Final Chapter - Jason
As he sat with Piper at the campfire that night, Jason wished he could say that he missed the life he had when he first sat at this amphitheatre. Despite not remembering it at that point. The kids around him now were not the same ones he’d sang along with on his first night here, nor were they the ones he’d grown up with in the cohorts of Camp Jupiter. They were the next generation of heroes, the ones that would one day replace he and his wife and all their friends, and Jason couldn’t have been happier about it. He was older now, no longer the handsome young man that rode metal dragons across the country and took passage on flying ships in order to save the world. Now he had a much harder task ahead; follow in the footsteps of Chiron, the centaur that had trained so many heroes. Of all the casualties of recent years, none had impacted Camp Half-Blood as much as the loss of their immortal leader. Jason doubted anyone had ever called Chiron that, but it was one of those things that people just knew. He and Percy had certainly had their fair share of leadership in battle, through the wars with the Titans and then The Giants, but Chiron had fought and led soldiers in countless more. He hoped above all that Chiron be remembered as the man who gave up his immortal life to take down the Giants, and not just the old man who sat back as he watched the kids he’d trained die in battle. He looked around the amphitheatre in a slow, panoramic like view before settling his gaze on what he could see of his wife’s face. Like the campers he’d met here oh so long ago, the ones he looked at now had enough energy to turn the campfire into a bright gold pillar of euphoria, and none had more energy than his six year old daughter, Reyna. “Look at her go,” he half whispered and half shouted to Piper over the noise of the campers,
campers. When she’d been born, Jason had expected Piper to protest against his wish to honour his old friend. But Piper knew all about Reyna’s heroics here twenty years ago and gave no such objection. She had been one of his first friends, and his first love, and he felt he owed something to her. Naming his firstborn after her was the least he could have done. Piper didn’t say anything for a few short moments, she just looked silently out over the campfire. Then, as if having a sudden epiphany, her head turned swiftly to her left. She pointed to a spot past Jason where two kids from Hermes and Demeter were flirting without caring whether or not anybody saw. “We sat over there that night, do you remember?” She turned to look at him and smiled. After her injury at the hands of the Giant Porphyrion, there was still a rather large and nasty looking scar across her face. Despite that, Jason’s heart still leapt whenever she smiled at him just as it had when they were teenagers. For a while she had been angry; angry at anything she could be angry at. But Piper was not the average daughter of Aphrodite, she was far more. Within two weeks she had come to terms with the injury and put it behind her, choosing instead to focus on her duties as a demigod and helping to rebuild all that had been tore down throughout the war with the giants and the Romans. In Jason’s eyes, it only made her all the more beautiful. “Which night?” Jason asked with a hesitant laugh. Then, when she appeared hurt at his forgetfulness he added, “I remember two.” Her face returned to normal and she let out a sigh of relief, appearing pleased that he had not, in fact, forgotten. “Both, I suppose.” The two of them had sat there on their first night at camp, a few seats apart but together none the less. It was there that Piper’s mother had claimed her, and that Jason had outed himself as a son of Jupiter. Then again, on the day of their wedding. They had planned for a small affair, the surviving members of the Argo II and maybe Thalia and perhaps Tristan McLean, but given that they announced it so soon after the end of the war…it got a little out of hand. The Big House had been magically renovated to look like the inside of a ancient temple, Jason couldn’t pinpoint whether it was meant to be Greek, Roman or a mix of both, and they had the perfect reception there after saying their vows underneath the magical arch that marked the entrance to camp. it had been the start of many happy days to come, and the memory was one of Jason’s best. Perhaps seconded by, but most definitely equalled to the birth of his daughter. “Do you ever miss the adventure?” Piper asked in such quiet tone Jason was surprised he could hear her. In a way, he supposed he did. But it wasn’t the thrill of adventure that he missed, he missed having all of his friends in one place. Not spread out across the two different camps and one living on a magical island with his girlfriend, Calypso. She hadn’t been released from her prison yet, but Leo had promised to stay with her until she was. Camp Half-Blood, sometimes referred to as Camp Zeus by its newer members, still housed a few members of the Argo II. Jason had been surprised when Nico di Angelo decided to settle down here and become one of the full-time staff members, but he did not complain. Nico had been a god-sent to these people - forgive the pun - because he was the role model Jason could never be. With all Jason’s work training them, it was only natural to have some student-teacher dislike amongst the campers. But they looked up to Nico. Probably because he didn’t have to bark orders at them every day, but because the kids just all round liked him. And if he did want something done, he didn’t have to shout. Everyone just did it. Piper and Jason obviously lived here, and so did Leo on the odd occasion. But the rest had taken up residence in New Rome, the city just outside of Camp Jupiter. Percy and Annabeth had their home there and Frank had continued to train the legion there, becoming the longest standing praetor in the process. He had never asked Frank, but he suspected his work with the legion kept him from thinking about Hazel. “Hmm, do you?” It didn’t feel right to answer Piper like this, like he would his students, but he didn’t know what else to say. “Everyday,” she replied almost instantly. This caught Jason a little off-guard. Sure, he knew Piper had grown and matured an awful lot over the course of their time on the Argo II and that she had enjoyed spending time there more than just about anyone, but he wasn’t aware that she missed it. In Jason’s mind, this was much better than living in constant danger. Obviously