to get picky about monster species now?"
Percy pushed himself into a sitting position and rolled his shoulders until one of them popped audibly. He took a deep breath, (something he seemed to do a lot when Nico was around,) and pulled off his sunglasses. Underneath, his sea-green eyes looked tired and glassy. Nico blinked.
"To be honest," Percy began before Nico could question how tired he looked, "I had a weird dream two nights ago. But I don't usually dream about the future-just the present and the past. I always thought Rachel was the one who had to deal with all that Fate crap. Or Piper, I guess, with her knife."
Nico adjusted the way he was sitting, shifting into a less-temporary position. He waited for Percy to continue, but the older boy was staring out at the ocean with a serious look on his face, suddenly lost in thought.
"What did you see," he prompted when the silence stretched too long. The serious look melted off of Percy's face, and he looked tired again.
"I thought it was the labyrinth at first, but it was too... cave-like. The tunnel didn't change at all the farther down it I went. And the whole time, I had this sense that I was trying to find you guys. But... I was being hunted, too."
Nico didn't say anything for a long time. The Aphrodite kids had started to wrestle around in the sand together, laughing loudly. It was impressive to watch, the way they roughhoused while simultaneously keeping their hair from getting messed up.
It was Percy who broke the silence next. He turned toward Nico more fully and looked him right in the eye, which Nico hated. Percy's eyes had about three settings: sarcastic, I'm-about-to-kill-you, and what Piper had once referred to as "big baby seal eyes". Nico was now getting the full-on baby seal treatment, whether it was intentional on Percy's part or not.
"Nico, I didn't have any powers. In the dream, I think I was... I think I was mortal."
The connections must have shown on Nico's face, because the baby seal eyes vanished and Percy looked serious again. "What," he asked, in a deadpan with undertones that read both 'you better not being pulling any stunts' and 'I might hit you if you are pulling stunts'. Nico chewed the inside of his lower lip for a second before sighing. Honesty was usually the best policy around Percy.
"In the dream I had, we were searching for you. I think because we knew you couldn't fend for yourself."
Percy's face flashed with about ten different reactions at once, but before he could pick one, the sand shifted above them, and a new figure appeared on the slope. Annabeth slid down toward them and bumped right into Percy, using his back as a stopping point. From the way neither of them reacted to it, Nico got the impression that Annabeth did that a lot.
"I've been looking for you two for a decade," Annabeth frowned, skipping the pleasantries of 'hello' and 'how are you'. "I just got an Iris message from Grover."
Percy visibly sat straighter. "Grover? What did he have to say?"
The look on Annabeth's face kept Percy from reaching Excited Puppy status, but it was obvious he was happy to hear that Grover had been in contact. He shifted to make room for Annabeth between them, but she stayed shoulder-to-shoulder with him. Something territorial was glinting in her eye.
"He didn't have good news," she said, glancing toward Nico to make sure he was paying attention. "He said he ran into the Hunters of Artemis. Apparently, they haven't seen Thalia in almost two days."
Nico and Percy stared at her, and it must not have been the reaction she expected. "What, are they too loud," she asked, tipping her chin toward the Aphrodite kids, "or did you just not hear me?"
Percy shifted suddenly, and from the way Annabeth was leaning on him, her weight toppled against his chest. She tried to sit up and push away from him, but he pulled her right into him and dropped his chin onto her shoulder. Annabeth twisted and demanded he release her, but when she finally looked back and saw the look on his face, she stilled.
"... What," she asked, this time with more concern in her tone. She looked from Percy to Nico as she adjusted herself and sat sideways in the sand between Percy's knees. Her eyes settled on Nico. "Why is he giving me the baby seal eyes?"
Percy frowned. "I don't have baby seal-"
"He and Hazel and I have all had foreboding dreams about the same thing. As if something is about to happen."
Annabeth stared at him for a beat, a fire in her eyes and the information raced through her mind. "What do you mean? What something?"
"We're not sure," Percy answered, his arms still looped around Annabeth's waist as if letting go might separate them forever. Ever since the Ancient Lands, everyone had gotten used to how clingy the two of them had become.
"Something to do with a cave," Nico said, ignoring Percy's warning look and regretting it at the sight of Annabeth's immediate state of panic.
"We're not-it's not there," Percy insisted, trying to alleviate the tension that had suddenly struck his girlfriend. "Listen, in the dream it felt more like the Labyrinth, it wasn't-"
"The Labyrinth was destroyed," Annabeth said quickly, staring at nothing in particular as her mind raced. Percy gave Nico a look as if to say 'I owe you a punch in the mouth' before readjusting his arms around Annabeth more securely.
"I know, I know. I don't think it was the Labyrinth. It just felt like a normal, good old-fashioned cave."
"Not Tar-... Not there," Annabeth said, her tone one of insistence, but her face desperately searching for confirmation. Percy set his jaw.
"Not there," he said, and they fell into silence. All three of them had an unwanted, intimate knowledge of that which they were referring to. And while Percy and Annabeth had learned to hide their panic when Tartarus came up in conversation, they had no reason to play brave when Nico was their only company. He knew as well as they did that it was not a memory to revisit.
"So," Annabeth said after a long silence, clearing her throat. "This dream had something to do with Thalia?"
Despite the concern that hung around them, the boys were thankful for a change of subject. Percy loosened his hug around Annabeth and picked up his sunglasses, offering them to Nico, who took them after a moment of uncertainty.
