Thanks to Thobeobo for beta-reading this chapter.

I do NOT own Percy Jackson or its universe. All rights go to Rick Riordan and his publisher.

ENJOY!


Chapter 17

Reyna Gets a New Coat


The hours that followed their departure from Camp Half-Blood were some of the longest in Reyna's entire life, and it truly made her wish they didn't need five people on this quest. Thalia questioned every single decision that Zoë made, no matter how insignificant it was, and overall proved herself to be a fairly unpleasant person to be around.

Zoë returned with equal fire, though, unwilling to ignore it, but she never initiated anything.

Reyna just wished that Annabeth would stop commenting on every piece of architecture that they passed. Percy had told her that Annabeth did the same thing on his first quest with her, but hearing about it was very different from experiencing.

Phoebe finally snapped when Thalia asked for the millionth time if Zoë was absolutely sure they were going in the right direction. "Can you SHUT UP!"

Thalia glared at her.

"She's just checking," Annabeth said defensively.

"She doesn't need to do it every two minutes," Reyna interjected. "Zoë is the leader of this quest," she added to Thalia, "and if you're going to spend the entire trip doubting her choices, then you shouldn't have volunteered to come along."

Thalia folded her arms and aimed her glare out the window.

Reyna was really starting to regret sitting in the middle row of the van. Zoë and Phoebe were sitting up front while Thalia and Annabeth were in the back, and the entire ride had been filled with arguing and complaints. Reyna was very close to losing what little restraint she had left, slitting their throats, and moving on with the quest with half of their team dead.

It wasn't her fault they had no discipline.

Okay, so maybe Reyna wouldn't actually kill them, but she would certainly find a way to dump the baggage so the journey was a bit more peaceful.

They had only stopped once, and it was only for gas in Maryland. They had gotten drinks while there, but that was likely going to bite them soon. Someone would realize they needed to use the restroom, and they would be somewhere they couldn't stop.

Reyna just hoped they could hold it.

They eventually crossed the Potomac River into Washington. Reyna saw the towering obelisk that was the Washington Monument in the distance, and it seemed that Zoë was heading in that direction. Phoebe's tracking had guided them this way, so Reyna trusted there was a reason for them to be here. Zoë and she both knew where they were truly going, and they had plenty of time to reach California, so a quick pit stop to make it look like they were figuring it out wasn't too great an issue.

"That way." Phoebe pointed towards one of the buildings that lined the strip.

They followed her to the Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian. The door was open, thankfully, so they were able to slip inside and escape the freezing weather.

What made it even better was the lack of people.

Reyna thought that was strange, considering the popularity of the Smithsonian, but she wasn't about to question it when there was a high probability that a powerful monster was near.

The main room of the museum was a huge space filled with rockets and airplanes that hung from the ceiling. Three levels of balconies circled it so observers could look at the exhibits from varying heights and directions. Only a few families and a couple of tour groups were present, which made getting around the room without being hindered much easier.

"Stay alert," Zoë ordered. "We do not know how close the monster is."

She shared a significant look with Reyna and Phoebe. Whatever they were facing here undoubtedly wasn't whatever Artemis had been tracking, but it would be to their advantage to take out a powerful monster before the Titan Army could get their claws on it.

As they walked through the museum, Reyna noted that Thalia and Annabeth had dropped behind the group, having a heated conversation in whispers. Whatever it was, it looked like Thalia was trying to convince Annabeth of something, but the daughter of Athena was stubbornly refusing.

They were almost to the Apollo shuttle when Reyna saw a familiar face near the girls' restroom—a face she hadn't seen in two months.

"I'll be right back," she said to the group. "Bathroom."

No one questioned her reasoning, much to Reyna's relief, so she quickly walked away. She would have warned them against killing each other if she wasn't slightly hopeful that it happened. It was obvious the Hunters would come out on top, having several centuries or even millennia more experience than Annabeth and Thalia combined several times over.

Entering the bathroom, Reyna found four others inside.

