AN: If you don't usually, please make sure to check out the author's note at the end of the chapter. Also, there's a pretty steamy scene at the end of this chapter, too, so if you don't want to see that, which I can respect, just skip to the end!

You'll be able to tell when it starts. I promise, lol.


As the Cyclops' footsteps grew louder, my estranged friends quickly took to telling me their story- and boy, it sounded rough. Rougher than what happened to me, and well, you guys know all about that.

Actually, I guess that one's up for debate- some people would probably agree I had it worse, but anyway…

According to Annabeth, Clarisse eventually caved and let her come on the quest, along with her half-brother, Deo, who was her first choice in the matter.

Full disclosure, I've never really talked to the guy, but based on what I can actively remember, he's always been decent with a sword, dependable in a pinch, and a larger dude all around.

Plus, he's an agreeable fellow. You kind of need that kind of buffer if you want to survive the potent yet stubborn combination of Clarisse's battle prowess and Annabeth's smarts.

The trio took off from the camp, only to end up trapped on a cruise ship, where our favorite demigod megalomaniac, Luke, gave them a warm welcome. This warm welcome, of course, consisted of disarming them and threatening to hurt them if they made any moves to escape.

In true bad guy fashion, after strapping them up to a pole, he told them about his master plan to recruit half-bloods to help him start a new civilization with Kronos at the helm.

Interestingly enough, my evil cousin also divulged the fact that Kronos, despite previously being cut into millions of tiny pieces, re-formed just a little each time a half-blood decided to enlist in Luke's army.

Fun stuff, that. If you ask me, he should've focused a lot more on getting the Fleece than killing me, but who's to say he isn't trying to do both? There's still a lot of time in the day left, and I've learned my lesson about tempting Fate.

Anyway, back to the story, he told them he had other plans to take care of. Not that they knew this at the time, but those other plans included killing me, of course.

Nonetheless, Luke eventually left them in the company of some very hospitable monsters as he jetted off to Zeus-knows-where to prepare to intercept me.

Clarisse ultimately worked her way out of the bindings using pure strength and determination, freed her quest mates, and they escaped off the cruise on an escape raft after dispelling a few monsters and pushing a few hypnotized mortals out of the way.

After escaping from Luke and subsequently evading a sea monster- Charybdis, I think they said- Ares apparently decided to take pity on the ragtag group of adventurers and sent them a big ghost ship.

Like the Flying Dutchman from SpongeBob, if you will.

Honestly, I was more impressed that they somehow evaded Charybdis on a raft, but I digress.

They all put a quick thank you offering up to the god I beat at age twelve, set sail on his ghost ship full of dead confederate soldiers toward the Sea of Monsters- which I learned is conveniently located in the Bermuda Triangle, and battled, you guessed it, monsters until they bumped onto the shores of Circe's island, where Deo was temporarily transformed into a rodent by the man-hating sorceress.

Again, they escaped- Zeus knows I don't understand how so many of these bad guys get outsmarted by a bunch of teens- and set sail for the island of the Sirens.

Annabeth, as curious and slightly prideful as ever, asked Clarisse to tie her to something so she could listen but not be lured by their songs, but eventually clawed her way out of the restraints and had to be knocked out by Clarisse.

I'm sure Clarisse took no pleasure in that.

It was around this time that a teary Silena called the scurvy crew, sobbing up a storm about how we'd been fighting Titans and that I'd supposedly died protecting the camp.

I won't lie, she made the fight seem all kinds of epic, but apparently, she hadn't done much exaggerating at all- Jason was there too, verifying how things weren't looking so good when they left.

His plain, efficient, and emotionless way of talking balanced out Silena's tearful screaming and Malcolm's crying. Annabeth gave me the biggest glare I'd ever seen when we inevitably breached the subject of why Malcolm was there in the first place but was too out of it to really make a point.

Silena said the last thing she said she saw was me tackling Luke over the railing, and soon after, they were just too far- still, Jason noted how the barometric pressure was fluctuating like crazy, chalking it up to me summoning a storm of epic proportions.

After witnessing my suicidal attempt at buying them time, Jason flew like a man possessed. They reached the camp a few days prior, and Jason immediately enlisted the help of Aphrodite, who set up the new, powerful wards and disappeared in a hurry- probably to find me.

