A/N: Hello all! Sorry about the delay, but school started up again for me, ugh.
Chapter 4 – Ninety Percent Mental
Percy strode powerfully towards the middle of the forest with most of the Ares team following.
"So, Percy, you just barge through and go straight for the flag, yeah?" Henry said excitedly, expecting an incredibly easy win.
But Percy frowned at him. "I don't really think that's fair," he said. "I think I'll hold off as many as I can while the rest of you guys keep going for the flag."
Henry chuckled, slapping Percy's back once so hard he was almost knocked off his feet. "I had a feeling you would say something like that," he said, hefting his new axe higher onto his shoulder. "But no matter what you're doing, as long as you're on our team we'll win, so that's still fine with me."
"Good," said Percy, waves of power radiating from him as he uncapped Riptide and ran towards the mid-line that divided the two sides.
As soon as the offense of the other team saw him they scattered, obviously in disarray and confusion, especially with the knowledge that there was no way to incapacitate him. Percy sighed, disappointed that Pelagia didn't formulate a plan around the fact that he was on the other team. He even made it easy on them by doing a head-on assault.
They regrouped and charged, at this point hoping that while some of them were stopped by Percy, the others would make it through. But something was up…
Percy narrowed his eyes at the formation, because that's exactly what it was: a formation. It wasn't a random, wild charge; they had actually regrouped into a coordinated attack. A volley of arrows were suddenly fired at Percy, obscuring his vision for half a second. But that half-second was enough time for him to be swamped by the enemy as he was left in confusion, the rest of the enemy team flying over the line towards the flag. Then the attack was over as the rest of the enemy left him standing on the center line in a daze.
He frowned, sighed and began advancing into enemy territory, figuring he could at least provide an exit route for his allies, who were surely much closer to obtaining the flag than the enemy. He ducked a sudden arrow and lunged at the archer, who managed to block his attack with her bow, which resisted the blow.
Percy looked down to see none other than Bailey grinning up at him from underneath her bow. She swept his feet out from under him in his moment of surprise and stuck her tongue out before running over the center line and into Ares territory.
Percy stood up and jogged after her, knowing she was looking for a challenge from her only friend in camp. He made sure to keep her in sight the whole time, picking up his speed and gaining on her. She was running as fast as she could, her hair streaming behind her and her quiver bouncing on her back.
There was sudden movement out of the corner of his eyes, which widened as he saw that it was a fellow camper throwing a spear at Bailey with a malicious grin on his face. Percy kicked on his afterburners as he saw the spear speed through the air in slow motion, seemingly right on target.
Percy dove and tackled Bailey, sending them both tumbling to the ground as the spear slammed into a tree behind them and stuck there.
Their faces were only inches apart, Bailey's eyes wide as they fought to catch their breath. Bailey's cheeks slowly, slightly turned pink as Percy asked, "Are you alright?"
Bailey swallowed, her eyes locked on Percy's. "Fine," she breathed.
The corners of Percy's eyes crinkled as he smiled at her. "Good," he said enthusiastically as he stood up and offered her a hand.
She gratefully took it and stood up, shakily brushing herself off as she saw how deep the spear was embedded in the thick trunk of the tree. "Did you see who tried to kill me?" Bailey asked even though she had a pretty good idea of who it was.
"No," said Percy, his heart pounding. Bailey had been three feet from losing her life. Who had tried to kill her? Surely a fellow camper couldn't hate her that much! "All I know is that it was a guy."
Percy and Bailey stood staring at each other for a moment, then Bailey sheepishly said, "Thanks."
Percy smiled at her. "No problem," he said.
They stood in silence for a few seconds, then Bailey said, "So…now what?"
Percy gave her a small smile. "Well, since you're in enemy territory…" he trailed off, taking a step towards her as he capped Riptide and stuck it in his pocket.
Bailey sighed. "You're taking me captive?" she asked.
"Will you come quietly or do I have to force you?" Percy asked, bending his legs to get ready to spring at her.
She grinned. "Since when does a child of Artemis allow anything to be easy for the enemy?"
