The Art of Breaking Hearts
Where have all the feelings gone? Why is the deadliest sin—to love as I love you? Now unblessed, homesick in time; soon to be freed from care, from human pain. My tale is the most bitter truth: Time pays us but with earth and dust and a dark, silent grave. Remember, my child: Without innocence the cross is only iron; hope is an illusion and the Ocean's Soul nothing but a name...
—Bless the Child, Nightwish
Prologue: Bless the Child
Like always, men stared as Aphrodite walked by. Women alternated between glaring at her and gaping at her figure. She, however, paid them no mind. She stopped for a moment and took a deep breath, forcing herself to keep her cool. It wouldn't do to lose control of her rage and show herself to the mortals in her true form; she didn't want to deal with the kind of repercussions that would entail or have to explain to the council why she kept her whole essence in one place even after the council meeting was over.
Determined to remain out of trouble, she strolled lazily around the lake, watching as couples walked around holding hands and teenagers laid in circles talking in groups. Children ran around the fields, playing with friends. Her gaze was drawn to a young boy sitting on the grass petting a black dog. The boy stood up and clumsily ran for the lake after the dog, who had by then jumped into the lake. Her interest was already sliding to two teenagers holding hands nearby despite the potential beauty she saw in the boy, when she saw something that startled her.
The dog made a splash on the lake, sending water in all directions. The boy, who was close enough to the dog to get soaked, was struck by the water and instead of being soaked, the water slid down his face and body smoothly, not a hair out of place.
Aphrodite did a double take, her eyes boring into the boys back. She covered herself in Mist, completely masking her presence to the mortals around her, and strode towards the boy. At the last moment she decided to keep herself hidden behind a tree. Demigod children bellow the age of five had been known to breach through the Mist with incredible ease. If this child was gifted in that way, she didn't want him to point out her presence to nearby mortals. And besides, she wanted to observe him some more.
It was a good thing she kept her distance because at that moment a tall woman with long brown hair walked over to the boy and raised him in her arms. Aphrodite recalled her seating nearby but hadn't paid her much attention because she had been alone. With the swiftness of an immortal, Aphrodite eased closer to the pair in order to listen in on the woman's next words.
"Oh, Percy, don't do that. You never know who could be watching." Indeed, you never do. Like now. "Poseidon wasn't joking when he said you would be gifted." Oh, Poseidon, did she just say? And the hypocrite had been complaining about Zeus's child a few minutes ago… "I guess I'll have to find a way to hide your scent. Marrying a pig is not what I had in mind for my future, but it'll have to do." A frown marred Aphrodite's face. She encouraged forbidden love and tragedies but marrying a man of substandard qualities purely out of duty to her son was not at all romantic.
The dog paddled out of the lake and began running in circles around the woman, who laughed. "I'll leave you with Ted for a while, but then we are going home after I finish my work." The boy lifted an arm and touched the woman's face with his hand. There came a soft coo from the boy before the woman smiled and said, "I love you too." She set the boy down on the grass after giving him a kiss on the cheek and went to a nearby bench to work.
Wanting to get a closer look at the child, she collected so much Mist around herself so that even if the woman was a clear-sighted mortal and Aphrodite stood right in front of her, she wouldn't be able to see her. Assured she would be able to take her time with the child, she walked towards him and settled down on the grass besides him.
The boy looked up at her from where he was petting his dog. Aphrodite was met with the most brilliant, clear green eyes she had ever seen. A gasp escaped her in her surprise. Those eyes were as green as the sea and as beautiful as emeralds. For a moment, she gaped at the little boy. When she came to her senses, it was because a tiny hand was brushing her hair.
Aphrodite stared at the boy but overcame her surprise quickly enough. It wasn't often she interacted with children, much less those who weren't hers. This was different. She had never seen this boy before and despite not being one of her children, this boy possessed an air of… of something. He was special. A one-year-old could not, under any circumstances, be called charismatic, but this boy simply sucked people in. It was nothing she could understand, nothing she could feel and identify. There was just this air around him that made you want to gravitate towards him. It was, she realized, like charmspeak—but subtler and had nothing to do with a god's power.
Perhaps the closest comparison would be monsters being drawn to a demigod.
With effort, she examined the child's features. His skin was pale and the baby fat made it impossible to make out much of the shape of his face when he reached adulthood, but his nose was narrow and his eyelashes were long enough she knew they would one day draw envy from women. Her hands cupped the boy's chin, forcing his attention away from her hair and to her face. And the eyes. Those eyes.
Suddenly, the boy was taken away from her in a fluid motion. With the reflexes of a goddess, she rose, prepared to incinerate whoever dared interrupt her, when she saw the pretty woman with the long brown hair from earlier. Her anger abated and Aphrodite checked the Mist around her, but found it gone. In her surprise, she had released the Mist surrounding her.
"Excuse me, but who are you?" Aphrodite heard the protectiveness laced in her voice even if she couldn't feel it. There were, though, feelings that didn't show in her voice that she could sense: curiosity, wariness and dread. Mostly dread. In her eyes Aphrodite could see rebellion and fury.
