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come back down to my knees (be like them, lean back and breathe)

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Beckendorf was so not a fan of the night watch.

He’d already had a long day, and all he wanted to do was tumble into bed and snuggle with Silena.

But no, he just had to get slapped with guard duty. Nothing ever happened at this time of night anyway— 

Clang.

Beckendorf whipped around, hand falling onto the hilt of his sword. A single grappling hook was caught on the edge of the wall. 

“What the—” 

A split second later, ten other grappling hooks sailed toward him. 

“Fuck!” Beckendorf swore, turning on his heel and sprinting toward the watchtower. Someone lunged at him, but he dodged around them and scrambled up the ladder to the top of the tower.

As Beckendorf picked up the torch and whirled around to cast it onto the beacon, a massive shadowy figure vaulted over the edge of the tower. Beckendorf immediately tossed the torch into the fireplace, jerking his head up defiantly when flames sprang up. 

The other man turned and watched as the beacon on the next tower was lit. And the next one. And the next one. In the firelight, his eyes gleamed an unnatural shade of gold. Beckendorf caught sight of the weapon in his hand—a huge scythe with a deadly blade curved like a crescent moon—and felt his heart plummet to his stomach. It was him

Beckendorf had heard the horror stories about Kronos and his barbarians. He knew his chances of making it out of this situation were close to zero. But Beckendorf was a true soldier of Rome, so he drew his sword and levelled it at Kronos. “Now Rome will know you’re coming.”

Kronos’s lips curved into a cruel, bloodthirsty smile. “Good.”  

 

And then he raised his scythe.




Two hundred miles away, Praetor Varus burst into the throne room in Rome. He bowed briefly to the Emperor and his council, before announcing, “Your Majesty, Kronos and his forces have crossed our southern border!” 

Around him, the Emperor heard his council gasp and whisper furiously amongst themselves. He lifted a hand for silence.

“Deliver conscription notices throughout the empire. Call up reserves and as many new recruits as possible.” 

 

*

 

“Quiet and demure … graceful and obedient … docile … ugh, what are the last two again? Wait don’t tell me … okay, tell me.” 

Grover groaned. “Come on, Perce. Refined and poised. The examination is in less than half an hour!” 

“Right, right, refined and poised.” Percy stepped out from behind the partition and presented himself with a flourish. “Ta-da!” 

Percy’s long-sleeved tunic was a deep blue, with simple sea-green stitching around the waist and the cuffs. Instead of draping it over the left shoulder and around the body, Percy wore his sea-green toga as a cloak, with the right edge pushed behind his shoulder and the other spilling over his left side. Grover smiled when he spotted the seashell clasp he had gifted Percy for his birthday. Percy’s tousled hair was only slightly tamer than usual, with a simple myrtle wreath jammed on top. 

“When will you learn how to wear a toga properly, Percy? You’re just asking for more criticism from Miss Dodds.” Grover rolled his eyes fondly, reaching up to adjust the wreath on Percy’s head. Percy was unusually tall for a sub—even taller than Grover.

Percy shrugged. “Eh, I’m used to it. Besides, it looks better like this. I don’t care what that old crone says.”

Grover snorted, giving Percy’s shoulders a friendly squeeze. “Well, you look gorgeous. You got this, okay Percy? Promise me you’ll behave and keep out of trouble.”

“Thanks, G-Man,” Percy said earnestly, before grinning wickedly at him. “But don’t worry. I always behave.” 

“Uh huh,” Grover dead-panned, before jerking his head towards the door. “You should head over. You know how Miss Dodds feels about tardiness.” 

“Yeah, yeah. Wish me luck.” Percy yelled as he dashed away, nearly tripping over his own sandals. 

Grover winced, and limped towards the temple to pray to the Gods.




By the time Percy arrived at Miss Dodds’s building—with a minute to spare, Grover would have had a heart attack if he found out about how many stops Percy made along the way—all of his friends were already present. Percy slid into place at the end of the line of subs beside Piper. 

Piper looked effortlessly dazzling in her elegant cream gown. Pearls gleamed in her glossy chocolate brown hair, which had been pulled back into an intricate, braided bun. Percy felt a pang of jealousy at her natural beauty—wonder every male dom in town was constantly throwing themselves at her. Not that any were successful. Piper had a type, and unfortunately for those male doms, that type was blonde girls.

“You look gorgeous.” whispered Percy.

Piper slid her slim hand into Percy’s and squeezed it. “Thanks Percy, so do you,” she looked him up and down, gaze lingering on his toga-cape, before raising an eyebrow, “But Miss Dodds is going to murder you.”

