It's funny, because people will give her anything she wants, and she always wants the things she can't have.

Hail, Piper McLean...

Featherbeds and crystal mirrors and movie posters and frilly clothes. Girls with sparkling eyes and silky, lustrous hair. Fake smiles, fake welcomes, a whole lot of pain wallpapered over with the torn pieces of forgotten love notes that were never sent, or maybe just never accepted.

Hearts and tears and I-love-you's that were easy to write and easy to pretend but hard to repair when it was over. Rejection trophies. A map of heartbreaking and the heartbroken. Names of ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends and should-have-been-more-than-friends spiraling across the walls.

Some things can't be handed to you.

This not home.


They make it look easy with the winning smiles and the elaborate hair and the perfect makeup, and then she has to remind herself that none of this is real.


"So, to be initiated, I have to break a boy's heart?"

The older girl laughs dismissively. "You act like you're surprised."

"Well, I thought Aphrodite was the goddess of love."

The girl stares her down like she's an insult to anyone who's ever fallen in love, like really fallen in love, head-over-heels. "Every good love story has a tragedy, right?"

And she has to stare at her shoes, because she's going to betray them... and maybe these girls are absolutely right.


So she steels herself and grins and bears it like a good, normal girl and smiles a natural, normal smile and tries to pretend that this is home and this is her family, and she couldn't be happier.


They tell her that love is everything, love makes then family, love makes life worth living, and part of her is so terribly scared that if they're right, love isn't anything like what she thought it was. And if love is what she should be after, then maybe chasing a disinterested father and a could-have-been-boyfriend who never was will just make everything worse.


She used to like dreaming. Now it seems like all she ever finds is nightmares, and she's not always sure whether she's awake or asleep.

In between, there's only the nothingness.

She's cold, but all she sees when she nears the campfire is her father in pain.


The camper is distraught, staring at the new girl like she slapped her.

"Don't tell me you don't believe in love."

Truth be told, the new girl's really not sure if she ever believed in love, not that she specifically didn't believe in it, it's just something that never really crossed her mind. If what her father had was love, then it seemed like it had a tendency to hurt people, and she had enough hurt to deal with aside from what the popular girls called love. She didn't have a mother, and she might as well have been fatherless, too, she thought sometimes.

"I don't know, I guess."

The girl's eyes widen. "Don't you think you'll ever find it?"

And for a moment she does believe in it, but then she thinks about the rite of passage and the broken hearts and she says, "I sure hope not."


Everything here is scheduled, and it carries troubling echoes of a home that was never a home.


They say love at first sight strikes like lightning, but in her case it was literal.


He has no idea who he is and she has no idea what she wants, so it works out that they end up forming a team.

He barely knows his own name. She wishes more than anything that the world would forget what McLean meant to pop culture.

He wants to save the world. She just wants to hide from it.

He wants to find just one real friend. She's still not sure she even has a family.

So in a strange way, she might know her name and her bloodlines and who everyone says she should be, could be, will be –

But they both have no idea who they are.


They're not her family, not yet.

The scary thing is how she can see her own reflection in their mirrors, smiling back at her like everything is fine and normal, when nothing has ever been normal – but maybe this is normal. Maybe, somehow, this is where she belongs.

She hates it.


She's never been normal, and she despised it in every way.

It's not the otherworldly atmosphere of the campground that scares her – it's not the monsters and the deities and the prophecies and the war to preserve civilization as they know it. She feels apprehension without a doubt, but not fear.

More than anything, she's angry. Angry at her father for treating her like an item on a to-do-list. Angry at her mother for dropping her here to join some super-girls drama club. Angry at herself for ever expecting that things could be normal.

She's not normal, because her name is Piper McLean, and being a McLean was already abnormal enough. She's not normal, because she belongs on the rez with the other outcast Cherokee kids.

And now she's a demigod. Great.

As if her family bloodline didn't already draw enough attention.

She's never been normal, and the fact is that she's never gotten used to it, just numb. It's through that numbness, through that shield she's put up to deal with the popular girls' taunts, that the anger flares up.

Because she is Piper McLean, and even if she is famous and she does steal things and she'll never be normal, she at least believed she was human until now. But no. She's not normal.

She's something much more dangerous.

Mostly a danger to herself.


But things happen.

And worlds change.

And people change.

And maybe she's not a daughter of love, and maybe she's not just a movie star's kid, and maybe she is Piper McLean.

Maybe she's herself.

Maybe love is real.

Maybe real love is different.

And maybe, somehow, she loves him.

A/N: I wrote this between midnight and 2:00 AM, after getting about halfway through The Lost Hero for the first time (up to the part with the Cyclops.) Then inspiration hit and I was off like a rocket. XD

Thanks a million to Cendi, my amazing beta, who helped me figure out how to do this style of writing and advised some edits. *huggleglomps Cendi*

Reviewers also get hugs (hint, hint!) *HUGGLEGLOMPS REVIEWERS*