"Why are you here, Alex?" Reyna asked quickly.

The only dark-haired girl in the group smiled, but her eyes were strangely empty. When she spoke, she had an accent that sounded from a distant time. "I'm afraid this isn't a pleasant visit, Reyna. We have bad news."

"What?"

"Luke Castellan is here," one of the three blondes pitched in—Tammi, if Reyna recalled correctly. "The General sent him to stall you."

"The manticore is here as well," Alex took over. "They wanted to raise Spartoi, but their spy at the hero camp failed to procure any belongings from your group for the Spartoi to use to track you."

"And so they sent us," cut in another blonde. Reyna didn't recognize this one, though. "They figured a few empousai could do a better job than the incompetent dracaenae guard that follows Castellan everywhere he goes."

"Have you heard anything about Percy?" Reyna asked.

"Very little," Alex frowned. "I haven't seen him since he killed Kelli."

"She had it coming," Reyna almost growled. The damn creature had taken things too far in her attempts to seduce Percy, and he had made sure she would never do it again—not to mention that they had been unsure of her true loyalties to begin with. She looked back at Alex and said, "Thank you."

"We won't be able to do more than this," Alex warned. "We will have to try and kill you if we wish to maintain our cover in the Titan Army."

"I understand," Reyna said grimly. "Let's just hope I can get the others out of here soon so we can get a head start."

"Good luck," Tammi told her softly.

"We'll need it. The Hunters and campers have no idea how to work together." And Reyna feared the quest would fail because of it, just as the prophecy warned.

She left the bathroom without another word and rejoined the others to continue searching the place. They scoured the building from the bottom up, working their way through each level to try and find any clue as to what the monster was or where it was hiding.

While they walked, Reyna thought of Percy. She prayed to the Fates that he was still alive and she prayed to Fortuna that they would make it in time. They would need considerable good luck, with the way things were going so far, but Reyna doubted the others would find it in them to work together to achieve both of their goals by saving Percy and Artemis. It was starting to look like an impossible task that would never be completed.

"There's nothing here," Thalia exclaimed impatiently. "We should get back on the road before—"

Everyone froze as they heard a growl so loud Reyna thought it was thunder. Below them, a few tourists screamed. A little kid's voice reached their ears next, sounding delighted: "Kitty!"

Then the monster appeared, bounding up the ramp. It was easily the size of a pick-up truck, with silver claws and glittering golden fur.

"The Nemean Lion," Thalia said. "Don't move."

"It's not a fucking dinosaur!" Reyna yelled, uncapping Riptide.

Why Percy had insisted they watch a movie about dinosaurs going rogue and eating a bunch of idiotic mortals, Reyna would never know, especially when those situations were things they dealt with on an almost daily basis in real life.

Thalia clearly didn't know anything about lions, though, if she thought that making themselves an easier target was the best option. They had to hold their ground or slowly back away, and with the way the monster was looking at them, the latter didn't seem like an option.

The lion roared loud enough to blast their hair back like a wind tunnel. His fangs gleamed like freshly-polished daggers, ready to tear them to pieces.

"Move!" Zoë snapped. "Keep it distracted."

Thalia didn't look happy about taking orders from Zoë, but she didn't say anything after Annabeth shot her a sharp look.

Reyna rolled to the side as Zoë and Phoebe loosed arrows at the lion. Thalia and Annabeth pulled out their spear and dagger, respectively, though Reyna had no clue how Annabeth thought a dagger would help against a monster like this.

The Hunters leapt as gracefully as gazelle onto the Apollo capsule, never ceasing in their firing, shooting one arrow after another. Each one shattered against the lion's fur without any effect.

The lion went to swipe at the capsule, but Thalia got between them with Aegis and thrust her shield forward. "Hi-yah!"

The lion roared and recoiled, retreating.

Thalia pressed forward while she had an advantage, but Reyna saw the lion's legs tensing as if he were about to pounce.

"Hey!" Annabeth yelled. She stabbed her dagger at the lion's side, but it only clanged harmlessly against the fur with a shower of sparks.

