Here we go. Finally the next chapter. Sorry that it took so much longer than I had promised, I was really busy and then I forgot. Shame on me. Well at least it is a lot longer than the others?
4. In which Leo develops a grudge
Thing went back to normal after that, or at least as back to normal as they could be after your best friend vaporized your math teacher with a sword and no one remembered her, or at least no one admitted to it.
At least that's what Leo though.
He would have thought himself to be crazy as well, and he was pretty sure Percy came close a couple of times anyway, if they hadn't cornered Grover to get some information out of him.
Not that their friend gave them any of the information the had been looking for, but Grover was still a really shitty liar and it was easy to tell that he knew something.
Percy tried several ways to check if it was one big joke that people were playing on them by occasionally bringing up Mrs Doods name in the middle of a conversation.
All it got him were strange looks and Leo was pretty sure that no matter how ridiculous it sounded, their classmates really did believe that Mrs Kerr – s perky blond woman, that neither Leo nor Percy had ever seen before the trip back from the museum – had been teaching them since Christmas.
Leo was sure that if it weren't for both Percy and him remembering s well as Grovers apparent knowledge, Percy would have already started doubting himself, ADHD was funny sometimes, even if not in the way reality was making fun of them right now.
It was like the thing when a person stopped and stared at a dot in the middle of the street – if it was only one person doing it the person is obviously not quite right in the head, but if it's two people... or something along those lines, Leo couldn't quite remember. The thing was that there were at least three people aware of the fact that something had happened at the museum and that meant that something had indeed happened, even if no one else seemed to be aware of it.
Which was plainly creepy by the way.
Leo wasn't as bothered at it, but he knew that Percy was if the nightmares were any indication. Hell even if Grover truly had been as obvious as he would have liked to be, the nightmares would have been enough to convince Leo that something had happened.
The thing that bothered him most however was that with everyday that passed Percys mood got worse, just like the weather.
A moody Percy wasn't a pleasant Percy and while Leo had gotten used to it over the years that did not mean he enjoyed his bets friend and roommate being all snappy.
It also didn't help that Percys grades kept slipping and when he actually snapped at their English teacher - who quite frankly had it coming – Leo knew that the farce was up. Now The principal actually had what he had been waiting for since Christmas: A legitimate reason the expel Percy.
The only good thing that had come from it was that Leo had actually taken the liberty to rewire the electric door to the principals office. It had been something that he had had in mind since the first time he had been called to the room and since he would be leaving the school with Percy, there was no reason to hold back anymore.
The letters to Sally went out the next day.
Part of Leo actually felt bad about it, mostly because he hated disappointing Sally, she really did deserve better, but he would actually muss the school a little.
The fact remained that Leo really didn't want to go to another school without Percy. It might be a little childish, but he could not help himself. Percy was his best friend after all.
Still he would miss the school a little: the school was one of the more modern ones he had been to after all and the technical equipment had been interesting to take apart and put together again, Grover who had been a pretty good friend even if Leo wasn't quite sure how he felt about the other boys place in the Mrs Dodds conspiracy.
He would also miss Mr Brunner. It wasn't like Leo liked latin all that much, but the man had been one of, if not the most interesting teacher Leo had ever had. It was a shame that Mr Brunner couldn't teach at their new school as well.
Leo was sure that Percy would miss him as well since his friend was going out of his way to learn more for the last latin exam then he had for any other test this year. Leo joined him rather reluctantly, but after the happenings in the museum Mr Brunners warning that ancient myth might hold some sway in the real world sounded a lot more legitimate than it had before.
Learning the myth wasn't quite what they should be focusing n in Latin, but is was more interesting then the grammar that absolutely drove Percy to frustration.
At the evening before the final exam Percy finally snapped and threw his book across the room, Leo barely managed to dodge the book and he had kind of expected Percy to go to sleep afetr that. His friend surprised him however when he picked the book up again and told Leo that he was going to ask Mr Brunner for help.
Leo was left alone in their shared dorm room with his own book and a lot of boredom. One that he would be wishing back once Percy returned from his nightly trip.
It seemed that instead of asking Mr Brunner for help like he had planned Percy had ended up eavesdropping on his and Grovers conversation.
Not that Leo could blame him, it was kind of strange that they would talk about Percy, especially this late at night.
The conversation was even more strange however: they had been talking about something called Kindly ones. Leo had heard that term before but like so often he could not place it.
His Cambridge Guide to Greek mythology was laying on his bedside and mocking him, but the last time Leo had opened the book the letters had been having way to much fun dancing across the page, he could not face them again so soon.
"They were talking about duties as well and some kind of deadline..."
Leo blinked at Percy.
"What kind of duties? And what deadline."
Percy furrowed his brow.
"The deadline was something about summer solstice and the duties..."
"I don't know, but Grover said he cold not fail them again."
Leo contemplated that for moment, but he could not make sense of it either. Grover had no duties at school, it wasn't like he was class president or something.
Percy was still fidgeting and what little color he had gained back during their conversation was gone again.
"There was more."
He spoke so fast that he seemed to stumble over the words. Leo frowned in return.
His friend took a deep breath, apparently steeling himself for what was about to come.
"They talked about us... well, me more then you."
Leos brow furrowed further and Percy nodded.
"Yeah sounds strange right, well they were talking like we were in danger or something."
Leos heart nearly stopped for a second.
He remembered what Percy had told him about Mrs Dodds turning into dust – just like the man that had gotten him thrown out off his last foster family before Sally had taken him in, he also remembered Percy manipulating the water and his own curios abilities.
Leos swallowed before relaying his thoughts to Percy who grimaced, but the agreement was clear in his eyes.
When Leo spoke up again his voice sounded strangely hoarse.
"There it is our prove, something is going on."
Percy nodded in agreement. Something was going on and they had somehow found themselves unwillingly taking part in it.
Despite the fact that they had been turning over this matter in their heads for a while now and they had finally gotten an answer, they both didn't sound all that happy about it.
Leo had not expected it to be possible, but the next day thing got even worse. They had just survived the Latin exam and after they had handed in their sheets they could leave.
He was quite sure that he wold rather never get the result for this exam and the slightly dazed look on his best friends face told him that Percy had likely not done that well either.
But since there was no way the results would already be out just after they had written the text leo was kind of surprised when Mr Brunner called Percy back into the classroom.
Percy turned halfway and gave Leo a short look telling him that no, he had not done anything and there should be no problem.
Leo grinned nodded and leaned against the wall next to the door, preparing to wait.
The voiced were slightly muffled from the nearly closed door, but Leo could still make out what they were saying. He hoped the conversation wouldn't be to private, especially since some of the students were still working. In the silent room even Mr Brunners quite voice would be easily understandable.
"Percy. Don't be discouraged about leaving Yancy. It's... it's for the best."
Their teachers voice was so kind that it took Leo a moment to connect his tone with what the man had actually said. Percys voice was barely understandable.
Leo did not understand how his friend could agree with that, at least not really. He knew that Percy admired Mr Brunner and that the man was his best friends favorite teacher ever, but still...
Mr Brunner paused for a moment.
"This isn't the right place for you. It was only a matter of time."
Leo had never admired Mr Brunner like Percy had, but he had always thought him to be a fair and nice kind of guy. He was revising his opinion now, there was no way that a nice guy would say something like that to a student that admired him, especially not in front of his class.
When Percy answered his voice was suspiciously shaky.
Mr Brunner seemed to have noticed it as well and tried to backtrack.
"No,No. Oh, confound it all. What I'm trying to say .. your not normal, Percy."
He wasn't very successful if anything he only made it worse and Leo was shifting from being appalled to being angry.
"That's nothing to be-"
Percy cut Mr Brunner of and one could easily hear that the words had hurt him. No one in the class made a sound.
"Thanks a lot, sir, for reminding me."
Brunner apparently hadn't said enough yet.
But Percy was no longer listening, he stormed out of the classroom, not looking left our right. Even with only the short glance he had managed to get at his best friends face as he stormed past, leo had seen enough to know that his friend was crying.
Leo could not remember ever being so angry in his life. Of course he had been angry before, but this time he wasn't furiously angry or scared angry, it was more like a hurt or disappointed kind of angry.
Not hot and searing, but surprisingly cold.
Mr Brunner was still in the front of the classroom a deep frown on his face and he did not look all that happy. Leo felt however that the man wasn't looking quite miserably enough. His teacher looked up when Leo pushed the door slightly open and met his gaze.
Leo could feel the fire licking at his fingers, but he fought it down instead he simply gave the man his most heartfelt glare. Ignoring the looks he got from his classmates.
Mr Brunner grimaced.
"It did not come out quite right."
"Spare me your excuses. I have more important things to do then listen to them."
The older man nevertheless cleared his throat the same way he did whenever he was staring a longer lecture in class.
But Leo ignored him and walked out of the door, intend on finding Percy.
Finding Percy wasn't all that hard. His best friend had gone straight back to their room, thrown his backpack into the corner and had buried his face in the pillow.
He wasn't sobbing but Leo had a feeling that his friend was still crying. Plopping down on the bed next to his best friend Leo simply leaned against the wall, wondering what he should do and wishing that Sally was there.
Percys mum was absolutely great at cheering people up, but they would not see her until the end of the school years and even then that joy was damped by the present of Smelly Gabe who seemed to get more and more unpleasant every time Leo saw him.
It was Percy who broke the silence, though he did not remove his head from the pillow making his voice sound slightly muffled.
"You know, I thought..."
Percy trailed of and huffed a laugh that sounded far to bitter to be allowed to come form his friend.
"I thought Mr Brunner actually believed, that I could do things right."
Leo wasn't sure what to say to that since he had thought the same thing. He wanted to speak up and tell Percy that Mr Brunner hadn't meant it like that, but he knew form experience that false hope hurt far more then no hope, because that way the only surprises you got were positive.
He settled for humming in agreement unearthing the last of their sweet stock.
Mr Brunner tried to talk to Percy several times after that, apparently the teacher had figured out that his words were anything but fair and not something he should have ever said. Leo wasn't quite sure why the man had done so in the first place. He had thought back to the conversation quite a number of times and had to concede that it could have been a very badly worded attempt to cheer Percy up.
The problem with that trail of thought was, that Mr Brunner usually was very good at talking and bringing across what he really meant to say.
In the end it didn't really matter, because Percy proved that he had absolutely no trouble avoiding their teacher who had seemingly gone as far as to talk to Grover to get a word with Percy. Seeing the frustrated expression on the mans face Leo was tempted to speak to Percy and tell him to at least listen to what Mr Brunner had to say, but then he remembered his friends face and still subdued mood as well and he pushed that thought aside.
