First, I'd like to apologize to everyone who's loved this story. I took a very extended hiatus that I knew was probably not warranted. I've done a lot of growing up in the time frame I haven't posted. I now have a B.A. in Creative Writing, but my love for Percy Jackson and this story I've been writing hasn't gone away. In the time I haven't written anything new for this story, Rick Riordan published some new canon storyline, such as Nico's sexuality, Percy and Annabeth's relationship and Rachel's and Thalia's place in all of this.

I'm going to continue writing this story as it was intended. Some things will no longer make sense, but to prevent myself from affecting the way I see the characters so that I may be able to continue this story, I did not read any of the newer books. Yes, I forbade myself from reading any of the newer books or series, but that's because I knew that this story still existed. I plan on finishing it as soon as possible. I will need your help though. If I start slacking, I need you guys to nag me. Annoy me as much as you want, because I need to be here, writing this so that I can be finished.

Thank you for sticking with me through all these years and for suffering through this silence.

And so the story continues...

Chapter 38:

The forges were really hot.

I know that's kind of me stating the obvious, but after three hours of walking around in a room with lava for walls surrounded by hot-bodied cyclops brothers who are all very affectionate-similarly to Tyson-when it comes to greeting family, I think the obvious kind of needs to be stated.

Tyson's desk area was probably the cleanest out of all the desks we passed. Thomas, followed by about a dozen or so other cyclops, all the which I'd forgotten the names of, were walking behind us in a sort of blob-group fashion. I ignored the not-so-quiet murmurs as we walked down one of the many isles.

It was interesting to see all sorts of different tools. There was one that looks like a giant glowing gold fish hook and another that was like a pyramid-spiked hammer. All of them looked pristine except for the handles which had large sections where fingers left dents from use.

Tyson's desk only had two small empty green-bean tin cans, one held what looked like pencils and erasers and the other held three pointed tools and what looked like a miniature melon-baller.

"So..." I started to ask Tyson, still not prepared for the many singular eyes to turn to me even after getting through the long line of greetings and being dragged around to each section of the forge to look at 'neat tools' and a 'break room' that was basically a table with a box of dried seaweed strips on it. "what have you been working on?"

Nico was looking around with false disinterest from next to me. I could easily tell that he was trying to see what some sort of metal book on the table next to me was for as one of the cyclops was scraping away at it with a hot fingernail.

Tyson was still on the balls of his feet, rocking back and forth with too much excitement.

"Remember the ice pearls?" he asked. I motioned to speak using Cyclops slang and continued to interpret for Nico.

"Yes, I remember. It was pretty cool, the way you used it. It was pretty similar to the ones I remember using during my first quest," I said.

"Ha! You made a joke!" Tyson cracked up and I realized I had, giving a snort alongside Nico's eye-roll.

"Anyways, I get a bucket of ice and salt and melt the two in the forge and then freeze them again. I do it repeatedly until the two aren't stable, then I use the scoop-" he picks up the miniature melon-baller from the tool tin," to make a little ball and put it in Thomas' shell so that it can become powerful. And Ta-da!" I wanted to ask about Thomas' shell, but the cyclops was already holding up what looked like a cracked conch shell. It didn't look like much, but it was glowing, so I assumed there was something powerful about it.

I did my best to explain to Nico what Tyson was explaining to me, but even I didn't understand what Tyson was saying anymore. I didn't pay too much attention in chemistry, but even this didn't sound right. But there was no use in saying that now after everything I've seen.

"That doesn't even make any sense," Nico said, and I chose to ignore him. So did everyone else as Tyson continued to pull a small bag from a plastic box underneath his desk.

"I made brother Percy Freeze Pearls," he said, handing me the bag.

"Tyson, no, you've already done so much-"

"Tyson wants brother Percy to keep them because Tyson wants brother Percy to be safe. California is hot like underworld."

