Le Gasp! This guy is back? Who the hell is he? What kind of sorcery is this?
And yes I am finally back with another chapter and I know how I said we would try to get to chapter 11 by the end of last year. Believe me, no-one is more disappointed in myself than myself.
So infinite apologies that will hopefully last till the end of this story (I have literally just thrown my calendar out the window).
But hey, still better than Starblade 176! But to be fair he does write down massive chapters that should be considered whole new books by their own right.
Enough apologies, I'll just let you enjoy this new chapter!
June flew by in a flash, and the next thing Diana knew, they were approaching the middle of July. Summer was already half-way gone.
She couldn't believe it, and she didn't really want to admit it; but this summer was starting to be one of the best summers she'd ever had.
Not that any of her previous summers had been particularly bad. But this summer was just … really good.
Well, average really—above average.
Above average, that sounded about right to her.
That particular thought prompted her to think about the standards by which she was comparing her summers with. What was it that made the summer 'above average?' Was it the camp, the place itself? Was it the weather (she had once read about its effects on mood).
"What's got you staying up so late?"
She blinked as her thoughts came to a halt. "Couldn't sleep." She sighed, her eyes travelled to the corner of the laptop screen; 2:17 AM.
She was also pretending that those bags of skin looking back at her were certainly not hers.
Zoe stifled a yawn and stretched like a cat before moving to the granite benchtop near the sink.
"Help yourself to coffee."— Is what Diana should've said.
But instead she raised her hand weakly, "So, uh… did I wake you up?" The syllables sounded pretty lame even in her own mind.
Zoe took a while to answer, "Yes and no." She offered herself some of the previously non-existent coffee, Diana's poor form of manners left forgotten.
Diana's right foot was rapidly tapping against the ground as Zoe walked over with her cold cup of coffee. Zoe smiled at her as pulled out the chair and sat down; Diana forced a smile back out of politeness — not that it had been quite evident a few moments ago.
"Any particular reason why you're constantly suffering from a lack of sleep?"
Diana was a bit startled. "Did you notice?"
Zoe took a sip of her coffee — frothy, two sugars. "It's my job to look after everyone in this cabin. So when one of them starts to miss out on sleep for two, three nights a week." She pointed at Diana, "I start to notice."
Diana didn't want to tell her the reason why. She didn't want to tell her why when she didn't even really understand it herself. So she bit her lip and stared at the table mindlessly. "I… don't really know. I guess that I'm just a person who doesn't need a lot of sleep."
Zoe nodded as she absorbed the information, Diana expected her to argue, to chastise, anything then a simple, "Okay."
That was it?
Diana frowned in disbelief. "Is that all? You're not going to reprimand me or tell me to get some more sleep or anything?"
Zoe cracked a grin, as if Diana was telling a joke. "I'm pretty sure that in my job description it says 'counsellor', not 'mom', and as far as I can tell you look pretty healthy to me."
Diana wasn't really sure whether Zoe was deliberately trying to be weird. She often had these facetious streaks where no-one really knew if she was being serious or not —and of course the Artemis campers were the sole recipients of her unique brand of humour.
It was such a shame that everyone else was missing out.
Zoe`s grin faded as she got back to business, taking a little while to talk again. "I've been going to this camp for ten years, and I've spent three of those years as a cabin counsellor—"
"Three years," Diana repeated, then frowned ever so faintly. "This is Percy's first year as a counsellor."
Why did Percy come to her mind?
"Yes," Zoe agreed with a nod. "Percy's actually one of the youngest counsellors in this camp, a mantle he shares with Jason Grace."
"So how old are you?"
"Twenty-four. But make sure you tell everyone else that I'm twenty-two."
Diana's laughed and turned towards the window to her left, the water in the lake was glistening under the luminescence of the moon. There were no visible clouds in the dotted skyline— weather in this camp was eerily perfect. A nice kind burning sunlight during the day, and relatively clear skies in the night.
Heaven help the person who tells her it's magical.
"Don't you ever find it depressing?" she finally asked, "To be surrounded by kids like … me."
"No, not really." Zoe said almost too nonchalantly — it made Diana feel just a tad uneasy.
Zoe caught Diana's questioning gaze. "Well I obviously don't mean it that way. It's just that if there's one thing I've learnt while at this camp, it's that a lot of the kids here don't have the strength to be weak and sad."
