greenconverses: (pjo: rachel/nico)
[personal profile] greenconverses
Title: Death's Dare
Rating: R
Characters/Pairings: Rachel/Nico, with appearances from the rest of the cast and the gods
Summary: After an attempt on her life, Apollo decides Rachel needs a bodyguard and who better to take the job than a certain son of Hades? Too bad they're not going to make things easy for each other, especially when it comes to their feelings.
Notes: The alternative chapter titles needs to be, "In Which Exposition Goes To Die." Sorry for the long wait, but I had plot details to hammer out and real life interfered quite a bit with that up until now. I'd like to finish this fic in the next couple of months, so hopefully that long of delay in an update time won't happen any time soon. Thanks to the lovely [livejournal.com profile] saturninepen for looking over this, as usual.


Chapter 14: Shadow Games


All things considered, Rachel really shouldn’t have laughed. Because what kind of sane person laughs at the people trying to kill her?

She just couldn’t help herself, though. It was impossible not to laugh at the three of them, especially not after she spotted the proud, twisted smirk Liv shot at her as she proclaimed Rachel was screwed. Their entire operations was so whole cartoon villain it hurt. These were the people she’d spent the sleepless nights worrying about? It almost seemed like a waste.

And laughter? Laughter was one of the few weapons she had left at this point. She didn’t see anything wrong with throwing her head back and laughing for all her worth, especially if it would buy her a few more minutes to think of a plan.

As her chuckles grew louder, Liv’s smirk faded and she exchanged a confused look with her two companions. Clearly this wasn’t going at all like she had fantasized it would.

“Why is she laughing? Doesn’t she understand?” Liv asked, looking for at Eric for an answer.

“Shut up, Dare,” Jake added in a low, warning rumble. His hands clenched roughly on her shoulders, inches away from her neck, and Rachel’s laughter died with a little yelp. “Before I do it for you.”

“Jake,” Eric said warningly, glaring at his companion. “I think you’ve already done enough damage to the girl tonight the way it is. Knock it off.”

Jake’s grip loosened, then fell off completely as he stepped away from her. Rachel, however, didn’t have a chance to enjoy her relief as Eric immediately took his place, leaning in close to her, his handsome face overcome by a dark glower.

“So tell us, Rachel,” he said slowly, evaluating her with his icy blue eyes. His stare unnerved her but she wouldn’t let him see how much he intimidated her. “What exactly was so funny?”

Rachel decided to ignore the question.

Although her three kidnappers might know about Olympus and other gods as well, it was becoming rather clear to Rachel that they didn’t know the Olympians like she did. And, judging by the way they sniped at each other, they weren’t as well organized and cohesive as she first thought they would be. They weren’t smarter than her; they had simply gotten lucky tonight.

She had to outsmart them. The real question was how.


“You know, when I was told someone was trying to kill me, I pictured something with fangs and a bit more drooly. You guys are a real disappointment,” she replied, glancing at them all before settling back on Eric. “I’ll admit, you surprised me. People like you aren’t supposed to know about the gods. But it’s pretty clear that you haven’t the slightest clue what you’re fucking around with and I’d suggest you let me go right now before you get hurt.”

It was Liv’s turn to giggle at that, but she sounded forced and shrill, and Eric grimaced as the sound echoed throughout the room, ruining the intimidating mood. He tried to recover it, his lips spreading into what had to be his sociopathic boardroom smile, but she wasn’t going to give him an inch.

“Rachel, Rachel — ”

“Don’t even start with the patronizing bullshit, Eric,” Rachel snapped. “I looked the Lord of the Titans in the eye and threw a hairbrush at him when I was fourteen. Trust me when I say this: you entitled fuckers don’t scare me.”

His eyes flickered with rage and before she could brace herself, Eric slapped her across the face. Rachel’s head exploded into a kaleidoscope of pain and she bit down on her lip, letting out a tiny cry.

