1) Travis and Connor have separate birthdays, and like to tell people they were born in the United States but not in any one of the 50 recognized states. Their mother had been in a helicopter at the time, chasing a news story that she'd already dedicated five years of her life to, and not even giving birth to demigod twins in US air space was going to stop her now. Travis Atticus Stoll was born at 11:15 somewhere over Arkansas, and Connor Saul Stoll was born one hour, one time zone, and one day later, a little bit before they touched down in North Carolina. They thought this was absolutely brilliant, because it meant two birthday cakes.
2) Lucy Stoll was an intrepid woman with a narrow, lithe face more befitting of a Shakespearean villain than a thirty-year-old poly-European Columbian grad. She had a sixth sense for a story that made her the kind of nosy reporter people liked to make exaggerated caricatures of. It was also what attracted Hermes to her, early in her career; she brashly called him out on some vague magic hand waving he did to make a monster-related incident disappear. She'd been less than thrilled to find herself pregnant a little under a month later.
3) When Travis and Connor were three, she lost her temper and demanded to know what it was about the concept of contraceptives that the Greek gods had so much trouble grasping. She got zapped by lightning on the spot and that was the end of that. Too young to be especially heartbroken over this, the Stoll brothers were raised by an eccentric aunt and only really reminisced about their mother during late-night reruns of War of the Worlds.
4) Their first conversation with their father lasted two minutes. It was probably the most awkward thing they'd ever lived through (and that included Chiron's vague attempt at demigod sex ed when they were thirteen.) Hermes's face got strange and almost ... soft when he brought up their mother, and Travis and Connor looked at each other in surprise: they'd never met anyone who actually liked her before.
5) They talked to their father more often when they got older (read: after the battle of Manhattan.) He dropped by for longer chats -- albeit at rather inconvenient times, but, hey, beggars can't be choosers -- stopped calling Travis "Trevor," and brought little weirdy gifts from all over the country for the rest of his cabin. Hermes didn't tell them, and they didn't need it spelled out for them, but he was trying, so hard, to make up for Luke. (It was worth it, the day that Savita, the nine-year-old from Los Angelos, threw her arms around Hermes's neck and kissed his cheek in thank you, unthinking and unreserved; his whole face smoothed out in shock, before the corners of his mouth cracked into a smile, and he looked, for the briefest moment, like a father.)
6) Travis and Connor figured out pretty early that they didn't need to introduce each other as twins. Most people could figure it out, what with them being as identical as if someone had copy/pasted them. So, "this is my twin, Connor," became, "this is my Connor," simple and possessive and matter-of-fact, like everyone had a Connor the way everyone had a mother or a father or a brain or air to breathe with or a world to live in.
7) The way most people tried to find things they had in common, the Stoll brothers had trouble finding things they didn't have in common.
8) Here's a hint: Travis was left-handed. Connor was right-handed. Travis would always side with Martha. Connor would always side with George. ("What, the hippos?" their aunt said, perplexed. Travis and Connor grinned at each other over the top of her head, which, whatever, they always did that.) Travis claimed he liked Pepsi and Connor was a moron for liking Coke, but really, they both preferred Dr. Pepper above all else, so that didn't really count.
9) Half a finger's length above the jut of his hip bone and stretching to his navel, Connor's got a burn, shiny and a little mottled with age. It was the only physical difference between himself and his twin. He got it from a dragon on the seventh-grade field trip to Graceland, the first time they ever attracted the attention of anything beyond the Mist. It chased them for twenty minutes before a belch of flame caught the hem of Connor's shirt; at his startled whimper of pain, Travis whipped around and shot the dragon in the eye with a slingshot at fifty yards, yelling fit to raise Elvis himself, and set the tone for every fight they had from then on: what touched one brother answered to the other, action for equal reaction.
10) To this day, Luke remained the only one who could tell them apart on sight alone; had from the very first night Travis and Connor bunked down in sleeping bags at the foot of Luke's bed, age twelve and brand-new and unclaimed. "How do you do that?" Connor demanded, after they even started wearing each other's armor in an attempt to trip him up. Luke just gave him that crooked grin and said, "Travis looks less like a yak than you do."
11) Luke ... Luke was their brother. Their brother and their friend and the head of their cabin. And they might have gone with him, simply for that reason alone, except, except that when Luke left, they became the heads of the Hermes cabin (the two of them, together; it wasn't even a contest. Travis and Connor operated together, the way it was always better to have two hands, two eyes, two ears. One was the trip of a heartbeat, the other the hammer, a thump and an answering thump, always together.) The Stoll brothers didn't pick a side that wasn't each other's, but even they knew better than to hand over their entire cabin to Kronos. Fluff-headed they might be, even the Olympian gods were better than the alternative.