The lion raked her with his claws, cutting open her arm, and she flew across the room. Annabeth's head hit a wall with a sickening crack and she slumped to the floor.

"No!" Thalia screamed. She thrust her spear forward and an arc of blue electricity shot out, zapping the lion's tail.

The lion roared furiously and swiped at Thalia.

She rolled out of the way, barely managing to avoid her head being separated from her body. She held up Aegis to keep the lion at bay, but Reyna knew that it wouldn't work for long.

The lion roared again as more arrows bounced off its flank and Reyna was struck with an idea.

"Zoë!" she called. "Aim for the mouth!"

The lion lunged, as if it knew what she was saying. An arrow streaked over Reyna's shoulder but missed the monster completely.

Reyna turned and leapt off the side of the balcony. She fell a full level and landed on the wing of a plane that looked like it was from the 1920s. It pitched and nearly sent her tumbling down to the ground far below, the cords holding it up groaning as they strained, but Reyna managed to keep her balance.

The lion leapt at her, forcing Reyna to drop onto the top of a huge model of the earth on the bottom floor. She slid down Canada and pushed off the side, dropping into a roll when her feet hit the floor.

The Nemean Lion growled and leapt off the balcony, landing on top of the North Pole.

"Come on, you stupid cat," Reyna muttered, readying her sword.

The lion leapt at her, but Reyna rolled underneath him. She quickly got back to her feet and swung her sword, the metal sparking against the lion's flank.

He spun around with surprising speed and roared at her.

A silver streak shot over each of Reyna's shoulders and flew straight into the lion's mouth.

The lion made a loud, pained noise, allowing Reyna to see the two arrows deeply embedded in his throat. She didn't know how many more arrows it would take to finish off the monster for good, but she really hoped it didn't take too much longer to get there.

The lion closed his mouth, snapping the arrows, then growled. His eyes were filled with malevolent fury as he stared at Reyna like she was going to be his next meal.

"Shit."

Reyna rolled under the lion when he leapt at her and took off at a sprint the moment she got back to her feet. By the way the ground trembled beneath her, she knew the lion had decided that he wanted to chase his prey rather than snack on the girls who had stayed behind.

'Just my luck,' she thought bitterly.

A quick look over her shoulder showed that only the lion had followed her. Zoë and Phoebe were nowhere in sight, and Thalia had undoubtedly stayed behind to protect Annabeth.

Reyna turned a corner and felt her stomach drop.

Wearing the same clothing as security guards were a dozen new foes. Their grey skin was translucent, allowing Reyna to see their bones, and their eyes were a sickly yellow. The moment they saw her, they drew their pistols and took aim.

It appeared the Titan Lord's forces had decided they didn't care if innocents got killed so long as any demigod in the area was also taken out in the process. Spartoi may have needed something of their targets if they were going to track them, but other than that, they functioned just as any other monster did and attacked whichever demigod was unfortunate enough to stumble across them. All the Titan Army needed to do was point them in a direction.

"Dammit, Percy," Reyna swore as she dove behind a rocket. If the idiot hadn't gotten himself captured, they wouldn't be here and she wouldn't be dealing with Spartoi and the Nemean Lion at the same time.

She heard the loud crack of discharged guns as the Spartoi unleashed bullets.

Reyna didn't stop, though—the Nemean Lion was still right behind her. She sprinted as fast as she possibly could to the next piece of cover: a corridor that led to a room too small for the lion to follow.

However, that didn't stop the Spartoi from filing in after her.

Reyna was actually okay with this.

Or as okay as she could be, anyway, given the circumstances.

There was less room for the Spartoi to move around in here, which meant they couldn't all attack her at the same time; therefore, she could separate them and take the monsters out one by one.

She ducked behind a model and raised Riptide. She took several deep breaths with her eyes closed, listening to the not-so-silent footsteps of the Spartoi as they got closer to her position. Reyna opened her eyes and waited… and waited… and waited…

A skeleton entered her sight, and she attacked.