Flash forward a day or two, and the trio somehow reached the island of the Cyclops Polyphemus in one piece, where they found both Grover and the Fleece. Annabeth, remembering my message, snapped the arrow in hopes that it would summon a powerful weapon or god, or something, and then we showed up.

"How did you survive?" Clarisse brought up the question everyone seemed to love asking. No, really- almost everyone in the room had voiced it in one form or another, "You're good, but I mean…"

"Again, let's not worry about it for now," I repeated. In all honesty, I just didn't feel like coming up with an excuse at the moment. "We have bigger problems."

I glanced at Medea, who shrugged back at me. She seemed bored, almost, as if fighting giant Cyclopes was just another Tuesday for her. "If we want to grab the fleece, the fastest way is past him. Got any bright ideas?"

"Bright. Huh," I muttered, rubbing my ring. "Actually, I do. How fast can you guys run?"


FLASH! FLASH! FLASH!

Poseidon's ring burned on my skin, emitting searing purses of heat and light. They collapsed and exploded inward, leaving the cavern covered in scattered trails of phosphorus, "Over here!"

I let myself fall backward, disappearing across the cavern. "No, wait. Over here!"

A rock the size of a small car was hurled at me. I rolled out of the way easily, and it shattered into a thousand different pieces somewhere behind me. "You almost had me!"

"Stop moving!" Polyphemus roared, picking up more boulders and crushing them in the palm of his hand. "I remember you, Nobody!"

"You're too stupid to remember anybody," I taunted. "Much less Nobody."

Before they took off to find the magical towel rag, Annabeth briefly explained to me that Nobody was the name Odysseus had used to trick Polyphemus centuries ago, right before he poked the Cyclops' eye out with a large hot stick.

Yeah, no- really. He got tricked that bad.

Anyway, Annabeth had figured Polyphemus would still have a grudge about that name, and she was right.

It was one of my less complicated plans, sure- all I had to do was say my name was Nobody and teleport around, and Polyphemus was more than willing to play ball. The plan wasn't exactly rocket science, but it worked just as effectively as I'm sure a more complex plan would've worked.

In his frenzy to find his old enemy, he forgot about resealing the cave entrance or even checking up on his prisoners. His full attention was completely on me from the moment I started masquerading as Odysseus.

While I covered their escape, Medea, Clarisse, Grover, and Annabeth bolted out of the cave and made a beeline for the Fleece. Once it was in their possession, they'd give me a sign, and I'd rendezvous to the ship, which was being kept up and running by Deo.

As I kept dodging his rocks, taunting him silly, I noticed his building fatigue. His crumbling confidence. In the face of Nobody, Polyphemus was beginning to completely lose himself.

Not that I cared. Believe me, I didn't.

I couldn't even make myself feel a twinge of sympathy for the beast- by this point, he's probably killed dozens, if not hundreds of people, all sailing out to get the Fleece for one reason or another, and clearly hasn't felt too bad about it.

Besides, I knew I'd hurt him if I had to. Kill him, even, disregarding the fact that he's technically one of my siblings. I wouldn't feel any ounce of regret if I did what I had to do to protect the people I care about.

A bright flash from the outside of the cave got my attention- a spark of electricity from the tip of Clarisse's spear. That must be their signal!

Kind of basic if you ask me, but we're trying to survive a monster, here, not win a fashion show.

After flashing the ring a few more times, I dipped out of the cave and met up with the group. I figured he'd still be looking for me, and in the event that he was smart enough to come out, we'd already be gone.

Hopefully, anyway.

We ran down the winding trail, eventually reaching the beach at which they'd docked. Clarisse's ship, without a doubt, was the strangest ship I'd ever seen.

It rode low in the water like a submarine, its deck plated with iron. In the middle was a trapezoid-shaped casemate with slats on each side for cannons. A flag waved from the top—a wild boar and spear on a bloodred field.

Lining the deck were zombies in gray uniforms—dead soldiers with shimmering faces that only partially covered their skulls.

The ship was an ironclad. A Civil War battle cruiser. I could just make out the name along the prow in moss-covered letters: CSS Birmingham.

Deo, dressed in full battle armor, waved at us from atop the ship. If he was surprised to see me, he hid it well, "Guys! Hey! Come on up!"

Medea nodded as we stepped into the surf, seemingly satisfied with the ship. "Not bad. Old school. We've got a few like this."

