Thalia screamed and hugged her baby brother to her chest tighter as the hellhounds closed in for the kill, scrambling against the gravel road. Jason clutched at his sister's shirt, looking up at her with the same electrical blue eyes that Thalia had, that they had both inherited from their father.
She darted into a side tunnel and pressed herself flat against the wall, trying to pant quietly. There was the thunder of paws against the ground, and then it was gone. Thalia sobbed into her brother's hair with relief.
"'Lia?" Jason asked quietly.
Thalia took a deep, steadying breath. "Yeah, Jace?"
"I cold…" Jason said quietly, looking remorseful, like he'd been caught doing something bad.
"No no no," Thalia assured him. "It's okay, Jason. Don't worry, we'll get something going. We just have to get somewhere safe. Far away from here. Here." She took off her jacket and wrapped it around him. The entire thing was way too big—it was that way on Thalia, so it absolutely dwarfed Jason—but it gave Thalia an idea. She set down Jason momentarily and turned the jacket upside down, and instructed him to step into the arm holes. She zipped the jacket up, hoisted Jason onto her chest again, and tied the loose part of the sleeves of the jacket around her waist. She took off her belt, looped it around Jason and her own torso, and cinched it tightly enough so that Jason would be secure, but he wouldn't be crushed. This left Thalia's hands free.
Jason smiled up at his sister. "Warm."
Thalia smiled and gently poked his nose with a finger. He giggled and covered up his face. After a couple of seconds, he peeked through his fingers, and then raised one hand, and poked Thalia's nose as well. There was the distinct sound of an electrical discharge, and Jason shocked his sister with enough voltage to temporarily stun a normal human. On Thalia, however, it just tickled. She laughed and rubbed her nose so that the feeling would subside. Jason laughed at the face his sister was making.
People passed by the alleyway, talking noisily, and Thalia abruptly stopped laughing and clamped a hand over Jason's mouth. As quickly as she could with a two-year-old strapped to her chest, she darted out the other end of the alley.
She quickly settled into a brisk pace. Keeping to the shadows of the night as much as possible, she eventually left New York City. At one point, she looked down to see Jason curled up in the jacket, his head resting against her collarbone, sound asleep. Thalia unwound her scarf enough so that Jason's other ear was covered up, so that he wouldn't be at risk to infections in his ear, and so that his head wouldn't get so cold. She guessed that he had been lulled asleep by the steady swaying rhythm.
Thalia made it to the edge of the city, and was now surrounded by trees. She gathered together a pile of dry wood and zapped it. Fire ignited instantly.
Soothed by the warm light, Thalia propped herself up on a nearby tree, arms wrapped loosely around her baby brother, and was lulled to sleep by the crackling fire and crickets chirping about her.
She woke to someone taking Jason.
Thalia screamed a battle cry and kicked whoever it was in the crotch before her eyes even opened. She grabbed Jason and stuffed him down the jacket again, scrambling away from the would-be kidnapper, instinctively kicking into a battle stance with a large stick as a weapon. Despite the fact that she could break it with her bare hands, she deemed it an acceptable weapon because frankly, she didn't have anything else.
"That underhanded trick does not work on females," the kidnapper said. "Hurtful, yes, but not incapacitating."
"The streets aren't fair," Thalia snapped, clutching Jason with one hand to make sure he was still there.
"You're the one who ran away," the female kidnapper said mildly.
"I wasn't complaining," Thalia growled. "I was stating a fact. Now who are you?"
The woman drew herself up. "I am Lady Hera."
"Ah, yes, my father's wife," Thalia said dryly. "I'm so sorry that we're your husband's bastards, but that is not grounds for kidnapping!"
Hera's jaw tightened. "Admittedly, I am angry with Zeus. However, that is not the reason you and Jason must be separated."
Thalia's eyes were steely. "Give me one good reason why I should be separated from my baby brother?"
"That is nothing I can share with you."
"Does it involve Jason dying if he stays with me?" Thalia growled.
Hera hesitated. "It's a possibility. I don't believe so, but there is that marginal chance."
"I'll take my chances," Thalia stated flatly.
Hera threw up her hands in exasperation. "You're such a child!"
"That's because I'm ten," Thalia snapped. "At least I have an excuse."
"Jason isn't even Greek!" Hera cried.
"So?!" Thalia screamed. "My mother's abusive, my father abandoned me, I'm on the streets, protecting myself and my brother against muggers, monsters, and who knows what else! I absolutely refuse to lose any more family!"
Hera's eyes softened. "I'm sorry, Thalia. I really am. I am the goddess of family. But would you rather the loss of your brother, or the possible restarting of the Civil War?"
"To me, both options sound equally bad," Thalia said dryly, clutching Jason tighter.
"He's Roman, Thalia. Your brother is a Roman, a son of Jupiter," Hera said finally. "When the Greeks and Romans come together, they clash. They fight. Blood is spilled. Wars are raged. Please, Thalia."