I sighed, but stuck my hand out anyways, knowing better than to argue with him. He plopped the small brown drawstring bag into my hand and I opened it to find about 6 of the small freeze pearls nestled into the bottom. They were about the size of peas and were perfectly round like marbles. The fabric at the bottom of the bag against my hand felt cool, but not freezing. It was a comforting kind of cool that comes with walking into an air conditioned room on a hot day, or drinking ice water after eating something too hot.

"Thank you," I said, offering him a fist bump and getting a large sweaty hug instead. I didn't mind it too much.

When he put me down, there was what sounded like a loud gong. I wasn't able to pinpoint where it was coming from, but the rest of the forge's occupants all started moving towards the large doors we had come in earlier.

"What's happening?" Nico asked, moving out of the way of a few cyclops. They each pat him on the head as they passed him, earning a glare in the form of shadows darkening over his face, but he calmed quickly. I carefully put the bag of freeze pearls into my pocket next to where I kept Riptide.

"Dinner," Tyson said, following the others. I quickly grouped behind him, tugging Nico along so that we didn't get separated.

The large group if cyclops all funneled into the hallway and doors I had last seen Annabeth, Thalia and Rachel go into, and it opened to what looked like a stadium-sized abalone shell, with glimmering bands of brown, blue and green. The floor was hard sea-jasper, and had solidified shells inside of it. It almost made me feel bad for walking on it.

At a table near the serving counter, Annabeth was standing, talking animatedly to Rachel and Thalia. I watched as her fingers began doing the calculator motions and knew instantly that she was creating a beautiful architectural castle of some sort in her mind. I smiled and started walking over to them, ignoring Nico's snicker.

"Percy!" Annabeth said with a wide smile, all pearly whites showing, when I stepped into view. "This place is AMAZING!" She began to ramble off different architectural terms about how the walls were curved at just the right angle and how the floor is so wide looking because it meets the shell at just the right center point-

"She's been talking about it nonstop since we sat down," Thalia said. Her cheeks were squished in her hands, resting on the table top. Rachel was simply smiling and watching Annabeth as she was making wide swooping motions with her arms now.

"Dinner time now. You first," Amy said suddenly from behind me. We all turned to look at her and some of us argued that it was fine, but I was pulled up and in line before I even finished making my argument.

"Eat! Lot's of good food!" She said, ushering everyone else from our table to get in line. The rest of the cyclops all looks happy and were all smiles as they waited patiently for us to get out plates.

The food didn't look any different than the food I was used to up on land. It was mashed potatoes, corn, brisket and soda. There were even some green beans, which I was not surprised about.

What threw me off though was that all the cyclops that were serving us were male. I thought for sure there would be at least one other female working alongside Amy.

I stored the question in the back of my mind for later and carried my hefty plate to a fire pit where I dropped in the biggest cob of corn, gave my dad a quick prayer and went to go sit and eat.

The rest of the group was right behind me, including Amy. She sat to the right of Tyson across from me and we all dug in.

It reminded me that I hadn't eaten all day, not since before we had left the harbor with Hestia.

The food was fantastic. I speared a large boiled carrot and chewed happily.

"This is really good, who are the cooks here?" Annabeth asked before taking a sip of her drink.

Amy nodded, shoveling the biggest bite of pasta into her mouth I had ever seen.

"The forge-workers take turns. They all know how cook."

I paused at that. "The forge-workers? Are there any kitchen cyclops?" I asked, earning a confused look from her.

"No, only forge-workers."

I didn't want to be rude and ask if there were any other woman cyclops. It just seemed like something you shouldn't ask bluntly. But Rachel wasn't one to beat around the bush.

"Where are all the lady cyclops like you?" she asked with a mouth full of potato.

The rest of us listened for the answer silently, the only sound was the gruff voices and laughter from the other tables around us. A lot of other cyclops were watching us from afar, which didn't help with the whole 'trying to be polite but also get answers' thing.

Amy finished her bite of food. "Translate for me will you, Percy?"

I nodded and she began, pushing her plate away so she could put her elbows on the table.

"I'm the only woman cyclops to ever be allowed to come down to the forges." a bleak look came over her face. One that looked like it didn't belong to someone who was so cheery.

