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The Winter Solstice was, hands down, the most chaotic time of the year and it was starting to grate on Hestia's nerves. She never understood why it was, exactly, that her siblings had to fight. Sure, they fought at ever other meeting, too, and the Summer Solstice was also bad, but the Winter one was the worst simply because Demeter got into the fighting as well. Hades only came to the Winter Solstice meeting because it was the only time that Zeus would allow him to come. This, of course, led to Demeter throwing a fit considering that Hades had kidnapped her daughter just a few centuries ago. She would switch between demanding him being completely banished from Olympus and screaming at him to give back her daughter. Never mind the fact that Persephone didn't want to leave Hades, but Demeter didn't like to listen.

While Demeter was screaming at Hades, who was trying to ignore her, Hestia found that her main headache was no coming from them this Solstice. Instead it was coming from where Poseidon was verbally attacking both Hera and Zeus. A rare sight, since Poseidon, next to Hades, was the calmest of her brothers and never started an argument. That's why it was getting on Hestia's nerves - she had never before seen her little brother so angry and distraught. She knew that, out of all her siblings, Poseidon loved his mortal children the most and that was why she kept quiet despite the noise giving her a headache and getting on her nerves. He had just learned that, not only had Zeus seduced his only mortal daughter (a princess named Lamia) and been sleeping with her for well over a year, but Hera had the audacity to curse her and turn her into a monster. Hestia believed her brother had ever right to be throwing a fit - it was taboo for a god or goddess to attack another's godling directly unless said godling had offended the attacking god or goddess directly. Sleeping with said god or goddess' lover or spouse did not count as a direct offence, but Hera believed that her title as Queen of the Gods meant that she was exempt from this taboo and was refusing to undo the curse. Zeus was doing the wise thing by cowering into his throne - Poseidon was, after all, the strongest of the gods and goddesses.

Hestia shook her head at Hera's stupidity, feeling a small amount of pity for her little sister. Ah well, she thought. This would have happened eventually, given Hera's ego. Hestia turned her attention from her siblings to watch her brother's children. Apollo and Artemis were in a heated "discussion" (it was an argument, the Hearth Goddess could tell, but at least they were keeping their voices low) while Hermes and Dionysus were talking about something or other (probably some wine deliveries) while Athena was starting at Poseidon, looking a little put out (now that was a surprise - it seemed that Athena just wanted attention whenever she attempted to argue with Poseidon. It was no wonder the Wisdom Goddess had yet to figure out that he was only humoring her). That, of course, left Ares, Hephaestus, and, of course, Aphrodite. Hestia didn't much like Aphrodite, who was less the goddess of love and more the goddess of lust, especially since she kept goading the conflict between Hephaestus and Ares. Hestia knew that Hephaestus wouldn't care nearly so much if it wasn't for the fact that Ares liked to pick fights and Aphrodite loved to cause heartache.

Since Hestia was the only one who was no talking to anyone, merely watching and tending her hearth, she was the first to spot the sudden arrivals. Hestia wasn't sure what to make of the silent five when she did spot them, for they were so strange. The tallest of them was a man with tanned skin and eyes colored like a cloudless sky. He had a scar on his upper lip and a few other scars scattered on his arms, so he was likely a warrior. He was not wearing any kind of tunic, but instead a strange piece of cloth that covered only his upper torso. His legs were covered by a garment like she had never before seen, as it wrapped around both legs but only attached together at the waist. The cloth covering his chest was an intriguing shade of purple with strange runes on it in a more gold coloring while the garment covering his legs was a strange faded blue. Hestia noticed that there was only one other wearing similar clothing - the second shortest of the bunch, a young woman (probably a maiden who had just entered adulthood). She was clearly a foreigner from the south, with her dark skin and her unruly brown hair. However, Hestia got the uncomfortable feeling that she was the daughter of one of her brothers or Demeter, as she had gold eyes. It was a rare thing, but only one of her four siblings had mortal children with gold eyes. It was only their children, for some odd reason, and only their mortal children. Truthfully, she was betting on Zeus since he had a thing for woman considered exotic (Poseidon's poor daughter, Lamia, being a prime example of this as, normally, gods and goddesses have to ask for permission to go after another's mortal child). The woman was wearing a similar attire to the first of the five she had examined, the only difference being the color of the leg garments. They more of a dark blue than a faded blue.

The next of the new arrivals that Hestia studied was the shortest of the bunch - a man who was wearing all black and was clearly one of Hades' rare mortal children (his mortal children were rare not because he rarely had affairs, but because he had only a small window of time to have them before his very possessive wife came home and because he rare ended up knocking up his mortal lovers since he took the time to win their hearts instead of making it a lust affair like Zeus did). The man had ghostly white skin and dark brown eyes (so different from the black eyes of her brother), but he had the same black colored hair as his father. The hair was short and shaggy - as though he had only just gotten out of bed and threw on the odd cloak along with all black garments that were like the garments of the first two. There was one other in black, who was also wearing silver. She had the shortest hair that Hestia had ever seen on any woman or girl and it was rather spiky. It was black in color and her skin is oddly pale, though nowhere near as pale as the shortest of the five. Hestia caught sight of Artemis' Lieutenant Circlet on her head but wondered if it was just a replica that was made by someone else, as Hestia knew that Artemis would have mentioned that her lieutenant was so odd-looking for a maiden. She wore an odd black cloak, like the boy from before, as well as some silver decorations that Hestia could not identify. She wore a silver bracelet and hooked to her belt was an odd object that Hestia did not know.

When at last Hestia looked at the final member of the bunch - the second tallest, wearing an orange garment with strange runes, and twiddling an odd bronze stick between his fingers - she could not help the gasp that passed her lips. If it were not for the fact that he was currently still fighting with Hera, she would have thought that Poseidon was standing before her and had taken a younger form. His face was Poseidon's completely, especially with the way it was hard to tell if he was bored or brooding. His complexion was a tan that only sailors and seafarers could have, his eyes were the exact same shade of sea-green, and his messy black hair even had the same windswept look that Poseidon's had. He looked so much like her brother did at a younger age that she could not tear her eyes from him or deny that he had to be the son of Poseidon. The resemblance was much too spot on and only fools or the blind could not realize whose son he was.

"Who - who are you?" Hestia asked, her soft voice cutting through the suddenly still and silent air. "Where do you come from and why are you here?"

The young man turned to her, her breath catching as he locked eyes with her fearlessly. A smile, sarcastic and that of a troublemaker, came to his face, though his eyes held something haunted within them. He went to answer her question, keeping his eyes on her as if he was answer her and her alone, not the entire room's same question. However, before he could answer, something suddenly caught his attention and she, too, looked to see what it was. At the base of the thrones, a spot which before had been empty, stood three people. Hestia immediately recognized the men - Theseus, who had just been recognized as the heir of Athens and a son of Poseidon, Orion, the only man to ever be recognized by Artemis and another of Poseidon's current children, and last was Heracles, Theseus' friend who had just gotten married and a one of Zeus's children. The three men each immediately turned to their respective father with a confused look and instinctively seeking guidance. When they found no answers, everyone turned their attention to the five strangers. Clearing his throat, the shortest and probably youngest stepped forward.

"I apologize for our sudden appearance and intrusion upon Olympus," the man began as he pulled something from his odd cloak. "However, this letter we have with us will explain if you allow us to read it. It will also explain why Heracles, Orion, and Theseus have been summoned here."

The gods and goddesses glance at each other before Zeus nodded, sitting up more regally in this throne while his siblings, children, and Aphrodite returned to theirs. Hestia saw that Poseidon's attention was mainly on his double, though he did occasionally glance at his two children, as though reassuring himself that they were safe. A smile tugged at her lips at his concern for his children while she returned her attention to the man with the scroll, which he now had unfurled.

"Dear Gods, Goddesses, and Godlings,

It has come to our attention that the future is quite a messy place and that many things could have been avoided if they had been addressed sooner. Seeing as it took a long time to be addressed in the future, as Zeus has allowed his place in charge to slowly start going to his head and too many years of peace have come and gone, we decided to send these five heroes back in time from their place over a thousand years into the future. The reason we chose these five specifically is because of the fact that, in their time, they are the only children of the Big Three that are living. Another reason that we are doing this at all is because the Grecian Pantheon is weakening. Humans have become so independent from the Gods and Goddesses that they no longer need them or even believe they exist - this leaves godlings as the only link to existence that they gods still have. Things must change, must be reversed. Certain rivalries must never happen and certain events must be prevented. As soon as everyone is comfortable, a book (a more advanced form of a scroll) shall appear for you all to read. Once you are done with it, the next shall appear. You will read ten books total. Remember that this is for the good of the future, the gods, and their godlings. It is also to ensure that a rule will never been put in place by Hera, who does not understand the importance of godlings and mortals.

Sincerely,

The Moirai, Ananke, and Chronus"

"And before anyone asks, that last name is Chron-us and not Kron-os," the male added when he finished reading the scroll. "As in the Primordial God of Time and Space, rather than the Titan of Time. He was kind of our ticket to this point in time. Lady Ananke was the one who confirmed that the Grecian Pantheon was on the verge of collapsing."

The gods and goddesses nodded mutely, none quite sure how to respond to that message from the Fates and two Primordials. Zeus was the one to recover first, for once glad that he had figured out how the whole king-thing worked when it came to emotional cover-ups and other things like that. Before, he had never understood the necessity, but at least it helped him cover his shock and slight fear. He wondered, briefly, why there were only five children from him and his two brothers - normally he and Poseidon had at least five (well, he usually had ten ever other year while Poseidon tried to have only five every fifty or so years). Even so, he regained his composure and addressed the five from the future (over a thousand years? Could things really change that much in only a thousand or so years?).

"Very well," he said. "Please state your names, parentage, and accomplishments."

He was rather curious what his future children had accomplished. As he scanned them while they decided who would go first, he felt certain that the foreign-looking woman was the sister of Poseidon's mini-me while the blond and the other woman were his, leaving the shortest of the five to Hades. He guessed the foreign woman's relations based off the way she stood closest to her brother's doppelgänger than any of the others (he didn't blame her for staying closest to him - he looked so much like Poseidon that he probably gave off the same calming aura). In the end, the same man that spoke up before stepped forward.

"I am Nico, son of Hades. I am the Ghost King and Ambassador of Pluto, who is the Roman form of my father. That should be explained in the books - I apologize, but we were asked to allow the books to give you the bulk of the information you need.  I participated in the second Titan War, leading my father's troops from the Underworld, and the second Giant War,"  the man, Nico, explained. When he noticed their confused expressions at the mention of a second Giant war, he elaborated. "The first Giant war will happen sometime in the near future, which Heracles shall be participating in. I do not have a whole lot of titles at the moment, as I have been mostly doing errands for Father rather than quests asked of me by others, you see."

"I am Hazel Levesque, daughter of Pluto, the Roman form of Hades," the foreign woman went next, surprising the gods and goddesses. "I helped defeat the Giant known as Clytius, the Giant Alcyoneus, defeated Pasiphae, Mother of the Minotaur, and a participant in the Second Giant War."

"These giants," Hera spoke up, disdain her voice as she looked at the godlings. "They don't seem that hard to beat."

"Actually, ma'am, they take the combined power of a godling and god to defeat," Hazel informed her. "Neither god nor godling can take one on alone. They simply cannot be killed without the two working together."

"My turn, I suppose," sighed the other strange woman. "Thalia, daughter of Zeus. No, I don't care what you think, Hera, so keep your trap shut before I sick my honorary brother on you." The dropped jaws of the gods, goddesses, and past heroes were ignored. "I am the Lieutenant of the Huntresses of Artemis and, subsequently, defeater of a crap tone of monsters I don't care to recite. I helped out in the Second Titan War and in the Second Giant War."

"I apologize for my sister," the blond man spoke up. "I am Jason, full-blood brother of Thalia, son of Jupiter, Roman form of Zeus. I'm a consul to godlings, former praetor of the Twelfth Legion. I slew the Trojan Sea Monster, I toppled the black throne of Kronos, defeated the Titan Krios, the Giant Polybotes, and the Giant Porphyrion. I am also the Pontifex Maximus - that will be explained in the books, I am sure."

"My name is Perseus, but I prefer to go by Percy," the final stranger, Poseidon's double, spoke. "I was named after Perseus, son of Zeus, because of the fact he is one of the few Heroes known to have a happy ending and, as names hold power, my mother hoped to bring me good luck with this name. I'm guess, considering all the stares I was already getting, that you all know I'm Poseidon's son. Seeing as the first five books will cover my accomplishments, I'll just let you all read about them. I really don't want to recite them all and some of them I'd rather forget all together, honestly."

The gods and goddesses shared looks at this, unsure what to make of Poseidon's youngest child. Well, all but Poseidon were unsure what to make of him. Poseidon had actually perked up, though he was a little disappointed to not hear all of the titles. Even so, he was pleased that the first five books would focus on his child, meaning that his son was rather powerful. Poseidon waved a hand, creating a place for the godlings to all sit. Three chairs were at the base of his throne, to which he motioned for Percy to join his brothers. Percy gave a single glance to his friends, who all nodded at him, and he walked over to his father and sat with his two brothers, who looked at him curiously. Jason and Thalia went to sit on the chairs at the foot of their father's throne while Hazel and Nico sat with their own father. Once everyone was setting, Hestia was surprised to find that the book appeared to her first.

Everyone gave Hestia their attention as she looked at the title of the book with curiosity. She glanced up at them, a little uncomfortable to suddenly have everyone's attention while sitting at her hearth. However, the warm smile that she received from the future godlings set her at ease, so she read off the title.

"Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief," she read, pausing for a moment afterwards. "Oh, goodness. It seems mortals and godlings do, indeed, become quite bold in the future."

"Indeed," Zeus agreed, eyeing the godling named for his son. "It best not have been you, godling."

All he got in response was an eye roll, startling Zeus. He then shared an amused look with Hades - it would seem that Poseidon's godling was one who didn't care about reputations or status. This was certainty going to be an interesting read.

Chapter Text

Once everyone was over the book's title (Heracles had demanded that Percy show his father a little more respect, but promptly got doused in water that came from no-where - none of Poseidon's children acknowledged that they had done it, but Thalia and Jason cracked up over it, knowing that it had been Percy), Hestia opened the book to the first chapter. She paused, blinking at the title of the chapter and turned to the future demigods, looking at each in turn with some confusion.

"What is a 'Pre-Algebra Teacher'?" she asked them curiously.

"A Pre-Algebra Teacher is someone who trains people in math," Jason was the one to answer. "Pre-Algebra is a form of advanced mathematics and is used to calculate large numbers. It's called Pre-Algebra because it is an introduction to Algebra, which is a little more advanced."

"That is very confusing," Theseus said. "But very interesting. Is everyone in your time a scholar?"

"Everyone goes to school and learns," Percy said. "But very few actually go on to become any kind of scholar."

"But everyone learns?" Theseus asked, looking happy about the thought.

"Yes," Hazel said. "Granted, it took a very long time for that to happen, but it's most certainly common place in our time for people to learn how to read, write, do math, and many other basic things."

"Can we get on with the reading?" Hera asked, voice sharp. "Or are you little bastards going to continuously chatter?"

Hera was taken aback by the immediate dirty looks she was given by each of the future godlings. It was very clear to everyone that Hera was their least favorite deity. Hera couldn't help the chill that went up her spine when she caught Percy's eyes, which were dark and stormy. She couldn't help but think that he looked too much like his father, right down to his glare. Even so, there were no protests and so Hestia began to read.

"I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher,"

Now everyone of Ancient Greece understood Hestia's question about a Pre-Algebra teacher, while most turned to stare at Percy.

"What?" he asked, a confused look coming to his eyes.

"How do you vaporize someone accidentally?" Orion asked his brother, confusion in his voice.

"When they're a monster and you have no idea what it going on," Percy answered.

Hestia decided that that was answer enough and went back to reading.

"Look, I didn't want to be a half-blood.

If you're reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom or dad told you about your birth and try to lead a normal life."

"Wouldn't it already be too late by time they finish reading that sentence?" Nico asked Percy. "I mean, great advice to try and keep the new-bloods in the dark and, therefore, safe, but wouldn't it already be too late?"

"Don't ask me - this may be in my point of view and using my thoughts, but I didn't actually write this," Percy defended. "But... I guess you could be right. Who knows, though? I mean, no one but us will be reading this anyways, right?"

"That's true," Nico agreed, motioning for Hestia to continue.

"Wait, I have a question," Heracles pipped up before Hestia could. "What's a half-blood?"

"A godling, 'Cles," Theseus responded in a 'duh' tone. "I mean, we are half-god and half-mortal."

Heracles nodded, cheeks dark with embarrassment at not making that connection himself. He sent a look that was pleading to Hestia, who simply smiled at the godlings.

"Being a half-blood is dangerous. It's scary. Most of the time, it gets you killed in painful, nasty ways."

"You seem to love focusing on the negative aspect of being a godling, don't you?" Orion asked Percy, brow raised.

"Things are a little different in the future," Percy responded. "While in this time, it's common to rarely reach the age of seventeen, let alone twenty. Adulthood is what - thirteen, fourteen? In the future, you're not able to do certain things until you're sixteen, aren't even considered being an adult until you're eighteen, and still aren't considered fully an adult until you're twenty-one. It's looked down upon to get married until after your twenty-one and most people look down on single parents, too. People don't die young any more - most live to be anywhere from fifty to a hundred years old, because monsters don't go after mortals anymore and medicine has advanced a heck of a lot. As a godling, it's rare to reach eighteen and most resent that fact. Being a godling is usually considered a curse, since monsters come after you when you don't understand anything about the world and try to take you out before you can become dangerous or just as your starting to become a 'problem' to them."

