A/N: Hello again, my friends! I'm just as shocked as you all are that we find ourselves together again. This whole chapter was very last minute, and I wrote it all last night. I couldn't get the need to update this story out of my head, so it might be a bit rushed, but it felt right, and I hope you'll all agree.
Disclaimer: I own nothing; not these characters, not their world, and definitely not the movies (though maybe I shouldn't be too upset about that last bit).
Please read and review, and also hopefully enjoy along the way!
Tyler stumbled out of the big house, his mind swimming with everything he'd just learned. It was one thing to hear about Percy saving the world countless times, especially coming from the boy in question who had apparently downplayed everything he'd done,
but it was completely different to watch two, very enthusiastic guys explain the wars that they'd all been a part of.
Also, there was all of that nonsense about Percy and Annabeth being "the greatest love story of our entire generation!" Which, he couldn't exactly disprove, but seemed to be a little doubtful and more like the blathering of obsessive Aphrodite
daughters. Plus, he knew that John Legend and Chrissy Teigen was actually the greatest love story of their generation; he had Twitter, after all.
Percy and Annabeth were both waiting outside of the Big House, the two of them leaning against the railing around the porch, talking quietly to each other, the both of them in their own, little world.
Tyler cleared his throat when he reached them, and they both swung around, anxious expressions marring their faces.
"So?" Percy asked, drawing out the word. "How'd it go?"
"Why is there a living cheetah head in there?"
"Oh, that's Seymour," Annabeth answered, waving off the question. "And he's a leopard, actually."
"I really don't care what kind of big cat he is."
"You should. Dionysus would drive you mad if he heard you call Seymour a cheetah."
"He does that anyways," Percy muttered, earning an eye roll from his girlfriend.
Tyler decided not to question them any further, realizing that demigods were probably all at least a little bit crazy, and that things at Camp Half-Blood would never make any sense to him.
"So, you blew up Mount Saint Helens? And you beat the god of war when you were twelve? And you were invincible? And you both held up the sky? And you went to Paris for your monthiversary?"
Annabeth crinkled her brow at the last question, confused what that had to do with anything, and wondering when anyone had found out about that. As far as she knew, only her and Percy, and Hermes, of course, knew about that date, but she supposed it wasn't
unlikely that Aphrodite and her children knew. They did have an unhealthy obsession with her relationship, after all.
"I mean," Tyler continued, "how are you supposed to get any better than that? Every other anniversary is just going to pale in comparison. I don't think that was the smartest move. I would've at least waited a year before I brought out the big guns."
"I think falling into Tartarus with her would have really sold it."
"What exactly is Tartarus, though? The way Connor and Travis talked about it, it seemed like everyone should already know, but I have no idea what it is."
Percy sighed, running a hand through his hair angrily. "It's where all the monsters go after they've been killed. They rebuild themselves down there, and try to make it back up to earth. It's worse than hades."
Tyler gulped, and watched as his two friends grasped each other's hand, their fingers intertwining tightly, saw them move infinitesimally closer, as if done out of instinct rather than voluntary action. He didn't really understand what hell was like,
so he had no comprehension of anything worse than that, but he could tell that it was a memory that stuck with them, something that haunted them still yet and probably would for the rest of their lives. Knowing that Percy had chosen to go down there
with Annabeth, that he had had a way out, the option of staying with his friends instead, and had still let go of the ledge instead of her made him uncomfortable in a way he wasn't familiar with.
He wasn't unaccustomed to the occasional pity party, because not only did it let him wallow in his teenaged angst and the unfairness of everything in his life—from a father who had stepped out on him and his mom to not getting a slice of pizza in the
cafeteria—it also allowed him to feel good about himself, to know that he had a screwed up past sometimes, but he himself wasn't a screw up. Tyler knew that he was a good guy who, for the most part, made good decisions, even though no one would have
been surprised if he wasn't.
But as much as he claimed to like Macy (and he did, a lot), he couldn't imaging willingly giving up his life for her, to throw away the chance of ever seeing the sun again or his mom or all of the new Star Wars movies, just so she wouldn't be
alone in a place that monsters stewed in their anger for the demigod that had killed them, in a place that, according to Percy, was worse than hell.