"Thanks," Clarisse said, genuinely moved by the praise. That was almost more surprising than anything else I'd seen this week. She was basically carrying Annabeth, who had the Fleece wrapped around her. "Let's get on."

A deafening roar passed over the beach. Polyphemus rose from the cave, looking toward us. His nose was twitching, almost as if he could smell the damned piece of fabric, "MY FLEECE!"

His milky eye blinked a few times, adjusting to the sunlight. Not even a moment later, the ground shook with footsteps as he barreled toward us. "GIVE ME BACK MY FLEECE!"

"Run, run, run!" I screamed, blasting the ship out to the ocean with a wave. Grover hopped up to the stern, where Deo pulled him up with an offered hand.

The ship swayed in the churning water, and he stumbled on the last foothold, falling onto Deo, who yelped.

Medea helped Clarisse heft Annabeth up, before jumping up, herself. She looked down at me, offering a hand.

I turned to take her hand, but my attention was forced back to the beach, where Polyphemus charged into the surf.

FWOOSH!

I clapped my hands together, and the ocean whipped around his ankles, dropping him into the water.

The impact sent a shockwave that pushed the ship back a bit. Medea was forced to retract her hand, gripping the railing tightly, instead. "Jackson! Get your ass up here!"

"One sec!" I nodded, making a punching motion with my hand.

A translucent fist of water exploded out of the water and smashed into Polyphemus, crunching against his stomach. He immediately stumbled and fell on his face again.

An explosion of water under my feet placed me squarely on the ship. As a slow tug-tug-tug started moving the boat, Polyphemus made another move to grab us.

My gut clenched, and the ocean shifted. It began piling all over the Cyclops, who was restrained by the lapping waves of the shore. "NO! Father Poseidon, curse this thief!"

Nothing happened.

"Father!" Polyphemus bellowed again. "Curse him! Curse Nobody!"

The salty air of the ocean dissipated on my face as I stood on the deck of the ship. A grim expression settled on my face as I listened to Polyphemus beg my- no- our father to help him.

A monstrous wave blasted us away from the Cyclops. I glared at him as we drifted away from the island, "Sorry, brother. I win."


In the time it took us to get back to camp, I told Medea a modified version of the truth.

I mean, I didn't really want to, but I knew she'd have questions about everything, and if I wanted her to help me lie to everyone else, I'd need to at least construct the beginnings of a base of trust between us.

I explained that somewhere out there, a mysterious entity had given me the power to, well, teleport. I pointed to Heket as some sort of magical unknown and chalked everything I could do up to her.

I figured she wouldn't mind too much...seeing as I'm the reason she's alive and well. In a roundabout sort of way, anyway.

Besides, the existence of the game is a secret I plan on keeping to myself for just about forever.

Medea seemed to buy my modified truth anyway, so it wasn't a big deal.

When we got back to the camp shore, I was still on edge by the absence of Luke. There's no way he'd just let us meander back to the camp that easily, right?

Or, well, maybe not. He's probably still also under the impression that I'm dead, so...

Pushing those thoughts out of mind, for now, I couldn't help but notice how deserted the camp seemed- which was super out of character.

I mean, it was late afternoon, and the archery range was empty. The climbing wall poured lava and rumbled all by itself.

Pavilion: nothing. Cabins: all vacant. Hell, even the campfire where Hestia usually posted up was desolate, the fire doused.

Then I noticed smoke rising from the amphitheater. I reasoned that it was too early for a campfire, and I didn't figure they were roasting marshmallows in broad daylight, so you can imagine just how curious I was.

I could briefly make out the rings of audio feedback, too, like someone was trying and failing to use a microphone.

As Annabeth and the rest of the crew moved to place the Fleece on Thalia's tree, I ran toward the commotion, intent on figuring out what was going on.

Before I got there, the audio feedback bottomed out, and I could hear Chiron making an announcement.

When I realized what he was saying, I stopped dead in my tracks.

"—lost a true warrior," Chiron said. "No other man would have fought two titans to cover for his friends' escape. I fear the only reason we're even protected anymore is due to his noble sacrifice. I have asked his best surviving friend to do the final honors."

The amphitheater was packed, way fuller than I'd ever seen it before- including that one time Ares lost Capture the Flag and was forced to let everyone toss pies in their faces.

Every camper, spirit, and everything in between was packed into the stands.

"My boyfriend...was a true hero."