Percy shrugged in response and looked over Piper’s head to the end of the line. Nico, wearing an all-black ensemble, was trying hopelessly to fix Leo’s brown toga. Leo caught Percy’s eye and made a face. 

Percy cackled. At least Leo’s curls were just as untameable as his.

The doors to Miss Dodds’s building flew open with a bang, and the bane of Percy’s existence swept out. The instructor’s stern gaze swept over the line of subs, eyes narrowing when they landed on Percy. “Perseus Jackson.” 

Percy raised his hand. “Present!”

Miss Dodds sneered, before scribbling something down on the scroll in her hand. “Speaking without permission.” 

Somewhere down the line, Percy heard Nancy Bobofit snicker. Percy flushed. “Oops.”

Miss Dodds beckoned him towards the door with a crooked finger, “Come, honey.”

Percy walked into the building, Miss Dodds following behind and closing the door. She circled him critically, tsk- ing unsympathetically as she prodded at different points of his body. “Improper use of a toga, as always … and too tall and lanky. Not good for bearing children.” 

Percy pulled a face, but quickly schooled his expression when she whirled around to face him. “Recite the final admonition.” 

“Right.” Percy cleared his throat. “Um, fulfill your duties calmly and p … respectfully. And reflect before you act. This shall bring you honor and glory.” 

Miss Dodds narrowed her eyes at him, and Percy smiled down at her innocently. Yeah, that’s right. 

“Hmm. Fine.” Miss Dodds grabbed Percy’s wrist and pulled him towards the table in the center of the room. “Now, prepare the wine.”

Percy began to mix water and wine into a silver goblet as Miss Dodds continued monologuing. “To please your future dominant, you must demonstrate a sense of dignity and refinement. You must also be poised.”  

Just as Miss Dodds reached for the wine, Percy spotted the grasshopper writhing in the goblet. Oh Gods. 

Percy cleared his throat again. “Um, pardon me—” 

“And silent!” Miss Dodds snapped. 

Percy reached for the goblet. “Could I actually just take that back for a moment?”

Miss Dodds yanked back aggressively, and for a moment, they struggled over the goblet. 

And then the goblet overturned onto Miss Dodds, who released an unearthly shriek.

“Why, you stupid, clumsy—” she cut off abruptly, then started screeching and wriggling around. Percy watched in horror as Miss Dodds tripped over the pot of coals beside the table, then sat down hard onto them. The sub instructor leapt back up with a piercing scream and hopped about, clutching at her smoking bottom.

Percy looked around frantically as Miss Dodds howled away, eyes landing on the water pitcher. He snatched it up, dashed out the building doors after Miss Dodds, and threw the water onto her. 

The Gods must have had it out for him, because Miss Dodds chose that moment to spin around. Instead of drenching her burnt behind, the water splashed all over her face. 

Miss Dodds glared up at him with a murderous look in her eyes. Her tight bun was completely ruined and water was slowly dripping down her face, streaking the kohl along her eyes. She looked like a drowned raccoon, which would have been a funny sight if Percy wasn’t completely mortified. 

Percy bowed quickly, handed the pitcher back to Miss Dodds, and scrambled away with hunched shoulders. The other subs stared at him, open-mouthed. A crowd of townsfolk had gathered, drawn by Miss Dodds’s screams.

“You are a complete disgrace!” Miss Dodds screeched after him. “There’s no dominant in the entire Roman Empire who would ever take you. Mark my words, Perseus Jackson. You will never find a dominant here!” 

Around him, the townsfolk who had gathered began to whisper. Percy fled, ignoring his friend’s shouts behind him. 

 

*

 

Like the disgraceful coward he was, Percy retreated to the stables. 

Blackjack seemed to sense that something was wrong, because he nickered gently instead of shoving his muzzle into Percy’s pockets in search of food like he usually did. Percy threw his arms around Blackjack’s neck and buried his face in the stallion’s pure black coat, Miss Dodds’s final words echoing in his brain.

“Blackjack, why am I so bad at being good?”

Blackjack draped his head over Percy’s back comfortingly.

“I hate this. I’ll never be a proper sub. Miss Dodds is right, no dom in their right mind would ever want a disgrace like me.” Percy pulled away from Blackjack, tore the wreath off his head, and tossed it aside angrily. 

Behind him, someone cleared their throat lightly. 

Percy turned to see Grover entering the stables. The news must have somehow spread to Grover, because his face was sympathetic. Percy looked away, unable to bear his friend’s pity.