this must be different in Pipers mind. “Then...why did you stay? Here, I mean. Why not travel the world or something? Have more adventures?” Piper laughed so hard it caused a few campers to turn and stare. “I really shouldn’t have to answer that, Sparky.” She kissed him on the cheek and then punched him playfully on the arm, both signs of affection Jason had come to love. “Look,” his wife said, pointing towards a girl that was sitting on the edge of the lake, far from where everyone else was having fun. “You should talk to her. You know, do your job for a change.” Jason smirked at her but left to help nonetheless. Silently, the activities instructor made his way to the lake, knowing already who it was he would be talking to. As he sat down, the camper handed him one of a six-pack of Pepsi. As Jason was the ‘cool instructor,’ at least in his own mind, he took it and decided not to bring up the banned nature of the drink. For several minutes they sat there without speaking. They listened to the noises of the water and Jason wondered whether or not Percy was having about to have this very same conversation with someone over in Camp Jupiter. He hoped so. What with Jason as Activities Director and Percy as a history teacher at an elementary school in New Rome, they were both responsible for children now. Not to mention that they had each adopted and raised children who had lost their parents during the war. Gale sat beside Jason, now nearly twenty, and Percy’s twins must be about mid-twenties by this point. Finally, Gale broke the silence and asked her adopted father a question he’d been dreading for years. “Jason, how did my dad die?” It was a question that had been asked before when she was quite young. At that point he’d told her a little bit of the truth; that her mother had died during childbirth and her father had died in the war. But recently she seemed to be wanting more than that, especially now that she was out of her teens. He took a good long swig of Pepsi before answering. When he did, It was so quiet that all he could hear the soft movement of Gale’s fingers running through the sand. Looking behind him he noticed that Piper must have shooed the kids off to bed because the campfire was no longer visible in the dark night. “Your dad, Coach Hedge, Gleeson Hedge, was a casualty of war, Gale.” She opened her mouth to speak but Jason raised one finger, stopper her before she could. There was more that had to be said. “But I know you want to know more about it, and you deserve that. So I’m going to tell you.” Another drink of Pepsi finished the can and Gale handed him a new one. “Your father was always very…eccentric, lets call it, and I’m not sure he even knew what the word ‘fear’ meant until he found out you’re mother was pregnant. After that he was a different person, he spent more time alone. Writing letters to your mother, and to you for when you were born. He even offered to help guard the Athena Parathos on its way back her with my friends Reyna and Mr Di Angelo.’ He pointed to Nico over in the amphitheatre but wasn’t sure if Gale could see him or not. “Gleeson talked a big game, and I’m sure he could deliver it too, but when its a Satyr and a few dozen demigods against a Giant they didn’t know they would be fighting…the odds aren’t great I’m afraid. In the end he and Chiron got everyone packed into the Big House and took the Giant on along with Nico, thats Mr Di Angelo, and Reyna Ramirez Arellano. A demigod from Camp Jupiter and the woman your sister is named after. But the Giant, and I can’t actually remember his name. he compelled your father into fighting against them. Somehow he took control of The Coach and made him fight his friends.” There were no words for a moment, just the sound of the waves and the fright nose of the campers getting ready for bed. Jason felt bad for not telling this to Gale earlier but always felt like it was not his story to tell. After all, he hadn’t been there. It was Nico that had told him the story later. Gale slurped the last of her Pepsi and Jason took that as a sign that he should continue. “Chiron didn’t want to harm your father, and he fought against it for a long time. As did Nico and Reyna. But they couldn’t keep that up forever. Chiron…well, you know how it ended. It took two demigods, Chiron, your father, and the god Dionysus to bring him down. And they did. And I’m told Gleeson was the one that finished him off with his baseball bat before he passed away. “ Again there was silence, but Jason didn’t want to push for a response. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Gale never turned to ask the question, just stared into the endlessness of Long Island sound. Jason had to think about that. When he gave his answer, he was only just realising it himself. “I didn’t want you to hear about how your father fought against this camp. our home, in his final hours. I wanted you to know who he had been up to that point. Not what he had become in the end.” Jason turned to see Gale wiping tears from her eyes. He put his arm around her shoulders, and she the crying intensified. It was like she was just finding out that she’s lost her father. Like she was letting out twenty years worth of pain. It sounded like she could never stop. But Jason let her have this moment of weakness. And Jason did not leave her. Nor did he ever consider it. “Gale, your dad once said to me that everybody cries. Not because they are weak, but because they’ve been strong for too long. Now I’m pretty sure thats a line from a Bruce Lee movie, your dad always loved those, but I think its the best quote I have for right now. He loved you, Gale, even though he never got to know you.” She look up at Jason, he eyes glittering with tears. And all the walls she’d built up over the years came crashing down in one second as she lay her head on his shoulder. “Actually,” said a voice from somewhere behind them. “It was Johnny Depp, not Bruce Lee. I feel insulted, Jason.” They both turned simultaneously to see the one and only Coach Gleeson Hedge standing at Nico di Angelo’s side, his face beaming. For some reason, Jason let out an almighty laugh he didn’t know he was capable of. Everybody stared at him, even Piper and Reyna Jr who had come over with Nico. The laugh lasted for about a minute straight until finally Jason said, “Gale Hedge, meet your father.” Gale looked awestruck, turning her head this way and that before running into her fathers outstretched arms like she used to do when she was a child.