He knew he was a good guy, in the classic, mortal way of being a good guy. No one would dispute that, and he figured Percy wouldn't, either. And before learning about Percy's heritage, he would've still resolutely said he was wholesome and good
and everything he was supposed to be.
Tyler realized he wasn't full of goodness so much as without any badness, which wasn't the same thing, and didn't actually equal a great man.
But Percy was a great man, the epitome of good and love, the kind of person that would always do the right thing (so long as you overlooked his tendency to not do his homework).
In that moment, Tyler realized he had two choices, a rock and a hard place, a ledge and Tartarus, because he could either decide to be bitter about how he paled in comparison to his best friend, or he could be glad that there was someone like Percy out
there, someone who would always do what was right, someone who had thought Tyler to be a good enough guy to be friends with.
Tyler smiled at the couple in front of him, and hopped off the steps on the front porch, making his way to the center of the camp where all the strange cabins were nestled, Percy and Annabeth right behind him.
"All of Me isn't even that great of a song."
Jason had tried following Nico into the grove of pine trees that were clustered near the creek, but he'd lost him somewhere around Zeus' Fist and hadn't seen him since.
He worried about Nico in a way he wasn't used to worrying about anyone; it felt similar to how he assumed an older sibling looking after their younger brother or sister must've, the way he assumed Thalia had worried for him.
He knew that technically Nico was his cousin—not that any of them really ever thought about their godly relations, considering Piper would be his niece if he did—and so he felt a sense of obligation to take care of the guy, especially since no
one else ever seemed to bother doing it.
Oftentimes, he liked to complain about his dad, but he knew he could have it worse, and he knew that Nico did. Not that he ever talked about it, of course, as Nico was a very closed off guy, unsurprisingly, but it did make him wonder what Hades was like
as a father, wonder what had happened between him and Percy to make him think the easygoing son of Poseidon would hate him.
Jason wouldn't lie and say he'd started off with the best relationship with Percy; the two had butted heads since the beginning, and things only became more tense after they'd been possessed by the eidolons during the war. But after everything had cooled
down and they'd managed to have a civil conversation, the two of them had come to an understanding. Percy was a cool guy that was just a little obtuse sometimes, but well-meaning and overall a good person. He'd been dealt a crappier hand than almost
anyone else that Jason knew, and he handled it in stride, something that Jason could respect. Plus, anyone that could handle Annabeth's bipolar tendencies had to be a near saint, he figured.
Jason knew that Reyna had made her affections known to him (a fact which made Jason clench his jaw sometimes still yet), and the two of them had been able to continue with their joint praetorship without any trouble. He knew Drew had come onto Percy just
as she had him, and Drew still liked to sing him praises to anyone that would listen. Percy didn't seem to leave on bad terms with anyone, except maybe monsters and the gods, though Jason didn't think they could hate him that much considering
he was still standing.
So, it just made no sense to him why Nico thought Percy wouldn't understand.
If anyone would understand, he thought it was Percy.
He could hear the gurgling of the creek, which meant that he had walked in a complete circle and had just given Nico even more time to get away. It also meant that he was awful at tracking, and still had no idea how to navigate the forest, despite having
lived at camp for as long as he had.
To be fair, he'd spent a great deal of that time flying around on a giant warship, so he didn't think anyone would hold that against him.
With a huff, he turned around and tried to make his way back to civilization, where the sun was shining and he didn't have to worry about anything crawling around in the dirt, wishing him harm.
When he surfaced from the heavy cluster of pines, he saw Percy and Annabeth closely trailing behind their mortal friend, Tyler, he thought, the one who reminded him of Leo. He recognized the look on the mortal's face as the same one that all new campers
wore when they first saw the cabins, how horrifically different and gaudily beautifully they all were.
Even then, sometimes Jason was still amazed at everything Percy and Annabeth had accomplished.
He shook his head and continued forward, catching Percy's eye, and waved him over. Percy cocked his head to the side, a look that said he was confused, a look that Jason was very familiar with as far as Percy was concerned. The son of Poseidon jogged
over to him despite that, saying something quickly to Annabeth and Tyler, who both just shrugged and carried on.
"What's up, man?" Percy asked, now just a few feet away.
Jason knew he shouldn't involve Percy, but that was pretty much all he knew. Nico wasn't doing anything and he had no idea how to help him, and so the only solution was to take matters into his own hands. He wouldn't tell Percy, of course, but he'd at
least try and let him know that something was wrong.
