Disclaimer- I own nothing! Unless I inherited something and wasn't told. But that is extremely doubtful, as I do not believe Rick Riordan is dead, and I have no clue how many people own Marvel rights and who they are.
Ch. XIII - I take a post-mortem break
I called for Blackjack as soon as I reached the beach, and he appeared less than 20 minutes later, greeting me with the typical, "yo boss, what up? Can we get donuts?" I laughed half heartedly at his familiar behavior, but at the same time was struck by a glance of nostalgia as I remembered how the first time I met Tony he took me to get donuts. I couldn't shake the guilt I felt for faking my death. Blackjack looked at me in concern, sensing my emotions. "Everything alright boss?"
I smiled sadly at the pegasus."Yeah. It's just, I left some people close to me thinking I'm dead."
"Well ya aren't, are ya boss?" Blackjack pointed out.
"No, I'm not." I told him and myself. "They'll find out I'm alive soon." I managed to push the guilt I felt to the back of my mind, convincing myself that my faux death was the only way to unite the team in order to confront Loki.
"Take me to Camp?" I asked.
"Sure thing, Boss!" Blackjack nickered. I swung up on his back, and he took off, flying high enough that even if the clouds didn't conceal us, his shape would be undistinguishable to the mortal eye below.
Blackjack flies fast with me, and even faster without. We made it to camp in a little under an hour flying at approximately 500 miles per hour. And that's about a third of what he can fly without me. I don't know much about science, but I'm pretty sure that flying at this elevation at this speed should make it impossible for both Blackjack and I to breathe. Plus, the wind passing us should be freezing and painful. However, I could breath just fine, although it felt like it did when I breath underwater. Blackjack on the other hand was barely out of breath, and the wind only felt like a slight chill.
When we crossed the border of camp Blackjack slowed to a crawl of about 20 miles per hour. As we passed overhead, upturned faces watched our arrival, and upon recognizing me, a chorus of excited shouts and yells went up in our wake. I smiled and waved at some dryads in passing, who giggled and blushed a bright green before waving back.
There were more people than I remember there being last time I was here. The gods were sticking to their word and claiming their children, as well as assisting in guiding them to camp.
As we flew over a strawberry field, the scent of the berries filling my nose, I saw Chiron cantering up from the archery range, a bow clutched in his hand and a quiver of arrows still strapped across his back.
"Let's go meet him." I told Blackjack.
"You got it Boss!" He swerved to the right and landed on the edge of the strawberry field, folding his wings neatly and shaking similar to a dog after I slid off.
"Whatta flight, am I right Boss?" I could feel the smile in his voice.
I patted him on the shoulder. "Worthy of donuts."
He nickered in consent, ruffled his feathers, and trotted off. "I'll hold ya to that, Boss! If you need me, I'll be in the barn."
Chiron halted sharply upon reaching me, concern etching his face. "Percy, my boy, how are you? You seem a little..." He searched my face, "...worn. What happened?" I sighed, never having been good at concealing my emotions, and gave him a summary of what had transpired. "Loki attacked the Helicarrier, and the 'team' doesn't get along very well, so I seized an opportunity to fake my death in the hopes that it will encourage them to unite." Chiron nodded understandingly. "And what of your quest?"
I almost cursed. It had slipped my mind that the gods requested that I keep an eye on SHIELD. "Oh, right. I plan on returning of course, so when I do I will continue to keep an eye on the organization, however in the time I was there I didn't notice any conspiracy. If there really is one, I believe the avengers are clean."
Chiron accepted this. "And what should happen should they find out who you really are?" He asked. "When you return, no doubt questions will be asked regarding how you survived a fall that should have killed you. What will you say?"
He had me there. "Good question. I have no idea. But I think Tony at the very least deserves the whole story." Blunt, perhaps, but hey, it was the truth.
"In that case, perhaps we should prepare you a cover story? You could easily pass your powers off as a mutation."
I found myself nodding. "Okay."
Chiron smiled. "Well then, dinners in a half hour. And it happens to be Friday. Are you up for capture the flag?"
I grinned. "Of course."
Chiron patted me on the shoulder, and said knowingly, "I have an archery lesson to finish, but in the mean time, I expect you'll find Annabeth in her cabin."
The centaur turned on his haunches and totted off, and I walked the very familiar route to my girlfriend's cabin.
I knocked on the door four times to let the occupants know who it was. After we became an item, Annabeth insisted that we have a special knock so that we would know if the other was at our door. I humored her. Leave it to a child of Athena to come up with such an idea, though I had to admit it was nice to know if it was your girlfriend at the door so you could at the very least make yourself presentable before opening it.