She went to sprint away again, but Percy lunged and grabbed her around the waist, pulling them both down to the ground. She landed on top of him with his arm around her waist and her hands on his chest, neither of them moving.
There was the sound of crunching leaves and Percy turned his head to see his daughter looking at both of them with one eyebrow raised. "I guess you two were too busy being all lovey-dovey with each other to hear that the game is over already," she said before turning around, not heeding Percy's cries of her name.
Bailey stood up and looked down at him, sadly saying, "Sorry."
Percy sighed as he stood up and dusted himself off. "It's not your fault," he replied. "Pelagia's determined to see and assume the worst of me."
Bailey placed a hand on his shoulder and he looked over at her as she said, "Don't worry, you'll get to her eventually."
"I seem to be the only one who isn't thinking the same way," he said as they walked towards the Big House, where Henry was standing with the Athena flag in his hands.
The Ares side was clapping as the Athena side did their best to glare daggers at them, the victors oblivious to the negative vibes. Henry stepped down so Chiron could address the campers. "All right, everyone," he said. "Good game of capture the flag, and good win by the Ares team. Before you go to dinner, please don't forget that we have a field trip to Olympus tomorrow."
Percy scanned the crowd for the boy who threw the spear at Bailey as they began walking towards dinner, though he didn't spot him. Percy was stopped short as Chiron gently grabbed his shoulder, stopping him. Everyone else kept walking as Chiron said, "Your feelings for Annabeth are almost nonexistent now, aren't they?"
Percy's eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "I don't know how or why, but…yeah, they are," he admitted.
Chiron stroked his beard in thought. "I think you'll need to have a face-to-face chat with a certain love goddess," he said slowly.
"You think this is Aphrodite's doing?" Percy asked in shock.
"I don't see how else this could've happened," Chiron said seriously. "And you know how she likes to have her fun."
Percy nodded slowly, remembering the time he had met the goddess. "You're right, I'll definitely need to have a word with her," he said.
They headed to dinner together and Percy sat down at the head table, noticing that Pelagia was glaring at him and Bailey was looking a little down. He sighed and got his food, making sure to scrape a piece in the fire to appease the gods before digging in.
Chiron left the dining area after only a short time, Percy turning his head to watch the camp director walk back towards the Big House. He looked back at the campers just in time to see a big glop of mashed potatoes smack Bailey in the back of the head, most of the campers laughing as a few started the infamous 'loser cough'. Bailey stiffened for the merest of moments before relaxing and going back to eating, the potatoes drying and solidifying in her hair.
Percy angrily stood up, making the laughing stop, grabbed his food, marched over to Bailey, and sat next to her in a protective manner. The evidence that she was more affected than she pretended to be was the glistening, unshed tears in her eyes. "Leave," she said angrily.
Percy arched an eyebrow at her, remaining motionless otherwise. "And why would I do that?"
Bailey stabbed at her food viciously. "I don't need your pity," she said quietly. "I'm used to this, just leave me alone."
Percy chuckled derisively. "If you're so used to this, then you wouldn't take your anger out on me," he said, making her stiffen again. "And you really think I'm doing this out of pity?"
Bailey softly, sadly replied, "Why else would you be doing this? You're cool and I'm…well, I'm an antisocial loser."
Percy was quiet for a long moment, chewing his food thoughtfully. Finally, he said, "You know what? You're right." Bailey's head snapped towards him, hurt evident in her eyes. He knew her toughness was just a façade. "If you don't realize just how truly amazing you are, you really are a loser. They're all just pathetic jerks. You think I'd be friends with someone who wasn't cool?"
He felt pride warm him when he saw her confidence and smile grow. "Thanks," she said. Even though she was just as old as Percy, she was almost like a little kid when it came to friendship.
She finished her food and began pulling the potato out of her hair. Percy took that opportunity to stand up and dangerously ask, "Who threw the potatoes?"
Many of the campers shifted nervously, all looking somewhere near the Ares table. Percy said, "You either take responsibility or the whole camp does. I guarantee you your friends won't be that friendly with you after I'm done with all of them."
