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Elpis is secretly the Tardis (and I'm still not the Lightning Thief)

Chapter Text

The rest of the day when the Battle of Manhattan had ended was as strange as its beginning. Campers trickled in from New York by car, pegasus, and chariot. The wounded were cared for. The dead were given proper funeral rites at the campfire.

Silena's shroud was hot pink but embroidered with an electric spear. The Ares and Aphrodite cabins both claimed her as a hero and lit the shroud together. No one mentioned the word spy. That secret burned to ashes as the designer perfume smoke drifted into the sky.

Even Ethan Nakamura was given a shroud—black silk with a logo of swords crossed under a set of scales. As his shroud went up in flames, I hoped Ethan knew he had made a difference in the end. He'd paid a lot more than an eye, but the minor gods would finally get the respect they deserved.

Dinner at the pavilion was low-key. The only highlight was Juniper the tree nymph, who screamed, "Grover!" and gave her boyfriend a flying tackle hug, making everybody cheer. They went down to the beach to take a moonlit walk, and I was happy for them, though the scene reminded me of Silena and Beckendorf, which made me sad.

Mrs. O'Leary romped around happily, eating everybody's table scraps. Nico sat at the main table with Chiron and Mr. D, and nobody seemed to think this was out of place. Everybody was patting Nico on the back, complimenting him on his fighting. Even the Ares kids seemed to think he was pretty cool. Hey, show up with an army of undead warriors to save the day, and suddenly you're everybody's best friend. To be honest, I was rather proud of him.

Slowly, the dinner crowd trickled away. Some went to the campfire for a sing-along. Others went to bed. I sat at the Poseidon table by myself and watched the moonlight on Long Island Sound. I could see Grover and Juniper at the beach, holding hands and talking. It was peaceful. Too peaceful, even.

"Hey." Annabeth slid next to me on the bench. "Happy birthday." She was holding a huge misshapen cupcake with blue icing.

I stared at her. "What?”

"It's August 18th," she said. "Your birthday, right?”

I was stunned. It hadn't even occurred to me, but she was right. I had turned sixteen this morning— the same morning I'd made the choice to give Luke the knife. The prophecy had come true right on schedule, and I hadn't even thought about the fact that it was my birthday.

"Make a wish," she said.

"Did you bake this yourself?" I asked.

"Tyson helped."

"That explains why it looks like a chocolate brick," I said. "With extra blue cement."

Annabeth laughed.

I thought for a second, then blew out the candle.

We cut it in half and shared, eating with our fingers. Annabeth sat next to me, and we watched the ocean. There were some crickets and monsters making noises in the woods, but otherwise all we could hear were the waves crashing.

"You saved the world," she said.

“Yeah.” 

"You sound disappointed," she noticed, raising her eyebrows

“I’m not.” I brushed some of the cake crumbs off of my hands. “Not really. Things ended better than I had expected.” 

“Then what’s wrong?"

I finished my cupcake slowly while she sat back and waited. Finally, I said, “I feel like I could have done more.” 

She opened her mouth to protest, as I had expected her to, but instead of saying anything she froze. 

“There are so many things that I could have done differently Annabeth.” I continued. I could almost see what it would have been like if Luke had survived, or if other campers had. Silena, Ethan, Berkedorf…the list felt endless. 

“I could have too.” She whispered. She looked down at her hands on the table. I fiddled with the cupcake wrapper until she raised her head again and stared me straight in the eyes. “But we can’t live the rest of our lives thinking about this Percy. We have to move on."

“But Luke-“ 

“Luke made his own choices, Percy.” She cut me off irritably. I didn’t take it personally.

“You would have done anything to save him if you could have.” I retaliated, lowering my own voice. I knew she would have, she had loved him, but now it didn't matter anymore.

“But I can’t Percy! I can’t! Listen to me. You have to let go or you will go insane!” She snapped back, still keeping her voice low. “That’s how the world works. You can’t save everyone.” 

“I know that!” 

“No, you don’t. I can see it in your eyes.” She stood up, finally raising her voice. “But someday you will have to.”

I watched her walk away until she disappeared from my view. It wasn’t until I noticed the remaining campers whispering that I decided to leave as well.  I didn’t know what they had heard, and I didn’t want to either.


 Camp went late that summer. It lasted two more weeks than usual, right up to the start of a new school year, and I almost wish it hadn’t.

Of course, Annabeth would kill me if I said anything like that, but thankfully I knew better than most that the only way to win an argument against her was to never have it in the first place. Meanwhile, Grover had taken over the satyr seekers and was sending them out across the world to find unclaimed half-bloods. So far, the gods had kept their promise. New demigods were popping up all over the place—not just in America, but in a lot of other countries as well.

"We can hardly keep up," Grover admitted one afternoon as we were taking a break at the canoe lake. "We're going to need a bigger travel budget, and I could use a hundred more satyrs.” 

"Yeah, but the satyrs you have are working super hard," I said. "I think they're scared of you.”

 Grover blushed. "That's silly. I'm not scary.”

 "You're a lord of the wild, dude. The chosen one of Pan. A member of the Council of—“

 "Stop it!" Grover protested. "You're as bad as Juniper. I think she wants me to run for president next.”

