It wasn't a strange sight to see the Son of Poseidon on the shores of the Long Island Sound. It was however, a strange sight for him to be wrapped in a blanket of silence. By this time of year, Camp Half Blood should have been swarming with demi-gods, training and laughing, the cries of war games reaching back to the far corners of the strawberry fields. But right here, right now, it was completely and utterly silent, and Perseus Jackson lay stretched out on the sand, his eyes closed and his hand clutching Riptide tight to his side.
Hearing footsteps behind him, Percy bolted upright, his sword thrust out before him, the bruised colours of the sunset dancing on his blade. Piper stood a few feet away, her eyes shining with the remnants of tears. Her jeans were torn and covered in dirt, and she wore an old t-shirt from the house which was several sizes too big. Her chestnut hair was pulled into a knot on top of her head, although strands hung loose around her shoulders and, under her eyes, lay the dark smudge of exhaustion. She came down onto the beach and stood next to him, both of them looking out over the water.
‘You know why he did it?’ Her head turned towards Percy as he looked at the ground, steeling his face against tears.
‘I just wish it made sense, I wish it didn’t come to that, I wish he was still here.’ A stray tear slipped from his eye and frustrated, he swiped it away with the back of his hand.
‘You know why though?’
‘Yeah, I think.’
‘Percy, he did it because he loved you, even I could see that. He did it because he couldn’t let you lose Annabeth. He knew how that would destroy you. To him, your happiness was worth the sacrifice.’ Tears slid from Piper’s eyes, matching the steady stream now running down Percy’s face.
‘I owe him everything, and there is nothing that I can do. Piper, I owe him everything!’ He dropped to his knees, Riptide thumping down beside him.
She knelt beside him and wrapped him in a hug. ‘You can honour his death, you can show him that it wasn’t for nothing, that you won’t give up.’
He turned to look at her then, and as the final tear dropped onto the sand, Percy made a promise to himself. That he wouldn’t give up, that he wouldn’t let Nico’s death be for nothing.
Once again, Annabeth woke up screaming, her blonde hair stuck to her face and her clothes drenched in sweat. Out of the window the sky was still black and even the stars didn’t shine as bright. Breathing heavy, she sat up and untangled herself from the sheets before leaving her temporary room in the Big House. Before she made it two steps out the door, Percy was at her side, enclosing her in an embrace. She dropped her head onto his shoulder and cried for Nico, she cried for the ruins of Camp Half-Blood, and she cried for the pieces of her life that she had lost since she came here.
‘I know what you’re going to say, but I can’t forget, I won’t forget.’ Sobs racked her chest as she heaved in air through the tears.
‘We won’t ever forget, we owe it to him to become stronger and better. We need to show him that we haven’t given up.’
‘I don’t think I can do this Percy, he just jumped and even I couldn’t move fast enough. Not as a Daughter of Athena, a natural in combat. I didn’t stop it. And I should have, I should have known, I should have done something.’
‘There wasn’t anything to be done, he chose this. He wanted us to be happy, to be together, he knew what losing you would do to me.’ Her eyes looked up at him quizzically, as if finally, in the most unsuitable circumstances, realisation was hitting her. She just held him tighter, and they stood there in the hall of the house with the starlight filtering through the holes in the broken ceiling.
Frank’s first impressions on Camp Half-Blood were not as he was expecting, but then again it’s not every day two parallel demigod armies collide in the middle of a summer camp for godly children. What was once the big house was now a wobbly structure swarming with the offspring of Vulcan - around here more commonly known as Hephaestus - swarming on the roof trying to patch it up. The risen sun shone bright over the camp as demigods wove around one another in what seemed like chaos but what turned out to be some kind of organised system. His own camp, Camp Jupiter, had left this place in wreckage after their attack and after a very long and tiring battle in Athens, Frank had no desire to leave this place just yet.
‘Frank?’ Behind him stood Hazel, her golden eyes looking at him in question. She came up and he grabbed her hand squeezing it once. This close he could see the whites of her eyes were tinged with red from crying, but she gave him a squeeze back and he knew that she was holding up okay.
‘Is there anything we can do, I hate standing around like this.’
‘No, but Percy told us to find him, he said he wants to do something special for Nico.’ Tears welled up again in her eyes and she blinked them away fiercely. Frank smiled down at her - she was so brave. She had just lost her brother and she was standing here with her head up.
‘Come on.’ He squeezed her hand again, and she returned it before they headed off through the throng of bustling people towards Thalia’s tree at the edge of the camp.
They arrived to find the others already waiting, Percy stood at the base of the tree with Annabeth clutching his hand beside him. Piper and Jason stood together, so close you would think they were attached. And then came Frank and Hazel, also united.
Percy stepped up, ‘I want to honour his death. No brave man should be forgotten, certainly not a man as good and just as Nico di Angelo.’
The gods didn't seen to be on Leo's side as he tried to navigate the seas in the partially remaining Argo II; he only wished Percy were here to ask his father to take a break on the giant waves. His hands were coated in dirt from patching up the ship enough to set sail once more and his hair flopped over his eyes as the emotional exhaustion finally kicked in. He was almost falling asleep when he noticed the sound, or rather lack of it. The only sound audible was the gentle waves, gentle. The sea had calmed and the clouds had cleared and the sun shone a bit brighter. Leo leaped up and pumped his fist in the air.
