AN: If you signed up for the alert or favorited the story, thank you. It's always nice to know people are interested in the story. And thank you to g, VampireNits, Musafreen, McIrishGirl, Shorty and KG Inc., and everyone else who reviewed. Your reviews make my day!
And, Musafreen, you bring up a really good question. Hermes is probably the better choice for navigation systems. I think what I was thinking at the time was that Apollo's pinpoint accuracy would be needed so that when you turn the wheel (or joystick, or however Leo decides to control the ship) say, twenty degrees to the left, the ship would move precisely that amount as well. Thinking about it now, that sounds more like propulsion or something like that. Can you tell I've never built a flying ship before? :) Anyway, thanks for the detailed review, it was great!
Annabeth paused and took a few steps towards them, then she stopped. "Wouldn't be able to tell," she replied shortly, then she turned and flung her knife back at the dummy. The knife circled through the air, then hit it right between the eyes. "It could be your memories, or it could just be what Calypso has been spoon feeding you about your past." She walked back to retrieve her knife.
That seemed to needle Percy. "Calypso only knows about my life up to when I blew up Mt. St. Helen's."
"And a few weeks after," Annabeth said through gritted teeth, as she took a vicious swipe. The head of the dummy fell to the ground. She gave it a hard kick and it sailed for the two of them. Leo had to duck to avoid a trip to the hospital.
He didn't think Percy Jackson could take a hint. Instead of backing down, the guy stepped forward. "I think you won," he said, looking back at the dummy head. Then he walked further into the arena, so that the two of them were facing off. "Want to try a real challenge?"
Annabeth had been standing hunched over, watching him and resting her hands on her knees. Now, she straightened up and brushed her curly hair out of her face. "It's hardly fair anymore," she remarked, "now that you're cursed." She tilted her head. "Do you Romans know what fair means?"
Percy's mouth twitched. If he was trying to smile, he was pretty terrible at it, because it looked to everyone else more like a grimace. He brought up his bronze sword, and spread his arms wide, as if inviting her to hit him. "Land a blow on me," he said cockily, "just one lethal blow, and we'll say you won. I call that fair, or close enough."
For a second, Annabeth just stood there, and Leo almost expected her to walk away. Then she adjusted her grip on her knife and started forward.
For a second, Jackson looked confused. "Don't you want to get a sword?" he asked, waving his at her.
Annabeth kept walking. "I think I'll be all right," she said flatly, not taking her eyes off him.
She circled around to Percy's right. He grinned- a real one this time- and turned with her, not allowing her to get behind him. There was a pause while they watched at each other, then he called out confidently, "Well?"
Quick as a flash, Annabeth moved. Leo almost called out a warning to Percy, then stopped himself. It was just some practice fighting; he wasn't going to kill her and she couldn't kill him. He hoped. But still, he didn't think Jackson had seen the look in Annabeth's eye, or else the guy would be running for the hills right now and he wouldn't stop until his next birthday.
It was like every thing Annabeth had felt since Leo had met her was playing out in her stormy gray eyes. All the worry, anxiety, hurt, betrayal and anger that she felt towards everyone, but probably mostly the boy in front of her, couldn't- or wouldn't- be held back any longer.
She reached behind her and grabbed something from her back pocket. She flicked her wrist and it went flying towards Percy Jackson's face. It was moving faster than Leo could see, but he knew with his other senses that it was just a small knife, not made of Celestial bronze, and not even that sharp. He doubted it could have done much damage to him, much less the Super Camp Leader and All Around Awesome Hero, Percy Jackson. Sure enough, Percy casually swatted it away with his sword.
But he hadn't been able to see the knife as quickly as Leo had, and so Leo saw the rest of Annabeth's plan before Percy could realize what was happening. Annabeth hadn't stopped moving when she had thrown the knife, and now while her opponent's attention was still on where it lay on the ground, she had moved towards his raised sword arm to get under his guard. At the very last instant, Percy wised up to where she was and a clanging rippled through the air as their blades met.
They quickly moved away. Neither took their eyes off the other as they circled around each other. Then Annabeth asked, "So, what do you think you remember?"
Something quickly flickered across Percy Jackson's face that looked to Leo like hope. After all that talk he had given about about priorities and civilization, did he really want to be the Greek hero he had been again? Leo wondered, could he be that guy again? As soon has he had thought it, though, the expression was gone, and Jackson's face was smooth once again.
"My birthday is in August," he started as he feinted to one side and attacked from the other. Annabeth pulled out of his reach and shook her head. "It is too!" he insisted.
