A/N: Sorry for the long wait everyone! I hope you all had a fantastic holiday season and a good break from school. I was drowning in family and schoolwork, and updates will probably be slow in coming because I am a junior taking twenty credits. That being said I loved writing this chapter. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: It all belongs to Riordan, folks. Please don't sue I'm poor enough as it is.


Chapter Sixteen
The Moody Prince

The training grounds were filled with the slightly muffled but steady thump thump thwack of a sword connecting with a practice dummy.

"Easy, Percy. The dummy only has so much stuffing you know," Bill said mildly as he swished his tails and watched the young prince wailing on the dummy who was spilling seaweed out its stomach, head, and both arms.

Percy's face was bright red from exertion, his hair swishing wildly in the sea currents. He had abandoned his usual layer of dryness in favor of submerging completely and with each practiced swing of his arm he grit his teeth in a look that was far fiercer than any that belonged on a boy his age.

He let the sword fall to his side, his chest heaving from the effort of his practice. Shoulders hunched downwards, he turned slightly to glare halfheartedly at Bill. "I can refill the stuffing," he snapped, and with a grunt of effort, went back to attacking the dummy with everything he had.

Bill watched him for a long moment, chewing on his bottom lip as Percy's swings became erratic.

"She is your mother, you know," he said after a very long silence filled only with the thumping of wood on the seaweed filled dummy.

Percy froze, hand gripping the pommel so hard his knuckles were white.

"All those mermen, your sister, everyone and everything who has told you that Amphitrite is not your mother? They are wrong," Bill insisted calmly.

The prince said nothing, just stared at his sword in silence. Bill nodded to himself, reached over to squeeze the boy's shoulder and was rewarded by Percy's entire body relaxing like his strings had been cut.

"They keep telling me she is not my mother by blood," he said quietly, as if it was something too fragile to trust to prying ears. Bill was honored that Percy trusted him enough to tell him this. "She is my mother, Bill, in every way that matters. I honor Sally Jackson as the woman who carried and gave birth to me, but she is not my mama, Amphitrite is."

"I know," Bill said serenely, swishing his tails. "Ignore them, Percy. Eventually they will find something else to gossip about, such as your sister's continued imprisonment in the dungeons."

Percy's lips twitched slightly at that, even though he knew it was callous and unprincely to find amusement in his half-sister's predicament. Considering all she had put him through, he was perfectly content to never see her face again, and every time she was mentioned in polite company Triton usually referred to her as a sea cow and requested her name not be mentioned again in his earshot.

"Papa's temper has not budged in the slightest in that regard," he told the merboy with a grin. "If he has his way she will still be imprisoned there during the next Ice Age."

Bill's lips curled into a grin at the mental image. "No great loss to our society," he snorted as a juvenile great white swam by them, nuzzling into Percy's armored chest affectionately as the boy grinned in amusement both from his sarcasm and the shark's enthusiasm. He watched the prince pet the creature's head gently, murmur a few words to it before it lazily swam away again.

"When I get to the surface world for Camp Half Blood, they will think me weird," he announced to no one in particular, watching the young great white swim between stalks of seaweed swaying in the gentle currents, scattering a school of tuna as he went.

"I have a feeling they would still think you weird, even if you had been raise don the surface," Bill snarked.

Percy made an indignant noise, the practice dummy forgotten as he threw the sword at Bill, who dodged easily, and then proceeded to chase him halfway across Atlantis.

/

Amphitrite raised her eyebrows when dinner was served and her mashed sea prunes were died blue. She turned a silent look to Poseidon, who looked just as baffled, before they both looked at Percy who was beaming.

"She actually did it," he said happily before digging in. "I wonder if she is making me blue cookies, too," he said around a mouthful of food.

"A prince chews with his mouth closed," Amphitrite reminded him mildly.

Percy snapped his mouth shut and chewed theatrically while Triton snorted into his dinner and Poseidon visibly tried not to laugh at the current stare-down happening between his wife and youngest son.

"He gets this from you," the queen informed Poseidon dryly before taking a tentative bite and finding that it tasted no different. Why it was dyed blue was rather beyond her, but if Percy had requested it she could avoid complaining.

"And apple tarts," Percy piped up now that he had swallowed his mouthful of food. "I asked her to make the apple tarts blue. I like blue."