There was absolute stillness for a few seconds, then a younger Ares boy stood up nervously. He opened his mouth to say something, but Percy beat him to it…or so he thought, but Henry beat him to it. "One hundred laps around camp," he growled in the boy's face.
But now not faced with the prospect of facing Percy, he found his voice, laughing nervously. "Come on, Henry. It's Bailey."
"One hundred fifty," Henry snapped. "If she's cool with Percy, she's cool with us. You had no reason to throw potatoes at her."
Percy was pleasantly surprised, though a tiny bit disappointed that Henry only seemed to be doing it because she was friends with him.
Meanwhile, the boy angrily replied, "She's a bitch! I'm not doing the laps."
Henry narrowed his eyes at the boy and took a step closer to him, now towering over him intimidatingly. "Two hundred laps or you sleep outside tonight," he said in a dangerous voice that sounded eerily similar to the tone of voice Ares had used with Percy in Las Vegas. "I'll let the harpies whip up a punishment for you."
"You can't be serious!" the boy cried, making Percy resist the urge to laugh when the boy looked to him for help. Percy remained absolutely neutral.
"Three…" said Henry warningly.
The boy let out an anguished sound and began jogging out of the dinner area, a few of the campers laughing at him. Henry turned to Bailey and said, "The Ares table apologizes on behalf of its idiotic member, Bailey. And if you ever need someone's butt kicked, don't hesitate to call upon us."
Bailey looked at Henry oddly as the Ares leader sat down, and Percy said, "See, Bailey? You've just got to give everyone a chance—not everyone here is mean."
Bailey blinked and half-heartedly said, "I guess."
Percy grinned, bumping her shoulder to make her really pay attention to him. "C'mon, Bailey. You're making me depressed," he teased.
She turned to him but didn't really respond, except to say, "I'm going to bed."
She went to leave, deep in thought, but stopped as Percy began speaking. "Just remember that we'll have to postpone the sword lesson since we're going to Olympus tomorrow."
Bailey nodded in a manner that assured Percy she was actually listening, then left for good with the rest of the campers. Percy hurried over to the Athena table, sitting across from Pelagia and looking at her pointedly before she could really get up, making her plop back down in a huff. She waited until everyone was out of earshot to say, "What do you want now?"
"I just want you to give me a chance," he replied.
Pelagia looked at him like he was an idiot and said, "You had your chance. You blew it."
Percy remained silent for a minute, then silently asked, "Do you think I wanted this?"
Pelagia rubbed her forehead wearily. "I don't really care if you wanted this."
Percy wasn't one to give up, though. "Do you think I wanted to miss you growing up? Do you think I wanted to be blasted forward in time? Do you think I wanted to lose the love of my life? All I do want is for you to give me a chance. Is it so hard that I get that one thing?"
She stubbornly replied, "A great way to show mom is the love of your life, hanging all over Bailey like that."
Percy made a frustrated sound, amazed that his daughter could be so thickheaded and stubborn. "I'm just trying to help her…she's lonely."
"And you think I'm not?" Pelagia snapped furiously, making Percy blink in surprise. "I thought I was an orphan for seventeen years, and all you do when you finally show up is ignore me."
Percy pinched the bridge of his nose in exhaustion. Women were so confusing. "I don't want to force it when you hate me," he said quietly.
Pelagia snorted in a cruel manner. "You're right," she said. "I do hate you."
Percy's heart twisted. "Look, Pelagia," he said thoughtfully, "I understand why you hate me. I really do. I just…I just wish you wouldn't judge someone based on something they had no influence over." He stood up and stretched, leaving his daughter in silence as he hunched his shoulders and walked back towards his cabin.
He cringed as she left him with a parting blow, shouting at his retreating back, "Maybe I wouldn't if you had been around and raised me like a real father!"
Percy walked back into his cabin, staring down at the floor as he tried to fight off his depression. This thing with Pelagia was definitely much harder than he had initially thought it would be. Then he grinned as an idea struck him.
What better way to fight fire than with fire?
He marched back up to Pelagia, who had just stood up, and grabbed her wrist, surprising her. "What are you doing?" she demanded furiously, doing her best to try to break out of his iron grip.
