Well, here we go. This is taking place somewhere around the beginning of the Sea of Monsters summer, before Chris left. Oh, and I'm sort of in the habit of writing in first person present tense, from writing so much Hunger Games stuff, so if I accidentally slip into present please let me know. I'm making Chris and Clarisse sixteen at the moment. Canon? Debatable. Just work with me here. ;)
Edit as of 9/15: Hoo boy. Just came back to reread this, and... yeah. Bleck. I'll try to fix a few things, but I encourage you to read until around chapter ten before you decide whether this fic is worth your time. I think that's about when Chris really comes into his own and I actually figure out where I'm going with this.
I never meant to be a traitor.
I'm not saying I wasn't one, because I may have been. Betrayal is subjective. I'm just saying that it was never my intent.
I kept a wary eye on the Ares kids as I loped through the training arena. It must've been pretty obvious that I was just passing through, but that wasn't even close to a guarantee of safety when it came to them. Surprisingly, they left me alone. Except one.
"Are you here to train or not?" growled Clarisse La Rue. She appeared to be in an even worse mood than usual, which was saying something.
I came up with the response that I thought was least likely to get me killed. "… No?"
Wrong answer, apparently.
I was a pretty tall guy, but she managed to get right in my face, her amber eyes inches from mine. "Well, the Ares cabin has this training slot. So you wouldn't have come here unless you wanted to train against us."
"I, uh, left my sword in my cabin," I stuttered, backing up.
"Grab a spare, then."
The rest of the Ares cabin stopped fighting each other, sniggering as they turned to watch me get my ass kicked. Really, I was a decent fighter, but the Ares kids were better. Particularly Clarisse. And even aside from the fact that, like them, she was superhumanly strong and spent all day training, I just… couldn't fight her. I don't know. I couldn't do it. It wasn't that I was afraid of hurting her, because I knew she was way too good to let that happen. But when she looked me in the eye, I was gone.
I walked over to the rack of spare swords as slowly as I could, finding one with a balance close enough to mine and reflecting on how nice it would've been to make it through the day without any serious injuries. Of course, she was right behind me, when I turned, flashing an evil grin. Great. She was going to enjoy this, I could tell.
Her first blow came pretty much instantly, an impossibly quick swipe at my sword hand. I blocked it. Barely. She smirked and struck harder. I narrowly dodged a few more swipes, backing across the arena and not even trying to fight back. As usual.
Finally, Clarisse got tired of my evasive maneuvers. She paused for a moment, lowering her spear slightly, evaluating me. For one stupid moment, I thought that she was going to have mercy on me and let me leave.
Yeah, that idea didn't last long.
Clarisse cracked a wide grin and attacked full force. Before I could react, her spear smacked my sword out of my hands. I swore, the sting in my palm distracting me from the fact that I'd just been disarmed, which in retrospect probably should have concerned me a bit more. And by the time that it occurred to me that I should probably look up before she attacked, I was flat on my back on the arena floor with only the vaguest idea of what had just happened. I wasn't entirely sure, but I thought she might have body-slammed me. That particular thought didn't dismay me quite as much as it probably should have.
Clarisse watching disinterestedly as I rose to my feet. As soon as I did, she charged again. I raised my sword halfheartedly. Two seconds later, I found my own blade at my throat, her spearpoint locked against its hilt. I leaned back to duck under it. She whipped the spear around, ramming the handle into my chest, using the fact that she already had me off-balance to send me down. Again.
The sad thing was, as far as sparring sessions with Clarisse went, I'd done pretty damn well by my standards. Half the times I showed my face in the arena while she was there I ended up losing blood.
And yet I still managed to come up with an endless amount of ridiculous excuses to do so.
Clarisse waltzed toward me, standing over me with her arms crossed and tapping her foot impatiently as I staggered upright. "Had enough?" she asked. Was I imagining the hint of a smile in her eyes?
"Enough?" I protested. "I never asked for any."
She raised an eyebrow. "Why were you here, again?"
"I was going… to the…" I stuttered, struggling to remember what my excuse had been this time.
"To get a haircut?" she asked derisively.
I blinked, scratching the admittedly-a-bit-messy black hair in question. "Um... what?"
And for a split second, she looked unsure of herself. "I… you do. You look like a hobo."
"A… hobo," I repeated in disbelief.
One of the Ares kids behind me snorted, and Clarisse whirled on him furiously. "Shut up," she snarled.
I stood still, thoroughly confused, and tried my best to look inconspicuous. To absolutely no one's surprise, it didn't work. The Ares kids, Clarisse included, turned and glared at me. "Uh… bye!" I said brightly, spinning on my heel and walking out of the arena before another one of them decided to use me as a punching bag.
"You're gonna get yourself killed one of these days, tangling with her, you know that?"
I turned to see my friend Kieran lounging against the frame supporting the stands. He was Ares, but he wasn't quite as violent as the rest of them. Or maybe he was, actually. But one way or the other, he didn't feel the need to murder me all the time, so it worked.
"I don't do it on purpose," I muttered resentfully.
He raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Well, you make the most deliberate mistakes I've seen in my life then, pal. Over and over again."
I considered his argument for a moment. "Shut up," I replied eloquently.
"I'm serious. Why not fight against the ninety percent of this camp whose asses you can kick? You crash our practices on purpose."
"You even say 'shut up' like she does! You got that from her!"
"Shut up! … Er… shut up! They can hear you!"
"Damn right," he guffawed.
I smacked a palm to my face. "Well, why are you being so loud, then?"
"Because they're not hearing anything they don't already know."
I froze, lowering my hand slowly and spitting out a particularly colorful curse. "They know? Or, I mean, they think they know? Because they don't. They're wrong, you hear me? But… they know?" My voice started as a menacing growl, but rose to a remarkably pathetic whimper.
Kieran was practically rolling on the ground, he was laughing so hard. "Everyone knows, Chris. You like Clarisse La Rue. And as to your next question, I don't know."
I was thankful that he added that, because it let me sort of sidestep the first statement. "My next question?"
"Whether she likes you."
"I dunno. But I wouldn't be surprised. She told us not to kill you during training, you know."
I blinked. "Really? Then why did I just get my ass kicked?"
His face split into a knowing grin. "I believe her exact words were, 'Nobody pulverizes Rodriguez but me.'"
And so she will. Many, many times.