So I've had this in the back of my mind for a while and ta-dah, you guys now have it in front of you. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own the story's characters or their representations.
On a Scale of One to Ten
Thalia's knuckles were white against her bow. She was so tired of hearing these battle plans- everyone spewed them out like computer code, simple, clean-cut, in a way that was nearly clinical. Thalia wasn't in the mood for it now. Her blood was boiling.
"I know that not all the Hunters have recovered from injury," Artemis said in her simultaneously soft and strict voice.
"Thalia how many Hunters are available for battle since the last?" Hera asked.
"I don't know," Thalia said. "I haven't at camp for a few hours, Milady." She said the word out of the generic respect due since Artemis was there, but with all the sarcasm she could concentrate in the word since she was addressing Hera out of all people.
Hera clucked her tongue and that was it. That little sound, that single little sassy sound, pushed Thalia over the edge.
"Don't cluck your tongue at me!" Thalia said. "I'd get blasted to bits if I did it to you!"
"Shut up," Percy said. He hadn't spoken yet, too breathless and shocked to form a coherent, constructive sentence.
"No you shut up!" Thalia said, which was probably too harsh to yell at a guy who'd just spent days in Tartarus.
"Thalia Grace-" Hera started.
"Yes," Thalia shut up. "Thalia freaking Grace- daughter of Zeus and not-you. Sister of Jason Grace, whom you took when he was two years old. You know, for the goddess of mothers, you are the most clueless piece of filth when it comes to instincts, protecting, caring, worrying. I was taking care of him and you just thought that taking him without an explanation, a lie, an occasional note would be okay? I was insomniac for weeks Hera, and I was so permanently sad for years. Contrary to some people I cared about someone."
"Thalia," Zeus said warningly.
What really calmed her down were the arms wrapped around her from behind. She recognised the grip- so strong it was mind-boggling that the last image she'd had of him for years and years was a ditzy toddler who put everything from office supplies to books to Happy Meal toys in his mouth.
"Don't do this," Jason said. "Not now, not here, not ever. You don't need that kind of trouble."
And so Thalia calmed down. Not for Percy, for Jason. Not for Zeus, for his son. Not for her evil, Brother's-Grimm-dreamt-up stepmother, but for her little brother.
Petals were a horrible thing to have. You'd think that they were like a flower's limbs, but no. They were ridiculous and stupid and Nico wanted to yell as he stood there, frozen in place without any limbs, swearing to himself that he would rip every flower he saw to shreds until the day that he died.
Why the hell was he a dandelion?
Chiron couldn't manage to bow quickly enough. When had he ever had to bow before? But now he was expected to do it in a fraction of a second whenever a Titan sprung up in front of him. Much good getting claimed had done him…
"You're dawdling," Rhea said glumly.
"No excuses. Retry. Do it again." She said.
Chiron closed his eyes and took a deep breath. According to rumours he'd heard, another baby had been born not long ago- a matter of weeks supposedly; another little girl. Demeter or something in the likes was her name. Perhaps that was why Rhea was still so angry.
Chiron hated himself for thinking that. For forgiving his stepmother over and over again, for finding excuses justifying her yelling, her patronising, her bullying, her harassment...
"Quickly," Rhea said as Chiron got back up.
He stood when he slept for God's sake. He hadn't been showed how to handle the imbalance of a horse/human body and how to correctly manoeuvre it. He didn't know how to do what she was asking him to do, it wasn't natural for a centaur to bow- when did they ever bow? Who did they owe anything to? Never! Nobody! He may be different from his kin, but this was taking things too far.
"That isn't quickly," Rhea said.
"Well then you'll just have to accept the fact that I will no longer bow down to you," Chiron finally said.
Annabeth hissed and pulled her shoe out of a particularly large cow patty. She muttered something quite rude in Greek before wiping the sole of her shoe on someone's lawn.
Thalia looked up at the sky.
Was it really necessary to curse my best friend? Thalia asked.
