Fabric of Fate
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.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to my editor Athena, as well as my other betas 3CP, Fezzik, Luq707, Raven, Regress, and Yoshi89 for their incredible work on this story.
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Ace Iverson and the Fabric of Fate
November 12, 2004
The Staples Center
“That was ridiculous!” Cadmus was saying. “When they tied it in the third… I thought we were done.”
“How pissed off would you have been if you scored two goals and we still lost?” Caleb asked Ace.
“I don’t care how many goals I scored or didn’t score. I’d be pissed either way. You know how miserable I am to be around after I lose anything.”
“You are a terrible loser,” Cadmus agreed. “Absolutely terrible.”
“As long as I’m a good winner, I’ll just have to make sure it doesn’t matter.”
Caleb snorted. “I doubt it’ll matter when you go pro. Most of them don’t shut up with their whining to the media.”
“I’d like to think I wouldn’t do that.”
“You wouldn’t,” Caleb agreed with a smirk. “You’d just vent to your teammates.”
“Or just not say anything at all,” Terry said from nearby, eyeing them all intently. “That’s even worse. When he’s all quiet, that’s how you know he’s really stuck inside his head. Never a good thing for anybody’s health.”
“Noted, coach,” Ace said with a roll of his eyes.
“I wanted to talk to you, if you don’t mind? Just about some ideas for tomorrow.”
“You want us to wait for you?” asked Caleb.
“Don’t bother, I have no clue how long this will take. Just wait for me back at the hotel, would you?”
“Yeah, sure. We’ll be in our room,” Caleb told him, indicating that they would be in Ace and Caleb’s room.
“Better him than us,” said Cadmus as the two boys exited the dressing room ahead of their friend and coach. “Terry can be a menace when he builds up a head of steam.”
“Yeah,” said Caleb, “we might have some time to kill.”
“Oh, no, whatever will we do with extra time?”
“Probably something equally destructive and entertaining.”
The two boys laughed as they continued their way up the sloping tunnel that led back into the Staples Center’s main lobby. “Yeah,” Cadmus agreed after recovering from his bout of laughter, “yeah, that would—”
Both of them jolted and spun to face a tall, blonde-haired girl who neither of them had ever seen before. “Can we help you?” asked Cadmus.
“I hope so,” the girl answered with a bright smile. “I was wondering if either of you knew Ace Iverson or where I might find him?”
The two boys exchanged glances. Cadmus had thought for a moment this girl might have been a media member from some local Los Angeles newspaper wanting to interview them or Ace after the game. It was now apparent to him this was not the case. She looked no older than either he or Caleb and there was a certain mischievous spark that implied far more than a desire to interview a highly-touted teenage prospect.
He was just opening his mouth to refuse her when Caleb spoke first. “Yeah, he’s down in the furthest changing room on your right. You probably want to wait a bit. Think he’s still talking to our coach. Might not want to walk in on that.”
“Thank you!” This girl seemed entirely too bubbly and Cadmus could not help but think her smile was unnatural. Teeth should not glow that brightly and a girl like her should not give off such an odd sort of aura.
“Don’t have too much fun,” Caleb called back over his shoulder as he and Cadmus began on their trek again, still carrying their equipment bags as they went. “We would like to see him at some point tonight.”
The only response they heard was her laughter. It sounded like the soft chime of bells in a gentle summer’s breeze and summoned forth thoughts of warmth and comfort.
Cadmus did not like any of it.
“What was that about? You do realize what she wants, yes?”
Caleb shrugged. “Eh, let the girl have her fun. She’s not exactly unattractive. I’m sure Ace won’t mind.”
“And if he does, you’ll laugh at him even harder and do the worst impression of innocence anyone has ever seen.”
“How dare you! I would never do anything so dastardly and despicable.”
“My apologies, how silly of me to believe you ever would—”
“You think my acting would be awful?” Caleb spoke right over Cadmus and had puffed out his chest and jutted his chin up. Cadmus cracked up before he could even finish. “Bitch, if I’m going to fuck with my friend and do something so low class, my acting after the fact will be poetry in motion.”