She frowned. "What do you mean by that?"
"They just stop being sad," Zoe's said with a weird chuckle. "I think they start to realise just how exhausting it is to sit around and mope all day. This is an opportunity for people to leave stuff behind, to take a breath and tell themselves that it's okay." She looked down to the cup in her hand, watching as her reflection rippled and swirled across the surface. "In the short-term it's so much easier to be sad, but it's absolutely exhausting to keep being sad. And that's about the point where you start to not care at all."
Diana had a feeling that she wasn't just talking about the other campers.
Then silence filled the room, it was not one that was comfortable, and there was certainly some amount of awkwardness to it. One had run out of things to say, and the other was struggling to find it.
"So Hestia's been telling me that Percy's doing pretty well on his lessons," Finally, someone said something.
Diana smiled weakly and stifled a yawn, "Hasn't mutilated any tomatoes of late?"
"It's Percy," Zoe answered with a smile. "Apparently his knife skills are getting along pretty good, and Hestia's working on improving his technique right now."
Diana watched Zoe absentmindedly, her chin on her hand "He must have been really shocked on the different ways of cutting a tomato. Look, I'm sure it's not my job to help the tomato with his emo identity crisis. Is he a fruit or a vegetable?"
Zoe chuckled at her impression. "That sounds like something he would say."
"And you know the thing he does with his hair." Diana ruffled the back of her ginger hair in a zealous attempt to look like Percy. "He says that's because he doesn't want people to think he looks like a try hard. Please."
Zoe continued to smile at her as she asked. "So how are your swimming lessons? I'm guessing that Percy isn't the selfish, arrogant, untrustworthy, stupid male that you'd thought him to be."
"Are they your words or mine?" Zoe made a face, conceding defeat on that one.
Diana took a breath. "But to answer your question… I guess not, he's something else. He's nice, kind of funny."
"Bearable?" Zoe ventured.
Diana thought about her answer for a while, she spoke. "He's not acting, so many people feel the need to act. To act so I think that they're cool, smart, funny…"
"And Percy doesn't act?" Zoe challenged.
"He does," Diana said it more to herself than Zoe. "But he doesn't act to make himself look good in front of 'Miss St' Claire'. He acts like that because he thinks it's his job to make sure everyone else is happy." She blinked, as if a stray thought had just hit her. "But I think we're all acting to be someone we aren't."
She looked at Zoe, who was just sitting and looking at her so innocuously. Diana couldn't help but wonder how on earth she did that, but then again she'd never had one of these 'talks'.
"So that translate into something for you?" Zoe asked, somehow finishing her ever-flowing cup of coffee.
"I … don't know."
It's easy to try to analyse someone else, but it become especially more difficult when you start to look at yourself, when you start to ask the questions that ask questions of you.
The corners of Zoe's mouth curved up ever so imperceptibly, making it an unnerving experience for Diana's already fogged up mind. Her mind wandered to a movie she watched with her dad when she was little. She didn't remember much of it, but there was this interrogation scene where the detective stares into the criminal's eyes, and he just stares into the criminal's eyes until eventually he cracks.
She remembered giggling, "That's silly daddy. The policeman just asked some questions and then the bad guy told him everything."
Her dad had laughed with her. "Well …" At this point her dad was looking into her eyes. "I think the bad guy was scared Diana, he was scared of what he had done, and what that was doing to him, and where that had gotten him into.
Five year old Diana had no idea what her dad was talking about: she thought that he had a weird habit of psychoanalysing movie characters.
But seventeen year old Diana did understand what her dad was talking about, but she wasn't scared, never scared.
She hated herself, she hated everything about herself, everything from how she looked to how she acted – it was never good enough. She hated how people just thought of her as cold, unforgiving, a robot. She hated that when she looked at the mirror she didn't see Diana St' Claire as much as the cold, snappy bitch.
And she definitely hated how the second her head hit the pillow, she fell asleep.
Percy was still wondering why on earth they hadn't gotten caught yet. If he had to do a guesstimate based on the amount of noise they were all generating, someone should have knocked down the doors two hours ago.
"JASON, I'M OPEN. PASS IT TO ME!" Leo Valdez — the root of all their evils/problems.
