A/N: Hey guys! Welcome to FIRSTS, it's my first PJO fic but I couldn't help myself after reading HoH (SPOILER ALERT) and falling in love with Calypso and Leo. Thanks for reading and I'd appreciate any feedback :)
The first time his friends confronted him, it was a week after Gaea's forces had been defeated and the earth mother herself reburied for another millennia. Leo didn't kid himself- she wasn't dead. Goddesses as old as the Earth itself could not be killed or vaporised or burnt to ashes. He was reminded of those mind numbingly boring science lessons at school. His teacher would drone on in his monotonous drawl about energy. Energy cannot be destroyed, it is simply transformed.
But since coming back to Camp Half-Blood, seeing the faces of his half-siblings, the tentative relations between the Romans and Greeks, the gods' warring counterparts finally at peace, Leo had learned to be grateful that she could not harm him or his friends or his family any more than she already had. She would be a problem for the next millennia's generation to handle.
In true Camp Half-Blood fashion, the Greeks threw a party to celebrate the Earth Mother's destruction and the Romans had been invited to hesitantly finalise the peace between east and west. Leo found himself surrounded by the grinning faces of his friends and a nearly electric atmosphere of elation that covered the camp from head to toe. He was happy, he told Jason when the Roman demigod gave him an odd look. He wasn't his usual vibrant self but he was happy.
Until the night swept across the sky and Leo found himself in Bunker Nine while his siblings slept back at Camp, his fingers studying the fine white crystal he'd kept safe in his pockets during the whole adventure. During the day, some of his siblings would use the bunker as well and he was careful to keep the true nature of his project secret, just for the time being. But at night, alone in the underground, surrounded by his element, Leo let himself work feverishly.
It was the same pattern, every night. First, he turned the crystal over and over in his grip, tracing the jagged edges where it had been broken off by hands much stronger than his own. Hands, he remembered with nostalgia in his chest, that bore dirt-encrusted fingernails towards the end of his stay but still remained so, so soft…
When he snapped himself out of his daydreaming, Leo would turn to the bronze astrolabe he'd retrieved from the dwarfs. It was mangled in places from age but overall, the damage was much less than he'd first thought. In his head he could picture the many ways he could start embedding the ancient mariner technology into Festus' guidance systems, how the wires might cross, how he could use the Archimedes Sphere to realign it into some kind of GPS system…
But before that, he would then acknowledge, Festus had to be, you know, a dragon again.
So he'd turn to his old friend who had remain quiet while Leo went through the motions of studying his pieces and do what Leo did best: fix.
He took thirty minute power naps, snacked on energy bars and drank as much caffeinated Red Bull as he thought he could handle without vibrating and set to work with the wide sheets of celestial bronze and imperial gold Hazel had been kind enough to raise for him.
Leo's hands blazed for hours as he curved the pieces into claws, welded lumps into smooth wings, moulded his friend's new form into a masterpiece that could handle anything thrown at it.
(Leo liked to think Gaea hadn't had a huge effect on his personality but he included seven different safety measures in the blueprints in case of monsters, falling out of the sky, crashing into the ocean etc. His paranoia had certainly increased since the Quest of the Seven.)
It was, he knew, a gargantuan undertaking.
He was effectively rebuilding Festus from scratch. Even the Argus II seemed easier than the dragon's intricate, complex form. Festus needed solar powered wings, an extra kick of power for his engines, brand new radar and sonar vision ability and to top it all off, his guidance system needed to be better than brilliant.
It had to be perfect or else it would all be for naught.
He didn't rush his work but he couldn't afford not to rush. Every day he spent in New York was another day she lost hope that he would come back for her.
He'd promised. Leo Valdez had sworn an oath, on the River Styx no less.
Not exactly something to be taken lightly.
When he resurfaced during the day (not for long periods, mind you), his friends- hell, they were about as close as his own half-siblings at this point- would try to persuade him to stay with them longer, hang out, rest, talk about where he was spending so much time. When Frank asked if he was feeling alright since the final battle, Leo knew he was starting to act a little nuts.
In the end, it was Annabeth who singled him out with a deep, cool grey stare.
"You know, if you tell us what's going on, we can help." She pointed out just before dinner one evening. She and Percy had been smoothing things over between Chiron and Reyna but Annabeth demanded that dinner was spent with their friends, not with treaty talk.
"What? Nothing's wrong, why would anything be wrong? We kicked Mother Earth's butt, no one had to die, Rachel's keeping her mouth shut for now, everything's great! It's-" Leo spluttered, avoiding her gaze.
"-really, really great- wait what?"
"You're lying." Annabeth pointed out in a nearly bored tone. "You remind me of me when Percy was missing."
"Blonde and ticked off?" he aimed for a joke but his tone betrayed his exhaustion.
Annabeth's face softened slightly. "Tired and trying to hide it. Leo, do whatever you need to do. Trust me, nothing stopped me when I was determined but at least let us help. We help each other."
"I don't need help." He muttered, his stomach growling like a hellhound. "I'm fine."
"The guys are worried that you're losing it." Annabeth replied, bluntly. "And frankly, so am I. Leo, have you even looked at yourself lately?" she pointed to the huge rack of shields behind him and he turned automatically.
The boy staring back at him in the reflective circles did not resemble the sarcastic, fun loving Leo Valdez he'd been back before all this started. He'd grown a few inches and his face looked sallow- if he wasn't careful, his natural olive tone might turn out more like Nico Di Angelo's. His eyes looked bruised and his shoulders hunched slightly.
He looked exhausted but there, in the back of his black eyes, there it was. An inferno of single-minded, tenacious determination burning brightly.
In his reflection, he watched Annabeth pat his shoulder. "Leo, if you let us help, we will. We don't even have to ask questions, if you don't want to answer. But we'll help you."
The idea tossed around his mind like a piece of sea glass, letting the currents smooth over the rough edges. He'd hesitated in bringing his friends in on his little secret for reasons he couldn't quite explain. He didn't want them thinking it was a stupid idea, didn't want them telling him it was impossible. In his head, he pictured the slight pity that would enter their eyes and he dreaded being the source of it. Poor stupid Leo Valdez who fell in love with a goddess on an island he'll never see again.
Even more, he felt mildly ill at confessing his Stygian oath to them. Pity? No, horror was more likely.
Still, it might not be a terrible idea. Frankly, he could use Annabeth's help with the guidance system and Hazel might be willing to bring up more supplies, not to mention Percy's half-brother Tyson would be a huge help with the crafting for Festus' wings.
As long as Frank didn't touch anything…
Leo sighed, in defeat. "Can you get them to come to Bunker Nine after dinner? I'll explain it all then."
Annabeth practically glowed with success but she didn't crow. She merely nodded and turned back to where her boyfriend had somehow managed to insult the leaders of both camps with his fat mouth.
A/N: The first few chapters are short but that's because there's quite a few of them. Hope you liked it, updates are (hopefully!) every week on Mondays!