Disclaimer: I still do not own Percy Jackson. Annnnnd now I'm sad.

Phase Nine

Getting ready for homecoming was a bit surreal. I hadn't worn a dress or done anything special with my hair since my unofficial first date with Will—and that was almost two years ago.

By the time I was done on the phone and had come back into the living room, Percy and Nico were chilling eating pieces of fruit on the couch admiring their fabulously finished aquarium. The two of them were just sitting there, watching the squids go around and around. The TV wasn't even on.

"Squids are happy," Nico stated, motioning towards the happy sea not-mammals (according to Annabeth anyway).

"Cool," I replied, dropping down next to Percy. "Where'd the girls go?"

"They went to go curl Thalia's hair," my brother said as he passed me a piece of pineapple. "Nethier of them were sure what to do so Mom is explaining the process to them and teaching them to wield the dangerous weapon known as a curling iron."

"Wand," Nico corrected.

Percy blinked, cantaloupe halfway to his mouth. "What?"

Nico's cheeks turned pink. "Your mom brought home a curling wand. Apparently a it works better or something, I don't know," he explained his cheeks turning from blush-pink to beet-red.

"Oh, okay," Percy shrugged and finishing chewing. "Whatever it is, it looked dangerous. By the way, we're supposed to be sending you to join them."

I stretched my fingers and resisted the urge to crack my knuckles. Since I mostly did hand-to-hand fighting, I couldn't afford to get arthritis now or any time later in life. "Why? I'm not curling my hair."

"I don't know," Percy told me, swatting my hands away. He loved reminding me not to crack my knuckles. It usually gave him the chance to start some kind of fight with me. I ignored him this time. "But Nico and I are under very strict instruction," he continued as I grabbed more fruit. "We're supposed to—"

"Leila Jackson, I can hear you!" Thalia shouted from down the hall. "Get your butt off the couch and come help me survive this! Let's go!"

"I don' wanna!" I called back, my mouth full of pineapple.

"Such a lady," Percy commented while I finished chewing.

I snorted. "I don't need your approval, brother darling."

"LET'S GO, JACKSON!" Thalia repeated. "I will use force!"

I groaned and dragged myself off the sofa. "What could possibility be more important than my sofa time? Homecoming isn't worth this stress. If we stress than the dev—the mortal," I corrected quickly, pushing open the girl's bedroom door, "—wins a small victory over our emotions or something."

"Amen," the Hunter muttered from her seat on the bed.

My mom winked at me over Thalia's head. I grinned back. "Hey, Mom."

"Hi, sweetie," she replied, perfecting Thalia's curls with her long, hot iron. "Could you start pulling some of your hair out of your face? I'm going to curl the ends."

I nodded and joined Annabeth in front of the mirror. She was busy tucking her hair into an elaborate bun with fancy pieces hanging in the front. I had a feeling she would've been the one instructing and shouting at me to become involved, but she was concentrating extremely hard on her hair. I decided it was probably best to just let Annabeth do her thing so I grabbed my own hair tie and bobby pins.

"All done, sweetheart," my mom told Thalia, patting her shoulder. "Annabeth, let me help you. Did you want me to curl the pieces in the front?"

Annabeth sighed. "Yes, please—my hair is starting to look like a nightmare."

"Oh, honey. No, it isn't," she disagreed. "It looks great." Annabeth replaced Thalia on the bed.

"What do you think?" Thalia asked, shaking out her freshly curled hair. "How do I look?"

"Better than a poodle," I teased.

"Hilarious," she commented as I pushed the last bit of hair out of eyes.

"You're not trying to attract boys anyway!" I said, laughing.

"Leila, here," Annabeth said, cutting off our conversation. "This is for you." She gave me a small makeup compact while my mom started curling the front of her hair.

I blinked. "You want me to apply my own makeup?" I'm awful with makeup. That's why I never wear it. I'm a complete disaster with that face paint and everyone knows it.

"It's cover up," Annabeth stated as if this explained everything. "For your scars," she continued when she saw my blank stare.

I scowled in understanding and grabbed the makeup. I stripped my sweat pants and quickly started covering the scars on my legs from all the countless monsters attacks.

"I'm wearing a short dress so I need to shave my legs," Thalia announced. "Either of you need to?" Annabeth shook her head absentmindedly examining my mom's handiwork in a hand mirror.