It was only twenty minutes ago when they were having a simple game of FIFA against the computer. Now they were all on the verge of crying; with this exquisite amount of pressure suffocating the air; sweat and metaphorical tears permeated their racing bodies, making Percy feel like he was doing his SAT's all over again. Somehow Leo had convinced Jason to do a wager in Leo's attempt to prove himself as a 'professional' FIFA player. A grand total of five hundred dollars was wagered with the opposing Russians – whom Leo insisted he understood from a short excursion working in a restaurant.
Unfortunately Leo sucked at team work. "PASS TO ME ALREADY! You – oh-my-god-how-the-fuck-did you-lose-the-ball!?"
Jason glared at Leo – he clearly blamed him for throwing him under the bus, his voice matching his gaze. "I told you that I only had one good controller, the other three I found at a bargain bin."
Percy tried to keep them together, "Guys, pay attention! We're already one-nil down."
Nico was no help at all. "So what colour am I?"
Leo answered first, "White."
There was a mournful sigh from Nico. "Still love you Leo."
Leo grinned, "Thanks man."
Jason narrowly missed a slide tackle that would've broken his virtual player. "Uhh… I'm yellow, Percy's blue, Leo's red and you're black."
"I call racist," Leo took a sip from his soda hat, "Someone pass the ball to me already!"
"Here," Percy switched the ball to Leo on the other side of the field. "I'm not getting how that was racist."
Leo raised a single finger. "Subtlety my dear man, a type of reverse psychology—" Leo's hands and voice were suddenly gone, like somebody had pressed a fast forward button on him.
By the time Percy caught up he had already lost forty seconds, but he managed to catch snippets of the end.
"—so by forcing a different colour on someone you dehumanise them into something else … In conclusion: by calling Nico 'black' you kind of reduce him from who he really is, and that is white, it's what I would call 'invert racism', and it happens absolutely everywhere."
Percy could only nod like he knew what Leo was talking about. And for a while the room was only filled with the noise of button mashing and the clicking of thumbsticks.
Finally Jason spoke, "Would you explain it to me again Leo?"
Nico groaned and closed his eyes, "Fuck me dead."
Leo shot Nico a pointed glance, "Hey!" But he quickly caught on, "OH SHIT NO! Everybody to your battle stations!"
Percy didn't know how they all managed to scream in sync, but they for hell sure didn't run back in sync. It really didn't help that Leo was making a police siren concert with his mouth.
Jason:Why are you running into me?!
Percy: Me? Why are you running into me?
Jason: I've got FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS ON THE LINE! I THINK I CAN BE A BIT PANICKY.
Percy: STOP BLAMING ME FOR YOUR BAD LIFE DECISIONS!
Jason: I'LL BLAME WHOEVER THE HELL I WANT I'M FUCKING RICH GODDAMNIT.
Leo: WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU GUYS? JASON THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!
Jason: FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS!
Nico starts to laugh: Shit … we just conceded, we're two-nil down.
They managed to score one a few minutes after that, but in the end they still lost.
They'd lost. Percy could hear the raspy shouts and cheers of Russian from the speakers on the TV.
Leo had bet five hundred dollars on the result.
They obviously didn't pay.
It was a still night, the cries of silence could be heard anywhere and everywhere.
It was not a dead world, for Diana could feel the faint whispers following her; every crackling step, every shaky breath, and every slow tremor from her own racing heart.
Everything was so confusingly backward.
She saw herself look up, at the sky, or what one could see of the sky. A fine grey blanket covered its velvety texture, and Diana couldn't understand why she'd laugh at that, or why she thought the sky was the beard of a giant.
No, not the sky, just the clouds, the clouds were the beard of a giant?
But not everything was lost, for she had the moon, for the moon refused to be confined by some pesky beard or by the sun — for the moon is there even when the sun has risen, and remains there in the sky long after the sun sets. Not by laws, nor by physics or gravity or even the rotation of the earth, but by choice.
She chose to be there, and she chose to be here now, and gods that was the only thing that should have mattered to her.
Then she felt herself run, run, and she ran faster than she'd ever run before. It was exhilarating, not really the wind in her hair, nor the leaves under her feet, but it was the pure act of running, and she enjoyed it. It was running without a care in the world, not knowing where you were or where you were going, the freedom she'd felt made her laugh and giggle and this time it didn't come out like asthmatic wheezes. The utter and inexplicable joy that she felt could not be documented down.