"Nico's run off somewhere, and—"
"Nico's here?" Percy asked, his tone sharper than Jason had ever anticipated.
"Whoa," Jason drawled, "what's with the attitude?"
Percy smoothed out his features and rubbed the back of his neck, clearly agitated. He sighed, indicating with a jerk of his head that he wanted Jason to follow him over to the mess hall, and so he did.
Percy slid into a random bench, and Jason sat down across from him, waiting for him to get his thoughts together.
"Nico and I have a complicated history," he said, and Jason snorted, having reached that conclusion all by himself. "He blamed me for his sister's death, and that stuck with me for a long time."
"But Hazel's fine," Jason interrupted, knowing that Hazel had died long before either of them were born, and that she was currently back at New Rome with Frank, working with Reyna to improve their camp and relations with Camp Half Blood.
Percy shook his head. "Not Hazel, his full sister, Bianca. She went on the quest to save Annabeth—and Artemis, too, I guess. We were in the junkyard of the gods, and, well, long story short, she died, trying to protect Thalia and Grover and Zoe and me."
"But how is that your fault?"
"I promised him I'd keep her safe. Which I now know is a dumb thing to ever promise on a quest, but I was just thirteen and Nico had some kind of hero worship thing for me back then, and I didn't want to disappoint him."
"Okay, I understand why Nico would be upset with you, even if it wasn't your fault, but why would you be mad at Nico?"
"Well, the next year, Nico came to me with a plan. He wanted me to bathe in the River Styx, like Achilles did, so I could defeat Kronos. In the end, my invincibility is the only thing that kept him from killing me up on Olympus, so Nico was right about
it. But he'd made a deal with Hades to bring me down there."
As everything was coming together, a bad feeling ached in Jason's stomach, but he pushed on, wanting, needing, to know what happened next.
"What kind of deal?"
"Hades would keep me prisoner and he'd tell Nico all about his mother. And I mean, I understand the motivation, I really do, and he did end up breaking me out and facing off against his father and everything, which I appreciate, but it would have
been nice if he'd just told me. I mean, I wouldn't have denied him the chance to find out about his mom." He shrugged his shoulders but maintained eye contact with Jason. "I did almost die though, when I was in the Styx, so I'm a little bitter about
the kidnapping and the almost-death."
"How'd you almost die?"
"The river can eat you alive, basically. You have to have a tether to your mortal life, something to keep you alive."
Jason nodded slowly. "And let me guess: Annabeth is your tether?"
Percy smiled unabashedly. "Of course she is."
"So that's it?"
"Nico also pretended he had no idea who I was last year when I was at New Rome. He pretended he was Pluto's ambassador and introduced himself to me and everything, knowing that I had no memories, save for Annabeth, of course."
The feeling that had been building in Jason's stomach came to a breaking point, and he realized what the problem was. It wasn't just that Percy was completely infatuated with Annabeth, though that was admittedly a big part of it all; it was that the only
thing that kept him alive was Annabeth, which would put a damper on any crush. Nico had also seen Percy decide to fall into Tartarus with her, had been a witness to every time Percy had picked her, over everything and everyone and especially
It bummed Jason out just to hear.
"But you do care about him. I mean, he is your friend. Right?"
Percy twitched his lips into something sort of resembling a smile. "I don't know if Nico and I will ever really be friends, but he's my family, and I'll always care about my family."
Tyler and Annabeth meandered around camp, Tyler asking questions every now and then, and Annabeth regaling him with more stories of her and Percy and their adventures together. It was nice, so long as he ignored all of the curious sets of eyes that roved
over him whenever they passed by the throngs of campers.
"Why does everyone keep staring at us?"
"Well, you're the first mortal to come here since Rachel, and she ended up becoming the oracle. "
Tyler stopped in his tracks. "You mean Rachel Dare, she's your…whatever?"
"Oracle," Annabeth repeated, nodding her head. "She's clear sighted, meaning she can see all the monsters and everything naturally. She can see everything more clearly than demigods even can sometimes."
"So, what, Percy brings all of his friends here?"