"Eh, I'm all right," I replied, adding a more cover-up on a practically bad scar. "I'm wearing a long dress but I do need to rinse off. I'm gross and sweaty from school."

"Don't you get your hair wet and don't you dare wash off the cover up!" Annabeth called as Thalia and I made our exit.

"I won't!" I promised, turning on the water.

You could tell Annabeth planned my outfit.

The dress was tight and formfitting at the top, but flowed out at the bottom. I could still move perfectly. It was also made slightly above floor-length so I wouldn't trip over it if we ended up fighting monsters, which was a very likely possibility. The color was pretty, too—a very dark pink or maroon or something. In the right lighting, it was almost purple. There was only one think shoulder strap to keep the top sturdy, which worried me until I realized that just having one strap gave me a lot bigger arm range for fighting. My shiver heels were very tall and sharp, but also sturdy. They matched my bracelet perfectly and honestly, were exactly what I would have chosen for myself.

I could walk, run, jump—heck, I probably could've fought a war in this dress and at the end, the dress would've looked better than my currently perfectly curled hair.

Everything was perfect… and it made me want to die.

Something about dresses just made me completely beyond uncomfortable. It was literally way, far out of my Happy Place and Comfort Zone. I could wear ratty jeans and T-shirts, battle armor, boy's clothes, homeless-person attire, but a dress? Nope. Nopenopenope.

The sight of a dress made my palms slippery and stomach clench in knots. I kicked my mirror in frustration and thankfully, neither the glass nor my shoes broke.

"Want me to call Will?" I glanced up and saw Percy leaning against the doorframe. He had one hand over his mouth, covering his expression, but I could tell by his eyes that he was smirking—laughing at me, no doubt.

"I'm not freaking out that badly," I answered, rolling my eyes.

"But you are freaking out," Percy stated.

I took a deep breath and smoothed the top of my dress. "Don't tell Annabeth, okay?"

Percy moved his hand away. He didn't bother hiding his smirk anymore. "I wouldn't dare," he told me. "She needs you and Thalia tonight. You need to make sure I have a girlfriend by tomorrow morning."

I managed a laugh. "No promises about that," I joked. "I'll go and I'll help take care of Annabeth. You know I've always got your back Percy, it's just…"

My brother snapped the door shut. "You hate the dress," he finished.

"I don't hate the actual dress." I went over to my desk and yanked open a few different drawers. "I just hate wearing it," I corrected, grabbing a couple throwing stars out of one the drawers.

"Fine. Wear jeans or pick out your own dress next time." I stuck my tongue out at him. "Are you serious bringing those?" he asked, motioning towards the weapons.

I strapped the stars to my upper thigh. "I'm not planning to lose my knife but if someone gets ahold of it, I'll need a backup plan."

He nodded. "Bring the darts, not the stars. It's less messy and can also be used on mortals."

I laughed but kept the stars anyway. "Are you seriously that nervous about tonight? The dress is the worst part for me. What's got you worried?"

"I've just got a feeling about tonight. I think Cara might try something since she knows we won't start something in public…" he shrugged. "Whatever. It doesn't matter. I just want to go and spend time with Annabeth and dance with my amazing girlfriend."

"And awesome sister," I finished. He laughed but nodded in agreement.

I smiled and wrapped up my darts then tucked them into a pocket on the inside of my dress. "Got enough weapons yet?" Percy said sarcastically.

I snapped my knife onto my bracelet, finishing my weapons montage. "I'm ready."

Our cafeteria had been transformed—even if none of it was very magical.

The light had been dimmed and a table of cheap food and drink had been put out in one of the corners. Plastic tablecloths and tiny candles covered the few cafeteria tables that were set up by the snacks. The staff had hung up bright streamers and balloons and put a dance floor over the fake linoleum floor so we students didn't scuff anything up too bad. Our fellow students were either awkwardly slow dancing together (probably attempting to be romantic) or inappropriately grinding comfortably against each other (making the rest of us watching extremely uncomfortable).

Overall, Homecoming was pretty pathetic. I was glad I hadn't wasted any time at school dances over the years.

Scanning for monsters at homecoming was easier than I thought. We all split up to find any that might have sensed all of us (let's face it, we were a pretty big group of demigods) but other than breaking up a mosh pit that was being encouraged by some dracaena, the dance was relatively monster-free. Our search for monsters ended before it really started. Thalia, Annabeth, and I moved onto searching for the Percy and Nico instead.