"No," Annabeth explained. "I mean that won't work. That's something you could've been told, or a memory Hera could have left for you. The last Great Prophecy revolved around your birthday, you could have even figured it out for yourself. If you want to convince me," she said, shifting her feet, "it's going to take something else." She landed a kick on his side and raised her eyebrows in surprise when he didn't budge. Leo guessed all that obsessive legionnaire training had an effect, after all.
Percy didn't seem to notice. "Fine,' he huffed and thought again. He performed a tricky maneuver that was so quick, Leo didn't quite catch it, but it almost knocked Annabeth's knife out of her hand. At the last second, she grabbed on with her other hand and managed to keep it. "Bacchus likes for you to call him Mr. D."
Annabeth switched her weapon to her left hand and stood for a second while she shook out her right at her side, like it stung from whatever he had done. "That's because he's Dionysus," she corrected, moving back into a ready stance. "And he doesn't really like for us to do much of anything."
Percy blocked her blow and countered with one of his own. "And the Merc- Hermes – cabin has an uneven floor."
This is what he remembers? Leo thought. The guy can't remember his own girlfriend's name, but he remembers random architecture glitches from around camp? What the heck?
Annabeth was apparently thinking the same thing, because she rolled her eyes. "I'll take your word for it," she said. "I've never slept on it." Then she pounced and brought the end of her hilt down on Jackson's head before he pushed her away.
Her comment appeared to trouble Percy. "I have?" He frowned and brought his free hand up to rub where his head had been hit, although Leo couldn't imagine how it had hurt him. "Do your satyrs like enchiladas?"
"Not exactly." His next attack made Annabeth somersault out of the way, then come up in a defensive crouch, ready. "That's mainly just Grover."
"Oh, of course," Percy said nonchalantly, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. He tried the same move again, and this time Annabeth almost took his sword. The sharp edge of her knife dragged along the inside of his arm, but it didn't even leave a mark. Leo made a note to self: if he ever lost his fire powers, he was definitely going to take a swan dive into the Styx first chance he got, because it looked like it could have some serious advantages. "And he would be…?"
Annabeth stopped and shot Jackson a look. For the first time, she looked sorry for the boy in front of her, who could hardly remember his own name, and apparently had his favorite color all wrong. "Your best friend," she said finally.
Percy Jackson's face fell. Leo couldn't imagine what it was like for him, and Jason, to have forgotten people- important people - who now demanded that they be remembered. He couldn't imagine that it was fun. Percy changed the topic to flying horses as they continued to spar, but he seemed a bit distracted, now. Every once in a while, as he blocked Annabeth's blows and counted with his own, he would mouth "Grover," like he was still trying to fit the word into one of the gaps in his memories, to find a face he could label 'best friend.'
They went on like that for quite a while, sometimes discussing trivial facts, like the roof of the Demeter cabin, and sometimes Leo learned something new. He had never known that the attic of the Big House was full of battle artifacts, or that a mummy had previously held Rachel's job as the Oracle.
And hey, would it have been too much for Will Solace to mention the nest of giant freaking ants which no one had ever managed to kill when he gave Leo his 'welcome to camp' tour? That was the kind of thing he wished he had known before he had wandered in the forest all alone and defenseless.
None of it was what Annabeth was looking for, though. Each fact Percy provided was either too obvious or something he could have been told. They watched as Percy grew more and more aggravated as he tried again and again and again and again. Leo was starting to wonder if maybe Annabeth was just holding out on purpose, making this more difficult for Percy so that she could keep him talking. He was also getting new respect for the shape Annabeth was in. After a week of almost no sleep and then tearing apart that practice dummy, she was now holding her own in a sword fight that didn't show signs of ending. He couldn't have done it, that was for sure.
It was taking its toll though; she was breathing hard now and even Jackson looked like he might be starting to break a sweat. It's not like their hearts were really in the fight anymore, anyway. They still moved to attack each other, their weapons still clashed as they blocked the other's blows, but it was clear that their focus was shifting more to the conversation they were having than anything else.
It was after about thirtieth time that Percy muttered 'Grover' that Annabeth commented on it. "You don't remember him," she said as she ducked a high strike.
"I didn't before," Percy admitted. He brought his sword back close to his body. "Does he like peanut butter? Like really, really like peanut butter?"
Annabeth sighed. "No," she said. Percy muttered something about someone liking peanut butter before. Frustrated, she stabbed at his shoulder. He turned so that she sliced through air, and she pulled back. Then, in a thin voice, the words sounding like they had been pulled out of her, she asked, "What do you remember about me?"
His answer was immediate. "You pulled me out of a lake when I fell in."
