Disclaimer: I do not own or Percy Jackson or Heroes of Olympus. They are property of Rick Riordan.
A/N: Spring quarter just started and I am ready for summer. This little piece came out of wandering tumblr and noticed Malcolm is getting a bit of a fan club. Good for him, huh? He needs some love. This is pre-HoH. Not really super Malcolm/Reyna or Malceyna vibes. More like badass Reyna and Malcolm falling for her. Different than my usual writing. Thank you reynasgrace and doctordauntless for gushing over Malceyna.
"I don't like this." Will stated with a hard look in his blue eyes. Malcolm bit back a sarcastic comment and just rolled his gray eyes as he, Will and Katie stepped off the New York City bus. Thankfully, the trip was uneventful so far. Still, the three demigods were edgy being outside the borders of Half-Blood with enemies slowly approaching. Will toyed with his key chain, a celestial bronze bow which would shift with his command when needed. His blue eyes scanned the crowd of business men, elderly couples and teenagers wearily, expecting something to jump out. "Why are we even doing this?"
"It's a truce, Will. We're meeting on neutral ground." Katie reminded, shoving her hands into her hoodie pocket. The son of Apollo huffed but followed Malcolm as he led the trio deeper into the vast park. Malcolm tried to hide his restlessness, keeping a composed mask since he was appointed lead of this meeting. He reached into his pocket, feeling the thick edge of the postcard sent to Camp Half-Blood. The words were brief and direct, asking for a meeting. As innocent as the request was, Malcolm knew it was more of a power play. "Anyways, Clarisse is at Half-Blood in case this is a diversion."
"I know but I still don't like it." Will muttered, jumping up on a bench and sitting on the top part. His knees were bouncing impatiently as he ran his fingers up and down the strap of his backpack. The shade of the wide trees shielded the trio as they eyed the meeting spot. It was a very public space with chess tables spread around. Elderly men and women were focused intently on their games, unbothered by three demigods. "Styx, where are they?"
"You have the best eyes, Will." Malcolm said, glancing at his watch. He patted the celestial bronze dagger hidden underneath his shirt as he looked around gingerly. The waiting was also killing him as well, making the boy wonder if the Romans were doing it on purpose.
"Thanks for the compliment but you know I don't like you like that, Mal." Will kidded. If the boy could still crack jokes, he was handling things fine. Will's sharp blue eyes narrowed suddenly, nodding towards a girl who seemed to appear out of nowhere. Malcolm tilted his head, noticing her as well as she took a seat at an empty table. "A beautiful girl playing chess alone? Not likely. It has to be her."
"Kat, how are you feeling?" Malcolm asked, turning to their third member. Katie looked at him with her deep brown eyes. She came along as backup because of her powers to control the plants. Central Park was her domain and would give them a slight advantage if things went wrong. Katie closed her eyes, feeling the air and the plants for anything out of the ordinary.
"Just don't let your guard down." Katie advised with a serious expression.
Malcolm nodded his head and started heading towards the table. Malcolm paused before sitting down, looking at the chess board. The black and white board was already set up and a black pawn was already moved. "Doesn't white usually go first?" Malcolm asked to break the ice.
"White's not exactly my color." The young woman answered, lowering her dark sunglasses. Malcolm wasn't prepared for the full strength of her intense onyx eyes. She didn't look all that threatening in general, dressed in casual jean capris and a very flattering purple tank top. Her black hair was pulled into a neat ponytail. She looked like a normal high school student expect for the coal black tattoo on her forearm. The letters SPQR was clearly printed with a crossed torch and sword and four prompt lines underneath them. "Do you want to tell your entourage to back off? I don't like the look your archer is giving me. You can also remove your dagger as well. I'm not going to hurt you." She ordered, casually sipping her iced coffee.