"There," Annabeth stated while fixing her dress.

"With the food," Thalia finished, jabbing her thumb in their direction.

"Boys," I laughed, rolling my eyes. Thalia nodded seriously than laughed with Annabeth and I.

Unfortunately, the happy moment was short-lived. My skin crawled when I spotted the Mortal and her cronies making their way over to the boys. "Where?" Annabeth said immediately, recognizing my Mortal-loathing groan.

"Guess the dance isn't completely monster-free," I muttered as angrily gestured towards them.

"Too bad we can't get rid of them, too," Thalia agreed.

The daughter of Athena spotted them and nodded once—as if confirming some sort of plan. Instantly, she changed her course and headed straight for the girls. "This outta be good," Thalia muttered to me, speeding up to stay with Annabeth.

I grinned as we stepped up right in front of the mortals just in time to cut off their path and make them all take a step back. Simultaneously, the girl's mouths dropped open in surprise and as their shock wore off, they began sizing us up—I unconsciously straightened and started scanning them for any threat.

Cara and Amy both had too-tight dress that dragged on the floor even with their skyscraper-worthy heels. Just like her friends, Sophie had picked extremely high heels—however, she chose to wear a short dress. Unlike Thalia, her dress was if-I-bent-over-you-could-see-my-underwear-short. The whole thing was very delicate and seemed ready to fall apart at any second. Dancing would be a nightmare for her, but this airhead was obviously going for the sexy, yet innocence look. They're makeup was heavy and their perfume hovered between us like a disgusting fog. It was obvious none of them were ready for the fight they were asking for.

Although… other than being unready to fight, the three of them looked good. Better than they usually did, anyway.

Annabeth and Cara were staring at each other in a way that made me want to duck for cover. Thalia narrowed her eyes and sensing the impending fight, she tapped her foot sharply on the ground, getting everyone's attention. "Where do you think you're going?"

Amy jumped when Thalia's foot hit the ground. "Whoa," she breathed, not quite shutting her mouth all the way.

"You guys look…" I snorted quietly as Sophie became too stunned to continue and her sentence trailed off.

This was slightly flattering but I mean, sheesh. It was only a little makeup and glamour. Although, since the three of us had worked hard to look good, I was willing to accept a little bit of appreciation tonight.

At this point, Cara was too distracted by Annabeth to notice that I was blatantly mocking them. I openly smirked while Cara faced off with Annabeth and Sophie avoided eye contact with us—but Amy narrowed her eyes at my expression. Her mouth turned into a thin line of disapproval, but she didn't say anything. I knew she wouldn't do anything that might interfere with Cara's master plan to get Percy.

"Good," Cara said, finishing Sophie's sentence. She said the word like it tasted bad in her mouth. I wouldn't have been surprised if it did. Her ugly scowl was enough to tell me how she felt about us looking 'good'. "And we were just going to say hi," she told Annabeth, finally answering her question.

Her gaze darted behind us for a moment and I knew she was checking on the boy's whereabouts, making sure they hadn't moved yet. My smirk turned to scowl in a flash. "Uh-huh," I muttered. "Sure."

"Yeah, I am actually surprised you came," Cara snapped, rounding on me. Her eyes were blazing with jealously and frankly, a touch of crazy. This girl was obviously not accustomed to any sort of competition.

I stiffened and took a deep, calming breath to avoid tackling her. "Oh, really?" I asked slowly. "And why is that?"

"Because Will couldn't come," she stated simply.

My eyes went almost as narrow as Cara's bimbo of a friend. This past week, Annabeth and I had attempted to get Will a pass to Homecoming but a lady in the office told us it was too late. I vaguely remembered Annabeth telling me that Amy worked in the office… if any of them had something to do with Will not coming to dance, there was going to be a real fight.

Annabeth leaned forward and reached for her dagger, but I wound my arm through hers to stop the action. If this mortal was going to be attacked while disrespecting my boyfriend, I was going to the one holding the knife, not Annabeth. "Yeah, I wasn't going to come at first," I admitted, giving her a tight-lipped smile, "but after Thalia and Annabeth grabbed me to look at dresses…" I decided I wasn't going to leave them stranded alone with you. "Well, I talked to him and he told me to go and make sure I got lots of pictures."