Now, Rachel could believe Eric would have it in him to kidnap and plot to kill someone. He clearly had nothing to lose and everything to gain, and Rachel was one of the few things standing in the way. That made him much more dangerous than Jake, the obvious physical brute of bunch. She’d have to be more careful with him.

“You Dares think you know everything,” he spat, yanking her face forward again. His composure was gone, replaced by rage and a faint tinge of instability. “You’re nothing but a bunch of lucky, middle class upstarts and you’re done messing with how this city is run, do you understand me? We’re going to ruin you, just like your father ruined us.”

The throbbing in Rachel’s head was making it hard to concentrate on his words, but she could’ve sworn... wasn’t this supposed to be about Olympus? About some age old conflict between the gods and their enemies? What in Hades name was Eric talking about?

Eric let go of her roughly and turned, running a hand through his hair and trying to regain his self-control. He swatted Liv’s hand away as she reached out for him, and she pouted, glaring at Rachel petulantly.

“What,” Rachel asked slowly, trying to focus. “What does my dad have to do with any of this?”

“You’re kidding, right?” Jake said, arching an eyebrow. She shook her head and immediately regretted the movement as her stomach swelled with nausea. “Oh, that’s rich. And we’re the ones who don’t know what the fuck we’re talking about? Christ.”

“I bet you thought you so much more superior than the rest of us at Clarion because you knew about the Olympians,” Liv sneered, enjoying the moment. “Well guess what, Rachel — you’re not that fucking special. Anyone who’s family’s been on this island since the 1600s or has any kind of lasting influence in the mortal world knows about the gods, even if we’re not beholden to the same ones.”

“So you knew then,” Rachel said carefully, glancing at Liv. “You knew what I was at school.”

“No,” the other girl huffed, flipping her hair over her shoulder in an irritated manner. “I just thought you were a psycho weirdo. I didn’t connect the dots until that stupid priestess told us who you were a while ago. But it totally made sense, what with your dad and all.”

Where Warren Dare fit in this mess was a question that could be answered later... because there would be a later, Rachel decided, if only so she could scream at her father if it turned out he had been lying to her her entire life. She was not going to die with that mystery hanging over her head.

Rachel’s mind was spinning with all this new information, trying to make sense of it all as quick as she could. This was the second time one of them had mentioned other gods. It couldn’t be coincidence. The immortals who wanted her dead weren’t from Olympus; they belonged to another mythology entirely.

And New York City...

New York was where all the mythologies of the world collided and staked their claim, where they could each have a neighborhood or a street or an island to call their own. Olympus had long been the dominate force in the city, but it couldn’t have always been that way. Someone had to have come first, someone who wanted their rightful place back and would do everything to see that it was done.

And of course, they would align themselves with the rich and powerful of the city. Or the formerly rich and powerful, like the three people in front of her. Their families had a lost a great deal of respect and capital during the recession and through bad luck, and Rachel could imagine it only took a few promises of restored glory and shining treasures for them to get on board with an a plot like this. They wanted control of the mortal portion of the city again.

“Let me guess,” she said. “The Olympians pissed you off, someone’s offered you a better deal and now you’re out for a nice bit of revenge?”

“The Olympians abandoned our families,” Eric corrected, having recovered his cool. His hair was a bit messier and his tie loose around his neck; both simple reminders of the dark rage that lurked inside him. “We’d served them faithfully for almost a century, and as soon as the new millenium comes... all of that, gone, for a bunch of dotcom mouth breathers, Jersey strip mall developers and their little bastard godlings.”

Rachel almost reminded him that her father was from Iowa, not Jersey, but her stinging cheek reminded her that it might be best to keep her snappy comments to herself for a little while longer.

Your families served them, you mean,” Jake grunted. He squared his shoulders proudly. “The Van Bruens have always belonged to Odin.”

“Odin?” Rachel repeated. “Like Thor’s dad Odin? That’s who you’re working for?” None of them answered her, preferring to give her insufferable smug looks, and Rachel couldn’t help herself. “You’re shitting me. What are you trying to do, assemble The Avengers or something? Jesus.”