“You know I despise you, right?” asked Cadmus, and now it was Caleb’s turn to devolve into fits of chest-heaving laughter.
“You do not,” Caleb argued through deep breaths. “If you did, you’d have done something about it by now.”
“Why bother? I would be surprised if you didn’t end up killing yourself in the most dramatic yet unfulfilling way imaginable.” They were both laughing now and Cadmus’s mind was pulling forth so many ideas he could hardly decide on one. “Like… you’ll be one of the guys to try and scale a skyscraper and won’t make it. But instead of falling, the way you’ll kick it is by nicking your hand on a broken pane of glass and bleeding out or some shit. Something just utterly boring.”
“Excuse you,” said Caleb, “you said dramatic. If it’s going to be unfulfilling, let me die running way too slowly away from a giant or something. I would never bleed out from cutting my hand on glass. The glass would die trying to cut me.”
“Oh, and what about the giant?”
“Eh, depends on my mood. I’m sure I’d think of something if I really needed to.”
“Yes, because how could anybody as almighty as you ever succumb to something as feeble as death?”
“Who is this death you speak of? I don’t think I’ve met him.”
“You might when Ace realizes that you set him up with a random he’s never met.”
“What’s the worst he’ll do? He can hardly stand most people; he wouldn’t go around killing the ones he can tolerate.”
The upwards slope of the floor was beginning to even out as the light of the lobby loomed up ahead. “Any idea what that is?” Cadmus asked, gesturing to the source of the light. They were still too far from the lobby to be sure, but it sounded like bedlam. Cadmus even thought he heard screaming even though he knew that was ridiculous.
“Could just be some of the guys celebrating,” Caleb said with a shrug. “Would hardly be the first time.”
“When was the first time?”
“One of the first big tournaments we ever played in Toronto, maybe?”
“That would have been… what? Ten or so years ago?”
“Something like that.”
The noise had been growing louder and it really did sound like screaming now. The two boys exchanged looks as they drew closer, but then, a different sound met their ears.
The doors somewhere up ahead flew open and a figure came barreling into the tunnel leading down to the dressing rooms. Cadmus tensed and he saw Caleb reach into his pocket. He was probably going for a knife; he always seemed to have at least one on him.
The figure ran straight past them. He was moving so fast it was difficult to make out much about him, but he was shorter than both Caleb and Cadmus and was built quite squarely.
Cadmus wasn’t focusing on any of that. The sounds up ahead had really drawn his attention now. There was definitely screaming — that had become obvious during the moment or so when the doors had been flung open.
“Okay, call me crazy, but that sounded way too high to be one of the guys.”
“It did, yeah.” Caleb’s voice had lowered and octave and his pace had slowed. His knife was out now. The tunnel was lit by dull bulbs of light every ten or so metres. It shone off the blade when they passed under the next one. Caleb always kept his knives in stellar condition.
“Don’t suppose you have another one of those?” asked Cadmus.
“In my bag, but not that I can reach.”
They finally neared the doors and stopped short at the sight that greeted them. “What the fuck?” Cadmus muttered.
Caleb actually laughed. It was a sound both louder and higher than his usual voice, and this was more a cackle. The hand that wasn’t gripping his knife went to his side, clutching a stitch as he doubled over.
“Shut up!” hissed Cadmus, clamping a hand over his mouth as he struggled to drag the larger boy to the floor. The only reason he managed it at all was because Caleb had already been bent at the waste. “Do you not see what’s in the lobby?”
“Sorry,” Caleb gasped, “sorry, it’s just… giants.”
“What the fuck is so funny about giants?”
“Like… two minutes ago. The way I said I’d rather die.”
“Oh, for fuck sake!” cursed Cadmus. Caleb’s laughter returned in another manic gale. “How does this always happen? You say the dumbest shit and then it actually ends up happening.”