I climbed up to the back of the amphitheater. Nobody noticed me. They were all looking forward, watching as MJ- what the hell was MJ doing here- took a long green silk burial cloth, embroidered with a trident, and set it on the flames.

Jason stood next to her, staring at the shroud impassively. I saw his hands clenched at his sides.

Next to him, Piper sobbed into her hands. A teary-eyed Silena rubbed her back slowly, but the majority of her attention was focused on Malcolm, who was wailing into her shirt.

They were burning my shroud. Next to it, I saw a similarly made one with an owl on it, and two with Ares' boar on there.

Oh.

"A little melodramatic if you ask me," I hollered from the back, hiding behind some of the bigger Ares kids. "Kid must've been a real punk if this is what we're doing for him."

A gasp went through the crowd. All the campers started to look around, murderous intent floating up from them like a cloud of smoke.

"Who said that?" MJ turned to face the audience. She looked terrible. Her eyes were puffy from crying, but she still managed to give a killer glare, "Show yourself right now."

I jumped up on the bench and waved at the crowd. "Oh, well, I just feel like it's my right to comment. Since, you know, it's my shroud…"

Heads turned. People gasped. One or two campers straight up fainted.

"Percy!" One of the Hephaestus kids, Beckendorf grinned. "I knew it! Papa's getting paid tonight!"

A bunch of other kids crowded around me and clapped me on the back. Clapping and celebration started ringing out in the amphitheater, and I even heard a few cheers from even the Ares cabin.

Chiron cantered over and everyone made way for him. He looked down, his eyes flickering with happiness. For a moment, I flashed back to before I left last summer- except now, Chiron was grinning like a madman, not foreseeing my death.

"Well," He sighed with obvious relief. "I don't believe I've ever been happier to see a camper return. But you must tell me—"

"WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?" Piper interrupted, running over to us, behind MJ, who shoved aside the other campers roughly.

When she got to me, she hugged me so fiercely she nearly cracked my ribs. I heard small sobs shaking her body, and I wrapped her in the tightest hug I could.

The other campers fell silent.

MJ pulled away, her eyes swelling with tears. She slowly brought her hand up to my face and began pressing it, tracing the contours of my face like she couldn't believe it was me.

She whispered, "Baby?"

"I told you I'd come back," I nodded, smiling, and holding her hand with my own. "Plus, it'll take a bit more than the aunt of every Elder Olympian, the Titan of Mortal Death, and an invincible demigod to bring me—"

MJ lunged forward before I could finish talking, pressing her lips to mine, hard. I snaked my arm around her waist, and she brought her fingertips up to my hair, taking handfuls and pulling me deeper into the kiss.

There were catcalls and another round of clapping.

MJ pulled back a moment later, biting her lip. I could tell she wanted to kiss me again, but she held herself back.

Piper coughed from behind her, "I'd rather not get that kind of greeting, but, uh…hug?"

I laughed loudly and pulled Piper into a hug. "You got it, Pipes. See what happens when you leave, though?"

"Yeah, yeah," Piper shook her head. Her hair had a streak of green in it now, "The Stark expo went tits up, anyway. Peter and I, well, I'll tell you about it later."

Jason was next. He pulled me into a simple hug and didn't say anything, but I felt his palpable relief. "Next time, I'm staying."

"You got it, Jace," I said, patting his head with a smirk. He didn't bat my hand away for once, just smiling and rolling his eyes. "I'll make sure to keep you in the loop."

Silena hugged me next, "It's good to see you wonder boy."

"I'm wonder boy again?"

"Well, until Jason one-ups you," Silena shrugged. She turned to Jason, "You planning on that anytime soon?"

"Nope."

We all started laughing.

I scooped up Malcolm and patted his back as he started blubbering incoherently, "It's okay, buddy, I'm back. We're going to have a fun summer, okay? Well, um, fun until Annabeth gets back. We're going to be in a bit of trouble for a while following that."

"Annabeth is alive?" Chiron repeated.

"Oh yeah! Annabeth, Deo, Clarisse. Grover, too. They're setting up the fleece right now. You know, the one from the myths."

"Percy Jackson," Chiron said slowly. "You may be the strangest man I've ever met."


The celebrations continued for a bit.

Some of the Apollo kids broke into the kitchen and came running out with packs of soda, and a big cake.

After multiple rounds of camp karaoke, charades, duck duck goose, and so much more, we eventually migrated over to the dining hall, and I took part in the longest rager I'd ever seen at camp.

