Annabeth sorely regretted trading her weapons for an audience with the Romans.
"Nothing is discussed until the rite is completed." Said Octavian with a great air of importance.
"You've got to be joking." Piper said with wide eyes.
"Yeah! You haven't even taken us on a date yet!" Leo cracked, smile falling when he became the target of several icy glares.
"As if Greeks would understand." Octavian turned up his nose and smoothed his hands over his toga. "The leaders of the camps will converge in a special room in this temple, and—"
"Yeah, yeah. Get down, tumble in the hay, do the dirty deed—ouch! Piper!"
Annabeth didn't like the looks her friends kept shooting at her. Lea-der. Lea-der. Lea-der. She didn't like how Percy was doing the same from his spot in the praetor's chair with a pink-stained face and—oh. If her friends thought her—and Percy was—Annabeth began to blush.
"Now, who is your leader?"
Annabeth fought to control her breathing. Damn Romans and their Roman traditions. "I am." She said firmly. It rang loud in the room, drawing hushed whispers from the Roman crowd.
Percy cut him off, standing and nearly falling off the praetors' platform in his haste. "I will—I mean, I am." He pulled at his toga and took several steps down. He smiled at Annabeth, as if saying, 'Man, Wisegirl, the things we get in to together!' and addressed the crowd. "When in Rome right—well, Camp Jupiter."
The room went silent.
Reyna 's voice was soft, but it carried over every inch of the senate house. "I've been praetor longer." She paused. "Therefore, this is my responsibility."
Annabeth blinked, dumbfounded, her eyes flickering between Percy and Reyna. "Uh, but—"
"If our Camps are to work together, Annabeth Chase, you must respect our ways." Reyna said calmly, resting her chin on her knuckles. "Just as we are respecting the Greek warship hovering over our land."
Annabeth bit the inside of her cheek and glanced at her friends (who wouldn't meet her gaze). Then to the Romans; to Octavian's sneer at her hesitance. She settled on shooting Percy a 'Do something!' look.
Percy coughed lightly. "Hey, come on Reyna, I d-don't mind—"
Reyna stood from her chair, all the queen about to address her court. "Perseus Jackson, son of Poseidon, I do mind."
The mutterings of the Romans began anew, while Percy seemed cowed into silence.
Annabeth didn't know what to think.
Octavian sniffed, "as if a Grae—"
Reyna brushed by him, cutting him off and standing a foot before Annabeth. She held out her hand, palm upward. "Shall we?"
She was taller up close, and Annabeth frowned when she realized she had to tilt her head upwards in order to look her in the eyes. She spared one last glance around the room, before slowly reaching out and gripping the offered hand.
Reyna quickly led Annabeth out of the room. "They will wait here." Reyna said softly. "Safe from the rabble of my camp."
"To insure my cooperation?" Annabeth replied sharply.
Reyna glanced at her with the ghost of a smile. "And to ensure theirs."
They passed by a courtyard with neatly trimmed rose bushes and an aged marble fountain spewing water from several points.
"I—what? Going to call them back here one by one?" Annabeth snapped.
Reyna chuckled, tugging her down another corridor. "Perhaps, but we can discuss that later in more…relaxing accommodations."
Annabeth found herself alone in a small changing room. There were no windows and a single door closed with a white cloth, a table, an ornate chest, a wolf-pelt rug. There was also a full-body mirror, a water basin, and a new addition: a Greek demigod who could find nothing useful as a weapon, escape route, or a means to find either of the former.
You have 5 minutes. The garments you are to wear are in the chest—only the garments in the chest.
Reyna's words echoed in Annabeth's mind, along with the last lingering once-over she had given her before leaving. Was she really going to go through with this? Her friends, stuck in a room full of Romans, were outnumbered 1-7. Even with Percy the odds didn't look good if something happened… And then there was Grace. Annabeth wouldn't trust him with her pet rock if she had one, let alone the decision to bolt with the Greeks or side with the Romans. Piper's Charmspeak might be able to wedge in an opening to make a break for the ship though…
But then, was she really going to just run away? She'd agreed to this when she spoke up as the Greek leader; she put herself on the line so her friends wouldn't have to…endure this. Annabeth grabbed the edge of the chest lid and flung it open. Annabeth Chase never went back on her word. Annabeth Chase never backed down, not to any monster and certainly not to any Roman, and she'd show Reyna that.