Thunder rumbling. Supposedly, yes.
Bullies were something Reyna was used to. Daughter of Bellona. Sole girl on Circe's Island without pierced ears. Kidnapped by pirates. Worked with Octavian on a regular basis… all part of the job description.
But being incompetent in their presence was something from Reyna's past. She could stand her ground (or at least a good 80% of her ground) against Octavian on a bad day. Her reputation as a fighter was good enough for challengers to have stopped ages ago. People didn't tease her, she demanded respect and –more importantly- earned it.
But Mars throwing orders in her fort? Whatever his right as a god was, Reyna didn't have to like it. She didn't like it. Being obedient to a god was one thing, but bossed around in front of her people- the people she was working twice as hard to win over because of Jason's absence? No. That did not do.
"You see that play, ref?" Mars demanded.
No, I missed it, Reyna said. It's not as if I have the Fifth Cohort's best intentions at heart and that I take my job seriously.
"That was my kid."
Note the accent placed on 'my' to fuel the Bellona/Mars rivalry, Reyna grumbled to herself.
"First over the wall, won the game for his team. Unless you're blind, that was an MVP play. You're not blind are you?"
Reyna's jaw clamped down. That was a jerk move even for the god of war. Reyna's father had been blind. It was why he'd retired from the army, met Bellona and had Hylla in the first place.
Her anger made her voice quiver. Why did Bellona and Mars always do this? Always get angry at each other's kids? They both had children at the same pace as rabbits anyways, it wasn't as if one was more adulterous than another.
"No, Lord Mars." She said.
"Then make sure he gets the Mural Crown," Mars said.
"So I'm not the best person to consult," Nyssa said. "But I'm, like, 98% sure that you need to not wear a Camp t-shirt on a first date."
"With a child of Aphrodite," Jake said.
"Especially with a child of Aphrodite," Nyssa nodded.
"Who has cooties," Harley added importantly.
"Silena doesn't have cooties Harley," Beckendorf told the little boy curled up in Nyssa's arms, propped against her hip. "It's really important for you to get that."
"It's really important for you to change," Nyssa said. "For Zeus' sake, I don't even care about this stuff and yet it pisses me off that you'll just pick up Silena looking like that."
"I brushed my hair."
"You have, like, no hair. That means nothing." Jake said.
"What am I supposed to wear? Do I look like a guy who owns nice clothes?" He asked, kind of frustrated. Not necessarily at Nyssa, but also with the fact that she had a point.
"Go naked," Christopher called from his bunk. "It'll make an impression."
"No!" Harley wailed again. "COOTIES!"
"Cooties are the least of the problem with that idea," Jake noted.
Nyssa sighed. "You have five minutes. I'm sure that you can find something that isn't orange."
He didn't have much of a choice, so he just pretended to look in his trunk even though he knew that he had nothing that qualified as 'proper' or 'date-worthy' or even 'not-orange'.
Except he did now.
He had a grey button-down shirt...
One that Silena thought matched his eyes really well and gave her this wild idea that he knew how to match and create colour palettes for himself and dress well.
So maybe that right there rated Aphrodite higher on the thanks-I-owe-you-one stepparent scale, but really there was a boo-you-I-don't-know-what-charcoal-is-and-now-my-g irlfriend-thinks-I-do side of the coin to consider.
"We should ask for directions," Pollux said tugging on his brother's sleeve.
"No, we've got this."
"Cass," Pollux sighed looking around the cement and iron city all around him. They didn't have much time to get back to the camp vans before they headed back in, and New York City looked like a maze (bad joke). "She doesn't do this to us often, but when she does we're dead meat. Let's go."
"Our sense of direction is fine."
"No, it's not actually. She's messing with us- it's her idea of a joke. You know that."
"Screw it. I'm not going to get lost just because Miss I-Got-Myself-Out-Of-the-Labyrinth says so."