“You were right about the toga.” he muttered, toeing the wreath. 

Grover picked the wreath up from the stable floor, dusted it off, and placed it gently back on Percy’s head. “I’m really sorry, Percy.” 

“Yeah, well. Did we really expect it to go any differently?”

“You know what, you were right. Who cares what that old crone says? Any dom would be lucky to have you. You’re a catch.”

Percy smiled at Grover sadly, but before he could respond, the town bell started tolling. 

They exchanged a confused look, before leaving the stables to investigate. There was already a rapidly-forming crowd in the town center by the time they arrived. Three soldiers on horseback were circling around. 

Piper, Nico, and Leo were already among the crowd, so Percy and Grover jostled their way over to them. Nico nudged Percy and whispered, “You okay?” 

Percy nodded distractedly as the lead rider began to speak: “Citizens! I bring you a proclamation from Rome: Kronos and his barbarians have invaded the Empire!” 

Around them, the townsfolk gasped in horror and shock. Piper gripped Percy’s arm. 

“By order of the Emperor, all dominants between the ages 18 and 25 are to report to a legion base to assist in the war effort.” The soldier held up a scroll and began to read out names. One by one, each dom stepped up, bowed to the soldier, and took the conscription notice. 

Nico made a choked noise in the back of his throat when Will Solace, the dom who was courting him, was called up.

“Underwood, Grover!”

Percy felt like he had been plunged into an ice bath. “No.” Piper dug her fingers into his arm to hold him back as Grover started to limp through the crowd. When Grover bowed and began to reach for his conscription notice, Percy unfroze.

“No!” Percy tore his arm away from Piper and pushed through the crowd. “Grover, you can’t go!” 

He ignored the scandalized gasps around him as he pushed in front of Grover. “Please sir, Grover has an old leg injury—”

“Silence!” the rider glared down at him fiercely, before turning his gaze to the rest of the crowd. “This town would do well to teach its submissives to hold their tongues in a dominant’s presence.” 

Grover pulled Percy back. “I apologize for him, sir. I am honored to serve the Emperor.” 

Nico and Leo materialized on either side of Percy to guide him away as the soldier handed Grover the conscription notice. “Report to Camp Jupiter by the end of the week.”




Dinner that night was a tense affair. 

Juniper’s shoulders were hunched, and every time she looked up at Grover, her face crumbled. 

Percy kept replaying the scene he had come across when he went to fetch Grover for dinner. The alpha had been testing out his old bronze sword, but as he lunged forward, his leg injury had flared up and he had tumbled to the ground with a grunt. Now every time Percy closed his eyes, all he saw was Grover falling, Grover hurt, Grover bleeding out … 

“You shouldn’t have to go!” Percy blurted angrily. 

Grover flashed him a warning look. “Percy.” 

“There are plenty of young, healthy doms to fight for the Empire! This is ridiculous—” 

“Percy, enough!” Grover growled, his dom voice bleeding through slightly. Juniper flinched, while Percy shrank back in shock. Grover never used his dom voice.

Grover’s fierce expression faded rapidly when he saw their reactions, and he closed his eyes. “Percy—” 

Before Grover could finish, Percy stood abruptly and left the table. 

This couldn’t be happening. Not to Grover. Grover, who, along with Juniper, had taken him in when his mother died and looked after him. Grover, who believed in him even though everyone else in town thought he was a lost cause. Grover, whose leg injury meant he was heading into certain death.

No. This couldn’t happen. Percy wasn’t going to let it happen. Grover was good ; he was gentle and kind and cheerful and peaceful. He didn’t deserve to be shipped off to his death.

Percy closed his eyes, imagining soldiers bringing the news of Grover’s death back to them. Holding Juniper as she wailed in despair. Realizing that he had lost the only dom who would ever care about him.

No. Grover had so much more to live for. He had a life, a beautiful sub, a wonderful home.

… All things Percy didn’t have.

Percy was an orphan. He didn’t have siblings. He didn’t have a dom, and would probably never find one after the whole fiasco with Miss Dodds. Sure, Grover and Juniper would miss him if he died, but they had each other. They had Piper and Leo and Nico and Will. 

Percy took a deep breath, and opened his eyes again. He knew what he needed to do. Grover had saved his life when his mother died. Now, it was time for Percy to repay the favor.   




When Grover and Juniper woke up the next morning, Percy and Blackjack were long gone. And on his night stand, where the conscription notice had been, there was only a myrtle wreath.