If it wasn't bad enough that Vegas was just about a twenty and a half hour drive without traffic, they had no transportation. Blackjack couldn't carry all three of them, even if his injuries were fully healed. If they were forced to walk, it would take way more time than they were allowed to get there. How in Hades were they going to get there?
"We're going to have to send Blackjack home and find another way to Vegas," Will said. "That's the hard part."
"Well…" Nico said awkwardly as Blackjack flew back to Long Island.
"No!" Will scolded. "No shadow travel whatsoever!"
"I'm just saying, it's a possibility…"
"What's shadow travel?" Alex asked curiously.
"It's something very dangerous that you shouldn't do!" Will said.
"Oh, come off it, Will," Nico said. "It's only dangerous if you travel too far, and only Hades kids and underworld monsters are known to do it."
"How does it work?"
"Pretty simple; you see, you–!"
"Don't give her any ideas!" Will said. "Remember the first time and that other time?"
"We'll go slow!" Nico said. "And I went to China once on accident and I'm never going to hear the end of it!"
Will was silent, giving Nico a glare. He obviously wasn't happy with Nico's idea of a "test run". After a while he sighed and said, "Fine; a test run– but only one!"
"Ugh, fine," Nico groaned.
"So, how does it work?" Alex asked again.
"Alright, let's start with the basics," Nico began, sitting Alex down on a log. "You have to concentrate, you have to. Concentrate on the destination, just the destination; it tells the shadows where to take you. This concentration alone will drain your energy, and the strain that shadow travel puts onto your body due to the speed and energy you'll travel at doesn't help, like, at all. It's going to be hard to concentrate even without ADHD. Now, as a daughter of Hades, when you shadow travel, you'll… Experience things others won't, typically. You are going to see things, hear voices, even someone– or something– touching you. They're going to try and take you, but you can't let them. You have to tell them you're the boss, basically. If you don't… Well, that's the dangerous part."
"Who's going to try and take me?" Alex asked. "What'll happen?" To be honest, she was kind of terrified of anything taking her.
"The shadows," Nico explained. "They'll try to make you become one of them."
"That's why this is the only time we're letting you do this," Will said sternly.
It was a scary thought. She wondered how she was going to do it, if she even could. Concentrating wasn't her thing; how could she concentrate long enough to get to their destination? Well, she had to try.
"We should start with… Omaha, maybe?" Nico suggested.
"Don't you think it's a little far, though?" Will pointed out.
"Nah, I went to China for my first time, remember?" Nico said. Alex heard that in the wrong way.
"Well, you do know more about shadow traveling than me, a lowly child of Apollo," Will teased.
"You do know enough to ruin my groove!" Nico continued. "You and your photokinesis!"
"At least I can get a tan," Will said.
"I don't want a tan, then you won't love my face,"
"I don't need your face," Will said with a wink. Nico blushed and couldn't say anymore. Will won.
Alex knew what that meant; Will was hinting something that she shouldn't know about as a twelve-year-old, but she knew. Uncomfortable with this, Alex blurts out, "Back on topic please! I don't need to think about you two doing that!"
"How do you even know about that?!" Will and Nico said together.
"I have my sources!" Alex defended.
Will and Nico shared glances, "But you're twelve!" They shouted together.
"So?" Alex argued. "That doesn't mean I can't find out!"
"Who raised you?" Will asked.
"My uncle," Alex answered. "He doesn't know how to take care of children."
"Good to know," Nico said.
"So shall we shadow travel now?" Alex asked.
"Do you think you're ready?" Nico asked.
"I won't know unless I try," Alex said with a shrug.
"Andiamo!" Nico exclaimed.
"What?" Will asked, giving him a look.
"Italian for let's go," Nico explained. He turned to Alex. "Remember what I said and you should be fine. Concentrate on Omaha."
Alex took a deep breath. She really didn't know if she'd be able to concentrate for as long as she may have to. Then she thought of Angelique and her friends. They were in trouble; she had to do this for their sake.
She concentrated on the Cathedral her uncle preached at- did she mention her uncle was a preacher?- she concentrated on the street. 701 North 40th street, Omaha, Nebraska…
They entered the shadows, Nico and Will holding onto her hands.