There was a stunned silence, no one really sure how to respond to that statement. In fact, most had horrified faces at the thought that godlings were no longer feeling privileged to be the child of a god.

"Do-do you resent being a godling?" Theseus finally managed to ask.

"I did, at first," Percy said, lips pursed. "Now, though, I can't imagine a life of mortal ignorance. Even so... Being a godling has lost it's glory and very few want the fame that old heroes got. Sure, going on quests is nice and a way to prove that what you're doing isn't completely meaningless, but... We really just try to survive more than anything - it's especially hard since mortal parents usually either don't know that they were bedding a god or goddess... Or they don't accept the fact that, because they had a god or goddess' child, they can't be with the god or goddess anymore. Most godlings have strained relationships with their mortal parent. I was lucky, because my mom is understanding. Even so... She isn't perfect and sometimes struggles to look at me directly. I look too much like Father for her to be able to properly love me."

No one knew how to respond to what Percy was saying, so Hestia quietly began to read again. In the silence, her voice was almost too loud.

"If you're a normal kid, reading this because you think it's fiction, great. Read on. I envy you for being able to believe that none of this ever happened.

But if you recognize yourself in these pages - if you feel something stirring inside - stop reading immediately. You might be one of us. And once you know that, it's only a matter of time before they sense it too, and they'll come for you.

Don't say I didn't want you."

"Fuck, you can be ominous when you want to be, Starfish," Thalia said, staring at the book. "I mean - damn. How is one supposed to respond to that?"

All Percy did was roll his eyes at his cousin.

"My name is Percy Jackson."

"Quick question, Percy," Theseus interrupted, not really thinking about the fact he was interrupting a goddess (future five were doing it quite often and had yet to have the gods smite them, after all). "But this... "Jackson" bit that's added on to the end of your first name - what is it? Some sort of title? I mean, you're not the son of anyone named 'Jack', so..."

"In the future, people have at least two names - their first name and their, I guess, 'family name'," Percy said, thinking of how to explain this. "It's common to have three names, really. Like how my full name is Perseus Odysseus Jackson. I got both names from heroes who had happy endings - both of which, ironically, are in one way or another linked to someone that Father is known to have clashed with at one point or another. Anyways, it's a common thing and some people have even more names than three, which is a bit more uncommon."

"That is... Interesting, but at least it helps people not mistake one person for another if they have never met them, only heard their name," Orion said, thinking it over.

At least that was a good change, the past gods and godlings mulled over. Much better than the other changes they had already learned about.

"I'm twelve years old. Until a few months ago, I was boarding student at Yancy Academy, a private school for troubled kids in upstate New York.

Am I a troubled kid?

Yeah. You could say that."

"Glad you recognize that you're a troubled kid," Jason snorted. "Even if 'troubled' is putting it mildly and is a bit of misnomer. You don't get into trouble - trouble comes to you."

Poseidon felt a flicker of fear when he saw the way all the future godlings nodded and looked at his youngest in slight concern. When he caught Percy's eye, he knew that his son had seen the concern. Percy merely smiled at him in a reassuring way, almost as if to say 'Yeah, I end up in a lot of trouble, but I always find a way out of it'. So, Poseidon decided to stay relaxed and try not to drown anyone for something they haven't done yet. He couldn't really make any promises.

"Wait, I just realized something - aren't some of us going to be missed?" Theseus asked, suddenly concerned.

Before any of the futures could answer, a glow came from Nico's clothes. He pulled out the scroll again and opened it. He read what was now on it.

"Dear Theseus,

Your concern is valid and I apologize for not mentioning this early. Time has been completely stopped outside of the Olympian Palace. It is only stopped outside as you all will probably want some breaks and other things. When I say that Time has stopped, I mean all of it has. Past, Present, and Future. This way no one will be missed and the future Poseidon will not throw another fit over Percy's disappearance. Which reminds me - Poseidon, try not to overreact. I know that you want all of your children to be happy and healthy, but for Percy, all of this has already happened and this reading is happening so you do not have to go through it.

Sincerely,

Chronus, The Awesome Lord of Time"

There was a pause before the futures doubled over, laughing at the way the 'mature' Primordial had ended his otherwise professional (for the most part) letter.

"I can't believe how different the past and future are," Hazel giggled. "In the future, the gods and goddesses act like overgrown toddlers when it comes to certain things, but here... Everyone is just so much more mature for the most part!"

"Why would Uncle Poseidon overreact, though?" Apollo wondered. "I mean, all of us care for our mortal children, but it's not like we get offended for them over every little thing."

The sons of Poseidon shared a knowing look with each other as Percy calmed down.

"He has no idea, does he?" Percy asked them in a soft voice.

"None," Orion smirked. "I can't wait to see what Father does once you get into trouble for the first time. It's always fun to watch Father get angry and put the others in their place."

"I've been meaning to ask," Theseus said, jumping on a thought he had. "How old are you currently?"

"Seventeen," Percy answered. "What about you two?"

"Fifteen," Orion said.

"You both are older," Theseus pouted. "I'm thirteen."

"I'm technically still the youngest since I'm not going to be born for at least a thousand years," Percy pointed out.

"That's true!" Theseus perked up at that, getting a laugh from his brothers.

"Are you three quite done yet?" Hades asked, amusement in his voice as the three sea-children blushed.

Hestia and Poseidon shared fond smiles - it was nice to know that those three were getting along. Especially since Thalia and Jason kept glaring at Heracles every few minutes, making the godling (who was between the two siblings) a little nervous. Though, it did make them curious as to why the two children of Zeus would be upset with their brother - this had to be the first time they were meeting, right?

"I could start at any point in my short miserable life to prove it, but things really started going bad last May, when our sixth-grade class took a field trip to Manhattan - twenty-eight mental-case kids and two teachers on a yellow school bus, heading to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to look at Ancient Greek and Roman stuff."

"First off, that sounds like torture," Thalia commented. "Second - 'miserable'? Even then you considered your life 'miserable', Starfish?"

"You'll learn why," Percy waved off, but many caught the edge to his tone.

"I know - it sounds like torture. Most Yancy field trips were.

But Mr. Brunner, our Latin teacher, was leading this trip, so I had hope.

Mr. Brunner was this middle-aged guy in a motorized wheelchair. He had thinning hair and scruffy beard and a frayed tweed jacket, which always smelled like coffee. You wouldn't think he'd be cool, but he told stories and jokes and let us play games in class. He also had this awesome collection of Roman armor and weapons, so he was the only teacher whose class didn't put me to sleep."

"Excuse me?" Athena looked scandalized. "You have the privilege of learning and you sleep through most of your lessons?!"

"Unfortunately, the things we get taught in school are rarely made so that we can enjoy the learning and a lot of that stuff does go to waste after school," Hazel spoke up, surprisingly. "Lectures don't always hold everyone's interest, especially those with ADHD and written stuff is hard for the Dyslexic. Demigods are most usually both, so it's even harder trying to learn."

"ADHD? Dyslexic?" Artemis inquired, looking at the young girl.

"ADHD is also known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Basically, it means that it's extremely hard for someone to sit completely still for a long time," Percy said. "All demigods have it, as it's the way that our inborn battle-reflexes manifest."

The gods blinked, taking a moment to survey the demigods. They found that it was true - not one of the demigods was sitting completely still. Heracles had taken to bouncing his leg, Thalia was twirling the circlet she was previously wearing on her wrist, Theseus had taken to carving something (this caught Poseidon's interest, he hadn't known that Theseus liked to carve and decided he should get to know his children more during this reading), Orion was messing with his bow, Nico was playing with - was that a mouse's skeleton? Hazel was messing with a bar of gold she had (the gods wondered where she had gotten it, but didn't think about it too hard) and Percy was still messing with that odd bronze stick.

"Dyslexia," Percy continued after a moment. "is basically a condition in which the words, letters, or numbers on something appear to be moving or look flipped. It makes it very hard to read, write, and do other stuff involved with that. I'm fairly sure the book has some examples inside of it."

"Wow, Percy," teased Jason. "I didn't think you knew stuff like this. I think you were hanging around Anna-"

Jason abruptly stopped, paling while Percy went rigid in his seat. The other future demigods had also stiffened at the name that had almost been said.

"Percy, I-I," Jason's eyes were wide, panicked.

"It... It's okay," Percy said after a moment, voice quiet. "I... I can handle it. She'll-she'll be in these books a lot. I'll be okay with her being mentioned."

"I... I'm still sorry," Jason said softly, "That joke was insensitive of me."

"What are you talking about?" Dionysus asked, glaring at them for their vagueness.

He only got glares in return, glares that startled him. Hestia decided to keep reading, that it wasn't worth prying into.

"I hoped the trip would be okay. At least, I hoped that for once that I wouldn't get in trouble.

Boy, was I wrong."

"Of course you were, Starfish," Thalia rolled her eyes, attempting to break the still tense atmosphere. "After all, you wouldn't be you if you didn't piss off every mortal, monster, and god you came across."

Unfortunately, that just made the atmosphere more tense, causing Thalia to sigh and motion to Hestia.

"See, bad things happen to me on field trips. Like at my fifth-grade school, when we went to the Saratoga battlefield, I had this accident with a Revolutionary War cannon. I wasn't aiming for the school bus, but of course I got expelled anyway. And before that, at my fourth-grade school, when we took a behind-the-scenes tour of the Marine World shark pool, I sort of hit the wrong lever on the catwalk and our class took an unplanned swim. And time before that... Well, you get the idea."

Percy noticed he was being stared at, so he asked, "What?"

"Percy, did you have incidents like that a lot?" Hermes asked, a hint of laughter in his voice.

"Pretty much. Got kicked out of kindergarten, first-grade, second-grade, third-grade, fourth-grade, fifth-grade, sixth-grade, and on," Percy replied. "For years it was because of something on a field-trip that went wrong."

"Percy, I hate to ask, but what were you aiming at with the war cannon?" Hazel asked.

"Uh... I don't remember," Percy responded, brows scrunched together as he thought. "I don't think I was really aiming at anything - I might have just been messing around with it."

"Percy, how did you end up hitting the wrong lever?" Jason asked, a bit hesitant since he wasn't sure if he was really forgiven for nearly mentioning her.

"I wasn't paying attention to the guide and the sharks kept telling me to hit the one that dumped us into the tank," Percy replied.

"So you could always talk to marine-life?" Thalia asked curiously.

"Of course he could," Theseus butted in. "Horses, sea-creatures - it's a natural thing that we can't 'turn off' in any way. Just like you can't unlearn a language."

Orion nodded in agreement while Hestia went back to the book.

"This trip, I was determined to be good.

All the way into the city, I put up with Nancy Bobofit, the freckly, redheaded kleptomaniac girl, hitting my best friend Grover in the back of the head with chunks of peanut butter-and-ketchup sandwich."

"Peanut butter-and-ketchup?" gagged Thalia, looking grossed out.

"Grover was an easy target. He was scrawny. He cried when he got frustrated. He must've been held back several grades, because he was the only sixth grader with acne and the start of a wispy beard on his chin. On top of all that, he was crippled. He had a note excusing him from PE for the rest of his life because he had some kind of muscular disease in his legs. He walked funny, like ever step hurt him, but don't let that fool you. You should've seen him run when it was enchilada day in the cafeteria."

"Fu-uck. If that's how he describes his best friend, I am not going to enjoy my description," Nico grunted.

"Now, now, Death Breath, you know your precious Seahorse loves you," Jason smirked teasingly.

"Fuck off, Grace," Nico growled at him.

"Boys," Percy, Thalia, Hazel, and Artemis chorused, rolling their eyes.

Everyone, minus his brothers, father, Thalia, Nico, Jason, and Hazel, turned to stare at Percy.

"What? I'm not 100% male, so I can say it too," Percy defended.

"... What do you mean by that?" Apollo asked, looking confused.

"All of father's children are hermaphrodites, Lord Apollo," Orion was the one to answer. "It means we can willingly switch between genders. It's why you rarely come across a sister of ours - it's simply easier to make it through life as a male."

Theseus nodded in agreement, causing many of the gods and goddesses who had been unaware of this (Hera, Dionysus, Ares, Demeter, Hephaestus, and Apollo) to stare at Poseidon. Aphrodite's children were the same, so she had known. Artemis had seen it herself when it came to Orion, hence why she let him around her hunt (he usually hunted with them in his female form, though Apollo never noticed for some odd reason). Zeus had known thanks to Lamia while Hades simply wasn't stupid and knew how the creatures of the ocean were. Athena had also seen it a few times and, like Hades, wasn't stupid. Hestia just decided to continue reading, wondering how they would finish this book with so many interruptions. She could barely get through a line without someone speaking up.

"Anyway, Nancy Bobofit was throwing wads of sandwich that stuck in his curly brown hair, and she knew I couldn't' do anything back to her because I was already on probation. The headmaster had threatened me with death by in-school suspension if anything bad, embarrassing, or even mildly entertaining happened on this trip."

"Anything?" Hermes repeated with disbelief. "What if had nothing to do with you?"

"He/I'd still get blamed for it," the futures responded together. "Hence the plot of this damned book."

"Well, fuck," was the simply response.

"I'm going to kill her," I mumbled."

"Do it!" Ares immediately encouraged, perking up. "Finally, something to pay attention to!"

No one bothered to answer the blood-crazed war god.

"Grover tried to calm me down. "It's okay. I like peanut butter."

He dodged another piece of Nancy's lunch."

"First off, gross. Second, in your hair?" Hazel wrinkled her nose. "Third, with ketchup?"

"That's it." I started to get up, but Grover pulled me back to my seat.

"You're already on probation," he reminded me. "You know who'll get blamed if anything happens."

Looking back on it, I wish I'd decked Nancy Bobofit right then and there. In-school suspension would've been nothing compared to the mess I was about to get myself into."

"Are you violent towards women often?" Artemis asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Only if they threaten those I care for, they deserve it, or they're a monster trying to kill me," Percy answered. "I don't get into fights with any mortals anymore, but she was the one girl I got into fist fights with. Unfortunately, my worse dreams came true when she turned up at Camp Half-Blood. I wasn't surprised when she turned out to be one of Ares's kids, though I was surprised that she was a legacy of Hermes since she couldn't pull a prank or steal for squat."

"Oh, so that's the girl that Clarisse put into her place," Nico realized. "Considering that Clarisse won't let anyone other than herself to attempt to bully you."

"Yup. I enjoyed the fact that Nancy met Clarisse - Nancy was so used to being top bully that she didn't know what to do when she met Clarisse," Percy snickered.

"Mr. Brunner led the museum tour.

He rode up front in his wheelchair, guiding us through the big echoey galleries, past marble statues and glass cases full of really old black-and-orange pottery.

It blew my mind that this stuff had survived for two thousand, three thousand years.

He gathered us around a thirteen-foot-tall stone column with a big sphinx on the top, and started telling us how it was a grave marker, a stele, for a girl about our age. He told us about the carvings on the sides. I was trying to listen to what he had to say, because it was kind of interesting, but everybody around me was talking, and every time I told them to shut up, the other teacher chaperone, Mrs. Dodds, would give me the evil eye.

Mrs. Dodds was this little math teacher from Georgia who always wore a black leather jacket, even though she was fifty years old. She looked mean enough to ride a Harley right into your locker. She had come to Yancy halfway through the year, when our last math teacher had a nervous breakdown."

Nico frowned, remembering what Percy had told him about his first monster. He turned to Percy, catching his eye and silently asking. After all, that meant she came very shortly after Christmas and would imply... When he saw Percy nod, he narrowed his eyes as he leaned back. So his father had known for a while, yet had chosen not to act on it. So going after Thalia was purely payback, Nico thought. The only ones who had caught the exchange between the two boys were Athena and Artemis, both of whom narrowed their eyes at the boys.

"From her first day, Mrs. Dodds loved Nancy Bobofit and figured I was devil spawn. She would point her crooked finger at me and say, "Now, honey," real sweet, and I knew I was going to get after-school detention for a month.

One time, after she'd made me erase answers out of old math workbooks until midnight, I told Grover I didn't think Mrs. Dodds was human. He looked at me, real serious, and said, "You're absolutely right."

"It's a wonder you hadn't yet realized anything," Nico sighed. "He's real bad at keeping his cover."

"No kidding," Thalia sighed.

"Mr. Brunner kept talking about Greek funeral art.

Finally, Nancy Bobofit snickered something about the naked guy on the stele, and turned around and said, "Will you shut up?"

It came out louder than I meant it to.

The whole group laughed. Mr. Brunner stopped his story.

"Mr. Jackson," he said. "did you have a comment?"

My face was totally red. I said, "No, sir."

"What now?" Percy asked his staring cousins.

"Since when are you ever polite?" Jason asked, amused.

"When I actually respect who I'm talking to but am not on casual terms with them," Percy responded.

"... That explained everything about your interactions with gods," Hazel sighed. "You respect very few and the ones you do respect are the ones nice enough to not care about formalities."

"Y-up."

"How are you not dead yet?" Heracles asked, eyes wide at the notion of someone who didn't respect all the gods.

