A/N: Another late-night post—yay. Seriously, I think I may have a sleeping problem. This may or may not be exacerbated by the fact that my brother chose tonight to have six of his moronic friends sleep over. Literally, one of them came in about an hour ago (when I was trying to go to bed) and he's all "CHEESE IS AMAZING!" and I think I said something like "No, shit" and tried to sleep. But I failed. So I give you this. Muhahahaha.
Jason entered the training area aboard the Argo II just in time to see several stuffed dummies collapse into pieces. Standing in the middle of the wreckage was a pajama-clad Percy, his knuckles white on the handle of his sword, gasping for breath.
"Hey," he managed, placing the point of his sword on the floor and leaning on it. "Why are you down here?"
"I could ask you the same thing," replied Jason as he checked his watch. "It's almost five. Not even Leo gets up this early, and that's on his bad ADHD days."
A smirk tugged at the corner of Percy's mouth. "With Leo, isn't every day a bad ADHD day?"
Jason laughed. "Point taken. How long have you been up?"
"Since three forty-five, maybe?" Percy shrugged. "I should probably take a break, but you can hang out if you want."
They sat down with their backs against the wall. Percy dug around in his pants pocket, came up with something that looked like a cap, and touched it to the tip of his sword. The glowing bronze weapon shrank into a cheap-looking ballpoint pen, which Percy then started to twirl between his fingers as he looked across the room to the small porthole on the opposite wall. Outside, the dark blue sky was tinged with orange and pink streaks—dawn was fast approaching.
Glad to know Apollo's finally gotten off his butt and started the day, Jason thought dryly.
It occurred to him then that he didn't know that much about the demigod sitting beside him, other thsn the fact that Percy was looked up to by everyone at Camp Half-Blood as their leader. He had had to go through exactly what Jason did—getting dumped in an unfamiliar, potentially hostile camp, having to become their leader, go on dangerous quests, and fight nasty battles. If anybody could really empathize with his problems, it was going to be Percy, so Jason decided to give it a shot.
"Yeah?" Percy looked startled by the sudden question; the two of them had been silent for nearly fifteen minutes.
"How old were you when you found out you were a demigod?"
The older boy's gaze returned to the window. "Twelve. And I'm lucky I got to Camp Half-Blood when I did, or I would've been a goner."
Jason nodded in understanding. "Monsters?"
"Plenty. And you'd get that, being a son of Jupiter. But having a Fury for a pre-algebra teacher and being chased across Long Island by the Minotaur really took the cake."
"Wow." Jason let out a low whistle. "That sounds tough."
"Tough might be an understatement," Percy said with a grin. "But camp helped a lot. The training is great, and all my best friends are there…"
"They were definitely welcoming to me," Jason agreed. "Even when I had no idea who I was or how I'd gotten there."
"Mhm. And that's what I used to tell all the scared new kids who would come in—usually with some pretty bad injuries and even worse family situations—that they were with people who understood their problems." Percy heaved a sigh. "Yeah, camp is great, but…"
"But what?" prompted Jason.
"Do you ever feel like you're torn between two places? Like, you're loyal to your home, but the other camp matters a lot to you now, too?"
Jason lowered his gaze to his hands. "Yeah. I mean, I lived at Camp Jupiter for twelve years. Everyone there is like my family. But I made so many friends at Camp Half-Blood, and especially Leo and Piper…" He let his voice trail away. "I don't think I can make the decision, at least not now."
Percy nodded seriously, his expression empathetic. "But we united the camps, just like Hera—" he twisted the name as he said it, dislike evident on his face "—wanted us to, and at least we left Reyna a present."
"Octavian won't be bothering her now," laughed Jason. "We definitely gave him a piece of our minds."
"And nothing is more terrifying than seeing you two do your wolf stare at the same time," said a new voice from the doorway. Jason looked up quickly, startled, to see Annabeth leaning against the doorframe, wrapped in one of Percy's sweatshirts.
"Morning, Seaweed Brain. Hey, Sparky," she said, using the annoying nickname for Jason that everybody on the ship seemed to have picked up.
"'Sup, Owl Head?" he retorted, getting up from his seat and stretching his stiff back muscles.
Annabeth rolled her eyes. "Piper sent me to get you guys for breakfast. And you'd better hurry, or Leo will eat all the blue waffles." She turned and headed back up the hallway outside before either of the boys could say anything.
Jason laughed at the expression on Percy's face and offered the older demigod a hand. "C'mon, let's eat."
As he followed Percy through the door, he started making the list.
Friend. Ally. Fighter. Brave. Loyal. Strong.