It was definitely gone. She couldn't feel the thrum of its energy any longer. The shield with Medusa's head was not in Olympus anymore. By itself the news was worrying enough but with the reports of a Kanima, of all things, being sighted and her messengers talking of Poseidon being preoccupied with some new scheme it convinced her that she would have to step out from Olympus and walk the mortal realm.
The questions that bothered her most was – what could Poseidon want with the shield? And if he didn't have it, who did?
She stepped down and into a mortal form with storm gray eyes and a dark suit. The shield was hidden to her, and so was Poseidon. The Kanima appeared to have nothing to do with her situation, but it wouldn't be wise to ignore the reappearance of such an ancient creature.
Beacon Hills, California, USA.
Jackson stared at his clenched hands while the teacher droned on at the front of the class. There wasn't any blood on it. There wasn't any blood on his clothes, or in his room, not even in the bathroom where he might have washed it off. The tape from the camera he had bought had shown him sleeping through the night.
He still couldn't shake the feeling of having sticky, warm blood all over his hands.
So far his performance on the field hadn't improved; all the bite had given him was nightmares. The familiar feeling of frustration rose in him. It wasn't fair. McCall was useless. He'd never be able to use the abilities he had to the full, not the way Jackson could.
The bell rang and Jackson couldn't get out of there fast enough, he banged into some new kid at the door.
"Hey there, buddy, you okay?" the guy said.
Jackson looked down at the guy and the guy's weird green eyes creeped him out, "We're not buddies," he sneered and shoved past when the guy, Matt, Matt Daehler, tried to introduce himself. The people at this school got weirder every year.
By the time Jackson reached home, his frustration had reached boiling point. He tossed his bag onto his bed and kicked the chair then fell into it.
He did his homework as meticulously as always, used to working through his frustration. Briefly, he missed Lydia with an intensity that surprised him; her cool corrections on his schoolwork and the brief warm smiles that reached her eyes when he got everything right.
He set up the camera again before going to sleep, just in case. The camera did not, unsurprisingly, pick up on the goddess keeping watch over the transforming boy.
Athena stood very still and considered the scene playing out before her, the Gorgon's reincarnation tossed and turned in bed and made low sounds of distress. Then the change took over: fur sprouted briefly before the boy snarled, still asleep, and it retreated. Scales grew over the human skin and the wretched creature crept out from the boy's bed to answer to his master's call.
Even gods make mistakes. Athena had watched clear sighted and distantly scornful as her brothers and sisters had made theirs. She now grudgingly admitted that she had been too harsh. The millennia of accumulated pain had also told on the boy. His soul was twisted and bitterness flowed from it.
She followed him out to see whose orders he was following. She followed them the entire night; by mortal means in case anyone was watching. Where her brothers and sisters would have grown impatient and cursed the other boy and taken the Kanima for their own slave (fruitlessly so, such creatures did not obey gods) Athena waited and watched.
The other boy's memory must be wiped; he could not be allowed to remember anything of the Kanima. As for the Kanima, Athena imagined that she would get the burden of blame for letting the ancient creature loose. The meddling of the Fates had led to this! – they could have let Medusa die instead of allowing her to be reborn so many times. Any fool would have known that it would tear her soul.
She followed Medusa's reincarnation back to his room and prepared to leave. She had a great deal to think about. Before she left, she felt Poseidon's crashing energy cleaning the reincarnation and curling over the camera beside the bed. It was coming from the other boy, the one who commanded the Kanima.
Athena stopped and waited until Poseidon had left and then she hurried back to Olympus. She would have to step even more carefully than she had thought.
Two murders in two days. Beacon Hills was in an uproar. There were people calling for Sheriff Stilinski's resignation; saying that Beacon Hills had never seen so much unrest before he was Sheriff.
Jackson pretended he didn't give a shit about it but the strain was obviously telling on him. He couldn't even listen to gossip about it without snarling. Danny had gotten irritated by his behavior and stopped talking to him a couple of hours back but he was pretty worried.
Danny stepped into chem. lab behind Jackson and saw him start; there was a sub at the desk, no one he recognized.
"Who are you?" Jackson demanded.
She smiled pleasantly and said, "I'm Ms. Arrow, your substitute chemistry teacher for the day, Mr. Whittemore. Now please go and stand at the back of the room with the other students."