"I'm special like that. Oh, and I kinda was at the center of two major prophecies sooo…."

Poseidon chuckled at his son's antics.

"Mr. Brunner pointed to one of the pictures on the stele. "Perhaps you'll tell us what this picture represents?"

I looked at the carving, and felt a flush of relief, because I actually recognized it. "That's Kronos eating his kids, right?"

Said children of Kronos who were eaten shuddered with Poseidon and Hades mutter about how Zeus was loved more by their mother. Their sisters nodded, each of the five glaring at Zeus, who did his best to not look bothered. It wasn't his fault that he was the one their mother chose to hide away.

"Yes," Mr. Brunner said, obviously not satisfied. "And he did this because..."

"Well..." I racked my brain to remember. "Kronos was the king god, and-"

"God?" Mr. Brunner asked.

"Titan," I amended. "And...he didn't trust his kids, who were the gods. So, um, Kronos ate them, right? But his wife hid baby Zeus, and gave Kronos a rock to eat instead. And later, when Zeus grew up, he tricked his dad, Kronos, into barfing up his brothers and sisters-"

"Eeew!" said one of the girls behind me."

"One, that does not cover how disgusting it was," Demeter said, looking like she might be sick at the reminder of what happened. "Two, remind me again how he mistook a rock for Zeus?"

"Likely it's either Zeus looked like a rock," Percy said, ignoring the glare shot his way. "Kronos wasn't paying attention to what he was actually holding, or he had grown confident that his wife wouldn't try to pull anything since she had already handed him five of their kids previously."

Everyone blinked and considered that.

"You know, you may be slow sometimes, but you most certainly are not a Seaweed Brain," Thalia said offhandedly. "You're very smart, you just don't often show it."

You'll see why soon enough, I'm sure, Percy though while subconsciously placing a hand on the scar that ran from his left shoulder to his right hip, which was perfectly hidden by his shirt.

"-and so there was this big fight between the gods and the Titans," I continued. "and the gods won."

"Do you often summarize big, important things in such a simple explanation?" Hestia couldn't help but ask, looking at her brother's doppelgänger. Said doppelganger merely shrugged.

"Some snickers from the group.

Behind me, Nancy Bobofit mumbled to a friend, "Like we're going to use this in real life. Like it's going to say on our job applications, 'Please explain why Kronos ate his kids'."

"And why, Mr. Jackson," Brunner said, "to paraphrase Miss Bobofit's excellent question, does this matter in real life?"

"He does realize that you can't properly answer this, right?" Nico asked with some concern. "At least, not in the way he wants you to. In fact, there really is nothing to take away from this besides "paranoia is bad" or "cannibalism is a horrible idea". Greek stories aren't fairytales - there's no moral to be found in it."

The other futures shrugged, leaving the past beings confused.

"Busted," Grover muttered.

"Shut up," Nancy hissed, her face even brighter red than her hair.

At least Nancy got packed, too. Mr. Brunner was the only one who ever caught her saying anything wrong. He had radar ears.

I thought about his question, and shrugged. "I don't know, sir."

"I see." Mr. Brunner looked disappointed. "Well, half credit, Mr. Jackson. Zeus did indeed feed Kronos a mixture of mustard and wine, which made him disgorge his other five children, who, of course, being immortal gods, had been living and growing up completely undigested in the Titan's stomach. The gods defeated their father, sliced him to pieces with his own scythe, and scattered his remains in Tartarus, the darkest part of the Underworld. On that happy note, it's time for lunch. Mrs. Dodds, would you lead us back outside?"

"Happy note?" Heracles asked, disbelievingly. "This guy sounds like Chiron when teaching!"

This caused the futures to share a secretive smile with each other, though Percy realized something. Kronos' remains were spread in Tartarus, but Ouranos' remains were spread into the Ocean, he thought. Which is more vast and thus, less likely to allow one to reform? Plus Kronos had his siblings to help him reform and monsters and other Titans naturally reform while in Tartarus... Percy felt like that was a likely explanation for why Kronos reformed, but Ouranos did not.

"The class drifted off, the girls holding their stomachs, the guys pushing each other around and acting like doofuses."

"Doofuses?" Artemis asked.

"The word doofus means "a stupid person", so the boys were acting like stupid people," Percy supplied, getting an interested look from Artemis.

"I think I will start using this word," she decided. She was also starting to like this Percy-boy so far. Then again, he is Orion's brother. I should expect that they would be somewhat similar in some way.

Apollo narrowed his eyes at Percy, not like that his sister was, for some reason, already growing fond of Percy. Orion must be causing her to go soft, he thought. That means it's only a matter of time before she goes back on her vow! I can't allow it!

"Grover and I were about to follow when Mr. Brunner said, "Mr. Jackson."

I knew that was coming.

I told Grover to keep going. Then I turned toward Mr. Brunner. "Sir?"

Mr. Brunner had this look that wouldn't let you go - intense brown eyes that could've been a thousand years old and had seen everything.

"Not everything," Thalia disagreed. "But a lot."

"You must learn the answer to my question," Mr. Brunner told me.

"About the Titans?"

"About real life. And how your studies apply to it."

"Oh."

"What you learn from me," he said, "is vitally important. I expect you to treat it as such. I will accept only the best from you, Percy Jackson."

"Okay, seriously," Heracles said, shaking his head. "This guy is sounding more and more like Chiron!"

Percy looked at Heracles with interest. He knew that this was before Zoe, before the Twelve Labors. He had talked to Chronus and Ananke about making sure that they ended up in the time before the Labors. He had originally only been doing it for Zoe, but now he believed that he could include that he was also doing it for Heracles. Heracles seemed, so far, like he wasn't all that bad. Maybe life had just made him into what he was - arrogant and bitter - in the future. Maybe it could be changed. He hoped so.

'I wanted to get angry, this guy pushed me so hard.

I mean, sure, it was kind of cool on tournament days, when he dressed up in a suit of Roman armor and shouted: "What ho!" and challenged us, sword-point against chalk, to run to the board and name every Greek and Roman person who had ever lived, and their mother, and what god they worshipped. But Mr. Brunner expected me to be as good as everybody else, despite the fact that I have dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and I had never made above a C- in my life. No - he didn't expect me to be as good; he expected me to be better. And I just couldn't learn all those names and facts, much less spell them correctly."

"So Percy," Thalia called with a smirk. "You never made it above C-level?"

"Oh, ha ha," Percy rolled his eyes while his brother choked on their laughter at the stupid pun along with his father. Really, he had heard it way too many time to laugh at it. "I, at least, went to school."

"You mean hell," snorted Hazel.

"Oi! No Christianity references, Sis!" Nico scolded. "If you're going to call school anything, call it another version of the Fields of Punishment!"

"It can't be that bad," Athena said sharply, disliking their attitude.

"Considering the people at school? Yeah, yeah it is," the five replied.

Athena wasn't quite sure how to respond to that. At least it isn't the learning that makes it a bad experience, she decided.

"I mumbled something about trying harder, while Mr. Brunner took one long sad look at the stele, like he'd been at this girl's funeral.

He told me to go outside and eat my lunch.

The class gathered on the front steps of the museum, where we could watch the foot traffic along fifth Avenue.

Overhead, a huge storm was brewing, with clouds blacker than I'd ever seen over the city. I figured maybe it was global warming or something, because the weather all across New York state had been weird since Christmas. We'd had massive snow storms, flooding, wildfires from lightning strikes. I wouldn't have been surprised if this was a hurricane blowing in."

"I wonder what Dad and Uncle are upset about," Apollo commented, but no one answered him since everyone else already knew what it was.

"Do you think that Apollo was always this stupid?" Thalia asked Jason in a soft tone, leaning towards him and ignoring Heracles.

"I don't think so. Maybe he's smarter in our time?" Jason replied with a shrug.

"Nobody else seemed to notice. Some of the guys were pelting pigeons with Lunchables crackers. Nancy Bobofit was trying to pickpocket something from a lady's purse, and, of course, Mrs. Dodds wasn't seeing a thing.

Grover and I sat on the edge of the fountain, away from the others. We thought that maybe if we did that, everybody wouldn't know we were from that school - the school for loser freaks who couldn't make it elsewhere."

"Seahorse, you know that you're neither a loser or a freak, right?" Nico looked legitimately concerned about this.

"I know that now," Percy replied, not meeting Nico's eyes.

"We are talking about this, I hope you know," Nico said.

"Of course, Ghost King."

Orion and Theseus shared a look, both wondering what had happened to their little brother to make him so... lacking in confidence.

"Detention?" Grover asked.

"Nah," I said. "Not from Brunner. I just wish he'd lay off me sometimes. I mean - I'm not a genius."

Grover didn't say anything for a while. Then, when I thought he was going to give me some deep philosophical comment to make me feel better, he said, "Can I have your apple?"

While other chuckled or laughed childishly (Apollo), Thalia and Nico shared a concerned look. Percy was obviously hinting at something - a deep hurt that wasn't being responded to. It was extremely subtle and most would miss it, but given Thalia's mother and Nico's past, they both were picking up on what the others weren't. After all, there wasn't a reason for Percy to need a moral boost - he hadn't really been reprimanded or anything, so why did he want Grover to say something to make him feel better? 

"I didn't have much of an appetite, so I let him take it."

At this, Thalia's eyes narrowed just a fraction of a fraction, so as not to alert Percy. She knew Percy and he ate a lot (which was to be expected, given that he needed a lot of energy for everyday activities and he was rather tall), so why wasn't he overly hungry here? He never missed a scheduled mealtime.

"I watched the stream of cabs going down fifth Avenue, and thought about my mom's apartment, only a little ways uptown from where we sat. I hadn't seen her since Christmas. I wanted so bad to jump in a taxi and head home. She'd hug me and be glad to see me, but she'd be disappointed, too. She'd send me right back to Yancy, remind me that I had to try harder, even if this was my sixth school in six years and I was probably going to be kicked out again."

"Seventh school in seven years, actually," Percy offhandedly commented. "It's probably not counting kindergarten, but still."

Only a few heard him, seeing as most were staring at Demeter and Hera. Demeter was smiling gently at Percy with 'he completely understands' while Hera was giving Ares and Hephaestus a 'why aren't you two like him' look.

"I wouldn't be able to stand that sad look she'd give me."

Aphrodite cooed, looking at Percy. He had a small smile on his face and she just adored the familial love rolling off of him.

"Mr. Brunner parked his wheelchair at the base of the handicapped ramp. He ate celery while he read a paperback novel. A red umbrella stuck up from the back of his chair, making it look like a motorized café table.

I was about to unwarp my sandwich when Nancy Bobofit appeared in front of me with her ugly friend - I guess she'd gotten tired of stealing from the tourists - and dumped her half-eaten lunch in Grover's lap.

"Oops." she grinned at me with her crooked teeth. Her freckles were orange, as if somebody had spray-painted her face with liquid Cheetos."

"Oh, gods, dude. Way to ruin Cheetos," Jason looked sick. "Do you have to be so creative and thorough with your descriptions?"

"Actually, I think it's a good thing that these descriptions are there," Athena hummed. "It shows that he has a knack for noticing small details, the sign of a good improvisor and such things will probably save his life in the future."

"It certainly has," Percy agreed, though he looked a little weirded out from Athena's compliment and agreeing with her. "Um, Lady Athena? Have you heard of a woman named Medusa?"

"No woman," she said, looking thoughtful. "But I do believe that one of my temples recently took in a young girl by that name, why?"

"... You'll see," Percy said, looking between his father and Athena with a concerned look. Oh, gods, I can't believe that we're before their rivalry started to take off.

"I tried to stay cool. The school counselor had told me a million times, "Count to ten, get control of your temper." But I was so mad my mind went blank. A wave roared in my ears."

"Is that literal?" Hazel asked. "Or metaphorical?"

Hestia held up a hand so she could read, a small smile on her lips.

"I don't remember touching her, but the next thing I knew, Nancy was sitting on her butt in the fountain, screaming, "Percy pushed me!"

"Literal then," Hazel decided before frowning. "Also, is this Nancy girl mentally five or something?"

"Probably," Percy responded.

"Didn't you say it took a few days for people to figure out who your dad was?" Thalia asked with a raised eye brow. "How did this not tip at least Grover off?"

"No idea."

"Mrs. Dodds materialized next to us.

Some of the kids were whispering: "Did you see-"

"-the water-"

"-like it grabbed her-"

I didn't know what they were talking about. All I knew was that I was in trouble again.

As soon as Mrs. Dodds was sure poor little Nancy was okay, promising to get her a new shirt at the museum gift shop, etc., etc., Mrs. Dodds turned on me. There was a triumphant fire in her eyes, as if I'd done something she'd been waiting for all semester. "Now, honey-"

"Okay, that seriously doesn't make any sense," Nico said, frowning. "You were being blamed, even then, for that and he knew who you were. She knew who you were, too, and yet they waited for months. Why? Why was he being so lenient with you?"

"I really don't know," Percy shrugged. "Maybe he didn't actually believe it was me? Maybe he just wanted my help, but didn't feel like directly asking?"

"True. He really likes to act like he doesn't like you, despite the fact that he was literally going to gift you to me."

"He's not good with first impressions, is he?"

"Definitely not - just look at her to know that."

"What the fuck are you two talking about?" Jason asked, looking at them in confusion.

He was ignored.

"I know," I grumbled. "A month erasing workbooks."

That wasn't the right thing to say.

"Come with me," Mrs. Dodds said.

"Wait!" Grover yelped. "It was me. I Pushed her!"

I stared at him, stunned. I couldn't believe he was trying to cover for me. Mrs. Dodds scared Grover to death.

Nico and Thalia made a mental note of that. Scared or not, friends always stuck up for each other. This suggested that Grover was either Percy first real friend, or the first that had acted like a friend. Neither option was very comforting for the two.

"She glared at him so hard his whiskery chin trembled.

"I don't think so, Mr. Underwood," she said.

"But-"

"You-will-stay-here."

Grover looked at me desperately.

"It's okay man," I told him. "Thanks for trying."

"Honey," Mrs. Dodds barked at me. "Now."

Nancy Bobofit smirked.

I gave her my deluxe I'll-kill-you-later stare."

Thalia, Jason, Nico, and Hazel shuddered at the mention of Percy's stares.

"Oh come on, the brat's stare can't be that scary," Ares rolled his eyes.

"Do not tempt it," Thalia warned.

"Monsters cower under Percy's stare," Hazel agreed.

"And his deluxe I'll-kill-you-later stare has nothing on his wolf-stare," Jason added with a shudder.

"It wouldn't happen to be anything like Poseidon's you-dared-to-hurt-my-precious-babies stare?" Zeus asked.

"Yes," Nico replied, serious. "I would know, since I got that stare at one point."

"... Do I dare ask?" Percy asked Nico.

"... Best we don't go into it," Nico replied.

Zeus and Hades both looked at Nico with a newfound respect (he was alive after receiving that stare - they would have to ask him how he did it), both making a mental note that Percy was practically a carbon copy of his father and to never, ever mess with him.

"Then I turned to face Mrs. Dodds, but she wasn't there. She was standing at the museum entrance, way at the top of the steps, gesturing impatiently at me to come on.

How'd she get there so fast?"

"Brother ours, how many steps were there?" Orion asked.

"Um... I'm not sure the exact number, but it takes at least two to five minutes to reach the top, normally," Percy responded.

Theseus and Orion shared an uncomfortable look, starting to realize that this was the monster. They should have payed more attention to the chapter title and to Percy explanation on how one accidentally vaporized a person.

"I have moments like that a lot, when my brain falls asleep or something, and the next thing I know I've missed something, as if a puzzle piece fell out of the universe and left me staring at the blank place behind it. The school counselor told me this was part of the ADHD, my brain misinterpreting things.

I wasn't so sure.

I went after Mrs. Dodds.

Halfway up the steps, I glance back at Grover. He was looking pale, cutting his eyes between me and Mr. Brunner, like he wanted Mr. Brunner to notice what was going on, but Mr. Brunner was absorbed in his novel."

Most of the gods, goddesses, and demigods were now tense. Each was now very aware that Percy was facing down a monster - or about to.

"I looked back up. Mrs. Dodds had disappeared again. She was now inside the building, at the end of the entrance hall.

Okay, I thought. She's going to make me buy a new shirt for Nancy at the gift shop.

But apparently that wasn't the plan."

"Percy, Starfish, you slowness is very adorable, innocent, and endearing, but now isn't the time," Thalia said, voice an octave higher from her worry.

No one bothered to tell her she was talking to a book.

"I followed her deeper into the museum. When I finally caught up to her, we were back in the Greek and Roman section.

Except for us, the gallery was empty."

"No witnesses," Poseidon said faintly. "You're alone with a monster. You're twelve, in an era where you're still considered a young boy, and alone with a monster."

"Dad," Percy said gently, dropping the formality. "I'm right here. This happened years ago. Five, to be exact."

"Best to just let us worry," Orion told him, dragging his seat closer to him. "You're family."

"Uh, alright."

"Mrs. Dodds stood with her arms crossed in front of a big marble frieze of the Greek gods. She was making this weird noise in her throat, like growling."

"Oh... Oh..." Hades paled and glanced at Poseidon. I am so screwed. Why in the fields of punishment would I risk this?! I clearly know whose he is if she was waiting for him to 'mess up'... Unless...

