Ace Iverson and the Fabric of Fate
Season I: The Veil of Reality
Chapter XIII: Late Night Discussions
Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the PJO universe. All recognizable characters, plots and settings are the exclusive property of Rick Riordan. I make no claim to ownership.
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November 17, 2004
A Forest Just Outside of Boston
“What do you want with him?” asked Andy, immediately straightening her posture and squaring off against the much-taller girl. She was lean and athletic-looking with long blonde hair and stormy-grey eyes. Blaze was rather taken aback with how swiftly Andreia leapt to the defence of a boy she had known for merely a few hours, but he didn’t say anything. He was looking towards the other, sandy-haired boy who looked to be a number of years older than his female counterpart.
“We’re here to take him to Camp Halfblood,” the blonde said, examining Andreia and Blaise with a critical eye.
“Who are you?” Blaze asked warily, casting his eyes from the blonde girl to the sandy-haired boy that had drawn much of his earlier attention.
“I’m Luke Castellan,” the boy said, stepping forward with a posture that indicated he was completely at ease. “Son of Hermes and one of the counsellors at Camp Halfblood.”
Blaze immediately disliked him simply for his casual air of dismissive confidence. It was as if he thought none of them could trouble him in any way, shape or form.
Of course, there was a good chance he was completely correct in that assumption, but that was beside the point.
“Luke,” the other girl said patiently, “they might not know what Camp Halfblood is. Not unless they’ve been told by the Hunters.”
“We have,” said Andy, eyes rising to meet the new girl’s with intense curiosity. “Are you both from camp?”
“We are,” she answered. “I’m Annabeth Chase, daughter of Athena. I’m another one of the camp counselors. We’ve come to take Ace Iverson to Camp Halfblood.”
“Why him?” asked Blaze, suspicion still heavy in his voice.
“You don’t know?” asked Luke, and the surprise only made Blaze like him less.
“He’s rather important,” Annabeth said with the same amount of patience she’d spoken with earlier. “Children of Zeus, Poseidon and Hades aren’t common and they can cause… problems.”
“So you want to control him?”
“We want to make sure he doesn’t get killed,” Luke corrected. “Children of the three sons of Kronos… they’re more powerful than normal demigods. Problem is, they also tend to attract a lot more attention. It’s important he gets to Camp Halfblood. Not only for his own safety, but because his father commanded it. Annabeth and I were sent out on a quest. Our quest is to take him back to camp with us.”
“And what about the rest of us?” asked Blaze with narrowed eyes.
“Our objective is Iverson,” said Luke, his posture unwavering. “If we can afford to take more, we’ll take more. Now,” he continued, “where is he?”
“About ten-feet away from you.” Luke spun and immediately caught sight of the boy he had been seeking, with an auburn-haired girl appearing to be in her late teens a step or two in front of him. The boy’s sky-blue eyes were hard but blank. Luke couldn’t tell much from them other than that he was being evaluated very closely. They were also alert, which matched the boy’s tense posture, though his gleaming, bronze sword was held in a lazy position. “Now that you have me,” said Ace, “what is it exactly you want? I’m afraid I only caught the end of that conversation. Something about an objective?”
“Our objective is to take you safely to Camp Halfblood,” said Annabeth.
“And the others?”
Her and Luke exchanged glances, though Ace thought he noticed Blaze giving him a subtle nod. “Our quest is to get you safely to camp,” said Luke. “We can try and help some others, but we can’t do anything to jeopardize our goal.”
“They’re coming.” The forcefulness with which Ace spoke took both Luke and Annabeth aback. “If they want to come, they’re coming. Otherwise, I’m going nowhere with you.”
“They can come,” said Annabeth. “We just want to make sure we finish our quest. Disastrous things tend to happen when demigods don’t finish quests.” Luke’s eye twitched, which immediately caught Ace’s attention, but the older boy gave away no more.
“When will we leave?” asked Andy, glancing at the campsite sprawled around them, one that had been constructed in a time so short it should have been impossible.
“In the morning,” Luke answered. “No need to chance it now. Monsters aren’t afraid of the light, but they prefer to attack at night when possible. There’s no need to give them any sort of advantages. If we want to make it to camp, we’re going to need all the help we can get.”
“We’ll camp here for the night then?” asked Andy.
“We won’t be staying the night,” said Artemis with a nod in the direction of the tents.
All present knew exactly who she was despite her seemingly mundane appearance. Of course, Ace had just spoken with her, and Blaze and Andreia had watched her casually dispatch the Hells Angels. Luke and Annabeth, meanwhile, had met up with the Hunters on their own journey to Camp Halfblood years earlier.
