Bright stars pebbled the sky, the moon shining as it began its decent for the night. Treed ruffled in the soft warm breeze and there was no noise but Nico's own breathing. He glanced around wearily, the bags under his eyes dark, a grimace on his lips. The sound of nothing was making him uneasy.
He only hoped Percy had followed.
It was capture the flag, the winning side exempt from dishwashing for two weeks, a prize heavily sought after, especially since they were washed in molten lava. As one usually washes dishes with.
Nico paused, reaching for the sword sheathed at his side, when Percy came stumbling through the greenery about as sneaky as a water buffalo. He righted himself, wildly swinging Riptide where a monster maybe once stood before his... trip.
"What the-" he stopped, seeing Nico, peering around the clearing they had shadow traveled into. Percy capped Riptide and shoved it into his pocket.
"Shush, you'll wake them."
Percy's eyes widened. "Who?" He asked incredulously.
"Spirits. The dead. They're strong here, especially in my presence." Nico tip toed to the side of the clearing staring at the ground.
"Any dead?" Percy whispered, walking quietly to him.
"Not yet. Stay quiet."
"Ok, well, why the fuck are we here? I had the flag, you know." He held up a piece of ripped blue fabric, hangly sadly from a broken stick. His mouth twitched. "We almost won."
"I'm sorry but I didn't know when else to show you. It couldn't wait." Nico argued, not looking the other boy in the eyes. Nico knew this might not be a good idea. Might be the worst he's had yet, concerning Percy Jackson. And that's a very bad thing to think about.
"What couldn't wait? Is somthing wrong? Are you ok?" Percy said urgently, getting his pen sword out but not uncapping it yet.
Nico's heart fluttered like a trapped bird in a cage, but his response was interrupted but multiple shouts. Mortals. He humphed in frustration. Bringing Percy here was a risk.
"Do you know where we are?" Nico asked, watching for mortals through the trees.
"West? I think? I'm not sure, could you just-"
"Sshhhh!!!" Nico hissed. Voices again, much closer. Mortals were dumb but not as dumb as some would like to believe. They knew something was here, lurking.
"Yes," the shorter boy continued, drawing his sword. He heard Percy do the same with Riptide. "We're in Washington state. Remember Washington, Percy?"
There was a brief pause and Nico glanced back, seeing the slight bit of horror on his friends face.
"Mount Saint Helens." He whispered. "But why here? I thought the forge was ruined, exploded for centuries!"
That's true. During Annabeth's quest inside the Labyrinth, Percy had managed to get trapped inside Mount Saint Helens, which was Lord Hephaestus forge being run by the enemies. Well Percy exploded the thing -the entire mountain side- to kingdom come and was presumed dead for two weeks. He lived, of course, he always does, and washed up on shore during his own funeral.
"The forge is down and will be for ages, but that's not what matters. We need to get a better look."
Nico didn't wait for a reacting and started through the trees, ears strained for the sounds or mortals and monsters alike. He felt Percy right behind him.
The base of the mountain was strait ahead, an entrance to the right side, mortals to the left. Monsters could be anywhere but he was forced to rely on his senses for those. Shadow traveling wasn't an option. It would be dark, if it wasn't for hundreds of mortal lights spanning the area. Ever since the Percy explotion, Mount Stain Helen's became a great interest to every creature in a fifty mile radius.
They stayed close to the shrubs and trees, hugging the edge of the forest that had been planted recently.
Nico stopped. They space between the entrance and the forest was small but much too visible. If they were seen...
"On my mark." Nico whispered. He held up three fingers and on three, he went to bolt but somthing reached foward and YANKED.
His instinct was to yell, but Percy's hand clapped over his mouth.
Three men went by, arguing amongst themselves about 'The mountain being alive'
Like most other demigods, Nico had ADHD, and right now, his hyperactive brain was going into overdrive like crazy. Percy was a whole head taller than him, and much more muscular. His scent was exactly as you'd image, like a salty sea spray and mahogany wood. His hand was warm again Nico's mouth and his other arm was wrapped roughly against Nico's torso, ass against groin, chest to back.
Percy slowly let go but Nico scrambled out of his iron hold. "That was close." Percy whispered, seeming not to have noticed the moment that passed between them that went slower than molasses. Nico was shivering, but he wasn't cold.
"Yeah. Close. Let's go." He didn't even look, just dashed silently across the clearing to east entrance. There was a little blue triangle, the mark of Dealdous, only openable by a demigod. Nico's shaking hands could hardly open it, especially when he felt Percy's hot breath down his back.
The door finally slid open, but it didn't open to the Labyrinth, only to the inside of the mountain, on a hidden ledge covered by shadows and rock. But the their view of the inside of unobstructed.
Nico felt Percy gasp beside him. "Welcome to the new and improved Mount Saint Helens, designer, Percy Jackson." Nico deadpanned.
It was complete and utter destruction. Earlier, from Percy's stories, the forge inside was perfect. It had to be, it was the forge of a god. The smelter, the tanners, the forges themselves were perfect, the mountain was rust red and shined, each wall inscribed with Greek letters and different scenes of ancient monsters fighting ancient heroes. It was breathtaking. Nico had once seen it in his dreams.