Annabeth's brow furrowed. She jumped back to avoid his next attack and shook her head. "I don't remember that. Never happened."
But Percy was persistent. "Yes, it did." he said, sword held high in anticipation of her next move. She cut forward to land a hit under his arm, and he brought his sword down on her knife, hard. While she recovered, he continued, "I fell in, my clothes were soaked, and I wanted out. You were there and still in the canoe and you gave me your hand. You laughed at me," he finished accusingly. He seemed a little anxious; like this was one memory he had hung on to all these months and he couldn't stand for it to be false.
Annabeth looked like she was working it over in her head, then looked at him with regret. "But it just doesn't make sense," she said. "You couldn't get out of water on your own? I've never seen you like that. And think, why were your clothes wet, unless you wanted them to be?"
"I-don't-know." Each word was accompanied by a swipe of Percy's blade as he renewed his attack with greater vigor. Annabeth moved quickly, but barely stopped each blow. The lost and confused look on his face was one Leo was glad he didn't see on Jason's so much anymore. He really felt for the guy. A thought seemed to cross Jackson's mind and he stopped moving. "If it's not real, then why do I remember it?" he asked her.
"I don't know," Annabeth moved her knife in a circle at her side. She started around to his left. "Maybe Hera did it to confuse you? She's not as fond of you as she is of Jason."
"Yeah, I figured something like that when I woke up in the middle of nowhere in my pajamas," Percy said dryly, matching her move. "Why does she hate me, again?"
Annabeth feinted a blow then tried again to move behind Percy, and succeeded. "She hates me, not you," she said, her knife at his throat. "She dislikes you by association."
He grabbed her arm, doubled over and heaved her over his shoulder. She somersaulted back in front of him and quickly moved out of reach of his sword. "What did you do?" Percy asked, his tone almost teasing.
Annabeth scowled at him. "I agreed with you." Her curls had flown everywhere and she pulled them behind her neck and tied them into a ponytail before looking at him again. "That's always a risky move." Percy seemed taken aback, and she regarded him for a moment, just staring at him. Leo wondered what she was thinking. "Look, try again," she said. Part of her voice was demanding, and part sounded like it was pleading-with him or with whatever mysterious container still kept his memories from him. "Try harder." Then she struck at his neck again.
It was a long moment, where the only sounds in the arena were the sounds of their blades hitting off of one another. Then Percy offered, "You have a brother named Malcolm."
"Everyone knows that, he came here with us."
"And one named Matthew."
Annabeth eyes went wide, and she stepped away in surprise. Leo was confused. He thought he knew everyone in Cabin Six by now, and he didn't know any Matthew. He waited for Percy Jackson to take the opportunity to attack, but instead the boy just stood there, watching Annabeth, waiting for her verdict.
She nodded. "Okay, that's something," she admitted, as she swiped her knife low, trying to cut Jackson's ankles out from under him and trip him up. "What else?"
He jumped over her arm and brought down his sword, but she was already gone. "You're afraid of spiders," he said, his voice loaded with confidence now. The frustration was gone from his face , and he had on a broad grin, clearly happy to have gotten one right.
Annabeth scowled and rotated out of the hold he had been trying to get her in. "Not a secret. All children of Athena are."
"Yeah, but here the Minerva kids are trained to get over it," Percy countered as he jabbed at her with his sword. Leo shuddered, how exactly did the Romans "train" someone to get over a fear of spiders? Did that go for every inherent fear the demigods had?
Annabeth tried to attack from another angle, but Percy sidestepped her. "You never have, though," he continued smoothly. "Even when we were at Mt. St. Helen's you were-" he stopped short as Annabeth moved under his guard and went toe to toe with him. Her long knife caught the swing of his sword at the hilt, and they stood there, facing off with their weapons locked in between them.
"So," she challenged, grabbing onto the front of his purple shirt with her free hand and pulling him closer. "Do you remember everything that happened in Mt. St. Helen's, then?" She narrowed her eyes. "Everything?"
Percy's response was to lean through the gap in their blades and kiss her.
Well, that was it, Leo thought, game over. He had had exactly zero luck with girls, and even he knew that Jackson's move had been a dumb one. He waited for Annabeth to pull away and smack Percy into next year. Then he would get mad, and the Romans would be riled up, and the fragile truce they had built over the past week and a half would be up in smoke. This was how the war would begin, he could see it now. Demigods would attack demigods, and the gods would fall and the world would end, and it was all because one arrogant idiot kissed one angry girl.
