When Sergei was ten years old he'd had a very dear friend. A friend who he'd thought he'd never see again. Let alone on the battlefield. Let alone on opposite sides of the fight.
But here he was, for once entirely sober, in a war zone made of blood and sweat and anger staring into a face he was sure he'd never forget. She'd changed, of course, but it was her all the same. The emotions swirling inside of him were almost as painful as the blunt blow to his ribs from someone who'd snuck up on him in his distracted state that caused him to turn back to the matter at hand.
He wondered if she's recognize him too. He wondered if they'd both live through this day.
The battle raged around Avery, demigod on demigod, Roman on traitorous Greek- and she was living for it.
The bastards would get what was coming to them for that dirty ploy, feigning peace just as they had back in the days of the Trojan War. SLICE, down goes a Greek, SLICE, goodbye faun.. or- was it satyr?
The greeks called them satyrs, she thought. But now wasn't the time for thinking.
No, now she was on the battlefield- pure instinct fueling her.
"SHIELDS UP, FORWARD MARCH!!!" She cried, moving forward toward another group of Greeks with a section of her cohort.
"FOR THE TWELFTH LEGION FULMINATA, FOR NEW ROME AND ALL OF HER CITIZENS, DO NOT RELENT NO MATTER THE FEAR YOU SEE IN THEIR TRAITOROUS EYES! MARCH AND ENACT VENGEANCE GREATER THAN THAT OF EVEN MY MOTHER NEMESIS!"
She grinned as they closes in on the greeks, and prepared her blade.
She would take down the two on the left herself. Sergei yelped in pain as he took a particularly hard hit on the shoulder before he managed to knock the Roman soldier he was fighting out with a blow to the temple.
He whispered an apology that got lost in the sounds of the battle to the boy he'd felled. He'd live, of course, but Sergei was not fond of hurting others. However, he'd do whatever it took to keep Camp Half-Blood safe.
His eyes flitted to his right and he saw that Avery had gotten even closer. He turned to his left in hopes that she wouldn't see him, he wasn't sure he could bring himself to fight her.
Avery surged forward ahead of the rest of her legionnaires, already itching to reenter the fray after only a split second of calm.
She headed straight for the pair on the left and just barely missed the shorter boy with her blade, hitting him on the head with her shield and knocking him out before he could take advantage of her folly.
Then she turned to face the taller boy, and in another rally to her troops before striking, she called out. "TWELFTH LEGION FULMINATA!!!"
Sergei jerked back to his right as the voice yelled behind him. He glanced between his fallen fellow Greek and Avery's face and hesitantly raised his staff in front of him, but was unwilling to strike out at her.
He'd done a lot of things in his life that he wasn't proud of and refused to add hurting his first friend to that list.
"Avery wait." He said, with as much hesitancy as he'd used when raising his weapon. He wasn't sure if his voice would carry through the noise, even at their close distance.
He wasn't sure she'd recognise him. He wasn't sure she's care even if she did, he's been the one to disappear after all. What if she hated him for abandoning her? He didn't know if he wanted to find out.
The Greek in front of her had raised his staff, muttering what may have been a prayer, a plea for mercy, or perhaps some choice last words.
She didn't know nor care- now was a time of action. She flung herself at him with a war cry in her lungs and her gladius in her hand, and quickly batted his staff aside with her shield before going in for a strike.
"TWELFTH LEGION FULMINATA!!!" she cried another time, as she stabbed her gladius into a weak spot in his armor. The Greeks didn't stand a chance, did they? Sergei let out a choked scream of pain as her blade pierced his flesh.
He fumbled blindly for his lost staff, unsure what he'd do with it if he found it and only knowing that he wanted it close to him, as he stayed into her face with wide eyes.
He wondered if he look as betrayed as he felt, even if she didn't recognise him it still hurt. Both physically and emotionally.
"Avery.." He tried one more time, his voice filled with desperation "Avery please."
He'd always known there was chance he'd die today, but before that moment he'd never considered it would be his friend that'd do him in. But now he mostly wondered how painful shed make it.
The boy was wounded, but still conscious. Still with enough strength to harm her or one of her friends later on if she didn't finish him off right now.
Even a half dead soldier can still kill, with enough luck, after all.
He spoke a plea for mercy, but she wasn't listening.
She kicked him in the chest, knocking him to the ground, and bore her blade down on his neck, so close if he even breathed she would draw blood.
And then paused. Not long, just long enough to see the fear in his eyes before finishing off another traitor- she revelled in the feeling.
Sergei cried out again as the blade was pulled free and pressed a hand the wound in an automatic attempt to stop the bleeding as he was knocked backwards. He turned his head slightly to the side, almost baring his throat to her.
He'd come to terms with the fact that he'd die young long ago. Maybe it was poetic that it would be Avery that killed him.
Maybe that's what he deserved. "I'm sorry." He said, doubting anyone would hear him. He wasn't entirely sure who he was apologizing to.
Was it for Avery or Pollux? For being weak or for being another fallen brother? Perhaps both.
"You're sorry?" Avery sneered, "well it's just too bad apologies don't fix everything you traitorou-" she stopped, and er blade fell from her hand, pricking Sergei's neck just a bit as it fell.
"S-sergei?" she said, dumbfounded.
It couldn't be Sergei, it couldn't. "No no, no, it's not him, it's not him." she pleaded to herself.
She ducked down and picked up her sword, she needed to get out of here, she needed to leave the battlefield or at least get herself back to her cohort, her mind was playing tricks on her, the war was playing tricks on her this couldn't be real, Sergei couldn't be here, she couldn't believe that.
But she saw him with her own two eyes, she heard his pleading voice.. She sprinted off before the boy could respond, she couldn't bear to hear the truth.
Why was he there, why was her oldest friend with a bunch of Greeks?
She knew it was him.
She saw into his eyes.
And she couldn't face him ever again after what she had just done.
Sergei flinched away from her hand as she snatched up her blade. He immediately shoved himself to his feet, groaning in pain as his wound pulled, and reclaimed his staff from where it had fallen and was torn between chasing after her and staying to protect the closest thing he'd he'd to a home in ages.
The choice was ripped from him as a Roman soldier charged towards him.
Hopefully she made it off the battlefield alright, and he's be able to find her later. He could make this right.
It hadn't been very long since the battle ended. A couple hours. He'd stripped himself of his armor and switched his staff for his good flask. He'd been properly sober for the battle and that's all they could ask of him.
Ever since the battle had ended and he'd checked in on Pollux, he'd been trying to find Avery. He'd briefly checked where the Romans had set up camp first but hadn't stayed long, there was still too much tension from them being fresh from the battle, even after peace was called.
He'd checked the more isolated areas of camp that he thought she might have drifted to. But no luck yet, so now he was headed back go do another sweep of the Roman camp. He hoped he'd have more luck this time.
Avery couldn't believe it, she couldn't believe her comrades would give up so easily. "We had them!" She cried from her tent, her fellow centurion of the second cohort, Larry, standing just outside "we had them right where we wanted them and then, what, it's all over? Just like that? Even accidental treachery is STILL treachery!"
Her fellow centurion ignored her arguments as best he could, and she could tell that while he didn't entirely disagree, he still wasn't going to let her go anywhere- but she kept on talking. She had a LOT to say.
"Even if the greeks didn't betray us this time, they will! They will, just you wait... and letting them into New Rome? We'll be sitting ducks.
Consider the risks, Larry! Do you want the blood of New Rome on your hands? NO? Well let me OUT so I can kill some greeks. then." Larry remained silent, but his face looked tense and strained as he glanced around, probably looking for someone to help restrain her if need be.
"The Twelfth Legion lost LIVES, and we're going to sit on our heads and do NOTHING? No- no- MORS TAKE YOU ALL." Her voice range out across the camp as her ranting grew louder and louder.
Sergei entered the Roman camp quietly. He was about to ask the first camper he saw about Avery when he heard angry ranting. Angry ranting that he recognised. He thought with fondness. He smiled apologetically at the Roman he'd begun to approach and hurried off in the direction of Avery's voice. He needed to talk to her.
He needed to know that they could still be friends, even after everything.
After locating the tent, he hovered awkwardly outside for a moment and wondered if he should waiting for the ranting to stop or just go in. He shrugged to himself, took a swig from his flask before returning it to his pocket, and pulled the door to the tent open cautiously.