So much for being careful. She regretted the quip as soon as it came out of her mouth, but thankfully, neither Eric nor Jake made a move toward her and settled for scowling instead.

“Hilarious,” Liv said, sarcasm dripping from every letter of the word. She reached down and rustled through her designer bag. Rachel’s eyes widened as she re-emerged with an ancient and definitely wicked looking dagger in her hands. “Are we finished with 20 Questions yet? I’d really like to get this over with ASAP. I told you Wednesday was a bad day for me schedule wise.”

Jake pushed up his jacket sleeve and looked at his Rolox. “The priestess said everything would be ready by 10. It’s 9:50. Chill the fuck out.”

Rachel’s heart skipped a beat. She had ten minutes. Ten minutes to figure her way out of this or find some way to get Nico or Percy or anyone to her, or she was dead.

“I guess I should just ask the obvious question next, huh?” Rachel said, slowly beginning to fiddle with the ropes binding her hands together again. “What’s my part in all of this? If you want to start some kind of war between the gods, I’m a bit too low on the totem pole to get that accomplished.”

“It’s not that hard to figure out, is it, Dare?” Jake said, circling around her again. Rachel stilled and then stiffened as his hands brushed through her hair. “We need a sacrifice, and you’re the only guaranteed virgin in Manhattan... although that might not last much not longer if I’ve got anything to say about it.”

Disgust and fear simmered in her stomach, and Rachel tried not to wonder how many other girls had been on the receiving end of Jake’s leer and unwanted touch. Facing imminent death was something that she was, unfortunately, somewhat used to, but that... that was something that would break her and Jake knew it. The bastard.

“Don’t touch me,” she replied, yanking away from him as best as she could. “Or I’ll make you regret it.”

Jake laughed, leaning closer, his hands moving down her neck. Gods, she had to get way, she needed help. “How you gonna do that when you’re tied to a chair?”

“How about you look me in the eyes and ask that question?” Rachel said as the churning in her stomach began to turn into something much more powerful and familiar. “Or any questions for that matter. How about, ‘Rachel, is this stupid plot of ours going to work or will we end up deader than doornails?’ You know I’ve got the answer, so why don’t you just ASK ME.”

As she proclaimed the last words, the spirit of Delphi’s voice joined hers, causing Rachel’s voice to drop an octave and echo menacingly. She could feel the spirit under her skin, vibrating with power. It hadn’t taken over her body fully as it usually did when it emerged; they were sharing control for once, to remind the foolish mortals who they were dealing with...

Jake jumped away from her with a, “Holy shit, her eyes!”, and Liv on the couch gasped loudly when she turned her gaze on her. The third’s reaction was more subdued, perhaps because he had the most experience with beings like her, but he took a step back from her all the same.

“Go on,” Rachel hissed, focusing on the weak willed brute and letting the power in her voice seep into his head. “I’ve seen your future, Jacob Van Bruen... what’s left of it, anyway. Would you like to know more? Just say please.”

She grinned, feeling his willpower slipping and the start of a question forming on his lips. Once he asked, she’d have complete access to his precious little mind and she’d twist and turn it so he would never hurt anyone again —

Somewhere behind her, the door burst open, banging against the wall, and a voice shouted, “I thought I told ya to blindfold her!”

Rachel blinked and the spell was broken. The spirit of Delphi left her instantly, and she slumped forward, gasping and shivering as her body went haywire, trying to recover from the possession. She’d never had a reaction like this before and it hurt.

“You didn’t tell us she’d do that!” Jake shouted, failing to mask the trembling fear in his voice. “Jesus Christ, she was in my head! Blindfold her before she does it again!”

“Don’t even bother now,” the newcomer’s voice said and Rachel distantly recognized her Irish accent — Kate. “The Oracle can’t repossess its host when she’s this weak. It probably did ya a favor in the long run, actually.”