"We noticed," Triton informed him, taking in his little brother's blue shirt and dark blue shorts. He'd always liked blue, though, so this was no exception.

The youngest prince fell silent after that, far too occupied stuffing his face with food and half-listening to the whispered conversations of the fish outside the palace. They gossiped about him a lot these days, probably because nothing exciting had happened in a while now.

Poseidon smiled to himself, because he knew Percy had remembered when he told his son that Sally had loved to make food blue. Maybe this was his own way of being slightly defiant, of accepting that he had two mothers even though only one was still living. It was a far better reaction than he could have hoped for, so he just quietly ate his mostly blue food and didn't even complain when dessert came and everything offered was varying shades of the color.

Amphitrite's expression twitched but she said nothing, biting back her amusement as Percy dove for the apple tarts like they were the answer to all the questions in the universe.

"Blue food," Triton mused as he stole a few tarts before Percy could eat them all—the kid had the metabolism of a blue whale, it was ridiculous. "You are so weird," he informed his younger sibling, reaching across the table to flick him on his forehead.

"Hey!" Percy protested around a mouthful of apple tart, pinching Triton's forearm in retaliation.

As per usual this resulted in the two squabbling like a couple of newborn seagulls. Amphitrite merely sighed and resigned herself to her fate as she watched her so-called grown son acting like a child, rubbing her temples idly while her husband watched the action unfolding with a slight grin and well-aimed jab of water from his trident. Next thing she knew the three of them were fighting, wrestling around on the ground of their dining room like common peasants, and when Elith came to collect their plates she was grinning at the three dark-haired men rolling around on the sandy floor like children, their laughter echoing through the palace and sending a feeling of intense contentment to sea life for miles around.

It was no surprise to Amphitrite that a smile had already stretched across her own face in response.

/

Percy was eight and had finally settled down again now that everyone has ceased bringing up his family tree at every opportunity. This may have had something to do with the fact that Percy had accidentally changed the path of the Indian Ocean currents and caused a minor emergency on the Great Barrier Reef (that he still apologized profusely for), but Poseidon could hardly think of the incident without bursting into raucous laughter.

No one had been hurt and his son's complete mortification about causing such a ruckus was still amusing two months later. The great whites and tiger sharks were still a little wary of him but had gotten over it for the most part, since only their pride had been stung in the ruckus, while the whales thought the whole thing was hilarious and had spread the story all the way across the ocean in less than a day, much to Percy's chagrin.

Alas, it was the solstice time again. Darkness stirred on the edge of his consciousness and he felt satisfaction rise in him because Triton now owed him two days in conference with the mermen, because Hades had shown up just like he'd known he would.

Poseidon grasped his trident tightly and fought the urge to grin at his brother. "Are you going to make this a habit on every solstice?" he wondered curiously, watching as Hades entered his throne room, again wearing plain black clothing and not his soul robes.

Hades sniffed disdainfully and gave him a dirty look. "And if I do?" he challenged.

He simply shrugged and settled his trident beside his throne. "You are fond of him, are you not?" he wondered, grinning impishly.

"Of course not," Hades said haughtily, tipping his nose up in the air. "He is a demigod."

"I heard you cursing me all the way to the Underworld that winter solstice, brother."

"You did not, I was doing it silently." Hades blinked and then glared at his brother with a muttered, "Blast it…"

"Gotcha," Poseidon grinned with a rich chuckle, slapping his palm on his thigh. "I do have to admit, though, I now understand why you dislike attending the winter solstice. I always have an urge to put my trident through his eye. It will be worse today; the summer solstice is lengthier and forces me to be around him longer."

"I am only there in winter for power in numbers," Hades grumbled, crossing his arms and shooting a glare upwards before returning his gaze to his brother. "If we had enough power, Lightning Arse would forget about me entirely and never allow me to leave the Underworld, same as he forbids me from attending the summer solstice, kills my lovers and children, and refuses to give me a cabin at Camp Half-Blood."

"Your children do have a habit of becoming insane, Hades."

"Not all," he said softly. "Not all."

Poseidon inclined his head in agreement and the brothers fell silent, neither of them quite sure what to do in this new territory of emotions. Neither had ever been particularly fond of the other, but in truth, they had never really talked to each other, either. Hades had never known what the ocean truly meant to Poseidon, and Poseidon had never had any idea how much work really went in to running the Underworld. He couldn't imagine all the construction planning Hades constantly had to do, unclogging congestion and widening the fields of Asphodel and Punishment.