"How?" Malcolm started, startled by her words. Their weapons were well concealed, especially Will's quiver of arrows. The girl gave no reply, just looked at Will with an unwavering gaze. Will tensed up but stayed, eyeing the greyhound at her feet like it was going to lunge at them. Malcolm just noticed the tiny shimmer of Mist. The dog appeared normal until his eyes adjusted. The plain gray dog's dark eyes shined a bright ruby red like gems. Its furry coat shifted into sleek metallic silver. It smiled, showing a pair of razor sharp teeth. "I'll wave them off but keeping my dagger. Your dog doesn't look very friendly."
"She's not. Lie and she'll be even less friendly." Will and Katie both tensed at her words but Malcolm grasped Will's shoulder, trying to reassure him things will be fine. The two friends shared a silent conversation with meaningful looks. Katie gently touched Will's back, gently tugging him away. The tall musician still glared at the composed Roman girl before yielding to the soft touch of his fellow camper. After they were safely by the bench, the girl spoke. "Protective bunch aren't they?"
"We've been through a lot." Malcolm commented, pulling out his seat. He studied the board before moving the white pawn to official start the game. "Where's yours?"
"Fishing for details already?" She asked, moving her own dark piece. "You don't need to worry. They're around, not that I would need back up." She fixed him with a pondering smile. "You're not Clarisse."
"No, I'm not. Thanks for noticing." The girl arched her dark eyebrow and her dog snarled at his little joke. Malcolm straightened up instinctively, internally sighing. This 'negotiation' was going to be a lot harder. "I'm Malcolm, son of Athena."
"Am I supposed to be impressed?" She asked, lifting her sunglasses so they rested on top of her hair like a headband. Without them obscuring Malcolm's vision, the boy stared dumbly. He wasn't expecting an extremely pretty young woman with sharp striking facial features. She was beautiful in an intimating way. "Reyna, praetor of the Twelfth Legion." Malcolm waited for her godly lineage but she didn't offer it. She just idly moved her black bishop, taking his white knight.
"Why chess?" Malcolm asked after a few silent turns. Her style wasn't like his siblings. She played conservatively with little subtle attacks like she was probing his defenses. Malcolm hasn't been able to attack efficiently. He looked away from the board, meeting her deep eyes. "It's a little cliché."
"Yes but it's a good metaphor for the situation we're in. Black vs white. Romans vs Greeks." Reyna replied, yawning a bit as she leaned on her left arm. She switched her king and rook, creating a defensive wall with her pawns. "Our whole lives are pretty cliché."
"Let's switch it up then. How about you take your Romans and go away?" Malcolm asked with a playful smile. Reyna gave him a flat stare as she sipped her coffee. He noticed her kissable lips curling slight at the end like she was trying to hide how amused she was.
"I hope that wasn't your plan. Ask nicely and pray we'll go away?" Reyna replied, taking another one of his unprotected pawns.
"If I add a 'pretty please' will you?" Malcolm teased back. Reyna gave him an amused smile. He almost forgot they were playing chess until she took another one of his pieces. Quit flirting with the enemy. A voice which sounded like Will's nagged him. She has an army of angry Romans who want to invade, sack and destroy your home. Who cares if she looks extremely pretty when she smiles? Malcolm shook his head mentally, turning away from the girl. I do, apparently. He thought, answering his own question.
"Well if your Greeks fight as well as you can play chess, it shouldn't be a difficult victory. Check." Reyna proclaimed, moving her black knight. The son of Athena blinked, a little distracted by her words, before bending down and eyeing the board in disbelief. He swore in Ancient Greek and moved his king to safety.
"I'm better, I promise. There usually isn't a pretty girl distracting me." Malcolm's mouth was running. The compliment slipped out and he blushed. Reyna smirked at him, playing with her green straw before taking a sip. His gray eyes unconsciously zeroed in on her lips. He was only half-human and all male.
"Flattering will get you nowhere." Malcolm quickly looked up, meeting her dark eyes. "It's not like we attacked first."
"You're invading our camp!" Malcolm hissed, finally remembering this wasn't a date. Reyna's eyes narrowed dangerously, fire burning behind her dark orbs. Her metal canine growled a warning and the Greek boy backed off. Reyna didn't flinch at his sudden outburst, Malcolm was grudgingly impressed.