We all sat at one table, with every seat circling me, and eventually Clarisse and Annabeth.

Everyone wanted to come around and hear my story, and that was only exacerbated when Medea showed up.

The "new girl" with a metal gauntlet? Psh. Half the guys swooned the moment she stepped into the dining pavilion.

I let her do the talking.

She explained how EDEN was tracking me, hoping to merge with camp and wanting to speak with me as a leader. In harrowing detail, she described the panic she felt when I began to battle, the tension when the portal wouldn't open, and the relief when I was alive when she eventually got there- if only barely.

I joined in from time to time, giving out altered versions of what happened. MJ sat by my side the whole time, holding my arm as if she was afraid I'd disappear.

Chiron finally trotted over, too, only to instantly recognize Medea. After getting over his moment of surprise, he invited her to the Big House to talk more. She shot me a look and walked away with him.

I took that as my sign to leave. I'd had a long week, and going back to my cabin with MJ was just the kind of relaxation the doctor ordered.

Not that it was easy.

It was a day of celebration and joy- the entire camp was so happy, the festivities continued onward even after the harpies came out.

If I'd been a celebrity at the camp before, I was just about the closest thing to a legend now. Something told me that once EDEN was done merging with us, I'd be in dire need of that office building Medea and I talked about.

After a few more goodbyes and promises to hang out the next day, MJ and I began walking back to my cabin.

The night was warm. Fireflies buzzed around us. Off in the distance, some of the campers began a hearty tune, and the campfire exploded upward, bathing the camp in hues of pink, blue, orange, and everything in between.

"I'm sorry for worrying you," I said, stopping the moment we were alone to take MJ's face in my hands again. She opened her mouth and I cut her off, "I know. I never wanted to, but I realized there was only one way to save everyone. I'm sorry."

"I was scared," MJ whispered, her voice stabbing at my heart. The hurt, the fear. Those weren't emotions I ever wanted her to fear, not from me. "I don't know what I would've done."

"What do you mean?"

"If you died," MJ muttered, casting her gaze downward. She repeated, "I don't know what I would've done."

"MJ…"

"I can't," MJ choked back a sob. "I lost my brother a while ago and I never…I…if I lost you too, I couldn't…keep going."

I didn't know what to say. I didn't even know she had a brother, let alone one that died. Some boyfriend I am.

I pushed my growing curiosity aside and gently stroked her cheek. I could ask about him later. Right now, she needed me.

"I prayed to your father the day I heard," MJ continued, rubbing her eyes. We were nose to nose now. She pulled away a bit and held up a bracelet. I noticed a glowing sword on it. "I…"

"MJ," I said slowly. "What were you going to do? What did you do?"

"I was going to do what Orpheus did," MJ mumbled, not meeting my eyes. "Your dad thought you died, too. He was so mad, Percy."

I pieced together the rest of the story, "You were going to go to the Underworld? And then what?"

"I was going to get to you…or die trying," MJ said seriously, picking her gaze back up. I felt like my entire body was slowly being submerged in ice water. "This sword…"

It flashed into her hands. Instantly, my vision was blurred by the sheer amount of mana flowing out of the weapon. Its appearance alone flattened the grass around it, and a faint hum slowly began emanating from the hilt.

"Imbued with my dad's power," I whispered, treating the blade as if it was a nuclear warhead- which it might as well have been. "MJ…you could've been seriously hurt. Or hurt someone else…"

"Do you think I care?" MJ whispered back furiously, dispelling the sword. Her voice got slightly manic, "If they took you from me, they'd have to deal with the consequences. You would do the same for me."

And I would. I knew she was right. Just the thought of someone taking her from me, hurting her…Zeus, it filled my body with so much rage I could feel it. If she was ever in danger, I'd tear the people involved into so many pieces Kronos would be jealous.

"I love you," I blurted out, resting my forehead against hers. I didn't think there was anything else I could say to convey my feelings. "I love you so much."

"I love you too, Percy," She whimpered and gently put her face in the crook of my neck. "You're mine. Forever."

"Forever," I agreed. "And more. Now let's go inside, it's been a long day."

She nodded, and I kissed her softly before opening the door.

Ping!

I felt another presence in the room with us, and, Riptide was out and ablaze. It was like a phantom pain- a reflex. My body moved before I even made the conscious thought.