Danny frowned slightly and wondered how she'd known his name. When she asked them to pair up and Jackson automatically fell in beside him he caught her eyes looking speculatively at them. She smiled at him and nodded once, taking him aback. He was certain by then that she had some interest in Jackson, Danny wrinkled his nose and hoped he wasn't going to become the go-between for some stupid teacher-student thing between Jackson and… even the thought made him want to gag.
He wasn't surprised when he answered his front door that evening and saw her on the doorstep. He was tempted to shut the door but drilled-in habits of politeness from his parents prevailed and grudgingly he stepped back to let her in. He was, however, furious.
"Danny Mahealani?" she asked, then went on without letting him reply, "I'm here to talk to you about Jackson."
"Why not talk to Jackson about Jackson?" Danny asked her.
"That wouldn't be wise," she replied, then went on, "I have a personal interest in him. I have been observing him and there is a problem I believe you can help me solve."
"Personal interest," Danny repeated blankly, "You do know there are laws against things like that?"
The woman stared at him in coldly polite confusion for a moment then blinked once, as a statue coming to life might blink, and said, "I've no carnal interest in Jackson."
"My best friend's a giant lizard, and he's going around killing people because Matt Daehler who is Po…" Danny cut himself off at Athena's quick headshake, he continued almost where he left off but he had lost his steam, "is telling him to," he said, "That sounds exactly as crazy as it did in my head."
Ms. Arrow, Athena, shrugged back her hair and said, "It is a creature of justice. The…injustice done to her rerouted the change from wolf to this." Her lip curled down on 'injustice' as if it tasted bad. "It isn't a lizard, giant or otherwise."
"Wolf," Danny repeated, because that part hadn't quite sunk in either. That there were werewolves running around in Beacon Hills. He found himself wondering how much of the mayhem of the last year had been caused by supernatural creatures. Derek Hale's sister; Kate Argent…Argent meant silver didn't it?
"Okay, say I believe you. Why are you here?" Danny demanded, he didn't know much about Greek myths, but he was pretty sure the gods didn't go around helping people for the heck of it.
"We rarely interfere in the workings of mortals, but this is my responsibility." Athena said.
"So you're going to take back the curse," Danny asked, an eyebrow raised.
"Even we gods cannot recall our actions." Athena said, after a moment's hesitation, "And if I could, the lifetimes she has lived wouldn't disappear. Her pain would still exist. The only chance I see for her is for you to take the Kanima's loyalties, make it trust you, and perhaps you'll be able to change it to the form it should have had."
"But no pressure," Danny murmured, tone sardonic.
"The only help I can give you is to tell you to find the shield of Perseus. Her head is mounted on it; I believe it is time for her to have it back."
"Her head. Are you joking?"
Athena looked both surprised and offended at the suggestion. In a voice of desperate calm Danny asked, "And how the hell do I do that?"
Something which has part of him in it; his wishes and desires. Something he gave you freely. I suspect you'll need it.
After Athena left, Danny locked his door and opened his closet and crouched down to shove out all the clothing in the lowest rack. He could see the ratty, forgotten treasures of his childhood. The smoothest, bluest rock that had been on the beach the year he was seven and his family had decided to go visit his father's parents in Hawaii, the last year before they both died; the remains of several lego sets and a chess set. Even in the confusion Danny unerringly set his hand on the lacrosse ball that had been Jackson's lucky ball until he gave it to Danny for luck on the day of Danny's tryouts.
But where to look first? Athena had said only he would be able to do it; the shield was hidden safely from her and Danny believed her because of the cold anger in her voice but having the ball in his hand had given him exactly zero ideas. Danny irritably wondered why Jackson couldn't ever have easy problems.
He collapsed in bed and idly tossed the ball from one hand to another. He was caught in the trance of repetitive motions when an owl flew in.
"Those windows were closed," he told it.
"The latches are loose, you should get that looked at," it told him, and made him jump.
"Are you from Athena?" he asked, after a moment in which he frantically considered whether he had gone insane.
"I have a message for you from the Lady." the owl continued, "She says that if you do not know where to begin you should follow me and talk to the Gray Ones. They are the Gorgons' sisters and may help."
"Right now?" Danny asked, pocketing the ball and wondering where to find a torch.