They would leave Yancy and it was highly unlikely that they would ever see the man again.
Right now they were in their dorm and packing up their stuff unlike some of the other students who would be returning next year they had to make sure they left nothing behind because they could not simply go to pick it up at the janitors office at the start of the next term.
Neither of them had been very close to most of their classmates, it was a side effect of already having your best friend along for the ride as well as the fact that they had decided to add Grover to their group. When they had heard that Percy and Leo would not be returning next term they had wished them good luck, but it hadn't really bothered them.
Grover was also the only one of their new acquaintances that Leo would miss, even if hanging out around him had been a little strange after the disaster with Mr Brunner. Still Grover was their friend and Leo was thankful to spent a little more time with him
Even if it was only the trip in the Greyhound back to Manhattan.
The trip didn't quite happen they way Leo, or even Percy judging by the raised eyebrow his friend was portraying, had expected to. Grover kept acting like he expected someone to attack them any given moment.
Leo had seen him act this way before – whenever they had left Yancy Grover had been acting very nervous and fidgety, looking like he expected something bad to happen to them any given moment – but never to this extend.
Before Leo and Percy had put it aside as Grovers fear about getting bullied, but during the bus right his behavior could be described as nothing but overly paranoid especially since there was no one that could tease him on the Greyhound with them.
Frankly the constant looking over his shoulder and staring at the other passengers was getting annoying. When Grover actually sniffed one of them Percy snapped.
"Looking for kindly ones?"
It was not quite what Leo would have said especially considering that Leo had found the whole situation far to creepy to be comfortable with it, but Grovers reaction was glorious.
He nearly jumped out of his seat squeaking loudly and drawing the attention of several other passengers, but only when the attention had been drawn away from them again did he speak up.
"What do you mean?"
He sounded nervous and terrified. Giving the description Percy had given him of the thing that might have once been Mrs Dodds Leo could understand that, it did not mean that he was not going to exploit it.
"He might have heard it somewhere."
Percy shoot him a look, but did not interrupt Leos abbreviated explanation.
"He might have overheard a conversation between a certain Mr Underwood and some guy in a wheelchair."
Leo might have been more polite to Mr Brunner if he wasn't still angry with him.
Grovers gaze switched from Leo to Percy correctly understanding that the latter had been the one to overhear the conversation.
"How much did you hear?"
Percy shrugged, seemingly unconcerned even if they both knew he had been shaken up about what he had heard.
"Oh not much. So what's the summer solstice deadline?"
Grover nearly jumped out of his seat again, but this time he did not make a sound. Instead he winced looking more then slightly uncomfortable.
He sent a short look in Leos direction as if unsure what to make of his presence.
"I was just worried for you, see? I mean hallucinating about demon math teachers..."
Leo could not believe Grover was going there and Percy seemed to be shocked as well if his friend attempt to interrupt Grover where any indication.
It seemed that Grover would not allow himself to be interrupted.
"And I was telling Mr Brunner that maybe you were overstressed or something, because there was no such person as Mrs Dodds-"
Grover did not get further then that as Leo had jumped to his feat and grabbed his friend by the collar before slamming him against his seat again.
His actions got him some sharp looks from the other passengers, but Leo ignored them. He wasn't quite sure what he was going to say to Grover, but he could not take that lying any longer.
Leo usually wasn't a very violent person, maybe it was him that was overstressed but the thing was not even Grovers wide eyed look and the feel off the flames slowly crawling to the surface made him feel bad about it.
He was just about to open his mouth when Percy hand landed on his arm and pulled him away from Grover.
Grovers wide eyes did not leave Leo, but Percys attention went back to Grover after giving Leo a look that called him to calm down, now.
"Grover you are a really, really bad liar."
Only when Percy spoke did their classmates remove his eyes from him but he still seemed vary. Leo started to feel a little bad about it.
He did not continue to give them any excuses however, so it had worked at least somewhat.
They had done the good cop bad cop act without even having to talk about it fist completely unplanned and unintentional at that.
Grover fished a business card from his pocket and handed it to Percy.
He sent Leo another uncertain looks.
"I can't tell you, just take this."
He gestured to the card.
"In case you need me this summer.
Leo was considering asking why Grover couldn't tell them but somehow he was pretty sure that whatever the reason was, and he was sure their friend had a reason, it was a good one so he simply nodded, promoting Grover to breath a sigh of relief.
Instead he turned his attention to the card in Percys hand. The first thing he noticed when he glanced over his friends shoulder was the ridiculously fancy script, that Leo was sure even people without dyslexia had trouble reading.
If it weren't for the apoplectic look on Grovers face, Leo might have accused him on doing that on purpose.
It took Leo a moment to read the script.
Long Island, New York
Percy had finished around the same time as him, or at least Leo assumed so, since it was then that his friend started asking questions.
"Don't say it aloud!"
Grover interrupted him sounding slightly panicky again. This conversation could not be good for the guys blood pressure.
"That's my, um … summer address."
In Leos mind that was all nice and well. Wherever this Half blood thingy was, Leo wasn't all that interested. He wanted to know what a keeper was, since that was apparently Grovers job.
Percy spoke up again before he could ask that question however.
"Okay. So, like, if I want to come visit your mansion."
The thought of Grover owning a mansion was a strange one, but the other boy nodded in agreement. Well, Leo mused, Yancy was a school for rich kids after all.
He looked at Leo again who simply gazed back at him.
"Or if you need me."
"Why would I need you?"
Leo raised his eyebrows at his friends harsh question. Percy wasn't a master at tact, but he usually was way batter at phrasing his questions so that people might get annoyed, but not hurt.
Grover on the other hand went beedred, not in anger, but in embarrassment.
"Look, Percy, the truth is, I-"
"I kind of have to protect you."
Percy stared at him, but Leo could not hold back a snort.
The thought of Grover protecting Percy was a ridiculous one, after all it had been the other way around, with Percy and Leo making sure that the other kids did not make fun of their new friend and keeping him from taking a dive into the toilet.
The funniest thing about it though, was the fact that Grover looked absolutely serious.
Percy sounded as confused, but not as amused as Leo felt.
"What exactly are you protecting me from?"
But they never got an answer.
Suddenly there was a huge grinding noise under their feet. Black smoke poured from the dashboard and the whole bus filled with a smell like rotten eggs.
The driver cursed and limped the Greyhound over to the side of the highway.
After a few minutes of clanking around in the engine compartment, the driver announced that they'd all have to get off so they did, but their conversation had been effectively interrupted.
They were on a stretch of country road – no place one would notice of one didn't break down there. On their side of the highway was nothing but maple trees and litters from passing cars. Grover gave the trash a harsh glare.
On the other side, across four lanes of asphalt shimmering with afternoon heat, was an old fashioned fruit stand.
The stuff on sale actually looked really good: heaping boxes of bloodred cherries and apples, walnuts and apricots, jugs of cider in a claw food tub filled with ice. Leo usually wasn't one for fruits and the likes if he could get a burger, but he had learned to appreciate them under Sallys care mostly because the woman had given him a look when he had told her that he did not like fruits and vegetables.
It was strange thought, that there were no costumers at all, just three old ladies in rocking chairs sitting in the shade of one of the maple trees and knitting together and using a rather fetching shade of blue at that.
The strangest thing about the ladies wasn't that they were knitting socks in a size that Leo was pretty sure no one had ever produced shoes for, everyone was allowed to have a curious hobby after all, but the fact that they were sitting next to one of the highways. Especially with a fruit stand like that. Thy would make loads more profit of they set it up somewhere else.
Maybe they didn't because the trip would e to much for them in their advanced age: All three of the ladies were ancient. They had pale faces that were wrinkled like and silver hair that they had tied back with white bandanas and wore bleached cotton dresses.
Leo was pretty sure they were related, but it was kinda hard to tell with old people.
They were also looking straight at Percy as Leo noted when his friend paced paced back and force a little and their eyes followed him. It was rather creepy.
Percy and Grover seemed to have noticed them as well.
Somehow three ladies knitting together tickled something in the back of his mind, but Leo could not quite place it. If he judged the panicked look on Grovers face correctly however his friend could.
Grover looked absolutely terrified. Even Mrs Dodds hadn't scared the boy like that and given what that woman had turned out to be, Leo was feeling more then slightly uneasy about the Knitting ladies.
Percy had noticed Grovers distressed state as well and given their earlier incident in the bus it was probably better for Percy to deal wit this – he was better with people anyway.
"Grover, hey man-"
But Grover interrupted him his voice urgent and thick with terror.
"Tell me they're not looking at you. They are, aren't they?"
Percy seemed taken aback by the forceful question.
"Yeah weird huh?"
Percy grinned slightly, but he seemed concerned, whether it was about the ladies, or their friend Leo wasn't sure, but ether seemed justified.
"You think those sock would fit me?"
Grovers voice was flat, but his breathing had become slightly erratic.
"Not funny, Percy. Not funny at all."
Part of Leo agreed, mostly because he remembered where he had heard about three knitting ladies before, but he went along with it, taking Percys statement as the tension breaker it was supposed to be, it wouldn't do for Grover to start hyperventilating in the middle of an highway.
"Nah not really. Unless there is something about your dad that your mum hadn't told you yet. She really should though, because I you get that big I am so moving to another room."
Percy snorted and sent Leo a grateful nod, that stopped midway when he realized that Grover had nearly swallowed his own tongue.
Leo wanted to ask him what was wrong this time but before he got to it the other boy breathed in so sharply and stumbled back, nearly falling because he got tangled up with his crutches.
Curious Leo followed Grovers gaze back to the old ladies. They were still staring at Percy, but now one of them, the one in the middle, had taken out a really huge pair of scissors – gold and silver with long blades, like shears.
Grovers breath caught and grabbed Percys arm.
"We are getting on the bus."
He turned to Leo as well, and his gaze was pleading and very desperate.
Leo followed before he had time to think about it. There was no way that his thoughts had taken the right direction.
It just could not be.
Percy did not seem have caught Grovers desperation however, because he argued.
"What? It's a thousand degrees in there!"
Not that Leo did not think he did not have a good point, but he really wanted to get away from the fa- the ladies.
Grover pried open the door and tried to drag Percy along, but the other boy stayed where he was. Despite himself Leo did as well.
Percy looked back and Leo did too.