"I didn't come to kill him, if that's what you're thinking."
For an instant the woman relaxed but her stance soon became tensed once again. "Which goddess are you?"
That was good, that she immediately assumed who she was. Perhaps Poseidon hadn't only told her about the monsters and Camp Half-Blood, but also about his broken oath. "Aphrodite."
She felt some satisfaction when the woman didn't do much more than mutter, "I see." It was irritating to have people think her a weakling when she mentioned her name. Athena, Hera—even Artemis—got more respect than Aphrodite did. Everyone tended to forget who had caused the Trojan War. This woman didn't scoff at her power.
Aphrodite felt something tug at her hair. "Pretty." It was a moment before she realized the word had come from the boy.
"Oh! Did you just say 'pretty,' Percy?" The woman was beaming down at her son. "That's not what I expected your fist word to be, but I'm not complaining. It came several months before I expected it, too."
"First word, you say?" Aphrodite whispered. She didn't expect the woman to hear her, but apparently she did.
In a flash, indecision clouded the joy in the woman's face. "Yes, that was his first word… Lady Aphrodite." Muted fulfillment rushed through her; usually only demigods had enough sense to regard her with such respect. The feeling occupied very little of her mind at present, unfortunately.
Percy was looking at her with wide green eyes, tugging insistently at her long brown hair. "Pretty." He reached towards her with one hand, struggling against his mother's hold on him. "Pretty."
"No, Percy." The woman shot her a worried look, as if she was worried she would vaporize them both for her son wanting Aphrodite to hold him.
Aphrodite held out her hands. "Here, I'll take him." To her own ears, her voice sounded trancelike. The woman realized there was something very different about her and shifted slightly, ready to shield Percy with her own body if necessary. "I said, I'll take him." Her voice carried her irritation.
The woman looked unsure. Aphrodite, tired of waiting, ripped Percy away from her arms. She cradled the boy, rocking him slightly. "No, please—" Aphrodite quieted her with a look. Under normal circumstances, she wouldn't be so forceful with a mother, aware how it felt to be powerless when it came to protecting one's child, but these were not normal circumstances.
Aphrodite turned back to the child and gave him a smile. He gurgled in return then repeated, "Pretty."
"I'm pretty." She said with wonder. It wasn't like she wasn't used to hearing the words 'pretty,' 'beautiful,' 'radiant' and their synonyms used to refer to her. No, it was the fact that it was a child, a little boy who only now was learning how to speak, who said it. A child who had no notion of what the word 'love' meant, who would not reach puberty for many years. It was the innocence of the situation that got to her.
Aphrodite wondered if he could see her as she truly was, as she saw herself in the hundred of mirrors scattered around her palace in Olympus, with brown hair and light amber eyes.
There was something tugging at her, something that was completely opposed to the idea of leaving this child in his mother's arms and never seeking him out again. The idea was horrifying in a completely different level than it had been to part with Adonis so many years ago. As an afterthought, she checked if Eros had shot her with one of his arrows as he had done so she would fall in love with Adonis, but even before she got her answer, she knew that wasn't the case. What she had felt the first time she had clapped eyes on Adonis paled in comparison to what she felt now.
Nodding as she made up her mind, she turned to Percy's mother and said, "I'll be taking him to his father."
"To Poseidon? Why? Wait! Don't—!" It was too late by the time the woman realized what Aphrodite's words meant. She had already stepped into the lake and had vanished in a wave of water foam.
The Art of Breaking Hearts
Aphrodite appeared in a cloud of foam, carrying Percy. Usually, another God was not able to cross into another's domain but she had been born of the sea and she was carrying a child of Poseidon, a combination that trumped her oath to keep away from Poseidon's territory.
She placed a hand on the golden gate of Poseidon's palace, alerting the god of the seas of her presence. They opened up to her, signaling Poseidon's permission to enter his palace. Nereids and mermen stared at her as she made her way to Poseidon's throne room but she paid them no mind. She understood their surprise, however. She hadn't stepped a foot into Atlantis since… well, since the brief affair she had with Poseidon years ago. There are more than a few curious glances centered around Percy, but he didn't seem to mind as he smiled up at her.
Two mermen open the doors to Poseidon's throne room and a third announces her, omitting Percy's presence at her request. Inside, Poseidon sat on a throne of abalone shell at the back of the room. Aphrodite walks past two rows of nereids, mermen and oceanids—courtiers of Poseidon Aphrodite recognized from a very long time ago. Their gazes are questioning, both of her presence and of the child in her arms.
Amphirite glared at her from the top of the right row. Besides his mother, Triton acted nonchalant in her presence. Aphrodite's attention focused on Poseidon. Amusement shot through her when she saw his reaction to her carrying his child on her arms. His jaw was slack and his eyes wide, but he quickly fixed his expression, apparently mindful of his behavior in front of his court. His eyes hardened and he growled, "Leave us."