"How is Cerberus?" Poseidon asked, simply because it was a safe topic to approach.

"Eating me out of house and home," Hades joked flatly, raising an eyebrow. "How is your little brat, what was it, Pessimus? Priam? Peter?"

"Percy," he said dryly, not letting his elder brother goad him into a response.

"Ah, of course, Percival."

"His full name is actually Perseus," Poseidon corrected mildly, "and you sound like Dionysus. He never gets their names right."

"On purpose, of course."

"Of course. Air-For-Brains is still angry at him for that nymph; no wine for a hundred years and being in charge of Camp Half-Blood were his punishments, I believe."

Hades sneered at that; he had never been fond of the pot-bellied, bleary-eyed God of wine. He was a sarcastic, disrespectful little swine who should have been rotting on the Fields of Asphodel right about now. "Well, at least he did not name his child after that arrogant little spawn of Lightning Arse."

"Sally named him," Poseidon corrected coldly.

Feeling uncharacteristically guilty, Hades muttered an apology.

"I must see Amphitrite before I go," he said abruptly, standing and grasping his trident. "I will return shortly. Do not leave this room, brother; we need no gossip about your visit to reach our brother's ears, especially not gossip about you visiting on the Summer Solstice. Make yourself comfortable."

Rolling his eyes as his brother left and closed the door firmly behind him, Hades dropped to sit upon the steps before Poseidon's throne and studied and detail on the chair. It appeared to be a gold-carved depiction of the initial defeat of Oceanus, when Poseidon had taken control of the oceans.

Fascinating.

A scuffling noise made him glance up, and dark eyes met sea green.

"Hullo, Unca' Hades," Percy said in a rough voice, rubbing his eyes. His hair was shaggier than Hades remembered, and he was slightly bigger than six months ago, but he was still very young. There was a dark blue blanket slung over his shoulders and partially wrapped around his torso, trailing to the ground to follow behind his bare feet, his tanned skin poking out of light blue cotton pajama pants that had cartoon orca whales on them. "Is it the solstice yet? Did I miss Papa?"

"Your father left to find your mother," he said evenly. "He will be back momentarily to say goodbye before he has to attend the solstice meeting."

Percy yawned hugely and blinked at him through a fringe of dark bangs.

"You need a haircut," Hades observed mildly.

"'s what Triton says," Percy agreed as he shuffled across the room to sit on the steps beside Hades.

The god skillfully held his surprise at how willing the child was to approach him; most demigod children fled in terror or sat as far from him as physically possible.

"Delphin says that too," the little boy added as an afterthought.

"And who, pray tell, is Delphin?"

Percy peered up at him like he was a barnacle sticking to his shoe, as if he had missed the obvious truth right in front of his face. "King of the Dolphins, of course."

"Of course," said Hades wryly, rolling his eyes heavenward at the boy's tone of voice. The sheer nerve of this child. Poseidon was rubbing off on him, and he wasn't sure if it irritated or if it filled him with a savage glee.

Percy stood again and carefully tugged the blanket until he was fully up and around his shoulders and tucked snugly around his torso, before he did the absolute last thing on the planet that Hades would have ever expected.

Without a second though, Percy crawled right into his lap and leaned against his chest, his knees bent and little feet dangling in open air, well, water, Hades reminded himself. Wiggling a little to get comfortable, he turned until he could lean against his uncle's chest and closed his eyes.

"Perseus," said Hades slowly, "what are you doing?"

Percy ignored him. "Wuzzit like, Uncle Hades? In the Underworld? Is it always dark and dreary or do you have gardens and stuff? I was too afraid to pay much attention."

Hades did not dare move, lest he send the boy tumbling to the ground, seafloor, whatever. Knowing his luck, Percy would injure himself, and that would cause the opening scene for Furious God of the Seas, Take 2.

He hesitantly put an arm around the boy, keeping him on his lap, and cleared his throat.

No being had ever sat on his lap until this child.

Not ever.

"The Underworld is dark," he answered quietly, deciding to humor the boy. "It is dreary, too, I suppose. My guards are soldiers from old human wars, and I have several hellhounds, as well. My wife, Persephone, has a garden she is quite fond of."