"Well, son, I'm glad to see you too," My dad said dryly from one of the bunks. "Though, I do think I would prefer if you put the sword away. I've always found it easier to have a conversation without a weapon in my face, but if you insist, I can heft my trident."

"Kind of ruins the whole reunion, don't you think?" Triton added from the top bunk. "I mean, unless you're not happy to see him, and you want to hurt him, in which case, I guess it would be the best reunion ever."

"Dad, Triton," I sighed in relief, spinning Riptide, and tossing it on the floor. "You have no idea how nice it is to see you guys."

"The feeling's mutual, son," Poseidon's eyes crinkled. He gave me a slightly-less-awkward-than-usual hug. "You gave us a…fright."

"Meh," Triton shrugged as he gave me a hug, too, before jumping back to the top bunk, where I saw a happy meal waiting to be eaten. "You guys should've listened to me. I mean, I trained the kid."

"You said he was dead," Poseidon deadpanned. He stretched his arms out as Triton bit into a burger, "Dead and gone, I think. And then you started singing a song."

"Oh," Triton remembered, talking around the food in his mouth. His combat boots squeaked together as he dangled his feet, "You know, I think I might've said that. Good thing you didn't listen to me then, pops. Plus, TI just seemed…appropriate at that moment. Dead and gone, dead and gone."

The scene felt so familiar I couldn't help but let out a chuckle. MJ giggled next to me, and my heart swelled painfully.

Poseidon turned to her, "Hello, my dear. May I have the sword back?"

"Of course, my lord," MJ nodded, unclicking the bracelet, and tossing it to my dad, who snatched it out of the air. "Thank you."

"No, thank you, lass," Poseidon winked. "I couldn't possibly have gone to the Underworld myself, but your loyalty to my son was more than admirable. You have a good one there, Percy."

"Oh, I know," I smiled, kissing MJ's forehead. "For sure. How'd the conference go?"

Poseidon's expression dropped a bit. "Well, you see…"

"It went like shit," Triton laughed, "They didn't want to listen to us at all."

"What was it even about?" In all honesty, I didn't have the slightest idea what they were talking about. All I could remember was that at some point toward the end of my school year, Triton said he had to go back to Atlantis for a while.

I never bothered asking why. In my defense, the last basketball game of the season was coming up, and I wanted to put on a show!

Which I did. Fifty points, twenty rebounds...and a nice victory lap around the court with MJ on my shoulders.

"Subsidiaries," My dad said with a noncommittal wave. "Following your defeat of Oceanus, entire colonies were subsequently liberated and, in some cases, left without a leader or the backing of a deity."

MJ and I took a seat on the bunk facing my dad, "Well, what does that mean?"

"Simply put, it was our job to convince these smaller power structures to be inducted into the hierarchy of Atlantis," Poseidon supplied. "The issue, of course, being that Oceanus let individual colonies declare themselves as countries if they were so inclined."

Triton nodded, swinging off the top bunk and landing in front of us, his hands outstretched in an exaggerated gymnast's pose. "So, now, you have dozens of kings and queens and all that, all of whom think that they're the top dog. Our job in the initial conference was to try to put some sort of order in the free state of the ocean before they began the process of tearing themselves apart."

"And you said it went like shit?"

"Basically. Most of the smaller colonies looked to the bigger ones, and, as you'd expect, all of the bigger ones have some sort of beef with each other," Triton continued. "Feuds, bad blood- not even one of them wanted to listen. They got kind of mean, actually."

"And you just stood there and took it?" I looked at my dad. "The high and mighty Poseidon, the one that destroyed entire cities for not worshipping him correctly, stood there and took those insults?"

"He did not," Poseidon interjected proudly. "I proposed an idea."

"Which was…"

"Lemme give you some context," Triton leaned forward. "Back in the day, princes were regarded as the indicators of how any given kingdom was doing. They were kind of like symbols, in a sense. I'm sure you know the myth of Troilus."

I laughed awkwardly, and Triton groaned. "Really, Percy? Really?"

MJ put a hand on my arm, "Babe, Troilus. The Trojan prince, son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy?"

"Oh, stop patronizing the lad," Poseidon said, rolling his eyes, "It had been prophesied that Troy would never fall if Troilus reached the age of twenty. Thus, when Troilus was a boy, Achilles ambushed him as he was drinking from a fountain and killed him."

