If there's [something] that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. - Toni Morrison
Hi to you, the reader.
The story is over. If you'd rather let the story stand on its own and digest it as it is, I suggest you skip on ahead. There's a little fluffy epilogue at the end, and that's it. As far as I'm concerned, the story is seven chapters long, and this is merely ... extra. A retrospective opinion that might change how you feel about what you read. So if you're happy with what you got, then please, by all means, skip past the acknowledgement and enjoy the epilogue.
If you'd like to pretend I, the writer, don't exist, and that my opinion and beliefs regarding my own work are irrelevant ... in that case, a toast to the death of the author, and skip on ahead. Such a stance is justifiable ... but nonetheless naive in attempting to remove a story from its context. Because a story is not truly a story without someone to hear it and someone to tell it.
With that out of the way, I think there are some things that must be said about this story and the conundrum of pairing Artemis and Percy. It's lunacy, really.
But I'm a lunatic. And if you're here, so are you. So let's see where this lunacy brings us.
I personally like to let a story speak for itself. But I cannot in good conscience do so, not when there are ideas easily misconstrued and concepts historically proven to be rewritten in bad faith to suit other agendas. Not that I have much influence in my little corner of the internet ... but the effects of my creation are my responsibility.
The essence of the matter is that, as a broad rule, I don't support shipping Artemis with other characters. But the reality of the situation, and fandom in general, is that shipping is more complex than that. So in practice, I think that such ships and other similar matters should be done with a light and careful touch, along with a tacit understanding of the pros and cons in doing so.
Fanfiction is certainly not a higher art form, but I enjoy investing thought into my writing. Critical thinking is applicable to everything. And my thoughts are that rewriting an asexual/aromantic character as straight is should generally be considered a bad move.
That begs the question of why I wrote this story in the first place.
So, first, an argument using mythological 'canon,' beginning with that historical context I mentioned. Mythology is fluid and the origins of specific myths are difficult to trace, given that they were an oral tradition first and foremost. What history we have of them are fragmented texts, the earliest of which being Homer. And funnily enough, the works attributed to Homer, while likely a real person, are widely considered to be a collection which many other poets added to over time. And that's not even getting into the fact that the historical events of the Iliad and the Odyssey are dated back to 1100 BC, whereas Homer is found in 800 BC.
Coincidentally, the Odyssey is where the first record of Orion may be found, in a mere reference as a shade in the Underworld slain by Artemis. This is attributed to (based on an untraceable lost work of likely the Astronomia by Hesiod, a contemporary of Homer) either a punishment for him announcing that he would kill every beast on Earth, or because Apollo tricked Artemis into doing so. In other cases, as it is in Riordan's canon, he dies to a scorpion sent by Gaia, though some versions have the scorpion sent by Artemis. In this case, the reasons expand to a discus contest, or an assault on either Artemis herself, or Opis, one of her maidens. In translations of Callimachus's Hymns (300 BC) I use for reference when writing (using the site theoi), there is the following line: "either let any woo the Maiden; for not Otus, not Orion wooed her to their own good."
In other words, the idea that Artemis and Orion were in a relationship is essentially a headcanon. We have no evidence for myths in that time in which Artemis had a romantic relationship. Therefore, myths regarding Orion aren't a good justification for why the maiden goddess would be in a relationship. It's why I treat him as a multiple-choice question in the first chapter. We could go back even further to pre-Hellenistic (pre-classical Greek, essentially pre 300 BC) and look at Ephesian Artemis, whose form much less matches what we think of Artemis today (in both the world of Percy Jackson and in general), but was at the core still a virgin goddess despite her appearance. We could go back to myths in which Apollo and Artemis are not twins but husband and wife ... though the relationship was spiritual and never sexual.