But now. "Nico..." Percy breathed in disbelief.
Everything was gone. The inside if the mountain was now twice the size, blown apart by the very size of the explosion. The top of it all, where the it use to let in peeks of light was blown hundreds of feet wide in all directions. Stars winked and shined at them merrily, like it wasn't looking at the biggest volcanic explosion of the century. The forges, the inscriptions, not even a scrap of metal was in sight. It was all demolished. All by one demigod.
"By me." Percy said, like he was reading Nico's mind.
Nico nodded. "Percy, I remeber you telling us about your conversation Hephaestus, him calling you the son of the Earthshaker."
Percy squinted. "You weren't there for that conversation."
"You were spying on the council weren't you." Percy said. It wasn't even a question.
"Well, yes. I needed answers!"
Percy stared, unimpressed.
"Anyways!" Nico said, "he called you son of the Eathshaker, not son of the sea. Percy, look at this. This was the forge of a god, can you imagine the power it took to completely destroy the protective seals? The power here was insane and you blew it miles high!"
Percy tried to interrupt, looking a little frightened. At himself of Nico, Nico did not know.
The smaller boy waved his arms. "Think of all the untapped power you have, the things we haven't even begun to look into! All your life you've been son of the sea god, but Poseidon is the god of so much more than that."
He took a breath. Percy was uncharacteristically quiet.
"This is why I brought you here. I know you wouldn't believe me, you're too humble and honestly, you're too scared."
Percy opened his mouth to interject.
"No I get it." Nico said quickly. "You think maybe everybody else is better off without you. You're the kid of a god, a really power god and you're a mistake, the reason that pact was there in the first place. Right?"
The fight seemed to fall right out of the Percy. "Its just-" he stopped. Gesturing to nothing. Confused.
Nico didn't press. They sat there for a while, watching a few mortals as small as ants from their spot. Nico was afraid to stay much longer. He knew, well, things, were stirring in Percy's presence. It wasn't smart to stay much longer but he couldnt bring himself to leave, not yet.
Percy finally spoke. "I guess I've always know. The idea..."
Nico had no idea what was going through his friends head. He just had to be patient.
A few more moments passed.
"When I was here with Annabeth, it was just the two of us."
Nico stilled. He wasnt snooping around for this part or this is the first time Percy's told it.
"Tyson and Grover saw a tunnel in the Labyrinth that they thought led to Pan. So we split. It was stupid and reckless but I think if we hadn't..." he trailed off again.
"Well, I ended up in the middle of a siege and I almost got killed by a school trip of seal children. Don't ask."
Nico tried not the laugh for the time in years. Percy grinned, but it was strained. "I felt this... weird, painfull sensation in my gut and I was like I blacked out from the pain, not the explosion. It took everything out of me for weeks."
"When everyone thought you were dead." Nico added. Probably not helpfully.
Percy laughed dryly. "Yep." They feel into silence. A comfortable one.
"Did you know I was alive?" Percy asked. He was nervously biting him bottom lip like he was afraid to ask.
"It was strange." Nico answered. "I get this buzzing in my head when someone died but with you... it was nothing. Like you'd disappeared. Wherever you went, death couldn't touch you."
Percy was watching him thoughtfully, wearily.
"You think I could do it?" Percy whispered.
"...control the earth? You know, cause earthquakes and stuff?"
Nico paused. He knew Percy could. He already had. Mount Saint Helens was in ruins, Percy had released the most horrible monster to ever exist without dying, and here he was today. He wasn't sure what to say, though. Words weren't his strong suit.
"I think so. I think it wouldn't be easy, at first, just like anything. But it's in your blood. It comes naturally."
Percy muttered somthing to himself, watching the ground below.
"Did I ever tell you that you were my hero?" Nico blurted, cursing himself.
Percy's head snapped toward him.
"You saved me and Bianca from Mr Thorn that night in Westover Hall. With that shield." More words keep stumbling out of his mouth before his could even think of them. "You let Annabeth fall to keep us alive. You didn't know if youd ever see her again. It was amazing."
Percy was just looking at him, waiting, for anything.
"And then you came back, without my sister and I hated you. And then you saved me. Again. And again. And again." Nico's head dropped shamefully.
But before Percy could continute, a ear splitting roar filled the air and the two scrambled to their feet, swords ready. Alarms started to blare, screaming at the mortals.
"We've been here too long. You're presence is waking shit up." Nico shouted over the noise.
"Why didn't you say anything?" Percy screamed back.
"We were having a moment!"
Percy laughed, and it was real, throaty and a little bit maniac.
Nico grinned. "Charge?"
"Charge." Percy agreed easily. "But first what's all this 'were your hero' business?"
Plumbs of smoke rose up twenty feet. Nico was scared, but it wasn't the smoke that scared him, it was Percy's question.
"Maybe after we kill the giant smoke monster you awoke?"
"Maybe." Percy agreed, shrugging and grinning crazily.
Together, they charged.