Not for the first time in her life, Annabeth Chase wondered if she was the butt of some cosmic joke. They were still out in the woods, and she'd barely gotten into her story (which was definitely going to win the bet, come on) when her cousin interrupted.
"Wait, wait, hold up. Your mom is Athena?"
Annabeth wavered. She'd been sure that Magnus was a demigod, with all that stuff he'd said about his dad's side of the family, but the alarm in his eyes was making her second guess herself. Annabeth hated second guessing herself.
She forced herself to answer calmly, "Goddess of wisdom and war strategy."
"Greek goddess of wisdom and war strategy, right?" he said, strong emphasis on the Greek part. Funnily enough, that wasn't normally the part people focused on when they heard about demigods. They were usually too flabbergasted to learn of the existence of gods in general to worry about the particular pantheon.
Annabeth narrowed her eyes. Surely not...
"Is he Roman?"
Magnus blinked. "What? Is who Roman?"
She couldn't believe how far off the rails this conversation was going. Magnus showed no recognition at the mention of Roman gods, which meant...
"Magnus... Oh gods. Is he..." Her mind raced. She thought of Sadie and Carter. They weren't demigods, but she was running out of logical explanations for the confusion splayed across Magnus' familiar features. "Egyptian?"
Her cousin's jaw went slack. "Egyptian?" he repeated, staring at her like she was mad. "There's... there's Greek and Roman and Egyptian gods, too?"
Annabeth's mind raced. Too. She latched onto that word, mouthed it silently and squeezed her hands into fists so tight her fingernails left crescent moon marks in her palms. She counted to five and then said, "Your dad is a god, right?"
"Yeah, but he's -" Magnus faltered, and Annabeth realised she was glaring at him. She made a conscious effort to smooth her features and gestured for him to continue. "Ah, he's actually a Norse god."
The mountain air suddenly felt too thin. Annabeth's gaze shifted from her cousin's face up to the clear blue sky, which held absolutely no indication of any divine beings watching them. But she knew better than that.
Magnus was still talking, saying something about Frey and the god of Summer and light and life and on one level Annabeth was absorbing it all, taking that information and filing it away because she knew it was important. But another part of her was in shock. Because, as if her life wasn't weird enough already, she now knew that her family had attracted the attention of a god and goddess from not just one but two pantheons.
She started to laugh.
She couldn't help it. It was just so utterly ridiculous. This was insane. How many gods were there? Was every god that had ever been worshipped by any culture in the history of mankind lingering on, occasionally spawning children with mortals? The thought was kind of overwhelming.
Magnus frowned at her. "Are you okay?"
She snorted. "Oh, I'm fine. I am totally fine. I just can't believe that our family could be that messed up. Gods."
"So, uh. You didn't know about the Norse gods, I'm guessing?" Magnus said.
She shook her head, blonde hair swinging across her shoulders. "No, that's new." She turned her gaze skyward and muttered, "Thanks for the warning, Mom."
An uncomfortable silence settled over the two of them, stopped dead in the middle of the hiking trail. Magnus was looking at her like he was afraid she might burst into flames. Maybe that was a thing that happened in the Norse myths. She was going to have to read up on those; she'd never studied them in too much depth. She made a mental note to stop by the library as soon as she got back to New York.
Now that the initial wave of disbelief had passed, however, Annabeth felt fine. So it wasn't exactly what she'd been expecting, but she could deal with this. She could still help Magnus adjust, because even if the details weren't the same she could guarantee that the broad strokes were. She knew how he was feeling, and after everything they'd been through she was determined to keep her cousin around.
"So. This is going to take longer to explain than I thought," she said lightly. "And I don't know if I can wait that long for lunch. You said you knew a good place?"
"Falafel," Magnus said, easing up again. His elbow briefly knocked hers as they continued on down the path. "Best you'll ever taste."
She smiled across at him, and felt a weight lift off her shoulders when he smiled back. "Lead the way, little cousin."
At the end of it, Magnus agreed that her story (or stories, if you wanted to get technical) put his to shame. Ever a gracious winner, Annabeth pointed at him and said, "Told you I'd win, you butt."
He laughed and pushed the empty tray their falafels had come on over to her side of the table. "To be fair, you've been doing this since you were seven, and I didn't start til I was sixteen. That's nine whole years of life-threatening situations you've got on me."
"Not my fault I'm an accelerated learner," she teased.
"Ah! Another unfair advantage, being the daughter of a goddess of wisdom."
She scrunched her face up, nose and eyes crinkling. "I don't know, having the power to make yourself glow sounds pretty intimidating..."
