Title: A Little Family Drama
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Summary: Castle/PJO. Gram's face contorts a little, like she's trying to smile; then some of the tension goes out of her spine, and she sinks to a seat on Alexis' desk chair. "Kiddo, how long have you known?" 2300 words.
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.
Spoilers: Early S5 of Castle; general PJO book canon (no spoilers for Heroes of Olympus).
Notes: Posted to LJ on 11/1/2012. For graycardinal, who requested: "More of Closing Pandora's Box, with Alexis talking to Martha or Beckett about it." (Also contains a nonvital stealth reference to a popular 2012 movie...)
Alexis Castle doesn't make a habit of keeping secrets from her family. Not serious ones, anyway, as opposed to personal things she'd rather not get teased about just yet. But when she does keep a secret, it tends to be a doozy.
The fact that a big part of her decision to stay in New York for college is down to the proximity of Camp Half-Blood? Is definitely one of those secrets.
She hasn't actually been there, of course. Apollo's granddaughter or not, she doesn't count as a demigod, and she's not in line to play Pythia like her cousins' dauntless friend Rachel. Alexis doesn't mind- well, beyond a certain amount of healthy teenage envy; even if she wasn't fairly well read up on the myths, she's heard enough of the real stories to know what happens to mortals with capital-D destinies. But even if she never crosses its threshold, the camp is popular enough with her newfound relatives that it's more convenient for them to visit her here than it would be almost anywhere else in the country.
That wouldn't stop them from calling her or sending Iris messages, obviously, but there's really no substitute for actual physical interaction. She'd found that out the hard way with Ashley, when he'd gone on to Stanford and left her behind. And she'd spent so much of her childhood without relatives her age around, she wants to keep hold of the ones she's found now. She hadn't even realized how much she'd been missing before she'd run into a bunch of crazy teenagers fighting a monster on a field trip, and found out that her Ancient Religions class might be more useful than Trigonometry after all. They're not impressed by her pretty face, her smarts, or her famous father; they're just hers, and she's theirs, in a way she's only experienced with Dad and Gram before.
The thing is, Alexis has never wanted to make any of her family- even her butterfly of a mother- feel like there's anything lacking in the way they've raised her. Her dad's only just started to smile like he really means it again now that Beckett's finally giving him a chance, and she doesn't want to jeopardize things for him. And Martha talks a good game, but she's more emotionally vulnerable than she likes to pretend. So Alexis figures if Gram doesn't want anyone to know, it's not her secret to tell. She refers to her demigod cousins when she can't avoid mentioning them as 'friends from college', and hides her guilty twinges behind bright smiles.
She's always feared she wouldn't get away with it forever, though, and it isn't very far into her freshman year before she forgets to keep her guard up on a visit home. She drops all her change in the key tray atop her dresser without checking for drachmae first, and a golden coin clatters over the edge to spin noisily on the wooden surface before dropping to the floor below with a muted thud.
It's such a stupid mistake; she knows better than to be that careless with the ancient Greek currency. But she'd finally wrangled a proper archery lesson out of one of Apollo's other descendants, a much older graduate of the Camp who'd moved back to the city recently for some kind of government work, and she'd still had stars in her eyes when she'd walked in the door. He carries his own custom bow and quiver, has a ridiculous fondness for purple, and has the same general coloring and wry smirk as her dad; it had been like having an afternoon out with a favorite uncle, and she'd totally forgotten to make sure there was no one else home before dropping by Chez Castle.
Alexis glances down, automatically bending to scoop up the loose coin- then freezes as she hears someone inhale sharply from behind her. She winces, then closes her fingers around it and stands, trying to smooth out her expression. Busted.
"Hey, Gram. What's up?" she asks casually, looking over her shoulder as she moves to slip the drachma into the pocket of her jeans.
Her grandmother's face is stiller and paler than Alexis has seen it since the last time Dad was hurt following Beckett around, her perfectly coiffed red hair and jewel toned shirt standing out even more brightly than usual against her skin. So much for hoping she hadn't realized what it was.
Martha reaches for Alexis' hand, catching her before she can let go of the coin, and then turns her palm over to inspect the design stamped on the metal.
"Alexis, darling," she says slowly, "Is this a drachma? Wherever did you find one?"
Her tone is light, like it's just any old piece of rare currency, but Alexis can hear the tremor in her voice. She bites her lip, tempted to pretend it's a coincidence; then decides it's not worth the cost of getting caught in a lie. Gram's people instincts are just as sharp as Dad's when she has a reason to pay attention, and the coin's far too new-looking for there to be any other plausible reason for her to have one.
She clears her throat, making an effort not to yank her hand back, and replies. "From my cousins," she says, faking nonchalance. "Since some of them have, ah, issues with cell phones, you know?"
" Your- Greek cousins?" Gram says, taking the coin from her and turning it over on her own palm. She's not smiling; her eyes have gone dark and deep with some emotion Alexis has never seen from her before.
"Do I have any other kind?" Alexis shrugs, taking refuge in humor. She is her father's daughter, after all. "Although some of them are actually aunts and uncles, I think. I try not to ask; that part's a little weird for me."
Gram's face contorts a little, like she's trying to smile; then some of the tension goes out of her spine, and she sinks to a seat on Alexis' desk chair. "Only that part?" she rallies to reply. "Kiddo, I would think that would be the least strange thing about that side of the family. How long have you known?"
Alexis' eyes stray to the little tabletop fountain burbling away on one corner of her desk; it had been one of her Christmas requests, the year she'd found out about- everything. She has a cheaper polyresin one for her dorm room now, too, a little three-tier system that produces just enough spray and mist to let her make an offering to the goddess of the rainbow or accept a message if she needs to. Her Gram glances at the fountain too, then shakes her head, answering her own question.