The owl simply flew out. Danny called at it to wait up because he couldn't very well use the window. He grabbed a torch and rushed out, his hands clumsy as he locked the front door and left the key under the mat there.
Of course they were in the creepy woods where people had been getting murdered. Why wouldn't they be? It was the middle of the night too; perfect time to be the next victim.
He was out of breath when the owl finally stopped and swooped down to land on his shoulder, eliciting a yelp of pain as its' claws dug in. He looked around, it seemed to be a patch of wood like every other patch of wood they'd passed- there wasn't even a clearing where he could expect to find someone.
"There," the owl said, jabbing its' beak at the bleakest looking direction, of course.
"There isn't anything there," Danny said; moving in that direction anyway.
"There's a house if you fly straight," the owl replied, "I can't go any closer. The Gray Ones don't like the Lady or her creatures."
Danny nodded and felt the brush of the owl's wings as it flew away. Being alone with his thoughts made him freeze up in fright but then he rubbed the hand not holding the torch across his face and sighed. If he really thought about it, this was just one of countless silly scrapes Jackson had gotten him into over the past ten years; nothing so unfamiliar after all.
With a half unconscious smile on his face he walked on taking a course as straight as possible. It didn't really work; there simply wasn't a path. In fact, it seemed to him that the path was deliberately avoiding him. Trees he could have sworn hadn't been there when he was a few feet away appeared in front of him and the undergrowth was abnormally thick and tangled up exactly where he needed to put his legs when these woods usually didn't have undergrowth.
Eventually, exhausted and worried about how much longer his batteries were going to last, Danny reached a huge tree. Its trunk would have filled his living room. And on its higher branches he could see a house made of branches and leaves if he squinted. If the Gray Ones had an elevator or something, he couldn't see it. With a soft 'damn' he resigned himself to climbing.
"We have a visitor," one old lady said, turning in his direction. In the light of the torch, Danny saw with dawning horror that her eye sockets were empty and she held one large eye in one hand. The other held a ball of what seemed to be some sort of multicolored fibre.
"Who is it?" asked one of the others; she held more fibre that she was sorting through; apparently without looking at it. The third continued to spin in the corner; appearing to hear nothing.
They certainly were gray. They had long, straggly gray hair which you could easily mistake for the gray skin on their gaunt bodies and the rags they wore were as gray as if they had never been washed.
"We've been expecting him," said the first speaker.
"Ask," said the spinner, suddenly speaking up.
"Ask," echoed the other two, and Danny realized they were talking to him.
"I…" he started then couldn't find words so he took out the ball. The eye was pointed in its direction then all three women nodded in unison, unsurprised, as if he was showing them what they had asked for.
"Ask," they said again, all together, and it echoed in the tiny cottage as if it was a long, large cave instead.
"I need to know how to save Jackson," Danny said.
Dawn was already threatening by the time Danny sneaked into the house. He was grateful that his mother was sleeping deeply for once. Before he fell asleep he wanted to try to tell Athena what he had discovered. He prayed as well as two atheists' son knew how.
"The merpeople. They are a closemouthed lot for all their love of sport," Athena said thoughtfully. "I think I know where he would have gone. It might be so. Yes. It might be." She nodded at him and said, "I'll find you transport. Be ready to leave tonight. I will engage to see that Poseidon does not involve himself here farther. I won't be able to help you beyond that. Even if you find the shield, you will have to find some way of taking the Gorgon's anger and need for justice away."
Danny dropped into bed, so exhausted that despite his worry and fear, he slept the day through, only waking to eat once when his father came in with a tray. He reassured his parents that he wasn't ill and certainly didn't need either of them to stay home with him and fell asleep again.
He woke up when the sunlight was dying. For a moment he lay in bed and everything that had happened the previous evening seemed to be a dream he'd just woken up from. Then the sleepiness wore off and he jumped up to grab a backpack and shove water, the torch and extra batteries and his wallet in. Just in case. He'd fallen asleep with the ball in his pocket so he left it there.
He scribbled a quick note to his parents; tearing up two pages where he attempted to explain where he would be and why his phone might not work and finally just leaving a simple 'Out. Back soon. Don't worry.' With the thought in mind that anything might happen, he might even die, he almost wrote, 'I love you both' before realizing that the sudden declaration would almost definitely worry his parents.