That part wasn't a lie. After I got off the phone with Rachel, I called Will and told him about the party and Homecoming. He immediately agreed to come to the party ("You're are NOT going to a teenage party without me.") and grumbled a bit about Homecoming ("Make sure those idiotic boys keep their hands to themselves!"), but eventually told me to make the most of it. ("But for my own peace of mind, only dance with boys that share your DNA, Leila.")

Cara made a sound of acknowledgement, but her satisfied expression toward me exactly what I wanted to know. She had stopped Will from coming to the dance. Now she would pay for it.

It was only a matter of time.

I released Annabeth's arm while Thalia dismissed them and subtlety turned us away—but not before Cara managed to hiss out another vague threat. She would be coming for us later. I guess we just had to be ready.

I could count on one hand how many times I've seen Annabeth freak out. She doesn't necessary lose her mind like most people. Everything she does has careful planning behind it so when something unexpected rocks her ships and throws her plan out of balance… Well, that's enough to make her snap. It's an art. You have to know exactly when to back off and exactly when to strike. I would know because I've had years of practicing how to irritate her…

…So it really pissed me off when someone else was better at it than I was and darn it, Cara was fighting for first place.

See, about halfway through the dance, Annabeth stopped twitching every time someone other than Percy spoke to her—she just went in for the kill. Literally.

A girl named Mina from my and Percy's Greek class had the guts to walk over and say hi but when she approached, a rather crazy looking daughter of Athena spun around with her knife drawn.

The poor mortal girl jumped about three feet in the air and while Percy laughed and soothed his girlfriend, I quickly made up an excuse for Annabeth's seemingly psychotic behavior. And after all that, Mina was still brave enough to ask if she could borrow our notes since we appeared to be doing well in the class.

"Oh, I'm sorry. We usually just study right from the book and rely on instinct," I explained with a laugh. Mina nodded disappointedly and twirled the end of her truffle-looking dress, but still managed to laugh a bit.

Annabeth—completely disregarding her fancy makeup and hairstyle—raked a hand through her hair and over her face. "I'm sick of this!" she wailed. Percy and Nico both recoiled away and Thalia immediately started looking around to make sure no one was listening.

"If you ever need help though, Annabeth's a great tutor," I went on, ignoring my friend's. Mina's eyes widened with fear like I was going to force her to take lessons from the crazy blonde.

"I'm sick of her!" Annabeth hissed, as Mina's gaze darted between the two of us. "I'm sick of – of – of her snooping, and her questions and her surprise, and her condescension, and—"

"On normal days, she's great," I amended to Mina as Annabeth continued to complain about Cara to the others.

"Did I offend her?" Mina whispered to me, subtly pointing to Annabeth.

"No, of course not," I assured her. "She's not talking about you, I swear."

She let out a shaky breath that might have been an attempt at a laugh. "Bad timing?" she guessed.

I nodded and smiled a little. "I better help. I'll see you in class, Mina."

"Alright, tell Annabeth I hope she feels better, I guess," she replied. "Have fun, Leila!"

"—what if she figures out the truth, just because she's following us every single gods-cursed day, and then the monsters come after her, and we'll have to try to protect her!" Annabeth panicked. "I don't think I can do that—I don't—I—I—"

I gave Mina another smile and once she was out of earshot, I grabbed Annabeth's arm and spun her around. Percy and Nico were both visibly cringing by now and Thalia's expression was torn between sad and scared. Her arms were out in front of her like she was trying to help but something was holding her back.

As soon as I had Annabeth's attention, I knew why the rest of the gang looked so lost. The angry tears that had been brimming in her eyes were now spilling over and streaking down her face. She wiped a hand down her face—and just seemed to notice that she was crying. Her expression quickly went from upset to horrified when she noticed the tears.

An unfamiliar urge suddenly appeared. I wasn't completely comfortable with it yet, but it wasn't a horrible feeling either. People assume that I started protecting and caring about Annabeth when I realized Percy wasn't going to give her up. Unfortunately, she seemed to have wormed her way into my good graces without Percy's help.

Cara was suddenly in danger for a whole different reason. No one made Annabeth Chase cry. I would punch Percy's lights out for that so I don't even want to go into detail about what I was suddenly willing to do to Cara for making Annabeth cry. "Let's go have a talk, you and me," I said, turning her away.