The ladies were still watching Percy, but now something about them seemed almost menacing. The middle one raised the scissors and cut the yarn and Leo could hear the snip echo about the eerily quite highway. It seemed the the mutters of the other passengers had died away together with the cursing of the driver.
A shiver went down his spine and he turned to Percy again, away from the ladies who were packing of their stuff as if that for which they had been there had been done.
The sound returned with the roar of the engine and and the cheer of the passengers as the bus sprang to live again.
The driver was cheering as well as he slapped the bus with his hat.
"Everybody back on board!"
The only people not cheering where Percy, Grover and Leo, even as they sat back down on their previous seats.
Percy sat shivering and rubbing his arms as if the heat he had been complaining about before was gone.
Grover didn't look much better, he too was shivering and his eyes were chattering.
Leo on the other hand wasn't feeling cold as much as he was feeling numb. The snip of the scissors cutting the yarn rang in his mind again and again.
It was Percy who broke the silence, midway through another snip and Leo flinched when his best friend spoke up.
The other boy made a sound to show that he was listening.
"What are you not telling us?"
Leo wanted to know that as well no matter how unwell and shaken up he was feeling.
Grover did not answer at first, instead he dabbed his forehead with hi short sleeve.
"Percy, what did you see at the fruit stand?"
He did pose it as a question, but Leo was pretty sure that Grover did not really want to know. Percy choose to ask more questions instead.
Leo was fine with that – he didn't want to remember the knitting ladies either.
"You mean the old ladies? What about them man?"
Percy posed only for a second before carrying on and asking a question to which the answer Leo was dreading.
"They are not like... Mrs Dodds, are they?"
Curiously enough Grovers face gave pretty much nothing away and if Leo did not already have a suspicion who those ladies had been – ridiculous as it sounded even in his head – then maybe he would believe that Grover knew nothing.
Leo didn't know what Percy saw in their friends closed off expression, but judging from the darkening of his face he had had more success then Leo himself.
"Just tell me what you saw."
Percy gave Grover a sharp and assertive look, something that looked decidedly out of place on his face.
"The middle one took out her scissors, and she cut the yarn."
Leo shivered and watched as Grover made a gesture with his fingers that might have been crossing himself, but it wasn't. It was something else, something far older. Percy too looked disquieted as he watched their friend.
When Grover spoke his voice sounded hopelessly lost.
"You saw her snip the cord."
Percy was trying to sound calm and collected, but he failed. His voice did not break, but there was a quality to it that made quite clear that he was uncomfortable. Leo wasn't sure if Grover picked up on it, but Leo grabbed Percys arm and squeezed it tightly.
When his friend looked over to him he gave him a sharp not – whatever it was, they would see it through.
Their attention was drawn back to Grover however when the boy started muttering to himself.
"I don't want this to be like the last time?"
Leo furrowed his brow.
"What last time?"
Grover ignored them, even as Percy repeated the question, instead he kept muttering to himself looking absolutely miserable.
"Always sixth grade. They never get past sixth grade."
Percy was starting to sound as uncomfortable as Leo felt since he had seen the yarn being cut.
"What are you talking about?"
But Grover gave no answer. It seemed like he was steeling himself for something before he looked at them and determined.
"Let me walk you home from the bus station. Promise me."
Leo caught the look that Percy sent him from the corner of his eye, but he only shrugged slightly. This was Percy decision and whatever happened he would back him all the way.
Percy promised but something told Leo that this was not a promise that his friend would keep. Especially not with the way Grover kept glancing at him mournfully. The looks were rubbing Leo the wrong way, he wanted to grab Grover again and slam him against the wall, before demanding answers, but he was simply to tired of this.
As it turned out Leo had been correct in his assumption, that Percy did not intend to keep his promise. Leo couldn't really blame him, he too was more then slightly creep out by the fact that their friend kept muttering to himself. Repeating words like "sixth grade" and "never".
In this case it was fortunate thought, that Grover was upset, because whenever he was upset his bladder kept acting up. Given that they already knew this neither Percy nor Leo was surprised when their friend rushed off to the bathroom after making them promise to wait for them.
As soon as Grover was out of sight Percy turned towards Leo.
They grabbed their suitcases and slipped outside before catching a taxi uptown. Most of the way back home they spend in silence, but they agreed to keep the strange happenings quite for now.
Sally had enough on per plate as it was, there was no need to worry her with this as well, the fact that they had been expelled again would put enough stress on her as it was.
The thing about Sally Jackson was this: She was the most amazing person in the world and Leo would tell that anybody who asked.
He had liked her when they had first met and Leo had not had that many great experiences with adults, be they male or female after his mother had died, so it had come as quite the surprise for him.
Over the years his image on the woman had only improved – not many people took in a troubled kid when they had one on their own.
She was also prove of the theory Percy had come up with some time ago: The best people had the rottenest luck. Apparently Sallys own parents had died in a plane crash when she had been very small and then she had been raised by an uncle who, while he took care of her, didn't care per se.
She had wanted to be a novelist, and if her story telling skills were any indication Leo was sure she would write great books, so she had worked during her high school years to save up enough money for a college with a good creative-writing program.
Live had gotten in her way again, as her uncle had gotten cancer and she had to drop out of school in her senior year to take care of him. After he had ultimately died Sally had been left with no family, no money and no diploma.
Apparently the only break Sally ever got was meeting Percys dad, something which according to Percy might have been great then but ended getting her into even more trouble, namely Percy.
Leo wasn't quite sure he agreed with his best friend in that regard. He could understand that having a kid like Percy could be difficult – never mind taking in Leo as well – but he had seen the way Sallys face would glow when she was around her son.
She loved him and having him was worth all the hardships to her. His own mum had said that as well when Leo had asked her about it, but only now that he actually saw it himself could he bring himself to believe it. It was a good feeling.
Because just like his mum had never married his dad, Sally had never married Percys. From what little Percy knew about his dad he had been rich and important and apparently the guys relationship with Sally had been a secret.
All in all it sounded more like an affair, but with the way Sally sometimes talked about him she had loved him a lot – maybe she still did and given the fact that Sally was pretty smart she would not fall for a guys lies like that.
Percys dad had to take a trip and had gotten lost at the sea. The wording was something that seemed important to her, Leo didn't quite get it and neither did Percy, but they respected it.
Well after her life had gotten the addition of Percy, Sally had worked on odd jobs and taken night classes to get her school diploma all while raising her son on his own.
Given what her life had been like it would have been pretty easy to imagine Sally as an overworked and stressed woman, but she wasn't. And even that did not seem to be enough bad luck for Sally. She just had to marry Gabriel Ugliano, whom Percy had named Smelly Gabe. It was a pretty nice and fitting name, given the fact, that the guy smelled moldy garlic pizza wrapped in very old and unwashed gym shorts.
Gabe and Sally had already been married by the time Leo had met Percy and he could not quite wrap his head around the fact that a woman like Sally Jackson, thankfully she did keep her last name Percy stubborn steak had to come from somewhere, would marry a guy like that.
At first Leo had thought that Gabe had acted differently when Sally had first met him and only showed what a big asshole he was after Sally had married him, but Percy had told him that that wasn't the case.
Gabe was and had always been an asshole and he was proving it again and again, like the day Leo and Percy came home from school after ditching Grover.
Leo watched as Percy paid the taxi driver in front of the small flat they lived it. He hoped that Sally was already home and knew that Percy hoped the same thing.
Facing Gabe with Sally was bad enough, but without Percys mum running interference the boys interactions with Sallys insignificant other always ended it trouble.
Unfortunately their hopes were for naught instead of Sally greeting them with a smile they were greeted with the sight of Smelly Gabe sitting in the living room and playing poker with his buddies. The television blared ESPN and chips and beer cans were strewn all over the once pretty carpet.
Gabe did not even deign to turn around to face them, Leo would have been thankful if that hadn't included being thankful to Gabe, but he did his own version of a greeting.
"So, you're home."
Gabe was a lovely person, Leo mused as he forced himself not to respond with something sarcastic that would escalate the situation while Percy asked the one question that mattered.
"Where is mom?"
Gabe still did not turn around.
"Working. You got cash?"
There is was the customary Gabe greeting. Percy grimaced slightly and Leo shot a glare at the mans back.
Smelly Gabe looked even worse then when they had left him. He had put on weight meaning that by now he looked like a tuskless walrus in thrift-store clothes. On his hair there were about three hairs, all combed over his bald scalp.
Leo was pretty sure that Gabe thought himself to e handsome with his dashing hairstyle, personally Leo had sworn to himself should he ever get a bald head he would do the dignified thing and shear of the remaining hairs.
There were very few thing that were embarrassing in any situation and combing hair over a very obvious bald spot was one of them.
Gabe managed the electronic Mega_Mart in Queens, but he actually did that from the couch at home Leo had no idea. The only explanation that he could come up with, was that he had a very competed deputy.
Why no one ever fired him was something that Leo and Percy could not figure out. As it was Gabe kept collecting paychecks and spent them on beer and on cigars that made out a great part of the original eu de Gabe and more beer.
There was another thing about Gabe that made clear just how much of a waste of space he was: whenever Percy and Leo were home he expected them to provide his gambling funds – Leo had long since decided that that was the only reason Gabe hadn't made a bigger fuss about Leo moving in. He called the gambling fund arrangement their "guy secret" which pretty much translated to: If you tell Sally I will punch your lights out.
"I don't have any cash."
Percys voice was terse. There were few people his best friend really disliked and Gabe had even Nancy beat.
In response to Percys words Gabe simply raised his greasy eyebrows.
The things was that the one skill Gabe seemed to have was his ability to sniff out money like a bloodhound, the skill was even more mysterious then Leos and now Percys powers, because there was simply no way that Gabe should be able to smell anything over his own body odor.
"You took a taxi from the bus station."
Gabes voice was calm, the threat carefully hidden.
"Probably paid with a twenty. Got six, seven bucks in change."
After that Gabe actually turned around to glare at them, mostly at Percy though since Leo had manged to keep his mouth shut so far.
"Somebody expects to live under this roof, he ought to carry his own weight. Am I right Eddie?"
Eddie, the super of the apartment building, glanced from Leo to Percy with a twinge of sympathy. From all of Gabes friends he was the most decent one – which didn't mean much, but credit where credit is due.
"Come on Gabe. The kid just got here."
When Gabe spoke this time the threat was clear, even if it wasn't directed at Percy and Leo.
"Am I right?"