 He chewed on a tin can as we stared across the pond at the line of new cabins under construction. The U-shape would soon be a complete rectangle, and the demigods had really taken to the new task with gusto.

Nico had some undead builders working on the Hades cabin. Even though he was still the only kid in it, it was going to look pretty cool: solid obsidian walls with a skull over the door and torches that burned with green fire twenty-four hours a day. 

Next to that were the cabins of Iris, Nemesis, Hecate, and several others I didn't recognize. They kept adding new ones to the blueprints every day. It was going so well, Annabeth and Chiron were talking about adding an entirely new wing of cabins just so they could have enough room.

The Hermes cabin was a lot less crowded now because most of the unclaimed kids had received signs from their godly parents. It happened almost every night, and every night more demigods straggled over the property line with the satyr guides, usually with some nasty monsters pursuing them, but almost all of them made it through.

"It's going to be a lot different next summer," I said. "Chiron's expecting we'll have twice as many campers.”

"Yeah," Grover agreed, "But it'll be the same old place.”

He sighed contentedly.

I watched as Tyson led a group of Cyclops builders. They were hoisting huge stones in place for the Hecate cabin, and I knew it was a delicate job. Each stone was engraved with magical writing, and if they dropped one, it would either explode or turn everyone within half a mile into a tree. I figured nobody but Grover would like that.

"I'll be traveling a lot," Grover warned, "between protecting nature and finding half-bloods. I may not see you as much.”

"Won't change anything," I said. "You're still my best friend.”

"Yeah," he agreed. “You’re still my best friends too.”


 

In the late afternoon, I was taking one last walk along the beach when a familiar voice said, "Good day for fishing.” 

My dad, Poseidon, was standing knee-deep in the surf, wearing his typical Bermuda shorts, beat-up cap, and a real subtle pink-and-green Tommy Bahama shirt. He had a deep-sea fishing rod in his hands, and when he cast it the line went way out—like halfway across Long Island Sound.

"Hey, Dad," I said. "What brings you here?”

He winked. "Never really got to talk in private on Olympus. I wanted to thank you.” 

"Thank me? You came to the rescue.”

"Yes, and I got my palace destroyed in the process, but you know—palaces can be rebuilt. I've gotten so many thank-you cards from the other gods. Even Ares wrote one, though I think Hera forced him to. It's rather gratifying. So, thank you. I suppose even the gods can learn new tricks.”

I didn’t reply. I hadn’t really done much compared to him. 

The Sound began to boil. At the end of my dad's line, a huge green sea serpent erupted from the water. It thrashed and fought, but Poseidon just sighed. Holding his fishing pole with one hand, he whipped out his knife and cut the line. The monster sank below the surface.

"Not eating size," he complained. "I have to release the little ones or the game wardens will be all over me.”

"Little ones? That was gigantic!” 

He grinned at me like I had said something cute. "Tell that to the game wardens. You're doing well with those new cabins, by the way. I suppose this means I can claim all those other sons and daughters of mine and send you some siblings next summer.”

"Ha-ha.”

Poseidon reeled in his empty line.

I shifted my feet. "Um, you were kidding, right?”

Poseidon gave me one of his inside-joke winks, and I still didn't know whether he was serious or not. "I'll see you soon, Percy. And remember, it’s all about perspective, yeah?”

With that he dissolved in the sea breeze, leaving a fishing pole lying in the sand. I picked it up as I contemplated what he said. 

That evening was the last night of camp—the bead ceremony. The Hephaestus cabin had designed the bead this year. It showed the Empire State Building, and etched in tiny Greek letters, spiraling around the image, were the names of all the heroes who had died defending Olympus. There were too many names, but I was proud to wear the bead, its weight was a constant reminder. I put it on my camp necklace—four beads now. I felt like an old-timer. I thought about the first campfire I'd ever attended, back when I was twelve, and how I'd felt so at home. That at least hadn't changed. 


 

"Never forget this summer!" Chiron told us. He had healed remarkably well, but he still trotted in front of the fire with a slight limp. "We have discovered bravery and friendship and courage this summer. We have upheld the honor of the camp.”

He smiled at me, and everybody cheered. As I looked at the fire, I saw a little girl in a brown dress tending the flames. She smiled at me with red glowing eyes. No one else seemed to notice her, but I realized maybe she preferred it that way. I shifted in my seat and waited impatiently for Chiron to end his speech.

"And now," Chiron said at last, "early to bed! Remember, you must vacate your cabins by noon tomorrow unless you've made arrangements to stay the year with us. The cleaning harpies will eat any stragglers, and I'd hate to end the summer on a sour note!”

I hopped up and scurried through the crown of campers making their way to their cabins. A few of the campers stopped me, to pat on the back or a 'good night’, but I left as soon as I could.

Hestia's smile shifted to a frown when she saw me approaching her. That alone made me want to turn around and leave her alone but I really needed to talk to her. 

“Hey.” I stood near her awkwardly, unsure of how to go about this.

“Hello Perseus, shouldn’t you be going to sleep?” She replied solemnly.  

I shrugged, shifting on my feet. I should have planned this better before coming to see her. 