Thalia's eyes narrowed. "Fine, take him. Take him, and I will move heaven and hell to find him again. Take him, and I will find a god or goddess that I can beat that knows about both sides, and I will first ask them to tell me where the Roman camp is, and if that doesn't work, I will shock the information out of them. Take him, and I will tear Olympus down more thoroughly than any war. And when I do that, I will seek you out, and I will make your demise just as pain-filled as my life without my baby brother. And trust me, this is a promise. And I always follow through with my promises."
"You can't possibly follow through with this one."
"No," Thalia agreed. "Not yet. Not now. Later, when I get older. Just think, for my sixteenth birthday, I get to raze Olympus to the ground for separating me from my brother."
Thalia said the last sentence in a cool, controlled voice, watching as Hera got paler and paler.
Hera began to glow until it was nearly blinding, and Thalia shut her eyes, clamping a hand over Jason's eyes, dropping her stick.
When the glow faded, Hera was gone. Thalia opened her eyes and set Jason next to the smoldering coals of the fire as she gathered wood as if nothing happened. She dropped the load into the coals, zapped it, and stood, brushing her hands off. She studied her brother curiously.
"Roman, huh?" she mused. "Based on Hera's reaction, this probably hasn't happened before, Greek and Roman children in the same family. They're probably waiting anxiously to see if this blows up in Zeus's face." She snorted. "I don't think they understand the words sibling bond."
Jason struggled free of the jacket. Thalia sat next to the fire, next to her brother. Already guessing what Jason was doing, she let him go behind a tree and relieve himself. She could see a little tuft of blond hair. When he came back from around the tree, he made a beeline towards the jacket and snuggled in. Thalia smiled at the fact that her improvisation was appreciated. She knelt in front of him.
"Okay, Jason. I'm going into the woods to get enough wood to make a bow, so that I can hunt and we can eat. If that lady comes back, or if those big dogs from yesterday come, or even just another homeless person, you scream as loud as you can and try and shock the heck out the person, okay?"
Jason grinned and showed two fingers, which had electricity running between them.
Thalia smiled proudly. "Good. Stay near the fire, do me a favor and try not to burn yourself, okay?"
Jason nodded. "Okay, 'Alia!"
Thalia resisted the urge to 'aww', and simply smile reassuringly at him, and trooped through the woods, looking for strong, supple, straight branches to carve into a bow.
Over the next three days, Thalia worked on her bow, killed six hellhounds and about a dozen snake women with the branch she pointed at Hera with, stoked the fire eight times over, and kept Jason well-fed and mostly warm and happy.
To her delight and disgust, monsters often kept the weapons of the demigods that they had defeated. Before dissolving them, Thalia happily disarmed them and then stuck them with the pointy end of whatever she confiscated. At one point, Thalia had tied up one of the snake women and taken her quiver of arrows, her jacket (which was quite warm, although it smelled a little snaky), her stick with what looked like a gigantic metal toothpick coming out of the end of it (she later found out that it was a Roman weapon, called a pilus), and the snake women's anklet that was studded with Celestial bronze spikes.
Thalia was growing a collection of weapons. For once, she thanked her father that she attracted so many monsters. She had a badly bent sword, a long knife, a spear, a quiver of arrows, a hammer (like a true battle hammer, it made Thalia wonder about the demigod that used to wield it), the pila (the giant metal toothpick), and a half-finished bow.
Jason got the long knife, and Thalia generally took the spear when it came to battles at the moment. She was contemplating on whether or not to give Jason the battle hammer, or if she should use it first to beat the sword back into shape.
On the night of the second day, she came up with a third idea.
Before Jason woke, she went to the store and managed to get a used shovel for a dollar, which was an unheard of price in New York City. When she went back to the camp, Jason was thankfully still sleeping, and Thalia set to work, digging under the tree's roots. No, she wasn't trying to uproot the tree, merely tunnel under it enough to store weapons and things that they might need in the future.
By noon, she was now under the tree, and she'd had to dig herself back out a couple of times from the amount of dirt she was displacing. Another two hours, and she had made a circular room about five feet wide and five feet tall; it was big enough to store their weapons and it was a place to sleep if they needed to hide.
When she had finished the first of many hideouts to come, she crawled out and waved to Jason, who started laughing hysterically at Thalia's dirt-covered form. Thalia's grin turned wry. "C'mon in, little brother," she said, picking up Jason and bringing him into the hideout. Jason scrambled from Thalia's arms, looking around. He bent over and touched the dirt.
"Cold," he commented. "Neat."
"Yup," Thalia said, smiling at him. "We'll be putting the sword and the hammer here, as well as any other weapons we get."
Jason frowned. "Home?"
Thalia shook her head. "We've got to get away from our mother. The farther away, the better. This will be our home temporarily, but only for another couple of days."
Jason nodded his head solemnly, but Thalia really wasn't sure about how much he understood.
This is how their days passed: making hideouts, fighting monsters, drifting farther away from the City that Never Sleeps. For two years or so, the days passed this way—until monsters drove the siblings back to New York, back to their first hideout. This was where they discovered a little boy, about a year older than Jason, with gravity-defying black hair and striking sea-green eyes.