"Oh, that's what you take away from my story? I literally died, and then set about saving the world, and brought people back from the brink of death, andthat's what you're gonna focus on." He feigned insult, putting a hand over his hand and deadpanning, "I'm hurt, Annabeth. And I'd like to see you change the seasons, smart-ass."
She laughed, a proper, genuine laugh. It felt good to muck around with Magnus like this. "Yeah, look, what you've done would impress anyone else, don't get me wrong. But you're going to have to do a little more than save the world if you want to impress me. That's old news."
"We should keep a tally," he joked.
"What, keep track of all the times we get into ridiculous situations so we can brag about them later?"
"Is that not what's happening here?" His grey eyes glinted in the late afternoon sun, and the corners of his lips quirked up.
There was a pause, and then she pushed the tray aside and leaned across the table to take Magnus's hands in hers. He glanced down at their clasped hands and then back up to her face, and she was struck again by how similar they looked, with their grey eyes and blonde hair and sharp features. They could easily pass for siblings. Her heart twisted painfully as she remembered playing with Magnus when they were little. They could have grown up together, been the best of friends.
Her tone was serious when she said, "Honestly, though, I'm so proud of you, Magnus. What you did was pretty incredible. And... And I'm sorry, too. If I'd known about what happened to your mom -"
Something flashed in his eyes, and his hands shifted beneath hers. He didn't pull away, but he didn't look as comforted by the touch as he had a moment ago. She let him go and her hands dropped to her lap.
"Hey, it's not your fault," he said softly. "Besides, weren't you stuck in an enchanted labyrinth two years ago? Or was that when you were battling to save the Empire State Building - I mean, Mount Olympus?" Before she could respond, he continued, "Anyway, there's nothing we can do to change it. It's in the past, and we're here together now, and that's enough."
Magnus grinned at her, genuinely happy, and Annabeth beamed back. As much as this complicated things, she was kind of glad that he was demigod. It meant that he was one less person she had to lie to - she could be completely honest with him, which, she felt, was an excellent foundation for a permanent family unit.
A loud ringing from her coat pocket interrupted the moment. She started, not used to carrying a phone, and checked the number. It was coming from a payphone. She flashed Magnus an apologetic smile before hesitantly answering.
Percy's voice drifted down the line. "Hey, where are you?"
She smiled instinctively at the sound of his voice, but as she processed his question her expression slipped into a frown. "I'm in Boston, with my cousin."
"Yeah, cool, I'd totally forgotten what city you were in, Annabeth. No, I mean where as in where, specifically? Are you at your hotel, or -"
"Percy," she said, and even Magnus tensed at her tone. "Where are you?"
"I asked first."
"If you're in Boston, I'm going to -"
"Take me back to your hotel where we can order room service and eat it in bed? Annabeth, that sounds amazing!"
She laughed despite herself. She'd kind of being expecting this from the moment she'd first told her boyfriend she was staying in Boston, after her run in with Magnus before his funeral. To be honest, she was surprised Percy had waited this long. "We're at a falafel place."
"Falafel? Hey, I'm starving, there was no good food on the train. I'll come meet you?"
She rolled her eyes. "Hang on, I'll get the address for you." She lowered her phone from her ear and said to Magnus, "I'm so sorry. Percy's decided he wants to see Boston. He's just gotten off the train and needs some lunch. Do you mind hanging around for a bit longer?"
Her cousin hesitated for the briefest moment, and then cracked a smile. "Yeah, sure. I think I've delayed Ragnarok for long enough to enjoy a second helping of delicious falafel."
Annabeth laughed. "Perfect."
After giving Percy directions and hanging up the phone, she asked Magnus what he wanted to order.
"I lost the bet," he said, a slight crease between his brows. "I should be getting this, not you."
"Trust me, with the amount that Percy eats, you won't want to pay the bill."
She steepled her hands under her chin and offered, "Tell you what. You can make it up to me by being the one who tells Percy about the existence of Norse gods."
"What? Why do I have to explain stuff to your boyfriend?" Magnus looked slightly alarmed, which was endlessly amusing after he'd remained relatively unfazed throughout listening to her story and telling his own. "I've never met the guy, and you want me to tell him that a whole other mythology is real? You think that's a good first impression?"
Annabeth's smirk was definitely too smug. "Better than being caught standing over your own dead body."
Magnus rolled his eyes. "I've been waiting for you to reveal your dark side ever since you mentioned the magic Yankees cap, and here it is."
She scoffed. "Magnus, come on. No one would wear a magic Red Sox cap."
He laughed, shaking his head. "All right, fine. I'll handle the Norse god stuff and you handle the catering."