“Our goal was to find Ace Iverson and Cato Anders before they blew up half the country trying to survive. We have other places we need to be in short order, and we rested earlier in the day. We will stay long enough to ensure that you are all on track, but then we must leave.”
“That’s fine; we have our own supplies.” Ace couldn’t help but notice that Luke’s voice sounded oddly clipped, though he wasn’t sure why that might have been the case. It was as if Artemis had said something to offend him.
It did nothing to increase Ace’s trust in him, and his eyes narrowed slightly.
“How do I know that I can trust you?”
Annabeth and Luke exchanged glances. “You were clearly willing to trust others,” Luke pointed out. “They also didn’t have the blessing of your father—”
“A father who has never spoken to me,” Ace said coolly, but he didn’t reject the point. Not after his conversation with Artemis in the forest that had only ended minutes ago. “And trusting the others was different. Cato just sort of happened, and I really didn’t have any choice. I was dead if I didn’t trust him, so I just took the chance. If he turned out to be some crazy kidnapper… well, I would have died anyway. Andreia pulled me out of Quincy Bay and fought off a kraken, and Blaze…”
Truthfully, Ace still didn’t entirely trust Blaze, but he trusted him enough to wearily grant him acceptance, which was more than he could say for Luke and Annabeth. The latter was far too calculating. If she was indeed trustworthy, it would be a good trait, but it made it more difficult for Ace to place that trust in her to begin with. People who were that clinical always had their own motives. It wasn’t terribly different from how Ace went about life, so he knew from first-hand experience.
And Luke… he wasn’t entirely sure. He just got an odd vibe from Luke, one that he couldn’t entirely place. The closest comparable he could come up with were the people who had pretended to be his friend long enough to benefit in school, but the feeling he got from Luke wasn’t quite that. There was just something about him that Ace couldn’t place.
“You must go with them,” said Artemis. “It is imperative you reach Camp Halfblood, and these are two of the best trained demigods in the world. They are your best hope of doing so safely.”
While Ace pondered whether or not to argue with a goddess, planning to cite the pure number of idiotic mistakes and betrayals the Olympians had been subject to according to the myths, one of the nearest tent entrances had opened and Cato Anders limped out. He was putting most of his weight on one leg, but he was moving exceptionally well for a man who had just been shot. His eyes were locked on Artemis, and there was something within them Ace had never seen before. This was something he most certainly could not place.
“We’re goin’,” he said, leaving no room for argument as he stepped up beside Ace and rested a hand on the boy’s shoulder before he could argue.
Andy reluctantly nodded, and Blaze glanced to Ace, who shrugged. Without the support of Cato and Andreia, arguing with a goddess would be fruitless.
“Sorry, bubba,” Cato muttered as they moved off to set up their own tent. “I gotta watch out for myself on this one. I’ll explain a bit later.” He glared at Ace as if the younger boy had just thrown his mother down several flights of stairs, and Ace almost recoiled from the man’s gaze. “And you broke the bro code. Not cool, bubba; not cool at all.”
The Hunters didn’t stay a whole lot longer. Once they realized Ace and the others had capitulated and were willingly going to head to Camp Halfblood with Annabeth and Luke, their work for the night was done. They did arm Andy and Blaze with silver knives before departing, which was a vast improvement over them having no weapons at all, though Ace wasn’t sure what good they would do if they faced something like the Minotaur again. Many of the monsters they had encountered so far weren’t exactly what you wanted to battle in close-range combat, especially since Ace didn’t think either Blaze nor Andreia were properly trained in fighting with a knife.
Cato’s leg was on the mend after whatever the hell the Hunters had done to it, but they hadn’t quite gotten to Ace before they had departed. That meant he spent quite some time after the tent had been erected sitting on the floor whilst the girl — Annabeth — properly cleaned the cuts, wrapped his leg, and gave him what she called nectar and ambrosia.
The atmosphere in the tent was extremely tense for the duration of the process. All of them were gathered, scattered across its interior, which was far larger than it had any right to be when viewed from the outside. The only conversation going on at all was very light, very cautious back and forth between Ace and Annabeth, the latter of whom had been doing her best to get through to the former. Ace acknowledged the advances and responded in a very modulated manner, but it was clear both of them were doing their best to psycho-analyze the other. Ace wouldn’t have been at all surprised if Cato was doing the same from the sidelines.
Actually, he would have been more than a little bit surprised had his lunatic of a friend not been doing exactly that.