But she seemed to understand, gesturing to a spot on the floor next to her. I slowly took a seat.

We waited quietly as the rest of the campers filtered out of the area. A few of them sent me a few curious looks, notably Annabeth and Nico, but I sent them away with a little shake of my head.

It wasn’t long until it was just Hestia and me there. I fumbled for words.

“Just let it out.” She said calmly as she continued to poke at the fire.

“You already know?” I guessed. She nodded.

“I heard your argument with Annabeth, as did your father. He is particularly worried.” Oh. That made sense.  

“He shouldn’t be.” 

“I doubt he could not be worried. Demigods tend to do things that get themselves killed when they start to obsess over life and death. Things like trying to steal souls from Hades’ domain.” Somehow I could tell that she was trying to warn me even if she sounded like she was only stating some facts.  

I didn’t know what I upset me the most: the accusation that I was obsessing over this or that I would be that stupid. I decided that the latter option sounded the worse.

“I wouldn't do that. I know I can’t change the way things went.” 

“But?” I pretended to not notice the fact that she didn't seem to believe me entirely. 

“But I don’t understand how everyone can be so calm about this.” I sat up straight. “People died. I can name dozens of campers that I saw dying and I know I’m not the only one. How can everyone just ignore that? How can they just move on like none of it ever happened??”

The glow of her even softened as she gazed into my eyes sadly. “We didn’t just move on Perseus. We had their funerals. We honored their deaths.” 

“But that's not enough. You can’t just say ‘well it's too bad you died’ and be done with it. That's not how it works." Admittedly I snapped at her. 

“That's not how it works for you.” She said, pity still lacing her voice. “But everyone deals with it differently."

I stared at her, growing even more irritated.

There were many things that I wanted to tell her then. I wanted to rant to her about how we had help all of their funerals within a few hours, a blink of an eye compared to all the years that they could have had ahead of them if they hadn't died and I wanted to snap at her that giving them elaborate shrouds and calling them heroes didn't measure up to the sacrifice that they had made for us. I wanted to ask if they even cared. Would Berkedorf care about what his funeral looked like when he realized that he was dead? Would Silena? Would they even know what their funerals were like, to begin with? 

There were many things that I wanted to say to her then but the longer I took to decide on what to say them more I felt like a 5 years old trying to throw a tantrum. 

So instead of saying anything, I chose to scowl at her. 

She signed and put down the stick that she used to tend to the flames. Seconds later, a very familiar jar appeared in her hands and she held it out to me expectingly. 

I accepted it instantly, feeling a sharp spike of fearful curiosity as I placed it on my lap. I held on to it as firmly as I could. I felt the small changes in temperature underneath my twitching fingers as I send her a questioning look. I could not understand why she had given it to me. 

“What do you feel?” She asked. 

“I feel like I want to open it.” I always do, even though the thought of it also terrifies me.

“No.” she shook her head in amusement. “I meant what can you feel.”

I shifted anxiously, glancing briefly at the jar. “It feels warm.”

She nodded so I continued. “And I can feel the Spirit-“

“-Elpis."

“-Elpis- flapping around.” 

“Flapping?” She asked, more amused than I thought she should be.

“Fluttering.” I corrected, though I supposed that it didn’t really matter either way. “What is this about?"

She smiled at me warmly as she continued. “You already know the answer to your other question Perseus."

“What?” I cocked my head at her, trying to digest what she said. I had been so focused on Elpis' soundless fluttering that it actually took me a few seconds to remember which question she was talking about. “Hope?"

She nodded. 

“Hope? That’s it? That’s why?” I tapped the jar softly, feeling Elpis moving around and warming it up even more. Was hope really enough?

She nodded again before explaining. “Moving on is easier when you have something else to look forward to. All of your friends have something to look forward to, and I know that you do as well. You just have to let yourself move on like they have."

“It's not that simple.” Hope isn't enough, I decided, even if it sounded nice. 

“It is.” 

"It's not. Hope doesn't change the fact that I could have done more. It doesn’t change that if I had done things differently-“

“Percy-“

“It's not that simple.” I insisted, hugging the jar to my chest. If Hestia had been any other god or goddess I probably would have been zapped into a plant or something right there and then for cutting her off but she let it slide. 

“Maybe someday you will change your mind.” She sounded a little dejected as if she knew that I wouldn't.   

“Maybe.” I conceded. I decided that she deserved at least that much for being so patient with me.

“Then I wish you a good night.” She held out her hands towards me in expectation.  

“Good night Lady Hestia.” I stood up and carefully handed the jar to her, silently wishing that I could hold on to it for just a little longer. For a second I felt that the fluttering had changed to something stronger, something steadier like the beating of a heart but I ignored it.

I was already turning around when I noticed her staggering. By the time I took in what was going on the jar had tipped out of her hand and crashed onto the floor. From amidst the shattered pieces, a small glowing blue wisp began to float aimlessly. I instantly sprang forward, catching it within the palms of my hands. 

I barely had a second to see the look of horror on Hestia's face before everything exploded around me.

 

Chapter Text

Look, I never asked to be a half-blood and I most certainly never asked for a do-over either. 