He didn't have very long to sit around and wait before an owl swooped in, the same one as the night before as far as Danny's inexpert eye could see.
"Hurry up! The taxi's waiting," it said impatiently and flapped out.
A taxi seemed a bit of a letdown from a god and Danny felt a pang of disappointment that surprised him, he had thought he was too exhausted by now to feel anything else. It was a plain yellow taxi and he slipped in into the back wondering whether the owl intended to ride inside.
"Where to?" the woman driving the taxi asked.
Danny opened his mouth to say he didn't know the exact place, just a name; when the owl spit out a set of numbers that he realized must be latitudes and longitudes; and the driver nodded cheerfully, as if she had been talking to the owl all along. A moment later he was clutching his seat and cursing himself for wanting excitement when the driver turned the key and drove up into the air.
His curiosity got the better of him soon enough and he let go of the seat to look down out of the car. He frowned when all he saw was white then realized that he was seeing clouds. He whipped his head around and opened his mouth to ask how they were breathing up beyond the clouds and saw that the driver was looking at him in the rear view mirror, grinning but not unkindly, as if she knew what he was going to ask.
"Whatever the question is, the answer is magic," she told him after a moment and Danny grinned back.
That seemed to have broken the ice. She asked him where he was going and whistled when she heard he was going to see the merpeople.
"Tricky, that lot," she said, "They usually spend their time playing games but they'll turn mean as soon as look at you if they get bored."
They traveled so far that they left the night behind and traveled underneath a hot sun. She tossed a coin at him as he got off, and said, "Bite on that when you're ready to leave and I'll come get you."
Danny slung his bag over one shoulder and walked out onto a rocky beach without any of the debris (plastic, and the smell of oily food, and bottles) that was the inevitable result of human inhabitation.
He walked towards the sound of shrill chattering and laughter beyond the mound of rock where the car had landed. There were three people in the blue sea, if they could be called people. They had no hair, scales from the neck downwards, gills in their neck, some membrane between their hands and their sides making them look like they had wings. Nothing like 'The Little Mermaid' at all, Danny thought, walking to a rock right on the edge of the water.
"Here's a boy," one of them said excitedly, pointing at him and then swimming towards him. The other two held back.
"What does he want?" one of them called.
"What do you want, boy?" she asked, reaching the rock he was standing on and peering up curiously at him.
"I heard Poseidon left something here, miss?" Danny asked, deciding against lying when he hadn't any other way of finding the shield.
"That sack," called one of the others, "He asked us to hide it."
"Quiet!" said the third one to her, "Hiding doesn't mean telling every inquisitive boy that passes by."
"He said to hide it from Athena, not a boy," was the retort.
"Miss," the merperson who had come towards him laughed, ignoring her companions, "Human terms. So funny. We are not 'miss' but you may call us that, and 'her' and 'she' if you please. Yes, we have this thing of Poseidon's."
"So you do what Poseidon tells you to?" Danny asked, with a shrewd suspicion that they would dislike being considered subjects.
The one in front was joined by one of her companions and they snapped their teeth at him, and the third one, the one who was almost blue, backflipped into the water, coming back after a long minute to claw the base of the rock he was standing on and snarl, "We do as we please, human!"
Danny shrugged, using the motion to hide the deep breaths he needed to calm down. Those teeth and claws could tear him to pieces with little effort. "What did he offer you then?" he asked, hoping against hope that Poseidon hadn't offered them anything.
"Shiny stones, diamonds and emeralds he called them," said the one who had the greenest scales, and Danny's heart would have sunk if he hadn't noticed the discontented way the other two flipped back their bottom fins as she said it.
He wrinkled his nose, "What, like the ones on this beach?"
"No! Better!" the one who had backflipped said, but there wasn't much conviction in her voice. Danny could tell he had overstepped and they were defensive now so he shrugged again as if it was nothing to him and put his hands in his pockets as a nonchalant gesture, all the while thinking furiously. One hand closed around the lacrosse ball and Danny got an inkling of a plan.
"I'm in the mood for a game, do you know which way I should go for the nearest human town?" he asked.
"You want to play with humans?" the one who had spoken to him first burst out incredulously, "Why, boy, you will not find better players than the mer!"