Avery was seething with rage. She had to be, she had to focus on the war, focus all of her energy into fighting for it to continue, lest she think about Sergei.
"The Twelfth Legion Fulminata lost LIVES to the greeks, traitors or not. How many times do I have to say it?" Avery roared. "The next greek I see is dea- is- is..." she trailed off.. standing before her? Was Sergei. Stab wound and all.
Sergei stepped all the way into the room, letting the door dropped closed behind him. He shoved his hands into his pockets and smiled. "Well I hope you'll make an exception for me, yeah?"
Of course he'd known what she was going to say. And if she decided that she really was just that angry with him now that she knew who he was. Then so be it.
"I-I jus..." Avery was too overwhelmed to form a full sentence. Sergei was here. Here, right in front of her. Sergei. A demigod. Sergei. A greek.. Sergei... forgiving her? For nearly killing him? Is that what was happening?
Was forgiving something like that even possible? She didn't know. She couldn't think. She couldn't feel. All she could process, truly, in her mind was that Sergei was standing right in front of her.
And then, something that hadn't happened in years. She started crying. Softly, restraining herself so that those outside the tent couldn't hear, but crying nonetheless. And it wasn't a relief. All it did was make her feel worse. Not only did she nearly kill Sergei, but she couldn't stop crying over it long enough to even look him in the eyes. She was ashamed.
Sergei noticed the other Roman slipping outside of the tent as he walked closer to Avery. He felt his own eyes watering as he moved. "It's okay." He said as he came to a stop right in front of her. "It's okay to cry." He knew that she wouldn't think so, she never did. "Do you want a hug?" He wasn't sure how she'd take physical contact at the moment. Even from him. Or maybe, especially from him.
Crying and talking didn't go well for him, so he figured the actual conversation could wait just a minute.
"No," she said, stiffening up and shifting backward in her seat. "I don't." Then she seemed to realize how her tone sounded and murmured "sorry" before wiping the tears from her eyes and trying to look strong as always again.
She didn't want anyone to see her cry. Especially not Sergei. Especially not right now. "I don't know, I don't know what I'm supposed to do now. I'm sorry."
"It's okay." Sergei repeated. He moved to sit on the floor with his ankles crossed and his right knee pulled upwards. He laid his right hand palm up on his knee as an offering to her. Just like he used to do when she would get upset. It was there incase she decided she wanted comfort, but he wouldn't be the one to reach out.
"You don't have to do anything. I just wanna talk, okay?" His voice cracked with emotion on the last word. "Can we be friends again?"
He felt like his stomach was filled with lead from the nerves. He wanted to pull his flash out go help calm himself, but something held him back. He didn't want Avery knowing about his... habit. not just yet.
She took his hand, but didn't say anything in response. Not because she didn't want to be friends, no, never that. She was just too overwhelmed to speak.
He curled his fingers around hers, knowing this was a good start. "I know it's been a while," He started, unsure of what was going through her mind.
"And I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I quit sending letters and I'm sorry that I didn't find you sooner." A tear slipped down his face. He'd always been something of a silent crier, never wanting to cause too much of a fuss if he was hurt or sad, and now was no different.
Avery didn't respond. She didn't even blink. She just let more tears stream down her face as she stared at the floor.
"I ran away" he said, suddenly. "That's why the letters stopped. I ran away from my last foster home and then I ended up here and I never got a chance to send you another letter and I'm so sorry."
The words didn't even seem to filter through his brain, they just came tumbling out of his mouth. "Can you believe that we’re both half-bloods?" He laughed through the tears.
"Technically... I'm three-quarters," she said softly, still not looking up from the ground. "My mother is Nemesis. My father's father was Bacchus." She spoke as though she wasn't really there, barely paying attention to the words coming out of her own mouth.
"Bacchus." He whispered to quietly he might as well have mouthed. "Bacchus."
He repeated a little louder before it hit him. "That's my dad!" He gently squeezed her hand. "Well, not my dad. Greek Bacchus is my dad. Dionysus," he babbled. "You can meet him, he's at camp like all the time and he'd actually pretty cool."
He smiled up at here and used his left hand to wipe at his tears. "I always did call you family."
"Dionysus? Does that... that.. does make us related in a way doesn't it? Are we... cousins.. or what?" Avery said, trying to regain her focus and composure, though still not quite there just yet.
She didn't care about the letters anymore, or anything else, Sergei was here now, and so none of that mattered. She was glad to hear his explanation, sure, but it didn't matter, it didn't.
She just wanted to stop thinking of it all and get back to feeling herself. Like. Not sobbing like a child in front of her best friend.
Sergei did some quick mental familial math. If his dad was her grandpa, that made her dad his brother, which he wasn't going to think about for the moment, so that made her...
"my niece." He let out a shocked laugh.
"Oh dear the gods, that makes you my niece."
Avery almost let out a laugh herself. "Oh, hell no, I'm not your niece, don't even try it," she said, in a half exasperated half amused tone.
Sergei grinned "Of course not." He said as he visibly crossed the fingers on his left hand.
He felt most of the tension in his chest unravel. Avery was here, she wasn't mad at him, and his wound was mostly healed, and for the moment things were good.
Her eyes left the ground for the first time, and the tears had gone, but no joy replaced them. "Why did you come here, Sergei? I could have killed you. We were friends years ago but why does that mean you have to be my friend now? You can leave, you SHOULD leave, and go make better, more good-natured friends."
"Please. You... have no reason to deal with me." She spoke quickly, as though she needed to get the words out before she changed her mind.
Sergei flinched slightly at her words, but curled his fingers a bit tighter around hers all the same. "If you had killed me I would have accept that death." He said, keeping his phrasing careful. No one, not even Avery, needed to know that he was basically ready for death at any given moment.
"But I'm not 'dealing' with you. If you don't want to be my friend, then I'll understand and I'll leave. But don't you ever think that I don't want to be yours." He really wanted a drink. But the same fears from earlier, fears of Avery judging him and his habits, held him back for the moment.
Avery's eyes flitted around the room as she listened to him speak- she wasn't quite ready to look Sergei in the eyes again. "B-but... why?" she asked- unable to accept that he could, just, be okay with it all like that.
"Because it's you." He said simply. "Because I trust you. Because you've been my family for a long time and I've missed you." That's really all there was to it. He'd literally dreamt of getting to meet her again. He never thought it'd go like this, but he was sure it could have gone worse.
Avery didn't respond. She just kept holding onto Sergei's hand and tried her best to shove all of the emotions flooding out back inside.
"You've never done anything to me that would cause me to stop caring about you." He wanted her to know that. He wanted her to realize how important she was to him. "You know how important family is to me, and you will always be mine."
Sergei knew that they'd both changed as people since the last time they'd seen each other. He knew that things could never be exactly the same. But he wanted them to face the future together. He wanted to introduce Avery to Pollux, to Dionysus.
Avery didn't know if anyone really could sincerely make a promise like that. What is family truly, anyway, but just people who help each other out of convenience? She wasn't sure. Not really, not after all this time. But he was the only one important enough to her for her to at least try, and so she said "you will always be family to me as well, Sergei."
Sergei smiled. He knew there were still things they'd need to talk about. But this was a start. A good start. "I'm glad. I'm glad that you're here." He could have done with all the fighting that'd happened before hand, but he was glad all the same.
"Where..." Avery questioned, getting curious as she calmed down, "exactly is here? Everything's happened so fast I honestly don't even know if our encampment is within your borders, just outside... who knows. It's all so different and unfamiliar. Everything is. I mean- your fauns fight battles! What sort of faun does that?"
Somehow, Sergei had calmed her, and she didn't exactly know what it is he did, but she was glad he did it.
"You're in New York." He said, glad she was showing an interest in the place he called home. "Long Island to be specific. We're called Camp Half-Blood. And- and our fauns? You mean our satyrs? They can be vicious when they need to be." It was a little terrifying, actually.
"I- if you- I mean, if you'd like, I can show you around? You can meet a satyr, maybe. There's another son of Dionysus here, and you can meet him too. If you want." He spoke as casually as he could, as if it wasn't too important to him, just incase she didn't want to.