“I don’t know. I just say what comes to my mind.”
“Well, here’s a wonderful idea — maybe don’t predict your own death with that in mind.”
“Dude, I said giants. Giants aren’t supposed to exist.”
“Well then, apparently you are the literal god of bullshit and you created them from your nonsense. Good job, now it’s time to make them disappear.”
“And how exactly do you propose I do that?”
“You’re the one who said you were sure you’d come up with something if you were in the mood.”
“Huh… I did say that, didn’t I?”
“Yes, you did. Get on it because I’ve got nothing.”
An almighty sound came from the lobby. Something must have been ripped from the floor and flung across the room — Cadmus could think of nothing else that would have made that sound. The floor vibrated underneath him. Cadmus was pressed stomach first against the stones, so he felt the tremor run up his abdomen and shake his very chest. It was like when somebody played music much too loudly in a car and everything began to shake.
“And… what if I’m not in the mood?”
“I’ll tell Mr. Morris that you were the one who rigged the overhead sprinkler system last winter.”
“Hey! That was as much Ace’s fault as mine! We were having a competition!”
“Mhm, cool story, and what competition was this?”
“Who could get away with the biggest stunt without getting suspended.” Cadmus really had to give it to Caleb; he answered with a perfectly straight face.
“Consider this — I somehow don’t think Mr. Morris is going to like that story very much.”
“Ah, but if we’re dead, it won’t matter.”
“I hear you,” Cadmus said, suddenly struck by the absurdity that they were quipping seconds before their potential demise, “but if we die, whoever the hell judges us will do that with all of our sins in mind.”
“Point,” muttered Caleb as he glanced around the dark tunnel. “Don’t suppose we can wait them out?”
“Doubt it. Not as much screaming out there now. They’ve probably gotten rid of most of them. They’ll check in here eventually.”
“You know, I hate it when you’re right.”
“Excuse you! I don’t recall being the one to predict giants!”
“They were giants, Cadmus. What the hell were the odds—”
“Plan, Caleb. Head out of the gutter. This is fun and I enjoy you, but not enough to die over an argument on whose brilliance is more infuriating.”
“Fine,” Caleb huffed and went silent again.
The sounds were quieting out in the lobby. Cadmus even thought it was quiet enough to hear heavy foot falls coming closer and closer to the door leading to the tunnel in which they lay. He desperately hoped it was just his imagination, but he wasn’t altogether sure that was true.
“Do you hear that?” he asked Caleb.
“Yup,” the other boy said, “and look at that, I have a plan.”
The taller of the two leapt to his feet and ran for the door, bursting through and dodging a massive figure who had indeed been lumbering towards them. Cadmus’s eyes bugged out for a moment at the sight of it. The figure seemed almost human but for the excess body hair and horrible odour coming from it.
Oh, and the fact it had to be almost ten-feet tall and thrice as wide as any man. That was also a dead giveaway, Cadmus supposed.
“Oi! Dumbass!” Caleb’s voice rang out from somewhere in the lobby. “I’ll never let you live it down if you die and I don’t!”
“Oh, go and choke on it,” Cadmus muttered as he rolled out of the way just before the monstrous humanoid brought his immense foot down right where Cadmus’s chest had been a second earlier. He took to his feet and lunged forward, managing to dive straight through the creature’s legs before hightailing it through the lobby.
The fact that it was the threat of losing at something to Caleb that had jolted him was concerning, but Cadmus would have time to ponder that later… hopefully. There were more pressing matters that currently required his immediate attention before that could happen.
“I hate you,” Cadmus gasped through heaving breaths, clutching a painful stitch in his side as he and Caleb sank against the wall of a dark, shadowy alleyway near the Staples Center. “I hate you so much!”
Caleb coughed as ragged breaths tore themselves from him. “Look, how was I supposed to know giants would show up?”
“It’s the principle of the thing!”
“Yes, yes, we can argue about it later. Do you think we’ve lost them?”
“How the hell am I supposed to know?”