"Oh, you want to play?" Danny asked, trying to sound pleased instead of tense. "You know how to play catch? With a ball?"
He could see the three of them struggling between hurt ego and the desire to play. Finally, curiosity won out and the one who had spoken before said, "We play with balls sometimes, but they float, and we can't take them home so they get lost."
Danny realized they must be talking about beach balls, and wondered where they had found any but went on pleasantly, "This one won't float. You want a game?"
Did they! They tossed the ball, here, there, everywhere. Danny quickly gave up trying to catch it and let them taunt him instead—it put them in a merry mood. Finally, when he judged the time was right, before they had grown tired of the game and the ball, he said, trying to sound regretful, "I have to leave now. I need my ball back."
The three of them protested, "The day's young!"
"The play has just started."
"Don't say all boys tire so easy!" tauntingly.
Danny stuck to saying he had to go despite all their arguments until finally he said, as if it had just struck him, "I could leave the ball I guess but..." he trailed off.
"I'd need something in return." Danny said.
The merpeople murmured amongst themselves and offered him pearls, and jellyfish (apparently to eat, Danny tried not to gag as he refused) and treasure from sunken ships and plants from the deepest parts of the ocean but Danny refused.
"It's not worth that much," he protested finally, "I don't need much for it. Just give me that sack of Poseidon's. It isn't worth much, just some shiny stones."
They tensed and murmured again. Danny stepped back and said casually, "Or you can just give the ball back."
They cried out in protest at that.
"No, it's okay! If you're scared of Poseidon, and who isn't? You can't give me the sack." Danny said, "But I need my ball."
"Afraid!" cried out the one who was most blue, and the others echoed her angrily.
Danny stayed quiet and let them steam. They talked for a few moments and then one of them left, swimming off rapidly. Sooner than he could've hoped for, Danny had a very heavy sack lying at his feet and the three merpeople had forgotten his existence and were playing with the ball instead. He picked the sack up and walked away as quickly as possible without looking suspicious.
As soon as he was hidden, he fished out the coin and bit down hard. It dissolved in his mouth and suddenly, the car was there.
"Thought you were a goner," the driver remarked, smiling at him, looking relieved.
He laughed a little and got in. The car drove up and along with overwhelming relief at having Jackson's salvation safely in his arms, he felt an odd pang at leaving the ball behind. It felt a little like leaving his childhood behind for good somewhere it couldn't be reached again.
"Where is he?" Danny turned to Scott as the one most likely to give the game away. They were near the club where he typically spent his Friday nights. Athena had sent him a mysterious message by way of the owl, to tell him he need not worry about Poseidon and that he should come here.
Scott shook his head and started to say he didn't know when Danny responded angrily, "I know about the werewolf thing and I know Jackson's turning into a lizard and killing people. I think I can help him but where is he?"
Derek Hale reared back, his eyes flashing red and Danny scoffed mentally, cousin Miguel indeed.
"Jackson needs something to protect, some place to belong instead of looking for revenge. Do you have some sort of pack land or something?" he demanded of Derek.
"Pack land?" Derek said, blankly, then enlightenment dawned on his face, and he said, "No!"
"You owe him," Danny said, startled himself at the quiet fury in his voice, "You're the one that bit him," he had had enough time to work this out, "You did this to him."
Derek looked ill-at-ease, "He asked for it," he protested, crossing his arms over his chest, and for a moment Danny wanted to punch him, never mind that the dude could probably lay him out flat without even trying.
"Alright people, let's all calm down," Stiles said, shifting in between them, "Jackson's out there waiting to get his scaly hands on someone and kill them dead. Danny says he has a plan, I think we should listen." Scott tilted his head and the two of them shared a glance.
"Your house and everything around it, that's the pack land isn't it?" Stiles asked Derek.
Derek looked quite definitely guilty now but after a moment his face shifted into a determined expression and he said, "Yeah, but we'll have to hurry. Jackson's probably inside the club by now and searching for his victim."
"Stiles can take Danny to the house, we'll have to lead Jackson there." Scott told Derek.
"You'd better make sure Matt isn't interfering," Danny muttered under his breath, Athena was a goddess, she could hear him if she wanted to.