"Keep that temper in check, Greek." She warned her words steely even when her composure was calm and collected. "We're just retaliating. The Greeks attacked first. I have proof: ruined buildings, wounded citizens, angry Romans."
"I'm sure when Annabeth returns –" Malcolm started before the girl cut him off.
"We can talk about this?" Reyna finished, picking up her black queen and twirled it in her fingers. "Why should we wait for your best tactician to show up when you're most vulnerable now? We prove we know where the camp is. We know your best fighters are… preoccupied. And judging by your twitchy archer, you're an undisciplined bunch." Reyna's eyes narrowed dangerously, looking over Malcolm's shoulders.
"If he makes one more move, my Romans are going to spear that pretty brunette next to him when I drop this piece." It felt like ice ran through Malcolm's vein as he recognized the threat. "No sudden movements, son of Athena. Slowly now. I would like to avoid bloodshed." Malcolm heeded her warning and turned cautiously. He could see Will and Katie by the bench. The son of Apollo had his bow out, fingers reaching towards his backpack where his bronze quiver of arrows sat hidden. Reyna leaned in, whispered in a soft voice like she was weaving a story. "You see those two over there, just behind your fellow campers." Malcolm could see them. A dark haired boy stood with a javelin like he was returning from track and field practice. Beside him was a wiry blond with a backpack and a stuff animal poking out of it. Their eyes were focused on his friends and Reyna closely. "You see, unlike your Greeks, my Romans are discipline." Malcolm locked eyes with Will and shook his head. The son of Apollo lowered his hand, not noticing the danger behind him. "Looks like there is a brain in that handsome head of yours after all. I can get you three days."
"What?" Malcolm's words came out unintentionally harsh. He was mad at himself for being distracted by his attractive opponent. Reyna made her next move and stirred her iced caffeinated drink with her green straw. Malcolm was still watching the two Roman figures carefully. They seemed to back off just a bit. Somehow the girl was communicating with her people through her body language.
"Contrary to what you think, I didn't order this attack. It was voted by the Senate. I'm just another Roman pawn." Reyna stated, wiggling her pawn before setting it down.
"You're not a pawn." Malcolm disagreed with subtle respect. "That piece is too weak. You're…" Malcolm pondered, moving his bishop, capturing her knight and landed right beside her strongest piece. "A queen. Check." Reyna smiled; at his move or words, Malcolm wasn't quite sure.
"Being praetor is both an honor and a burden. I didn't want this war. My people were whipped up into a frenzy. They want blood. They want retribution." There was weariness in Reyna's words as she spoke. Her onyx eyes had a quality of sadness before she closed them. When she looked up at him, her emotions were locked away. "I can buy you three days."
"And then what?" Malcolm asked, preparing himself for what's to come. Reyna looked at him with a sort of smile that softened her strong appearance.
"I would have to march my Romans to Camp Half-Blood, slaughter your friends, ransack your home and leave nothing behind." She said it with an air of chilling calmness but there was no joy in her words. No pride in what her Romans might do to his camp. She didn't want this battle. "Aut vince aut mori. Conquer or die. The Roman motto." Malcolm wanted to shake his head and the girl in front of him. There has to be another solution but judging by the expression on her face, she tried to look for one and failed.
"Why are you helping us?" Malcolm asked, really wondering about the girl across from him. She wasn't like the girls at Half-Blood. Maybe it's the Roman quality or something completely different. Reyna studied the board between them before speaking.
"Annabeth thinks she can find a different solution. I'm willing to bet on her… and someone else." Who? Malcolm wondered as she picked up her queen. Whoever she was thinking about brought bittersweet expression on her face. Malcolm studied her closely before she put the piece down. "Checkmate." Malcolm looked away and at the board. His gray eyes fluttered around the board as he tried to find a way out of her perfectly orchestrated checkmate. Reyna stood up casually, grabbing her jacket as she lowered her sunglasses over her dark eyes. "Who knows, maybe I have a soft spot for blonds. Good luck, Malcolm, son of Athena. See you in three days."