From there, little Reyna started clapping adorably and everyone joined in. Including some campers that were supposed to be sleeping.
Piper picked Reyna up and walked over to Jason’s side where he still stood with an expression even the best psychiatrist couldn’t label. “Nico cashed in a favour with his dad, “ she told him. “ Its just for one night, but I have a feeling it will be worth it.” Jason turned and kissed his wife. Not a big passionate ‘get-a-room’ kind of kiss, but nice like it was always nice. When he pulled away he found himself wiping the tears from his eyes, though he didn’t remember when he started crying. “He’s not the only one though,” another voice said from beside him. Reyna Ramirez Arellano stood to his left hand side, a smug look on her shoulder. “Look around,” she said while gesturing in a wide arc with her arm, nearly hitting Jason in the face in the process. “Everyone that perished during any of the recent wars has this one night given back to them. Or something like that. As Nico, he’s the one who arranged it.” Jason was stunned. Of everything that could have happened tonight, this was not something he expected. He wished he was able to say that he’d arrange it all as Activites Director, but the whole affair had genuinely been a surprise. He turned to his daughter, the younger Reyna, and told her to go wake the campers back up again. After all, making large amounts of noise is what little girls like her do best. There really wasn't much point in having them go to bed only to miss out on this experience. “Apparently your name means ‘My father is joy,’” Coach Hedge was telling Gale. “They really did a great job picking that one. Maybe ‘My father is awesome’ or ‘My father would kick your fathers backside with a baseball bat’ would have been better though.” Jason laughed again and this one went on for at least a minute straight. He was happy to see Coach again, but more happy that Gale got this night with her real dad. She deserved that. Especially after having to put up with Jason for twenty years. “Does Percy…?” He found himself asking anyone who would listen. Jason was surprised that Percy had been one of the first thoughts that came to his head, but he supposed it was only fair that he and Annabeth got to share this gift too. “Oh, we’re there too,” Reyna told him. “Both camps get the pleasure of our company tonight.” He opened his mouth to ask how on earth - or maybe how in the underworld - that was possible but Piper put a finger over his lips in a ‘Shh’ gesture and told him not to question ghosts. And despite fighting many monsters over the course of his life, he was still terrified of Piper above them all. As is to be expected as a husband. The rest of the night was perfect in Jasons mind, and hopefully in everyone else's too. He got to see a father meet his daughter for the first time, his old freinds return for some long overdue catching up, even the look on his campers faces when they were reunited with their family and/or friends that they had lost. Most of them were too young to remember the war, But some of the older ones did. No sleep was had that night by any camper, and despite some angry remarks from the cleaning harpies, no one fell out with anyone and nothing was said that might upset anyone. Except one of the ghosts giving him a message about someone called 'Magnus Chase' from Boston, but he shrugged that off. 'Let someone else deal with that,' he told himself. In the end he slipped away silently and found his way to one of the benches on the campsite. Sooner than he expected, Piper had found him and was sitting beside him, her body pressed against his even though there was plenty of space on the bench. From there he reached out and took her hand. She squeezed it. Jason didn't know why, but this made him smile. "The two Reyna's are having fun together," she told him. "I got the feeling they'd get along," he chuckled. "I think they miss this place," piper said suddenly. Jason looked up. He'd never thought about it, but he supposed Piper was probably right. There was a lot that could be missed about Camp Half-Blood. A lot to be missed about their way of life. "Maybe I answered you too soon, Piper. Maybe I do miss it. The adventures, the danger, everything." "Well, you can always go back to it." She told him. "Whenever you want. The stories will be there. And if you want a new adventure? Hey, go for it. I'll follow you anywhere, Sparky." She turned his face to hers with the smallest movement of her hand. When they kissed this time, it was like they were teenagers again. In that precise moment he felt his first taste of peace in a long, long time. Then, with no regrets as to the life he lived, tried to enjoy it for as long as it might last.