"Oh, I'm sorry, you're not disoriented because your immortal stepmother is playing a prank on you? Okay, Mr Also-a-God, that's cool."
Castor sighed and rolled his eyes, but he did fold the map of New York in his hands.
"Okay, fine, we'll get directions."
"You should really have dinner, little one."
Jason was startled out of his skin. So much, that when he turned around his sword was pointed… at Juno.
He immediately lowered his blade, hoping that maybe it'd been too quick for her to notice.
"I saw that, little one," Juno said, as if she read his mind
He bowed. No use making excuses to the Queen of the gods, now was there?
"Forgive me, Lady Juno."
"I understand," Juno said. "If you're in here, practising alone on your free day, you really must be in the mood."
Jason forced himself not to look away. Truth was, he was tired of being the little guy that got pushed around in his cohort. The centurions hated him- just because he was younger than everyone else, small even for his age, and that they'd been raising him forever. Jason tried and tried, but he just couldn't meet up to the set bar apparently.
"Your problem is that you're too defensive," Juno said. "You are a powerful boy, and you mustn't be afraid of that."
Jason was confused. Juno drew her sword.
"Here, let me show you. It'll help."
Christmas was a time for family. Her mother actually argued that if that was the current logic, then she should be on Olympus for the holidays- but Persephone liked it much better this way. Even if it meant that Nico and Hazel were at dinner.
She didn't mind Hazel much. The girl had a certain charm, a certain innocence. She was adorable. She always dressed well for Sunday night dinners and she had impeccable, old fashioned manners. Besides, Proserpina had a problem with Pluto's occasional infidelity, not her.
Nico, on the other hand… He rolled out of bed in the morning, into a new pair of jeans than the ones he slept in (if the stars were aligned), strapped on his sword and called it a day. He was rude and quiet and skinny. Once upon a time she'd dared to hope that Hazel may have a positive influence on him, but she'd learned quickly that the girl wasn't a miracle worker.
Hazel sat with one hand folded over her lap, her back straight, elbows off the table, slowly and quietly eating her soup as she listened to her father. He spoke of the Underworld's business, now that his children were making him talk. He didn't know what else to talk about. Ever. That habit vacillated between endearing and annoying.
Now Nico was slouching, his elbows were on the table (much like his dagger) and his hands were definitely not all properly folded against his lap. Also he was slurping the soup off of his spoon. Every second of Ssshhlurrrr wounded Persephone's patience furthermore until she put down her spoon.
"Nico," she snapped. He looked up at her. At first this kind of reaction would have created a deer-in-the-headlight effect, but not anymore. They'd known each other too long. He only blinked.
"Prop your back up, you're not a rag doll, weapons off the table, I am quite convinced that I've mentioned that before, and stop slurping," she said. "Your table manners are horrendous. Thank the gods there's only one of you."
Nico gave her an unfamiliarly broken stink eye. He pushed his chair away from the table, legs scraping against the floor, muttered something vaguely Italian before walking out of the dining hall.
Persephone gave Hades a look to try and figure out what had happened. He didn't look mad, his eyes matched Hazel's… vaguely sad.
"Oh gods," she said getting up. "Excuse me."
It wasn't hard finding Nico. She'd chased him out of her gardens enough times since he'd been claimed to know that that was usually his go-to destination. It was out of the palace, private and free of most of the nasty Underworld gods. She understood his logic (this time), and it paid off. He was sitting on a marble bench, and rolling a flower's topaz bud in his fingers and brooding.
"Nico," she said softly.
Nico dropped it. "I was gonna rip it out. Bianca always said that she wanted a garden though, so guess not."
Persephone sat next to him. He didn't move away, which was a good start to giving her courage.
"That comment was free," Persephone said. "It wasn't specific, or thought out, or targeting anyone."
"Yeah," Nico muttered.
"I didn't mean that I was glad that Hades, as a Greek god, didn't have another child," Persephone said. "I was referring to your horrendous table manners."