Eddie scowled into his bowl of pretzels. The other two guys passed gas is harmony. Leo nearly gagged.
Percy wasn't even attempting to hide his dislike for the man before him anymore. He dug a wad of dollars from his pocket and threw them on the table.
"I hope you loose."
With those words Percy grabbed Leos arm and dragged him with him to the room they shared. Gabe shouted after them.
"Your report card came, brain boy! From the both of you, with grades like that I wouldn't act so snotty!"
He was saying more, but due to Percy slamming the door behind them it wasn't possible to understand.
The room they shared with pretty small, smaller then their dorm room and before they had gotten to a boarding school it had been home, now that was no longer really the case.
During school month Gabe insisted to use it as his home office. Not that the man studies anything but old car magazines, but he loved shoving their stuff in the closet, leaving his muddy boots on the window still and doing his best to make the room smell even worse then Gabe himself.
After Leo and Percy had gotten back during their first holidays they had been shocked and outraged. Sally had tried to calm them down, but it had felt like someone had desecrated their home. Officially there was nothing they could do. For a store manager a home office sounded like a pretty good thing after all.
It had been Percy to come up with the plan and Leo had set it up. When they had come home the next time Gabe no longer dared to set a foot into their room. Sally had given them a stern look, but there had been amusement in it as well.
As it was the only thing Gabe dared to do about there room was make it smell nasty, so when Percy dropped up their suitcases Leo went over to the window and pushed it open. In a few hours it would be liveable again.
When Leo turned around again his best friend was looking unnaturally pale.
Percy did not answer seemingly lost in though and Leo felt panic claw up his throat. When the door open he nearly screamed.
Nearly because the face and the voice that greeted him chased the panic away.
Sally opened the bedroom door and Percy relaxed as well.
Sally Jackson can make people feel good simply by walking into a room. Her eyes sparkled and seemed to change color in the light. Her smile was warm like a quilt. She's got a few gray streaks mixed in her long brown hair – more since she took in Leo – but no one would ever describe her as old.
When she saw them – Percy specially- the few years that you could actually count on her seemed to fade away and her smile got even wider.
"Oh Percy, Leo!"
She hugged Percy tightly and smiled brightly at Leo over her sons shoulder.
"I can't believe it! Look how much you have grown since Christmas!"
Leo could not help his next question.
His height had always been a sore topic for him but if he had really grown then he could even ignore Percys snickering at his question.
Sally beamed at him.
Percys mum had apparently rushed into their room as soon as she had arrived. She was still wearing her red-white-and-blue Sweet in America uniform that smelled like all the good stuff that she sold in the candy shop in Grand central.
She had also brought them each a huge bag of "free samples", just like they always did when they came home from school.
The three of them sat together on Percys bed and ate the sweet Sally had brought them as they told her about their school year. Neither the fact that they had gotten themselves expelled again nor the strange monsters were mention as to not spoil the mood. They also kept quite about Mr Brunners words.
Leo would like to see Sally face off against the man, but it would only mean more stress for her and that wasn't worse it.
It was a great time, but unfortunately good times never last all that long.
This time it was Gabe who ended it, yelling from the next room.
"Hey sally – how about some bean dip, huh?"
Leo could hear Percy grit his teeth and it wasn't a pleasant sound, not that he did not agree with his best friend. Sally deserved so much better then the asshole who called himself her husband.
She also was a very observant person – she noticed immediately that they switched narrator at certain happenings and that they did not mention one word about the school trip to the museum. When she asked about it Percy clammed up and Leo who had been frozen for a second as well could not cover fast enough.
Her son did not answer so she turned her gaze on Leo who did not meet her gaze.
"Did something scare you?"
The idea of telling his mum seemed to rip Percy from his memories. From what Percy had remembered from his conversation with Mrs Dodds, they had known about Leo to a point but there had been no mention of Sally and the boys had agreed to keep her safe.
Percy smile would have convinced most people, but Leo knew that Sally was not most people. He was sure that she knew that something was up, still she let the matter rest for know and changed the topic.
"I have a surprise for you."
Her smile was wide.
"We are going to the beach."
Percys eyes widened and he nearly glowed.
"Three nights – same cabin."
Percy was now bouncing in his seat.
Sally laughed at her sons enthusiasm.
"As soon as I get changed."
Leo had heard about Montauk off course but he had never been there himself. From what he knew Sally and Percys used to go there every summer until they took him in. Leo was pretty sure that Gabe had used the argument that there wasn't enough money as well to point put to Sally that she could not simply take in other rotten brats – read Leo – and expect the same privileges.
No one had ever blamed Leo for it, but he had felt bad still. Now he was nervous.
Montauk was something that Sally and Percys shared it had to do with Percys real dad and he did not want to intrude.
Maybe he could offer to stay behind, even if staying with Gabe would be terrible, three days would be survivable. But before he could bring up the matter Sally turned towards him.
"You pack your stuff as well okay?"
She chuckled sightly.
"It's high time that you get to see Montauk as well."
Leo wasn't sure what to say to that, so part of him was actually glad when Gabe appeared in the doorway.
"Bean dip, Sally? Didn't you hear me?"
As soon as Gabe had opened his mouth however all traces of thankfulness were gone and instead Leo wanted to punch the man and he was pretty sure Percy was even more furious.
To Leo Sally was the lady that had taken him in, his best friends mom and maybe kind of like an aunt, if the term would not taste so bitter on his tongue, but to Percy she was his everything.
He was pretty sure that Percy had been called a mommas boy more then once and while he did not appreciate the taunting Percy never denied it.
And so when Sally gave him and Percy a quick look they both calmed down. Making a scene with Gabe now would most likely make it impossible for them to go to the beach and while the thought of going there still made him uncomfortable there was no way Leo was going to ruin this for Sally and Percy.
Sally simply smiled at Gabe.
"I was on my way, honey."
How she could use such a term of endearment for that man was impossible for Leo to comprehend.
"We were just talking about the trip."
Gabe scowled, his face turning even more ugly then it had already been.
"You mean you were serious about that?"
Percys scowl was even darker then Gabes.
"I knew it. He won't let us go."
Gabes smile was nasty, but before he could say anything Sally ran interference.
"Of course he will."
Her voice was calm.
"Your stepfather is just worried about money. That's all. Besides."
She turned to Gabe and this time fixed him with a look. There was nothing threatening about it, it was simply firm.
"Gabriel won't have to settle for bean dip. I'll make him enough seven-layer dip for the whole weekend. Guacamole. Sour cream. The works."
Gabes expression cleared a little and Leo was impressed. Sally was pretty good at the bribing thing. Still she hadn't won quite yet.
"So this money for your trip... it comes out of your clothes budget, right?"
Sally nodded. Clothes budget really wasn't an appropriate name for the budged Gabe was alluding to, since it was also the budged Sally used to be groceries and and everything else.
But the ass pressed on.
"Any you won't take my car anywhere but there and back."
Again he got a nod, Percy and Leo stayed silent.
"We'll be very careful."
Gabe scratched his double chin that was doing its best to become a triple chin.
"Maybe if you hurry with that seven-layer dip."
He smiled nastily.
"And maybe if the kids apologize for interrupting my poker game."
Leo bit his lip to keep from pointing out that they would have very happily ignored Gabe when they had come, they wouldn't even have talked to him if Gabe hadn't asked for cash.
Percy looked unhappy as well, but he swallowed his pride.
"I'm sorry. Really sorry that I interrupted your incredibly important poker game. Please go back to it now."
Leo tried his best to look contrite and not show the fact that he wanted to laugh at Percys words.
Gabes eyes narrowed and for a moment Leo feared that the man had actually somehow managed to collect the necessary brain power to understand sarcasm. That fear was unfounded however.
He went back to his Gabe and Leo wondered how he had ever managed to get his manager position.
Sallys smiled at them again.
"Once we get to Montauk, we'll talk some more... even about what you have forgotten to tell me."
Leo could have sworn that Sally had looked a little scared for a moment, but whatever he had seen in her eyes was gone before he could make sure.
He could not even try to figure out more as Sally left the room to make Gabe his dip. Leo glanced at Percy and the two of them shared a look. He had seen it as well. Something was wrong and it seemed that Sally – just like Grover – knew more then she let on.
An hour later they were ready to leave. Gabe took a pause from his poker game to watch as Leo and Percy carried Sallys bag to the car. He kept griping and groaning about loosing her cooking for the whole weekend.
"Not one scratch on the car, boys."
He narrowed his eyes.
"Not one little scratch."
When Gabe said the part about the car he fixed his gaze on Leo and for once he actually had a reason to be suspicious. Gabe used to have a '78 Camaro. Note the Used to.
After a little accident that car was no more. Leo thought it was a pretty good thing that no one, except maybe Percy, could prove that he had anything to do with it, but that did not stop Gabe from being suspicious.
Leo did not really thing that Gabe needed to worry about his car. It wasn't like Sally would allow him or Percy to drive – she was much to responsible for that. He was also aware of the fact, that to Gabe that would not male a difference. Percy and Leo would be blamed if a seagull pooped on his paint job.
When Gabe lumbered back to the apartment building Percy finally snapped and Leo bore witness to another strange happening. This one wasn't scary though.
Leo had just been about to get into the car when Percy repeated the gesture he had already seen Grover do on the bus. He held a clawed hand over his heart before making a shoving motion towards his stepfather.
He had followed the movement mainly out of boredom, not because he had expected something to happen. But happen something did.
The screen door slammed shut so hard that it whacked Gabe in the butt and sent him flying up the staircase as if he had been shot from a cannon. Maybe it was just a freak coincidence, an accident with the hinges maybe, but given the happenings around them so far Leo was beginning to loose his believe that there was such a thing as coincidence.
Percy and Leo exchanged one glance before they scrambled into the car intend on not being around once Gabe collected himself. He would find a way to blame it on them as well.
Percy told Sally to step on it, while Leo fastened his seat belt and they were off.
Seeing Gabe fall down the stairs was a pretty cool way to start the holidays.
Their rental cabin was on the south shore, way out at the tip of Long Island. It was a little pastel box with faded curtains, half sunken into the dunes. From was Percy had recounted there was always sand in the sheets and spiders in the cabinets and most of the time the sea was too cold to swim.
Still Percys, as well as Sally, seemed to love the place.
Leo guessed it was kind of idyllic, but he was more of a city kind of guy, the more machines the better. He was still looking forward to the trip though, even if he was sure Sally was looking forward to it the most.
