I hope everyone is staying safe and well! I was recently going through my archives and came across this short snippet I wrote back in 2014, shortly after The Blood of Olympus came out. I had teased my fans that I might make the last book nothing but the seven main demigods sitting around eating nachos for five hundred pages. I was also well aware that fans would cry when they read Blood of Olympus (for many reasons) but especially because it went back to the three demigod POVs that started the series: Jason, Piper, Leo. “But no Peeeeercy? No Annnabeth? Waaaaaaa!” Yeah, yeah. That was intentional. It was kinda the point, that Percy and Annabeth had to step away from the spotlight and let other heroes do their part. Stepping back is often just as difficult as stepping up.
Anyway, I wrote this little scene where the seven demigods are together again after the war with Gaea is over, and they are in fact just sitting around eating nachos, chatting about how they feel about the issues I mentioned above. I never finished the scene, and I can’t promise you it fits in the ‘canon’ of stories that have come afterwards, but I figured you guys might enjoy it, especially in these stressful stay-at-home times.
Be good to each other. Stay well. Some day, we will be able to sit around the table together and eat nachos!
Nachos After the War
“Brace yourself,” Leo said. “These babies are dangerous.”
He set the nachos in the middle of the table. The platter was piled high with toasted tortilla chips, melted cheese and jalapeno slices.
The six other demigods leaned in to study their new quest.
“Why are they dangerous?” Frank asked. “Do they explode or something?”
Hazel frowned. “Leo, please tell me you didn’t use Gorgon blood for seasoning.”
“Nah, these are legit nachos. But the jalapenos are from the Demeter cabin’s garden. They grow them, like, superhot. Best I’ve ever had.”
Piper pulled a nacho from the pile. “Vegetarian?”
“Yeah, Beauty Queen. Broke my heart to use refried beans with no lard, but for you, I compromised. Now, for the real challenge . . .”
Leo whipped out a jar of green chili sauce. “Valdez High Octane Fuel. May result in severe burns.”
“Bring it on.” Percy rubbed his hands. “I love spicy.”
Annabeth elbowed him. “After drinking from the Phlegethon, you can still say that?”
“Well, I’m digging in.” Jason said. “Before they get cold.”
“Oh, that won’t happen.” Leo’s hand burst into flames. He seared the top of Nacho Mountain. “There you go. Toasted at your table.”
The demigods started pulling nachos off the pile and passing around the Valdez High Octane Fuel.
It was a nice afternoon at the dining pavilion. Most of the campers were off doing their late summer activities – archery classes, the climbing wall, canoeing around the lake. Over by the stables, Arion was munching on a pile of gold nuggets, fueling up after the trip from Camp Jupiter with Hazel and Frank.
“Is it weird that I miss the Argo II?” Jason wondered.
“Nah.” Percy popped a jalapeno slice in his mouth. “We had some good times on that ship. When we weren’t about to die, that is.”
“That was basically always,” Annabeth said.
Piper sighed, gazing out across Long Island Sound. “Yeah. Good times.”
Hazel threw a diamond at Leo. It bounced off his shirt. “I still can’t believe you let us think you were dead.”
“Okay, first of,” Leo said, “I was dead. Second, I came back as soon as I could. Ogygia is like . . . a long way away. I’m just glad it wasn’t centuries afterwards. And third, I did make nachos. That’s the best peace offering I could think of.”
“You sure you can’t stay?” Jason asked. “I mean, dude, everybody needs you here.”
“I appreciate it,” Leo said. “But Calypso kind of wants to see the world. And I kind of want to show it to her.”
Percy cleared his throat, like the jalapeno had gone down wrong. “So . . . where is she?”
“Festus took her to Manhattan for the afternoon. She figured it would be easier, giving me some time with you guys. Besides, she wants to see the city.”
Frank picked the cheese off his nachos. It was times like this he hated being lactose intolerant. “So where will you go next? Will you come out to visit Camp Jupiter? I know Reyna would like to see you.”
Leo laughed. “Last time I was there I blew up her Forum, but thanks. Maybe one of these days. I don’t know. We don’t have any plans. And I kind of like it that way.”
Percy noticed a dreamy, happy look on Leo’s face, like he’d just had a really good dream, wrapped in warm blankets in a comfortable bed. It made him happy for Valdez, but also a little sad.
“I felt so useless,” Percy said. “I mean . . . the final battles with the giants and Gaea. Anybody else feel like I wasn’t even there?”
“That was the whole point, Seaweed Brain.” Annabeth sipped her lemonade.
“For me to be useless?”
“No, your fatal flaw . . . my mom warned you about it. Kymopoleia warned you. You’ve been hearing about it for years. To save a friend, you’d lose the world. You can’t step back if a friend is in trouble.”
“Yeah. But . . .”
“Man,” Leo said. “I know it was harsh, but I had to pull that stunt – get Gaea off the ground, blow her up, risk my life. If I’d told you about . . .”
Percy sighed. “Okay. I would’ve tried to stop you. Or help you. Or something.”
“And that’s what Gaea would want – to have us crossing wires, messing each other up.” Leo pulled another tortilla chip from the pile. “Your big challenge was stepping back, not being the big hero. Letting me do what I needed to do.”
“Not very heroic,” Percy mumbled.
“Which is the whole point,” Piper agreed.
“It’s my struggle too,” said Annabeth. “My flaw is pride. I’ve been learning about that ever since the Argo II set sail. I think I can solve every problem. But I can’t. I needed Piper’s help. I needed to accept that other people need to act, take the risk, solve the problem when I can’t. Percy . . . we had our share of trouble.”
“Like fricking Tartarus, for instance,” he said.
“Yeah. But the end game – that was all Jason, Piper and Leo. Just the way it started. That’s how it had to finish. Us stepping back, letting it happen as it was meant to . . . that was our last big challenge.”
“Just saying it was kind of a letdown.”
Hazel smiled. “Someday, when they write this story, I bet the readers will say the same thing. The great Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase . . . their last challenge was to not be the ones who solved the challenge. But your struggle is being able to let go. Maybe the people who read your story . . . that will be their struggle, too. There’s always a time when you have to let go.”
Percy had to smile. “Hazel, you’ve come a long way since that day at the Caldecott Tunnel. Look at you now – centurion, sorceress, all-around kicker of butts.”
Hazel rolled her eyes. “Well, you’re still the scariest most powerful demigod I know, Jackson. I’m just saying . . . that’s why it was hard for you to not be the center of the fight. But it had to be that way. It doesn’t mean you won’t have other challenges in the future.”
“Oh, please,” Percy groaned. “Can I get through high school first? I need some R&R.”
“And some time with your girlfriend,” Annabeth added.
“Hey,” Frank said. “Did you see your mom? I remember when we were in Alaska, you were trying to call her.”
“Yeah, I did,” Percy said. “She . . . well, she knew I was okay. I’d sent her some letters via the wind spirits, then an Iris-message after the battle. But when I got home, man, I think she cracked some ribs she hugged me so hard. She’s doing all right, though. I mean, my mom is a tough lady. She’s finished her first novel.”
“Nice,” Jason said. “Uh . . . the novel’s not about you, is it?”
Percy frowned. “She won’t tell me. That kind of has me worried. And this little smile she gave my stepdad Paul . . . I dunno. She said she wants it to be a surprise.”
“Uh-oh,” Piper said. “Well, if she gets published and becomes a bestseller, I can give you some tips about dealing with a famous parent. It’s not all fun and games.”