Miscellaneous Myths: Orion by Overly Sarcastic Productions on Youtube, for an excellent alternate reference, goes over the history of the myth of Orion and covers his connection to Artemis—how romanticized versions are post hoc fragmentary additions by a Roman writer centuries after the original myths ... which then got blown up by historians with an agenda when recovering stories. This was something I tracked down in my own research but is far more entertainingly put together. the video puts it plenty concisely how an Artesian romance is ... no.
In sum, Artemis is about as aromantic and asexual a character you can get in Classical and pre-Hellenistic mythology, with the almost expected asterisk of myths of other people trying to assault her with unrequited feelings. And to go by the fandom, you can find tweets by Riordan stating that she's aromantic and asexual, along with all other Hunters so long as they are in the Hunt.
So with about five paragraphs' worth of evidence (sources from Wikipedia and some readings of translated texts, so take with a grain of salt) of there being no textual support for writing Artemis with anyone ... what's the point? Mostly it's to refute the argument that there's a precedent for Artemis being in a relationship in mythology/canon. There's no historical record of it and even the most generous interpretations of assault in that age are still repulsive.
But that obviously doesn't stop people who don't care about respecting the original material. Fringe versions of such a relationship between Orion and Artemis have either survived millennia or constantly been revived or redeveloped throughout the ages. Moreover, many classical stories are basically built upon made-up versions of what came before. The legends of King Arthur basically had numerous writers add in their own headcanon characters that screwed with the characterization of previously established characters over and over. The concept of purgatory that shaped religion for centuries basically came from an Italian Catholic poet writing a fanfic trilogy about a pagan Roman poet, primarily to politically dunk on a pope he didn't like. Given enough cultural weight, reinterpretations become canon.
Mythology is fluid. Stories are mutable. Gods can change. That's the entire point of the derivative 'what if?' nature of fanfiction, no, storytelling as a whole. The ability to imagine what might happen is fundamental to human evolution and our perception of the world. We see things for what they can be, evidence be damned.
Yet the wonderful positives of that ability don't eliminate the negatives. Everything has a cost: ignoring those ramifications is willfully ignorant at best and intentionally damaging to societal outgroups at worst. To paraphrase Jurassic Park, we were so preoccupied with whether or not we could, we didn't stop to think if we should.
The cons are violating a core trait of the cultural symbol Artemis. Replacing this trait is akin to overwriting a character that asexuals and aromantics can identify with, that they may even idolize given the mythological status. And as there is little space for these characters to begin with, doing so is much like co-opting a symbol to be against its fundamental nature.
Let's use some analogous examples from movies, on similar political topics of identity. In The Shawshank Redemption, the original text by Stephen King had the supporting character Red, an Irishman. As the Irish are European, he was implicitly white. In the movie, he's played by Morgan Freeman, and I see no issue because, in the context of that story, basically nothing changes due to the color of that character's skin. In Alien, the screenplay was written with no genders in mind. For at least the first movie, I see no issues switching any character's gender because for that film it really didn't matter.
It's like Spider-Man. Really, the core traits of Spider-Man are "friendly" and "neighborhood," with the overdone "power/responsibility" shtick and problems juggling heroics and daily life. Age doesn't really matter, nor gender, nor race.
We can even look at universal stories like Seven Samurai. The Magnificent Seven is a western take that basically replaces everything, but I don't see an issue since it's put into a Western context and the core story of protecting the innocent isn't intrinsically tied to any identity. Parasite could be retold in any culture, any language, as the concepts of class warfare are present in effectively all modern society. Or, say if Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction was portrayed by a white actor. I'd say it'd be a shame that Samuel L. Jackson didn't play him, but was the color of his skin at all important to his role in the story? Not really, assuming the manner of speech came from the actor.