It was a while before she'd arrived at-where-she-was-totally-not-aiming-to-go.
Like most stories, it started with a boy with black hair and green eyes. But unlike most stories, he was around her age of fourteen.
"Aren't you going to get into trouble?"
Since when did he care about that?
"I sneaked out."
"And you're not going to get caught?"
She raised an eyebrow, "Do you think it's the first time I've done this?"
She heard a whistle. "I never knew you were such a rebel."
"You know my father, he still thinks that I'm a little girl."
There was a very loud cough that was absolutely not meant to be a laugh. "His little girl, that's a good one." She glared at him, and even in the dark of the night, she could see him perfectly well.
There was then a loud snap as she heard the sounds of sticks colliding against each other; there was the rustle of friction, then the spark of a flame sitting right ahead, it flickered and struggled even in the silence of the night.
"Come on… almost there."
It was all over with a roll of her eyes, the little spark bloomed into a roaring fire, and it was then that Diana saw who she was talking to.
Percy looked at her, a whisper of smoke drifting up from his eyebrows, "You kind of ruined it, I really wanted to light the fire myself."
And Diana really wanted to ask what the hell were they doing here, but instead she broke a stick in half and threw it into the fire. "Don't think of it as you not being able to do it yourself, think of it as me doing you a favour."
Percy arched an eyebrow, "Are you trying to say that I'm incompetent?"
Diana didn't understand what the hell was going on.
"I don't know, Are you incompetent?"
"If it was up to you Arty my competency level would have to be like a god," Percy said. The two smirked at each other, leaving Diana to think that there was something she'd missed.
"And instead you have one of a log."
He shrugged, "It's not my fault that you're such a bog."
She started to laugh as she thought of the next sentence. "If only you weren't filled with so much vog."
"Ouch," Percy said then frowned in thought, his fingers tracing outlines in the air. "Hey, I think we're onto something here."
She smirked. "You having the mental capacity of a log?"
"No!" Percy laughed, "It's the sound of those sentences, it has a certain … musical quality."
"Musical quality?" she said sceptically. "Are you going sing me a song?"
"Ahh," Percy clutched his chest as if he was shot. It was only then that Diana realised how he wasn't wearing a shirt, instead it was a simple brown tunic. It kind of reminded her of Hercules. She looked down at her own clothes, which was a type of slivery garb. Diana didn't exactly pay attention in her History classes, but she was pretty sure that they hadn't invented sliver dye yet; at least the ones she was wearing right now, it practically glowed.
An exasperated voice dragged her attention back to this. "Come on Perseus, you're fine. . . You're acting like a child."
Percy immediately propped back up, a glint in his eyes as he said. "I am a child."
She broke another stick and threw it into the fire, "In Sparta you would've already been taken to the training camps-"
"-And whipped in front of the goddess Artemis?" He said with tongue-in-cheek.
Diana was a bit surprised when silence once again filled the air, there was no witty comebacks from 'Percy' and the girl in front of her was silent, but she had glared at him for his last comment. Diana felt like she was watching one of those old western movies set in the bush, where the cowboys would just stare into the fire for the whole scene, except it was Greek looking.
It was a while before he spoke again, "Hey Arty."
Diana saw silvereyes reflecting the flames of the fire. "What?"
The last thing she felt was the knife flying past her face.
Even though it was only 2 PM in the afternoon, Percy was vainly engrossed into his own thoughts, so much so that he didn't even realise that someone was in front of him until their hand was right in front of his face.
"Percy I've finished my lap."
"Percy!" Now Diana was starting to think that he was deaf.
"PERCY JACKSON!" There was a response after that, as Percy Jackson promptly fell into the twenty-one degree waters of Half-Blood Lake.
He quickly flew back up in an attempt to salvage any strand of dignity, but by then it was already too late.
Diana was giggling, she was actually smiling and giggling at him.
Her red hair was shaking off her shoulders as her laugh created this dazzling, warm, fuzzy feeling in the back of his head and in the pits of his stomach.