'Yes! That's what I'm talking about! Leo is back in the game!' He dragged his hand through his hair pulling it out of his eyes but causing it to stick up in hundreds of different directions. Oil grease was smeared on his cheeks and clothes as usual, and his eyes were clouded with tiredness. He jumped up and ran over to the astrolabe containing the crystal from Ogygia, which was plugged into the main control system for the Argo II.
That wasn't right.
He should be able to see the island from here.
He whacked the controls with his fist and looked again, as if it would make a difference. He knew was attempting the impossible, but for Leo there was no such thing. He hit it again, and the ships navigator went crazy.
'Great, now it's broken. Well done Leo, good job, can't get it right as usual.'
He slumped down and leant against the side of the boat, staring at the device which he thought would finally be the way around the curse. Head in his hands, he racked his brain.
'What can I do? How can I fix this.' It was times like this when he wished one of the others had come with him, or that his father would magically appear and knock some mechanics sense into his little head. 'Think Leo, think!'
Before long, the sun started to dip below the horizon and Leo, still unmoved, had resigned to failure. Festus' head glittered in the sunset and before long the sky went dark and everything became still. Leo stood and was about to head into his cabin when he saw that Festus was still shining. But when there was no light. There had to be light, metal doesn't shine in darkness. It was so still, no rocking, no bumps over the tops of waves, no nothing.
Then a crackle, and Leo launched himself over to the side of the shop. There was a beach, and a small fire, and in front of the fire stood a girl. Her dress was white and her golden hair fell over her shoulders exactly like when he last saw her. Her arms were folded in front of her and her forehead was knitted in a frown. He stood frozen, staring, still half in the world of dreams. Was this a dream?
'About time sleepy-head.' Her voice pushed through the still air towards him, the sound was as beautiful as he remembered. 'Your boat has been sitting there for hours, it's nice of you to finally pop up!' She was still stood still, eyes wide and searching his own for a reaction. Leo broke his stare and blinked once, then twice and finally his face cracked into a grin. She threw her hands up in frustration as she stormed over to sit by the fire, her back to him. He jumped over the side landing on the soft, damp sand and immediately went and plopped himself down beside her.
'Well hello to you too, your highness.' She turned to look at him, and then, in a heartbeat, her lips were against his.
She pulled away and looking into his eyes said 'Leo Valdez, you came, you actually came!'
'Of course I came, who do you think I am? I'm no quitter.' He's cheeks were still warm from the kiss and he prayed to the gods that he wouldn't suddenly burst into flames.
'You didn't think I was going to give up the potential for a decent business? Think of the money!' She swatted at him and both of then burst into laughter.
'Of course, but I'm thinking Calypso and Leo's Garage: Auto Repair and Mechanical Monsters.' The light in her eyes was unmistakably happiness.
'Out of everything you could have said, you want your name first?' She swatted at him again and he lay back stretching onto the sand beside her. 'Okay fine. But we don't have to do anything just yet.' Butterflies circled in Leo's stomach but he reached for her hand. She let him take it willingly, and he pulled her down to lie next to him. They lay on their backs, hands clutched together between them, until the fire burnt out, along with their energy, and they fell asleep with the stars smiling down on them.
Hazels father wasn't known for doing favours, but as a daughter of Pluto there were certain things you could get around, and Hazel really missed her brother. She sat on the stepdad to the big house, it was night and the shadows almost swallowed her up.
'Dad, Pluto, Hades... whoever you need to be. If you can hear me, please just listen.' She took a deep breath, then another and continued. 'I know you aren't supposed to do this, but I need to see him, just for a second. Please, just for one second.' She trailed off as tears slipped down her face once again and she curled up with her head on her knees.
The night air was cold and Hazel was outside in nothing more than a T-shirt and shorts. After a while her breathing evened and the tears slowed, she wiped rubbed her eyes and sat herself back up. She was about to stand and head back to bed when a low voice spoke behind her.
For once, her father had listened. She stood and turned to face him. He was barely visible in the day, constantly shrouded in shadows, but at night, well, he was pretty much invisible.
'You know why I'm here I assume. I can't do what you wish...'
'But why? Please father. He was your son, my brother, can't you make an exception. There has to be something.' She wanted to cry again, and tears brimmed at her eyes but she wouldn't cower under her father. He may be God of the Underworld, but after Athens she didn't think anything would scare her.
'My girl, it doesn't work like that.' His voice was forlorn.
'You have to do something, nothing is impossible. Nico believed that, I thought he got that from you. Obviously not.' Hazel turned her back on her father and took a deep breath. 'Just leave then, why are you here?' A chill washed over her and she turned back for an answer, but her father had left.
'Aarrghhh!' She stormed back inside the house and up to her temporary room. The window was smashed and the light from the moon filtered through onto the floor. She threw herself onto her bed and lay there sobbing until she drifted into sleep.