“We haven’t gone all that far, but we caught them by surprise and they can’t run that—”
Both boys lunged out of the alleyway and back into the street as three hulking giants slammed through the wall that had been at their backs. Debris flew everywhere, rising up like small bits of gravel under the tire’s of a mountain bike that had made a sudden stop. The giants looked around for a moment before spotting Cadmus and Caleb, but the two of them had not been idle.
“The pool!” shouted Caleb.
“Up ahead and to the right! See it? The one off to the right of the skyscraper!”
Cadmus had never felt so tired in his life. It wasn’t that they had run terribly far from the Staples Center, it was the fact they had not done it at an unwavering sprint. Sharp stabs of pain shot through his chest every time one of his feet thudded against the concrete as a vicious cramp tore at him. It felt like someone had stuck a dagger through his ribs and was twisting each time Cadmus drew a breath.
The pool was clearly a recreational facility of some kind, but it was closed now. There were no guards, but there were cameras and the area was fenced in. Caleb was a wizard when it came to avoiding detection via cameras — it was a large reason why them and Ace so rarely got caught up in anything they had actually done — but he didn’t even bother to try tonight. Between a fine for trespassing and becoming a grease spot under one of the behemoths at their backs, both Caleb and Cadmus would happily take the former.
They both leapt several feet before the fence and swung themselves over its top in one swift motion. Cadmus hit the ground half a second before Caleb and heard his friend land behind him with a grunt.
“They’re closing!” Cadmus heard himself shout. This was utter nonsense! How in the hell were humans so big running them down? They were both elite-level athletes! “Cadmus! Out of the way!”
Instincts took over when Caleb shouted and Cadmus dove to the side just feet from the pool. There was a loud crashing sound behind him and he knew the giants must have just ran straight through the fence. They were impossibly fast for their size, but not nimble — and that was their downfall tonight.
There wasn’t all that much distance between the fence and the large swimming pool, and what ground did lay between them was slick with water that must have sloshed over the pool’s side. Droplets of it shone here and there in the moonlight like pale blue gemstones.
The first giant skid right past Cadmus and bellowed just before it hit the water, its two companions joining it seconds later. It was less a series of splashes and more like three successive thunder claps as the giants toppled into the pool. Cadmus clambered to his feet and prepared to run, but something gave him pause.
The giants were thrashing about in the water. It was ludicrous. They could have stepped straight out of the pool, yet they were thrashing about like petrified children not yet aware of how to swim. The sight was so absurd that Caleb began to cackle again and as he did, the most peculiar thing happened.
Deep, wracking coughs escaped each of the flailing giants as they all began to tremble. Cadmus thought they looked paler somehow in the moonlight and that one of them had almost allowed their knees to buckle.
What in the hell was going on?
It was too much — the whole situation was so unbelievable and Caleb’s laughter was so contagious that he couldn’t help but join in, adding his laughter to the symphony of his friend’s.
Perhaps it was being laughed at that turned the giants against each other, or perhaps they were so afraid of water they fought to be free of it, but in the next moment one of them had leapt at another and crashed into it, sending them both splashing under the waters as the third brought its foot down hard upon the both of them.
“Now!” Caleb hissed and the two of them bolted for the fence, sending their moment, listening to the unjust sound of bloodshed behind them.
“What the fuck just happened?” Cadmus asked some time later when they had put several miles between them and the giants without signs of pursuit.
“No clue,” said Caleb, “but I have a weird feeling we might not be seeing at Ace at the hotel.”
Cadmus froze then, eyes wide and skin pale. “Oh, fuck… Ace!”
I do apologize for the very long delay in continuing this story. I have had a lot going on and will admit to having prioritized my other works. I have no plans of ever abandoning this story, though, so here it is once again.
I know this was a short chapter, but I do call these interludes. They’re here to show what happens between seasons because I think large time skips without any context or visible progression is a hindrance to characterization when dealing with teenagers. There will be at least five, potentially six interludes before season II gets underway.
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