"You know," he replied thoughtfully as he easily dragged her towards the stables, "I learned a lot of things from my mother. I learned how to love, how to forgive, and how to respect other people." Pelagia paled. "I wonder what your grandmother would have to say about this."
"This isn't fair!" Pelagia said on the edge of hysterics, digging her heels in as they neared the stable doors. Percy was glad to see that his mom hadn't lost her touch when it came to parenting properly. "Letting your mother fight your fights for you," she accused.
Percy laughed as he pulled harder in response to his daughter really putting up a fight and a half. "You're too stubborn for me to defeat one on one. Luckily, I have reinforcements," he said. "I'd be an idiot to not use my resources…I'm sure you'd agree with me there."
"Percy, stop!" she pleaded, her knuckles turning white on the door as she held onto them with a death grip. Percy was unrelenting, though, managing to make her lose her hold. "Dad, please," Pelagia begged.
Hearing her call him 'dad' stopped him completely in his tracks. It made her stop too, thankfully, since he had accidentally relinquished his grip on her. "What did you just call me?" he choked out without realizing it, a warm feeling spreading throughout his body.
"That's what you are, isn't it?" Pelagia said quietly, not meeting his eyes.
"No," Percy replied quietly, making her look up in confusion. "I'm not your dad yet…at least, not by anything but blood. I'm…I am hoping to become your dad, though. I haven't been around for seventeen years. I just want to make up for it." As Pelagia remained silent, obviously deep in thought, he laughed. "I will say, though, that you're not making it easily."
She finally looked at him, and as she did he realized that that had been the wrong thing to say. "You think I'm not making it easy? You made everything as difficult as it could get for a whole seventeen years!" she shouted. "And you're definitely not making anything easier now!"
Percy was done being mister sympathetic. "You're lying," he said quietly, making her eyes widen. "You've been nothing but secretly happy since you discovered I was alive." Her eyes began to fill with tears. "Yeah, you're angry that I wasn't there for you, but you know deep down that I'm not responsible for that." Her eyes left his as she tried her best to keep her tears at bay. "You can't hold that against me, Pelagia," he said, gently touching her chin. She looked up at him with wide eyes. "I swear…no, I promise with every fiber of my being that I will never, ever leave you again."
Her lower lip began to tremble. "You think I trust you?" she asked defensively, though it sounded more vulnerable and filled with longing than anything else.
He smiled at her. "Yeah," he said. "I really, truly think that you trust me."
Her eyes narrowed the tiniest bit, making a single tear roll down her face. "How would you know what I'm thinking?" she asked vulnerably.
"You think you're the only one who's had a parent abandon them?" he said quietly, going off instinct alone as to what to say. "Every single person in this camp has felt the same way you feel about me towards at least one of their parents. And every single one of them trusts that parent with everything they've got." He smiled at her. "So come on, Pelagia…I know how much you just want me to be your dad."
Pelagia suddenly attacked him with a hug, crying into his shoulder as she clutched the back of his shirt in a grip so tight he was surprised the shirt didn't rip. As heavy as it made Percy's heart that he was the cause of her tears, he was happy that he seemed to have broken down her wall and gotten through to her. He wrapped his arms around her protectively as she cried, her shoulders heaving as her tears stained his shirt. "Dad," she sobbed. "I…I…"
He smiled, the name oddly fitting him. "It's alright, Pelagia," he said soothingly. "I understand."
"I wish mom could be here," she whispered as her crying began to die down to be replaced by deep shuddering breaths.
Percy took a deep breath and tightened his hold on her. "Me too, Pelagia," he whispered, smiling sadly as Annabeth's smiling face floated to the front of his mind. "Me too."
Percy woke up groggily the next morning, stretching as he stepped out of bed. The previous night had been so much easier since him and Pelagia's relationship had become considerably better. After Pelagia had finished crying, the two of them had somewhat awkwardly said, "Good night," and gone to bed.