Avery sighed, "it's so kind of you to offer Sergei, but I don't think your campers or satyrs could possibly want to meet me. I've killed friends of both." She wanted to go exploring with Sergei- she really did.. but she knew she had killed people with friends. Friends who lived in this very camp. She could never face them.
"I-" he'd been really good at avoiding those facts until now. "Greeks killed Romans and Romans killed Greeks. It was war." Sergei said quietly. "We all understand that. No one will attack you, especially not if you're with a Greek." He promised
"Not one person on that battlefield killed more greeks than me, I'm sure of it." She'd seen how others had avoided striking the killing blow. She hadn't been so kind. "But, if you really think they'll see it that way... Fine. Show me your camp."
She hoped Sergei hadn't noticed her slide a knife into her boot as she was talking... 'just in case,' she thought. She hoped she wouldn't have reason to use it, but safe is always better than sorry.
He didn't want to think about their dead. He didn't want to think of the bodies he'd seen. The bodies of campers he'd known. So he shoved it away. He took a deep breath, and smiled at Avery. "I promise that it'll be fine." He ignored what he was pretty sure was a knife that Avery slipped into her boot.
He understood feeling wary in a new place. He'd felt like that in camp at one point. "I can show you the strawberry fields, they're my favorite place in the whole camp."
"Just, one little problem." Avery smirked. "I'm apparently too dangerous to let roam around. You've probably got to chat with Larry or Reyna if you want to get me out of here." In a way, she was proud of being in this position. She was someone to fear.
"Oh" Sergei's eyes widened as he let out a laugh. That reminded him so much of the trouble she used to get into, especially at school. But with more physical danger. "Well," he started as he pulled himself to his feet, groaning softly at the pull in his sore muscles and mostly healed wound. "It can't be too hard to convince them to let you out, right?"
"Maybe." She rolled her eyes. "See, the thing is I MAY have bruised up a greek, maybe two, after peace was declared. They'd gotten some good hits in on me during the battle, yeah?? We weren't done yet." The pain and tears had all but faded from her eyes now. They were starting to show her regular ferocity again.
He winced "Well I'm a Greek that you have not bruised up, so maybe they'll trust me when I say you'll be on good behavior." It was unlikely. But he was charming, he could talk his way in and out of things.
He took a couple steps towards the tent door before he turned back around ok his heel to face Avery. "I don't know who Reyna and Larry are."
"Reyna is praetor of our camp. She's intimidating, and has two huge guard dogs. And... Larry's probably still right outside the tent. I highly recommend speaking with him over her."
That sounded like a good plan. He'd rather avoid terrifying women with large dogs. Especially if even Avery seemed intimidated by her.
Sergei gave her a thumbs up "I'll have you out of here in no time." He slid out of the tent, pulled out his flask and finished it off He looked to the guy sitting on a chair just outside the tent and assumed that he must be Larry.
Ten minutes later he slid back into the tent.
"We're good to go, I think."
Avery stood up, brushed herself off a bit, and put a black jacket on over her Camp Jupiter shirt.
It wasn't that cold for New York, warmer than she'd expected being this far north, but she'd wear the jacket anyway.
No point in letting anyone see just how bruised she had gotten in the battle, after all. A leader must maintain a presence of power. Especially among outsiders.
She followed Sergei out of the encampment, toward Camp Half-Blood. He seemed happy to have her around again, and looked much better and more relaxed than when they had first started talking.
She was glad. A sad Sergei is never good.
He led her past a wall of volcanic rock, which was apparently used for training, and excitedly brought up a time he and that Pollux boy had raced to the top.
Then they headed for the mess hall and cabins, where most of the campers seemed to be spending their time.
Avery double checked that her dagger was still in her boot, and asked Sergei that they not stay long. She didn't want to be surrounded by the people whose friends she had just killed- whether Sergei said it was alright or not.
He didn't realize what sorts of things people could do in the name of revenge.
Sergei finished up his explanation on the camp cabins and led them away fairly quickly.
They walked a little further before they reached the arena.
"So if you look to our left," made a sweeping gesture with his right arm. "We've got the arena. Which is fairly straightforward, it's where we spar and do most of our training."
Sergei wasn't sure how much she was actually enjoying the tour, but he was so excited to have her here. To be able to show her his new home.
"We can go in, if you'd like," he carried on.
Avery hadn't been all that interested in the tour up until now, though she was certainly glad to spend some time with Sergei. But the arena? That caught her attention.
"Yes, let's take a look. It would be interesting to see how the greeks train for war." She still referred to 'the greeks' as though they were something different from Sergei. It hadn't fully sunken in yet that he was one of them- that he had been here for some time. "plus, I doubt there's anyone in there right now."
Most were probably off regrouping, spending time with friends. And healing from their wounds. Avery didn't want to dwell on that last bit right now though.
Sergei ignored her comment about the Greeks and how they train, and led them inside.
On the far end there were targets, used for archery and and knife throwing usually. Sometimes axes. There were several straw dummies in armour around the building and a rack of training swords to the right of the door.The flooring was sand and on the left there were sets of spectator stands.
"Quaint, but it seems like a decent place to train,"Avery said with a playful smirk. She pulled the dagger out of her boot and casually threw it into the head of a nearby dummy. "Though you should see our coliseum one day, sometimes we even flood it and have naval battles!"
She was unimpressed so far with what Camp Half-Blood had to offer, a disorganized mess all around, but was trying to be polite for her friend's sake. She didn't want to offend him, after all. Especially so early on into their reunion.
Sergei hoped he didn't look as horrified as he felt at the thought of naval battles. It was impressive though. "That sounds really cool. You really think I could come to your camp someday?"
He was pretty sure that would be terrifying and really cool all at once.
"If our arena is too 'quaint' for you then I guess you won't want to see your armoury?" He teased.
"I don't know," she said honestly. "As a centurion I'm aware talks are occurring about whether or not to allow greek visitors now that we know each other exists. But it could go either way."
"And no need to skip the armory" she said as she pulled her dagger from the dummy's head, sticking it back down her boot. "I'd like a nice up close look at these celestial bronze weapons I've been hearing about."
"Well," Sergei started, shrugging "I'm pretty sure you guys will be allowed to come here, so we can visit each other."
He gestured for her to follow him and led them back out the door and further down the path. "So, usually, when a new camper gets here and after they've settled in a bit they get brought here to choose a weapon that they like and that likes them." He said as they walked.
"We tried that with me, but nothing was quite right." He wasn't a particular fan of sharp things.
"So my father gave me the staff I use." Even after all this time it was strange calling him that.
"I think it was some kind of apology gift, because he never realized that I existed. But it works well for me and it's made out of celestial bronze."
They came up on what was, basically, a shed. Sergei placed a hand on the door and said "So, a fair warning, it's kind of a mess in here." Understatement. Of. The. Year.
"I'm not a fan of our camp's typical regulation weapons either," Avery said with a grin, "I use my own very special imperial gold gladius." She thought for a moment- "what is the regulation greek outfit and weaponry anwa- an..." her voice trailed off as she saw the inside of the shed, and she exclaimed "THIS mess is your armoury?"
"I know." Sergei said sheepishly "it's supposed to make us concentrate more on finding the weapons that calls to us than the one that looks cool or something." At least that's what the camper that had brought him here told him. But she was a daughter of Hermes so you never know.
"Hey," he started as a thought hit him "I got my staff from my dad, did you get anything from your mom?"
Her previous lighthearted dagger tossing attitude disappeared in an instant upon hearing his question.
"Only an extremely strong desire to kill her... and trust me- I will." she muttered in a dark and bitter tone. "My gladius is from grandpa Bacchus."
She wasn't sure how Sergei would take hearing of her murderous ambition, but she decided she preferred to be open, with him of all people, rather than hold that truth in.
"Oh. I- um, I'm sorry?" He didn't know what her mother had done, and he was pretty sure he didn't want to. But he was sorry that she'd gotten hurt by something in the first place.
He didn't understand the desire to kill another and he knew what Avery was capable of, so maybe it scared him a little.
But he wasn't really, exactly, scared of her, he was more scared of what the goddess would do to to her for attempting to take her life.
Sergei had killed monsters before, but even then he didn't understand the desire go seek something like that out. For him it was only if he had too.
"I guess both sides of him like to give weapons then."
"I guess so," she responded. The bitterness had yet to leave her voice.
"I'm sorry." He said again, his voice almost silent.