If you’re reading this because you think it’s a joke, a piece of fiction that I am writing for your entertainment, good for you. Read on. I envy you for being able to believe that none of this has ever happened.

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

Being a half-blood is dangerous. It's scary. Most of the time, it gets you killed in painful, nasty ways. I can vouch for that, I’ve lived knowing that I am a half-blood for years now, not that anyone else seems to remember it.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

My name is Percy Jackson.

I'm sixteen years old. Or I was up until yesterday at least, when I woke up at Yancy Academy, a private boarding school for troubled kids in upstate New York, looking like a 12 year old again.

Am I a troubled kid? Yeah, you could say that.

I could start at any point in my short miserable life to prove how it, but its worse now. Somehow the last 4 years of my life were completely erased. No one seems to remember it but me.

No one. Not even my mother.


 

The thing about objects that were created by Gods is that you never know what exactly they can do. Honestly, 'expect the unexpected' is the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to most Gods-related things.

So really, I should have guessed that the Spirit inside Pandora’s Box is actually a lot more like the Doctor’s Tardis than not, time travel and all, but I didn’t and now it's kind of too late now.

After everything exploded I woke up feeling rather sick in some unfamiliar room. At first I thought that I had been sent to one of the newer cabins at camp. There were three beds there other than my own, with three other kids that I have never seen at camp before.

Maybe they are new half-bloods, I thought, the Gods know I have been too distracted to notice all of the new kids coming in.

It was when I looked out the window that I noticed something strange. I knew the camp better than the palms of my hands, and one thing I knew for certain is that it was not in the smack middle of Manhattan.

I bolted out of bed and fell straight to the floor. One of the boys stirred and mumbled something while I untangled myself from my covers and picked myself up awkwardly.

That was when I first paid attention to myself. My hands were smaller, my arms and my legs were thinner and shorter, and a little wisp of smoke seemed to be wrapped around my left wrist. 

What is going on, I wondered as I felt my stomach drop. Why am I so small? What happened to me? Where was everyone else? I felt my stomach sink. 

Somehow I wobbled my way into the fancy bathroom connected to the bedroom. My legs felt stiff and alien, ready to collapse with every step I took as I felt more and more lightheaded. I was already sure that I knew what was going on by the time I reached the mirror but seeing my reflection still made me lose whatever semblance of calm that I had kept. 

I wasn’t just smaller. I was younger too.

Everything after that became a bit of a blur. All that I could really recall was that at one point I sat down on the bathroom floor and hearing my roommates' voices.


“Mr. Jackson, can you hear me? Mr. Jackson?” a woman called, as she shook me.

I opened my eyes and turned to her tiredly. “Who are you?” I asked, but it came out raspy. For some reason my throat was really hurting.

“My name is Dr. Pedrosa, dear, I work at the Infirmary.”

“What infirmary?”

“You may be feeling a little confused right now. That is okay. We are at the infirmary here at Yancy. ” She spoke slowly as she laid a hand on my shoulder and softly pushed me back into the bed before I even tried to get up. “You had a panic attack few hours ago. We tried to calm you down but it wasn’t working. We ended up having to sedate you.”

“Yancy?” I repeated her dumbly. “Why am I at Yancy? Did my mom-”

She gave me a pitying smile. 

“This is your new school, Mr. Jackson. I assure you that it's not as bad as you think it is. Living away from your parents may seem like a big change at first but soon you will feel right at home with the other 6th graders.”

I gaped at her. 6th graders. I’m a 6th grader again. At Yancy. That was before I even knew that I was a demigod right? But what about-

She continued undisturbed. “And if you miss them too much, they can always come to visit you or you can call them.”

“My mother.” I corrected automatically, feeling overwhelmed the more I thought about all of this. “Can I call my mother?”

“Yes, you can call your mother anytime. In fact, I called her to inform her and your father about your panic attack earlier so I’m sure th-“

“I don’t have a father, just my mother. He’s gone.” 

“Oh.” I watched the blood drain from her face. “I’m sorry.” 

“Can I still talk to her, though?” I asked desperately and sure enough, she was jumping at the chance to call my mother.

I was glad for the few seconds of silence that it brought me but finding out that my mom had no clue what was going on was too awful to have been worth it.

I made a quick lie about panicking over something stupid. She didn't sound like she believed me but I couldn't think of anything better so I kept insisting that I was too embarrassed to tell her because it was simply too stupid.


If you thought surviving 6th grade was bad the first time around then don’t try doing it a second time. 

I suppose that my first week at Yancy didn't really count towards that. In that week I had barely left my dorm room, too busy wrapping my head around what was happening to care about going to classes. Eventually my teachers got sick of giving me detentions and called my mom over so she could talk me into attending my classes. 

Classes are the same in most ways, the same boring teachers with the same patronizing voices as they give you more homework than you can keep up with. The only difference is that the second time around you always have to worry about slipping up and potentially destroying all the good things from that future that you once had.

Okay, so maybe I was taking ‘the butterfly affect’ a little too seriously. But to be fair, anyone who watched that movie would be terrified too. It's too easy to mess up something important. The possibilities are endless and I'm not exactly lucky. 