"Listen, let's not bullshit here," Percy said, his voice sounding confident once more. "We all know that there's no such thing as 'just a dream', not for us. Especially if Nico, Hazel, and I all shared a matching set. Thalia was in them, and now she's missing, so I'm going to go ahead and assume they're connected. I mean, it's not like we've ever been lucky with this sort of thing."
"Understatement of the century," Annabeth said dryly, sitting up and letting Percy's arms fall away from her midsection. "Then she's in some sort of cave? We can find her?"
Nico frowned and shook his head. "I don't know about Percy's dream, but you weren't in mine," he said, watching Annabeth's face carefully. They both turned toward Percy expectantly.
"Mm, not mine either," he admitted, looking at her apologetically. She frowned, and then turned back to Nico.
"You're suggesting that because I wasn't in the dreams, I'm somehow not going on this quest?"
"We don't even know it's a quest, yet," Nico replied. "But... If you did go, wouldn't you be in the dreams too?"
"Well, from the sound of it, I got... get separated from the group," Percy reasoned. "Maybe Annabeth is separated too."
Annabeth took a deep breath and fanned out both her hands to bring the attention back to her. "Okay, hold up. How about we start from the beginning. What exactly happened in the dream?"
He had always been good at running. Even over the rocky floor of the tunnel, he managed to find footing with each step, flying through the darkness like he had a thermos full of winds pointed behind him. He could hear echoes coming from far back, gruff voices and the clattering of metal against the cave walls, as if those pursuing him were not as swift as he was.
His shoulder ached. He could hardly see where he was going, running along, but in the deepest part of his gut, he hoped with all his strength that he would run smack into Jason. Maybe he'd get lucky, round a corner, and come face-to-face with Thalia's shield, or tackle Nico to the ground. He so desperately wanted to find them, to have safety in numbers. And while he had no context to remember why, he knew in that same deep part of his gut that he would not be able to defend himself when those gruff voices and clattering weapons caught up with him. He was cold, and barefoot, and defenseless. The feeling was alien and unsolicited, and he wished he could outrun it too.
From far behind him, a new sound echoed passed. It was a woman's voice, dangerous and angry, but ultimately amused. "Percy," the voice called, in a teasing way that made his skin crawl, "little Percy Jackson, running for his life. You can't hide forever, dear. And when I get my hands on you," the voice dragged a bit, distorted by the distance it had to travel along the cave walls, "that little girlfriend of yours will know pain."
He tried to whitewash the story without losing details, but the look Annabeth was giving him suggested he hadn't done a very good job. Percy looked toward Nico, sitting with his sunglasses on, and wished he could see the expression in his eyes.
"... It can't be Gaea," Annabeth said slowly, not sounding entirely certain. Percy shook his head.
"No, it wasn't. It didn't sound anything like her, and the voice wasn't coming from the earth."
Annabeth and Nico both relaxed their shoulders a bit. Then the attention shifted to Nico, and the tension returned to his upper back. He cleared his throat.
"My dream was less eventful than his," he said, gesturing lamely at Percy. "I was with Thalia and Jason and Hazel. We were in a tunnel, trying to stay quiet, looking for Percy. Thalia and Jason were arguing about what direction to follow. And I could feel in my gut that Percy was... weak. Without powers."
Percy nodded gravely. The three of them sat in silence for a beat before Annabeth suddenly stood, startling Percy and Nico out of their brooding.
"Come on," she said, her voice full of authority. "We're giving Chiron a visit."
They were walking passed the strawberry fields on the way to the big house when the the hairs on their arms and the backs of their necks suddenly stood up. The other campers nearby apparently felt it too, because the kids in the field stopped working, and the ones playing volleyball in the sandpit suddenly stopped their game.
The rush of blood to her head hit Annabeth hard, and her vision turned to static while she doubled over. For a moment, she couldn't hear anything, couldn't see anything. Just a shrill ringing in her ears, and a haze of white all around her.
As her vision cleared and her equilibrium began to return, Annabeth stumbled back to her feet. The campers out in the field, closest to her, looked dizzy and confused, but those farther away toward the volleyball court were scrambling toward her.
"Percy," she said, before she was really thinking. His name fell out of her mouth on instinct as she wheeled around, her eyes searching to make sure he was okay. But behind her, where Percy and Nico had been walking, there was nothing. Just an empty path along the side of the strawberry fields.
"Percy?" She called again, her heart clenching with panic. Her head was nearly clear now, as a few campers from the Apollo cabin skid to a stop beside her. Two of them were still shirtless from their volleyball game.
"Percy!" She shouted, as realization set in. A few other campers echoed her call, throwing Nico's name out as well, but there was no reply. The two children of the Big Three were nowhere to be seen.
"What happened," Travis Stoll asked breathlessly, having just bound over several rows of strawberry plants, "what was that? It got all bright and hazy and they just, like, evaporated!"
Annabeth looked at him wildly, trying to make sense of what he was saying. She was breathing fast; her head started growing light again, and before she could even register it, Travis and one of the shirtless Apollo campers were holding her up only a foot above the ground. Someone said her name, but their voice was watery and distant. The world started to get staticy again, and Annabeth blacked out, Percy's name still on her lips.
At posting, this story is written through about chapter 6. Think it's worth posting the rest?