Someone was making horrible choking noises and Rachel realized moments later that it was her, sobbing because her head and body hurt so badly and she had been so close to being free...

“So, everything’s ready then?” Eric asked, and she felt his hands on her arms, dragging her to her feet. Rachel wobbled, feeling like a useless rag doll, but she had enough strength to glance up at Kate.

“Yes,” the green-haired girl said, meeting her gaze for half a second. Rachel thought maybe she was imagining the guilt in her eyes, the product of wishful thinking that anyone involved in this had a conscious. “Let’s get upstairs and get this over with. I’d rather not be around once the son of Hades finds out she’s dead.”

*

He couldn’t sense her.

It didn’t mean she was dead, Nico told himself over and over again, as he stretched his powers as far as they could reach. He knew what dead felt like, and he certainly hadn’t felt the cold, hollow shiver down his spine or the buzzing in his ears as Thanatos claimed another soul close to him.

He felt nothing, which in some ways, was much worse. It was extremely difficult to look for and find nothing.

It didn’t make sense. He’d felt her terror earlier in the evening until it had abruptly dulled, and then again briefly a few minutes ago before it vanished, leaving nothing but a Rachel-shaped void in his mind. That brief presence hadn’t been enough to trace her whereabouts; Nico had tried shadow traveling to that point we he’d felt her and nearly ended up in the Hudson River.

Please, he thought, even though he wasn’t exactly sure who he was praying to, I can’t lose her. I can’t do this again. Please.

“Okay, I think I found something,” Malcolm said, breaking Nico’s concentration. He opened his eyes and looked expectantly at the blond boy sitting at Percy’s kitchen table. “According to this book, the last time the Norse gods were seen on Midgard — that is, Earth — during the mythological conflict that occurred at the same time as World War I. That’s because Olympus somehow managed to seal off Midgard from Asgard and the other seven worlds in the Norse myth.”

“They can do that?” Percy asked, glancing up from the sketch pad in his hands. Nico had raided Rachel’s room and studio for anything she might’ve sketched in the past few days that could give them clues to where she was. It was a long shot, but if she had seen the monsters, she might’ve seen something else. “Isn’t that, I don’t know, cheating or something?”

“It’d be no different than if the Norse decided to trash the Olympian throne room. All pantheons have to be anchored to the mortal world somehow and if another group is clever enough to get past your defenses, well... ” Malcolm shrugged. “Anyway, the ritual to seal the Midgard off requires the ‘blood of the one who sees all worlds and all of time.’”

“An Oracle,” Nico said. “That’s why they killed so many of them in the past, because they knew what a danger they were.”

“Right. You don’t necessarily need to kill an Oracle for the ritual, just need a whole lot of her blood to do it. The same blood sacrifice is needed for the ritual to bring these guys back, so you guess that’s what whoever took Rachel’s up to.”

“Well, yeah, we figured they were going to kill her,” Nico snapped, frustration beginning to creep through him. “Does that book of yours tell us where they’re going to do the damn ritual?”

Malcolm turned a few pages, skimming the text faster than a kid with dyslexia should be able to, and then shook his head. “No, and the Norse don’t technically have a stronghold in the area any more since their territory was swallowed up when they disappeared. They won’t be in Manhattan or Staten Island, since that’s Greek territory, but there are plenty of unclaimed areas in the other boroughs where they might go...”

From in the kitchen, Nico heard Percy mutter, “I swear I’ve seen this before...” as he poured over a sketch but he didn’t ask about it, his attention caught instead by Malcolm’s movements.

Malcolm reached for a large scroll and unrolled it, spreading it over the other documents on the table. Nico got up and leaned over the table to look at map, drumming his fingers impatiently on the edge of it.