Hades contemplated the thought that had just entered his head. Maybe he hadn't sent her there to kill him, but to draw attention to him. His eyes widened, that had to be it. For some reason, he was drawing Zeus or Poseidon's attention to the boy - but why? Clearly Poseidon didn't want anyone to know about the boy, or the child would already know who he was and yet the boy had no idea. He was drawing attention to the boy - but also testing him. She would have killed him long before this, never giving him a chance unless this was a test and a way to draw attention to the boy. But why? What do I want that would require the boy learning of his heritage and me testing him? Either way, I'm screwed for even daring this at all.

"Even without the noise, I would've been nervous. It's weird being alone with a teacher, especially Mrs. Dodds. Something about the way she looked at the frieze, as if she wanted to pulverize it..."

Hades decided to be safe and materialized some armor on himself. Without drawing attention, he used the shadows to move his two children over by Demeter (who looked at him with a raised eye brow, but said nothing) and hid behind his throne. Nico and Hazel shared a 'it was nice knowing Dad, poor guy' look.

"You've been giving us problems, honey," she said.

I did the safe thing. I said, "Yes, ma'am."

"Did-did that just say you did the safe thing, Starfish?" Thalia choked out as she struggled to not laugh at the notion. "Since when have you ever done the safe thing?!"

Percy shrugged, much the chagrin of his brothers and father.

"She tugged on the cuffs of her leather jacket. "Did you really think you would get away with it?"

The look in her eyes was beyond mad. It was evil.

She's a teacher, I thought nervously. It's not like she's going to hurt me.

"Oh, Seahorse," Nico sighed softly.

"I said, "I'll-I'll try harder, ma'am."

Thunder shook the building."

Thalia narrowed his eyes. So that's how Dad figured it out, she thought. When he was being accused for the Helm, Dad thought he was being accused for the Bolt. This is also why Dad didn't suspect Uncle H. Uncle, I see what you're doing - testing Percy, seeing how strong he is. You're drawing Dad's attention to him, tricking him into thinking Percy's the thief. By doing that, when he comes for you, you can just-so-happen to reveal your helm is missing, so Percy ends up retrieving both. But you don't want him to know and Torturer #1 is a good actor while Percy can't always pick up on that if he doesn't realize there's anything to be faked. It was a clever strategy - it also allowed Percy to prove how strong he was. This wasn't just so Percy would be the one to find both, thus appeasing Zeus and keeping Percy alive, but it was also a test to see if Percy was good enough to be considered a true candidate for the Great Prophecy.

"We are not fools, Percy Jackson," Mrs. Dodds said. "It was only a matter of time before we found you out. Confess, and you will suffer less pain."

I didn't know what she was talking about.

All I could think of was that the teachers must've found the illegal stash of candy I'd been selling out of my dorm room."

"What?" Percy was mildly annoyed by all the stares he kept getting.

"Candy. Out of all the things you could have been doing to break the rules," Thalia said. "You were selling candy out of your dorm room. No wonder the Stolls think you're a legacy of Hermes."

Percy merely shrugged.

"Or maybe they'd realized I got my essay on Tom Sawyer from the Internet without ever reading the book and now they were going to take away my grade. Or worse, they were going to make me read the book."

"How is-" Athena started, insulted.

"Dyslexia," the future demigods answered immediately.

She gave an irritated huff.

"Well?" she demanded.

"Ma'am, I don't..."

"Your time is up," she hissed.

Then the weirdest thing happened. Her eyes began to glow like barbecue coals. Her fingers stretched, turning into talons. Her jacket melted into large, leathery wings. She wasn't human. She was a shriveled hag with bat wings and claws and a mouth full of yellow fangs, and she was about to slice me to ribbons."

There was deafening silence as Poseidon turned dark, storm-colored eyes towards the cowering Hades.

"... A fury."

It wasn't yelled, it wasn't hissed. The way Poseidon said it was soft, almost gentle. His gaze was locked onto Hades, a mixed look of incredulousness and the fury of a hurricane in his eyes. His stare was caught between a I-thought-we-talked-about-this-Hades stare and a You-Sent-A-Monster-After-My-Baby-Boy stare. Poseidon was relaxed and calm, his gaze unwavering as he kept his eyes locked onto Hades' terrified black ones. The worst, most terrifying and unnerving part about it was that it wasn't accusatory in the way one would think it was.

"Hades, let's talk about this where the little ones can't hear us, okay?"

Hades gulped silently, practically trembling at the disappointed tone that Poseidon had adopted. He followed Poseidon out of the room without hesitation, not daring to hang back for even a second. There was utter silence for nearly fifteen minutes after they had left the room, doors closing behind them. A high pitched scream that came out of no where and sounded like Hades that carried on for nearly thirty minutes startled everyone but the children of Poseidon and Nico, causing stares to be leveled at the closed doors.

"I really feel bad for Father," Nico finally said. "He hasn't even done this yet."

"At least he's getting off easy," Orion said, since the screams had dropped after thirty minutes and left a five minute silence before Nico had spoken.

Hera, who heard what they said, had gone deathly white. She turned to Zeus, who was looking her in the eye.

"You are very, very lucky that you turned Lamia into a monster," he told his wife. "Poseidon sees it as beneficial for her, but her prayers to be turned back into a woman are what prompted him to confront you."

Hera nodded rapidly.

Artemis sighed as she glanced at her brother and winced. He was looking at the door with respect and awe, but not with the fear he should be. If he doesn't realize that he'll be the one spending time alone with Uncle for his anger towards Orion by time these books are over, I'll have to have a serious talk with him, she thought with a depressed sigh. She dearly hoped her twin would realize it. She didn't want anything bad happening to him at the hands of their favorite Uncle.

"Lady Hestia," Percy called, as unfazed as his brothers and Nico, "it's best to keep reading. Dad won't be done for a while, I'm sure. We shouldn't hear anymore screams - Uncle would still be screaming if Dad was treating this like it already happened."

Everyone stared at Percy before Hestia decided to take his advice.

"Then things got even stranger.

Mr. Brunner, who'd been out in front of the museum a minute before, wheeled his chair into the doorway of the gallery, holding a pen in his hand."

"Writing utensil," the futures chorused before anyone could ask.

"What ho, Percy!" he shouted, and tossed the pen through the air.

Mrs. Dodds lunged at me.

With a yelp, I dodged and felt talons slash the air next to my ear. I snatched the ballpoint pen out of the air, but when it hit my had, it wasn't a pen anymore. It was a sword - Mr. Brunner's bronze sword, which he always used on tournament day.

Mrs. Dodds spun toward me with a murderous look in her eyes.

My knees were jelly. My hands were shaking so bad I almost dropped the sword.

She snarled, "Die, honey!"

And she flew straight at me.

Absolute terror ran through my body. I did the only thing that came naturally: I swung the sword.

The metal blade hit her shoulder and passed clean through her body as if she were made of water. Hiss!

Mrs. Dodds was a sand castle in a power fan. She exploded into yellow powder, vaporized on the spot, leaving nothing but the smell of sulfur and a dying screech and a chill of evil in the air, as if those two glowing red eyes were still watching me.

I was alone.

There was a ballpoint pen in my hand.

Mr. Brunner wasn't there. Nobody was there but me."

Everyone let out a sigh of relief, glad that Percy had made it out without a single injury.

"She really wasn't trying," Nico said. "Alecto is very talented - she let Percy kill her on purpose. She wasn't trying to kill him, just testing him."

"He definitely still did good considering he had no training," Ares praised, ignoring any looks he received form the futures - he figured he probably was different in the future. "But even so, sword-swinging doesn't come naturally."

"Percy is very powerful," Thalia said, remembering when she watched him fight or went against him. "Even then, it would have been natural for him. The fact that he even had any time to react... Testing him or not, even I would not have reacted in enough time to get away without any injuries."

"He did leave an impression on Alecto," Nico agreed. "She actually wants to fight him again. This time, without holding back. He earned her respect, which is hard to do."

"Powerful demigods are always respected by monsters," Jason said. "I've met a lot of monsters who I've just had to mention I'm a friend of Percy's too for them to leave me alone. They don't want to incur his wrath."

"I'm sitting right here, you know," Percy said, eyebrow raised. "And a lot of the stuff I did, I wouldn't have been able to do without help."

"We disagree," his friends replied, to which he rolled his eyes.

"Is that the end of the chapter?" Athena asked Hestia.

"No, there's still roughly a page and a half," Hestia replied.

"Alright, let's finish reading then," Athena said. "Then I want to know what kind of magic is being used to keep young Percy in the dark. It sounds very intriguing so far."

"My hands were still trembling. My lunch must've been contaminated with magic mushrooms or something."

There were snorts.

"Only you would think magic mushrooms," Hazel said fondly. "Though, I wonder how you forgot that you didn't get a chance to eat..?"

Percy merely shrugged at that.

"Had I imagined the whole thing?

I went back outside.

It had started to rain.

Grover was sitting by the fountain, a museum map tented over his head. Nancy Bobofit was still standing there, soaked from her swim in the fountain, grumbling to her ugly friends. When she saw me, she said, "I hope Mrs. Kerr whipped your but."

"Whose Mrs. Kerr?" Everyone looked mildly confused, except Percy.

"I asked, "Who?"

"Our teacher. Duh!"

I blinked. We had no teacher named Mrs. Kerr. I asked Nancy what she was talking about.

She just rolled her eyes and turned away.

I asked Grover where Mrs. Dodds was.

He asked, "Who?"

But he paused first, and he wouldn't look at me, so I thought he was messing with me.

"Not funny, man," I told him. "This is serious."

Thunder boomed overhead.

"I saw Mr. Brunner sitting under his red umbrella, reading his book, as if he'd never moved.

I went over to him.

He looked up, a little distracted. "At, that would be my pen. Please bring your own writing utensil in the future, Mr. Jackson."

I handed Mr. Brunner his pend. I hadn't even realized I was still holding it.

"Sir," I said, "where's Mrs. Dodds?"

He stared at me blankly. "Who?"

"The other chaperone. Mrs. Dodds. The pre-algebra teacher."

He frowned and sat forward, looking mildly concerned. "Percy, there is no Mrs. Dodds on this trip. As far as I know, there has never been a Mrs. Dodds at Yancy Academy. Are you feeling alright?"

Hestia closed the book, signally the end of the chapter as everyone mulled it over quietly.

"So this Grover cannot lie while Mr. Brunner can," Hermes hummed. "This Grover kind of reminds me of a satyr, if one ever tried to pass for a human. Mr. Brunner certainly is like Chiron, that's for certain."

"Right," Athena turned to the children. "So what magic is being used to cover up what happened, how does Mr. Brunner fit in, and why would Grover seem to also be aware of it?"

Chapter Text

The five future demigods had turned to each other in the wake of Athena's question, silently debating what would and would not be okay to tell her. Explaining about the Mist would be fine, but the other two questions they may not be able to answer. They eventually decided that they would likely be stopped if they were about to give away too much. Jason decided to explain things this time and turned back to Athena.

"What is being used to keep Percy in the dark is what we call the Mist," Jason told her. "The Mist is like a veil that hides monsters and demigods from the mortal world. Demigods who are unaware of themselves - or are just susceptible to it like Percy - can be tricked, hence why Percy doesn't realize what happened completely. That and Percy is the king of denial."

"I am not," Poseidon's youngest scowled at Jason.

"Percy, yes you are," the other future godlings chorused.

Percy rolled his eyes at them with a grumble.

"That does explain that," Athena mused. "May I assume Hecate has something to do with it?"

"She does," Thalia confirmed. "As for the other questions, they'll be answered by the book soon enough and we were asked to allow the book to answer most questions."

Athena sighed, but nodded her understanding. She glanced at the door where Poseidon and Hades had disappeared. She then looked at Poseidon's children, who seemed completely unconcerned.

"Should we wait for your sire or...?" she asked.

"Well-" Orion began, but was cut off by the doors opening.

Everyone turned, watching Poseidon stride back in. The Sea God soon sat down on his throne again, smiling down at his children. The children smiled back at him, used to the way their father was by now.

"Hades will not join us for a while," the god said, "so let us continue without him. We can catch him up during a break."

No one argued as the book glowed briefly, soon appearing with Demeter. The goddess turned to the second chapter and stared at the chapter title. She looked at Percy.

"All the Chapter titles are going to be like the previous one, aren't they?" she asked with a sigh. "As in - very absurd and relating to something important in the chapter?"

"Probably, I wouldn't really know," Percy shrugged.

The goddess sighed as she began read out the title.

"Three Old Ladies Knit The Socks of Death"

"What are-"

Percy pulled off his shoe and pointed at the white cloth covering it. Then he put his shoe back on. This caused a few people to raise their eyes brows, while those who had noticed the "three old ladies" part were pale. Poseidon glanced at Percy, hoping he was wrong about what the title meant. No one spoke as Demeter began to read.

"I was used to the occasional weird experience, but usually they were over quickly. This twenty-four/seven hallucination was more than I could handle. For the rest of the school year, the entire campus seemed to be playing some kind of trick on me. The students acted as if they were completely and totally convinced that Mrs. Kerr-a perky blond woman whom I'd never seen in my life until she got on our bus at the end of the field trip-had been our pre-algebra teacher since Christmas."

"I can't imagine how you felt, going through that," Thalia frowned. "Thinking that you had gone insane or something because you noticed what no one else did. The Mist is affecting you to some degree still, but not enough."

"I was glad when I knew the truth, even if the truth made me feel like I had walked into an alternate universe," Percy said.

"Every so often I would spring a Mrs. Dodds reference on somebody, just to see if I could trip them up, but they would stare at me like I was psycho.

It got so I almost believed them-Mrs. Dodds had never existed.

Almost."

"Grover," Thalia sighed.

"But Grover couldn't fool me. When I mentioned the name Dodds to him, he would hesitate, then claim she didn't exist. But I knew he was lying.

Something was going on. Something had happened at the museum."

"It's amazing how you were able to see through it enough to know something was wrong, but were still under it's effects enough to not realize what happened had actually happened," Nico mused. "I wonder why you're so susceptible to the Mist..."

"In all honesty, I think it has something to do with Dad," Percy said. "He was trying so hard to hide me and knew my best chance was by never realizing the truth. Unfortunately, the Moirai were against him."

That made sense to pretty much everyone in the room, as Poseidon was known for doing literally anything to protect his brood. That usually meant ripping someone a new one, but using the Mist to just out-right make them disappear from view also made sense. Demeter choose to keep reading after looking around to make sure no one else was going to speak up.

"I didn't have much time to think about it during the days, but at night, visions of Mrs. Dodds with talons and leathery wings would wake me up in a cold sweat."

Percy shuddered, remembering how he had felt back then. Sure, now it seemed silly, but back then? It had been horrifying to recall each time. He had a feeling that he had wanted to forget what he had seen and that was part of why the Mist was still partially fooling him.

"The freak weather continued, which didn't help my mood."

"You must be very in tune to your father if his fight with Zeus is affecting your mood," Demeter couldn't help but remark, peering at him with her brown eyes. "Not many demigods would be affected like this if their parent was upset. My guess is that he was, once again, unfairly blamed for something he did not do."

"Pretty much hit the nail on the head," Percy sighed. "In the future, Zeus really likes to point fingers."

"One night, a thunderstorm blew out the windows in my dorm room. A few days later, the biggest tornado ever spotted in the Hudson Valley touched down only fifty miles from Yancy Academy."

Most of the gods and goddesses glanced at Zeus, who was starting to look pale. The king of the gods kept glancing at Poseidon, who didn't seem to be bothered at all. However, a glance as his children revealed they were much closer to his throne and settled between his legs, like when a larger parent animal was standing over his or her young to protect them. No one dared to say a word, knowing that Zeus might just get the same treatment as Hades. This left each god and goddess to pray that they had never taken a jab at the son of Poseidon.

Athena couldn't help but frown, though, wondering why any of them were brave enough to even approach a son of Poseidon like this. Had Poseidon, perhaps, become more lenient over the years? No, she thought, glancing at Nico and remembering he knew what Poseidon's glare looked like.

"One of the current events we studied in social studies class was the unusual number of small planes that had gone down in sudden squalls in the Atlantic that year."

"What are-"

"Lord Apollo, please don't make us try to explain what an airplane is," Hazel sighed. "That is something that is not easy to explain, I'm afraid."

"I started to feel cranky and irritated most of the time. My grades slipped from Ds to Fs. I got into more fights with Nancy Bobofit and her friends. I was sent out into the hallway in almost every class."

"Geeze," Thalia shook her head. "I heard from Grover that that year was rough, but I didn't realize... You really are tuned into your dad a lot more than anyone else I've met."

Percy shrugged at her.

"Finally, when our English teacher, Mr. Nicoll, asked me for the millionth time why I was too lazy to study for spelling tests, I snapped. I called him an old sot. I wasn't even sure what it meant, but it sounded good."

The future demigods, minus Percy, fell over laughing at that. Leave it to Percy to call someone an old drunk without realizing what he was saying.

"What does 'old sot' mean?" Athena inquired.

"It...It means..." Jason fought to catch his breath. "It means 'old drunk', basically."

"So he called him a Dionysus then," Athena nodded, glancing at the god of wine.

Dionysus was drinking from a goblet, seemingly ignoring the world.

"The headmaster sent my mom a letter the following week, making it official: I would not be invited back next year to Yancy Academy.

Fine, I told myself. Just fine.

I was homesick.