Percy stepped out of his cabin and jogged over to the Big House as a way to wake himself up, noticing that about three-quarters of the camp was gathered in front already, backpacks packed. The rest of the camp arrived within the next ten minutes, Percy scanning the crowd for Pelagia and Bailey in the meantime. He had found them and made eye contact with both of them by the time Chiron exited the Big House, a tacky visor shading his eyes. Percy figured, though, that fashion twenty years outdated was better than fashion a couple thousand years outdated.
"Everyone ready?" he asked.
He was met with a pretty enthusiastic response and led them all over the hill to busses that were waiting. "Percy," Chiron said, pulling him aside. "You're going to be in charge of bus two, okay?"
Percy nodded confidently. "Sure," he replied. "I got it."
The ride to New York passed pretty normally (and boringly), both Pelagia and Bailey being in bus number one since they had filed in in alphabetical order.
They arrived at the Empire State Building and all filed out, Percy amazed by its magnificence and height as always, that feeling of overwhelming tininess never failing to plague him no matter how many times he saw the building. They all went inside and over to the elevator operator, who recognized Chiron instantly. The elevator wasn't big enough for all of them so they took it to the five-hundredth floor in several trips, Percy remaining down below with the rest of the campers while Chiron went to the top to supervise the unloading.
When it came down to the last trip, there was only Percy, Pelagia, Bailey, and Henry left, all of whom stepped in the elevator. It was a three minute ride to the top, the first thirty seconds of which passed with numerous throat-clearings and quiet coughs.
Then Pelagia turned to Henry and said, "You guys did a great job in capture the flag last night."
Henry uncomfortably cleared his throat. "Um…yeah, you too," he said in an unusual display of nervousness. "It was all thanks to Percy that we won, though."
Percy laughed. "What did I do? I was swamped and left in the dust," he said. "You grabbed the flag."
"Yeah, but you delayed them long enough for me to grab it," Henry replied. "I saw the strategy you came up with though, Pelagia," he added quickly and enthusiastically. "It was pretty interesting."
Pelagia smiled at him. "It was only designed to stop my dad, though…it didn't really do much in terms of getting the flag," she admitted.
"I think you were both being idiots," Bailey said coldly, stepping close to Percy. Frankly, he felt a tiny bit uncomfortable. "Ares should've used him even more as a diversion and Athena should've recruited him in the first place."
Everything became awkward after that, the last minute of the trip passing in complete silence. Percy would definitely need to work on Bailey's jealousy issues.
When they arrived at the top, they stepped off to be treated by the magnificent spectacle that was Olympus. Percy's jaw dropped when he really looked at it, though. Everything was bigger, more grand, and much more beautiful, gold and silver being the main themes. Everything was different, but in a good way.
"When…?" Percy breathed, standing next to Chiron.
"Annabeth's other legacy," Chiron said. "For the first few months following your…disappearance, she completely immersed herself in her work. She was done planning all this by the time Pelagia was born, but she wasn't around to see it finished."
Yet another pride of Annabeth's he had taken away from her by not being there. She didn't even get to see her masterpiece that he knew she had put more work into than anything before. It was just so unfair.
"You go talk with Aphrodite, Percy, and meet up with us as soon as you're done," Chiron whispered, leading the campers down the walkway. Percy looked at him as he pointed at one of the grand temples on top of a hill, nodded his understanding, and set off.
It was closer than expected, even though when he arrived the temple was truly enormous. It was beautiful, too, each glance changing it a tiny bit just as each glance at Aphrodite had her changing a bit. Percy imagined there was some sort of magic much similar to what made Aphrodite beautiful surrounding it. But, just like Aphrodite, it seemed fake and superficial.
Percy pushed open the thirty-foot tall door and stepped inside, not caring when the door slammed ominously shut behind him. He walked deep into the temple, which was not only furnished but built similarly to a house on the inside, Percy ending up in a living room when he was done.
Aphrodite was already sitting in a chair, smiling at him with her fingers steepled in front of her. The smile was dangerous, though, and warned him that he was about to deal with someone very powerful.
"Percy!" Aphrodite greeted him exuberantly, though she didn't stand up. Instead, she pointed to an empty chair across from her and said, "Sit."