The bronze blade flashed, and the two halves of the Spartus burst into flames, crumbling until there was nothing left but ashes, which were blown away by the slight draft in the room.

One down, eleven to go.

As Reyna cut down two more, she was curious whether her ability to defeat Spartoi came from her mother's domain of destruction or the blessing that Hades had given her. In either case, she was thankful she had the power to fight and survive where many others would have already been killed.

CRACK!

Reyna grunted as a bullet pierced her shoulder from behind, spraying a small amount of blood on the cracked glass of the display in front of her.

She had failed to notice the second skeleton and paid the price for it. But at least the bullet had gone straight through. It would make the wound easier to heal later.

Before she could move to attack it, two streaks of silver flew in from the hallway and knocked the skeleton across the room. It smashed against a model rocket, and both tumbled to the floor.

Zoë and Phoebe had finally caught up. They had arrived through the opposite doorway to that which the Nemean Lion still prowled like a sentry, waiting for them to leave so he could attack once more.

"Sorry we're late," Phoebe said as they stopped at Reyna's side. "We had to go around the cat."

"Without one of you to distract, the lion poses a greater challenge," Zoë added by way of explanation as to why they didn't just fight it before joining her.

Reyna idly wondered if she had been that obvious with her thoughts, or if Zoë was just that intuitive.

"Well you're here now," she said. "Let's finish these things so we can take care of the kitty."

Phoebe smirked and readied another arrow.

"How did you destroy them?" Zoë asked as she did the same, nodding at the scorched carpet where two of the skeletons had once stood. She was watching Reyna intently, as if daring her to lie. "I have only ever seen a Spartus defeated by one of its own."

"With a sword?" Reyna answered uncertainly, shrugging.

Zoë looked like she didn't believe that, but before she could say anything, Phoebe said, "Enough chit-chat. Let's kill these things and get moving. We don't have long until whoever sent them catches up. We can talk about this later."

Four Spartoi turned the corner not a second later and readied their guns.

"Cover me," Reyna ordered, uncaring that she had the least experience of the trio.

From what she had observed, the Hunters preferred to use their bows anyway, so leaving the close-quarters combat to her was more likely than not the option that Zoë and Phoebe favored right now.

Sure enough, as Reyna charged, arrows zipped over her shoulders and knocked the skeletons back.

One managed to raise its gun and discharged it with a loud CRACK!

Time seemed to slow down as Reyna's reflexes took the lead. She twisted Riptide and used the flat of the blade to deflect the bullet, having sensed its trajectory more than seen it. The next three bullets all had the same effect, and by then Reyna was too close for the skeleton to fire a fifth before she severed its head from its body.

Sometimes it paid off, being the daughter of a war goddess.

Well, most times, in Reyna's admittedly limited experience.

She spun and sliced two more in half with a single sweep of her blade, then plunged Riptide into the chest of the fourth.

"Reyna!"

She whirled around, swinging Riptide as she did, and bisected the same skeleton that had snuck up on her earlier. It incinerated and crumbled to ashes, just like its friends before it.

"Thanks," Reyna called.

Phoebe nodded and nocked another arrow. There were still six Spartoi left.

"They're fleeing!" Zoë shouted.

Reyna looked to the doorway where the Nemean Lion lurked in time to spot the last of the Spartoi disappear around the corner.

"Why did they run?" she asked as she rejoined the two Hunters.

"I don't know," Zoë said, looking disturbed. "But it could not have been for any good reason. We should kill the lion so we can leave this place before they regroup for another attack." Her eyes fell to Reyna's bleeding shoulder. "They will find us soon enough."

Reyna grimaced, but nodded her agreement. Her carelessness might have doomed them later, when the environment was far less to their advantage than this room was. The Spartoi would be able to use her blood to track her and the group, if she remained with them—and it was doubtful that Zoë would let her out of sight until it was made clear how she was able to kill the skeleton warriors.