I heard a flurry of movement from inside, including a yell of "oh my gods he's back!" Before my girlfriend opened the door, her hair askew even though it was clear she had made an attempt to tame it before facing me. I gave her a crooked smile and she launched into my arms. "Hey Wise Girl," I said, embracing her in a hug. Some where in the cabin someone cleared their throat. She drew back, blushing and I grinned. "Missed you." I looked at her cabin mates, all of whom immediately made themselves busy but sent us small, knowing smiles every now and again. "Let's go for a walk, shall we?" Annabeth nodded her consent and I took her hand, guiding her out the door.
We walked in silence for a while, just appreciating each other's company, before Annabeth mumbled, "I missed you."
I smirked. "I know."
She slapped my arm playfully, "you've been spending too much time around that uncle of yours! When I meet him I'm gonna give him a piece of my mind!"
I laughed. "That isn't even close to his his entire influence." To prove my point, I tapped her arm. "You're it!" I darted off, my girlfriend letting out an indignant shout before perusing me, laughing none the less at my antics.
We were a little late to dinner.
Capture the flag was a nice change from war, let me tell you. That night, the Hermes and Apollo cabins were holding the banner. Earlier that week teams had been decided, and since I was a last minute player I became an honorary member of the Athena cabin (never thought that would happen because of our parents' strained relationship) because I would never dare side against my girlfriend. We, along with the Demeter, Ares and the newly established Hecate cabins were allied to the Blue team, which was led by the Apollo cabin. Everyone else was sided with the Hermes cabin.
The Apollo cabin, with a lot of input from the children of Athena came up with a brilliant but simple plan which, as our team was vastly outnumbered by our opponents, allowed us to rely less on defense and more on offense. The idea was that we place our flag in the corner of our territory, and set a quarter circle of traps interspersed with sentries, around it.
The Demeter and Hecate cabins cooperated to set some of the traps by arranging and enchanting plants to act harmless but at the last moment ensnare the opposing team. The Apollo campers also rigged a series of trick arrows to shoot should a trip wire be triggered. I simply watched the process, giving a little input here and there but generally remaining uninvolved.
Finally, with five minutes before the start of the game, Will Solace stepped forward and began assigning us our positions. All of the Athena's campers, aside from Malcolm who would be overseeing the prisoners, were assigned to offense along with the entire Ares cabin. (No surprise there.) The rest of the cabins were divided in half with one part going offensive while the other remained on defense. Except true to tradition, I was assigned as border guard, regardless of my honorary status in the Athena cabin. Annabeth claimed it was due to my affinity towards water. I begged to differ- I believed I was always stationed there because I had a knack for taking out opponents with my water powers. Annabeth rolled her eyes and corrected me; apparently we were claiming the same thing, which I declared was not entirely true. The way I said it made my talents sound ten times cooler.
Anyways, when the game started, I watched through the slits in my visor as the offense, led by Clarisse, stormed past. The said daughter of Ares shot me a look that promised pain later, and I was struck by simultaneous feelings of déjà vu and slight nostalgia. I remembered my first game of capture the flag when I broke that darn electric spear -the original one that is- of hers, and discovered my godly parentage. Only, that time we were on opposing sides. I still wasn't confident though that should she be given the opportunity, Clarisse would turn that spear on me in a heartbeat, if only now in a 'friendly' terms. Haha, oh the irony of modifying Clarisse's action with the adjective friendly.
When the last of our offense had disappeared over enemy lines, the forest was left eerily silent in their wake. A chill ran down my spine, and I nervously gripped Riptide. Surely our opponents would have shown their faces? Famous last words in the Demigod world, and as my luck would have it, as soon as they crossed my mind an avalanche of red team offense poured out from behind trees and- under rocks? My ADHD mind was not given much time to ponder that one before they were upon me.
It was quite clear that their strategy was to attempt to distract me, and perhaps overpower me, by sending a huge group of people to confront me head on only for them to separate into three pre -organized groups upon reaching the stream bed. One group continued the head on assault, while the other two branched off to my right and left sides, jumping over and splashing through the stream unanimously. I had to give it to them- they knew I couldn't keep more than one thing on my mind at once, and had attempted to exploit that. It would have worked, I think, had I been someone else. As it was, I had just fought a war which required me to think out side the box, along with recently meeting a genius uncle who constantly encouraged me to keep up with his thought process.
A familiar tug in my gut accompanied my split second reaction to the problem presented. A huge wall of water exploded from the stream, leaving it's bed nearly dry, and expanded out, drenching everyone but me before encircling all of the opponents within a fifty foot radius of me. That happened to be at least 4/6 (because 2/3 is too mainstream. Haha see what I did there?) of my attackers. The key now was to either detain those I had ensnared, or postpone their escape for long enough that my team could steal their flag.