And to think that I will have to relive 4 years of my life, that I will have to go on all of the quests that I went on the first time around, and fight Kronos and his army all over again and somehow win a second time. To think that if anything goes wrong, if I die too early or if I fail then it’s game over for everyone that I have ever known. It can be overwhelming.

It's not like there are many stories of people being sent back to the past in Greek mythology. Monsters randomly being created? Sure. Humanity being wiped out and replaced? Happened a few times. But time travel? As far as I know only Kronos has any type of time powers and it’s mostly limited to slowing and speeding it up.

And somehow I knew, I just knew, that I wasn’t about to receive any help from the Gods if I asked for it. I doubt that any of them would believe me if I told them the truth, that the Spirit of Hope has more time powers than the Titan of Time. Zeus never would at least and he's the one that would matter the most in the end. At best they would all think that I'm crazy, ignore everything else that I had to say and we would end up losing the war in a few year's time. At worse they would think that I work for Kronos and would kill me on the spot and then Thalia or Nico would have to shoulder the prophecy.

I can’t allow that to happen, which means that no one can know.

And if I told anyone, if I said anything at all, one of the Gods might end up hearing it. It doesn’t matter how well that person can keep a secret. The fact that Hestia and my dad heard that conversation that I had with Annabeth proved as much.

I can’t risk it. I have to keep my head down and my mouth shut about all of this.

And it wasn't like I was completely alone. It wasn't much but I worked out early on that Elpis had stayed with me, newly graduated from being a spirit in a jar to being a glowing smoke bracelet on my left wrist. Although I couldn't tell how much it really understand what was going on it seemed sentiment enough that I could pretend that I wasn't the only one who was keeping this secret.


By the end of October I had earned some fame as a troublemaker.

It hadn't been my intention to be so.

Well, it hadn't been my original intention but I suppose that that sort of takes away from it being unintentional.

The thing is I already knew most of the material that we were covering in my classes. I have gone through these lessons before and I hadn't learned everything perfectly back then but my mother and Paul had put in a lot of effort to help me catch up with my classmates when I went to Goode. I was something that I was rather grateful about but it meant that I had almost nothing to learn from attending these classes.

In other words, I was bored out of my mind.

And I couldn't do anything about it. I wasn’t supposed to know these things and at this point in my life I had never had a good academic record. I couldn’t just change that from out of thin air and start getting enough good grades that my teachers would allow me to skip a few grades. No one would believe it. It was just unfeasible and at worse I could be accused of cheating.

So my original plan was to quietly tiptoe the line between mediocre and good so that my teachers would let me pass the year without changing it so drastically that anyone would find it weird, specially my mom. It wasn't hard. All that I had to do was to not do some of my homework assignments and answer all questions with correct but half-assed answers and between my ADHD and my dyslexia I often end up accidentally skipping or misinterpreting a few things here and there anyway. 

And with that, let's return to the original topic at hand. 

It was around the middle of October when I made a stupid mistake.

I was in my general science class, a frankly frankenstein version of what an actual science class should be like. It tried to fit all the major branches of science within a year's coursework, giving none of them enough time to be taught properly while still giving us students a ton of stuff to study. On this day we were on our second class of studying chemistry, learning about the difference between a physical and a chemical change which, I know, is as dull as it sounds. I wasn't expecting us to do anything different from what was normal, where we got lectured for half the class and then we would each spent the rest of the class doing an assignment based on it. 

But it was different. On this particular day Mr. Tuyer, our teacher, stopped his lecture early. He pulled out a pile of tests and handed it out to us before pulling out a party size bag of cookies and saying the one thing that you should never say to a class full of sugar-deprived pre-teens: “Whoever gets the most answers right on our test today will get this bag of cookies.”

It may not sound dangerous but I was honestly surprised that he managed to calm the other kids down and make them take the test without anyone ending up in the infirmary, what with most of them trying to get him to give them the cookies instead only to start arguing with some else who had tried the same thing. I remember that once in my first time around at Yancy a fight broke out in the middle of our English class because someone didn't want to share a Kitkat.  

The thing about Yancy Academy it is that they are very strict when it comes to candy and all sorts of sugary treats: Only the faculty are supposed to bring and give candy to the students, meaning that any candy found that didn't have a teacher's permission tended to get confiscated even if it had been given to them by a parent. 

Which is to say, if you knew the right kid and had enough money you could buy as much candy as your heart desires but those kids are rare. Most of kids who brought in candy had been caught before so they had the teachers breathing down on their backs. The majority of those that hadn't been caught were wisely unwilling to risk bringing more than a few items at a time. 

So usually most of the candy that we students managed to get came from the teachers. I knew, without a doubt, that that one bag of cookies that Mr. Tuyer was dangling in front of us was more candy than most of us has seen in ages.

And I was determined to have it.

The first time around I had been one of those kids. In fact, I was one of the few kids who had never been caught, mostly because I kept switching between sneaking in candy (with and without my mom's help) and buying it from the other kids whenever the teachers started to investigate us more. I had made hundreds of dollars reselling the candy that I got at a slightly higher price, which I unfortunately never got to use personally. 