I wanted to be with my mom in our little apartment on the Upper East Side, even if I had to go to public school and put up with my obnoxious stepfather and his stupid poker parties.  I could put up with anything he did if it meant being near my mom, no matter what it was. "

"...Percy," Thalia turned towards the boy, who didn't meet her gaze.

"It's fine, Thalia. He was just a jerk-the book's overstating," Percy said evenly. "Besides, he's gone now. Don't worry about it."

"I thought that Percy liked Paul," Jason said in English to Nico and Hazel, confused.

"I get the feeling he's not talking about Paul," Nico said, also switching to English. "Grover once mentioned a stepfather before Paul, but never elaborated on it for some reason. I have a feeling the book will tell us-weather or not Percy wants us to know."

Poseidon felt uneasy with the way Percy had spoken and the way Thalia was staring at him. He glanced down, seeing his other two sons staring back up at him with the same trepidation he felt. Poseidon turned to Demeter and motioned for her to continue reading. The goddess did so, understanding that this was something they should move past rather quickly.

"An yet...there were things I would miss at Yancy. The view of the woods out my dorm window, the Hudson River in the distance, the smell of pine trees."

"That makes sense," Nico hummed. "Well, the pine trees and the river, I mean. The pine is Poseidon's sacred tree and the river is a body of water."

"I just realized something," Thalia face-palmed.

"What-oh, yeah!" Percy began to laugh. "Well, it was that kind of forest, so it would look out of place to use his own, wouldn't it?"

"What are they talking about?" Theseus asked, tilting his head and scrunching his brows.

"For once, we have no idea," Jason and Hazel sighed together.

"Oh, you'll learn," Percy snickered.

"Oh, you just wait until they get to what happened to you," she scowled at him. "She did tell me about it, after all."

Percy was then the one to groan in dread while Thalia smirked triumphantly.

Demeter chose to read on while wondering if this was the reason the Moirai decided to keep them in the dark until they read what was being referenced. To drive them crazy.

"I'd miss Grover, who'd been a good friend, even if he was a little strange. I worried how he'd survive next year without me."

"It's wonderful how considerate you are," Aphrodite smiled at Percy sweetly.

Percy just shrugged, "That's just how I am."

"I'd miss Latin class, too-Mr. Brunner's crazy tournament days and his faith that I could do well.

As exam week go closer, Latin was the only test I studied for. I hadn't forgotten what Mr. Brunner had told me about this subject being life-and-death for me. I wasn't sure why, but I'd started to believe him."

"You know, it's kind-of their own fault I started to realize something was off," Percy sighed. "I probably would have eventually forgotten about what happened if he hadn't mentioned that and if Grover had been better a lying."

"Grover kind-of is starting to remind me of Pan a little bit," Hermes hummed, tilting his head. "With the whole lying thing. Does Grover also eat a lot when nervous?"

"Yup," Percy nodded.

Hermes nodded at this.

"The evening before my final, I got so frustrated I threw the Cambridge Guide to Greek Mythology across my dorm room. Words had started swimming off the page, circling my head, the letters doing one-eighties as if they were riding skateboards. There was no way I was going to remember the difference between Chiron and Charon, or Polydictes and Polydeues. And conjugating those Latin verbs? Forget it."

"Oh, I most certainly know the difference now," Percy sighed. "But in this context, I meant knowing which spelling went to which one. Dyslexia makes these words look even more similar than they already were."

Athena, whom had opened her mouth, promptly closed it. She had been a bit upset about the throwing of the book, but was starting to understand where Percy was coming from. She couldn't imagine how hard it would be for him. No one noticed it in demigods right now, but that was because of the fact that, well, they were reading the right language and most were illiterate anyways. She couldn't really fault him for his frustration and, so far, dislike of learning. Especially in an environment that wouldn't understand his predicament.

"I paced the room, feeling like ants were crawling around inside my shirt.

I remembered Mr. Brunner's serious expression, his thousand-year-old eyes. I will accept only the best from you, Percy Jackson."

"Who else is convinced that this is Chiron?" Heracles asked, causing Theseus and Orion to nod in agreement.

The gods and goddesses considered this before nodding in agreement, even thought some (coughApollocough) were confused on how Chiron was in a wheelchair (whatever that was).

"I took a deep breath. I picked up the mythology book.

I'd never asked a teacher for help before. maybe if I talked to Mr. Brunner, he could give me some pointers. At least I could apologize for the big fat F I was about to score on his exam. I didn't want to leave Yancy Academy with him thinking I hadn't tried."

"As adorable as that is, Starfish," Thalia said, "you do realize that there's a reason-"

"I do now."

"Uh-huh," Thalia gave Percy an uncertain look.

She wasn't yet convinced that he was mentally okay yet.

"I walked downstairs to the faculty offices. Most of them were dark and empty, but Mr. Brunner's door was ajar, light from his window stretching across the hallway floor.

I was three steps from the door handle when I heard voices inside the office. Mr. Brunner asked a question. A voice that was definitely Grover's said "...worried about Percy, sir."

"This isn't going to go well." Jason sighed.

"I froze.

I'm not usually an eavesdropper, but I dare you to try not listening if you hear your best friend talking about you to an adult."

Percy sure has a lack of trust in adults, Nico couldn't help but note. I mean, I knew he wasn't always confident, but this is just the second chapter and already he has shown signs of having a lot of self-esteem issues to deal with. Ones usually ignited by the actions of others. I wonder if this is why Percy doesn't trust the gods that much - they're all made up of adults and the ones he does like, trust, and respect don't really act like adults and more like friends closer to his age.

"I inched closer.

"...alone this summer," Grover was saying. "I mean, a Kindly One in the school! Now that we know for sure, and they know too-"

"It's utterly amazing how they didn't take one look at you and just automatically know for certain who you were," Hazel sighed. "I mean, seriously. Am I the only one who looked at you and was fairly certain that you were a god in disguise?"

She looked around at the stares she was getting from her cousins (the ones from present-day America) and sighed.

"For a moment I really did wonder why Dad was in two places at once," Theseus admitted. "When they first arrived, I mean. Until I noticed a distinct lack of godly aura around him."

Everyone from the past, even those who didn't want to admit it, had to nod their agreement.

"Okay, everyone in the present day is blind," Hazel declared.

"I was ten when I first met Percy," Nico defended himself. "And I didn't know about this world yet."

"In my defense, Percy acts nothing like a god and I was heavily disoriented when I first met him. Plus, when I wasn't disoriented, I had already figured out he was a demigod," Thalia added.

"I kind-of noticed the similarities, but didn't really dwell on it since I had already had people left and right bombarding me about the "famous" Percy Jackson," Jason put in.

"Okay, so you guys had excuses," she rolled her eyes. "But I'm fairly sure that no one else had an excuse for not realizing how much like a god Percy looks. Let alone not realizing whose son he was right off the bat, considering those two are pretty much carbon copies of each other."

"...You have a point on that last part for everyone but me," Nico said. "Thalia got told pretty much immediately, while I didn't really have any way to connect those dots."

"Fine, everyone but Nico doesn't have an excuse."

Demeter decided to start reading to cut off this argument. Even if she had to agree that there was no excuse for not realizing who Percy was the son of.

"We would only make matters worse by rushing him,"

There were snorts at this.

"Mr. Brunner said. "We need the boy to mature more."

"But he may not have time. The summer solstice deadline-"

"What dead-" Apollo started, yelping when he got wacked over the head by Artemis. "What?!"

She rolled her eyes at him. Idiot.

"Will have to be resolved without him, Grover. Let him enjoy his ignorance while he still can."

"Sir, he saw her..."

"His imagination," Mr. Brunner insisted. "The Mist over the students and staff will be enough to convince him of that."

"That actually reminds me," Demeter frowned as she paused reading. "How was an entirely new instructor conjured by this Mist?"

The futures blinked and looked at each other, having never thought about it.

"You godlings don't know do you?" Dionysus spoke up for the first time, looking at them. "My guess is that not even we gods know entirely how the Mist works either, correct?"

"We don't really know how to answer that," Percy shrugged at him. "We just have learned to accept it."

This made the gods and goddesses slight uneasy, but they didn't say anything more.

"Sir, I...I can't fail in my duties again." Grover's voice was choked with emotion. "You know what that would mean."

Oh, Grover... Thalia thought with guilt.

"You haven't failed, Grover," Mr. Brunner said kindly. "I should have seen her for what she was. Now let's just worry about keeping Percy alive until next fall-"

The futures, minus Percy, collectively face-palmed. They knew Percy would not react kindly to that.

"The mythology book dropped out of my hand and hit the floor with a thud.

Mr. Brunner went silent."

A bit of tension filled the room.

"My heart hammering, I picked up the book and backed down the hall."

"At least you didn't leave evidence behind like in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," Nico muttered, mostly to himself.

"A shadow slid across the lighted glass of Brunner's office door, the shadow of something much taller than my wheelchair-bound teacher, holding something that looked suspiciously like an archer's bow."

"That's a poor decision on Chiron's part," Thalia muttered. "He's exposing himself."

"I opened the nearest door and slipped inside.

A few seconds later I heard the slow clop-clop-clop, like muffled wood blocks, then a sound like an animal snuffling right outside my door. A large, dark shape paused in front of the glass, then moved on."

"That's odd," Orion frowned. "Considering it's obvious that this is Chiron as this point, he should have found Percy by now. Especially if he's been around Percy for so long to know his scent."

"That's true," Heracles and Theseus nodded, both frowning as well.

Percy shifted uncomfortably, remembering what Grover had told him towards the beginning of this quest.

"A bead of sweat trickled down my neck.

Somewhere in the hallway, Mr. Brunner spoke.

"Nothing," he murmured. "My nerves haven't been right since the winter solstice."

"Mine neither," Grover said. "But I could have sworn..."

"Go back to the dorm," Mr. Brunner told him. "You've got a long day of exams tomorrow."

"Don't remind me."

The lights went out in Mr. Brunner's office.

I waited in the dark for what seemed like forever.

Finally, I slipped out into the hallway and made my way back up to the dorm.

Grover was lying on his bed, studying his Latin exam notes like he'd been there all night."

"A good actor, yet a bad liar," Hermes grinned. "Sounds like pretty much every satyr I've ever met."

Dionysus nodded in agreement, looking just a tiny bit more interested in the story now.

"Hey," he said, bleary-eyed. "You going to be ready for this test?"

I didn't answer.

"You look awful." He frowned. "Is everything okay?"

"Oh, I only heard my best friend and favorite teacher talking about how I might not live to see next fall, but otherwise I'm perfectly fine," Nico replied to the book.

Thalia, Jason, Hazel, and Percy giggled at that while everyone else cracked a smile.

"Just...tired."

I turned so he couldn't read my expression, and started getting ready for bed.

I didn't understand what I'd heard downstairs. I wanted to believe I'd imagined the whole thing.

But one thing was clear: Grover and Mr. Brunner were talking about me behind my back. They thought I was in some kind of danger."

"Unfortunately, you're always in some kind of danger," Hazel sighed. "I most certainly learned that on our quest together."

This didn't give any comfort to Percy's half-brothers and father.

"The next afternoon, as I was leaving the three-hour Latin exam-"

"Three-hour exam?!" screeched Thalia in horror. "Percy, you're like, one of the most ADHD demigods and you have some of the worst dyslexia, so how in the name of our fathers did you survive that?!"

"It wasn't really that bad," Percy frowned at her. "Yeah, it was a bit hard, but I spent most of it working so it wasn't really that bad. I only knew it'd be about three-hours because of the fact that my legs start to cramp up after about three hours of being forced to sit still."

Thalia shuddered as Demeter returned to reading.

"-my eyes swimming with all the Greek and Roman names I'd misspelled, Mr. Brunner called me back inside.

For a moment, I was worried he'd found out about my eavesdropping the night before, but that didn't seem to be the problem."

"Huh, so you always had problems with guilt even when you have no reason to be guilty," Thalia tilted her head at this, having gotten over the length of the exam.

"Percy," he said. "Don't be discouraged about leaving Yancy. It's...it's for the best."

"And here come's Chiron's infamously horrible pep-talks," Heracles groaned.

"His tone was kind, but the words still embarrassed me. Even thought he was speaking quietly, the other kids finishing the test could hear. Nancy Bobofit smirked at me and made sarcastic little kissing motions with her lips.

I mumbled, "Okay, sir."

"I mean..." Mr. Brunner wheeled his chair back and forth, like he wasn't sure what to say. "This isn't the right place for you. It was only a matter of time."

Everyone winced, knowing just how that can be taken.

"My eyes stung.

Here was my favorite teacher, in front of the class, telling me I couldn't handle it. After saying he believed in me all year, now he was telling me I was destined to get kicked out.

"Right," I said, trembling.

"No, no," Mr. Brunner said. "Oh, confound it all. What I'm trying to say...you're not normal, Percy. That's nothing to be-"

"Ouch," quite a few people murmured.

"Thanks," I blurted. "Thanks a lot, sir. For reminding me."

"Percy-"

But I was already gone."

"Oh, that was painful to listen to," Theseus whispered, trying to imagine someone he looked up to saying those things.

Heracles looked sympathetically towards Percy, having been on the receiving end of those awkward and embarrassing pep-talks quite a few times.

"On the last day of the term, I shoved my clothes into my suitcase."

"A suitcase is a much more manageable and portable crate," Hazel explained to the curious divines and godlings of the past. "It's not made out of wood, but rather a very strong cloth. Sometimes it's also made with plastic or metal as reinforcement."

"The other guys were joking around, talking about their vacation plans. One of them was going on a hiking trip to Switzerland. Another was cruising the Caribbean for a month. They were juvenile delinquents, like me, but they were rich juvenile delinquents. Their daddies were executives, or ambassadors, or celebrities. I was a nobody, from a family of nobodies."

"I don't think Piper or Rachel would like implication that, that is bad," Jason started, "but I understand where you're coming from. Two, you're not really from a family of nobodies."

"I didn't know that back then," Percy replied. "Besides, I had never met anyone with a rich background who wasn't a jerk until Rachel and Piper."

"Point taken," the Roman agreed.

"They asked me what I'd be doing this summer and I told them I was going back to the city."

"That was nice of them," Hestia noted.

"What I didn't tell them was that I'd have to get a summer job walking dogs or selling magazine subscriptions, and spend my free time worrying about where I'd go to school in the fall.

"Oh," one of the guys said. "That's cool."

They went back to their conversation as if I'd never existed.

"At least they did acknowledge you," Hestia said, even if she didn't look pleased that Percy had been ignored after answering that one question.

"The only person I dreaded saying good-bye to was Grover, but as it turned out, I didn't have to. He'd booked a ticket to Manhattan on the same Greyhound as I had, so there we were, together again, heading into the city."

"Subtle, Grover. Very subtle."

"During the whole bus ride, Grover kept glancing nervously down the aisle, watching the other passengers. It occurred to me that he'd always acted nervous and fidgety when we left Yancy, as if he expected something bad to happen. Before, I'd always assumed he was worried about getting teased. But there was nobody to tease him on the Greyhound."

"Not necessarily true, but I see how your perspective has changed since that conversation you overheard," Hazel hummed.

"Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore.

I said, "Looking for Kindly Ones?"

"Give him a heart attack why don't you, Seahorse?"

"Shut up, Ghost King."

"Grover nearly jumped out of his seat. "Wha-what do you mean?"

I confessed about eavesdropping on him and Mr. Brunner the night before the exam."

"Fatal Flaw?" Thalia looked at Percy.

"Fatal Flaw," he confirmed.

This caused the gods and goddesses to glance at each other. Hera just wished this would be over soon, scowling at the mortal proof of adultery.

"Grover's eye twitched. "How much did you hear?"

"Oh...not much. What's the summer solstice deadline?"

He winced. "Look, Percy...I was just worried for you, see? I mean, hallucinating about demon math teachers..."

"Grover-"

"And I was telling Mr. Brunner that maybe you were overstressed or something, because there was no such person as Mrs. Dodds, and..."

"We children of Poseidon may be a bit slow on the uptake sometimes," Theseus sighed. "But not even we are so slow as to believe this. Grover, stop digging yourself a hole with my brother. I can guarantee he doesn't like it when someone lies to him."

"How can you guarantee that?" Heracles asked.

"Because most children of Poseidon who haven't lost their minds don't like lying," Orion told Heracles. "We're not really sure why that is when pretty much everyone has lied about something at some point in their life."

"Oh."

"Grover, you're a really, really bad liar."

His ears turned pink.

From his shirt pocket, he fished out a grubby business card. "Just take this, okay? In case you need me this summer."

The card was in fancy script, which was murder on my dyslexic eyes, but I finally made out something like:

Grover Underwood

Keeper

Half-Blood Hill

Long Island, New York

(800) 009-0009

"That's something we're going to ask not happens now," Percy turned towards the gods. "Please make sure whoever is appointed camp director doesn't use a fancy script, please. Our current one did that to torture us."

"What's Half-"

"Don't say it aloud!" he yelped. "That's my, um...summer address."

My heart sank. Grover had a summer home. I'd never considered that his family might be as rich as the others at Yancy."

"You really never had a good experience with rich kids, did you?" Thalia asked.

"Nope."

"Okay," I said glumly. "So, like, if I want to come visit your mansion."

"I guess the Big House would technically be a mansion, wouldn't it?" Nico pondered.

"He nodded. "Or...or if you need me."

"Wrong thing to say when Percy's in a bad mood," Jason winced. "You're going to get a snappy response."