Unfortunately, it was difficult and extremely physically taxing to both maintain my water wall and confront the onslaught of campers who swarmed me as soon as I prevented them from progressing deeper into my team's territory. I found myself parrying a strike here and channeling a spurt of water there, until it felt as though I was holding up the sky once more. Finally, however, I saw my relief on the horizon as one of Clarisse's siblings charged towards the stream bed, a red flag clutched in her hand. I continued to hold off my attackers, who upon seeing that my team was nearly winning worked even more ferociously to free themselves. When the Ares girl crossed the boundary at last I allowed my water wall to drop, and stepped into the stream bed after it, gratefully feeling the fatigue leave my body.
With my energy replenished I joined my team in celebrating our victory, and followed the crowd of excitedly clamoring campers as it made its way up to the amphitheater for campfire. An arm slipped carelessly around my shoulder and I looked over to see Annabeth, her face glowing with sweat much like I figured mine must be.
"Hey Wise Girl," I smiled.
"Good game, Seaweed Brain," she grinned, "you know, I actually agree with you now in that 'super- cool water powers' sounds much better than 'affinity with water' when describing your talents."
I raised my eyebrows, smirking, before I frowned. "Wait a moment- the way you said that- I'm pretty sure it was just 'water powers,' not 'super-cool water powers.' When you put it like that it makes me come off as being cocky."
It was her turn to smirk. "Exactly."
"Hey!" I protested. "I'm not cocky." I hesitated. "At least I don't think I am... Am I?"
Annabeth giggled, then leaned up to give me a quick peck on the cheek. "No, you're not. But you're awfully cute when your confused. You scrunch up your eyebrows like this-" she demonstrated, and I hope she was exaggerating how I apparently did the action, "- and your eyes get all stormy."
"I'm not cute either." I grumbled, blushing.
Annabeth giggled again. "Aren't you?" She took my hand and dragged me into a seat a few rows back from the fire pit.
Chiron stood and instantaneously the crowd grew silent, acknowledging his obvious desire to speak. "Campers!" His voice rang out through the amphitheater, echoing off of the curved walls and creating a sonorous effect. "Tonight before all else we congratulate the Ares cabin for their victory in the last capture the flag game." Cheering erupted from the entire audience, regardless of their previous alliance. I felt myself smiling as I recognized once again that we were a family, albeit extended, and we would always be there for each other. I leaned into Annabeth as Chiron continued, "but it was not a victory forged alone. You all held a part in the triumph, whether you attempted to prevent that particular one or supported it." The crowd erupted into cheers once more, and Chiron smiled, indulging us for a while before continuing. "Now, without further ado, as I hate to keep you from your campfire, I shall relinquish the center of focus to the Apollo campers."
Chiron sauntered off of the stage and was replaced by a group of kids of various ages, all of whom were still sweaty and dirty from capture the flag, clutching a variety of instruments. Within minutes the Amphitheater rang with a cacophony of voices and an accompaniment of instruments. A fifteen foot high bright purple flame spewed forth from the fire pit, proving that spirits were soaring. I smiled, carelessly wrapping an arm around Annabeth's shoulder, and thought to myself how good it felt to be home, momentarily forgetting about the other family I had left thinking I was dead.
At around ten o'clock the fire, along with everyone's energy burned out; signaling the end of our celebrations and our collective readiness to pay Morpheus' realm a visit. People began to shuffle about, and Annabeth was dozing lightly on my shoulder. Not many people noticed the figure making her way up to the stage before she spoke in a raspy voice that, while quiet, seized everyone's rapt attention.
The oracle of Delphi, speaking through Rachel Elizabeth Dare had begun reciting another prophecy.
When from the sky creatures will descend
To the aid of a corrupted divine
There will come a certain end
The ocean and shadows must combine
To the heart of the gods must they go
A dead one shall make amends
Less they fail to prevent the final blow
To those whom he calls friends.
Rachel collapsed upon delivering the final verse of what was possibly the vaguest prophesy I had lent my ears to, leaving me and the rest of the now alert audience pondering its meaning. However, as I replayed it over in my mind, several of the lines stuck. "A dead one shall make amends... To those whom he calls friends." I muttered under my breath. I could only think of one person who that might refer to: me. Unless of course some random ghost apologizes to his friends who play a role in the defeat of the corrupted divine (obviously Loki). Unsurprisingly, I found myself greatly skeptical of that idea.
And then the line where it mentioned the Ocean. Hmmm. Thank you fates. I frowned. If I had any doubts about whether this prophesy concerned me, they were all cleared up now.