But I hadn't done it just for the money. Sure, it was great to have a little more money saved up but I had mostly done it because I found it fun. It had been fun to sneak the candy around the school and getting away with selling it right under the teacher's noses. It had been fun to sneak out of the school to buy more candy whenever I ran out of the candy from the packages that my mom had sent me (not that she knew about that). 

It had been fun and I wanted to do it again.

And so it began.

“Mr. Jackson, please wait. I would like to talk to you.” Mr. Tuyer frowned at me while everyone else started to leave after the bell had rung, putting down the pile of tests that the class had graded a few minutes ago on his desk.

I straitened my back as the last few of my classmates turned around to glance at me as they left. Being told to stay after the class had ended was never good. I turned around and walked towards him. “Yes, Mr. Tuyer?”

“Mr. Jackson, how would you explain this?” He pulled my test out from the top of the pile and handed it to me.

“How would I explain what? I got an A, didn’t I?” I questioned him.

“Can you please explain to me how can a student that rarely manages to get a B in my class suddenly gets the best grade in the class on a test?"

“I didn’t cheat if that’s what you’re asking.” I scowled at him. “I just want the cookies.” Which he still hasn’t given to me by the way.

He continued unruffled. “I know you didn't. The whole purpose of making this test a surprise was to see if any of you are cheating on your other tests and quizzes. I was expecting a few students to get a lower grade but I wasn't expecting anyone to do better. I can't help finding that strange. It makes me wonder if you have been holding yourself back."

'Oh,' I thought, realizing the mistake I had made. I shook my head.

His voice was softer when he spoke again. It was still serious but softer. "Mr. Jackson, why you are doing this? Why were you sabotaging yourself?"

I shook my head again. I was about to deny it with words when he continued talking.

"Has anyone told you that you had to do this? or bullied you into it?"

"No," I said, trying to find a way out of that situation. "I'm not sabotaging myself. I just got lucky."  

"Lucky?" He asked, incredulous. Admittedly it wasn't my best lie but I ran with it anyway. I had no other choice.

"Yeah, lucky because…I studied! Yesterday. I reviewed my notes yesterday." I said. "I got lucky because you chose today to give us the test, not yesterday."

I could tell right away that he hadn't believed me. His eyes had narrowed even more and I could see his jaw clench tighter. 

"Mr. Jackson, please take this seriously. If anyone-"

"There isn't anyone else. I'm not being bullied." I quipped in but he ignored me. 

"-is forcing you to do this then it is imperative for you to tell me. I assure you that…" He continued.

"I'm not sabotaging myself." I tried to speak over him. It wasn't a lie. My academic life was great and all - well no, it wasn't great but it still had some value - but it still meant nothing compared to everything else. "You're making a big deal out of nothing!" 

I could have stayed and denied everything until either one of us had to leave but I doubted that he would listen to me and I was tired of being talked at. Instead I did the next best thing. I ran away.

He called out after me but I kept running until I was well outside of the school building and into the recreation area.

Once I made sure that he hadn’t followed me all the way there, I sat down at the edge of a small pond and fiddled with the smoke bracelet on my left wrist. It twitched and warmed up more and more the longer I paid attention to it.

It was in moments like this that I wondered why Elpis had brought me back, if it had been intentional at all, or why it had stayed with me instead of disappearing into the blue the way that everyone had expected it to but I doubted that anyone could answer those questions. So instead I simply allowed myself to feel thankful that it chose to keep me company instead of abandoning humanity and stuff.

There were days when the only reason why I knew that I hadn't gone insane was because I had Elpis wrapped around my left wrist. I mean, how insane is it to think that I somehow de-aged and time traveled into the past after 4 years of being a demigod and going on life-threatening quests and fighting against monsters and titans and-

And it is crazy. It is very crazy when you look at it from the perspective of a normal person, which I had thought that I was when I was actually 12, and that now I still have trouble believing that I’m not. Somedays I wondered if I hadn't just dreamt it all. 

Without Elpis I would have messed up much earlier too, probably when I told someone about that crazy dream that I had about Greek gods and stuff, thus ending up bringing more godly attention to myself than advisable for my own health and future, or I would be institutionalized on some hospice. I doubted very much that my mom would be able to afford that.

But that doesn’t matter now, does it? I messed up anyway. Mr. Tuley will probably tell the other teachers about how I know more than I should and they will probably tell my mom who is already worried about me because of the panic attack and week-long 'temper tantrum' (these are the principal's words, not mine) that I 'threw' in the beginning of the semester.

And worse of all is that if my dad is paying any attention to me lately he could overhear one of these conversations. He could overhear that I was acting strangely. The more I thought about it, the less I wanted him to be watching over me. 

My father isn't the same God that I had seen on the beach at camp, not yet anyways. I remember how unsure he had been about me when I had first met him face to face on Olympus. For all that he knew back then I could have been a step away from becoming Kronos’ second in command and that was without me acting suspicious to begin with. Now I would be lucky if he doesn’t kill me outright just to protect himself, and I wouldn’t even be able to blame him would I?

I yelped, letting go of Elpis with a flinch. It burned me!

I scowled at Elpis, who had already cooled down, and checked the skin around my left wrist and the fingers on my right hand. They were a little red and uncomfortable to the touch but didn’t look particularly burned. Cross, I started moving towards the pond to heal myself.