"Why would I need you?"

It came out harsher than I meant it to.

Grover blushed right down to his Adam's apple. "Look, Percy, the truth is, I-I kind of have to protect you."

I stared at him.

"It is hard to believe at first," Thalia agreed with Book-Percy.

"All year long, I'd gotten in fights, keeping bullies away from him. I'd lost sleep worrying that he'd get beaten up next year without me. And here he was acting like he was the one who defended me.

"Grover," I said, "what exactly are you protecting me from?"

There was a huge grinding noise under our feet. Black smoke poured from the dashboard and the whole bus filled with a smell like rotten eggs. The driver cursed and limped the Greyhound over to the side of the highway."

"Dramatic much?" Ares muttered, sitting up straighter with narrowed eyes. "Why do I get the feeling this is going to be important?"

"Because it is," Percy said softly, a sorrowful note to his tone.

Percy knew what this was, knew what it meant. He wished he could tell them now, but the Moirai had specifically asked he not tell them what this means. The believed that the truth should be revealed to them when it was revealed to him.

"After a few minutes clanking around in the engine compartment, the driver announced that we'd all have to get off. Grover and I filed outside with everybody else.

We were on a stretch of country road-no place you'd notice if you didn't break down there."

"Not good," Athena's eyes narrowed as she also straightened even further than she had already been.

"On our side of the highway was nothing but maple trees and litter from passing cars. On the other side, across four lanes of asphalt shimmering with afternoon heat, was an old-fashioned fruit stand.

The stuff on sale looked really good: heaping boxes of blood red cherries and apples, walnuts and apricots, jugs of cider in a claw-foot tub full of ice. There were no customers, just three old ladies sittin gin rocking chairs in the shade of a maple tree, knitting the biggest pair of socks I'd ever seen."

Tension immediately rose as everyone recalled the chapter's title, eyes widening with realization and fear. Poseidon immediately looked down to his youngest son, his hands gripping his throne with enough force that his knuckles quickly began to go white. Orion and Theseus had immediately latched onto their brother. They'd barely known him for maybe an hour or an hour and a half, but he was still their brother. Thalia and Jason looked as though they might break the chairs they were sitting on (Heracles had already broken his chair and was sitting on the floor), Hazel looked like she was going to faint while Nico turned to Percy with a 'why-didn't-you-tell-me?' face. Athena and Ares both had bowed their heads, the two only able to guess that Percy would die as a Hero would when the time came (he was still sitting hear, which means that he still has some time left-perhaps this was part of why they had been sent back, so the gods and goddesses could prevent whatever death was waiting for him). Most others were just in a shock and had gone white, unable to really react.

Demeter had stopped holding the book, leaving it on her lap as she covered her mouth. Gods and goddesses had no one to pray to but Chaos, so she could only ask Chaos that his death would not be a painful one.

"Can...can we get this part over with?" Percy finally managed to ask them, shifting uncomfortably.

Demeter opened her eyes, unsure of when they had closed. She picked up the book again and, with a trembling voice, began to continue reading.

"I mean these socks were the size of sweaters, but they were clearly socks. The lady on the right knitted one of them. The lady on the left knitted the other. The lady in the middle held an enormous basket of electric-blue yarn.

All three women looked ancient, with pale faces wrinkled like fruit leather, silver hair tied back in white bandannas, bony arms sticking out of bleached cotton dresses.

The weirdest thing was, they seemed to be looking right at me."

Poseidon closed his eyes tightly, resisting the urge to grab his children and run off somewhere to hide. Preferably Atlantis, where his wife and other children could help keep an eye on his youngest ones.

"I looked over at Grover to say something about this and saw that the blood had drained from his face. His nose was twitching.

"Grover?" I said. "Hey, man-"

"Tell me they're not looking at you. They are, aren't they?"

"Yeah. Weird, huh? You think those socks would fit me?"

Thalia desperately wanted to laugh, cry, and scold book-Percy all at the same time for that line. She had somehow never thought that Percy had ever been this naïve of their world, as if he had grown up in it form the very start. She had forgotten that, once, he had been innocent. So she didn't say anything at all, knowing she might start to cry if she did. Why hadn't Percy told anyone about this? Did he know when it would happen? This was-was it really five years ago? She was fairly sure that it was six years by now, with the whole Gaea thing. He was going to be eighteen very shortly, wasn't he? A hope lighted in her chest-he had defied death again and again, hadn't he? Maybe this wasn't his string-maybe, just maybe, if it had been, he had somehow defied even the Moirai.

Maybe it was Luke's string, a voice whispered in the back of her mind. Maybe Luke was never to be saved from this. She didn't want to believe that, but she chose to believe it anyways. It was a better alternative than the idea that she would be loosing Percy very soon.

"Not funny, Percy. Not funny at all."

Some-the ones who weren't still frozen in fear-nodded in agreement with Grover.

"The old lady in the middle took out a huge pair of scissors-gold and silver, long-bladed, like shears. I heard Grover catch his breath.

"We're getting on the bus," he told me. "Come on."

"Percy, for once don't question and just go," Nico urged softly.

"What?" I asked. "It's a thousand degrees in there."

"Come on!" He pried open the door and climbed inside, but I stayed back.

Across the road, the old ladies were still watching me. The middle one cut the yarn, and I swear I could hear that snip across four lanes of traffic. Her two friends balled up the electric-blue socks, leaving me wondering who they could possible be for-Sasquatch or Godzilla.

At the rear of the bus, the driver wrenched a big chuck of smoking metal out of the engine compartment. The bus shuddered, and the engine roared back to life.

The passengers cheered.

"Darn right!" yelled the driver. He slapped the bus with his hat. "Everybody back on board!"

Once we got going, I started feeling feverish, as if I'd caught the flu.

Grover didn't look much better. He was shivering and his teeth were chattering.

"Grover?"

"Yeah?"

"What are you not telling me?"

"At least you recognize that there is something wrong, even if you don't realize what exactly it is," Orion sighed softly.

"He dabbed his forehead with his shirt sleeve. "Percy, what did you see back at the fruit stand?"

"You mean the old ladies? What is it about them, man? They're not like...Mrs. Dodds are they?"

His expression was hard to read, but I got the feeling that the fruit-stand ladies were something much, much worse than Mrs. Dodds."

"Interesting," Ares' eyes gleamed. "You listen to your gut. That's definitely the sign of a born warrior."

"He said, "Just tell me what you saw."

"The middle one took out her scissors, and she cut the yarn."

He closed his eyes and made a gesture with his fingers that might've been crossing himself, but it wasn't. It was something else, something almost-older.

"Very observant," Athena murmured.

"He said, "You saw her snip the cord."

"Yeah. So?" But even as I said it, I knew it was a big deal.

"This is not happening," Grover mumbled. He started chewing at his thumb. "I don't want this to be like the last time."

"What last time?"

"Grover, you're going to scare him off," Thalia groaned at the book.

"Always sixth grad. They never get past sixth."

"Grover," I said, because he was really starting to scare me. "What are you talking about?"

"Let me walk you home from the bus station. Promise me."

"Percy might promise you, Grover, but he's going to ditch you almost immediately," Thalia groaned. "Especially since you're scaring him!"

No one bothered to tell her she was talking to a book, though this was starting to lighten the mood a little bit.

"That seemed like a strange request to me, but I promised he could.

"Is this like a superstition or something?" I asked.

No answer.

"Grover-that snipping of the yarn. Does that mean somebody is going to die?"

He looked at me mournfully, like he was already picking the kind of flowers I'd like best on my coffin."

Demeter closed her eyes as she shut the book and set it down. The room came to a silent agreement about Percy-it was utterly fascinating how he could be so observant and aware while being completely oblivious at the exact same time.

The door opened and Hades limped inside, the armor he'd been wearing previously was gone and he didn't appear to be physically injured. He paused as he looked around at all the pale and grim faces, unsure if he wanted to rejoin the reading now.

"So..." he hesitantly called out. "What did I miss, exactly?"

Chapter Text

Hera honestly couldn't believe that she had to put up with this. She had to put up with glares from godlings that, in her opinion, shouldn't exist and, on top of that, she had to deal with reading a book about one of them. It was headache inducing already and they were only about two hours into the reading. She needed a break and she needed to find a way to stop these brats from being born in the first place. Castrating all the male gods was tempting, except for the fact that godlings didn't have to be spawned by physical intercourse of any kind. Athena was proof that they could think other being into existence, so she was finding it near impossible to figure out how to stop godlings from spawning.

She was still going to dry, damnit. She was the goddess of marriage and it was a personal insult to her for there to be so much adultery going around! Gods should know better than that! She glared at the book when it appeared in her lap, angry at this entire situation and not wanting to read from the blasted book.

"No matter how much you want it to, the book isn't going to spontaneously combust," Thalia commented. "Anyways, we'll catch you up on what happened in the break after this next chapter, Uncle."

"I'm not reading," Hera snapped at the little wench. "Especially not about mistakes like you lot."

"Then Hades will read next," Percy dismissed. "It's not a big deal who reads and who doesn't read. All that matters is that we get through these books and keep some of these events from happening. And no, Hera, getting rid of godlings wouldn't solve the problems in these books. They'd actually make these problems worse, believe it or not."

The book moved from Hera to Hades, who opened the book to the third chapter. He blinked at the title, but chose not to comment about the title. Even if he didn't understand the title in any capacity, he felt no need to make a comment about it.

"Grover Unexpectedly Looses His Pants"

"Let me guess - this Grover is a satyr?" Dionysus inquired from the future Godlings.

"Uh-yeah," Percy blinked at the Wine God, but decided not to say anything.

"Confession time: I ditched Grover as soon as we got to the bus terminal."

"Told you," Thalia sighed, mainly to herself.

"I know, I know. It was rude. But Grover was freaking me out, looking at me like I was a dead man, muttering "Why does this always happen?" and "Why does it always have to be sixth grade?"

"Grover, I get you were traumatized, but this is only your second time!" Thalia exclaimed, ignoring the looks she was getting.

Heracles turned to Jason, asking "Is she always like this?"

"When it comes to things she feels strongly about?" Jason shrugged. "Truthfully, I'm still getting to know her myself. I want to say yes, judging by the was Percy is rolling his eyes, but then he could be rolling his eyes at the memory of Grover doing this. Honestly, I don't know."

"Great," Heracles muttered, glancing at his sister nervously.

"Whenever he got upset, Grover's bladder acted up, so I wasn't surprised when, as soon as we got off the bus, he made me promise to wait for him, then made a beeline for the restroom. Instead of waiting, I got my suitcase, slipped outside, and caught the first taxi uptown.

"East One-hundred-and-fourth and first," I told the driver."

"That's not your address," Nico said with a frown from where he was by his father, he and Hazel having moved back after Hades sat down again.

"Not my current address, no," Percy agreed. "It's my former address."

There was an edge to Percy's tone and tenseness in the godling's posture that caused most of the more observant and knowledgeable gods and goddesses (i.e. everyone minus Apollo, Hera, and Aphrodite, whom were not paying the story any attention for various reasons) narrow their eyes at the boy. The godlings glanced at each other, worried about the way Percy was speaking. Something was going to be revealed this chapter, something Percy didn't want known.

Hades pursed his lips before deciding to keep reading.

"A word about my mother, before you meet her.

Her name is Sally Jackson and she's the best person in the world, which just proves my theory that the best people have the rottenest luck. Her own parents died in a plane crash when she was five, and she was raised by an uncle who didn't care much about her. She wanted to be a novelist, so she spent high school working to save enough money for a college with a good creative-writing program. Then her uncle got cancer, and she had to quit school her senior year to take care of him."

"Cancer?" Heracles inquired softly.

"A type of disease that will be discovered in the far future. There is no known cure for it and the treatments usually only stall it's effects," Percy said shortly. "It's a fatal disease, in other words. A novelist is a person who writes stories down in books. Verbal storytelling died out, so now storytelling is told through books. Can we keep reading now?"

Nico narrowed his eyes at his boyfriend, disliking the way Percy was acting. Something about this chapter was causing Percy's to become agitated or nervous, which made Nico think that Percy had been hiding something for a while. Nico looked up at his father, waiting for him to continue reading.

"After he died, she was left with no money, no family, and no diploma.

The only good break she ever got was meeting my dad."

Poseidon perked up at this curiously, listening even more closely. He filed away the information about Sally he'd already heard to keep in mind about her. Her name in particular he would hold onto, as well as her appearance once he learned it.

"I don't have any memories of him, just this sort of warm glow, maybe the barest trace of his smile."

"He visited you," Thalia noted. "Demigods who were visited by their godly parents as babies remember something similar to that, usually. I know that was the only memory of him I had until he showed back up and gave me Jason."

"In present day, Dad would bitch about Uncle P 'breaking the rules'," Jason rolled his eyes. "Like Poseidon ever really took particular note of those rules that were put in place by Hera."

Hera ignored the glares levied at her by the future godlings, even if she felt a chill go down her spine. She wasn't quite sure what they were talking about, but no one asked since they weren't sure they would be answered.

"My mom doesn't like to talk about him because it makes her sad. She has no pictures."

"They never do," Hazel said softly. "And only those who still love them don't talk about them."

"See, they weren't married. She told me he was rich and important, and their relationship was a secret."

"Not a lie, but not the truth," Hermes noted, sounding impressed.

"Then one day, he set sail across the Atlantic on some important journey, and he never came back.

Lost at sea, my mom told me. Not dead. Lost at sea. It sounds like what Odysseus's wife would have told their son while Odysseus was on his journey. Just like Odysseus' wife, my mom hasn't lost faith in dad."

"Huh," Thalia said. "I knew Aunt Sally was smart, but I didn't realize she knew how to tell you the truth while not really telling you the truth. And you're right, she must have taken inspiration from the Odyssey of Odysseus when coming up with what to tell you. It's appropriate too, given who your father is."

Everyone who was paying attention had to nod in agreement. Poseidon was already starting to like this Sally. She was someone who could protect his son and it sounded like he had told her who he was, meaning that she had accepted everything. Granted, he had figured that she had been oddly accepting of Percy since he lived to see the age of ten, but it was nice to know that she likely knew everything he told the mothers of his children and accepted it. Those who didn't either rejected the children by having him take them to a new mother as babes or just outright attempted to kill them for what they were.

He would have to talk to Percy about how he managed to hide most of it, because he had the feeling that Percy had hidden most of the unique quirks that his children were always born with. That could wait until the break, however, when he could pull Percy aside for a private talk. A glance down told him that Orion and Theseus were also curious about how Percy hid those traits, which Percy seemed to have grown up unaware of judging by what the book said. Something that peaked the Sea God's interest deeply.

"She worked odd jobs, took night classes to get her high school diploma, and raised me on her own. She never complained or got mad. Not even once. But I knew I wasn't an easy kid."

"My children never are," Poseidon murmured, mostly to himself.

This earned him a few curious looks from those with sharper ears.

"Finally, she married Gabe Ugliano, who was nice the first thirty seconds we knew him, then showed his true colors as a world-class jerk. When I was young, I nicknamed him Smelly Gabe. I'm sorry, but it's the truth. The guy reeked like moldy garlic pizza wrapped in gym shorts."

"Ew," Hazel wrinkled her nose. "You had to live with that?"

Percy nodded, shifting uneasily. Thalia pursed her lips and glanced at Nico, who was frowning at Percy. Both were picking up on the fact that this 'Gabe' was bad news and what Book-Percy said a chapter or so ago came back to Thalia then. She internally winced as she realized that Gabe smelled bad enough to be nicknamed "Smelly". She could guess why Sally had married him, but Percy's stiffness was not encouraging. I guess even perfect Sally had to have some sort of drawback, Thalia thought dejectedly.

"Between the two of us, we made my mom's life pretty hard. The way Smelly Gabe treated her, the way he and I got along...well, when I came home is a good example."

"This doesn't sound good," Jason said under his breath, glancing at Thalia.

Seeing that she had her fists clenched, he silently scooted his chair away from her to ensure he didn't end up in her line of fire. He glanced over at his Uncle and cousins, all of which looked like they were also picking up on what could be wrong. Nico in particular looked like he was failing to keep his composure. Percy wasn't looking at anyone, merely staring into his lap. He'd gone a bit limp and seemed to have...spaced out. Either he's already resigned himself or... Jason winced. He might have gone into a flashback.

"I walked into our little apartment, hoping my mom would be home from work. Instead, Smelly Gabe was in the living room, playing poker with his buddies. The television blared ESPN. Chips and beer cans were strewn all over the carpet.

Hardly looking up, he said around his cigar, "So, you're home."

Thalia stiffened even more, memories of her mother flashing in her mind. Sparks slowly started to come off of her, though it was currently relatively unnoticeable to all but her nervous brothers.

"Where's my mom?"

"Working," he said. "You got any cash?"

The scent of ozone slowly began to fill the room and the throne room's floor quaked, cracks appearing in places. Everyone became wary as they realized where this could end up going. Hades was beginning to feel nervous as he briefly glanced over what was coming next. He prayed to Chaos that they didn't end up attacking him in their anger at Gabe, who he deeply hoped was going to be receiving a special punishment in the Fields.

"That was it. No Welcome back. Good to see you. How has your life been the last six months? Not that I expected him to say that. I had learned long ago that he would prefer it if I went away and never came back."

Hades quickly read on before anyone could fully process the last sentence.