"They're not that bad."
"They are, Nico. Your mother is probably turning in her grave. Hera senses a disturbance."
Nico smiled weakly. Persephone gathered some more courage and put a hand on his back.
"I do not hate you. I disliked you at first. You annoy me to this day. But I don't hate you, Nico. Nor do I hate Bianca. In fact, I think that I would have been lucky to meet her."
"You would have," Nico said softly.
"I have you," Persephone said just as softly (so that he wouldn't make her say it again).
A, like, 1 on a bad day
Last time you guys dragged me out to Montauk I got knocked up, Sally had tried to reason. Let's not go again, it's not even summer.
Jen, Gretta and Marie had refused to hear reason- Oh but come on! It'll be fun! You need a break! Besides, Percy deserves to see where his entire origin started.
Did he? Not yet. Did Sally need a break? Not that she thought. Would it be fun? Probably, she loved the beach, but that wasn't a valid reason to her.
One way or the other, she was now at the beach during a particularly warm March break.
Percy had been screaming his throat raw, unhappy at the idea of being by the sea but not in the water somehow, and everyone in the cabin had been woken up, so Sally had bundled him up and she was bringing him outside. Fresh air and a walk had done wonders once, and most of the other cabins were empty.
The waves barely hit her ankles. Without New York's phenomenal light pollution, Sally saw constellations that she hadn't seen in a long time. She tried not to think of the adjoining stories though. It brought here mood down everything time to think that maybe one day Percy would have to tackle a scorpion like Orion had, fly a Pegasus, beat the same monsters as Hercules… No matter how many of these dangerous thoughts Sally was torturing herself with, Percy was quiet and hushed up in her arms. He had calmed down. That was the good news.
The bad news was that she saw someone on the beach. The waves rolling up the shore licked her ankles and even climbed up her legs before disappearing.
The woman turned to look at Sally. The mist wasn't hiding anything- the little horns on her forehead, the fact that her dress was old and long and fit her like drapery… her hair was dark to match the sky, loose down her back. Her features were as regal as statues of her- statues that were few and far between and that Sally had only seen once.
It was too late to go back now, anyways.
"Are you who I think you are?" The woman asked.
Sally repositioned Percy. He was resting in a scarf tied around her neck. She looped her arms around him, supporting him, holding him- so that the second that she'd have to run… the drill wasn't new.
"I don't believe we've met," Sally said cordially.
"Doesn't matter," the woman said. She was slowly getting closer. Sally stepped back, trying to keep her heartbeat slow. "Is he who I think he is?"
"Pardon, ma'am, I think you have the wrong…"
"Don't even lie," the woman said. "I know who he is."
Sally's stomach sunk and she was about to run for it. Stupid, but better than dying on the spot.
"Perseus, is that his name?"
"Percy for short," Sally said quietly.
"Hmm. Zeus will have your head for that- that was his son originally."
"Yes, well, nobody's happy with him to begin with, so I figure that the name didn't matter all that much," Sally said.
The woman laughed.
"You did it on purpose… oh yes, I like you. Can I see him?"
Her stomach sunk. Sunk like the Titanic, all the way down to her feet.
"I won't hurt him," she said.
Sally was still hesitant, but she didn't want to get into any bad books, so she just unfolded the scarf a little bit and loosened her grip on the sleeping baby, safe and sound (hopefully).
"He's gorgeous," the woman said. "Wow. How old is he again?"
"Seven months," Sally said quietly.
"Is he sleeping alright yet?"
"Not at Montauk. At Montauk he's restless, he wants to be in the sand or in the water."
She laughed. It was a happy kind of laugh, it just seemed to make the air lighter and stand-in for conversation or 'yes', 'no' and other fillers. It made her think of Poseidon a bit.
"You're Amphitrite, aren't you?" Sally said.
"Not many other horned sea goddesses," she said cheerfully. "Keeps me unique."
