"You know you're a really strange son for Ares to have," I blurted. Damn you ADHD!

Luckily Mark didn't take offense but then he's not the touchy type – that's one of the things that makes him such an odd son of Ares. All he did was raise an eyebrow and say "Yeah, how so?"

We were walking through the forest on our way back to the cabins after a one-on-one lesson in monster killing. I groped for an answer that wouldn't make Mark want to take me apart. Okay, granted I'm the best swordsman in a century but he's the greatest monster killer since Hercules. I definitely did not want to get on his bad side! "Uh…well you're a lot smarter than the rest of them." I knew that wouldn't offend him. It was a generally accepted and much commented on fact around camp.

"I got my mom's brains," he agreed. "But Dad isn't as dim as the Athenans make him out to be. He tracked down Luke didn't he? And there's no shame in being tricked and manipulated by an expert like Kronos."

Yeah, that was true. "And you got a much better temper than Ares' other kids," I said.

This time Mark shook his head. "No I don't. I've just got better self-control, my Mom again."

"And you like your dad." Boy was that was the wrong thing to say!

He stopped turned and fixed me with a glare that had my feet itching to do their stuff. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"Just – uh – you're not scared of him like Clarisse is," I stuttered.

He looked grim. "Percy, none of us are scared of him except for Clarisse."


He went on; "For your information as gods go Ares is one of the best fathers around. For one thing he pays a hell of a lot more attention to us than any of others do, except maybe for Apollo. How many times have you seen your Dad, Percy? I've known mine all my life. Sure he doesn't live with us but he drops by pretty regularly!"

Now it was my turn to get hot under the collar and I guess it showed on my face, "Hey-"

Mark held up a hand. "No disrespect to Poseidon intended. I know he's got problems my Dad doesn't and he did as much for you as he could."

Sometimes I wonder about that. I remember the years with Smelly Gabe and I blame Dad for not doing more. I've called him a bad father in my own head more than once, but I don't want to hear from anybody else. They've got no right to judge.

"Granted Ares's not what you'd call warm and fuzzy," Mark went on, "but neither are we. We're tough kids, we need a tough dad!"

"He hits Clarissse!" I blurted.

Mark rolled his eyes. "He hits all of us!"

I was speechless. How can a Dad who hits you be a good father?

"And we hit him right back," Okay, that really was a shocker. "Dad and I tussle every time we get together usually Mom has to pull us apart."

"I really don't understand," I said.

Mark calmed down, he even sighed a little. "That's because you're not a son of Ares. Dad's like a drill instructor. He yells, he threatens and he hits to toughen us up. He doesn't want us to die, Percy. Crazy as it may sound to you it's his way of showing us how much he loves us."

Maybe I got no right to judge either – but; "I don't think Clarisse knows that."

Mark sat down on a fallen tree with a discouraged look on his face. "I know she doesn't damn it. In case you haven't noticed, Percy, she's Dad's fair-haired girl, his absolute favorite, but she doesn't see it. It drives the rest of us nuts the way she keeps acting like Dad's some kind ogre when he gives her practically anything she wants."

"Like an electric spear," I said slowly, "and a quest."

"And an ironclad," said Mark. "Not to mention a chance to drive his chariot which his girls almost never get."

"That doesn't seem fair."

Mark shrugged. "The girls get to spend time with Enyo and Eris instead, they're cool with it, smug even. I asked Dad what Clarisse's problem was once." No doubt about it, Mark has guts. "I expected him to clout me one but he just looked sad, and that is not an expression I'm used to seeing on Ares' face!" I couldn't even imagine it. "He told me he'd messed up big time with Clarisse and her mother. Felice, that's her mom, had gotten over it but Clarissse never did no matter how hard he tried to make it up to her."

"Maybe he needs to be nicer to her," I ventured.

Mark got up with grunt. "He is nice to her, Percy, in his way. He is who he is. He can't turn himself into something he's not for her – or any of us."

And neither could Poseidon I realized. He was god of the Sea, one of the Big Three. He'd wanted to do more for us, Mom had told me so, but she was human and she wanted to have a life of her own which she sure couldn't have living in a golden palace under the ocean! Blaming my Dad for not being there for us was as dumb as blaming my Mom for not being a millionaire and buying me everything I wanted.

It's tough being a Half-blood. For the first time I found myself wondering if maybe it was tougher to be the godly parent of a half-blood.