Smoke on the Horizon

XIII. Leo

XIII. LEO

Leo was now, totally done with water.

On the return to Camp Half Blood he had at least had something to look forward to when he reached his destination.

This time, setting back out across the ocean, all he could look forward to was conflict and potential destruction.

Not his idea of a night out.

Maybe, he thought. Oceanus and Koios will decide not to go through with the whole ‘let’s destroy humanity’ gig and they’ll all just have a nice lunch together and return to camp in one piece.

He leaned his head on Festus and sighed. Why did he have to do that? He thought up stupid scenarios of the ideal ending, knowing they couldn’t possibly come true, and then beat himself up when a part of him still held onto those hopes.

Beside him, a grey speckled pegasus with dark, coppery wings glided close to Festus. He bobbed his head uncertainly but calmed down the moment his rider started speaking in soft tones and stroking his neck soothingly.

Leo was happy Calypso was there, but if he was honest, he hadn’t really wanted her to come. Her uncertainty about her immortality status worried him; he didn’t want to take any chances.

Nevertheless, she looked completely comfortable aboard her pegasus, and he knew he’d be in major trouble if he voiced his concerns.

She smiled as she came level with him, putting him just slightly at ease.

There was nothing for him to worry about for now, at least. They had to get to Oceanus before the real fun could begin.

For the most part, the eight traveled in silence, only speaking to ask either Percy or Leo their heading depending on who was awake at the time.

They took turns resting, though the most sleep any of them got was topped off at an hour due to nerves and level of pegasus (or dragon) stability. At some point, Leo had no idea how long into their journey, Percy instructed them to land.

“There’s a dock about a mile away and the pegasi are tired. We can stop for a while, grab some food,” he said, through over the roar of the wind that had picked up, only Annabeth and Jason could hear him properly.

They passed the message on to the others and they all fell in line behind Blackjack, descending to the ocean below.

The “dock” looked like it hadn’t been used in years.

It consisted of a row of black, water-eroded boards held together by a few rusted nails and bungee cords, and dangled precariously atop four beams about ten feet over the water.

Leo was pretty sure he spotted some rainbow patterned duct-tape looped around the posts, beneath which he imagined there was nothing but saw dust to hold the thing up.

It creaked threateningly as the first few pegasi touched down, prompting the others to cautiously set their hooves down first while still hovering over it.

Leo avoided it completely, more than positive that Festus would bring the whole thing down, and landed safely on the gravel that followed the dock.

It let out to a larger area of the chunked stone, a parking lot, Leo thought. He still wondered what the Mist disguised Festus as. A giant bulldozer or construction crane, maybe. That’d be kind of cool.

He slid off the dragon’s back and surveyed their surroundings. “So where are we?”

“East Florida coast,” Percy said. “My dad’s palace used to be somewhere out here - still is, or, at least what’s left of it. He rebuilt rather than repairing this one after the second Titan War. Now Oceanus has claimed it for himself.” He said all this in a kind of daze, as though he was trying not to think too hard about it. Leo realized that the whole thing must have bothered Percy a lot more than he’d thought.

“So, we’ll just have to kick him out,” Leo said. “Teach him what happens when you take things that aren’t yours.”

“That’s the plan,” Percy smiled. Then he said something to the pegasi, probably telling them to stay nearby and rest up, and they began to unpack their supplies.

Frank, Hazel, and Nico volunteered to scout the area, make sure there were no nasties or mortals nearby, and the others set about going through the food they’d packed.

“Hey Leo,” Jason said, tossing aside a plastic baggie of granola bars. “Remember when we ran into Medea and spent the night in a tunnel?”

“I like the way you think, my friend,” Leo grinned. Piper remained silent but smirked at the two boys.

Annabeth, Percy, and Calypso exchanged confused glances before turning to see what Leo and Jason had in mind.

They waited for Frank, Hazel, and Nico to return, reporting nothing but a few squirrels and birds populating the area, before breaking out Leo’s magic tool belt.

They feasted on hamburgers and curly fries, and having the group together in the middle of the desolate parking lot made it feel much like the cookout Leo, Jason, and Piper had had so long ago when they’d first met.

It wasn’t quite what they’d become accustomed to, but it was certainly nothing to complain about. They stuffed their faces with the greasy food and could almost imagine they were back aboard the Argo II, on their way into danger, laughing over stupid jokes and good memories.

Darkness descended quickly, night encompassing the harbor as they finished off the meal.

Percy volunteered to take first watch. Despite how tired he looked, he claimed to be wide awake and argued that the pegasi were still a little skittish and he wanted to try calming them down some more.

Annabeth said she’d stay up too but Percy insisted she get some rest.

She looked to Leo like she wanted to argue, but Percy’s expression told enough for her to drop it.

They bedded down on gravel, the glow of the firelight and the heat of the summer breeze across the parking lot lulling Leo to sleep faster than he was prepared for.

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