He was itching for a drink, but his flask was empty. Even if it wasn't he was sure he couldn't sneak it past her anyway.
"C'mon." He said, letting the door swing shut. "Were almost to my favorite part of camp. The stables are on the way too."
"It's fine." She replied, her voice still steely cold. She didn't need anyone's sympathy. And certainly not Sergei's. SHE was supposed to be protecting his emotions, not the other way around, right?
"And yes, I saw your camp's pegasi on the battlefield, it would be good to see them up close," she commented, voice warming back up as they walked. "What is this favorite place of yours?"
"The pegasi are pretty cool. Some of them are pretty friendly too, especially if you're feeding them." Sergei was glad to hear her voice warm again.
"And my favorite place is right over there." He gestured to their right.
"It's the strawberry fields." Some part of him realised that that sounded kind of stupid. He hoped Avery wouldn't think so.
"I've got this like, connection to plants. Like a literal connection- it's a kid of Dionysus thing, i guess. Plus the fields are pretty empty unless it's time to harvest, so it's peaceful.'
"Probably the most open space in camp?" Avery queried, before turning to look. Her favorite place was the most open as well- the Field of Mars.
Though... probably for different reasons from Sergei. It was the location that most of Camp Jupiter's war games took place in.
The strawberry fields, she gathered, weren't exactly a combat zone.
But... it sure was the most beautiful place she'd seen at his camp yet- even from a distance.
She smiled. Sergei always did have a taste for the pointlessly romantic and picturesque side of life and she was glad to see he hadn't changed. He was most certainly the same boy she knew, even if she met him on a battlefield.
"Yeah, probably." He agreed.
"If you walk all the way into the middle, it's nothing but strawberries are far as the eye can see." It was quiet, peaceful, and safe. When he first got to camp it was the only place he felt comfortable.
That had changed by now, of course, but it was still his favorite.
He pulled open the door to the stables "but first, the pegasi!"
There were stalls on either side, most with a Pegasus inside. There was a range of colours, one or two even a mix of brown and white.
Avery followed him into the stables. She wasn't as interested in the pegasi as she made herself out to be- her interest was mostly for Sergei's benefit.
She thought, as she stepped forward and let one pegasus sniff her hand, not about flying horses, but about the battle. It just couldn't leave her mind.
Avery honestly wanted to be back there, in the midst of war. She really truly did. It was so much easier to have clear enemies rather than uncertain allies. "What is her name?" She asked, pointing to the pegasus in front of her.
"This one," Sergei said as he picked up an apple from a nearby bucket. "Is cinnamon. Original, I know, but I didn't name her." He offered the apple to Avery. "She's one of the sweetest ones we have."
He ran a hand down her snout "Do you have pegasi at your camp?"
"Yes," she said while offering the apple to the pegasus. "Though not exactly. Not like you do, anyway. Pegasi are not for regular use like they are with you greeks.
They're more ceremonial and- occasionally used by centurions or praetors in larger battles. Besides, we fight in tight formations that they wouldn't work too well in."
"Ours are usually used for chariot races and the like. But some of them are downright blood thirsty, it's a little scary, actually." Even if one couldn't speak to them, you could still tell. They had this look in their eyes.
"We've got a baby, if you'd like to see him. He shares a stall with his mom for the moment."
"No. No need for that," she said, taking her hand back from Cinnamon. "Let's go see those strawberry fields of yours."
Sergei grinned "I doubt you're gonna like them as well as I do, but I've been wanting to show them to you for ages."
He pulled made sure the door was shut behind them securely before guiding them towards the field.
"But if nothing else you can eat some of the strawberries. They're really good actually."
"Lead the way!" Avery smiled. She was glad Sergei was happy.
"So the fields are actually the cover story for the camp." Sergei said as they walked. "Were a strawberry farm/summer camp or something. I don't really know the details."
He led them down on of the rows, taking a deep breath as he went. He could practically feel any tension left in his body leaving.
"The spot I was telling you about is just up this way."
Avery nodded, "a reasonable cover. I suppose berry farms are pretty common around here?"
She took in the smell as they walked. It was nice. Not home, not familiar. Not to her. But home to Sergei she realized- watching him take in the smell himself. He really did love it here.
"Yeah I think so" he wasn't actually sure. He hasn't spend much time out of camp since he got here.
"We've got transport trucks and everything."
He led them down a little further and they stopped in a spot where the ground looked particularly worn down.
"It's nothing but strawberries." He said gesturing around them. "We can wander around, if you'd like. Just be careful not to step on the plants, they don't like it."
"The plants... don't like being stepped on?" Avery raised an eyebrow. Maybe being the kid of Dionysus gave him some kind of magic plant-sense.
"Well I'll avoid the strawberries Sergei, but I can't exactly help stepping on the grass."
"I-" he could feel his cheeks heat up a little "that's weird, I know. Sorry." He ran a hand through his hair sheepishly.
"And I know about the grass, but the strawberries get particularly upset about it." He said before he realised that sounded even weirder. "Sorry, again. Forget I said that."
"Hardly weird," she laughed.
"You do realize we just got manipulated into a war by Gaea, and now, hours after we're walking through strawberry fields and feeding pegasi?"
It really was strange how quickly everything could get better.
"If anything is strange, it's that- or those mind controlling Aphrodite girls. Certainly not you, plant boy," she said with a bit of a grin on her face.
"Oh my gods, plant boy?" He said through shocked laughter. "No you're right, it's just- I've never explained that to anyone before."
Avery really was right though, he thought. Less than twelve hours ago he'd come to terms with his own death. Not just by Avery's hand, but just in general.
And now here he was, reunited with his best friend, just on the far side of tipsy, and in his favorite place in all of camp.
"Yeah! If I'm your niece then you're plant boy," she grinned. She was glad to hear his laughter again.
"Well you are definitely my niece, so i guess it's sticking." He said, enjoying here smile.
"Sometimes I like to go all the way out to the far side and just be alone. It's a good place to practice my Russian since there's no one around here for me to speak it with. Do you remember yours?"
Avery thought for a moment, and then said "я.. думаю... россия?" She barely had any idea what she was saying.
Sergei winced "eh, kind of. Better than anyone I've heard in years though."
The Russian was one of the things he'd missed the most. He's rarely heard anyone but his family speaking it, so it was something he'd thought of as theirs.
It was something he'd refused to have taken away from him, even if everything else was.
He'd practiced daily, especially in his times at the foster homes.
Even when there were rules in place that only English was to be spoken in the home, or if he was mocked for it, he simply changed what time of day he practiced, and kept it from other people. It used to be theirs, and then it became his.
"You should give me lessons and get me fluent!" She knew how important the language was to him. It was a connection to his family, his mother and Boris.
"I'd like that." Sergei said, smiling fondly at Avery. "It shouldn't be too hard, you knew it once, you can learn it again." He turned back the they'd come.
"C'mon, the next stop on our tour is the big house. It's where the official camp meetings happen, and where Chiron and my dad live."
"Our camps' leaders are probably meeting there right now," Avery noted, looking both a bit wary and intrigued. "Should we really visit the house? I don't want to get mixed up in that business."
"Not today, I think." Sergei said, shaking his head. "Chiron will want to give people time to heal and regroup a bit.
To grieve. But I'd bet that tomorrow, your leaders will at the very least meet with Chiron. Maybe Dionysus and maybe the individual cabin leaders."
"That makes sense. I suppose Reyna and Jason would support such a proposal," she mused.
"Personally, I would prefer to sort out the details of the peace as soon as possible, but I suppose they- Reyna at the least- know what they're doing."
He shrugged "We have peace for now, so Id imagine that, to Chiron, the most important thing is the campers. That's just how he is."
He pointed to the house they had nearly reached. "Were almost there, and past it is the volleyball courts, where we do 'arts and crafts', and a lake. But what I think you'll find really interesting is to the right, just by the camp line. So, lots to look forward to."
Avery laughed. "Great foreshadowing, tour guide. Lead the way!" She was really starting to relax, truly, for the first time since the war had begun.
"Well thank you." He grinned back. He stopped them short of the front steps. They could see two adult men sitting on the porch. One in a wheelchair in a tweed jacket and one in a hawaiian print button down shirt with a can of diet coke in hand. "And here we have Chiron and Dionysus, but most of the campers call him Mr.D. we can go say hi if you'd like," he said, already raising his hand in greeting.