Annabeth bit back a smile, recognizing his tone. "You're not the first person to be jealous of Rachel. But no, she helped us on a quest. Even if I didn't realize it then, we needed her, otherwise I don't know what would have happened." She nudged Tyler
and pointed out a structure of rocks off a bit in the distance, the cave entrance covered by what appeared to be colorful bedsheets and beaded curtains. "That's where she lives when she's here."
"If you put your highly respected oracle in a cave, I'd hate to know what you do with the lowly mortals."
"Oh," she replied, as casually as possible. "We usually just sacrifice them to the gods."
Tyler blanched, throwing her a horrified look, causing Annabeth to throw her head back and laugh. All of the onlookers, the ones who had been inching closer to the duo in the hopes of eavesdropping, exchanged looks, wondering what was going on.
"My gods, Tyler, you should have seen your face!"
"You try being told you're going to be sacrificed, and then tell me how you look afterwards."
Annabeth just shook her head, still smiling.
"So, what's with the lava?"
"Well, years ago, just a bit after I first came here, the Ares kids were complaining that they didn't have enough challenges, and some of the Hephaestus kids took it upon themselves to make a synthetic lava that would meet their needs."
"Isn't that dangerous?"
"Only one camper lost his arm," Annabeth told him, offended that he'd asked. She didn't really care for the lava wall, but it was just as dangerous, if not more so, for demigods to simply be alive sometimes. If they could handle that (for the most
part, anyways), then a little lava should be nothing.
"You demigods are crazy," Tyler told her, matter-of-factly, watching her from the corner of his eye as she shrugged. It was somewhat of a culture shock for him, if he were being honest, to be suddenly dropped in a world very unlike his own. He could sense
an underlying wave of power from most everyone he saw, could see a hardened look in all of their eyes. None of them were here to learn how to canoe or make macaroni necklaces. Camp Half-Blood wasn't a camp so much as it was an army base, hidden under
the good nature of teenagers and the magical presence of mythical creatures. Everything looked the same on the surface, but he knew that there was a darkness hidden inside all of the kids around him, secrets buried in the dirt under his feet. They
really were all a bit crazy, but it made sense to him that they would be, after everything they'd endured.
"What was it like?" he asked the blonde beside him, the two of them stopped on the pier, looking out into the water before them. "The wars, I mean. What was it like for Percy and you?"
Annabeth looked wistfully out at the sound, inhaling deeply when a breeze blew by them. It smelled like Percy, though Tyler was loath to admit that he knew what his best friend smelled like.
"It was war, you know, just like you see in movies, or whatever. The only difference was that there were so many other things going on that we couldn't just focus on Kronos or Gaea, couldn't just plan and fight. It all seemed so hopeless sometimes,
especially since it was just us fighting, just a ragtag group of teenagers, Percy leading us. And I fell in love with him, Tyler, I really did, when I saw him take the skies, for Artemis, for me. It was the sweetest gesture that a thirteen year old
could make, and I couldn't handle it, because I'd realized that Percy was probably going to die."
She plopped down on the edge of the pier, skimming the toes of her sneakers in the water, rippling the otherwise calm surface. Tyler followed her lead, sitting beside her, watching her watch the sea.
"It's an abstract idea most of the time, that us demigods are going to die. Because, sure, it happens, but before Percy arrived, it was so rare. And then he shows up, landing himself right in the thick of everything, and of course I'm right by his side,
and I see him fighting, the way the monsters hate him, the way the gods fear him. He's so good, Tyler. So, so good. And the world—this world, our world—it could so easily destroy him. But he was it for me. So I always followed him into
battle, into the dark. And he always did it for me, too. He followed me anywhere I would go, trusted me so implicitly." She met his gaze then, unflinchingly. "The wars, they were awful. So many people died. But I don't regret them, as awful as that
sounds. I wouldn't change anything, because the first war, it brought me Percy, and I'm a better person because of him. I'm not good like him, but I'm better than I was, and he makes me want to keep going. Percy made all of the pain and horribleness
of fighting, of being a demigod in general, worth it."
It was almost too heavy a subject for his teenaged mind to handle. He was so out of his comfort zone, not only being surrounded by demigods, but by so openly talking about love, about commitment and eternity and all of those other mushy words that he
heard in the RomComs his mom would watch late at night, a box of tissues emptied on the ground by the sofa come morning.
"You know he's a dork, right?"