The closer they got to their destination the younger she seemed to become. All the tiredness and worry seemed to fall away from her and her eyes sparkled happily.
They arrived at sunset, opened all the cabin's windows, and went through a seemingly practiced cleaning routine that, as Sally remarked, worked even better with Leo joining them.
When it got dark they made a fire on the beach and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. Sally told them stories of when she had been a kid and Leo actually recounted some of the memories he had of his mother.
The topic of the books that sally planned on writing one day was brought up as well and when she had just recounted the plot of one of them Percy brought up the elephant that had seemed to hang in the air since they had arrive din Montauk that things got a little uncomfortable for Leo.
When Sally answered there was something familiar about her words, as if she had said them time and time again, but they were still heartfelt and her eyes were misty.
"He was very kind."
Her smile was reminiscent and her eyes unfocused slightly as she lost herself in her memories.
Leo could not help but wonder what his won father had been like, his mom had once said that one day he would meet him and everything would make sense.
"Tall, handsome ad powerful."
She paused for a moment, her eyes on the sea.
"But gentle, too. You have his black hair,you know, and his green eyes."
Sally fished out a blue jelly bean from her candy bag.
"I wish he could see you, Percy. He would be so proud."
Until then Percy had been listening intently soaking up every words his mother spoke, but as soon as she spoke the p-word he froze.
Leo could understand that. He ha that problem as well: Every time his mother had told him she had been proud of him he had found that hard to believe. Especially with aunt Rosas constant insistence, that he was more trouble than he was worth.
"How old was I?"
Percys voice brought Leos mind back to the present, and he wished It hadn't. This really was a conversation that he had no part in.
"I mean when he left?"
Sally watched the flames.
"He was only with me for one summer, Percy. Right here at this beach. This cabin."
Percys brow furrowed.
"But.. he knew me as a baby?"
It was somewhere between a question and a statement.
"No honey. He knew I was expecting a baby, but he never saw you. He had to leave before you were born."
Percys expression fell and Leo remembered how his friend had once confided the one memory he had of his father to him after Leo had woken up from a nightmare. It wasn't so much a memory as it was an impression, a warm glow and a smile, but still to hear his mother say that it was impossible for him to remember is must hurt.
The fact that Percy dropped the topic immediately afterward was prove enough.
"Are you going to sent us away again?"
Percy bit his lip and Leo looked away from the sea to Sally as well.
"To another boarding school?"
Sally pulled a marshmallow from the fire.
"I don't know honey."
Her voice was heavy.
She heaved a sigh.
"I think we will have to do something."
The fact that his father had never known him must have shaken Percy a lot more then he had let on, because his next words were biting.
"Because you don't want me..."
Percy broke up and gestured to Leo.
"Because you don't want us around?"
Sallys eyes widened in shock and tears welt up in her eyes. Leo could see Percy flinch and he felt bad as well. Sally had always treated him well, but he simply did not understand why she insisted on sending them to boarding schools.
A warm hand gripping his own ripped him from his thoughts. Sally was looking at him her eyes pleading as her gaze wandered from Leo to Percy and back again, something akin to desperation on her face.
"Oh, no. No."
She shook her hand frantically.
"No. I- I have to. For your own good."
Percys gaze shuttered close and Leo grimaced. The meaning behind Sallys words was completely different, but she had sounded a lot like Mr Brunner had at the end of term.
"Because I'm not normal."
Percys voice was flat but Sally was not as obvious as Mr Brunner had been to how badly her son had interpreted her words. She looked at Leo for a second and he gave her a little smile which she returned before letting go of his hand and fixing her attention solely on Percy.
"You say that like it is a bad thing, Percy. But you don't realize how important you are."
Leo agreed that Percy was important. Without him Leo would not have a family, he would still be at the mercies of the foster care system and he would not have a friend.
It was a little strange to see his best friend so insecure as Percy preferred to hide such things most of the time. At first Leo had been fooled by it but with time he had learned to look past the mask Percy put up, still he had not realized how badly his friend had been affected by the previous weeks.
"I thought Yancy Academy would be far enough away."
That was a curious statement and made no sense at all.
"I thought you'd finally be safe."
Percy asked the question that hung in both of their heads.
"Safe from what?"
As soon as the question was voiced however things were violently shoved into perspective.
Leo met Percys searching gaze. He could clearly see the question his friend was thinking about. Should they tell sally what had happened with Mrs Dodds and the knitting ladies?
Sally wanted them safe and what had happened to them in school obviously wasn't safe.
Leo knew that Percy had had other strange happenings in his life, and he had been witness to some of them, but they had always been explainable. The Mrs Dodds thing wasn't, at least not with any kind of logic, that would be accepted in court.
In the end it was Percy who came to a decision. The look on his face was vaguely guilty when he shook his head slightly and Leo nodded imperceptibly in return. They would let the matter rest for now. After all it was highly unlikely that anything would happen on this beach. Sally and Percy had been there countless times and they had never been in any danger.
Sally had not noticed the byplay between her two boys, to caught up with trying to figure out what to tell.
"I've tried to keep you as close as I could."
Sally continued and smiled a Leo who was feeling a little awkward with the topic.
"Both of you."
Then her gaze hardened.
"They told me that was a mistake."
Leos brow furrowed as he listened. Why would someone tell a mother that is was a mistake to keep her son and foster son close to her. They might be trouble, but mistake was a bit over the top. Sally was still talking, but Leo could not make head or tail out of it.
"But there is one other option, Percy – the place your father wanted to send you."
"My father wanted me to go to a special school?"
Percy sounded incredulous and Leo could understand his friend only to well. From what Sally had said Percys dad had never met his son, so how would he know that Percy might have to go to a special school?
"Not a school Percy."
Sallys voice was soft.
"A summer camp."
Percys was quite obviously busting with questions but it seemed like Sally was not willing to answer anymore.
"I'm sorry, Percy." Sallys voice was almost pleading as she looked into her sons eyes.
"But I can't talk about it. I – I couldn't sent you to that place."
She hesitated for a moment but her eyes never left Percys, when she continued talking her voice broke slightly.
"It might mean saying good-bye to you for good."
That sounded very strange to Leo, but he forced himself not to speak up. He was already feeling like he was intruding and he would probably only make matters worse.
Percy had the same question however.
"For good? But if it's only a summer camp..."
Percy trailed off and Leo watched as Sally turned towards the fire without answering the question and from her expression he was pretty sure that she would start to cry would Percy continue with his questioning. Luckily his best friend had noticed it as well and decided to stop.
Leo felt like he should leave. It was a very private moment and his presence probably only made matters worse for Sally right now, but before he could do anything Sally snarled her arm around his shoulder and pulled him against her side while doing the same thing with Percy on her other side.
They sat like that for a long time, enjoying simply being together, the camp was not brought up again and when Leo was just about to fall asleep, Sally sent them to bed.
Leo was ripped from his sleep by a sudden bright flash of light. He needed a moment to reorient himself.
He was still in the cabin n the beach, but the pleasant atmosphere from the previous day was gone. Instead a terribly storm seemed to be waging outside and lightning making the night seem like day in short flashes.
Percy to was already awake, breathing heavily as if he had run a long way.
His friends eyes snapped over to him and Leo raised his eyebrows in question. Percy shook his head.
"Just a dream..."
Percy trailed off looking out of the window and a frown found itself on his face.
Percy turned back to him and nodded.
"Yeah... but it was strange."
Leo sat up in his bed and pulled the blanked up to cover his shoulders. It had gotten colder as well.
Percys frown was still prominent on his face.
"I was dreaming about a storm like this and the beach..."
Again his gaze wandered to the window.
"And a horse and an eagle... fighting."
"A horse and an eagle?"
The lightning lit up the night long enough for Leo to see the grin on his best friends face quite clearly.
Then a really loud thunder shook the cabin and Sally jerked awake. She said up immediately, her eyes wide.
She sounded understandably fearful, but it was strange. Long Island had never seen hurricanes this early in the summer. something that the ocean seemed to have forgotten. The wind was roaring and Leo could swear that he could hear a distant bellow, it was an angry tortured sound and he pulled the blanket closer around himself, before looking around the cabin furtively.
Percy looked uncomfortable as well and just as Leo was about to ask if he had heard the bellow as well another sound drew their attention.
This one was much closer, it sounded like mallets in the sand accompanied by a desperate voice, someone was yelling and then there was pounding on their cabin door.
Sally jumped out of the bed and Leo followed her, the blanked close around him. The voice had sounded familiar and as soon as sally had opened the door he knew why.
It was Grover. He was standing in the doorway dripping wet and with a desperate look in his eyes.
"Searching all night."
He was out of breath as well.
"What were you thinking?"
His gaze landed on Leo accusingly before wandering to Percy, but neither of them got to answer.
Sally gaze from where she was standing next to him felt heavy on him and the terror on her face only made it worse.
"What happened at school?"
She sounded panicked and Leo wanted to answer her, but somehow no words came past his lips.
Noticing that she would not get an answer from him she squeezed his shoulder, trying to reassure him despite her own panic and turned to Percy.
She had to scream to make herself understood over the rain.
"Percy what happened at school? What didn't you tell me?"
But Percy didn't answer either, he was staring at Grover completely shocked by something that Leo had probably missed in his shock at seeing their friend in the middle of the night.
Leo was just about to try to make sense of it when Grover spoke again.
"O Zeu kai alloi theoi!"
He looked panicked as well.
"It's right behind me! Didn't you tell her?"
He would probably have asked Grover what he was talking about, because if he was referring to the monster their math teacher had been, then he should be able to figure out why they had kept it quite without trouble when something else registered in his mind: his friend had not only cursed in ancient Greek, he had also managed to understand him perfectly, the look on Percys face was comical, so he was probably not the only one.
They were brought back to attention however when sally called them, her voice surprisingly sharp.
Sallys gaze wandered from one of them to the other, her face stern and when she spoke, the tone was like nothing Leo had ever heard her use before and judging by his friends flinching neither had he.
"Tell me now."
Leos tongue felt like lead in his mouth and he was sure that if he had been the one to make the explanation it would have been very hard to understand. Percy wasn't doing much better as he stammered out a string of words about Mrs Dodds, the fruits stand ladies that did not make much sense.
Lightning was still flashing across the sky and Sallys deathly pale face stood out prominently, somehow she seemed to make sense of Percys ramblings.
She grabbed her purse and tossed them their rain jackets.
"Get to the car. All of you."
Percy and Leo shared a glance hesitating for a moment before Sally barked her next words like a drill Sargent giving an order.