There hadn’t been enough sleeping bags for all of them, but the Hunters had fortunately spared a few, and it wasn’t long after Ace’s leg had been tended to that plans for the night were laid out. Luke and Annabeth would rotate watches, doing so on a four-hour cycle. Luke would take the first watch, Annabeth the second. As soon as the latter period of four hours had elapsed, they were leaving. Luke had pulled the SUV they had apparently been using deeper into the forest, so it was now quite near their tent. No one posed any objections to the plan, so it had gone forth.
Ace couldn’t sleep.
That was hardly abnormal, as sleep was a right pain for him in the best of times. Now that he knew the Ancient Greek gods were real, he really ought to kick Morpheus in the dick if he was ever presented the opportunity. He had never been proficient at getting to sleep at the best of times. He had a naturally curious and active mind, and the ADHD only compounded the problem. It really just made the rabbit hole his brain frequently went down even deeper, and its sides were practically slicked with oil, for it was almost impossible to climb out of, once his brain had taken the plunge.
After all that occurred in the past hours and days, it really came as no surprise when Ace couldn’t sleep. He was intensely uncomfortable putting his trust in anyone who he didn’t have at least a decent read on. Cato had been an odd sort of exception, but there was something about him that ingratiated him to Ace faster than most. Neither Annabeth nor Luke had that quality, and Blaze was teetering on the edge of being trustworthy, in Ace’s opinion.
He didn’t think the boy meant anything malicious, but he wasn’t entirely sure how he might react if turning his back on them was seen as the more beneficial option. His father was apparently quite the businessman, after all. Success in that particular venture usually came on the condition that the benefactor was not only sharp and observant, but almost unconditionally ruthless.
After tossing and turning for what felt like hours, Ace finally laid still and opened up his senses. He listened for any sounds of anything that might be misconstrued as those of rest, but might actually be those of waking. He couldn’t glean anything through sound or hearing alone, but he had a feeling he wasn’t the only one awake, and he had a feeling who the other person was.
Sitting up, sliding quietly out of his sleeping bag and glancing around the tent, Ace could see pretty quickly that his suspicion was indeed correct. Cato was the closest person to him, with Annabeth on his other side and several feet away. Ace slowly scooted himself over and closer to Cato, who lifted his head. His eyes were indeed still alert, and he slid himself into a sitting position, allowing Ace to take a seat next to him.
“Crazy day, huh?” asked Cato.
Ace would have snorted had he not wanted to make any sounds that might wake the others. “You’re the most extreme person I know, and now you suddenly have a talent for understatements. Somehow, that seems wrong.”
Cato visibly fought a smirk. “Hey, I can be both. I am extreme. Extremely good at understatements, in this case.”
“If you say so.” A beat of silence, and then: “What happened earlier?”
“What do you mean?”
“When you first came out of the tent. I’m guessing you overheard our conversation, but you agreed way too easily. I’m not going to pretend I know you perfectly by any means, but I think I know you well enough to know that was very out of character.”
Cato sighed. “We are very similar, do you know that?”
“In some ways, yeah,” Ace answered. “Not so much in others, but I can sort of see what you mean.”
“We think in similar kinds of ways sometimes. I know I tend to resort’a blowin shit up, but our outlooks on life and philosophy are pretty similar. We practice the same kinds of ideas, from what I can tell. We might just approach solving them a bit differently. Even then though, we’ll do it in a way that won’t backfire on us later.”
“That’s… accurate, yeah.”
“Yeah, I’m not surprised you figured out that something was happening. It was a bit weird, I guess.”
“You remember when we talked about the gods on the way to Dallas? After you woke up from your first nap of the trip?”
Ace nodded, flashing back to one of his first real conversations with the lovable maniac that was Cato Anders.
November 13, 2004
In Cato’s Truck on the Way to Dallas
The 1989 Chevrolet S10 rolled smoothly down the highway, the early morning November light shining through the windows as the drone on the old engine made itself known.
In the passenger’s seat, Ace was stretching his sore and slightly cramped muscles as a wide yawn took its own turn in stretching out his face.
“Mornin’,” greeted Cato, giving him a nod before refocusing his attention back on the road in front of him. “How’d ya sleep?”
Ace rolled his shoulders and neck, which omitted several loud cracks of protest. “Could have been better, could have been worse. So alright, I guess.”
“Good,” said Cato, nodding once more.
“How are you holding up? You’ve been driving all night. If you need to stop somewhere, that’s fine.”
“Nah, I’ll be fine. Just a bit tired, but nothin’ I can’t handle. Besides, we’ll be stopping later today in Dallas. We shouldn’t stop twice in a day. It would slow us down and give more things time to catch up with us.”
“You really don’t think the Laestrygonians or whatever they were will be the last monster from the myths to come after us, do you?”