Now Percy Jackson was not a stranger to the thought of girls laughing at him; and he was also strangely familiar with the quiet yet perceivable sound of Diana's usual laughter. But he had no idea that this kind of laughter even existed, and yet here he was; a witness.
Percy rubbed the back of his neck as Diana continued to laugh, his dark hair dripping down to his eyes.
Diana's laughter quietly turned into a smile again, she shook her head. "The way you jumped back when I yelled, and the look on your face. Okay, okay, I'm sorry, it wasn't that funny."
Percy snorted, "Right, of course. You didn't laugh at all."
Diana moved her arms back and forward through the water. "So what are we doing next?" She glanced back towards the shore, "And is there a reason why we have a rescue group waiting for us on the shoreline?"
Percy looked at her. "A rescue group? What, are you going to drown in a metre of water?"
"I just might." She looked back pointedly. She then turned back to the shore, "Seriously, what are they doing there?" A small crowd had been gathering for the last two weeks, it wasn't noticeable at first, but like a dam leak it continued until it was impossible to not notice.
Percy shielded his eyes as he surveyed the shoreline, he sighed. "I don't really know." He waved to one of those aforementioned guys, who replied with a loud hello.
Diana wrapped her arms around her torso. "What if they laugh at me?" Percy laughed at that.
Her green eyes glowed faintly as she said, "I'm serious. I am absolutely terrible in the water." It was cold and deep and murky and she couldn't see the bottom and everything-about-it-kind-of-terrified-her.
Percy glanced over to Diana. It was then that he reminded himself that for all her heated arguments and glares; for all her initial hostility, Diana St' Clare was so much more than that. She was smart and into art, she was terrified of the water – it was a thudding reminder that Diana St' Clare was not the person she wanted to be.
"No one's here to laugh at you." He said softly, trying to gather up the words he was going to use. "You're a pretty fantastic swimmer for someone who just started a month ago. Look what you just did! You just swam thirty metres and back."
"That's not that big of an accomplishment." Diana said.
"And that's fine because I have no idea what I'm doing either." Percy remarked with a grin, "So I guess that we're both going to be embarrassed when you fail."
Diana raised an eyebrow at him.
He turned it around with an equally pointed look, "And are you asking if you're going to fail? Cause the moment you say you're going to fail is the moment that you really do."
Diana looked at him. There was a pause; then a sigh.
Percy continued, "You're also coming along brilliantly with your butterflies, and as you progresses I'm sure we'll work on improving all your other strokes. Look, considering when you first started you would've drowned with gills on," he ran a hand through his hair as he muttered, "You're fantastic- I MEAN, doing fantastic, not that I said something before that no sir."
Diana frowned and slowly punched Percy, luckily for him she didn't catch what he had said. "Thanks for that. I guess I'm still a bit nervous about it all… And cold."
Percy looked at her, laughing out of pure anxiety. "You seriously think its cold?" It felt blisteringly hot to him.
Diana frowned as she asked him, "You've never been to Ohio before?"
Percy ruffled the back of his head, "I… didn't realise that you were from Ohio." The way she said it, it was a little condescending.
"Oh wow." Diana had a sheepish look on her face. "I forgot, I'd never told you that I was from Ohio. And I just spoke to you like that."
"Don't worry about it," Percy laughed it off, he was a little surprised at how genuine Diana seemed about it all. "What do you think of practicing some of your breastrokes?"
Diana started to paddle further out to the left as she asked, "You're going to watch me in case I sink right?" Maybe it was how skinny she was, but she was a natural sinker in the water.
Percy winked and saluted as he watched Diana swim away, "Aye, aye Captain Arty."
"Shut up Perseus!"
She still felt extremely uncomfortable about those names, and she definitely didn't like the hollow feelings her stomach did when Percy smiled at her like that.
It was in the late afternoon when the horn sounded for Capture the Flag.
Diana forced herself not to groan as she closed her eyes and fell back into her bed with a thump. Her hair was still wet from her shower. She squinted, trying to block out the sunlight with an arm.
It wasn't like she didn't want to play; she loved Capture the Flag, and she loved it even more when her cabin won (especially considering how their current two-match win streak).
"I'm exhausted." She didn't know why she'd said that aloud, sometimes she would talk with herself – quietly of course, lest anyone caught onto the fact that she was undeniably crazy.