Athena had been hatching her own plans. To be precise, while Danny was stealing back the shield, she was praying to Zeus silently to hear her, and then she slipped out of the mortal guise she had taken and waited for Poseidon to come. And come he did; almost slipping out of the pretense of being Matt Daehler in his haste.
He smiled gleefully when he saw her, "Isn't this a most amusing game, niece?"
"You stole the shield of Medusa from my lord Zeus and hid it. You commanded the Kanima and forced it to kill even the innocent." Athena said. It was hardly a question. Zeus had now turned his attention to her, curiosity piqued.
Poseidon smiled again, with power shining through his eyes he was looking less and less mortal every moment. "The boy Matt wanted revenge. What did it matter that only one had held him down till death took him? The others had all stood there and laughed."
"You committed an atrocity. You twisted the nature of the Kanima." Athena said, cool as always.
Poseidon didn't have time to reply. Thunder struck down in between them as Zeus called. Athena could see Poseidon's shock, quickly replaced by fury. Poseidon would be out for revenge, he was probably already planning.
But for now, Athena had won. The boy Danny would do the rest or he wouldn't. Her part was done.
He wasn't sure what he should do with the shield, holding it in front of him seemed like a really bad idea considering the way Kanima-Jackson was hissing at it. Typical Jackson-never could do things the easy way and just listen to him. Finally he just tossed the shield a distance away from all of them and spoke to Jackson in his most reasonable voice. Scott and Derek and some other people— Isaac and Erica and was that Vernon Boyd? were standing around Jackson in a loose half-circle, claws out; and apart from Scott, Danny wasn't sure he could trust any of them not to slit Jackson's throat if they got the chance.
"Look, dude, I heard what Athena said and it's all been really shitty for you, I know. But you can't go around killing people for it. And seriously, you're obeying Matt Daehler? Creepiest new kid ever, that's how half the tragic coming-of-age movies begin, don't you know?"
Unfortunately Kanima-Jackson didn't seem to have even the limited sense of humor normal-Jackson did, and was slowly stalking towards him in a meandering manner.
"Jackson, dammit," Danny said, all his fear coming out in one explosive outburst. "You aren't going to kill me, you aren't going to kill anyone. Stop it!"
Surprisingly enough, Jackson did, he stopped and cocked his head at Danny and even his tail lashed a little slower, more uncertain.
"I googled you, you know. You're the protector, you're meant to defend, so protect." Danny said, panting and scared because he didn't have any more eloquence in him. He hadn't ever had to coax Jackson, not really. Despite how he behaved with everyone else Jackson really did do his best to be a good friend to Danny, in his own peculiar style. He didn't know what else to say, and he bitterly regretted giving away the ball when it might have recalled Jackson's humanity to him.
Jackson stood facing him and Danny reminded him of that, of the ball, of playing together alone for hours until the sun had gone down and they couldn't really see their own feet let alone a small ball. It was competitive because Jackson was always competitive but it had been fun. It had been the best summer of his life.
"I got your shield back. It won't be used by them again," Danny said, at the end of it, when he was losing Kanima-Jackson's attention again.
Slowly, Jackson started walking away toward the sack the shield was in. It was an obvious struggle for him to move, and in a few moments it was obvious that his scales were being absorbed into his skin and he was turning back; becoming human. Then he opened the sack with clumsy, clawed hands and let out a scream of pain and collapsed. Before their eyes, the shadow of a beautiful woman struggled to reunite with Jackson; the most beautiful woman Danny had seen, wild and dark and proud. A moment later, Jackson was the Kanima again and Danny was bitterly assured he'd failed.
Then the Kanima turned back into Jackson, and he croaked out, "Protect? These furballs? You couldn't have found me something better?"
Danny half-laughed at the familiar complaining tone to keep himself from sobbing. He dragged his tired feet forward to collapse beside Jackson, "If you wanted five star treatment you should have said before you tried killing me. Too late now."
Jackson's lips tightened and he moved one hand to squeeze Danny's thigh unobtrusively. His eyes looked up an apology and Danny's shoulders relaxed of their own accord from a tension he hadn't even been aware of. Apparently, even finding out that Jackson had been a scaly murderous monster didn't change how he looked at his best friend. After all, as Danny told Jackson later, driving back home sitting closer than necessary after a therapy session where Jackson had (understandably) lied through his teeth as usual- it was only the scaly part that had been new.