Meanwhile, in Lady Bird, gender is so intrinsically tied to the story that I couldn't imagine changing it. Because then it would no longer be a mother-daughter story, but a father-son story. The same applies the other way around. Meanwhile, most war movies, at least those on the battlefield, are intrinsically tied to the tragic deaths of young men. And many movies that focus on black people tend to be about their struggles against racism, like Get Out and Sorry to Bother You, and it would be ridiculous to alter the context of their race. Blackface, yellowface, and redface perpetuate harmful stereotypes and punch down at outgroups. There are examples of subversion, such as the castings in Hamilton, but that serves as a meaningful critique, supporting immigrants as an ideal that the USA espouses but fails to live up to.
Sometimes changing the gender of a character means nothing in a story and their overall narrative context, just some bare-bones modifications of sexual orientation to maintain relationships. Other times gender is the most crucial part of the story. Sometimes changing race means nothing in the story, besides some cultural upbringing details that can be easily modified. Other times, race is so intrinsically tied to culture that it would be a joke to tell the narrative with any other race.
That said … let's apply that same logic to sexual orientation. Does it matter if Percy Jackson is straight or gay, as a whole in the story? He won't be with Annabeth anymore, but is that critically important to his story about being a kid tossed into the deep end and forced to fight for his life, about his unswerving loyalty? Not really. What of Luke? How much of the redeemed traitor story changes if he were gay? The flavor of his relation to Annabeth would need to be changed, but otherwise no. The themes they represent and their role in the story is not changed by altering their sexual orientation.
Now here's the fun part. What if we were to make Nico straight? What part of his identity as a social outcast—scared to be outed as a son of Hades, scared to be outed as gay—change? What if Artemis were straight? What are the implications narratively, thematically? What are the implications for the real world?
Sure, near all the gay pairings in fanfiction are rewriting straight characters. But it's not quite the same to do the opposite. I would hope that one day, a person being queer is not so politically charged that it's not problematic to imagine if they weren't. That people no longer need to fight so hard to assert who they are in a world against them. But it's not.
There is a solid basis for fundamentally rejecting pairing Artemis, whatever the circumstances may be, if you are concerned about the symbols of the oppressed.
So then the question becomes ... why the hell did I write this? What are the pros that would make the cons worth it?
Thus, we need to understand the appeal of pairing Artemis with someone else. And in this case more specifically, Percy. Ignoring for the moment all the cons, why would someone want to pair these characters together?
It's not a hard question. The main answer is basically the same as the majority of fandom: wish fulfillment. Sure, there's a sizable chunk where the answer is just curiosity and wanting to explore a 'what if?' scenario. But let's not kid ourselves. 12 of the top 25 favorite fics in this fandom on this site are stories focused on Percy and Artemis, and the main ship in most of those 12. Another 5 are Percy with Zoe, which is basically a step away from the same concepts. A forbidden romance is like cocaine, and Artemis is perceived as the most forbidden fruit of all.
So I must admit, the setup is rife with romantic potential. On one hand, there's a guy so perfect and so heroic and so much better than everyone else, but still relatable as the protagonist and point of view character. On the other, there's the eternal virgin badass that is down to earth and more human than the rest of the gods, who is untouchably divine and hates all men (though really, all the text supports in both myth and Riordan canon is that she thinks the other gender is just too bothersome to deal with and just wants to do her own thing).
From either side, isn't that a wonderful little wish-fulfillment romance? You're either a young man who with awesome powers performed the greatest achievements of all time, so much that even the most misandrist goddess, who's cool and not like the other gods, recognizes your potential and falls for you. Or you're a young woman who's been sick of dealing with all the trash guys out there, and all of them are pigs and suck ... until one day there's one who's worth being called a man, who has defeated gods yet is humble and loyal and respects you.
People read fanfiction to indulge themselves, so why should anyone be surprised, really? The forbidden is permissible, the taboo is out for all to partake. And here's the perfect setup for a badass power couple, once you get past the 'little' details. The popularity of these stories has stood the test of time on this site. They were the most favorited stories of this fandom long before this story began. They were what I read before I began writing. And they're still there now. They're still influencing newer readers and writers.