There was a noise of agreement from the other side of the room. "I know what you mean Di." That was Alyessa, one of the other younger girls in the cabin. "But you know what Zoe's like when it comes to capture the flag.
This time Diana didn't hold back her groan, grabbing a pillow to block out the lights better. "Don't remind me of that. I don't know why she has to be like that, all super competitive." She finally gave up sleeping and propped herself up. "I mean … You would think that she would at least be consistent?"
"Well… There are rumours," Alyessa started off.
Diana couldn't help but inwardly groan, this camp should be called Gossip Girl. There was more gossiping here than there is on the actual show.
"But they're probably just rumours started by stupid boys."
Diana thought that Alyessa was trying to convince herself more than anyone else.
"But…" Alyessa bit her lip, looked at Diana and back, before finally managing to resolve her guilty dilemma. "Okay I'll tell you!"
So Alyessa told Diana the supposed story of how Zoe` Nightshade managed to become the Zoe Nightshade that they all knew today; the one that was regarded by so many as bitchy, hateful, pretentious, cynical. This was the old Zoe`, the one before she'd found herself being told that she was 'bitchy' and 'pretentious'.
"Growing up Zoe` had five sisters, and they were all super competitive with each other in everything. You name it: School, sports, music, people… and boys, especially with men."
Alyessa tugged at the ponytail around her shoulders. "And this man Zoe` met, he was bad! Like super manipulative! Apparently he was playing around with Zoe and all her sisters at the same time. Zoe` had it the worst, the guy even told her that he'd loved her."
"Anyway, the thing was that Zoe`s father was this high ranking general in the army and he was strict, like really strict, but he safeguarded a lot of expensive military equipment and information in his house. And one night, while Zoe's folks were out of town, the house alarm went off in the middle of the night. Then the guy broke into Zoe's room holding a laptop that he had stolen her father's safe, and asked her for help getting out."
Diana leaned forward on her bed, "And? Did Zoe help him get out?"
Alyessa suddenly stopped her narration, her lips pursed, hands running down her hair. "That's it. That's all I know of the story. But, you know… Zoe` doesn't like to mention anything about her own family, and how she said she had spent some time on the streets."
Diana was lost in her own clouded thoughts as she absorbed the story, watching as actual grey clouds formed. "What do you think happened? With the man and everything?" It was a quiet sentence, trancelike, but somehow Diana's voice made the furnished cabin feel hollow.
Alyessa also followed her gaze outside, to the bearded sky. "Maybe… Do you remember that really strange thing Zoe` said last week when Alison's boyfriend broke up with her? We all expected her to get all mad."
"You think she was talking about herself?" Diana asked.
"I don't know," Alyessa said. "But she had seemed really sincere about it.
Diana nodded. It was the first time ever anyone had seen Zoe` cry, even if it was just a little.
But the words, the words were burnt into the back of Diana's mind. It caused her heart to hope for something that she wasn't really even sure existed.
"She said: There are times where it seems like love could just be a source of suffering, but then it might also be the little piece of string that gets us out of our little labyrinth."
It was a little while before Diana was being so enamoured with the tragedy of Zoe Nightshade that a cabin door was being lethargically opened; and Nico Di Angelo groggily noted how Percy was trudging into the cabin at the same slow speed of the closing door. His hair was wet, and his eyes were almost closing in on themselves.
Nico knew he should get up and close the door properly, but he really couldn't be bothered to get up from his comfy seat on the far side of the room. Besides, it was really really hot.
"Oi, Emo face. Close the door would you? You might let the flies into the cabin." Unfortunately, Thalia Grace had thought that this was a good moment to stop in the middle of the stairs.
"Who… am I looking that bad?" Percy had his left arm on the railings of a bed, his eyes closed in a quest to have enough energy left for Capture the Flag.
Thalia gave him a quick once over. "I was talking to Nico over here; you just look like you're trying too hard."
Connor was snickering from behind Percy. "That was pretty savage bro, are you gonna take that?"
Percy just sighed, Thalia sometimes took this thing too far, to the point that the idea of a joke disappears entirely.
Thalia raised an eyebrow as she completed her descent down the stairs, cradling a white bundle on her arm. "Why not Connor? You look like you're doing okay."