"Oh. Yikes."

"Yes. Yikes," Poseidon said placidly. He brushed some sand off of his fishing shirt, "He's not the only example, either. All throughout history, important heroes have always been princes of some sort. However, to save us all some time, I'll skip ahead- I've instituted a competition. Every kingdom will send forward a convoy with their king, queen, and crown prince to a neutral palace, and we will determine who is most fit to rule, based on a series of psychological and physical tests."

"Most of these princes are spoiled fat kids who've never been in a fight," Triton said, grinning. "It's going to be easy."

"Triton's going to wipe them," I snorted, imagining my demon of a brother being tossed in the ring with a bunch of nobodies. "That isn't even fair."

"No," Triton agreed smugly. "It isn't. That's why you were chosen."

"Well, it still isn't fair," I said crossly. "How is this even something they agreed to? Why are we even a part of this? Can't you just, like, make them submit? You're the god of the seas, for crying out loud."

"Espionage and public relations, mostly," Poseidon admitted. "It would be easy to send troops and forcibly conquer these lands, but it would be far more effective to have my son, my pride, win their hearts. It'll make for a more sustainable era of peace."

"The secondary objective, of course, is unlocking your latent power," Triton added.

"Doesn't Atlantis already do that?"

"There are certain…things you can only unlock underwater," Poseidon said evasively. "This opportunity will also be your secondary training led exclusively by your brother and me. Delta will assist from time to time."

That got my attention. "You? Like, all the politics and stuff you taught me last time?"

"No," Poseidon said, clasping his hands. "Power. Finesse. The ability to harness the ocean inside of you."

"Well, then, I'm in," I grinned. "As long as MJ can come."

"We can work it out," My dad smiled, standing up. He slapped a hand down on my shoulder. "Take a week, rest. Then come to Atlantis. I'll send an enchanted article of clothing for Mary Jane."

"Of course," I agreed, nodding. "See you next week."

My dad and brother disappeared with little more than a wave.

I hope that's on the list of things they're teaching me this summer, 'cause it would save me a whole lot of time if I could just throw up a hand and teleport wherever I wanted to.

"Well, I hope you're ready for a vacation," I grinned at MJ, who gave me a bright smile. Relief was written all over her face, "What! I did say I wasn't leaving you alone!"

"Oh, and I appreciate it, babe," MJ said, kissing my cheek and whispering in my ear, "I appreciate it a lot. You know, Percy, I did promise you a few things when you got back to me, and now since you're here…"

Heat bloomed on my neck as she moved her lips lower, sucking on my skin. "I've been waiting for you to get back for a long time…"

I moved my hands a bit lower, gripping MJ's thigh and pulling her more onto my lap.

She moaned, humming into my neck and moving her hands down my shirt.

I ran my hands over her smooth skin. Tension was building in my body, pounding in my chest, and roaring in my ears. Something inside me felt needy.

She bucked her hips and wrapped her legs around my torso. With surprising strength, she crushed her legs together, forcing me deeper into her embrace.

Pro tip everyone- do yourself a favor and date a cheerleader. I'd get cut in half all over again if it meant feeling those legs around me.

"You deserve a reward," She whispered. "Every good hero does. And I'm…right…here…"

I'm not ashamed to admit how much that line, especially coming from her, turned me on, "I hope you're ready for a long night, MJ."

"Oh?" She pulled back and smashed her lips against mine, forcing me down onto the bunk and grinding onto my jeans. I pulled my shirt off. "How long?"

"Well, I mean, Big Ben strikes ten, right?" My hands traveled to the hem of her shirt, pulling it up.

MJ stopped for a moment, "What?"

"Get it?" I said, grinning. "Me! I'm Big B- oh come on, 'cause, I could go for ten rounds..."

"Honey, I love you, but you need to shut up and kiss me."

I rolled my eyes and complied. She reacted by running her nails down my chest and stabbing them into my sides, forcing herself as close to me as humanly possible.

It hurt in a good way.

"Mm, Percy," MJ moaned, bucking her hips against me. I moved my hand over her bare skin, heating up my fingertips just a bit, "Oh, Percy."

"Don't stop, Percy," She kept grinding against me, her hand traveling up behind her back and unhooking her bra. She grabbed my hand and closed it around her left boob, "Percy, oh my god, yes!"

"Percy…Percy…"

"Percy!" A voice yelled out of nowhere.