“Nah,” Cato admitted. “I wish I did, but I’d be lyin. Hopefully nothin too crazy comes after us. The last thing we would need is a chimera or somethin.” Ace gulped. That it would indeed be disastrous, and it would almost definitely result in a very painful death.
“I guess I’ll just pray to the Greek gods that may or may not exist that a chimera doesn’t find us.”
“I’ve been thinking about that a bit.”
“Nah, about the gods.”
“Oh.” The night before, Cato had been rather noncommittal. He had made some good points about both human nature and religion in general, but he hadn’t been willing to draw a decisive conclusion. “Anything to add from last night?”
“Not really. Just a bunch of theories I have no proof about.”
Ace stared at him. “If I held a gun to your head right now—”
“I’d break your—”
“Shut up and let me finish!” Despite the bite in his voice, Ace was smiling. Cato’s eyes too danced with amusement but he just nodded, prompting Ace to finish. “If I held a gun to your head right now and asked if you think the gods are real, what would you say?”
“Well, I’mma just assume you don’t want an answer that involves me ripping the gun outta your hand and shooting you with it.”
Cato sighed deeply. “I guess I’d tell ya I think they’re probably real, but that I might be wrong.” His expression turned wistful. “I hope they’re real. I do love me some Artemis.”
Cato laughed. “What? Don’t tell me you don’t like Artemis?”
“I uh… never said I didn’t, but I can’t say I’ve really thought of it like that. What is it that makes you like her so much?”
“Loyalty,” Cato answered without a second’s hesitation. “She dedicated herself to her cause and stuck to it. She would do anything for the girls she took under her wing, and I admire that.” A devilish smile spread across his face. “And in a lot of old art, she’s a redhead. I love me some redheads.”
Ace shook his head dazedly, not entirely used to the oddities of Cato Anders quite yet.
Back in the present…
“Don’t tell me you snubbed me over some dream girl?” Ace mocked, leering at Cato, who just shook his head.
“Nah, just gainin’ her loyalty and taking her word. Artemis ain’t usually one of the gods who went around lyin’ about everything in the myths. Some things, but not all of ‘em. I don’t think she was lying, so I took her word for it. Hopefully, she’ll remember that.” Cato gave him a hard look. “Are you telling me you don’t want a goddess on our side?”
“All I’m telling you is that you broke the bro code.”
“Nah, fuck you, bubba!” hissed Cato, glaring at Ace with the same expression he had worn earlier that day. “Nah, nah, nah. Fuck you and your bro code. You wanna talk to me about bro codes after you were the first one to talk to Artemis?” He crossed his arms, looking genuinely hurt. “After all we talked and what I said, you were the one to talk to her first.”
“You are as petulant as an eight-year-old child.”
“I’ll make ya scream like an eight-year-old child in a sec.”
“I dare you to try.”
The two of them glared at each other for about ten seconds before their shared charade fell apart and they both devolved into peels of quiet laughter.
After about a minute had elapsed, Ace glanced carefully around the tent before lowering his voice again. “I get why you did it, but I still don’t trust them.”
“I know,” said Cato. “I don’t either, but it ain’t nothing we can’t handle.”
“Cato, they’re trained demigods. Artemis herself said they were some of the best in the world.”
“Yeah, well I only know of one demigod before you showed up that killed the Minotaur, and guess fucking what? You killed the Minotaur, didn’t you?” Ace reluctantly nodded. Seeing this reluctance, Cato placed a hand on his shoulder. “It’ll be alright, trust me. Nothing’s gonna happen. You and I’ll keep an eye out. If we see anything suspicious, we act. We don’t wait, we don’t let them strike first. Anything suspicious happens, we cut down the threat before it happens. Agreed?”
Cato smirked. “Good. We can’t ever let nothing happen to the other,” Cato said proudly, gently tapping the gauze that was covering his mostly healed bullet wound. “Daemons of Erebus for life. Ain’t nobody gonna fuck with that shit.”
Despite himself, Ace grinned before lying down a few minutes later and finally drifting off to sleep, followed soon after by his older friend and somehow already brother in all but blood.
In the sleeping bag to Ace’s right, grey eyes watched the two of them drift off intently, a calculating air about them as Annabeth Chase pondered all she had seen and heard and thought about how best to proceed going forward.
We are really getting near the end of season 1 now, and I’m excited for you all to see how it plays out!
Sorry for the short chapter, but I have a feeling the next one will be a bit longer. Or maybe I’ll be wrong, who knows? As my Discord server likes to remind me, I am absolutely useless when it comes to accurately predicting word counts and the like.
Oh well, onward we trot!
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