Leo and Festus spiralled towards Ogygia, the warm wind in Leo’s hair. He realized his clothes were in tatters, despite the magic they’d been woven with. His arms were covered in a fine layer of soot, like he’d just died in a massive fire… Which, of course, he had.
But he couldn’t worry about any of that.
She was standing on the beach, wearing jeans and a white blouse, her amber hair pulled back.
Festus spread his wings and landed with a stumble. Apparently one of his legs was broken. The dragon pitched sideways and catapulted Leo face-first into the sand.
So much for a heroic entrance.
Leo spat a piece of seaweed out of his mouth. Festus dragged himself down the beach, made clacking noises that meant- Ow, ow, ow.
Leo looked up. Calypso stood over him, her arms crossed, her eyebrows arched.
“You’re late,” she announced. Her eyes gleamed.
“Sorry, Sunshine,” Leo said. “Traffic was murder.”
“You are covered with soot,” she noted, “And you managed to ruin the clothes I made for you, which were impossible to ruin.”
“Well, you know.” Leo shrugged. Somebody had released a hundred pachinko balls at his chest. “I’m all about doing the impossible.”
She offered her hand and helped him up. They stood nose to nose as she studied his condition. She smelled like cinnamon. Had she always had that tiny freckle next to her left eye? Leo really wanted to touch it.
She wrinkled her nose. “You smell–”
“I know. Like I’ve been dead. Probably because I have been. Oath to keep with a final breath and all, but I’m better now-”
She stopped him with a kiss.
The pachinko balls slammed around inside him. Leo felt so happy he had to make a conscious effort not to burst into flames.
And then, suddenly—
—He was torn away from Calypso, from her cinnamon scent and her little freckle and her warmth and her love, pulled behind like a magnet, back, back, and then—
Everything went black.
Mira woke up on a bus, disoriented. Around her, a bunch of kids around her age were talking and laughing, listening to music on their iPods or making out, unaware that we could all see them.
At first, she just thought that she’d forgotten getting up in the morning and somehow made it into her bus to school.
And then, the guy next to her stirred.
“NO!” He shouted suddenly, and Mira jumped, looking over at him. He must have been new, because she’d never seen him before. He was cute in a scrawny kind of way, with dark curls that stuck out everywhere and a mischievous, elfish face. His eyebrows were furrowed painfully in his sleep, and when he jolted awake, she could see how beautiful his grief stricken brown eyes were.
“Calypso!” he cried out softly.
Okay, so maybe she was dreaming. She pinched herself, hard, and winced at the feeling. She looked down at her arm. Her tanned skin betrayed any signs of pain.
Mira looked around her, a little more frantically this time. She recognized not a single kid on this bus, nor the guy driving it. She looked behind her. A girl and a boy were sitting there, hands clasped, fingers interlocked. They were both asleep, and if she wasn’t so freaked out, she’d find it cute.
The girl wore faded jeans, hiking boots, and a fleece snowboarding jacket. Her chocolate brown hair was cut choppy and uneven, with thin strands braided down the sides. She wore no makeup like she was trying not to draw attention to herself, but it didn’t work. She was seriously pretty. Mira had the sneaking suspicion that when open, her eyes seemed to change color like a kaleidoscope—brown, blue, and green.
The boy next to her was wearing a purple shirt and jeans, and even though he was dressed so casually, he was undeniably good looking. He had short blond hair that contrasted well with the girl’s chocolate locks. The deep purple of the shirt stood out to Mira, and her face paled considerably when she glanced down at the guy's arm, trying not to seem like a creep. Sure enough, there was an SPQR tattoo with an eagle above it and twelve tick lines below it like a barcode.
She whipped to look back at the guy sitting next to her, the one that she thought was cute. He was clearly freaking out, whipping his head from side to side to look around the bus, muttering frantically under his breath.
Mira closed her eyes for a second. This couldn’t be happening. Summoning all her courage, she placed a gentle hand on the boy’s arm.
“Leo?” She ventured.
For the first time since she’d heard him wake up, the guy looked straight at her.
“Who the hell are you?” He hissed. “You’re not supposed to be here.”
That was all the confirmation that was needed. Mira let go with a little gasp, feeling as if she’d been punched.
Had it really worked? Had her wish actually sent her into The Lost Hero?
Still, maybe she was dreaming, and that pinch meant nothing. She scrambled back, searching for something to do. You can’t read in dreams, she realized.
Glancing at Leo’s crossed arms, she noticed a sheet of loose-leaf paper held between his fingers. She grabbed it, ignoring Leo’s protests, and began skimming through the page. The words seemed kind of jumbled, the letters out of order. She couldn’t read it, but she could see the letters. Did that count as dreaming? Mira didn’t think so.
She kind of wanted to cry, but she felt too numb to do anything except sit and stare at the paper. Why couldn't she read?
“You done yet?”
Mira jumped, looking back up at Leo, who she’d forgotten was sitting there. She felt her face heat up, and she was thankful that no one would be able to see her blush.
“Um, y-yeah.” She said. “Sorry.” She handed back his paper. Leo looked at her warily.
“You’re not supposed to be here,” He said again. “You weren’t here last time.”
“L-last time?” Mira gasped. “Don't tell me it started again... But if it did.. You remember?”
“Pieces,” Leo admitted roughly. “Enough to know that I’ve done this before. Enough to know that you weren't a part of this.”
“I wasn’t,” Mira admitted. “I… um…”
“Is this your fault?” Leo snapped, interrupting her. “You know me and apparently Jason and Piper...I saw you looking at them. Somehow, you know us, but I have no idea who you are. You know something’s wrong, too.”
“Yeah,” Mira breathed out with a sharp sigh. “You’re right. I’m not supposed to be here. I… This is going to sound stupid, but I made a wish…”
“And you turned back time,” Leo interrupted. His scowl deepened and he glowered at her. “What did you do, sell your soul to Kronos?”
Mira stared at him in disbelief. He'd interrupted her! He thought she belonged to this world! She hadn't even gotten the chance to explain that where she was from, he was fictional. And now she didn't know if she wanted to. She’d never once imagined that the funny, sweet, easy-going Leo Valdez could be so belligerent and rude. She straightened her back. Guilty or not, she wasn’t going to just sit there and take this.
“Don’t talk to me like that!” She snapped back. “I’m sorry I’m making you go through this again, but I didn’t mean to do it! How was I supposed to know my wish would come true?”
Leo opened his mouth with a frown, as of he wanted from argue more, but he clenched his jaw and looked away. Stubbornly, Mira did the same, angling her body the other way, crossing her arms.
This was not how she expected meeting her fictional crush to go.
Authors ~ Charlotte and Arisa