"Your guards are frightening."

Hades felt a tiny stab of guilt because Percy had been so genuinely terrified, it was a miracle he hadn't gotten hurt further than he had. "I am sorry they frightened you," he said honestly, pressing his hand hesitantly to the back of Percy's head in an effort to reassure him. "If ever you visit again, they will not do that ever again."

"I hope not," the prince said quietly, plucking at a loose threat at the edge of his blanket. "I do not blame them, not really. They were just doing their jobs."

"That they were."

"What of Persephone's garden? Is it a nice garden?" Percy asked curiously, steering the topic away from his experience in the Underworld. "Mama has a pretty garden here, but she says Persephone has the prettiest garden of them all. Does she, Uncle Hades? Does she have the prettiest garden of them all?"

"You have been paying attention to your teacher," Hades muttered, impressed despite himself that the boy had gotten the pronunciation of his wife's name correct. In a louder tone, he answered, "Yes, she has a lovely garden that she takes very good care of."

"Is Cerberus fun to play with?"

Hades blinked. Play? His guard dog did not play. . . but then again, he had never tried, he admitted. "I suppose he would be. I have never played with him, so I cannot say."

Percy looked up at him with wide eyes. "Never?" he gasped.

"He has no time for play," he explained grumpily. Cerberus was terrifying. He did not play.

"But. . . who plays with him, then? Does he get lonely?"

Irritated by these questions, Hades gave the boy a dark look. He ground his teeth together when all his nephew did was blink; then again, he was not unleashing the full power of that look up on the boy. No need to scar him for life . . . yet.

"I like to play with the Hippocampi," said Percy solemnly. "Last summer I was there when a Hippocampi colt was born, and papa let me name him so I decided to call him Bucephalus after Alexander the Great's horse. He and I like to race. I like to swim when I am with him because he goes so fast," he added with a joyful laugh that lit up is face. "Papa says that he can be mine, now that I am eight summers." He held up eight fingers, already showing callouses from sword work. "He said I could have Riptide, too, when I am big and strong enough. I practice every day with Carthos and Bill."

Without his conscious knowledge, Hades' lips curved upwards into a faint smile as he listened to the little boy go into great detail about his schooling and all that he was learning. Unbeknownst to him, Poseidon and Amphitrite stood observing this through the barely-open throne room doors with faint smiles on their faces, wondering at the fact that the God of the Underworld actually knew how to smile. Percy continued to babble on, his feet swinging as Hades listened to every word and marveled that maybe, just maybe, not all demigods were arrogant little snot-faced brats after all.

Not wanting to interrupt their moment, Poseidon kissed his wife on the cheek and departed for the solstice, the memory of the two of them just talking seared into his brain. It kept his temper in check though he did open with his now-customary blast of water to the face, much to Apollo's continued glee.

When he returned from the solstice, emotionally drained from keeping his temper in check, he found that his older brother and Percy were still talking, a monopoly board spread out on the throne room between them.

It was blackmail for eternity, Poseidon decided as he watched Hades curse and hand over three hundred dollars to his son who grinned impishly and added it to his pile. He grinned and headed off to find dinner, leaving the two of them to their bonding moment and thinking of new ways to tease Hades when he saw him next.

The next morning, Percy looked up at him and asked him why Hades had named a three-headed dog Cerberus, and Poseidon had just told him that was a question for Hades.

Percy looked him dead in the eye and patiently explained that Cerberus came from the word k̑érberos, which meant spotted.

"He named his guard dog Spot, Papa. Spot. Yet everyone is terrified of him," Percy said gravely, his expression saying he didn't understand such fear because it was based on incorrect information or just plain ignorance.

Poseidon laughed all the way to his meeting with the mermen, because only Hades would name a terrifying three-headed guard dog Spot. To think, he'd spent centuries thinking his brother had no sense of humor, but as it turned out the God of the Underworld had a sense of humor that rivaled his.


E/N: Next up is Percy learning to control some of his powers, having a wayward adventure with some whales that ends in a rather firm scolding, and Bill having to make a decision.

Seriously though, guys. The God of the Underworld, ruler of dead people, the guy who can literally glare people to death, named his pet dog Spot. I find endless amusement in this little tidbit of information, thank you, tumblr.

Reviews are loved!