Out of the two other dark-haired boys in the room, only one of them burst into laughter, the other looked chillingly apathetic. However the sound of laughter was soon overshadowed by the loud horn echoing through the camp.
Nico stood up and walked to the door, finally closing it. "Is it that time of the month again? No pun intended." Thalia looked like she didn't know whether to smile or deck Nico's head in.
Last year they had introduced a new tradition to their traditional games of Capture the Flag. Where once a month a cabin was randomly selected to host their perpetual game, and that cabin had to put their own personal touches on the game, a kind of revamp.
Nico remembered the time his cabin did theirs and turned it into a night game. The two teams had to try and find each other's flags in complete, literal semi-darkness, with only an admittedly giant field lamp as a source of light.
He laughed to himself as he leaned against the wooden door. He got his cabin to dress themselves up in scary costumes (think ghouls, demons and Grim Reapers). They were supposed to 'capture' campers who had strayed too far from his boundary lines.
But really, they captured whoever they liked, and yes, he did get in a lot of trouble because some of the campers tripped over a stick and hurt themselves. Good times.
"Whose doing it this month?" Connor asked, twiddling his thumbs like one of the kids in the Hermes Cabin.
Thalia answered him with a scoff. "We're probably not going to get one at all this week — too busy looking into the mirror."
"Thals." Percy pointed at her, "You're stereotyping again." Percy wished that she would stop because he was tired and they weren't really that good of friends for him to ignore it.
"It's not my fault if it's true, and it's definitely not my fault if they actually embrace those stereotypes, this idea that they 'need to be' a certain type of person."
"Piper is definitely not like that, she is her own person." Percy said, the way his jaw was tensing should have ended the conversation.
Thalia blinked, she had kind of forgotten about that. "Yeah well … I don't know why Piper wanted to stick with those kids. She could have gone absolutely anywhere. Those kids are fine with their make-up and their dolls and their mirr-"
"Shut up Thalia!"
"Wha-what?" Thalia spluttered, totally perplexed on what had made Percy so annoyed. "Those kids have it so far up their own butts, you can't say that they haven't pissed you off. Even that Diana chick-"
Percy stood up with a ferocity that immediately made everyone else stand up just as fast.
Nico started to run over. "Hey man." Percy ignored the hell out of him like someone would ignore fear in the face of adrenaline. He was so so tired of how Thalia was treating everyone, and it created this sickening feeling in his chest for so many different reasons.
"You think you're so perfect don't you? Talking about everyone else as if they're beneath you, imagining them to be something less than who they are, who they deserve to be. You know… Why the hell am I talking to you about this anyway? You should know the feeling better than anyone, that suffocating and lonely feeling of being nothing in an empty world of packed people, that feeling of feeling like absolute shit when you're crying yourself to sleep. When it seems like no-one and no-one would even care about whether you live or die, when you can't get yourself to accept those beautiful people who try so desperately hard to love you even when you desperately need it."
Percy continued, his blue eyes emphasising every single emotion stormed to the forefront of his mind, that ones that made him so painfully human. "And I don't know, ma-maybe people act and put on masks and do whatever else fit in, but they do it because they just want to fit in, to feel for a small moment, like they belong. Maybe that's okay and maybe that's not, but damn it Thalia! I know that it is none of your business whether or not they do."
"People should not be in the business of judging people for trying to be people."
So there were a lot of things I wanted to tackle with this chapter, and I promise CTF is next chapter! I just thought this was a good place to stop.
How people look at Diana and how they read her. She is a normal normal girl, as normal and as flawed as they come! She is not Artemis and she any attempt to do so is a type of 'invert racism'. Thanks Leo!
Zoe's story. I wanted to further develop her character as a counsellor.
What do the dreams mean? Something along the lines of nothing and everything!
Percy gets really mad! Thalia has touched on something that he feels personally about.
Pertemis is coming guys!
And also a shoutout to my great friend Korra (daughterofeos11). If for some reason you don't like this story, check her out (Enemies, and the Riddle) because you'll find some of my touches in there ;) And the latest gossip has told me she's going to update soon. RIP ALAN RICKMAN
But seriously she is a great writer and it has been really great to work with her and to be her friend and to have amazing discussions. A lot of what I write comes from talks I have with her!
But seriously, thank you for reading, especially if you're an old one. Thanks for sticking with me.