She'd also show Reyna a thing or two about compromising, when she came to perform the "rite" wearing only the garments in the chest.
(And her Camp Half-Blood necklace.)
When Annabeth finally tip-toed into the room, Reyna lay on her side on a bed of plush pillows and fur blankets. She wore something similar to Annabeth, though grander with edges dipped in red. It made Annabeth feel a little better, to know that she wasn't the only one mostly naked, but there was no shame in Reyna's form, nothing and everything coy about how she shifted, her outfit riding up her tan thighs. Her dark eyes were fixed on Annabeth, unblinking and without modesty.
Something warm tightened in Annabeth's belly.
Reyna motioned for her to come forward with an outstretched hand, fingers curling into her palm.
Swallowing thickly, Annabeth took a single step forward and after a deep breath, another.
Reyna smiled. "Stall if you wish; the longer I have to study you properly."
"I'm not stalling," Annabeth ground out; face red and trying desperately to keep the edges of her dress at her knees. "I said I'd do it and I will."
Reyna's smile slipped into something darker and she tilted her head to the side, letting her rich black hair fall over her shoulder in a shimmering cascade. "Oh?"
Annabeth followed the trail of Reyna's hair to her collarbone…then to the smooth skin above her breasts. Her mouth went dry. She averted her eyes, quick to avoid Reyna's knowing—downright smug—stare.
Eventually, Annabeth arrived at the bed and perched herself on its edge, as far away from Reyna as possible. The furs were soft and strangely warm and she took a moment to run her hand across them. There was nothing like them at Camp Half-Blood outside the Big House attic. Annabeth wanted to ask what curious beasts they came from, but a pair of arms sliding around her waist cut that thought short.
Reyna pulled Annabeth's back flush against her chest. "A strange necklace to wear to the rite." Her words hardened. "Did I not say to wear only the garments provided?"
Heat crawled across Annabeth's face and down her neck, heart skipping at the less-than-friendly lilt of Reyna's voice. "It's from camp," she said breathlessly, and she cursed herself several times before continuing in a firmer voice. "To mark each year."
"Charming," Reyna replied, left hand trailing to Annabeth's knee. "We receive a tattoo, here," she showed the underside of her right arm, firm skin marred by several years' worth of black bars. "However, while mine is permanent, yours can be removed."
Annabeth bit back a gasp as the hand on her knee began a slow trek upwards, blunt nails leaving a trail of goose bumps in their wake. "I—You, you'll…have to learn to compromise, then."
Reyna drew up the edges of Annabeth's dress with a confident hand, and used her other to tug at the cord keeping Annabeth tied to her last thread of modesty. "As Percy learned so shall you: Rome does not compromise."
Annabeth felt the world falling away. She was pinned to the bed with Reyna straddling her waist, her calloused hands and lips trailing heat to every inch of her body. Gods, she didn't want to give Reyna the satisfaction of hearing her moan, but every touch, every lick and nip had Annabeth biting her lip to keep the moans and whimpers from bubbling out.
Reyna said nothing of it, just palmed the skin above Annabeth's ribcage and leaned down to tug at her earlobe with her teeth.
It was hot, too hot, and Annabeth couldn't stand it. She wanted to throw Reyna off and settle things like warriors, with daggers, snarls and stinging wounds. She didn't know how to handle this kind of battle, fought with firm touches and ghosting lips. Reyna had yet to kiss her; Annabeth didn't think she'd be able to take it.
A minute later Reyna seemed to lose interest in her ear and pushed upward to lock eyes with Annabeth. Cheeks flushed and way too beautiful, Reyna didn't waste a second in ducking down and covering Annabeth's lips with her own.
It's nothing like the kisses Annabeth shared with Percy, and she waited for the guilt, the shame of doing this, but could only simmer in the need building between her legs, unable to stop herself from reaching up to tangle her hands in Reyna's hair. She groaned when Reyna's tongue slid across her lips, her eyes fluttering shut.
Reyna soon took to caressing Annabeth's breasts, rolling her nipples under her thumbs and pinching them when Annabeth didn't make the noises Reyna sought. She dragged her tongue the length of Annabeth's neck, and then drew her legs apart, fingers nimble and playful.
Annabeth arched upwards with a gasp and used her nails to scratch at Reyna's back. Something delightful rushed through her when Reyna growled in response. Perhaps this wasn't so different from battle, she thought distantly, but then Reyna's fingers hit their mark and all traces of coherency were lost for a good long while.