Percy did just that, not backing down when Aphrodite met his eyes directly. She smirked. "Oh, Percy, you're so cute when you're naïve," she said. "Did you really think you could come in here all on your own and expect to bully me, a goddess?" As she spoke, Percy began to realize that she wasn't beautiful at all; in fact, she was very ugly even as her outward features shifted and changed to make her look as beautiful and attractive as possible. "Come on, Percy. You should know better."
"I'm not trying to bully you," Percy said. "I'm just curious."
Aphrodite smiled wickedly at him. "You mean you're confused," she said. "Because that's all that love is: confusing."
"Of course it's confusing when you're messing with people's minds all the time," Percy retorted.
Aphrodite frowned. "I'm not really messing with your mind," she replied with feigned hurt. Percy rolled his eyes. "I just toned down your feelings for Annabeth."
Chiron had been right! "And why is that?" Percy asked dangerously.
Aphrodite shrugged with mock innocence. "Oh, I don't know," she said. "Consider it a favor after everything you've been through. It's my gift to you that you don't have to suffer because of your love for Annabeth. Who wants to go to the future only to be in misery the entire time?" She smiled at him. "You have to admit you've been happier since I took those feelings away."
"What are you planning?" Percy asked suspiciously.
Aphrodite's smile in return may have been one of the smallest, yet most dangerous smiles he had ever seen. "I'm not planning anything," she replied with the worst acting ever, letting Percy know that he was going to be figuring out soon enough and that he wouldn't like it. "But you know how I like to have fun," she continued. "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."
"All I am to you is a way to pass the time?" Percy asked angrily.
Aphrodite snorted in contempt. "Every aspect of love is controlled by me, Perseus Jackson," she said. "You mortals are my building blocks, building whichever masterpiece I wish."
"You better count my piece out," Percy replied before exiting the room. "I'll continue loving Annabeth no matter what you do to me!"
Aphrodite grinned evilly. Oh, was she right in thinking this was going to be fun.
Percy, meanwhile, angrily burst out of the temple and onto the main road, ambling aimlessly up the main pathway to where he knew the rest of the campers were gathered as he did his best to rid himself of the anger pulsing through him. How dare Aphrodite treat him like her plaything?
He kicked a statue of an owl as hard as he could, sending it slamming against a wall and smashing it.
"That's not going to do any good, young one," a voice said from behind him.
Percy froze in terror. Oh Zeus…
He turned around to face none other than Athena, whose statue he had just destroyed, of course. "I-I'm sorry, Lady Athena," he said sincerely, both of them knowing he wasn't only talking about the statue.
But Athena only smiled at him in a motherly fashion. "You have nothing to be sorry for, Perseus Jackson," she replied. "In the end, you did nothing to be ashamed of."
"But…Annabeth…" he said, unable to put his feelings into sentences.
"Annabeth lived her life how she wanted to live it," Athena said, smiling as she walked up the path with Percy. "I don't think she regretted even a single thing, and died happily other than having the false knowledge that you had died."
"I thought you didn't want me to be with her," Percy said.
"I didn't," Athena replied bluntly. "But I was being immature and foolish," she admitted, surprising Percy. "You were the only one who could make Annabeth as happy as she was, that is except for little Pelagia. I think you're doing a wonderful job with her, as well."
"Really?" Percy asked, more surprised than he had ever been.
She looked over at him and he saw her eyes widen as she caught sight of something on his arm, which he instinctively covered up. Then she shook her head, smiled distractedly, and said, "I think you need to follow what you're trying to teach Bailey and have more faith and confidence in yourself. You're a good man."
"Thanks," said Percy, still amazed.
The most surprising thing, though, was when Athena pulled him in for a hug. "You're my son now, Percy, since you are the father of my grandchild," she said. "Take care of yourself."
Then she hurried off, muttering to herself while leaving Percy alone and confused. That was the single most surprising and undeniably odd conversation he had ever had with anybody.
He shrugged, watched her disappear, and headed back to join the rest of the camp, a spring in his step.
If he had gained the approval of Athena, he knew had to be doing something right.
A/N: Whelp, there you go! Hope you enjoyed it!
Thanks for reading and I hope to see your review!