I translated, severely considering just asked her to ignore the question.

"Poseidon's children, such as cyclops are normally born male. Such as both you and Tyson. Such as almost all of the cyclops here. Poseidon rarely has female children, such as myself."

I nod as I continue to explain, but stop at what she says next.

"I was born male like all the other cyclops here. When I was a child, a very young cyclops, no older than Tyson's age now, father Poseidon had made a mistake, for in order to make me, he had to have bedded a woman who was one of the lovers of Dionysus. I was born not long after. Dinoysus was not happy with father Poseidon, but he hated me even more and he hunted me down and turned me into a female."

I took a moment to really think about that, because that did sound like something Dionysus would do. After having Amy stare at me for a few moments, as if prompting for me to repeat, I continued to translate.

The table went almost as silent as I had. "Well that sucks," Thalia finally said, which was odd considering she was in Artemis's group of female warriors, a group that primarily fought for women.

"I don't mind it anymore. It was an adjustment and I know that Mr. D did it to make me uncomfortable around the male cyclops, but I know how to handle myself."

For the rest of dinner, we stayed on safer less-scarring topics like sports and travel plans. Our food was long gone before we left the table to hunker down for the night. I helped clean the dishes seeing as the lava no longer affected me, and I felt like I owed them something. It took a lot of begging, but I finally asked Miss Amy to let me help wash. The rest of the group was being shown to rooms where they would stay. There weren't really anything other than dorms, but after convincing a few cyclops to drag some bunk beds into a large storage closet, the rest of the nights plans sorted themselves out.

Annabeth was the only one still awake when I finally got to the room. She was sitting up in bed using the light from a celestial bronze screwdriver to read a book. I didn't know where she got either.

"Wise Girl," I whispered. She looked up as if she had already known I was there. A small, soft smile appeared on her face. One that I didn't see very often, but knew to appreciate when I did.

"Seaweed Brain" she said back. She put her book down, which was something I hadn't been expecting. Normally, she would only glance at me, offer her normal smile and go back to reading.

She wanted to talk.

I walked over and took a seat on the opposite bunk that was coincidentally the only bunk left empty. The bed was comfortable and had a plush sea-foam colored bedspread and a pillow that smelled suspiciously of kelp.

She swung her legs over the side to face me fully and I suddenly felt like I was sea sick, which had to be impossible...

"What are you reading?" I asked suddenly, not expected it to come out of my mouth either.

She blinked at me once before looking down at the book that lay open face down on her own pillow.

"It's a collection of blueprints to a few old buildings from ancient times. Miss Amy let me borrow it."

I knew full-well that Miss Amy had probably given it to her to stop her from describing the cafeteria for an 8th time during dinner.

I nodded. I thought about asking her to describe some of the blueprints, but we both knew it would go right over my head.

Instead, we sat in a semi-awkward, semi-comfortable silence, both facing each other, but only making eye contact every few moments. I glanced a the bunks around us, Rachel was sleeping silently while Thalia slept with a little bit of a snore. Nico slept quite literally like the dead, shadows underneath his eyes and everything, but even he made a small like snuffle sound with each deep breath.

I was so focused on not being focused that I was startled when Annabeth was suddenly standing in front of me. The night before at Hestia's motel came back to me and so did my heartbeat, tenfold. I hadn't realized it had even stopped. She was looking intently over my head like she was trying to avoid seeing my reaction, and suddenly I felt her hands on my face and her lips on my cheek.

It was warm, but not as warm as it felt after she stepped away and back to her bed. I silently wondered if she could see me blush. I had never blushed this intensely before.

Neither of us said anything more as we both blindly slid under the covers of our individual beds. The blanket was too heavy, but it was nice to feel safe and hidden away from any danger. It only added to whatever I was feeling at the moment.

Was that a confession? I asked myself.

I reach my hand out instinctively, not really thinking about it. I only wanted to see how far away she is. I meet her fingers halfway and we both fall asleep like that. My fingers holding hers.