"Wait—!" Percy's eyes widened like he suddenly realized I was taking Annabeth away from him. His jaw clenched and he moved towards his girl but I wrapped a protective arm around her.

"No," I said firmly, making Percy hesitate. "Not this time. Give us a minute." Before he could protest again, I led Annabeth to the one place he wouldn't follow: the girl's washroom.

"But seriously," Annabeth breathing hitched again as she tried to stop the tears and calm down. "What if she does figure us out?"

I slammed the bathroom. "How much do you think she knows?" I asked. Thalia would stall Percy, I reasoned. That would buy us some time but only for a moment. Nothing could him away from Annabeth for very long—not even the lieutenant of the hunters of Artemis.

"I don't know! She was in your room!" Annabeth said in panic, as I scanned the room. I eyed a pair of barefeet under one of the stalls suspiciously. We would have to be careful about what we said.

The daughter of Athena leaned far over one of the sinks and for a second, I was afraid she was going to be sick. I grabbed a paper towel and ran it under cold water. "Yeah, but Percy and I were both there. No worries, 'kay?" I responded, carefully holding her hair out of her face.

I lightly swiped the wet paper towel across the back of her neck and face. I wasn't too concerned about her makeup anymore. The rush of stress and angry-induced tears had smeared it too much already. She would have to redo it all. Thalia has extra makeup, I thought.

She sucked in small breaths. "It's not fair. Why can't she leave us alone?"

I threw away the now-dirty paper towel. "And by 'us,' you mean Percy?" I joked. I couldn't help but tease her. She was overacting a little bit but also needed someone to blame. I'd take her wrath if it meant she'd stop crying and forget about Cara for a while.

Her irritation toward my attitude only showed for a second then she seemed to become resigned. "Yes, I can't pretend that hasn't been bothering me a little…"

I snorted. "A little?" I said incredulously. There were a lot of annoying things about Cara and I think her manipulation was the worst. I wanted to strangle and gut her for preventing Will from coming to the dance but I would have to suck it up right now—although before I could stop it, my spark of frustration caused the sink in front of Annabeth to turn-on full blast.

Annabeth jumped back so she wouldn't get wet. "Okay, a lot," she admitted with a rueful look, pushing down the sink handle to try and stop the water but it wouldn't budge.

I snickered. Annabeth was obviously extremely annoyed by Cara. She was kidding herself if she thought no one had noticed. I mean, she had even outright confessed her irritation to Thalia and I but I never believed one girl would be able irritate her to the point of tears. Maybe Cara really was a special brand of infuriating.

"That's stupid," I decided, letting the water turn off then back on again.

"It's not." Annabeth's grip on the sink tightened as she gave one final shove against the handle. It still didn't move. "And will you stop it?" she demanded, gesturing to the water.

I took a deep breath and let the water slowly tickle to a stop. "Sorry," I said briskly. "But it's still stupid."

"It is not! She's annoying," Annabeth repeated hotly as if she wanted to use a stronger word, "and I have enough faith in Percy to know that he's not going to dump me for her, but—"

"Annabeth!" I interrupted, throwing my hands into the air. "Percy loves you! He doesn't want some random snob's—who can't take the hint he's not interested," I added, jabbing her in the shoulder to empathize my point, "—attention. He wants yours. Don't let this get to you—he loves you!"

The girl in the stall banged into the wall and whelped as she dropped her purse on her own feet.

Annabeth mostly ignored the girl, only lowering her tone. "Our hints were a little—" she said more calmly.

"Obvious?" I finished when she stopped to think of a word. She nodded once in acknowledgement so I continued. "I thought so, too. Even a Seaweed Brain like Percy caught on."

"I guess I am being a bit silly," she admitted reluctantly.

"If you stay here, then you let the slut win." Annabeth turned away and met my gaze in the mirror. She knew I didn't use the word 'slut' very often. I was usually a very non-judgmental person (you never know what someone else is going through and all that), but Cara was about as deep as a kiddie pool. Only people more shallow than her would believe that she was deep. "Are you really going to let all your hard work go to waste?"

Annabeth smirked. "You're the one who kicked her into the grass."

My mouth dropped open. It was her idea to put her in the grass! Of course since I was the one to execute her plan, I was the one who was going to take the blame—but she wasn't innocent either. "You dumped water on her!" I reminded her.

Half of Annabeth's mouth lifted into an almost-smile. "And I didn't say I was giving up."