They scrambled out of the cabin after Grover who had been the first o reacted and suddenly Grovers strange running style made sense. It didn't really look like a muscular disorder though.
Because he wasn't running really, it was more like trotting or galloping like a horse, he even had the shaggy hindquarters of a barn animal, hooves and all.
In his shock Leo actually stopped and stared at Grover. Percy seemed to have taken the news better as he was the one grabbing Leos arm and hauling him along towards the direction of the car.
The car almost seemed to fly and given the speed they were going at and the wind it would not surprise Leo too much. Wind was slamming against the car, rain was lashing against the windshield and he had no idea how Sally was seeing where they were going, but she had to see something, because the idea of going blind was scary.
Almost as scary as the realization that one of their best friends was - and smelled like – a barnyard animal. Leo could not help it, he kept glancing back towards the backseat where Percy and Grover were sitting the latter half goat from the waist down.
It was Percy who broke the heavy silence that had been reigning since Sally had started the car.
"So... You and my mum..."
He was addressing Grover.
"You know each other?"
If it was anyone else but Sally they were talking about Leo might have made a stupid comment, as it was he decided to keep his mouth shut.
Grover was looking around as if searching for something and he did not stop when he answered.
"I mean, we've never met in person. But she knew I was watching you."
It sounded kind of creepy that way, but Leo remembered their conversation on the bus: That Grover was supposed to protect them.
"Well, both of you really."
He hesitated for a moment.
"Keeping tabs on you. Making sure you were okay, but I wasn't faking being your friend."
The last part had been added hastily, but Leo was pretty sure that Grover was being honest.
"I am your friend."
Percy nodded before he asked the question that Leo had been itching to ask since he had nearly stopped dead on the beach.
"Um... What are you, exactly?"
Grover waved him off.
"That doesn't matter right now.
Leo did not agree with that statement and neither did Percy.
"It doesn't matter?"
Percys disbelieve knew no boundaries.
"From the waist down one of my friends is a donkey."
Grover let our a sharp throaty "Blaa-ha-ha!"
They had heard him make that sound before, but had always assumed it to be a nervous laugh. Now it was quite clear that it was more of an irritated bleat.
"I though he was a goat..."
Govers bleat fades away and he gave Leo a slight smile.
"Yes, a goat don't forget it."
Percy raised his eyebrow his voice as dry as the desert.
"I thought it didn't matter?"
Grover carried on as if Percy hadn't spoken.
"Be careful, there are Satyrs who would trample you underhoof for such an insult."
Leos brain had combusted somewhere around Satyrs, but luckily Percy was there to carry on.
"Woah. Wait. Satyrs."
He paused for a second.
"You mean like in Mr Brunners myths?"
Leo had never heard the word anywhere but in relation with ancient myth but it seemed that Grover did not agree with their disbelieve – given the fact that Grover apparently was part of said myths it was kind understandable.
Were those old ladies at the fruit stand a myth, Percy?"
Leo shock his head, myth or not they had been there and Grover carried on.
"Was Mrs Dodds a myth?"
"So you admit that there was a Mrs Dodds!"
Percy sounded triumphant and Grover nodded.
But he got cut off before he could ask the question.
"The less you knew, the fewer monsters you attract."
Grover said it like it should be perfectly obvious. Leo begged to disagree.
"We put Mist over the human's eyes."
He glanced at Leo then as if to say that they had expected him to be affected as well.
"We hoped you'd think the Kindly One was a hallucination. But it was no good."
Again he looked at Leo, as if blaming him for it. Not that he was entirely wrong about that, Percy would have doubted his memory at lot more if there hadn't been someone else telling him that there had been a Mrs Dodds.
"You started to realize who you are."
On the last part Grovers voice had turned very grave.
Percy frowned, so did Leo.
"Why I – wait a minute, what do you mean?"
This time Leo could not help himself.
"It obvious, isn't it?"
Percys gaze fell on him and Leo grinned.
"You are Aquaman."
Sally snorted and Percy shook his head before turning to Grover again, quite clearly waiting for a proper answer.
It never got that far though. The weird bellowing noise rose up again, somewhere behind them, closer then it had been before. Whatever it was, it was chasing them still. The heavy atmosphere that had been lifted by Leo comment was back even heavier then before. Again sally proved that she was more then up to breaking all kinds of silence, still her voice was tense when she spoke.
"Percy. There is too much to explain and not enough time. We have to get you to safety."
For a second her eyes flickered away from the street and she met Leos eyes.
"And you as well."
Her voice had a sad quality to it.
Percy however would not stop asking question, Leo felt for him, but he wasn't sure if he could speak up if he tried. He knew they were in danger only once in his life had he been in this much danger before, and it had not been the day the man had chased him and destroyed his foster home.
"Safely from what? Who's after us?"
Grover made a strange noise.
Percy blinked and Grover carried on while Leo kept watching Sally on whose face was an iron mask of determination.
"But who is after.. me? And why?"
Grover was silent for a moment, when he spoke again Leo was pretty sure he could make a out an undertone of hysteria.
"Oh nobody much. Just the Lord of the Dead and a few of his blood-thirstiest minions."
Sally jerked and for a moment Leo was sure she would hit the breaks and sent them careening around the road. Fortunately she didn't. She snapped at Grover however.
Grover winced and did seem truly apologetic.
"Sorry, Mrs. Jackson."
He paused for a moment and looked back over his shoulder.
"Could you drive faster please?"
Sally made a sharp left turn and they swerved onto a narrower road, racing past darkened farmhouses and wooded hills. Leo noted that there were several PICK YOUR OWN STRAWBERRIES signs on the while picket fences. Or at least he was pretty sure that was they were supposed to say if the images were any indication.
"Where are we going Sally?"
Because they were going somewhere. The way Sally was driving was calculated, she was not just driving for the sake of getting away from whatever was chasing them. She had a goal, Leo only hoped they wold reach it soon.
"The summer camp I told you about yesterday."
"The one Percys dad wanted him to go to?"
From the silence in the backseat Leo was sure that at least Percy was listening.
Sally nodded and again chanced a sideways glance at him. This time he was sure that there was something sad in her gaze.
"I'm sure your father wanted you to go there as well."
Questions where whirling in his head and he had no idea what to ask first. His father? If he hadn't been aware of the fact that everyone needed a father, he would have assumed that he did not have one. His mother had rarely talked about any man in her life, she had said that Leo would meet his dad one day, but when she had died and no father had appeared Leo had simply concluded that his dad was dead as well. To be fair it wasn't like Leo had asked questions either. It had simply never mattered to him.
And maybe that was why it was so very strange for him to hear that his father had wanted something, it was even stranger, that Sally knew about it.
He was pretty sure Percys mom had never met his dad, otherwise she would have mentioned it, wouldn't she?
In favor of making more sense of the situation and figuring out what was going on Percy had apparently decided to push the part about Leos father aside. It seemed like a smart choice, but it was simply stuck in Leos head.
"The place you didn't want me."
Percys paused and reconsidered, when he continued talking his tone was very deliberate.
"The place you didn't want us to go."
Sally made a sound of frustration, mixed with desperation.
Now she was begging him.
"This is hard enough. Try to understand. You're in danger."
Leo was pretty sure that his best friend was aware of that as well, if nothing else the attack of their math teacher would have driven the point home. But that did not lessen the frustration at all. They had been thrown into a situation that made no sense at all and apparently their fathers had something to do with it, because otherwise there was no need to drive to this camp now, instead of the fact that it would endanger even more people, most likely children.
"Because the old ladies cut the yarn?"
A brief spark of admiration whirled up inside of Leo as his friend brought up those creepy grannies again. He wasn't sure if he ad been able to talk about them, especially if he had been the one they had payed special attention to.
It was Grover who responded, shaking his head.
"Those weren't old ladies Those were the fates."
Leo remembered that story and suddenly he felt violently sick, that could not be true.
"Do you know what it means- the fact that they appeared in front of you?"
Grover was obviously distressed as well and with every word the satyr said Leo was feeling worse.
"They only do that when you're about to..."
He hesitated only for a moment.
"They only do that when someone's about to die."
Percy had noted the pause as well, his eyes went wide and Leo could see the moment he made the connection in his best friends eyes as they flickered from him to Grover.
"Whoa. You said 'you'."
Grover shook his head frantically.
"No I didn't. I said 'someone'."
Percy persisted however.
"You meant 'you'. As in me."
It was then that Leo decided to speak up as well.
He pointed at Percy.
"Are not going to die. I won't let you."
It was a ridiculous statement to make. He had no idea what he was going to be facing, but it would be dangerous possibly lethal for him as well. Still he meant what he had said.
Percys gaze met his and Percy gave him a shaky smile. He had been freaking out as well, that was why he had asked all hose questions that had made it worse for anyone who was listening.
"Leo is right."
Grover was nodding.
"And I meant you, like 'someone'. Not you, you."
Percy cracked a smile, but they were violently ripped from their moment when Sally swerved sharply to avoid something – dark fluttering shape – that got quickly lost somewhere behind them.
"What was that?"
His best friends voice sounded strange and he got no answer. Grover was staring out of the back window and Sally was preoccupied with driving.
"We're almost there."
She sounded close to tears.
"Another mile. Please. Please. Please."
Leo mentally added his own please to the plea. He had no idea what was after them, but he knew enough to know that he did not want to get captured by it.
Pleading was a perfectly fine method he was not above applying if only it would help. It didn't even matter that they still had no idea where there was, since Sally had never told them where this mysterious camp was supposed to be.
There was nothing around them, unless of course the camp lay admit the strawberry farms that seemed to be just about everywhere around here.
From the corner of his eye Leo noticed that Percy had opened his mouth again, a questioning look in his eyes, but whatever that question had been, he never got to ask it.
Suddenly there was a blinding flash, a jaw rattling boom!, and then the car exploded.
For a moment it Leo felt like he was absolutely weightless, but the gravity caught up with him and he was jerked forward. Leo had no idea how he had manage to get his hands and arms in front of his face, but it was a very good thing.
When he slammed against the console of the car they took most of the impact and while it hurt like hell.
Never before had Leo been so glad to have been wearing a seat belt. He wasn't sure what would have happened to him had he not been wearing it and he wasn't all that keen on finding out either.
A hand landed on his shoulder and Leo turned sideways to give Sally a shaky smile before a soft 'Ow' from the backseat ripped his attention away.
Both of them turned around immediately and where greeted with the sight of Percy shaking his head slightly. It seemed that the seat belt had not made that much difference in his friends case either.