This is where we get to the fact that this ship is the source of numerous bad and overdone tropes I won't even name. Some stories are written well, but the popularity of the ship became a feedback loop that reinforced the most thoughtless plots and questionable misogynistic takes. Honestly, there's something novel in witnessing the dreams of amateur writers who go so far on skills so few. I don't really fault them. Young writers write what feels true without thinking too deeply about it, and they don't realize the implications of what they're writing, only focusing on certain characters looking cool or getting together.
That still doesn't change the fact that this ship fundamentally relies on undermining, on violating the core of either character to work. What happens to the loyalty that surpassed immortality, to be mortal and stay with his sweetheart? What happens to the plain honesty in aromanticism, of just enjoying what you do above all else without the need for romance or sex? That's not even mentioning the background characters flattened to one-dimensional caricatures.
And yet still that underlying romantic appeal beats on.
Because there's an appeal in transformative and transcendent love. Because there's a truth in the most tragic and most wondrous interactions between men and women. Because there's affection for the characters you've grown to care for.
Gambit's Refrain began as a one-shot, short and sweet. I'd wanted a story where the ship worked while respecting canon, without bad breakups and guardians and godhood. Without the inanity of sweeping the virgin off her feet and disrespecting asexuality or maidenhood.
So I wrote and published what became the first chapter. It's been through about 4 major editing passes by now, but the little traipse through Central Park has largely remained the same.
I'd fully intended to just be done with it and go back to the other stories I was writing at the time. Those stories were larger adventures with plans to eventually get to the ship this is all about, written with all the skill of a novice writer. But I couldn't get back to them. Something in this story rang truer to me than the tens of thousands of words I'd written already, and I abandoned them.
I eventually realized I could never have finished those older stories because they were mostly going through the motions to try to reach a point I found cool or interesting, with the pairing I'd come to enjoy reading. I couldn't really believe where they were going, couldn't justify that these characters would work out this way.
But in this story, I could.
Because I could only ever really see three ways such a story could end. To end in tragedy, or one joining the other, in divinity or in mortality. Greek tragedies have been done to death in their own genre. Every other fanfiction decided that once Annabeth was out of the equation, whichever method they used to drop her, Percy would have no problem becoming a god. So I figured that if Artemis was going to reject maidenhood, she may as well reject godhood altogether. After all, no one escapes the Huntress.
The axiom of Artemis's aromanticism was the one I chose to ignore. I did my best to hold up those ideals and not invalidate the Hunters, but I ultimately crossed that line because I needed a story that didn't effectively kill off old loves and erase the powerful characterizations in canon. I needed to see if it was possible to bring these two together in a meaningful, fulfilling tale.
So as much as this sort of romance deserved to be demythologized, there are aspects worth reaffirming. There must be something valuable that could be written here that is worth the garbage it will perpetuate. There must be something that can come out of this that, while not perfect, is worthwhile.
Beyond the inevitable wishful romance, I dug deeper to bring out themes I cared so much more for. Ideas of free will and determinism, of trauma and coping, of hope and recovery, of truth and falsehood, of language and love, of divinity and symbols, of mortality and life. Despite the entire host of Artemis's mythology … there is also her closeness to mortality, her strength of conviction, her adaptability. So I wrote a story about gods, about ideals ... and how they can change.
Acknowledgments / Special Thanks:
Critique: RAfan2421, Republic, Nemrut
Faithful Readers: Dogbiscuit1967, Miss Kick, te amour, Ginocide02, ChampionOfTheHearth
Inspirations / References:
Chasing Thunderstorms by Foxy'sGirl
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Blood on the River: Jamestown, 1607 by Elisa Carbone
Katarina du Couteau, Riot Games
Death Parade by Yuzuru Tachikawa (Madhouse)
Aron, Arthur, et al. "The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol. 23, no. 4, 1997, pp. 363–377., doi:10.1177/0146167297234003.