Her grandfather, in a way, but a good nonetheless. And Chiron, lord of all centaurs... not a pair you see every day, not at all.
Her only experience with gods was an indirect gift from Bacchus and being frisked by the minor god Terminus.
They weren't quite what she expected, but despite this she knew offering her reverence was of utmost importance.
Sergei hadn't, but that was because he was the son of one and the student of another. They had a familiar relationship. She, however, did not.
And so she knelt.
Sergei watched the look on Dionysus's face turn bewildered and Chiron raise an eyebrow so he turned to look at Avery. "No- oh my gods Avery get up you don't need to do that."
He placed a hand on her shoulder, not wanting to pull her up, but not wanting her to stay kneeling either.
"It's fine, we're pretty informal here."
Avery stood, and brushed herself off a bit, muttering "informality... with the lord of centaurs and the god of madness and wine... got it..." Camp Half-Blood was unendingly strange.
"Well..." Sergei started but trailed off as he shrugged helplessly. He'd never really thought of them like that.
"Lets just say hi." He walked up the steps and briefly stopped by Chiron. He asked him how he was doing, if he needed anything, before he moved over to Dionysus.
"Hey dad." If it was weird to call him that to others, then he didn't even have a word for what it was to call him that to his face.
"There's someone I want to introduce you to." This was terrible, he didn't understand why he felt so anxious about this.
Or why he wanted to have his approval on Avery so bad. "This is my friend, her name is Avery. She's also kind of your granddaughter?"
Avery started to bow on instinct but stopped herself and raised her hand in a small wave instead. Be casual, be casual she thought. "I'm a granddaughter of Bacchus on my father's side, and a daughter of Nemesis. It is good to meet you both." She tried to spit out the latter name without showing too much hatred.
Dionysus raised an eyebrow, mostly at her tone, but a bit at the relationship between both the two of them and the girl and his son. "Just friends, huh? Probably for the best."
Sergei let out a quiet "oh no" at his dad's comment "Best friends," Avery said indignantly.
"Nobody knows this boy better than me, and nobody knows me better than him," she said with a genuine smile.
You should be proud of him, he's kind and has a strong and good heart. Everything anyone should be, and the antithesis of my mother, cursed be her name." ...she stopped speaking suddenly, and her face fell.
She should NOT have said that. Not in front of Dionysus- in front of a god. Oh gods.
Sergei, hearing what she had to say, couldn't believe that's what she truly thought of him.
He wondered how quickly her opinion of him would change if she knew the things he'd done.
The kind of habits he had, and used to have. He felt his cheeks heating up into a blush "Avery.." before he trailed off, his eyes widening as he heard what she said about her mother.
His eyes darted from her to Dionysus and back again.
Dionysus took in the hesitancy in the girls face, and the slight fear in his son's eyes. He tilted his head back and laughed for a solid minute.
"I like you, girl." He decided. "You've got guts."
He noticed that she genuinely seemed to care about his youngest son, which gave her points in his book. Not that he'd ever say that out loud.
Avery's mind was racing and she was PRETTY SURE she was just seconds from being obliterated from existence or turned into a madwoman.
But then, the utterly unexpected happened. The god laughed, long and hard, and said he liked her. How was she supposed to respond to that? Thank you? Glad to be amusing, my lord?
Who knows. In the end she just remained silent and glanced at Sergei, hoping he had an answer.
Sergei shrugged when Avery looked towards him and whispered "he's always like this."
He was strange, but Sergei knew that he was a good dad. He really did care about him and Pollux, even if he never said anything, and that's what really counted go Sergei.
Dionysus turned his attention back to the game of cards set up between him and Chiron. "Well girl, what was your name? Alice? Alyssa? Avery? Whatever, you're welcome back anytime." He ignored Chirons half hearted protest of 'you can't just say things like that' with the grace of a being who had been doing so for years.
Avery was trying hard to hide her totally bewildered look. "Yes, of course Lord Dionysus, thank you."
Sergei offered a quiet "bye dad." And then speaking mostly to Chiron. "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help in there." He gestured towards the closed door of the big house, where he knew the medical area was set up.
As Sergei did that, Dionysus snorted. "It's Mr. D, kid."
Avery stepped away from the big house with a sigh of relief. She hadn't meant to be so.. so... open about her feelings toward her mother.
Especially not with Dionysus. She scanned the horizon, her pulse still high, a tiny bit grateful that she still existed to see it. Even she, for all her risk taking, knew not to mess with gods.
And she needed to stay alive if she wanted to kill her mother one day.
She was glad Dionysus seemed entertained by her wrath rather than wrathful himself in return.
Sergei walked back down the steps. "So, yeah. I probably should have warned you about his, um, personality. But, then again, I don't think there's anyway to properly prepare someone for him."
He's been pretty spooked himself the first time he'd spoken with Dionysus. That had been a tough day all around.
Avery was still a bit shaken. "It-it worked out alright, I suppose?" She noted the big house was near the cabins.
They had almost gone full circle, and she was almost sad the tour would be coming to a close.
It was nice spending this time with Sergei after so long.
"Hey- Sergei, what cabin is that?" She'd noticed one that stood out from the rest- bright red, painted in a terribly splotchy paint job, and covered in barbed wire.
"A bit shabby, but I like what they're going for there. Any chance we could get a closer look?"
"No." He said immediately, thinking about what could happen if Avery met the ares kids.
Especially Clarisse. Clarisse who shoved campers heads into toilets. Clarisse who, he'd heard rumors, was ares' favorite child.
Clarisse who has beat him up in the process of sparing a number of times. The mere idea made him wish his flask was full. He, in no way, could see that meeting going well. "Um, I mean, some of those kids aren't my biggest fan, so it'd probably be best to steer clear."
It wasn't a lie either. Some of them thought that all kids of Dionysus were useless drunks. For him, they were right, to some degree, but not about Pollox and he hated that that was what they thought of him.
"I've got something better for you to see. It'll be boring at first, but it's got a story that I think you'll like."
Avery's face got serious and her voice went steely cold. "Sergei, tell me the names of these kids who, as you say, aren't your 'biggest fans', please."
"No, oh my gods Avery it's not like whatever you're thinking it's like. Don't worry about it."
He really didn't see the big deal anyway. There were always going to be people who didn't like him.
"Anyway we're almost where we’re going. You see that tree right up there? The one with the gold bit hanging from it?" He asked, pointing at said tree.
She was still focusing on the people who had a problem with Sergei. Of course he'd say it wasn't a big deal, even if it totally was. She'd deal with them. Definitely.
But right now, she thought, it might be best just to just focus on this tree of his. "Yes- I see it. That's a pine tree, right? Why is there gold in it?"
"It is." He confirmed. "That gold, well that's the golden fleece. And the tree? It used to be a person," he said as they approached the tree. He laid a hand on the trunk.
"That's not quite right." He corrected himself. "Let me try again- long before I came to camp, three children and a Satyr were approaching. A very young daughter of Athena, a teenage son of Hermes, and a pre-teen Daughter of Zeus. She was named Thalia. Along their journey here someone-" he wasn't going to name names. "-had send the most dangerous of monsters after them. Despite this they nearly made it to the camp line."
He patted the trees trunk. "By the time they made it here a hoard of monsters had caught up... Thalia sacrificed herself to save the daughter of Athena."
"Her father, Zeus himself, took pity on his dying daughter and turned her into this pine tree where she stood for a few years, before the tree was poisoned," he continued as Avery listened intently beside him.
"So a quest was started to find the golden fleece, which was the only thing that could save her, and the barrier that protects this camp. They came back victorious and the fleece healed the tree. Except, there was something of an unforeseen side effect. And by that I mean that at some point after that, Thalia was expelled from the tree. She's now a lieutenant of Artemis."
Avery stepped toward the tree. "There's a lot to that story, isn't there? I can tell. More than you or I will ever know."
She took a deep breath, taking in the tree and everything else around her. "But that sacrifice... Even knowing a partial story, I can tell how brave this Thalia must have been. Must be."
"I think so too." He agreed. "I've met the daughter of Athena that I mentioned." He also, kind of, knew what had happened to that son of Hermes. But He thought it was best not to bring that up now.