“Brooklyn and Queens are out because that belongs to the Egyptians. They’re too weak right now to make a move against the Greeks, so they wouldn’t house any Norse supporters,” the son of Athena continued. “The Bronx is probably where we’ll want to focus our attention. Even though there’s a strong Greek presence there, it hasn’t been claimed by us and there are quite a few other mythologies there.”

“That’s as far as you can narrow it down to? An entire borough?” Nico demanded. “Do you know how many people live in the Bronx?”

“Well, according to the last census — ”

Nico slammed his fist on the table, his patience at its end. “I don’t want the answer to that! I want to know where Rachel is!”

“Malcolm, I think — ” Percy began.

“I don’t know!” Malcolm shouted back, cheeks flushing angrily. “Summoning the Norse back is going to bring them a lot of attention so they might look somewhere less populated but this is all I have to go on! I don’t know who took her, I don’t know where they are or why you can’t find her or anything! I need more time if you want something definite!”

“We don’t have the time! They’re going to kill Rachel tonight! And if she dies, you’re going to - ”

Percy was suddenly standing next Nico and he jammed his elbow into his side with enough force to cut him off, but not hurt him too badly. Nico gasped, winded, and glared at the older boy.

“Threatening the people trying to help you isn’t a good idea, Nico,” Percy said, green eyes hard. “Besides, if you two would let me talk, I’d be able to tell you that I think I figured out where they took Rachel.”

“What?” Nico and Malcolm said at the same time, surprised. Out of the three of them, Percy was the least likely one to solve a mythological mystery. True, Percy had gotten much better at observation since he was a teenager, but Annabeth was usually the one that who spotted clues and made connections before anyone else even noticed there was a connection to be had.

Percy tossed Rachel’s notebook on the table, where it had been turned to a page with a sketch of a spiral staircase in a dilapidated building on it. Nico searched out Rachel’s signature and the date on the sketch, noting that she’d created it just a few days ago. She couldn’t have drawn it from life then, since they hadn’t gone anywhere like this recently, let alone in the last month.

“That’s the staircase in one of the abandoned buildings on North Brother Island in the East River. It hasn’t been inhabited for decades and everything’s falling apart or being overrun by weeds. It’s hard to get to, but not impossible and if I wanted to do some crazy ritual, it’d probably be one of the places I’d pick. It’s super creepy.”

“I... well, I suppose...” Malcolm hastily consulted the maps. “North Brother Island is an unclaimed territory, as are several of the other islands in the area, probably because they’re smack right in Poseidon’s territory, but... ”

“But what?”

“No offense Percy, but how did you recognize that staircase?”

In spite of the serious circumstances, the question caused Percy to blush and he cleared his throat. “Uh, I took Annabeth out there once. On a date. You know how she likes buildings and, uh, stuff, so... ”

“You studied some staircases?” Malcolm asked dryly. “Hope they were more fascinating than the maps.”

Percy’s cheeks turned an even deeper shade of pink. Clearly Nico was missing out on some kind of innuendo-laden in-joke, but he was in no mood to ask about it now.

"You're absolutely sure, Percy?" he asked instead, and the other man nodded. “All right. IM me know if you find anything else, Malcolm. I’ll go check out North Brother Island and — ”

“You mean we’ll go check it out,” Percy interrupted. “If it turns out Rachel’s there, you won’t have time to report back to us and you won’t want to. Plus, I’ll probably have to save your skinny ass again from whatever mountain trolls they have guarding the island.”

“Whatever,” Nico said, grabbing Percy’s elbow. He hoped the son of Poseidon didn’t notice how hard his hands were trembling. “Just try not to throw up when we get there, hero.”

He glanced at the map on the table once last time, noting North Brother’s position, and focused his energy. Shadow traveling was easier when he had been somewhere before, but it certainly wasn’t impossible. He just had to imagine the coordinates and the shadows would do the rest. Percy tensed as the shadows wrapped around them and they were no longer in his apartment, hurtling along in the darkness to a forgotten island and then....

Finally.

He felt Rachel’s presence.

And she was dying.


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May 2012

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