Percy to gave a slight smile at Sallys worried inquiry.
Leo took that as the prompt to look around.
It seemed like they had swerved into a ditch. Which was a good thing, crashes against tress were nasty since cars had the tendency to curl around the trunks if they hit them with enough speed.
He also noted that the car had not really exploded, which was strange since he had been so sure that the lightning had hit them.
Not that the car was in a good condition. The drivers side doors were wedged in the mud. The roof had been cracked open like an eggshell and rain was pouring in.
Still they were alive, which meant that the lightning could not have hit them, they had probably been missed by a very small margin and then blasted off the road.
It was Percys worried exclamation that drew his attention away from the wreckage that was the car.
Leo whirled around, on the backseat next to Grover was a big lump that lay unmoving. A lump that just happened to be their friend.
Percy shook him none to gently and Leo breathed a sight of relieve when he heard the weak voice.
Had it been anything else, Leo might have been ever more worried, but now he was sure that Grover could not have been to badly hurt.
But really, Food, of all things.
Sally called them.
"We have to..."
Lightning fluttered across the sky and sally voice faltered.
If she had seen what Leo had seen that was no surprise.
From the road there was a figure lumbering towards them. The sight made ones skin crawl. It was a dark silhouette of a huge guy, bigger then the biggest football player in pads Leo had ever seen. Who, or given recent happenings, whatever it was seemed to be holding a blanked over his head.. His top half was bulky and fuzzy. His upraised hands made it look like he had horns.
Where the situation any different Leo would have tried to figure out how exactly to do that, it sounded useful for all kinds of pranks. But as he was in the current situation that had to wait.
Sallys voice was deadly serious and underlying with a desperate sort of urgency that gave no room for arguments.
"Get out of the car. Now."
Leo made to follow the order, but it seemed like the crash had jammed to seat belt somehow, it would not open.
Suddenly he wasn't all that fond of the seat belt anymore.
But Sally cut off her sons question.
"Just get out of the car."
Even as she said that she had thrown herself against the drivers sides door, but it was jammed shut in the mud. In the backseat tried as well with just as much success.
Leo breathed a sigh of relieve when his seat belt finally came loose and he could move. Unlike the other doors the door on the passengers side swung open without trouble and he scrambled out into the night.
Rain drenched his shirt but he paid no attention to it as he wrenched open the back door and grabbed Grovers shoulders to pull him out. Percy climbed over the seat to help him while Sally too had exited the car.
She cut herself up.
"You have to run. Do you see that big tree?"
Leo looked into the direction she was pointing and as another flash of lightning lit up the nightsky. The tree she was pointing at was pretty hard to miss: It was a gigantic pine tree at the crest of the nearest hill.
Seeing as they had figured out what she was talking about Sally continued.
"That's the property line. Get over the hill and you'll see a big farmhouse down in the valley."
Leo nodded to show that he understood and Sally laid one of her hands on his and Percy shoulders.
"Run and don't look back."
His eyes widened. Because surely she could not mean that.
"Yell for help."
But she did."
"Don't stop until you reach the door."
Her voice still had that commanding tone and if she had been asking him anything else, Leo would probably already be in the midst of following her instructions.
"Mom, you're coming too."
That was something Leo could agree with: there was no way they were leaving her behind. Sally looked at Percy and her eyes were as sad as when she looked at the ocean. Leo knew what she was thinking and so did Percy, because Sally was not agreeing with them.
Percy was shouting now and it was impressive how easy to hear his voice was despite the wind and rain.
"You are coming with us. Help us carry Grover."
Said Satyr was hanging limply between them, his arms thrown over the other boys shoulders and as if he knew that they were talking about him he moaned a little. To Leos ears it sounded suspiciously like 'food'.
The man with the blanked on his head kept coming towards then, making strange grunting, snorting noises. As he got closer Leo noticed something strange that somehow surprised him even with the recent happenings. The man, if he even was one, could not be holding the blanket over his head, unless he had two pairs of arms, because his hands, and those were huge, meaty hands, were swinging at his sides.
Lightning flashed again and now Leo was sure, that the man did not carry a blanket, because the bulky, fuzzy mass that was too big to be a head, was exactly where the head should be and the points that looked like horns... were just that.
Sallys hands left Leos shoulders and she bend forwards slightly to meet her sons eyes.
"He does not want us. He wants you."
She glanced at Leo.
"And maybe Leo too. Besides, I can't cross the property line."
Which was ridiculous of course. Leo was sure that whoever owned the land would not be offended should they explain the situation to them. Their car had crashed after all and an reasonable human would allow them to call the police and get help.
Sally sent him a sharp look, obviously not happy that they would not simply let it go.
"We don't have time, boys. Go. Please."
For a short moment the only sound heard was the rumble of thunder and the rain rushing down on them and drenching them, then Percy spoke up again and when he responded he was using the same tone sally had used before. His voice rang with a command and there was no denying him.
"We are going together. Come one mom."
Sally however wasn't giving up.
"I told you-"
The way Percy and Sally took charge of a situation was scarily alike and Leo wasn't sure who would win this. He hoped that Percy however.
"And I told you, that I'm not leaving you."
Sally stared at her son with big eyes, but he simply gestured towards the still unconscious boy.
"Now help us with Grover."
He didn't wait for an answer, but it was not like he had to. Sallys shoulder were hunched slightly,as she crouched and picked up Grovers legs. Grover was surprisingly light but that did not make that much of a difference. The hill was overgrown with wet waist-high grass, and it was slippy as hell, especially since they were attempting to go uphill.
Leo kept slipping again and again, be it on the muddy ground or the grass that he had to trample on. They were going very slowly.
Next to him Percy breathed in sharply. His eyes were fixed on something behind them and wide with what seemed like a mix of surprise and fear, causing Leo to follow his gaze.
He immediately wished he hadn't.
The monster, because there was no way, Leo was going to call them thing after them a man was huge. He was easily seven feet tall, and his arms and legs seemed like they could come from the cover of the Muscle Man magazine – bulging biceps and triceps and all the other 'ceps as well. He worse no clothes except for a pair of ,what Leo was pretty sure was, underwear.
And any other situation and on a human that might have looked funny, on this thing it just looked grotesque especially together with the upper part of is body. Coarse brown hair started at about his belly button and got thicker as it reached his shoulders.
His neck. If it could still be called that, was a mass of muscle and fur – because that's what it was going to be called now, that much hair would just be eww – leading up to his enormous head, which had a snout as long as Leos arm, snotty nostrils with a gleaming brass ring, cruel beady black eyes and horns, enormous black-and-white horns that looked very, very sharp.
Leo had a vague idea what that monster was, even if his mind told him that it could not be real. He told it to shut up because, frankly, he could set things on fire so he had no room to talk.
Percy apparently knew who their guest was as well.
Sally finished the sentence for him.
She huffed a laugh that held no humor at all.
"I wished I had known how badly they wanted to kill you."
Percys gaze snapped away from the monster behind them and back to his mother who was still holding onto Grovers legs.
"But he is the Min-"
"Don't say his name."
Sallys voice was quite, but with a hint of waring underlying it.
"Names have power."
Names have power. It sounded like something that should only be said in a fantasy novel or movie. Yet here Sally was meaning every word of it. Not that Leo could blame her, because the thing behind them belonged into movies and stories as well – especially in the old Greek ones of heroes, gods and monsters.
Leos eyes remained fixed on their goal, but he Pine tree did not seem to get any closer. From the corner of his eye he noticed that Percy glanced back again just as Grover moaned again.
The Satyr thankfully fell quite, but Leo rather spitefully thought that Grover could at least be totally out of it if he wasn't even helping them up the hill.
"Mom what is he doing? Doesn't he see us?"
He so admired his best friend for being able to walk on this ground while looking back. When Leo had tried it he had nearly made all of them land in the mud.
Sally shook her head but she did not look back.
"His sight and hearing are terrible. He goes by smell."
Considering the guys snout that made sense and suddenly the rain wasn't all that bad. If Leo remembered correctly it helped cover up smells.
"But he'll figure out where we are soon enough."
Sadly she was right. As if on cue, the bill-man bellowed in rage. He picked up Gabes car by the torn roof, the chassis creaking and groaning, before raising it over his head.
It was unreal to see a car being thrown, but that's what the monster did: he threw it down the road. It slammed into the wet asphalt and skidded in a shower of sparks for about half a mile before coming to a stop. The gas tank exploded.
It was beautiful, but did not quite match up to what had happened to the Camaro.
Percy seemed to agree.
Leo nodded in agreement. Seven out of ten sounded about right, it could have gone higher but this time the explosion had not been accompanied by Gabes tears so it really was no competition.
Sally did not share their momentary amusement however, she stayed on task, given their situation that was probably a good thing.
"When he sees us, he'll charge. Wait until the last second, then jump out of the way- directly sideways. He can't change directions very well once he's charging."
It sounded logical, but hearing those words come from Sally was very strange, usually she had asked them those kind of questions in their Greek quizzes but Leo would have never thought that they would ever apply it in a real life situation.
He would like to go back to those quizzes.
"Do you understand?"
Leo nodded and watched as Sallys eyes flickered back to the Minotaurus for a second.
"I've been worried about an attack for a long time. I should have expected this. I was selfish keeping you near me."
She sounded like she was beating herself up about it pretty badly, even if Leo could not see why. Okay maybe she had known that strange monsters would come after them for some reason, but she loved her son and he had never had to doubt it.
"Keeping me near you?"
"Yeah mum, that's the worst thing a mother can do."
To brilliant mind and one thought. There were reasons he and Percy were best friends.
Another bellow of rage. Percy looked backwards and cursed before picking up speed. Apparently the bull-man had smelled them.
By then the pine tree was only a couple of yards away. But the hill seemed to have gotten even steeper and slicker, Leo joined Percy in cursing under his breath, for once Sally did not abolish them.
The bull-man was already close enough to them that they could feel the vibrations of his heavy footsteps through the ground. Another few seconds and he would be on top of them. Leos mind decided to tell him that it would be great if this was lord of the rings style and the tree on top of the hill was an Ent that would bat the bull away from them, but his lungs were burning from exhaustion and he could no longer laugh hysterically.
If Sally was exhausted as well, she didn't show it, instead she dropped Grovers legs and took him from Leo and Percy hefting him over her shoulder.
"Go. We have to separate. Remember what I told you."