Progress, I thought, grinning back at her. "You better not! Come on Annabeth, don't you dare give me that. I don't think I've ever seen him happier than when he is with you. There is no competition." I had spent so many years being jealous of the close friendship between Percy and Annabeth, even though I had made my own close friends with Will and the Stolls. Maybe it was because I always knew that the two of them would start dating… or maybe it had nothing to do with Percy and I had always just been jealous of Annabeth's awesomeness. "Besides," I added as Annabeth finally fully smiled, "I'd probably murder him if he left you for that!"

Annabeth and I laughed just as Thalia came through the door. "You guys all right?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

"We're fine," I told her. "We'll be out in a sec."

"Well, someone better go out and calm Percy down because he is literally five seconds away from barging into the girls' bathroom to see if Annabeth is okay." Thalia leaned back against the door and crossed her arms, casually holding the door closed. Like that would stop him.

I rolled my eyes at Thalia and Annabeth began panicking about her smeared makeup. "I'll go," I volunteered. "Thalia, will you help Annabeth fix her makeup?"

"I'd love to." The daughter of Zeus cracked open her clutch and pulled out makeup remover, obviously ready to work.

I squeezed Annabeth's shoulder and headed for the door. "Work fast," I muttered to Thalia under my breath as I walked out.

"Good luck," she replied.

I pushed open the bathroom door and almost whacked right into Percy. I started. "Whoa—"

"What's wrong with Annabeth?" he demanded about two inches from my face. Nico was lingering a little ways behind him but as soon as he saw me, his hands flew up in the air like he was initiating a surrender.

I huffed and shoved Percy away from the doorway so I wasn't blocking the girl's room entrance. "Take a step back and calm down. Your girl's fine, bro. She just needs to cool off a bit. Give her some space."

My brother's face scrunched up. His arms were still out in front of him like he was torn between needing a hug of comfort and pushing past me to get to his girlfriend. Nico chewed on his lip while his eyes darted around like he was subtly looking for a place to hide in case we really started arguing.

I sighed and tried to diffuse the situation a bit. I needed to distract Percy long enough to make sure Annabeth had time to fix her makeup and have a moment of peace. "Thalia's helping Annabeth. She'll be another two minutes," I promised, leading him away from the bathrooms. "Just enough time for a dance."

He cracked a smile. "Come on," I coaxed, wiggling back and forth on the balls of my feet. "Let's dance!"

"The two of you dancing is more dangerous than the two of you fighting," Nico stated, backing away even more. "I'm going to go look for a place to hide."

Percy finally laughed and offered out his hand with a flourish. "May I?" he asked in a stiff, formal voice.

I snickered. "Of course, good sir," I replied, curtseying as Percy bowed. I took his hand and we headed for the dance floor. Once we had elbowed our way to the middle, we started spinning in time with the extremely slow song that was being blasted through the speakers.

"This song is boring," Percy stated.

"Seriously," I agreed. "This sounds like funeral music."

My brother raised an eyebrow. "Want to mix it up?"

"Thought you'd never ask," I teased.

Percy immediately spun me out and when I spun in, I grabbed his other hand instead of his shoulder. He grinned and we did a one of those two person, inside out turns. We were now dancing way too fast for the music, but that was half the fun. Percy dropped one of my hands and quickly spun me three times. I laughed and swayed in my high heels but my brother caught me and dipped me back then up again before I could even blink. I couldn't stop laughing and apparently, neither could Percy. We were cracking up right there in the middle of Goode High School Homecoming. I put my arm over his shoulder and we started kicking in unison like a pair of crazy Russian dancers.

People had smartly started backing away from us and as the crowd cleared, we managed to see Annabeth, Thalia, and Nico laughing against the back wall by the bathrooms. Percy dropped his arm and snuck out from under mine, running to Annabeth and leaving me on the dance floor.

"Hey!" I protested. Our dance hadn't lasted long but that was fine. Right now, Annabeth needed him almost as much as he needed her. Besides, I still couldn't stop laughing.

As soon as Percy reached his girlfriend, he hugged Annabeth tightly and soon the two of them headed back towards me, already beginning to sway back and forth. Percy blinked and met my gaze over Annabeth's head like he suddenly remembered I existed. I snickered and winked at him. He relaxed and gracefully spun Annabeth around in one perfect circle, completely different from the way he had spun me about thirty seconds earlier.