Elpis warmed up more and more the closer I came to the water and it flashed when I stared at it.

Fine, no water the-oh. I keep forgetting. I’m not supposed to know that I have powers either. It was the most frustrating thing about this whole situation. Back in my old life I would use my powers at a whim, sometimes without even meaning to. I always healed myself in showers, and spraying someone with water had been my personal version of a poke. Now my powers itched to be used again, a sensation that became worse as the days passed. 

Elpis was really the only thing keeping my forgetful ADHD butt from using my powers. And yes, I do blame the ADHD. I’ll have you know that it’s very hard to keep track of something when you forget that you should be keeping track of it.

Speaking of ADHD lets go back to the original topic. By the end of October, I was known as a troublemaker. A few minutes after I was warned by Elpis not to use my powers I stopped feeling sorry for myself long enough to notice that I still had my test with me.

So I ripped it and threw it into the pond thinking that maybe without a physical test with my name and the grade on it as evidence Mr. Tuyer wouldn't bring it up to the other teachers or my mom and just give me an F instead. It was silly but it would be his word against everyone else’s familiarity with me and my usual grades.

I watched the little pieces sink and I listened to the fishes’ curious babble about them and about me. I spent quite a bit of time there, quietly listening to them and pretending that it could make up for the powers that I couldn't use when I realized that quiet was the problem.

Mr. Tuley wouldn't have tried so hard to talk to me if he thought that I didn't care, if he thought that I was a troublemaker through and through and that getting on my case about how much I was holding back was just a waste of breath. I have been quiet the whole semester so far, worried that I was going to say something that I shouldn't. I never tried to make any friends, though I hadn’t succeeded the first time around until Grover showed up anyway, and I spent most of my days either walking around the school by myself or doing some of my homework or watching some of the movies that they had in the library.

I didn’t even fight with Nancy or get many detentions since after the first week. That should have been my first clue.

No wonder that my mom had been worried.

That’s when I decided that I couldn’t be quiet anymore. Even if my dad wasn’t suspicious about it by now then at the very least it would help keep the other teachers from believing Mr. Tuyer about my grade and making a fuss.

To be fair, Mr. Tuyer doesn’t really deserve to be branded a liar. From what I gathered from Paul, being a teacher is a pretty hard and sometimes unrewarding work. It’s not exactly a crime to question a student’s grades the way that Mr. Tuyer did, heck it is his job. I just happen to have a conflicting interest.

But it did mean that I couldn’t just suddenly start flunking more and act like I know nothing at all. That would be too cruel to him. And I didn’t exactly want to go around fighting with Nancy like I used to either. She may be a giant of a 12 years old bitch but she is still 12 and I have 4 years of experience fighting monsters and other demigods that she doesn’t have.

But I can intervene whenever she and her friends try to pick on someone else at least. Without harming them of course, just distracting them long enough to let the other kids escape. That should be more effective at keeping Nancy and her friends from hurting anyone than anonymous post-its on the teacher's lounge. 

And I didn’t spend all these years with the Stroll brothers and the rest of the Hermes cabin without learning a few pranking tricks. There are a lot of things that I can do to get a detention without hurting anyone and still get the stigma of being a troublemaker. Maybe someday I'll be able to lift my average to a B without anyone noticing.

The best part is that in between getting in trouble and re-building my candy business there was no way for me to end up getting bored. 

I smiled, following one of the more excited fishes with my eyes. It was nice to worry about something as harmless as this.

Chapter Text

Remember my plan to become a troublemaker? 

Well, I shouldn’t have bothered. My life has enough trouble without me planning it out. 

Somewhere around the middle of November ( I don't remember the exactly day), the fates decided that things had been a little too peaceful these past few months and sent me a little surprise. 

I woke up at around 3 a.m. because Elpis was burning me again. By then, Elpis and I had working system of communication. It would heat up whenever it wants my attention, stopping when I took notice. Then we play a guessing game where it would either cool down or warm up depending on how close I am to the right answer. A lot of it was yes or no questions but a good part of it was common sense.

For example, Elpis had never woken me up in the middle of the before. I have never truly respected the concept of a bedtime but lately it had been taking me hours to falls asleep, usually only managing to do so past 1 A.M. That meant that I rarely got more than 5:30 hours of sleep because I normally got woken up by one of my roommate's alarms. 

So for Elpis to wake me up at 3 A.M., silently and it would either have to be important or Elpis was being a jerk and so far I had no reason to believe that Elpis was a jerk. 

“Is something wrong?” I whispered immediately, mindful of my roommates. It warmed up briefly.

“Is it dangerous?” Warm.

“Is it in the room?” It cooled.

“Okay. Guide me.” I got out of bed, put on my jacket and my shoes and started walking towards the door. It cooled. I looked at it, confused. 

“But isn’t it outside?” It warmed. “Then shouldn’t we go there?” It cooled.

“Fine.” I walked in the opposite direction; it warmed briefly when I passed the middle of the room. “I don’t get it.”