Sally was about to run, but the goddess asked another question.
"Does he have his father's eyes when he's awake?"
"Yes," Sally said timidly. The awkwardness was just settling in, taking over for fear now that she was pretty sure that murder wasn't on the agenda.
"Of course. They all do," Amphitrite said. "Mine -Triton?- is nearly a spitting image. He changes, though. He wants to look different or unique or something. I don't know. Kids are weird. Are you okay? You look tense."
Sally shook her head.
"I mean, I'm fine, I'm just… I'm shocked, I…"
Amphitrite groaned. "You were expecting me to be like Hera or something?"
Sally didn't want to admit it.
"Damn, I hate Hera. She's unpleasant even when you haven't done squat to her," Amphitrite said rolling her eyes. "Puts down all these stereotypes… I don't blame you though. It's good that you're watching out for him."
She ran her hand through Percy's wispy hair. He curled up on himself a bit, but didn't wake up. At least there was that.
"Anyways, I'm not Hera," Amphitrite said. "Don't particularly care what Poseidon does. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't just as bad- I really am, maybe worst actually, I'm just much better at being subtle."
She laughed again.
"Not too impressed with him now, though. Didn't want him to have kids under the oath. I knew that he didn't either. He worries- about both of you, I can tell. It's hard on him."
Sally didn't know what to say. Poseidon had tried to contact her three times since she'd left him in a vow of silence, ready to bring Percy into the world and keep him there, safe and happy. She'd managed to ignore and send him away every time, refusing to take his help. She knew that he worried, that he still cared.
"Of course, it has to be a thousand times harder on you," Amphitrite commented.
Sally didn't answer.
"I know. Actually, no, I don't, because I'm a goddess. It has to be different, yeah?"
"Maybe," Sally said.
"It's got to," Amphitrite said. "Plus you've got an entire world looking at you all crooked. An entire world to balance out. Can't be easy. Plus you've got to miss him."
Sally didn't answer this time, but because she was choking up. She did. She didn't want Poseidon attracting godly or monstrous attention to Percy (or even herself), but that didn't mean that she didn't want him there. With them. Around…
She nodded, and Amphitrite squeezed her hand.
"Here's the deal. I watch him, you watch yourself and pip squeak," Amphitrite said. "Make him a strong one, okay? A good son of the sea."
"I can't do that," Sally said. "I don't know how."
"I think you're doing alright," Amphitrite said kindly. "He's a beautiful, happy baby. I look forwards to having him back in the sea."
She smiled a bit. "He'll love it."
"Sure he will," Amphitrite said. "But get him there first, okay? I know that we look dysfunctional, that we are, that it doesn't make sense, that we spend most of the time ignoring each other or being pissed… when I became a mother, that wasn't the kind of family I was expecting either. But you know, all the sea gods and merfolk and nature spirits in the sea, we're a family. It would be sad for us to lose him. Can you think of us, Sally? He's your son before anyone else's, of course, but can you make sure that he knows that he's loved in the sea? Even if we don't show it or that Triton's pissed off or that anything else goes wrong."
"I'll make sure he knows that he's got a good stepmother," Sally said. "That he won't be afraid of you."
"Darling, make sure he knows that he's got the best mother he could have," Amphitrite said.
Okay, so here's what's mythologically accurate about this story.
-Hera hates her step-kids.
-Bellona and Mars are sometimes described as lovers, sometimes they're siblings and other times they're married.
-Kronos is married to Rhea, thus making Chiron her stepson
-Amphitrite didn't particularly seem to care about what Poseidon did in his spare time in the myths. I know that the LO portrayal is different, but I always attributed it to stress about the war.
-The, like, one time that Hephaestus had a kid, Aphrodite couldn't care less.
-Persephone never had kids of her own.
-Judging by Dionysus' attitude in Titan's Curse, he doesn't mingle with mortals and have demigod children often- so I don't think that it's something that's reoccuring enough to piss off Ariadne.