"I'll distract the cat," Reyna decided, doing her best to hide the nervousness she felt at getting so close to a beast that had only ever been defeated once before.

"Try not to die," Phoebe told her with a weak smile, readying her bow.

"Good luck," Zoë added.

Taking a deep breath, Reyna readied her sword, wincing as her shoulder throbbed, and faced the Nemean Lion. With her head held high, she walked towards him, scanning the beast for any sign it was preparing to attack.

"Here, kitty-kitty," Reyna taunted.

She had barely set a single foot outside the doorway when the lion swiped a paw at her.

Reyna rolled aside, gasping at the pain that lanced through her shoulder. She ignored it as she was forced to leap backwards to avoid the lion's claws again.

She jabbed at the lion. Her sword clanged harmlessly off the lion's fur.

Her goal hadn't been to harm the monster, though.

The lion released a frustrated roar and leapt at her.

Reyna dropped to the floor and rolled beneath the lion, coming up where he had been standing moments ago. Her back was to the doorway, through which Zoë and Phoebe were readying their bows.

"Reyna, duck!" Phoebe cried when the lion turned and roared.

Without thinking, Reyna dropped to the floor again, and arrows whistled past—two, four, six, they didn't stop coming. Zoë and Phoebe kept up an unrelenting onslaught, filling the lion's mouth, while the monster itself thrashed wildly.

The lion gave a final, pained moan as it turned and slumped backward.

It was only then that Reyna noticed alarms wailing around them while visitors raced to the exits. Confused security guards were scattered throughout the museum, unsure what to do.

"You'd make a good Hunter," Phoebe praised with a smirk as she and Zoë stepped up beside Reyna.

"Indeed," Zoë agreed, looking at the lion with a strange light in her eyes. She gestured. "Take it."

Reyna almost asked, "Take what?" But then she followed Zoë's gaze and realized that the lion was melting, rather than exploding into golden dust the way monsters usually did. After a moment, there was nothing left but a glittering fur coat, which shrank to the size of a normal lion's pelt.

"Are you sure?" Reyna asked hesitantly. She remembered the stories associated with the Nemean Lion's fur, it wasn't something she wanted to take lightly. Near-invulnerability would be an invaluable boon in battle, but not if she hadn't properly earned the right to wear it.

"It is thine to possess," Zoë told her. "We may have killed the lion, but it was thy plan and distraction that allowed us to do so—take it."

Phoebe nodded her approval, smiling.

Reyna picked up the pelt, surprised at how light it was. The fur was smooth and soft, and Reyna didn't think using it as a blanket was out of the question until the moment the pelt shifted in her hands. It changed into a full-length golden-brown duster.

Only Zoë didn't look taken aback.

"Put it on," she said. "We have to hurry back to the others."

"Right." Reyna wasn't too concerned, to be honest. Half of the Spartoi were destroyed, as was the Nemean Lion, and their only issue seemed to be the terrified, panicking mortals.

She slipped on the duster, marveling at how comfortable it was.

"Nice look," Phoebe grinned. "It suits you."

Reyna smirked back.

"Come," Zoë beckoned, glancing around them warily. "We don't have much time."


AN: So, after six months, I'm finally updating this again. Thank you everyone for being patient. A couple things to say here:

1) There's a Discord server for the Percy/Reyna pairing. You should join it and talk Percy Jackson fanfiction there. It's not very active right now, since there's only about 50 people, but as it grows so will the activity. There's a link on my profile, but the code is: U3gnbHwy46

Hope to see some new faces there!

2) With the help of Theo, my beta-reader, I've gone through and edited the earlier chapters. Some things are slightly different, but there is also an entirely new scene at the end of chapter four. Hope you all like it.

3) Sorry to say it, but this story still won't be regularly updated. My main focus is on my biggest Harry Potter story, Crashing Into Darkness. I'll continue to work on this when I'm in the mood — at this time, I've already started chapter 18, but I'm not very far — but it isn't my priority.

THANKS FOR READING!