"And I've heard many stories of Thalia. Everything I've heard about her was good. She was twelve when she sacrificed herself for her friends, and I can't think of anything more amazing." He wondered if he's be brave enough to do the same.
"That really is something amazing," she said, solemnly. "I doubt I could do something so self sacrificing like that. No- no. I know that I couldn't. It... amazes me that someone even younger me could do so, and so valiantly."
"I think that Thalia was born a hero." Because that's what she was to him. In the same way that Boris was. "I think that one way or another, demigod or not, she would have always been brave."
"I... think I may have been wrong about your greek friends Sergei. And all those I killed..."
She did her best to hold back her tears. She was NOT crying twice in one day. She couldn't even remember the last time she'd cried before today, and twice in one day today? It was getting on her nerves.
"Hey, it's okay. Like I said before, it was war. Deaths happen." He really did understand, they'd been told that the Greeks were the enemy, he couldn't fault them for that.
He took a step forward and let one of his hands hover over her shoulder. "Would you like that hug now?"
"Ye-yeah, I think I would," she said, doing her best to offer a smile.
Sergei gently wrapped his arms around her. He was several inches taller so the side of his jaw ended up against her temple.
"It's gonna be okay," he told her.
"Sergei." Her voice, suddenly, had gone her trademark steely cold. "Is there possibly, by chance, some valid reason as to why you REEK of alcohol?"
He instantly let go of her and took a step back.
"No." It was less of a denial of her words, and more of a denial of the situation. This was decidedly not a conversation he wanted to have with her.
He hasn't felt truly ashamed of his drinking in a while. He's gotten it under some sort of control since he'd gotten to camp.
But now, hearing the coldness of Avery's voice, he could feel the shame growing in his stomach. His flask felt like it was burning a hole in his pocket.
"I don't know what you're talking about." It was a weak defense and he knew it.
He was clearly lying. Sergei was drunk. Right now.
"I think you do know. Exactly. What I'm talking about." He had been drinking, all this time.
"Being the son of a wine god doesn't mean you've got to be a sixteen year old alcoholic. But you couldn't even make it through a day with me without it- could you? Your hidden flask? Where is it? I suppose every time I turned my back you... you must have been sneaking drinks." She took a step forward.
"I can't believe I hadn't noticed the pungent scent before now." She sighed, a harsh, angry sigh. She couldn't begin to understand what had started this or how long it had been going on. Was Dionysus the cause? Maybe, maybe not.
But she would be the cause of its end.
"Sergei. I'm so disappointed."
Sergei took a step back to match her forward one. "It's not like that." He said, voice desperate. "I'm not even drunk" he winced, knowing those words would just sound like a denial. But they were the truth. He hasn't hit drunk, not yet.
"Please-" he felt like he couldn't breath, it was like the shame was choking him.
"Please." He repeated, unsure what he was asking for. Maybe for her to drop it. Maybe for it to just all go away.
It made him sick but even now he wanted a drink. He wanted to numb himself, to make things go away.
Avery was shocked. She didn't know what to think. She was hurt. But more than that, worried.
"Please WHAT Sergei? This is your problem- not mine. I've just been made unpleasantly aware of it."
She wanted to fix it. She was supposed to fix it, she always made everything better when they were younger. How could she fix it?
"I- I'm hurt that you would be so boldly crass, to sneak drinks behind my back. I don't even know what to say anymore- I-I just don't." I just don't know how to help you, she thought. Please, show me how to help you.
"It's not a problem" Sergei denied. He could feel that tickle in the back of his throat that meant he'd start crying soon.
"I haven't even had a drink since we left the Roman encampment."
He didn't think of it as sneaking anything. He just hadn't been obvious about it. How would he have even brought that up, anyway.
'Hi it's been five years since we've seen each other but btw I haven't been sober for longer than twelve hours in two years' yeah, he didn't think so.
"Oh. So you're saying you ONLY got drunk to tell me you still care about me, and that I'm not a terrible murderer? Well I'm SO sorry you couldn't bear to do that while still sober," Avery said, her voice colder than ice.
"No!" Sergei exclaimed, sounding horrified. "It had nothing to with that!" It'd had way more to do with the fact that he'd hurt people, and that he'd had friends that had died. He wondered what gave him to excuse to live when they couldn't. There was also the fact that he's been sober for the whole battle, and the hours before it. He couldn't stand to be sober that long, not anymore.
"And I wasn't drunk. Tipsy, maybe. But not anymore." The buzz had since faded.
"I don't get why this is such a big deal to you. Like you said, this is my problem, Not yours."
"You don't?" She said, voice growing icier by the second. "Well, it shouldn't be that difficult, Sergei Molotov. You're my family. I love you. And the problems that hurt you? They hurt me too... And so... you've hurt me today. Badly. It feels worse than any battlefield wound, and it's all because of you."
Sergei let out a sob and tangled the fingers of his left hand in his hair.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry." He repeated as years slid down his face.
"It's not important, please, I'm sorry."
He just wanted it to stop. He wished that the ground would open up and swallow him whole so that he could get away from this.
"Apology not accepted. Stop lying about your drinking, stop hiding your drinking, stop drinking. Stop hurting everyone who cares about you." It was overkill to say that, but today was an emotional day and she couldn't hold her reaction in properly.
"I'm sorry." Sergei said again. His knees felt weak; like they'd give out on him at any moment.
He didn't understand how his drinking was hurting others. What he did understand was that Avery was angry and anger rarely meant good things.
He needed to pull himself together so he could figure out how to get Avery to stop being angry, but the tears wouldn't stop coming.
She didn't understand that he was so much better off than he was this time last year. She didn't understand that at least it was only alcohol now.
Part of him wanted to tell her that. Wanted to tell her every terrible thing he'd done to himself. But he knew that would just escalate the situation, and that was the last thing he needed.
"Apology. Not. Accepted. Saying it again doesn't up your chances, Molotov." She wanted to tear this world to the ground and destroy everything that had led her closest friend to this point.
"I'm-" he cut himself off with a whimper. He didn't know what else to say to her. He didn't have anything that would make it better. He didn't know how to make her stop being angry.
If apologies didn't work then maybe silence would. Maybe she just needed to vent her anger out onto him and then things would be okay again.
"Think of your mother- of Boris! Think of how much this would have hurt THEM, Sergei." Was she wrong to bring them into this? No. No, it was true. They would have been hurt.
"Don't bring them into this!" He snapped and finally pulled his hand down from where it had been tangled in his hair.
"You don't know what I've been through" he carried on. His voice shook as tears streamed down his face.
"You don't know what got me here Avery."
And in that moment he realised that she really didn't. She didn't know about the Jones' or the Smythe's or Victoria or the things he had to do on the streets.
He hasn't talked about them, so that part was on him. But in that moment he truly felt that she had no right to judge him for things he'd done when she had no idea what had been done to him.
In the next moment he regretted his anger and he clapped a hand over his mouth, tears still streaming down his face. He'd never wanted to be that kind of person. He'd never wanted to feel that kind of overwhelming anger. But it had happened, and what he'd said was out in the air now.
"S-sergei?" Did- did he just snap back at her? Had he ever done that before, in all the time she'd known him? No, no he... he hadn't. But she'd missed so many years.
He... he was right. He was wrong. But he was right, if that made any sense at all. She didn't know what he had been through, and what led to this point. Avery realized she needed to hear him out. But first, she needed to fix the mess she had created.
She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around him in a big hug. "I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry, I went too far. Please, tell me what you've been through. Wh-when you're ready of course. I'm here for you. I'm always here for you.
Sergei hugged her back, grabbing onto the back of her jacket almost desperately. He buried his face into he shoulder as well as he could and sobbed.
"I just wanted to feel happy." He told her, hoping she's understand. "I wanted the bad stuff to go away. I just wanted to feel happy again." He said through the tears "I'm sorry.."
Avery didn't move, and she couldn't think. Not for what felt like hours, or even days.
She felt like she was becoming a tree herself, rooted to this very spot with Sergei for all time. She didn't know what to do. What should she do? She hurt Sergei.
After a while Sergei finally got himself under some sort of control. He pulled back from Avery a little and and wiped at his eyes.
"Sorry." He whispered to her. He was embarrassed at his outburst. He was embarrassed about the whole situation, if he was honest.
