The twilight spilling over the horizon seemed to paint everything in the garden of Bacchus back in Camp Jupiter a beautiful silver; the garden was the only place that seemed almost completely untouched by the battle. Everyone was gathered to burn the funeral pyres and to ensure that Octavian kept his promise. Percy could see how much effort it was taking for Nico to keep his spirit in the land of the living, but someone had to take Octavian to the doors of death and it had been Nico's dying promise to guard them alongside him.
A sea of people gathered around the two figures as Nico grabbed hold of Octavian's arm. Octavian winced, it can't have felt too good to be standing next to a ghost, let alone touching one. Nico's eyes connected with Percy's and they exchanged a brief nod; Octavian lifted his hand and gave the crowd a final wave which was met with hard eyes. Finding out that Octavian couldn't tell the future from all his stuffed toys and that he had been lying to them all had more or less destroyed his hopes of becoming praetor. In the space of a second, the two figures collapsed in on themselves and vanished. Percy squeezed Annabeth's hand as he continued to stare at the spot where they had both been.
"It was his choice to leave." Percy nodded. Although he had never been able to figure Nico out, it was still sad to see him go.
There was a moment of strange silence as though no one knew quite what to say, except that it was finally over - for now at least. Reyna drew herself up in her wheelchair and clapped her hands together. The Lares began to bring tables over piled high with food. There wasn't enough room for everyone to sit on benches so they all sat on the floor, Reyna was the only one in a wheelchair with her broken rebound up and sticking out at an awkward angle.
"So do you think the Gods with come and say thanks?" Leo was leaning across with a chicken drumstick in each hand and half a donut in his mouth.
"I hope not." Hazel's face darkened as she spread butter on her toast. Percy tried to imagine Zeus or Jupiter sending out thank you cards or flowers, somehow he couldn't picture it.
"I don't think so." Said Annabeth.
They continued to eat as though they hadn't in days, which really they hadn't. When they ran out of food, Piper produced even more from her cornucopia. Percy glanced around him occasionally, still not quite believing that everyone was here together and no one was fighting, well except for Clarisse and Dakota who seemed to be leaving their food untouched and were arm wrestling. It really was amazing though, Hylla and the Amazon's were sat with Thalia and the Hunters of Artemis, while the Stoll twins seemed to be having fun throwing cans at the fauna and watching them eat them. Even Mrs O'Leary and Festus seemed to be getting along as she continued to lick him while he groaned metallically. It seems strange that not so long ago they had all been trying to kill one another.
"I think you're in trouble." Jason gestured over Percy's shoulder with a half eaten bagel. Percy turned to see Chiron and Lupa walking towards him with Reyna wheeling herself over.
"What did you do Seaweed Brain?"
"Hey! I didn't do anything!"
"It's ok Percy, you're not in trouble." Chiron looked at him like a proud father.
"I wouldn't be so sure." Reyna's expression was as unreadable as ever. Percy tried to figure out look that passed between her and Annabeth.
"We've decided to merge the camps, they'll still be in separate places, but we're going to work together."
"That's great, but why are you telling me?"
"You're still our praetor aren't you?"
"I guess." Percy smiled.
"Good, I'm expecting you at the principia in a few hours." The three of them turned away. Percy street up and followed.
"I'm sorry that I won't be coming back."
"It's ok, I can tell that you belong here just as much as at Camp Half-Blood, and you know that you are always welcome. Mr D will be missing you." Percy grinned, remembering how Mr D couldn't even get his name right.
As Chiron walked away, Percy felt another hand in his and turned to find Annabeth beside him. They were silent for a moment, not needing to say anything.
"I keep meaning to show you round this place." Annabeth leaned across and kissed him.
"So show me Seaweed Brain." The two of them turned back briefly to the gathering behind them where everyone seemed to be, for now at least, bruised, covered in blood and happy. Percy and Annabeth ran down the side of the hill; and out of the corner of his eye, Percy saw Rachel Dare's face slip into a trance as she began to recite the next great prophecy. He didn't run back hoping to hear it, instead he kept running, still holding Annabeth's hand as the sun began to rise in front of them.