Annabeth smiled lightly, nodding her head. "I know. He drools in his sleep and he has no idea how to do basic algebra and he honestly enjoys Avatar too much. But he's so loyal and he truly loves me."
"To be fair," Tyler replied with a smirk, "The Last Airbender is highly underrated."
The daughter of Athena rolled her eyes. She knew how much her boyfriend liked the show, and she did too, however secretly. But it made her hesitant, in that she was afraid Percy had been inspired by the bloodbending. It was something she tried not to
think about too often, especially when it was just the two of them, when there was a vulnerability to their solitude. She didn't want to isolate him, to make him feel unsure around her, but it terrified her. Her boyfriend, for whatever godly reason,
was far more powerful than anyone else she knew, save the Olympians. She just never wanted it to get to his head, to change him, to destroy what they had.
The two sat in silence, both distracted, lost in thought. Annabeth had never told anyone as much as she'd told Tyler, at least not as quickly. Talking about Percy could be so easy though, especially considering how well Tyler knew him. She could understand
why the two of them were close, how they'd formed a friendship.
In their quiet musings, Percy had wandered over to them, smiling at his girlfriend and best school friend getting along. He loved Annabeth, more than anything, but he knew that not everyone else found her nearly as approachable. It made a giddy sort of
feeling bubble in his stomach. His life was finally settling down and coming together and he couldn't have been happier.
"What have you two been up to?"
Annabeth didn't even flinch, but Tyler spun around quickly, pushing himself too far and off the side of the pier. He splashed into the Long Island Sound below, showering Percy and Annabeth with the cold water. Annabeth spluttered, pushing her matted curls
away from her face, the son of Poseidon laughing hysterically beside her. She shot him a glare and, with a smile, Percy reached over and dried her with a simple touch. Tyler shot up out of the water, pulling himself back up onto the pier, and Percy
repeated the action with him.
"Well, that was refreshing."
"I'm glad you're awake then, because Annabeth and I have something to do, and if you want to join, I could probably use your help."
Annabeth pulled herself up, looking at her boyfriend curiously. "What's going on, Seaweed Brain?"
"Nothing too serious, I don't think, but Nico's apparently run off, and Jason's freaking out about it. I figured we could try and help find him."
"Great," Tyler agreed readily. "So, where to?"
The two demigods smiled at each other deviously before looking back at their mortal friend. "Why, to Hades, of course!"
A/N: I honestly don't know if this chapter will be well received, but I was very into it while writing it, so I hope you all enjoyed it as you read. Let me know what you thought of it, please.
This is one of my longest chapters yet, FYI, and I anticipate even longer ones in the future. Please stick it out with me.
Also, there are a couple pop culture references throughout that I hope feel cohesive enough to the story.
So, first thing to acknowledge in my classically long and unrelated author notes... I had some phone troubles a few months ago, and though I got it fixed, it erased some of my apps-including my second email account, which is what I use for Fanfiction. I had been so downtrodden about this story because I thought I hadn't gotten reception to my last chapter, when lo and behold, I was just a dummy that hadn't logged back into her second gmail account. I had some lovely reviews that really perked me up and inspired me to return to Pound of Flesh.
To continue on that thread, a reviewer (AlysaJ) asked me a question that I would like to answer here, publicly, for everyone to see: they asked me if I had thought of writing my own novel, and to be quite honest, I've thought of almost nothing else since I was twelve years old. Part of the reason I've been as AWOL as I have been recently is because I've been plotting and writing my own story, something near and dear to my heart, something that I'd love to see published someday (sooner rather than later, if I'm lucky). I'm not anywhere near the point of actually being published, but I wanted to see if any of you would be interested in my story should my dream finally be realized someday.
Lastly, one of my oldest and dearest friends has started a YouTube channel, and she asked for my help in pimping her out. She's a great singer and knows her way around a guitar and a uke, so if you'd like to hear some great renditions of some great songs, please check her out! Her channel name is Rachel Brevan and it would mean a lot to me if you would help her get some more views.
Anyhow, thank you all for taking the time to read my story, to stick with me through everything, to support me, for all of your kind words. It means more to me than you'll ever know. As the Golden Girls theme song would say: Thank you for being a friend! I couldn't do this without you.
Please leave me a review to let me know what you think! It's a great motivator for me, truly, and it helps me to keep things going in a direction we're all happy with.