"Gabe had put on weight. He looked like a tuskless walrus in thrift-store clothes. He had about three hairs on his head, all combed over his bald scalp, as if that made him handsome or something.

He managed the Electronics Mega-Mart in Queens, but he stayed home most of the time. I don't know why he hadn't been fired long before. He just kept on collecting paychecks, spending the money on cigars that made me nauseous, and on beer, of course.  Always beer. Whenever I was home, he expected me to provide his gambling funds. He called that our "guy secret." Meaning, if I told my mom, he would punch my lights out."

The throne room practically exploded as Hades barely managed to finish the sentence. Thalia screamed, lightning dancing off of her and slamming into the walls and pillars, Nico slammed his sword into the ground, splitting the floor open in his rage. Cracks climbed up the walls of the throne room as Poseidon and his older sons added to the earthquake wracking the throne room. Hazel had covered her mouth, eyes wide at the idea of someone hurting Percy and Jason was hovering in the air with Heracles, protecting the other demigod from the damage.

Amidst the chaos, the other gods and goddesses scrambled to calm the angered Sea God. Most of them were focused on him, all except for Apollo and Hermes, who attempted to calm the angered demigods. Percy didn't react to the commotion, taking deep and careful breaths. He shut out the noise and closed his eyes carefully. He knew that he couldn't let this get to him, not after all these years. He's dead, Percy tried, in vain, to remind himself. He's dead and gone and never coming back. Uncle made sure of that. Even so, it was hard not to gag as he recalled the smell that had clung to Gabe.

He tried not to remember the times when Gabe mistreated his mother verbally, the one time when Percy became aware that Gabe hit her too. Percy remembered how he tried to blame his missing father, not wanting to blame his mother for Gabe being around. Even so, his anger only vanished once he realized that she was being hurt too. He remembered the times he knew she was watching, the times she looked the other way and pretended she saw nothing.

"Having Gabriel around is for the best, Percy," he remembered her telling him, a sorrow to her voice. "I'm sorry, Percy. I truly am."

He remembered thinking that she wasn't sorry. He had never told her, but he had a feeling she had known. Only Percy claimed her to be the best mother in the world, but Sally had never once agreed with that. She had only smiled that smile she only used when she was agreeing to be polite. He knew that she really was sorry, that she did love him. He knew it couldn't have been easy with a child like him. It was why he had never told his dad about Gabe. He knew how his father was, knew that, for all that he loved Sally, he loved his children more.

"Percy?"

The demigod opened his eyes to look at Hazel, who had a sorrowful look of understanding. She understood what it was like to have a mother who simply couldn't love her unconditionally, who had allowed a monster into the house. Both their mother's had been sorry and they both had forgiven their mothers in the end. Percy reached out and hugged his sister in all but blood, taking in the earthly scent that clung to her even now. He relaxed as he did, glad that Hazel had learned how to calm him down.

"Dad's gonna be angry for a while," Percy whispered. "He won't forgive Mom for this."

"I know," she murmured. "Dad still hasn't forgiven my mom. He'll respect your wishes, though. Like dad, Uncle loves and respects you enough to abide by your decisions."

Percy nodded and pulled back, taking a deep breath to calm himself even more. He was glad that Hazel had been helping him through a lot of his problems, even if she hadn't realized it until now. He had only ever admitted to her about how his mom could sometimes be with him, but had never told her about Gabe. He knew that she and Thalia would do everything they could to help him. They understood what it was like to be left to the mercy of a monster they were supposed to be able to trust. A grim smile tugged at his lips. If this is how I reacted to Gabe, Percy thought, and how they reacted...I don't dare to think what would occur when we read about that place...

Eventually, the ones who had reacted the worst to what was revealed slowly calmed down. Percy knew that it had taken at least an hour and a half for them to calm down, his father and Nico in particular taking the longest. Percy was honestly glad that he had Hazel to keep him grounded in reality as he leaned into her, the two sitting on the floor. As they sat there and everyone calmed, returning to their seats, Nico and Thalia joined Percy and Hazel on the floor. Nico sat on Percy's other side, wrapping his arms tightly around the demigod of the sea. Thalia sat besides Hazel, just wanting to be close. After a moment's hesitation, Jason joined the four and sat by Nico.

The gods and goddess blinked at the display of affection. Aphrodite, on the other hand, cooed at the five, enjoying the genuine love she felt. Some platonic, some familial, some romantic. The way it mixed and mingled calmed the goddess immensely. It was so rare for the goddess to stumble across love so pure and genuine. The last time she had, it had ended with the two lovers dying, which had saddened her greatly. One of the many reasons the goddess of love stuck to breaking hearts was because she didn't like it when those with genuine love suffered because of their love. It was best to break the love before someone broke the lovers, in her opinion. Not that she would ever admit that, however.

Hades glanced warily at his brother and the demigods, given them a few moments before he reached for the book again. He opened it to the right page after a few moments, glancing around again.

"I believe that we should finish this chapter quickly," he suggested softly. "So that we can have that break."

There were no objections, so Hades turned back to the book.

"I don't have any cash," I told him.

He raised a greasy eyebrow."

Artemis and Aphrodite both gave sounds of disgust at this, neither acknowledging the other.

"Gabe could sniff out money like a bloodhound, which was surprising, since his own smell should've covered up everything else."

Jason glared at the book, catching onto why Gabe was there at all. That doesn't give her a free pass, the boy thought angrily. He may have not reacted like his sister had, but he was still angry at Sally.

"You took a taxi from the bus station," he said. "Probably paid with a twenty. Got six, seven bucks in change. Somebody expects to live under this roof, he ought to carry his own weight. Am I right, Eddie?"

Nico growled, cracks forming under him. Percy wrapped his arms around his boyfriend and murmured something in his ear, calming the boy down quickly. Hades ignored them in favor of trying to get the chapter over with.

"Eddie, the super of the apartment building, looked at me with a twinge of sympathy. "Come on, Gabe," he said. "The kid just got here."

"Am I right?" Gabe repeated, more forceful this time.

Eddie scowled into his bowl of pretzels. The other two guys passed gas in harmony."

"Why that no good, filth-riddled scoundrel!" Artemis howled, jumping to her feet. "I knew men could be horrible, but to grow to be this horrendous?! A child! A child is being mistreated in front of him, and he does nothing! Sympathy my arse! This boy is but a child still! The age of manhood is no longer what it is now and he allows this to happen! What kind of person, man or woman, allows such things to happen?! Men of this time may be pigs, but at least they understand the importance of protecting the young!"

Everyone winced at the shrillness that the maiden goddess's voice had taken, amplified by the fact that she was in the form of a twelve-year-old girl still. A silver aura surrounded the livid goddess, causing Apollo to jump up and restrain her.

"Uh, I think you should finish this chapter without us," Apollo said, voice somewhat strained since he was both trying to hold onto his twin and his own anger at everything they'd learned.

Hades waited until the twins had left the room (Apollo dragging a screaming Artemis). He looked around at everyone else.

"Uh, is there anyone else who wants to go vent their anger..?" he hesitantly questioned. When no one answered, he nodded and turned back to the book.

"Fine," I said. I dug a wad of dollars out of my pocket and threw the money on the table. "I hope you lose."

"I'll make sure that he never wins at poker once he is born in our timeline," Dionysus commented lazily, as if he didn't care, but the fire in his eyes assured everyone he did, indeed, care.

"Your report card came, brain boy!" he shouted after me. "I wouldn't act so snooty."

Thalia and Nico stiffened at this, their eyes locking with a horrified look to their eyes. Seaweed brain echoed in both of their minds, the two glancing at Percy. Percy had never actually reacted to the nickname, but even so... Oh, Percy, Thalia thought. Why did you never say anything to us?

"I slammed the door to my room, which really wasn't my room. During the school months, it was Gabe's "study." He didn't study anything in there except old car magazines, but he loved shoving my stuff in the closet, leaving his muddy boots on my windowsill, and doing his best to make the place smell like his nasty cologne and cigars and stale beer."

"What is beer?" Athena finally asked, her curiosity winning out over her desire to stay quiet for the chapter.

"A really, really disgusting form of alcohol," Percy replied. "Think of it as someone trying to make wine and failing so miserably that it did not resemble wine in any form."

Dionysus looked particularly insulted by this answer.

"I dropped my suitcase on the bed. Home sweet home.

Gabe's smell was almost worse than the nightmares about Mrs. Dodds, or the sound of that old fruit lady's shears sipping the yarn."

This Gabe really affects young Perseus, Hestia thought sadly, wishing she could do something for this boy. She couldn't think of anything at the current moment however, but she would most certainly be consulting Artemis on how to protect Perseus, the one they would know, from experiencing this.

"But as soon as I thought that, my legs felt weak. I remembered Grover's look of panic-how he'd made me promise I wouldn't go home without him. A sudden chill rolled through me. I felt like someone-something-was looking for me right now, maybe pounding its way up the stairs, growing long, horrible talons."

"Either Percy is experiencing his first real case of paranoia, or he's sensing a nearby monster," Athena quietly observed.

"Then I heard my mom's voice. "Percy?"

She opened the bedroom door, and my fears melted."

Poseidon bit his lip at this. Percy was, like any child, very attached to his mother. Particularly so since she was his only real parental figure. He was angry at Sally and had contemplated giving Percy to a new mother after siring him, but...He didn't think that Percy would develop this kind of bond with any other mother figure. He was rather torn. He wanted to do what was best for his son, but that might mean leaving him in harm's way. Poseidon glanced down at Percy and resolved to have a very, very long talk with Percy about Sally. This was something that only Percy could really make the call on and he would make sure he respected his son's decisions, though he would make it clear that he would still try to protect him as much as possible.

"My mother can make me feel good just by walking into the room. Her eyes sparkle and change color in the light. Her smile is as warm as a quilt. She's got a few gray streaks mixed in with her long brown hair, but I never think of her as old. When she looks at me, it's like she's seeing all the good things about me, none of the bad. I've never heard her raise her voice or say an unkind word to anyone, not even me or Gabe."

Poseidon knew for certain that he would have to have a long discussion with Percy. This bond was strong and he knew that it was a rare one. Very rarely did a child fully appreciate their parent like Percy did, even in a single parent household. However, something about Sally's description caught his attention and made him frown a tad bit. The way Percy described her gave off something...magical about the woman. Something that couldn't be strictly mortal. I wonder, Poseidon thought.

"Oh, Percy," She hugged me tight. "I can't believe it. You've grown since Christmas!"

"Her red-white-and-blue Sweet on America uniform smelled like the best things in the world: chocolate, licorice, and all the other stuff she sold at the candy shop in Grand Central. She'd brought me a huge back of "free samples," the way she always did when I came home."

Thalia pursed her lips. She does seem to be trying at the very least, Thalia grudgingly admitted to herself. But that doesn't excuse the creature she allowed into her home.

"We sat together on the edge of the bed. While I attacked the blueberry sour strings, she ran her hand through my hair and demanded to know everything I hadn't put in my letters. She didn't mention anything about my getting expelled. She didn't seem to care about that. But was I okay? Was her little boy doing all right?"

"She is making it very hard to stay mad at her," Demeter huffed indignantly, with most nodding in agreement.

"I told her she was smothering me, and to lay off and all that, but secretly, I was really, really glad to see her.

From the other room, Gabe yelled, "Hey, Sally-how about some bean dip, huh?"

I gritted my teeth.

My mom is the nicest lady in the world. She should've been married to a millionaire, not to some jerk like Gabe."

Nico sighed softly. Percy's playing up what she's like, he thought. Yes, she's surprisingly nice, but I see it now. Percy's bias is showing a lot here. It was hard not to be biased when it came to Sally. She was far from a perfect mother, he could see now, but she was the best that a demigod could hope for. Even with Gabe. I wonder what happened to him, Nico thought.

"For her sake, I tried to sound upbeat about my last days at Yancy Academy. I told her I wasn't too down about the expulsion. I'd lasted almost the whole year this time. I'd made some new friends. I'd done pretty well in Latin. And honestly, the fights hadn't been as bad as the headmaster said. I liked Yancy Academy. I really did. I put such a good spin on the year, I almost convinced myself. I started choking up, thinking about Grover and Mr. Brunner. Even Nancy Bobofit suddenly didn't seem so bad."

"That's quite the spin on the year," Hazel blinked.

"Until that trip to the museum...

"What?" my mom asked. Her eyes tugged at my conscience, trying to pull out the secrets. "Did something scare you?"

"No, Mom."

I felt bad about lying. I wanted to tell her about Mrs. Dodds and the three old ladies with the yarn, but I thought it would sound stupid."

Thalia sighed. "Most demigods would agree with you, Starfish, but now isn't the best time," she said, ignoring the looks she got for talking to the book again.

"She pursed her lips. She knew I was holding back, but she didn't push me.

"I have a surprise for you," she said. "We're going to the beach."

My eyes widened. "Montauk?"

Poseidon leaned forward a tiny bit. This sounded important, though he wasn't sure why he felt that way. Something about the way it was presented just tugged at him.

"Three nights-same cabin."

"When?"

She smiled. "As soon as I get changed."

I couldn't believe it. My mom and I hadn't been to Montauk the last two summers, because Gabe said there wasn't enough money.

Gabe appeared in the doorway and growled, "Bean dip, Sally? Didn't you hear me?"

I wanted to punch him"

The entire throne room sympathized with Percy.

"but I met my mom's eyes and I understood she was offering me a deal: be nice to Gabe for a little while. Just until she was ready to leave for Montauk. Then we would get out of here.

"I was on my way, honey,"

"Oh, Chaos," Aphrodite looked sickened. "She actually addressed him endearingly?"

"she told Gabe. "We were just talking about the trip."

Gabe's eyes got small. "The trip? You mean you were serious about that?"

"I knew it," I muttered. "He won't let us go."

"Oh that bastard better," Aphrodite hissed, glaring at the book. "Such a creature like him doesn't deserve any form of humane rights! An ugly thing like him, affecting a beautiful woman and her handsome son like this! The absolute nerve!"

And there's her title as goddess of beauty finally rearing it's head, Percy thought, amused it had taken this long to actually rise. It seems Aphrodite hadn't always been focused on the beauty aspect of herself.

"Of course he will," my mom said evenly. "Your step-father is just worried about money. That's all."

"Oh he's worried about money all right-the money that he wants to spend on gambling," Aphrodite snapped.

Apparently, Sally addressing Gabe as "honey" had been the final straw for the love goddess.

"Besides," she added, "Gabriel won't have to settle for bean dip. I'll make him enough seven-layer dip for the whole weekend. Guacamole. Sour cream. The works."

Gabe softened a bit. "So this money for your trip...it comes out of your clothes budget, right?"

Aphrodite looked as if someone had slapped her, her face turning red. She didn't anything though, apparently far too angry to come up with anything to say.

"She shouldn't have to bribe the bastard," Hermes muttered, frowning at the book. As much as he enjoyed trickery and was all for stuff like bribery, this was a case where it shouldn't even be necessary.

"Yes, honey," my mother said.

Aphrodite stood up, conjured a table, flipped it, and stormed out of the throne room. There was silence after that, the godlings staring at the flipped table. Everyone jumped when a scream much shriller than Artemis' yells ripped through the air.

"I have a feeling that we're not seeing her for quite a while," Jason whispered, eyes wide. He'd never seen the goddess so angry.

Hades decided the best thing to do was to simply keep reading, even if he was starting to feel sick with each word he read. It was honestly amazing that Poseidon hadn't left the room to go flood someplace after all of this. Briefly, Hades decided to check how many more pages there were of the chapter. Oh goody, Hades thought. Eight and half more pages to go after this one. He was finding it hard to believe he'd only read up to seven pages at this point. It felt much longer than that.

"And you won't take my car anywhere but there and back."

"We'll be very careful."

Gabe scratched his double chin. "Maybe if you hurry with that seven-layer dip...And maybe if the kid apologizes for interrupting my poker game."

"Excuse me, interrupted?! You mean funded don't you?" Hestia glared at the book, her calmness cracking. "You didn't have to stop playing your game when he came in! In fact, it would have benefited everyone if you had ignored him outright!"

Everyone glanced at each other nervously. One knew things were getting bad when Hestia began to lose her cool. Hades silently gulped as he returned to reading.

"Maybe if I kick you in your soft spot, I thought. And make you sing soprano for a week.

"Oh, please do, Kid," Ares said. "Not even I can stand this guy!"

"But my mom's eyes warned me not to make him mad.

Why did she put up with this guy? I wanted to scream. Why did she care what he thought?

"A very good question, all things considered," Hestia growled, glaring at the book.

"I'm sorry," I muttered. "I'm really sorry I interrupted your incredibly important poker game. Please go back to it right now."

Nico and Thalia had to smirk at that.

"Ah, sarcasm," Thalia said. "Percy's spirit animal. So nice to meet you again!"

Nico snickered.

"Gabe's eyes narrowed. His tiny brain was probably trying to detect sarcasm in my statement."

"That thing has a brain?" Athena asked, astonished.

"Yeah, whatever," he decided.

He went back to his game.

"Thank you, Percy," my mom said. "Once we get to Montauk, we'll talk more about...whatever you've forgotten to tell me, okay?"

"Perceptive woman," Athena tilted her head. "I wonder if I've blessed her, perhaps. She shows some of the traits that show up in those I favor. Granted, she has made a very stupid decision, but I can see what she was trying to go for, at least. It does not excuse her wrong doing, but I can still appreciate her attempted strategy, which is good in theory."