Gasps were heard throughout the expansive room and startled glances were exchanged. "Amphirite, Triton, you too." Aphrodite shot her a dark look before swimming off with Triton, who looked miffed. The doors slammed closed and they were alone.
"Imagine what would happen if your brothers found out about him?" She said, playing with one lock of his entirely dry black hair.
"You wouldn't dare." Poseidon stood up.
Aphrodite raised an eyebrow and tilted her hair. "Wouldn't I?" Her hands slid to Percy neck. "I but have to move my hand to kill him. Yes, I would offend you, but that's nothing compared too how much Zeus and Hades would reward me."
"Aphrodite…" Poseidon readied his trident.
"Oh, no, no." She gave him a slow, amused smile. The joke's on you. "I was asking a simple question. Why would I give him to Zeus or Hades when he is such great leverage against you?"
Poseidon seemed to relax at that, but he kept his trident at the ready. "What do you want?"
"An exchange. My secrecy and blessing if you allow me to make him my champion."
"Why do you want him as your champion?" Poseidon sat down on his throne once again.
"I expect great things from him." Aphrodite looked down at Percy, who was looking around in amazement.
He noticed her stare and gave her a smile. A gurgle of a laugh before he said, "Pretty." She wasn't sure if he meant the throne room or her this time, but she decided to think he meant both.
When she tore her eyes away from Percy, it was to find Poseidon hovering over her, looking at his son hungrily. Aphrodite quickly put some distance between them, as to minimize the chance of him taking Percy from her before she got what she wanted.
"Well?" She narrowed her eyes at Poseidon when Percy started squealing at the sight of his father. Her glower, however, wasn't placed on Percy until he started reaching out for the sea god. "Percy." His attention returned to her and one of his pals caressed her cheek. She nodded in approval, smile back in place.
Poseidon was scowling at her. "This wouldn't be like with Adonis, would it?'
Aphrodite's smile dropped. "No, it wouldn't."
"And what kind of plans do you have to mess up his love life?"
"That," Aphrodite sniffed, "is for me to know."
Poseidon didn't look pleased, but he said, "Very well. I swear on the River Styx I'll allow you to make Percy your champion if you swear on the River Styx to give him your blessing and keep his existence secret from anyone who doesn't already know for certain I'm his father."
"I swear on the River Styx."
For a while there was silence, time which she spent quietly playing with Percy's black hair. "May I hold him?"
Aphrodite had a sudden urge to laugh, but she refrained, afraid it would come out bitter. How unfair it was for a god to ask another if he could hold his own son. How unfair was Zeus, how unfair were the Fates, to prohibit the gods from interfering in the affairs of their own children.
She handed Percy to Poseidon, carefully watching his expression. There was regret and there was wonder, but she couldn't make out anything else. Percy played with his fingers, cooing.
"If… If we stay much longer, perhaps Zeus…" There was a lump in her throat. She didn't want to separate the two, but she also didn't want to risk Zeus finding out about Percy.
Poseidon quickly blanked his expression. "Yes, you'll take him to Sally?"
He handed Percy back to her but he was still looking at his father. "Dada." Poseidon looked at Percy sadly and Aphrodite gave him a pitying look he may or may not have caught before sea foam enveloped her and Percy and they were gone.
The Art of Breaking Hearts
Aphrodite appeared in the edge of the lake and quickly spotted Sally, who was seated on a bench, shoulders hunched and eyes roaming the ground. With sure steps, she reached Percy's mother, who became aware of her presence.
Aphrodite could feel the relief when she saw her son unharmed. "Oh, thank you. I thought…"
Aphrodite gave herself a minute to feel ashamed, but quickly snapped out of it. There were things to do. "This child is my champion." She said. The words were for Sally's benefit; she didn't need words to make it true. "I give him my blessing." A soft pink glow appeared above Percy's head, but quickly faded. "That usually means I recognize him as my child, but… this is different." Aphrodite frowned. "I haven't had a champion who wasn't my son since… Paris."
Sally paled. "Of Troy?"
"Why, of course."
If possible, the woman paled more. "Oh. How silly of me." She laughed nervously.
Aphrodite smiled at her and motioned for her to take Percy. When she did, Aphrodite turned back and started walking away then suddenly stopped. She touched a hand to her navel. "Keep the girls away from him, would you? They'll try to get close to him, even ones much older than him. I… have plans for him."
"Plans." Sally said the word with such fear, Aphrodite turned back to look at her.
"Yes. Have you heard of Tristan McLean?"
"The actor? What does he have to do with anything?" Sally asked.
"Oh, he'll have a daughter… soon." She caressed her navel again. Sally caught the movement and seemed to understand.
Percy broke the tension by saying, "Pretty!"
Aphrodite laughed. "Oh, Percy, you'll get along beautifully." She blew Percy a kiss and left in a flash of light. "I'll be back."
The Art of Breaking Hearts
A/N: So, I really hope you like my Aphrodite! I know thunder is supposed to "boom" when someone swears on the River Styx, but I figured Poseidon and Aphrodite were too deep underwater to hear it. And Aphrodite was born in the sea, so I figured she had some water privileges.