Hazel woke on stone floor, she couldn't make out much in her surroundings but she knew this wasn't her bed back at Camp Half Blood. She sat up and pulled her hair back from her face, it was dark down here and it took her eyes a while to adjust. Her senses told her that this place was deep, she wasn't above land, she was very far under. She stood up slowly and blinked away the last of sleep. And there, about 6 feet in front of her, perched on the edge of a rock, was the mop of tousled black hair she was looking for. Opposite him sat a girl, her silky dark hair hung over her shoulders and she clutched at his hands, tears running down her face. Hazel circled them, staying back, she could sense other souls around but none of them seemed to notice her. She didn't need to be seen though, all she wanted to do was look upon his face once more, to see him safe, and what she was seeing before her was more than she could ever ask for. He was talking to the girl quietly and Hazel couldn't make out what they were saying, but she knew who this girl was, she was the one person who could fix this so very broken boy. Bianca di Angelo, Nico's sister - well his other sister. Bianca lost her life on a quest several years ago, back then she was all Nico had and then he lost her. Hazel could see the love tying them together and for the first time since Athens she felt peace. He was here, he was happy, he was with his sister. Hazel didn't know how long she stood watching them sit there talking, but eventually, everything started to go hazy and in her last seconds seeing his face she whispered a small 'I love you' but the meaning couldn't have been bigger.
Dawn rose and the residents of Camp Half-Blood gathered on the beach, the summer heat had started fading as autumn swept over Long Island. Percy stood at the front of the group with Annabeth at his side. He had called everyone, who wasn't in the infirmary, to the beach but now they were all here is was quite overwhelming. He looked around at the familiar faces. Chiron stood to his left, along with Dionysus sipping his Diet Cola as always. I guess some things will never change. In the crowd he spotted his friends from the Argo II, alongside Grover the satyr, his oldest and most trusted friend. He had tried to plan a speech but had come up with nothing, so as usual, he acted on impulse.
'I don't want to keep you all too long, but today we are here to honour those lost in battle. Demigods as loyal and brave as those who lost their lives against the Romans or Gaia's forces, don't deserve to go unnoticed. Their lives should be honoured. So today I asked you all to come to the beach so we could show them, that they didn't die for nothing, they died to save all of us, to save humanity and that is a debt we can never repay.' Beside him Annabeth squeezed his hand and he turned to see tears sliding down her cheeks. 'To Nico diAngelo, one of most noble demigods I've ever met. Reyna Ramirez-Arellano, a true praetor of Rome. Clarrise La Rue, the strongest and one of the most skilled of our warriors.' He paused, took a deep breath and continued. 'But it wasn't just Greek lives lost, our Roman counterparts were caught up in this too and fought heroically for themselves. We won't be able to amend...'
'Percy?' A head poked up from the crowd, an explosion of orange curls and wide eyes met his own.
'Rachel.' He didn't quite know what to say, he hadn't planned what was going to happen, he just planned to talk. 'Are you okay?'
'Um, yeah. Can I please say something quickly?' Percy nodded and she wove her way through the crowd to the front. She cleared her throat. 'This is kind of hard to say, because I know you won't be able to forgive him for what he did to us, and I won't either. But Octavian, the roman augur, saved my life. In his last moments, he put our differences aside for one second, and saved me. And so I want to honour his death because that is something I will never forget. I guess, even cowards can commit noble feats.' She had been wringing her hands this entire time, obviously nervous of her actions. 'Well, um, thanks.' Rachel finished, gave Percy a nod of thanks, and shuffled back into the crowd.
'Rachel is right, we can't judge each other on what happened then, our world was in chaos. Even the gods didn't know who they were, and every life lost is one worth honouring.' He untied his camp necklace and held it out in his fist. 'Here is to a new start, for all of us.' Percy turned and threw his necklace into the water. Slowly, the campers came up behind him and dropped their own necklaces in the waves. Some had five beads, some had one, but right now everyone was equal, everyone deserved to be remembered, and every single one of them deserved a fresh start. The crowd dispersed behind him, and Annabeth came over to his side with her necklace in hand. She placed it in his hand and closed his fingers around it.
'Throw it for me? Ask your father to take it down to the bottom of the sea, to take it to Nico.' Loose strands of hair were stuck to her face by half-dried tears and her eyes were red from crying.
'Take my hand.' He opened his palm so both of their hands were over the necklace. 'On three okay?' Percy counted, slowly, and they simultaneously dropped it into the surf. 'Annabeth Chase, look at me.' He lifted her chin so her eyes were looking straight into his own. 'I know that it's not over, but from here, we won't choose to make it the end of a chapter, we'll keep the story going. This is the first, last time. Not the first, or the last. There will be more, but we will always be here, right here. And if there is one thing I will promise you, it's that we won't ever be apart. Where you go I'll follow, wherever that may be, this is only the start. We don't get to choose our lives, but we do get to choose how to live them. You hear me Wise Girl, we're okay.' And as Perseus Jackson, looked into her eyes and promised over and over again, she touched her forehead to his.
'Okay Seaweed Brain, we're okay.' she whispered, before touching her lips to his.