He sniffed and made sure his eyes were dry before he offered "I'll walk you back to your camp, if you'd like." He wasn't sure if she'd really want to be around him anymore.
She was still angry, but now she was upset and overwhelmed and confused as well- and the anger? It had redirected to herself.
She just wanted Sergei to know she didn't hate him like how her ranting must have sounded, she just wanted to fix everything.
She didn't want to leave so suddenly on this note, but it sounded like he wanted her to leave.
She couldn't force him to let her stay, it would only make things worse.
"That... that.. would be good," she said.
Three weeks ago Sergei has been reunited with his childhood best friend. Their initial meeting had been, interesting, to say the least.
Because of this, sergei was pretty nervous as he exited his bus in Oakland, California.
Sergei and his friend, Avery, had been sending letter for the last few weeks, but she didn't know that he was coming. That only added to his nervousness.
He tossed his backpack into the first cab that would stop for a teenage boy, and had the driver take him as close to the address he'd been given as possible. This still left him with a half mile walk.
"PROBATIO," Avery shouted at the boy, "pick up that pilum and try again! If you throw too soon you'll be less accurate. Wait until you can see MORE than the whites of your enemy's eyes." She was working with two recent additions to the twelfth legion today- probatios Nelson Hendry, fifteen year old son of Summanus, and Katie Grant, fourteen year old daughter of Mercury. Just her luck getting stuck with the newbies again while Larry was off teaching advanced technique... "Ready?" She had a bored look on her face. "Then STRIKE square into my shield," she said, moving toward him with her scutum guarding her face.
At some point along the cab ride he'd been forced to make up a story about spending a couple weeks with his grandparents. Because, apparently, a nervous looking teenage boy hauling off into the middle of nowhere was a little suspicious.
He grabbed his backpack, waved a friendly goodbye to the driver, David, and started his walk in the direction that he was, pretty sure that Camp Jupiter was in.
He made it to the entrance tunnel fairly easily, made it through a short interrogation, and was escorted into the actual camp.
Once on the other side, he took in the sight in front of him and let out a quiet "holy shit." He didn't curse often, but this was worth it. The camp was so big, and had so many sights to see.
Avery was making her way toward Nelson, when, much earlier than she had said to, he threw his pilum, missing her scutum entirely.
"PROBATIO," she shouted. "Pick up your pilum, and report to your barracks. I want you to scrub the whole thing down before the rest of us return. Let's see if you can follow those simple instructions, at least. If you prove to me that you can, maybe you can return to training with us tomorrow."
"Y-yes mam," he replied, looking terrified as he rushed off.
"Probatio Katie, it's your turn now. Don't disappoint."
Sergei looked from left to right, surveying what he could see. It was a little overwhelming and he was unsure of where to go first. He took a deep breath, hitched his backpack a little higher, and headed off towards a field towards the left of what looked like the main buildings. For the moment he wanted to steer clear of heavily populated areas. He was already nervous without being in a crowd.
As he got closer he could see campers training with things like bows and arrows and Javelin like things. A good place to start looking for Avery, he thought. He hoped she wouldn't be angry with him for Just showing up like this.
"Katie!" The girl jumped when she heard her name. "This is your first time wielding pila, correct? Then we'll start off with the very basics. Stance and form." This was so boring. So pointless. Avery needed to be training with the advanced group, she needed to improve her own skills- skills that would surely be much more useful to the legion than this girl's. "First thing's first, right or left handed?" The girl murmured a soft "left" in response. "Then," Avery said, "you'll need to step forward with your right foot like so." She stepped forward. "Stand sideways from your target, and grip your pilum right in the middle with an underhanded grip just like mine."
She had her fingers loosely wrapped. "You'll need to lean back if you want to throw with any force, and raise your pilum above your head. Just follow my lead." Avery leaned back into what made a backwards C shape with her left arm and leg. "Next step- throwing. You'll need to rotate your arm inward as you throw, but don't bend it. Practice it slowly. Repeat the stance thirty times." Avery watched
Katie practice her stance. She wasn't impressed, but at least the girl was doing her best to follow instructions.
Sergei felt like his anxiety was crawling up his throat and trying to choke him. He wasn't sure if it was because of what had happened the last time he'd been around this many Romans with weapons, or his fear of Avery's response to him being here. He knew that they were at peace now, and he knew that no one would hurt him just for being here, but he still felt the echo of pain from the bruised ribs he'd received and absentmindedly curled a protective hand over his not quite three week old scar.
He also knew that Avery wouldn't just kick him out after he came all this way, even if she wasn't as pleased to see him as he hoped he'd be.
Yet the fear remained.
He did his best to shake thoughts of anger and battlefield injuries and decided that he'd he'd towards the people using what weren't quite the javelin that he knew. If nothing else he could learn something while he was here.
Combat formations practice was up next. She'd be in a mentor role, again. It was a bore and a waste of her time, but afterwards, if she was lucky, maybe she could sneak over to temple hill and catch a nap in some rarely used minor temple. Nobody ever went there during lunch time, she'd only have the gods to bother her. But for now? Stuck teaching this spineless probatio. "Keep your back aligned in a straight line with your front foot!" She sighed. "And keep both feet on the ground, probatio. Jumping around helps nothing- especially not your aim!"
Sergei wondered and watched short bits of different training sessions for a while. His anxiety both lessened and continued mounting in different ways.
It soothed him that no one bothered him, but the longer it took him to find Avery the more time his brain had to come up with possible reactions from her. Eventually he came across a duo training with the not-javelins, and was both relieved and impossibly more anxious to realise that Avery was leading a group of campers. He would hate to interrupt that, so be hung back and decided to watch until she was done. It would be interesting
"Probatio! Hold!" Avery shouted. The girl needed to see another example, badly. "Watch me again, and don't do whatever it is you were just doing." She glanced over at the barrel of pilum, rolled her eyes, then lazily stood up and turned what was before a golden gladius on her belt into a golden pilum. Katie jumped in surprise. "You need to arch your back further when first going into the throw. Like this," she said, arching her back to form a stretched C shape. "And aim higher than you have been," she said in a forcibly not-bored-sounding voice, tilting her pilum upward. "More like this. Else you'll only stab your enemies in the toes." Though that could be useful in some situations, she thought.
Sergei watched her teach for a while. He was far enough back that he couldn't hear what Avery was saying, but he could tell that she wasn't particularly pleased with her role as a teacher, or her student.
He received a weird look from a passing camper who obviously didn't recognise him. But as he'd foregone the camp halfblood t-shirt, instead wearing a plain white one with a jacket over the top, they didn't recognise him as a Greek either.
She watched as the girl gave it another go. It seemed she was improving, at least. She had her do fifty more repetitions, drilling the form into her head until, hopefully, it could drawn upon by instinct alone on the battlefield. "Good work probatio." She said, in a still utterly bored voice. "Return these pila to the armory and then report back the the field for group formations training." Finally, she would have a moment alone.
Sergei watched for a while longer and eventually she sent the other girl away. He figured there was no time like the present, shoved his anxiety down as much as possible, and walked until he was a few steps behind her. He stopped, one hand gripping the strap of his backpack and the other shoved into his pocket, attempting to look as casual as possible.
"Hey, I've got a question about the lesson?"
Avery was stretching a bit, and had compacted her golden pilum back into it's regular gladius form. Always fun to show Exemplum off to the newbies. And that's when she heard his voice. Sergei. The boy she had almost killed three weeks ago. Her only family and best friend. She thought her mind was playing tricks on her, but, there he was in the flesh. "S-sergei?" She said, dumbfounded, before composing herself and throwing a smile on her face. "Well of course. What was your question, auxiliary?"
Sergei grinned back at her and most of his worries melted away for the moment.
"Well, I guess that the first question would be: what do you call that weapon? It's a lot like a javelin, but something tells me that's not what you guys call them."
Avery rolled her eyes in mock annoyance, "of course not, soldier, everything Roman is in latin- we call them pilum, or pila if there's more than one. What- is this your first day here?" She was so glad to see him.
"Why, yes it is." Sergei said, his grin widening a bit. "How kind of you to notice." This reminded him of their banter from childhood, and he was so glad to see that somethings would always be the same with them.
This reminded her of when they would joke around as kids. She was glad to know that at least that could never be taken from them. Avery laughed, "Bacchus' beard Sergei, how did you even get here? How did you even know where to go?"