Annabeth broke the kiss and moved away, but, surprisingly enough, the end of the world didn't follow. Instead she lowered their weapons to their sides and let go of Percy's t-shirt. In all the months that he had known her, Leo had never seen Annabeth with an expression lquite like the one she had on now. It might have been happy. She looked at the boy in front of her intently, searching his face. She must have found what she had been looking for, because she then said, "That had better be a yes," before wrapping her free hand around the back of his neck and kissing him again.
That settled it. Alone, Percy Jackson and Annabeth were all right, but together they were just plain weird. Leo looked away and found Jason and Piper. They also looked like they were wishing to be anywhere else at that moment. He raised his eyebrows and they shrugged. At least they didn't get the sudden mood swing either. He was about to signal to them that maybe they should go to lunch early, and leave the lovebirds alone, when they heard someone squawk, "Hey!"
Looking back over to the center of the training arena, Leo saw that Percy and Annabeth were definitely not kissing anymore. Percy had both his hands slightly raised and an indignant look on his face. It was pretty obvious why. The point of Annabeth's knife was pressed up against his side in a clearly deadly manner. Somehow she had also gotten a hold of his bronze sword and was holding it defensively in front of her with the other hand.
"One lethal blow," she said, "I win." She lowered the weapons, took a step back, and then offered the sword to Percy.
He took it, and dug around in his pockets before he pulled out a pen cap. Leo watched as he compressed the deadly sword into a ball point pen. Nice. He would have to see if he could take a closer look at that later. The dark expressions flitting on Percy's face as he stuffed the pen in his jeans made it clear that he hadn't decided whether to get mad over this or not. "Only because you cheated."
"You let your guard down," Annabeth said sternly, but then a smile broke out over her face. "I call that fair, or close enough." She was watching Jackson closely, hopefully, and shifting her knife from hand to hand. It didn't look like either knew what else to say.
At that time, a sound echoed across the camp, calling them all to lunch. Jason jumped up. "Guys, we had better go." Already, there was a stream of kids headed past them towards the other end of the camp. The Romans didn't exactly do late, and meals here were pretty much first come, first serve. Survival of the fittest and all that, Leo thought. Yay.
Annabeth turned and joined them. As they started to climb the steps out of the training arena, she paused and looked over her shoulder. "Are you coming, Seaweed Brain?" she asked. Percy had been staring after her, but now he snapped back to attention. They waited for him to join them before continuing on up.
When they had reached the top, Leo, Piper, and Jason fell back let the other two walk on ahead. Percy and Annabeth were walking close together, but not too close, their swinging hands just almost brushing. After the morning he had just had, Leo was riding high. The day was only half done and he had already solved his biggest problem. He rocked at this mediating stuff; he didn't see what Jason and Piper were having such a hard time with. Maybe after lunch he would tackle that Golden Fleece issue that everyone was all hot about, and see if he could have that wrapped up by dinner.
They passed the Coliseum on their way to the dining pavilion just in time to see Katie Gardener storm out between the torches and walk away, tossing in the air little pieces of -oh gods, he hoped that wasn't but, yeah, judging from how Anthony was following her with a short sword drawn and murder on his face while Amber pulled on his arm with a worried look on hers, he guessed it probably was-the Romans' original list of demands. Leo nudged Jason and pointed over in their direction. "I think you're on, dude," he said.
Jason sighed and shared a look with Piper. Together they raced across the area, weaving in between the groups of campers heading to lunch as they tried to reach Katie before Camp Half-Blood needed a new counselor for Cabin Four. Leo watched them go, and then headed on to lunch, still trailing Percy and Annabeth. He had changed his mind, maybe he would go ahead and leave the camps' relations to Jason and Piper. After all, he wasn't that good with organic lifeforms. He would focus on getting the ship ready, and let them worry about how to get everyone on board.
Up ahead, he watched as Percy gave a long sideways glance at Annabeth, plucked up his courage, and then slowly, hesitantly, reached out to take her hand. He held it gingerly, like he half expected it to either blow up or fall apart in his grasp. She kept her gaze on the forest on her left, but Leo caught her smile as she laced her fingers more tightly through his.
Maybe this is how it begins, Leo thought, by learning to hang onto what's still the same, instead of focusing on everything that's now different. Maybe demigods could learn to compromise, and start to work with demigods, and then they could all reach Greece, and convince the gods to work with them as well, and together, they would save the world. Maybe this is what they had all been waiting for. For one impulsive idiot to kiss one defensive girl.
"By the way," Annabeth's voice drifted back to Leo as she turned to face Percy, "your favorite color is blue."
AN: So, that was it. Hope it didn't disappoint. Thank you for sticking with this story and following it all the way to the end.