"Oh, sweet mother of Zeus!" I yelped, and MJ instantly rolled over, covering herself up with my blanket and pressing into my side so that only the top of her head was visible.

Nephthys sat on the foot of the nearest bunk bed. "Hello!"

"Nephthys? What the hell!" I said, scrambling to put my shirt on. "What the fuck do you want?"

"Well, for one, to check up on you," Nephthys continued. She frowned, crossing her arms over her now white crop top- does this woman only have clothes that show off her stomach? "I wanted to see if you'd learned your lesson- is this a bad time?"

"Well, I mean, um, kind of, yeah!" I stammered. "I was just about to go to bed!"

"Oh, I'm sorry!" Nephthys immediately backtracked, waving her hands. "I just figured now would be a good time! Since you're away from most people!"

MJ stirred next to me, disappearing under the blanket. I was confused for a second until I felt her hike up my shirt and press her warm lips on my chest.

"Yep," I said distractedly, trying to ignore the feeling of MJ's nails tracing down my skin. "I, uh, yeah. Alone! So, was there, like, a message you wanted to deliver, or something?"

"Oh, not really," Nephthys muttered, dangling her feet over the bed, and kicking them around. "As I said, there was a lot of mourning and lamentation going around here, so I did some digging and was under the impression you died! So, of course, I wanted to drop in and gloat, but here you are alive and well!"

"Uh-huh," I said. "That, uh, fuck, is really sweet and nice."

MJ bit my abs, and I resisted the urge to make a noise. "You, er, should talk me in the morning, when I…huh….am rested up."

"Hm. I'm busy in the morning."

"You've got to be kidding me," I hissed to myself as MJ fumbled with the zipper on my pants. Nephthys glared at me, and I remembered I was talking to a goddess, "I mean, like, I was just saying I need my rest. I'd hate to...phew...have this conversation right now."

"Oh, I mean, I guess I'm sorry," Nephthys said, nodding awkwardly. "I just wanted to talk…"

"I, uh, oh, I'm good, right now, I mean," I said as MJ wrapped her hand around, er, my clock. "Like, I should sleep. And you should go. Now."

Nephthys huffed, "See, that right there is what I wished to speak about! That annoying Greek arrogance! I thought my mummies and almost dying would've taught you some better manners!"

"You sent those mummies? Why the—" I stumbled over my words as MJ lowered her mouth, and my whole body shivered in pleasure. "Um…you know what, you're right."

"I am?" Nephthys said, a look of surprise forming on her face. "Oh, wow. I thought you'd argue, or something."

"No, no arguing here," I leaned backward as MJ began stroking up and down. "Um, I really am tired though. We should maybe talk more in-depth tomorrow."

"Oh. Yeah, I guess that makes sense," Nephthys nodded. "Tomorrow, then."

She vanished, and I flipped over the blanket.

"Sorry, I just couldn't resist," MJ giggled, still stroking me. "Now, then….where were we?"


AN: First off, thank you all so much for the support! With this chapter, not only is my version of SoM over, but TFOAC also officially broke the 300k word limit, and I don't plan on losing any momentum anytime soon, either.

I'm so glad SoM is over, because, again, it's my least favorite arc, and I think even my story wasn't immune to that.


For posterity, here are the stats for TFOAC at the conclusion of the SoM arc:

Reviews: 1,593

Followers: 3,630

Favorites: 3,113

Communities: 24

Views: 586,706

Place on the All-Time stories list: 19th

Arc Completion (how much content we've gone through so far): 18%


I did some restructuring, and the story will now feature some more arcs before its completion.

What does that mean?

Well…as you can see up there, we're only 18% done. Yep. 18%.

The stats for this story given everything I want to work through are just bonkers. You're telling me we're not even a quarter of the way through the arcs, and you guys are showing this much love?

Thank you all, again. Now, though, the stage is set.

What comes next, well.

Some of you will hate me, love me, hate me again, love me more than you've loved me before…possibly hate me, hate me for sure, want to kill me, and after all that, you might just think I'm crazy.

If you don't already, that is.

As always, before I move onto the next major arc in earnest, I'll go back and tweak some things, just to make re-readability a bit better. I know some of those earlier chapters were, well, rough. I will also be updating the arc list on the first chapter, so do be sure to consult that from time.

Anyways- that's all from me.

Thank you and see you soon.

Your pal,

Maroon