The first thing that Alex noticed was how cold it was. It was like she had been thrown outside after a warm shower in winter. She gasped, not just from the cold though. She had forgotten to close her eyes before starting this, and saw figures moving beside her in the shadows. They pulled at her hair, grabbed at her clothes, some even stepped in their path. As they passed through these shadows, Alex felt the heat leave her body, and heard voices. The voices called to her, asking her to join them, begging her, pleading with her. She tried to scream at them to stop, but her voice caught in her throat as she passed through another shadow. The voice she heard this time was different, familiar, and it called her by name. She lost her concentration and felt herself fall out of the shadows and face-plant on the ground. "I didn't like my first time," She managed to get out as she got up.
"Are you okay?" Nico asked sincerely.
"Yeah," Alex said with a shaking voice. "Yeah, I think I'm okay," She felt tired, but she was definitely okay.
"Why are we in front of a cathedral?" Will asked, pointing to the Gothic style building they had appeared in front of.
Well, shit; she didn't mean to take them to where her uncle was. She meant to run away from him, not come back to him.
"Are we even in Omaha?" Nico asked, looking around.
"Yeah," Alex said, regretfully. "We are definitely in Omaha," She turned to Will and Nico. "Can we go? Like, now?"
"Why?" Will asked with curiosity as Alex started walking.
"Because I don't want to–!"
"Alex? Is that you?" Gods dammit.
Alex stopped dead in her tracks, frozen in place. It was her uncle Thomas. She knew his voice way too well. What was she going to do?
Her body turned to where the voice was coming from- the cathedral's front doors. She smiled nervously.
"Hey, uncle Tommy!" Alex said nervously.
"What are you doing with these grown men? I've been looking for you for a week!" Uncle Thomas scolded. Alex frowned.
She'd been gone for a month and a half.
"This is your uncle? A priest?" Nico said, pointing to uncle Thomas.
"But you said you heard those…" Will whispered.
"I go to a boarding school," Alex whispered back.
"Oh," Will said.
"Seriously, Alex, who are these men and why are you around them?" Uncle Thomas asked, sternly.
"Uncle Tommy, this is Nico Di Angelo, my half-brother," Alex pointed to Nico. "And this," She pointed to Will. "Is Will Solace, Nico's boyfriend." She made sure to add that; Uncle Thomas was extremely catholic.
"I don't approve of this," Uncle Thomas said with a stern voice.
"Of course you don't, because you're homophobic– did I mention Nico's my half-brother?" Alex said with sass.
"Is that what he told you?" He asked angrily. "You can't trust a guy you just met! Especially when they are much older than you!"
"What do you even know about me?" Alex asked defensively.
"What are you talking about, Alex?" Uncle Thomas argued. "I have raised you from when you were a toddler!"
"No you didn't," Alex shot back. "The nuns did."
Just as Alex expected, her uncle couldn't think of anything to counteract that. He may have dished out the punishments, but he never took the time to actually get to know her.
"Nico is my family– my brother– and you think you know more about me than him?" Alex shouted. "He knows more than you will ever know!"
"No, don't even start," Alex said, holding back a sob. "You didn't even care enough to realize I've been gone for a month and a half!"
"Did you seriously not know that your niece was missing for an entire month and a half?" Nico asked in disbelief.
"You're kidding, right? Please tell me you're kidding," Will continued.
Uncle Thomas couldn't say anything. They were right; how did he not know that she was gone for an entire month and a half? It blew her mind that he could have been so caught up in his preaching work that he didn't think to check up on the only niece he had- the one who he was looking after, Alex. The one he promised her mother he'd protect with his life and he couldn't keep track of her, even for a day.
"You know, you always told me that my dad was a no good, rotten, good for nothing, sinning piece of crap who left me and my mother for no good reason," Alex began, tears welling in her eyes. "I bet you've never seen my dad, never spoke to him, never– never even knew his name!" She paused. "I do."
"Don't be ridiculous, Alex," Uncle Thomas said quietly.
"I've seen him in my dreams, I've heard his voice, I know his name," Alex continued.
"Alex," Her uncle said a little louder.
"My father is Hades, god of the underworld," Alex stated. "I am a demigod."