Save Martha, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Naruto Genkyouien by Daneel Rush
When I Fall in Love by Victor Young and Edward Heyman, arr. Gordon Goodwin
Love's Labour's Lost/Won by William Shakespeare (Into the Gauntlet by Margaret Peterson)
Liebesleid by Kreisler/Rachmaninoff (Shigatsu was Kimi no Uso by Naoshi Arakawa)
1984 by George Orwell
Cadmus and Harmonia, Greek Mythology
Devil's Kettle Falls, Judge C.R. Magney State Park
Thor's Well, Yachats, Oregon
Cloud's Rest, Yosemite National Park
Paper Towns by John Green
Fly Me to the Moon by Bart Howard, performance Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, arr. Quincy Jones
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Midnight Star by Marie Lu
Percy Jackson and the Olympians & The Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan
The following morning was just as cold, though the cafe and street looked like a new world under the sun.
Percy had barely managed an hour of sleep, between taking care of Daphne, the still lingering effects of the coffee, and the endless stream of thoughts about the day to come. He'd thought his sleep schedule could recover a bit during vacation, after grinding for finals and the end of semester party.
But here he was, shortly after dawn, waiting for Artemis to show up. He had no idea when she would show up—they'd never agreed on when in their uncertain goodbye—so he was as alone as he could be with his thoughts and a waking NYC.
Mostly Percy wondered about the future. After all, she 'freed' him from fate's clutches, and the prospect of deciding his own destiny was exciting. The sea did not like to be restrained, and now he was free to act upon its whims.
Life wasn't any easier for it. Losing his childhood love. Looking after his newborn half-sister. Moving across the country. Going to college. Everything with Artemis took the cake, though.
Gods, how was he going to explain this to his friends? To Mom, to Father?
But Artemis already took the leap of faith, and there was no way he would let her go by herself. Her pull on him was simply too strong.
"You look happy." Her quiet amused voice cut through his reverie, and he turned to find her beside him, silver moons entranced on his face. "You also look tired," she continued, reaching up to smooth over the bags underneath his eyes with her thumb. Her smile was small and smug. "Lose sleep over me?"
"Yep," he replied immediately, to be rewarded with her blush. Still unrepentant, she rose to the balls of her feet and stole a kiss.
The gentle brush of their lips evaporated away the tension of the early morning. As they parted, her hands settled at his chest and pulled him down with her. His skin swelled beneath her soft touch.
"I was thinking of going ice skating," Artemis said, still holding him close. She stood relaxed, showing no indication she wanted to move from where she was before him.
"I don't know how," Percy admitted. He flexed his cold stiffened fingers before taking her waist.
"First time for everything," she dismissed. "Rockefeller opens in half an hour."
"We said we would talk." He wrinkled his nose. "How about breakfast first?"
"Please?" Her pout on its own was almost enough to convince him. Almost.
"I'm not saying no. It's only a few blocks away, we can still be one of the first in," Percy assured. He tugged her toward the cafe. "But c'mon. I'm hungry and there's things I need to know."
"Only if you kiss me again," Artemis demanded.
So he smirked and kissed her forehead, then pulled away to open the door. "If you would, my lady."
Her face twisted as she shivered. "You sound ridiculous." As she passed him by, Artemis seized his wrist and dragged him in with her. "What do you want to discuss?"
"Where you'll be. What you want to do. How you plan to do to all that."
"Same as before," Artemis stated. "Go hunting. But also try some new things."
They ended up at the same table as before, side by side, and soon pancakes and fruit and yogurt were on their way.
"Point is I'll be going back to New Rome soon," Percy said. "What will you do?"
"Go with you." Artemis shrugged. "Maybe take some classes."
Percy chuckled, intertwining their hands. "What could they teach you?"
"Who knows?" Artemis leaned into him. "You've shown me that I shouldn't underestimate people."
He smiled. "I love you."
She smiled back. "And I love you."