As the rest of the gang started reminiscing about old times, I scanned the room hoping Cara would be smart for once and stay away. Far, far away.

I still couldn't find her or her friends in the crowd when Thalia said, "We all know there's something wrong with Percy. There's no reason to fight over it."

Just before Percy broke away from dancing with Annabeth to argue with Thalia about arguments, his girlfriend turned his face back. "Shut up and kiss me, Seaweed Brain," she told him. Percy laughed and I let the two of them have their moment, successfully managing not to throw out as Percy and Annabeth started exchanging saliva again.

But I wasn't fond of seeing any couple make-out on a public dance floor so I shuddered and loudly blurted. "You two are boring!" They broke away and Percy glared at me. I winked again and grabbed Nico before either Percy or Annabeth could take revenge. "Come on, Death Breath. You're dancing with me."

Nico's eyes widened in panic as I put one of his arms on my waist and grabbed the other with my hand. "But I—I—!" he protested.

"If you struggle, I will hurt you," I said mildly. He squeaked and shuffled slightly away from me. We only danced uninterrupted for a minute and Nico was careful to avoid my feet. I laughed but when I spun around, I almost screamed.

Cara was standing there, shoes in hand, and tapping her foot like she had been waiting for me to stop dancing for years.

As soon as Nico and I broke away from each other, the mortal slapped a piece of paper into my palm. "The address for the party," she told me before I could ask. "It starts around eight, but it's best to be there at eight-thirty so the party in full-sling by the time you arrive."

I blocked Percy and Annabeth from view as she tried to step around me. "I want to say goodbye," she explained in a stiff voice.

"We'll see you tomorrow," Nico said, stepping up next to me.

We both crossed our arms in freaky unison and stared down at the Mortal. I was really tall for my age, a little under six-foot (thanks, Dad) and I was in high heels whereas Cara had chosen to ditch them so I towered over her easily. I also had Nico glaring at her from my side, which always managed to cause people to shiver and frankly, want to cry.

"Go home," I said. I was being nice to her after what she did to Will but I wasn't about to start a fight right after Annabeth just had some sort of anxiety attack.

After a few more seconds, the Mortal spun on her heel—although, she spun so fast she almost took off Nico's head with the shoes she was carrying. Her feet slapped against the floor as she ran through the crowd and pushed her way to the door.

As she disappeared from view, horror suddenly gripped me. She wasn't wearing shoes. She was barefoot. Oh, gods… The girl in the bathroom stall.

I quickly went through our conversation—I'll admit, Annabeth and I sounded pretty shady but we didn't say anything damning. I swallowed. She didn't know we knew that she was the girl in the bathroom, though, thanks gods. But our file, our house, that shady conversation—how much was going to be too much? I just hoped she would run away in fear before she found out the truth.

"Well that's a relief," Nico muttered. "I was afraid I was going to be breaking-up a cat fight between you two."

"It's coming," I warned, taking his hand again. "But I wouldn't cause a scene in public."

He snorted and took my other hand this time instead of setting one on my waist. Nico and I laughed and we did a turn like my brother and I had done earlier. We were dancing like four-year olds now with our arms swaying more than our bodies. It was almost more fun this way, though.

Despite her reaction towards Cara tonight, I was determined to keep my spot at the top of Annabeth's "Most Unexpected Wrench in Any and All Carefully Planned Athena Plans."

The only way to do that was to eliminate the threat so I suppose it was time for me to start scheming for ways to get rid of Cara (or at least keep her away from Percy and Annabeth). Maybe it was time to call in some help.

(A/N: GUYS. I HAVE A PINTERST PROBLEM but that's not relevant haha ;) AHHHHH I love my reviewers so much! You guys are the absolute best, I swear. Thanks so much for all the love and I hope I can return it with this chapter that everyone has waited so patiently for! THANK YOU everyone! Oh, and Percy and Leila dancing together was totally AnnabethLuna's idea and I lovelovelove it so much. It reminds me of Sam and Patrick dancing in the Perks of Being a Wallflower. Anyone else seen and LOVE that movie or am alone?)

Answering last chapter's question: Oh, boy. I loved the response to last chapter's question! Everyone made me laugh and I got quite a range of answers haha :) Personally, I've always called the sugary decorations on top of ice cream sprinkles but I think that's one of the regional things...

This chapter's question: Do you like to dance?