Then of course the first person I think of in correspondence to shadows is Nico. I frowned. The seemingly vague prophesy made a terrifying amount of sense.
It looked like I would be returning to the Avengers sooner than I had anticipated.
After loosing Percy, Tony returned to his newly built tower and locking himself inside his workshop, drank himself into oblivion. The billionaire was too ashamed that he hadn't been there to prevent his nephew's death to call Sally and break the news to her, so he wallowed in his guilt alone, a bottle of scotch his only companion.
Meanwhile, the other Avengers, brought together over the guilt they felt for the death of an innocent child- a death which may have been prevented had they been able to settle their differences and cooperate- worried about their iron-clad colleague and attempted to draw him out from his reclusion. It was the combined effort of Pepper, and surprisingly Thor, who finally succeeded.
"Anthony Stark, you're doing no good for yourself or anyone else by holing yourself up in that stuffy workshop of yours, wallowing in your guilt. In case you didn't notice, you're not the only one who cares-" Pepper took a slight shaky breath before correcting herself- "cared about Percy! So stop this morose behavior and get your ass out here!"
Tony muttered something incoherent from the other side of the door.
Thor took up this opportunity to confront the genius himself. Almost angrily, he declared, "friend Stark, you show a great deal of disrespect for young Percy son of Jack's memory by sulking so." With a strong a out of pride coloring his voice he continued, "while young he died a hero." His voice once more laced with a touch of strong emotion, "he would not wish for you to mope about so in his absence. So, friend, honor the memory of young Son of Jack and we shall aid you in defeating my brother, Loki."
There was no reply. Everyone stood in silence, waiting, watching. Finally several minutes later the door slowly opened to reveal Tony, eyes bloodshot and puffy from a combination of drinking and crying but hardened with resolve.
"Loki is going down."
He turned heel and stalked off, the rest of the Avengers taking the unspoken invitation to follow. For once they had a common goal.
After downing several cups of coffee, Tony left the tower and with new resolve made his way to his sister's apartment. Knocking twice, he waited as inside Sally scrambled for the door. "Coming!" She yelled.
Sally opened the door, wiping her hands on the apron she wore around her waist to relieve them of the flour which had clung to them, the smell of chocolate chip cookies wafting out to greet Tony's nose. Had he been here on less grim of a day, he would have invited himself right in and helped himself. As it was, however, he had come bearing grave news. It appeared that this was portrayed across his face, as Sally's warm smile quickly melted into a frown.
She finally asked, "Tony, what's wrong?" Concern clear in her voice.
"... May I come inside?"
Sally stepped to the side of the door way, her hands now nervously twisting her apron, and once he was past her closed the door and followed him to the living room.
Tony seated himself on the comfortable, but warn couch. When Sally joined him, he began attempting to formulate the words that would tell her what had become of her son. Usually his tongue was sharp, but now he had trouble forming the words he needed for this particular explanation. Finally he blurted out, "He's dead!"
Upon seeing his sister's mortified expression he hurried on, the words suddenly coming easily to him once more.
"Sally I'm so sorry there was nothing I could do. Loki attacked him and he defended himself bravely, but he fell! Sally he fell thousands of feet into the ocean and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Sally I-" at this point he was openly crying. and choked on sob. "Shhhhhh. It's alright. It's going to be alright." Sally was comforting him, pulling hi close and rubbing circles on his back soothingly. The tears that threatened to fall for grief of losing her son still fell, but rather in relief. Tony had said he fell into the Ocean. If that was the case, he would be fine.
"Gods," she muttered under her breath, hugging a hiccuping Tony closer as she joined him in his weeping.
I rewrote probably half of this chapter before I was satisfied. But I wanted it done by tonight! It was kind of filler-ish, I admit, but I hope it was exciting. After all, you have to have some amount of flesh to a story. It can't survive if it is solely skin and bones. Thank you so much to everyone who has been supporting this story. You all are amazing. For some reason I don't get all the reviews for this story in my inbox, so when I last looked at it and saw that it had 195 freaking reviews I nearly had a heart attack. You guys are awesome. Thank you!
Okay, and now for a random fact of the day: Strawberries are not in fact berries, but instead a member of the Rose family. Also, the little things that look like seeds on the outside of a strawberry aren't in fact seeds, but a separate fruit that contains the seed. (They're still part of the strawberry though)
I was thinking about strawberries today on the car ride home from my families' mountain cabin and was confused about several things. The first of which being, do strawberries grow well in New York? I know they need a lot of sun and warmth and most strawberries along with raspberries and some other real berries are grown in California. (I read a National Geographic article on how they ship them. Admittance: I spend half my time on National Geographic. I'm obsessed.)
Okay, well I hope this chapter was up to your standards. Thank you all again,