He pulled his hand out of his pocket and held it up; a slip of paper with an address written on it was held between his pointer and middle fingers. "I took the bus."
"You took the bus from New York all the way to California?" She pursed her lips. "That's a long way to travel all alone." She didn't like the thought of some monster bus driver sending her best friend off into a ravine or crashing him into a semi. "So... are you just visiting, or did Chiron or Lord Dionysus send you here as messenger? We've been getting a few of those since the war ended."
"I did." Sergei confirmed. "But it wasn't so bad." He's traveled for longer, and been just as alone, before.
"And I'm just here to visit. Thought I'd surprise you or something." He shoved his hand back into his pocket and shrugged awkwardly. "I hope that's okay?" It was meant to be a statement, but come out sounding like a question.
She looked at the ground for a moment before meeting Sergei's eyes again. "Well... this isn't exactly Camp Half-Blood. We have structure and organization here. And I have to teach. But you could come along to the next training session? It's combat formations." She smiled a bit, and added, "maybe after that, during lunch, we can spend some quality time together. I'll show you around camp!"
Sergei decided that now was not the time to depend Camp Half-Blood's honor, and nodded. "I made it through watching one session-" he hoped that didn't sound creepy "-Ithink that I can make it through another one." He would like nothing more than go get to spend time with her and see her camp the way he'd shown her his.
"Oh! Really? Then follow me," she said, seeming a bit surprised. Sergei wanted to watch Romans train? She figured the war would have put him off the legion for pretty much forever. It wasn't exactly a group that inspired many positive memories when charging at you from the opposite side of a battlefield. "Combat formations means the whole of the legion will be there- each cohort lead by their centurions in unison, with Reyna and Frank at the head... Frank's a new praetor of ours, by the way. Used to be that Son of Jupiter, Jason Grace, but apparently he fell too in love with Camp Half-Blood. I suppose you probably already knew about that though," she explained, as they began walking back to the barracks to meet with the rest of the legion.
Sergei nodded along as she spoke. It made him nervous that the whole legion would be there but he'd do his best to stay out of the way. Maybe they wouldn't even know he was there. That happened to him alot. Sometimes it was very helpful.
"Yeah I know Jason Grace." Know was a loose term. They'd never spoken. Sergei had seen him around though.
When they arrived at the barracks Avery did a quick head count. Forty legionnaires, and one Larry. The whole of the second cohort was waiting there for her. "You're in for a treat today, Sergei," she said with a mischievous grin.
Sergei wondered if he looked as nervous as he felt at her words. He was tempted to just leave. Not completely, of course, but just sneak off for a while to watch from a distance. Call it self preservation.
But he decided that that could be seen as him being rude, and he definitely didn't want that. So he stayed.
"Larry, this is Sergei Molotov, a Son of Dionysus from Camp Half-Blood, and an old friend." She put her hand on Sergei's shoulder. "He's going to be training with us today as an auxiliary unit." She had a little grin on her face as she said it.
"Old friend?" Larry questioned. "We've only known about the Greeks for a few months now, Avery. How do you know him as an old friend?"
"Need to know information, Larry, and you don't need to know," she said, throwing a bit of ice in her tone to let him know he needed to back off. She didn't like anyone involving themselves in her personal business. Especially not blowhards like Larry.
Sergei sent Avery a panicked look, wondering what she was doing, but raised his hand in greeting to Larry anyway. He remembered him. He was stubborn, and kind of irritating. He wondered how much of a fool he'd make himself out to be today. He didn't know how their formations worked, nor did he know Roman fighting styles. He had his staff though, he wasn't stupid enough to leave camp without it, so at least he had that going for him.
Avery was too busy going off preparing her cohort to realize Sergei's panicked looks her direction. She directed one contubernium to collect the targets, and another to supply them with weapons, while the rest started preparing temporary defenses in the field. Today Reyna had decided to have the separate cohorts practice defensive maneuvers in smaller groups rather than work with the whole of the legion. This usually meant she was busy with other important business and wouldn't be able to be out in the field. Larry and Avery split the cohort up into four different sections, and had two at a time practicing the quick removal and replacement of various temporary defenses, to start the training off, teaching them how to do it most efficiently as a group. She made sure to place Sergei with some of the kinder demigods in her cohort.
Sergei pulled his collapsed staff out of his bag before re-zipping it and tossing it into a corner where he could see it, but was also pretty sure it'd be safe there.
With a flick of his wrist his staff returned to its full height.
He surveyed the members of the group he'd been placed in. He was almost certain that no one would murder him, but he still watched them. Watched the way they stood, walked, and- most importantly- how they fought. It was an old habit of his that he'd mostly managed to control in recent months, but it still popped up when he was especially uncomfortable or wary. It'd saved his skin in the past. Several times. So he didn't try too hard to shove it down today. Just incase.
After a decent while of practicing temporary defense construction, they switched over to combat tactics. A much more useful lesson for everyone, Avery thought. They practiced a combination of ranged weaponry attacks, shield walls, and troop movements. It went smoother than usual, and they got done with it all pretty quick. So she decided to take some of that extra time to make Sergei feel more welcome around everyone, and brought him up in front of the cohort, introducing him to everyone this time.
"This is Sergei Molotov of Camp Half-Blood. You've seen him training with us today, learning from us- but now perhaps we should learn from him!" She turned to her friend. "Sergei, could you share with all of us some greek battle tactics and formations?" Then, speaking to both Sergei and the cohort, she said "it's always good to branch out and understand foreign methods. That makes us less predictable."
Sergei had known that he wouldn't like where this was headed as Avery pulled him to stand with her in the front of the group.
As she asked him about Greek battle tactics and formations he schooled his features into mild pleasantness. His facial expressions looked open and unassuming, but his eyes were guarded and unreadable, because he did not have a proper answer to that. He squared his shoulders and hoped that no one would sense weakness in his posture.
He nodded in agreement to her words, being predictable in a fight was never good.
"The most common Greek formation used for land fighting is known as the Phalanx." He'd read about this particular formation in a book on the bus ride here. "In the Phalanx formation each soldier carries a shield on their left arm. This creates a barrier that protects the entire hoplite. The depth of the Phalanx varies from battle to battle, but the width is always greater than the depth."
He was always good at bullshitting essays in school; he hoped that transferred over to making speeches.
"It is one thing to plan out formations and defensive maneuvers, but you simply cannot plan for everything. Of course, I'm sure you already knew that." It was a general 'you'. "Because of that, especially in modern times, we also greatly rely on instinct. Especially in melee combat. I am Greek, and the Grecian battle knowledge is in my very being. We must know our weapons, ourselves, and our allies, but to truly become familiar with these things we train through mock battles."
He was referring to capture the flag, but was afraid that if he called it that he'd be laughed out of California.
Avery smiled. She knew bullshit when she heard it- and that was such bullshit. "Thank you, Sergei, hearing your Greek methods has been a great way to end today's training." She wasn't going to call him out on it though, of course. She looked out to the rest of the cohort. "Clean up this mess on the field, and then we'll be done with combat formations for today."
Sergei He could feel some of the tension leave his shoulders and his white-knuckled grip on his staff loosened as his time for public speaking ended and the group began to disperse.
He knew that she would catch on to his bullshit but no one else would, which was really the point, so he send her a slight smile. "Yeah I'm sure you thought so" it was said quiet enough that only she could hear it.
Avery unsuccessfully attempted to stifle a laugh, and the entire cohort just about jumped out of their armor. Legionnaires and probatios were exchanging glances across the field, all clearly shocked by what they'd just seen. 'Avery Clisson laughing?' she knew they must have been thinking. "Of course- if you'd all like to stay and train through lunch time, that's fine by me too," she said coldly. "Get to work."
"That count for me too?" Sergei wondered if it would remove the coldness from her voice or if he was pushing his luck. "Or do I get a pass since I don't know where anything goes?"
Sergei was pushing his luck, but she couldn't help enjoying witnessing his little revenge for being thrown on the spot. "That just means you'd be in charge of latrine duty later," she said, playing up her cold tone for their remaining audience before dragging him off toward the Via Praetoria, the main road to and from New Rome.
"Yes ma'am" Sergei said in reply. As she dragged him off he flicked his wrist again to collapse his staff. His shoved it in his back pocket and managed to grab his backpack on their way out.