12) The only thing Hermes got their gratitude for was for not being one of the Big Three: Percy Jackson interrupted his own funeral, his face grey with exhaustion and his eyes hard and his clothes still smelling like Mt. Saint Helens and everything about him so beaten down that Travis and Connor leaned into each other, suddenly and blindingly grateful not to be him.
13) Having never gotten the hang of playing nice with other kids, it took Travis and Connor a couple years before they made friends; first Luke, then Silena and Charles. And, well, Luke sold his body at a Titan buffet table, Silena went darkside, and Charles got blown up, so. So much for that.
14) The hayloft in the stables was the best place to have sex. Seriously. Constantly torch-lit, it was remote enough for privacy, set up high enough that you couldn't really see who was up there unless you were deliberately looking for them -- and as good as they were at poking their noses into other people's business, the twins respected that -- and it wasn't like the pegasi were going to tell anybody (well, they could tell Percy, but everybody figured that kid had bigger things to worry about than listening to pegasus gossip.) It wasn't a secret, but nobody stopped them: "It's the idea of the Sacred Band," piped up the too-young head of the Athena cabin, a blonde with everything to prove and an invisibility cap that the twins would die to get their hands on. "Plato's hand-picked army of lovers, went undefeated for forty years. They're not going to tell us we shouldn't have sex, no matter if we're children, because lovers become better fighters, when they have someone to fight side-by-side with."
15) Fred and George Weasley were the shit. No, really, forget half-bloods. The Weasleys were the heroes of the Stoll brothers' lives.
16) The winter after they turned fifteen was the coldest on Tennessee record; a chill that crept in between floorboards and surprised them in the bathroom early in the mornings and made them feel too tight inside their own skin. They stole their uncle's old army blanket out of the garage and huddled together underneath it on their queen bed in the attic. In the night, their bodies grew without their permission, stretching them out past the limits of their skin, an ache that went deeper in their bones than the cold. "It hurts," Travis whispered, eyes glossy shiny in the dark, his voice a low, pained moan like a dog that had been hit. "Yeah," Connor replied, pressing his face into the warmth lingering at the hollow of his brother's neck. "Yeah, man, I hear you." (And that, if anything, if it could be pinned down to one thing, that was how it started. The long, slow grind of helping each other grow up -- filling the dull ache and the yawning, endless hunger with each other, hands roaming underneath shirts and blankets, smooth and dry; legs wrapped up together and hips locked up tight; their mouths pressed towards one another's, until exhaustion and gravity turned breathing each other into kissing, and that. That was good too.)
17) They only had a year, fractal bright with discovery and the taste of Stoll blood in each other's mouths, because after that, Zeus's lightning bolt disappeared from Olympus. The frown in Chiron's brow and the empty bunk above them said, grow up, Travis. grow up, Connor. you need to grow up NOW. Travis slid his fingers across the puckered burn at Connor's hip, a touch that said, after. later. when we're safe.
18) The Hermes cabin and the Hephaestus cabin had a semi-permanent alliance, the Hephaestus kids being the Q to the Hermes kids' Bond. Travis and Connor enjoyed the benefits of this arrangement for years, but it wasn't the same as having a friend, and their last conversation with Charles Beckendorf went something like this: the three of them on the makeshift basketball court with a disapproving audience of dismembered practice dummies, and Charles said, "What do you guys think you'll do after all this is over?" and they said, "What, like, get a job and a mortgage and fight monsters at the gas pump and get chlamydia from redheads in bars and all that fun, average joe stuff?" and he said, "Yeah, something like that." And they said, "Nah. We're gonna do something batshit, like, buy a van and put in some lovebeads and some shag and Save the Whales bumper stickers and go cross-country, just 'cos." And he said, "Together?" in this voice, soft and a little amused like that was what he'd been getting at the whole time. Travis and Connor looked at each other and thought about it: years of growing apart, dating other people, getting married and never seeing each other except in the mirror and together, they said, "Yep," and it sounded a lot like a promise.
19) They graduated from Camp Half-Blood on a Saturday, nineteen years old. They packed their duffel bags, rigged the klaxen bell that signaled dinner to play "Bad Romance" until someone figured out how to deprogram it, got a kiss on the cheek each from the new Oracle, a handshake from Chiron, and a baffled, "why are there two of you?" from Mr. D, and that was that. Later, on the Greyhound bus back to their aunt's place in Nashville, Travis went, "So," in a voice small and questioning, and Connor turned to him, taking his face between his hands and kissing him, again and again until Travis couldn't say anything except "my" and "Connor" and "okay," muffled and smiling.
20) They did wind up getting the hippie Volkswagen van in the end. Somewhere in the Underworld, their mother was weeping in shame. Whatever, once they got their horn to blare "you just lost the game!" there was no stopping them.