"I should have guessed. Darling, why didn't you tell me? You must have had questions."
Alexis sits down cautiously on the edge of her bed, facing Gram. So far, this is a little less awkward than she'd been expecting, and she gives her grandmother a wobbly smile. "Not the kind you mean. Not since I met him, anyway. Annabeth and Rachel have pretty much explained the rest of it. Annabeth's one of Athena's daughters, so she's really smart; and Rachel's the Oracle. They know all the good stories."
"You met Apollo?" Gram's fingers tighten around the drachma, and she raises the fisted hand to press over her heart. She looks- a lot like Alexis had felt right after breaking up with Ashley; like she still misses him, even though she knows they're better off apart.
Alexis swallows. "Yeah," she says.
She knows Apollo remembers her Gram fondly; it had made her feel kind of dazzled when she met him, and warm all through, to know that her dad wasn't just the product of some random one night stand like most people assumed. The god thing had been kind of a side issue at the time; it hadn't really sunk in back then that magic and monsters and immortal superbeings were real. But she realizes now, seeing the look on her grandmother's face, that it's never been a side issue to her. After all this time Apollo's still exactly the same person Martha Rodgers once loved, a hot twentyish guy with an even hotter car, fantastic powers, and a hyperactive, frat boy personality. But Gram- no matter how young at heart she is- has grown and changed in the decades since they were together. And she must have known that that would happen, all along.
"Is he always such a dork about his poetry?" she blurts, trying to find something to say around the lump in her throat.
That surprises a laugh out of Gram; a real one, where her eyes crinkle up and her smile lines all show. "Oh, yes. I'm afraid so. I met him during one of my earliest shows, and, well. Some of his impromptu contributions were..." She lets the sentence trail off, her smile going a little misty with nostalgia. "Of course, that was part of the attraction for me; he was beautiful, but that innate arrogance of his would have been a little off-putting without a few imperfections to soften him up. By the time he admitted he was something more than just another student of the performance arts..." She shook her head. "I felt like I was living in a fairy tale; and for a brief time, I was so very, very happy."
"And then he moved on," Alexis replies, softly. That's how the story always goes; the gods bore easily, and they rarely stay monogamous for long, even amongst themselves.
"Yes," Gram sighs, still wistful. "Just after I realized I was pregnant. It broke my heart, but I had always known it could never last, and there would be other fish in the sea. Besides, I had Richard to plan for."
Plan for? Alexis tilts her head at the wording, then widens her eyes as she realizes the significance. "He told you what to expect. About the monsters, and Camp Half-Blood. But you never sent Dad there, did you?"
Gram nods at that, her expression shifting from wistfulness toward regret. "I've often wondered if I did the right thing. Apollo told me that the teenage years would be the most dangerous, when my baby was no longer a child but had not yet been trained to fight. The 'yet' was what kept me from following through with it, in the end. I didn't want that for my son, a lifetime of pursuing quests and fighting terrible beasts." A sad smile turns up the corners of her mouth, and she reaches a hand out to Alexis, tangling their fingers together. "Not that that seems to have stopped him from seeking out the mortal variety on his own."
That puts a slightly different cast on her dad's pursuit of Beckett, and consistent attachment to the twelfth precinct regardless of the actual status of their relationship; Alexis briefly wonders if that's in the blood, too, the urge to make one's stamp on the world and prove oneself against opposing forces. And whether or not Beckett has another strand to her heritage, too; she's pretty enough that she used to model, she used to want to be Chief Justice, and now she's an awesome cop. Maybe a descendant of Themis, or her daughter Dike?
Alexis shakes off those ridiculous musings, squeezing Gram's hand. "I guess he was one of the lucky ones, then? Annabeth says there's always a few that slip through the cracks, because the monsters don't find them, or there's someone else nearby that draws them more strongly."
Gram shrugs. "There were a few- strange disturbances, but I vetted his nanny carefully, and you know how he brags about being kicked out of all of New York's finest academic institutions. Whenever there was trouble, he simply moved schools. If he'd actually been attacked, I might have reneged- but that never proved necessary, and in the end it was easier to keep it a secret. I never wanted Richard to be disappointed, or think I was crazy. You must understand. If you hadn't met Apollo yourself..."
"Yeah." Alexis nods. "It was kind of... unexpected, and it took awhile for things to really sink in. I still get vertigo sometimes, thinking about it. And, you know, stare around at my classmates wondering how many of them aren't a hundred percent human. It explains a lot, actually."
Gram laughs at that. "Yes, it does, doesn't it?" She strokes a thumb absently over the back of Alexis' hand, searching her face with worried eyes for a long moment, then sighs and finally asks the obvious question. "Do you plan to tell him?"
Alexis shakes her head. "Not if you don't want me to. Unless a Titan stomps through New York again, or something. You know Dad. I'm not sure he'd be able to let it go, if he knew. He'd want to get involved..."
"And his life is dangerous enough as it is." Gram shivers a little. "I love him dearly, but he's not always terribly sensible, is he?"
"Pot, kettle?" Alexis replies, wryly.
"True enough, dear," Gram laughs again. "So. Tell me about these cousins of yours, then. And your meeting with your grandfather. I want to know everything."
"Of course," Alexis laughs, too. The demigod community is such a hotbed of drama, when they're not caught up in prophecies or fighting for their lives. No wonder Gram had caught Apollo's eye, really.
"So Annabeth and Percy were the first ones I met," she says, warming to the topic. "I mentioned Annabeth is Athena's? Well, Percy is one of Poseidon's..."
"No," Gram gasps; she obviously knows the story of the Big Three.
"Yep," Alexis grins, and launches into the tale.