Percy was still finding it weird that Athena was acting so...civil.

"For a moment, I thought I saw anxiety in her eyes-the same fear I'd seen in Grover during the bus ride-as if my mom too felt an odd chill in the air."

"You're also quite perceptive," Athena complimented. "You probably would have followed in Theseus' footsteps of becoming much more intelligent if not for the environment in which you grew."

"Uh, thanks, I think," Percy said hesitantly.

"But then her smile returned, and I figured I must have been mistaken. She ruffled my hair and went to make Gabe his seven-layer dip.

An hour later, we were ready to leave.

Gabe took a break from his poker game long enough to watch me lug my mom's bags to the car. He kept griping and groaning about losing her cooking-and more important, his '78 Camaro-for the whole weekend."

"More import- more important!?" this time, it was Hera who took offence. "She is your wife, you ungrateful swine! Show more respect to the woman whose home you likely moved into, who has likely been supporting your lazy ass this entire time!"

Apparently, even Hera was at the end of her patience with Gabe enough to defend a mortal woman.

"Not a scratch on this car, brain boy," he warned me as I loaded the last bag. "Not one little scratch."

Finally, Hestia had had enough. She stood and swiftly left the room, not bothering to make a show of it or even scream once outside the room. She simply disappeared down the hall, like off somewhere to cool down.

"...Something actually pissed her off enough to leave the hearth," Hephaestus whispered, eyes wide.

The blacksmith had been only half-paying attention, but this chapter had caught his whole attention. The fact that it had pissed off three goddesses and a god, not to mention the most mature and calm of all the goddesses and gods, was enough to keep his attention.

Hades wondered if this was a sign that the end of time was right around the corner.

"Like I'd be the one driving. I was twelve. But that didn't matter to Gabe. If a seagull so much as pooped on his paint job, he'd find a way to blame me.

Watching him lumber back toward the apartment building, I got so mad I did something I can't explain. As Gabe reached the doorway, I made the hand gesture I'd seen Grover make on the bus, a sort of warding-off-evil gesture, a clawed hand over my heart, then a shoving movement toward Gabe. The screen door slammed shut so hard it whacked him in the butt and sent him flying up the staircase as if he'd been shot from a cannon. Maybe it was just the wind, or some freak accident with the hinges, but I didn't stay long enough to find out.

I got in the Camaro and told my mom to step on it."

"First off, the fact your mother didn't mention a thing tells me that she knows what you are and who your father was," Ares said. "Second, how powerful are you, Kid? That gesture only truly works when someone powerful is using it, unless the person using it is using it against something truly corrupted. As horrible as this guy is, I doubt he's evil enough for it to just randomly work on him."

"You'll likely find out in these books," Percy winced. "I don't like talking about my power much. Especially since, when I try to explain it, they interject and try to make it seem much more grand than it is."

"You mean you downplay how powerful you are," Jason retorted.

Percy shrugged at him and Ares looked at Percy with a new interest, one that made Poseidon growl at the god in warning. Wisely, no one said a thing and the reading continued.

"Our rental cabin was on the south shore, way out at the tip of Long Island. It was a little pastel box with faded curtains, half sunken into the dunes. There was always sand in the sheets and spiders in the cabinets, and most of the time the sea was too cold to swim in."

"It sounds perfect," Theseus and Orion sighed together, getting weirded out looks from everyone but the future godlings and their father, Poseidon nodding in agreement with his sons.

"I loved the place.

We'd been going there since I was a baby. My mom had been going even longer. She never exactly said, but I knew why the beach was special to her. It was the place where she'd met my dad."

"It most certainly reminds me of many places where I meet the mothers of my children," Poseidon nodded. "Very rarely do I not meet them in such places."

"As we got closer to Montauk, she seemed to grow younger, years of worry and work disappearing from her face. Her eyes turned the color of the sea."

"It would also seem that my guess was correct," Poseidon remarked. "She must have a distant relation to a sea-dweller. Likely a Naiad or some other type of water spirit, as they often affiliate with humans. A minor river or lake god or goddess could be the distant relative as well. Distant enough that her connection to the ocean is only represented physically, not close enough to give her anything more than that. It is very likely that, that had a role to play into what drew me to her in the first place."

This intrigued Percy. He'd have to ask the present-day version of his dad about that.

"We got there at sunset, opened all the cabin's windows, and went through our usual cleaning routine. We walked on the beach, fed blue corn chips to the seagulls, and munched on blue jelling beans, blue saltwater taffy, and all the other free samples my mom had brought from work."

"First off, it sounds like that cabin is somehow always kept specifically for you two," Heracles pipped up. "Second, why blue of all colors? I mean, if it specified ocean blue, I'd understand, but it just says blue."

"Oh, I'm sure the book will explain," Percy smiled a bit, as did the other future godlings.

"I guess I should explain the blue food.

See, Gabe had once told my mom there was no such thing. They had this fight, which seemed like a really small thing at the time. But ever since, my mom went out of her way to eat blue. She baked blue birthday cakes. She mixed blueberry smoothies. She bought blue-corn tortilla chips and brought home blue candy from the shop. This-along with keeping her maiden name, Jackson, rather than calling herself Mrs. Ugliano-was proof that she wasn't totally suckered by Gabe. She did have a rebellious streak, like me."

"You have more of an obedience streak," Jason commented thoughtfully. "It's more or less your nature to be rebellious rather than obedient."

"When it got dark, we made a fire. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. Mom told me stories about when she was a kid, back before her parents died in the plane crash. She told me about the books she wanted to write someday, when she had enough money to quit the candy shop.

Eventually, I got up the nerve to ask about what was always on my mind whenever we came to Montauk-my father. Mom's eyes always went misty. I figured she would tell me the same things she always did, but I never got tired of hearing them.

"He was kind, Percy," she said. "Tall, handsome, and powerful. But gentle, too. You have his black hair, you know, and his green eyes."

"More like you're his double," Hazel said. "Not just in looks, but from what I've seen and heard, in personality as well. It's kinda scary, actually."

The other godlings who knew both Percy and Poseidon nodded their agreement. This made Theseus and Orion even more determined to get to know their baby brother more.

"Mom fished a blue jelly bean out of her candy bag. "I wish he could see you, Percy. He would be so proud."

I wondered how she could say that. What was so great about me? A dyslexic, hyperactive boy with a D+ report card, kicked out of school for the sixth time in six years."

"I am proud," Poseidon said quietly. "For many reasons, despite only just starting to know you. You've had a life that I've wished all my children could have-one that is relatively safe, even with that thing you call a step-father. You have a bond with your mother that I wish all your siblings could have as well. On top of that, you live to an age very few of my children get to see. These are things that I am proud you can say you have. I am also sure that your heroic deeds will also provide me more reasons to be proud of you."

Percy ducked his head, embarrassed, although he had a smile on his face. He was always glad to receive praise from his father, even if it did embarrass him.

"How old was I?" I asked, finally having worked up the nerve to ask the one thing that I had always wondered. "I mean...when he left?"

She watched the flames. "He was only with me for one summer, Percy. Right here at this beach. This cabin."

Nico frowned at this, thinking it over in his head. "That... That can't be right," he finally said. "Aunt Sally has to be lying here. Percy was born in August. Unless she carried him four to five months over what's the normal birth rate or Percy was born extremely prematurely-heck, even taking into account the possibility of her having a somewhat shorter pregnancy based off the creatures of the ocean or equines-they can't have only been together during the months of June and July. Even adding August to that summer still wouldn't work, as it would still go over nine months. Adding may to it would still push the nine months. Percy would have had to been conceived in either December or January to have an August birthday. Assuming that she's not telling a complete lie, then she spent at least two seasons with Poseidon and not just a summer."

"Huh, that's right," Thalia frowned. "Why would she lie about something like that?"

Poseidon didn't fully follow along, but did understand that part about the over or under extending of the pregnancy. He, too, wondered why his child's mother would lie about this and glanced at Percy, who looked like he had the same question on his mind now.

"But...he knew me as a baby."

"No, honey. He knew I was expecting a baby, but he never saw you. He had to leave before you were born."

"While it is true that I do often leave my children mostly to their mothers or caregivers," Poseidon said slowly. "I do always visit them as an infant. This is not something she would need to lie about. She would have most certainly known I was visiting, as I always visit for the same reason. I want to see my child in person at least once in their life and I give the mother's a chance to back out of raising one of my children."

"Why would you do that?" Percy asked, twisting to look at his father curiously.

"You...do not know?" Poseidon looked puzzled by his son's lack of knowledge. "You should already know."

Percy frowned at this curiously. Just another thing to tack onto the list of things to address when he talked with Poseidon during the break. That list was getting fairly long.

"I tried to square that with the fact that I seemed to remember...something about my father. A warm glow. A smile.

I had always assumed that he knew me as a baby. My mom had never said it outright, but still, I'd felt it must be true. Now, to be told that'd never even seen me...

I felt angry at my father. Maybe it was stupid, but I resented him for going on that ocean voyage, for not having the guts to marry my mom. He'd left us, and now we were stuck with Smelly Gabe."

Poseidon grimaced. "I certainly hope that my future self did not know about this character and merely sat back, letting it happen," he muttered.

"I'm certain that he didn't know," Percy responded, causing the sea god to nod.

"Are you going to send me away again?" I asked her. "To another boarding school?"

She pulled a marshmallow from the fire.

"I don't know, honey." Her voice was heavy. "I think...I think we'll have to do something."

"Because you don't want me around?"

"And there's the true thoughts peaking out," Demeter sighed, rubbing her face. She'd normally say something about mothers and children, but she understood where Percy was coming from given the context they'd been given. "I don't blame you for thinking such a thing, child. Given how she states your resemblance to your father... I don't blame you for thinking she finds it hard to keep you around herself."

"I regretted the words as soon as they were out.

My mom's eyes welled with tears. She took my hand, squeezed it tight. "Oh, Percy, no. I-I have to, honey. For your own good. I have to send you away."

"That's not a good excuse, though... I guess she was at least trying to keep Percy close while at the same time keeping him away from Gabe," Thalia sighed. "Still doesn't excuse her decision to marry the bastard in the first place."

"Her words reminded me of what Mr. Brunner had said-that it was best for me to leave Yancy.

"Because I'm not normal," I said.

"You say that as if it's a bad thing, Percy. But you don't realize how important you are. I thought Yancy Academy would be far enough away. I thought you'd finally be safe."

"All those lies only for her to start throwing them out the window?!" Thalia threw her hands up in the air. "Make up your mind, woman! At least be straight with him!"

"Safe from what?"

She met my eyes, and a flood of memories came back to me-all the weird, scary things that had ever happened to me, some of which I'd tried to forget."

"Woah, okay, back up!" Hazel looked alarmed. "Maybe it's just the wording, but did the book just imply that Aunt Sally might know how to use the mist!?"

"That..." Nico didn't even know what to say.

Hazel was right that it could have just been the wording being odd, but that didn't change the fact that the book seemed to have implied that Sally had manipulated the mist. Those of the past did not fully understand the alarm, but figured they'd learn over time why this was alarming.

During third grade, a man in a black trench coat had stalked me on the playground. When the teachers threatened to call the police, he went away growling, but no one believed me when I told them that under his broad-brimmed hat, the man only had one eye, right in the middle of his head.

Before that-a really early memory. I was in preschool, and a teacher accidentally put me down for a nap in a cot that a snake had slithered into. My mom screamed when she came to pick me up and found me playing with a limp, scaly rope I'd somehow managed to strangle to death with my meaty toddler hands."

"Okay, so you're very strong then," Ares interpreted before turning to Poseidon. "Would you-"

"He has before," Theseus and Orion chorused for their father, who shrugged.

"In every single school, something creepy had happened, something unsafe, and I was forced to move.

I knew I should tell my mom about the old ladies at the fruit stand, and Mrs. Dodds at the art museum, about my weird hallucination that I had sliced my math teacher into dust with a sword. But I couldn't make myself tell her. I had a strange feeling the news would end our trip to Montauk, and I didn't want that."

Thalia groaned, but otherwise didn't say anything.

"I've tried to keep you as close to me as I could," my mom said. "They told me that was a mistake. But there's only one other option, Percy-the place your father wanted to send you. And I just...I just can't stand to do it."

"My father wanted me to go to a special school?"

"Not a school," she said softly. "A summer camp."

My head was spinning. Why would my dad-who hadn't even stayed around long enough to see me born-talk to my mom about a summer camp? And if it was so important, why hadn't she ever mentioned it before?"

"So that's her game," Jason glared at the book. "She wanted to make Percy reluctant to go to Camp Half-Blood."

"Of course," Nico growled softly.

"I'm sorry, Percy," she said, seeing the look in my eyes. "But I can't talk about it. I-I couldn't send you to that place. It might mean saying good-bye to you for good."

"For good? But if it's only a summer camp..."

She turned toward the fire, and I knew from her expression that if I asked her any more questions she would start to cry."

"I'm sorry, Percy, but your mother, at the very least, used to be a bitch," Thalia spat. "She's manipulating you and I hate it!"

Percy winced and chose not to say anything. He knew that this chapter would bring up things that he had never brought to light, but he hadn't quite expected such a violent reaction. Then again... Percy winced as he remembered what she told him about Beryl Grace.

"That night I had a vivid dream."

"Oh gods no!" the future godlings moaned.

"Guys, don't overreact," Percy sighed.

"Percy, you're practically prophetic with your dreams!" Nico exclaimed. "How can we not overreact, as you put it?!"

Percy rolled his eyes at Nico. "You're just being melodramatic, that's all."

The others four shook their heads at him in disbelief.

"It was storming on the beach, and two beautiful animals, a white horse and a golden eagle, were trying to kill each other at the edge of the surf. The eagle swooped down and slashed the horse's muzzle with its huge talons. The horse reared up and kicked as the eagle's wings. As they fought, the ground rumbled, and a monstrous voice chuckled somewhere beneath the earth, goading the animals to fight harder."

"I would claim Hades, but he doesn't goad fights on," Athena commented. "That's Ares who does that."

"I ran toward them, knowing I had to stop them from killing each other, but I was running in slow motion."

"I fucking hate dreams like that," Nico growled.

"I knew I would be too late. I saw the eagle dive down, it's beak aimed at the horse's wide eyes, and I scream, No!

I woke with a start.

Outside, it really was storming, the kind of storm that cracks trees and blows down houses. There was no horse or eagle on the beach, just lightning making false daylight, and twenty-foot waves pounding the dunes like artillery.

With the next thunderclap, my mom woke. She sat up, eyes wide, and said, "Hurricane."

"Definitely a connection to the sea in some way," Poseidon murmured, growing tense.

Everyone was growing tense again.

"I knew that was crazy. Long Island never sees hurricanes this early in the summer. But the ocean seemed to have forgotten. Over the roar of the wind, I heard a distant bellow, an angry, tortured sound that made my hair stand on end."

Poseidon stiffened. Please don't let that be what I think it is, he desperately thought. I never want any of my children near that thing, which I should have never brought about.

"Then a much closer noise, like mallets in the sand. A desperate voice-someone yelling, pounding on our cabin door.

My mother sprang out of bed in her nightgown and threw open the lock.

Grover stood framed in the doorway against a backdrop of pouring rain. But he wasn't...he wasn't exactly Grover."

"Book, don't you dare be pulling what I think you're about to pull! I hate drawn out things!" Hazel glared at the book.

"Searching all night," he gasped. "What were you thinking?"

My mother looked at me in terror-not scared of Grover, but of why he'd come.

"Percy," she said, shouting to be heard over the rain. "What happened at school? What didn't you tell me?"

I was frozen, looking at Grover. I couldn't understand what I was seeing.

"O Zeu kai alloi theoi!"   he yelled. "It's right behind me! Didn't you tell her?"

"No, why would he? He would sound absurd in doing so," Nico told Book-Grover. "After all, he doesn't know a single thing about the Greek World yet."

"I was too shocked to register that he'd just cursed in Ancient Greek, and I'd understood him perfectly. I was too shocked to wonder how Grover had gotten here by himself in the middle of the night. Because Grover didn't have his pants on-and where his legs should be...where his legs should be..."

"Spit it out, book!" Hazel yelled, tense from the build-up.

Percy blinked at her, wondering why it seemed the more calm ones were getting the most angry this chapter.

"My mom looked at me sternly and talked in a tone she'd never used before: "Percy. Tell me now!"

I stammered something about the old ladies at the fruit stand, and Mrs. Dodds, and my mom stared at me, her face deathly pale in the flashes of lightning.

She grabbed her purse, tossed me my rain jacket, and said, "Get to the car. Both of you. Go!"

Grover ran for the Camaro-but he wasn't running, exactly. He was trotting, shaking his shaggy hindquarters, and suddenly his story about a muscular disorder in his legs made sense to me. I understood how he could run so fast and still limp when he walked.

Because where his feet should be, there were no feet. There were cloven hooves."

Silence reigned as Hades closed the book and set it aside. He looked around at everyone, sensing the emotions rumbling below the surface. He then turned to and addressed his children.

"Hazel, Nico," he said evenly. "Come. I would like to talk with you. I imagine that a two-hour break is in order and that should be long enough to us to have a proper talk and get to know each other better."

The two children of death glanced at each other and then around the room. They nodded and stood, following their father out of the room. The only sound was the door as it latched shut after they left, everyone else having been absorbed into their thoughts.