Leo glanced sideways at his best friend, as he had expected Percy did not look all that happy with his mother instructions but could not argue them.
All four of them on the same spot made to I a target, there was no way they would all be ale to dodge a charge at the same time. Percy caught his glance and nodded, determination etched into his features.
For a moment Leo wasn't sure why, but then he remembered.
Sally had told them, that the Minotaur was not after her, but after Percy and maybe after Leo himself.
That meant, that by splitting up the two of them would become the targets.
Leo nodded back.
Percy moved away to towards the left, Sally towards their right side and Leo spent a moment wondering where he should go, before his mind kicked into overdrive as he realized he was directly before the charging monster.
He threw himself on the ground, out of the monsters reach, and rolled sideways in the dirt. The only thing that hit him was the smell: Rotting meat.
Slipping in the mud Leo went further down the hill than he had intended, but as it took him away from the monster he would not complain. The monster however did.
Another bellow of rage rang through the air and the Minotaur looked around furtively, searching the prey that had escaped him. Leo held very still as the lack beady eyes raked over him, hoping that he would not be spotted.
He was in luck.
The monster puffed in agitation and took a deep sniff, trying to track him by scent, to no use. It seemed that while the rain had not hid their tracks, the mud at least hid Leo scent to a point at least that's what Leo thought before the monster roared again. This time in triumph.
Leo jerked to his feat and the beady eyes snapped to him, the expected charge however did not come, instead the monster turned toward Percy, who was watching the spectacle from somewhere to the left.
Percy must have smelled a whole lot better then him, Leo had time to muse, before the Minotaur charged.
Leo scrambled up the mountain to the tree Sally had pointed out to them, his gaze was drawn towards his best friend who was closer to his goal and the target of the monster now, meaning he was not paying too much attention to where he was stepping, causing his progress to be slow at best.
Percy had managed to dodge the initial charge as well and again the Minotaur roared in frustration, before turning again, choosing his next target.
This time it was Sally.
Sally who was setting down Grover into the grass.
Percys mom seemed to have noticed the sudden attention of the monster as well. Confusion flashed across her face for a second, then it was gone, replaced by iron determination.
The bull man grunted, pawning the ground. He kept eying Sally, was was now trying to slowly to retreat downhill, back towards the road ad from Grover.
Her gaze found her sons.
She looked around for a moment before finding Leos gaze as well.
"I can't go further, take care of each other."
It sounded a lots like she was saying goodbye, a very final goodbye.
Leo wanted to tell her that she should just run towards the tree as she had told them too, but before he could open his mouth, the Minotaur roared.
Then came the charge.
Sally did just as she had instructed them to do, Leo noted, as he ran up the hill, half falling over himself in his haste. It seemed however that the Monster had understood what their tactic had been: When Sally dodged sideways, its arm shot out fast like a striking snake and its hand caught Sally by the neck. It hoisted her into the air as if she weight nothing, as if her struggling and kicking did not matter to it. It probably didn't.
At Percys distressed shout Sallys head turned into his direction, a look of heartbreaking determination on her face she choked out one word.
With an angry roar the Minotaur closed his first around Sallys neck.
To Leo it seemed like slow motion. He could see the muscles and the gigantic hands contacting closing around the neck of the woman who had given him a home.
Sally dissolved into light, a shimmering golden form, as if she were a holographic projection.
Then there was a blinding flash and when it was gone, so was Sally.
Leos brain stuttered to a halt like dieing machine, because what he was seeing could not be true: Sally could not be gone. She could not be dead.
Shock had made him stop in his tracks, still on the slope of the hill, looking up at the Minotaur further up.
The Minotaur turned and Leos brain kickstarted right into overdrive as it turned its attention to Grover who was still lying unconsciousness on the ground.
It had taken Sally, but Leo would not let it have Grover as well.
"Hey! Mr Tighty-whitey!"
Percy seemed to share his sentiment, because at the same time he was insulting the monster as well.
"Hey, stupid! Ground beef!"
The fact that they had shouted at the same time seemed to confuse the monster since their voices came from different directions. What decided it in the end, was the red rain jacket that Percy was waving around in the air like a maniac.
The monster turned on Percy again, bellowing in rage and charging up the hill, leaving Grovers prone for on the ground. Leos feet made to follow before he even thought of it as he watched the monster attack his best friend.
He knew, that Percy had most likely planned to dodge aside, but near blind as the Minotaur might be it was not to stupid to learn from it's mistakes. When it charged Percy it did so fast, and with both hands outstretched at its sides making dodging sideways impossible.
Leo was close enough to see his friends face at the moment he realized this as well.
He could see Percys eyes widen, but there was no sign of surrender on his face, instead Percys simply moved.
The scene could have come straight from an action movie.
Percy jumped straight up, kicking himself even higher from the creatures head before turning in midair landing on the thick neck and gripping the horns to steady himself.
There was a moment of stillness but when the Minotaur realized where Percy was, it began to shake it's head wildly, bucking around to shake of it's unwanted passenger.
Leo was glad that the monster did not think to squash his back – and with it Percy – against the tree behind him. It might learn from it's mistakes, but it clearly wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed.
Then Grover moaned again, it if he had not done so louder then before or in any other situation Leo might have laughed as his friends one track mind.
In the situation they were in however it wasn't funny in the slightest. The beast whirled around, nearly throwing Percy of its back, and focused on Grover.
Leo cursed and rand over to his friend hoping to pull him out of the way somehow, but he knew, that he would not make it in time should the Minotaur chose to charge again.
Percy as it turned out however wasn't out of tricks yet. As Leo watched his friend leaned backwards, both hands wrapped around on of the monsters horns and pulled.
Had Leo not known Percy and his tendencies for doing the impossible for years he probably would not have trusted his eyes and ears, when a resounding snap was heard as the horn broke off.
The Minotaur roared in ,what Leo assumed to be, pain and with one violent movement threw Percy off his back.
The boy landed hard on the ground seemingly dazed by the impact and in no position to evade the already charging monster.
Just like Percy had done only moments before, Leo did not think, he acted.
Fire crawled along his arm and gathered in his hand, without any conscious thought Leo threw it like a ball.
The flame raced through the air, seemingly unhindered by the lightning and rain still raging wildly. It hit the Minotaur straight between the shoulder blades throwing it slightly of course.
It stood there in a daze for a moment, but then it shook his head and fixed his eyes on the one who had broken of his horn again.
The fireball did not do much damage, but fortunately it distracted the monster enough for Percy to collect his bearings and get back on his feet, the horn in his hands.
Percy had been standing unsteadily, but when he evaded the monsters charge, his movements were smooth. He rolled to the side, came up kneeling and drove the broken horn straight into the monsters side.
The bull-man roared in agony. He flailed clawing at his chest, then he began to disintegrate – not like Sally in a flash of golden light, but like the man that had chased Leo through the city some years ago, like crumbling sand, blown away by the wind.
The monster was gone.
The rain had stopped even if Leo could still hear the storm rumbling in the distance.
Leo reached his best friend just as the other boys knees gave out. Percy was shaking and when he saw him stop in front of him, he bit back a chocked sob. Leo knelled down next to him, not caring about the mud and pulled him into a tight hug.
Only then did he realize that he was shaking as well. That, and he was also suddenly feeling very tired as the adrenaline left him.
It was Percy who broke the embrace, his voice cracking as he spoke.
"Get Grover, we have to..."
He trailed off, but his gaze was fixed on the pine tree close to them. Leo remembered Sally telling them what to do and forced himself on his feet.
Unlike when they had first gotten Grover out if the car, his friend felt very heavy this time. Leo did not know if it was because the satyr was drenched with rain now, or if it was another sort heaviness that actually had nothing to do with his friends.
Still he forced the satyr up and slung Grovers arm over his shoulder, before making his way back to Percy who had wobbled over to them rather unsteadily, and Leo noted with some concern that blood was sluggishly running down the side of his friends face.
"Put your arm around my shoulder."
Percy simply looked at him as if he wasn't comprehending his words.
"You must have gotten a concussion or something. I'll steady you."
This time Percy understood, and did as Leo had told him to.
Frankly, Leo had no idea how they had managed to make their way over the top of the hill, past the tree, down into the valley and to the big farmhouse, but he did reach the front porch somehow.
Leo stood there, caked with mud and drenched from the rain, Grovers arm slung over his left shoulder and Percy, who seemed to have lost his sense of direction, supporting himself on his right side.
He did not have to knock though. He did not even have to call for help, because it seemed like they had been expected. A small group of people were standing in the entrance room: a tall blond guy who looked faintly unsettled, a blond haired girl around his age, who was watching him shrewdly from stormy gray eyes and his Latin teacher.
It was surreal.
Grover groaned and Leo felt as if he was in some kind of daze as the blond haired guy came forward to take the satyr from him.
Blue eyes swept over him and Percy with quite concern before the blond guy spoke up.
"We should get them to the infirmary."
Mr Brunner nodded in agreement.
"Can you take Grover, Luke?"
The blond guy, Luke, nodded and hoisted Grover up in a fireman's carry but the girl seemed to have other priorities.
"Which one is it Chiron?"
Vaguely Leo realized that he had heard that name somewhere before, but right now he could not bring himself to care, as he watched Luke carry Grover towards a door on the right.
She did not get an answer as Mr Brunner hushed her.
"Not now Annabeth."
There was an underlying meaning to those words, but it went right over Leos head, as Percy seemed to have finally lost his fight and succumbed to unconsciousness.
He went boneless and fell forward, his arm nearly slipping from Leos shoulder before Leo managed to steady him and lay him on the ground, unable to hold his weight.
Annabeth seemed to have decided to stop asking questions and help instead, since she stopped forward and crouched down next to Leo giving him a slight smile.
"Don't worry he will be fine."
It was a relieve to hear that, even if Leo had no idea how she could be so sure of that, since she did not look even remotely old enough to be a doctor. Still Leo chose to believe her, at least partially.
There was no way his best friend was going to be fine.
Not with Sally gone.
At that though his throat closed up and he could feel the tear pooling in his eyes. Next to him Annabeth shifted uncomfortably, but Mr Brunner seemed unperturbed.
"It seems like you made it."
Made it. The man made it sound like they had been waiting for them. As if they had truly been expecting them. And they possibly had, but they had not helped them.
And now Sally was gone.
Leo stared at Mr Brunner and at that moment he wanted nothing more then to punch the man – so he did.
That's it! What do you guys think? Did I stay to closely to canon or was it okay? What do you think of Leos reaction! Please tell me!