It did nothing so I did the first thing that I could think of and extended out my left arm before turning around in a circle. It warmed up when I was facing one of my roommate's bedside tables. I walked silently and spent a moment pointing at different items until I had a plain metal lamp in my hands.

I didn't understand why it wanted me to take the lamp but it has helped me from being caught by the teachers way too many times for me to not trust it. Knowing that it would tell me otherwise if I was wrong, I assumed that this was all that it wanted in the room and I walked out.

It led me around the school's hallways and stairs until I reached the doors to the infirmary.

The infirmary was never my favorite place in the world but knowing that there might be something dangerous in there just made me more resident to enter it. It felt like a stupid idea. However, Elpis begun to insist and I doubted that I had much of a choice at that point if I had plans to go back to sleep at any time soon.

But I’m not completely dumb. I lowered the lamp as I pressed my ear to the keyhole and listened in. 

All I heard was someone chatting. They sounded nervous but I couldn't figure out anything else so I went in. 

I threw the doors open and lifted the lamp threateningly, only to be left really confused.

Mrs. Pedrosa was laying chest-down on one of the beds. She was in her pajamas, an ugly set of green on yellow polka dot pants and shirt, talking to a woman in medical garb that was giving her a neck massage.

There wasn’t anything weird going on, in the sense of Greek monsters and serial killers. I suppose that it’s always weird to see a school Doctor receiving a massage. And it was 3 a.m. in the morning.

Mrs. Pedrosa didn’t even look at me. Maybe the massage was so good that she hadn't noticed me coming in, but the other lady did and man was she surprised to find a kid wielding a lamp at her.

“You!” she shouted, retracting her hands from Dr. Pedrosa's neck. “What are you doing here?!”

“Nothing!” I mentally cursed Elpis for being a jerk after all and hid the lamp behind me. As if that did any good. 

She stood up and stomped towards me. It made me want to raise the lamp up again but my mom would have been really upset if I got suspended for threatening a nurse. On my wrist Elpis warmed up. I silently told it to shut up. It had done enough as it is.

“Boy, you are in trouble!” She shouted again, grabbing me roughly by shoulder and dragging me inside the room.

I winced at the pain rom her grip and struggled for something to say that would help me get out of that situation. Then I noticed something strange.

Dr. Pedrosa was the one who had been talking earlier. She was chatting to herself now but it was incoherent. She sounded like a one year-old trying to get away from a nightmare.

“Boy!” The other woman snapped, grabbing my attention as she continued pulling me across the room to the Doctor's office.

“What’s wrong with Mrs. Pedrosa?” I asked, pulling back.

“That is none of your business. Now stay in there until I’m finished taking care of her.” She pulled me again. That’s when I knew for sure that she wasn’t human. One of the things that I got from my dad was an unnatural amount of strength but it was still hard for me to not get dragged around by her like a rag doll.

“What’s wrong with Mrs. Pedrosa?” I insisted, readjusting my grip on the lamp. Instead of answering me she hissed and jumped on top of me. I had been expecting her to do something like that so I had planned to step out of the way but I wasn't quick enough.

We fell to the ground with a painful thud and I struggled to lift the lamp up with her on top of me while she stranded me. I only managed to hit her in the back awkwardly before she grabbed and held down both of my wrists. She smirked down at me hungrily and if I hadn't already been afraid before I was certainly scared afterwards. 

“What is your name boy?” She murmured smugly. I didn’t reply. I was too busy trying to struggle out of her hold. I wished that I wasn’t a skinny 12 years old anymore, that I could go back to having the strength and the agility that I used to have and the protection that I had gotten from the Curse of Achilles. Pushing her off wouldn’t have been a problem then but it was now.

“Answer me!” She shouted, annoyed, as I began to trash around. “Fine. I don’t need to know your name anyway, specially when you smell so delicious.”

She sent me the same hungry smirk from before, as if I was a fine meal being served to her, and leaned down. I immediately whimpered, lowering my chin to give her the least amount of access that I could.

She tutted at me mockingly before switching her grip on my wrists around until the two of them were held in one of her hand. She used the other to effortlessly push my head sideways. I froze at the feeling of her nose on the side of my neck, too helpless to do anything about it. Was this how I’m going to die? With some psycho biting my neck open because I was too fucking weak to stop her?

But she didn’t bite me at all. I felt her lips brushing the side of my neck but she didn't sink her teeth into it. Instead she breathed in deeply for a few seconds before she lifted herself up and raised her right hand. For a second I was confused, wondering what was so special about her hand, but then I could only watch in horror as a huge dark spike slowly grew out of her wrist, dripping a syrup-like liquid from its tip. As I watched her lower it towards my neck I couldn't help my think that being stabbed by that thing seemed a lot worse being bitten. 

Ellis warmed up my wrists, unnoticed by the monster, and my head kicked into gear. I tried to protect my neck by lifting my shoulders and lowering my chin and I struggled desperately. I tried to buckle her out from on top of me but when that didn't work I begun to focus on pushing my wrists away from each other to free them.

And I was lucky. She didn’t have enough strength in her left hand to hold on to both of my wrists. As soon as I could I reached out to the abandoned lamp and whacked her in the face with it.

She screamed, letting go of my other wrist to nurse her face. I used that hand to catch her right wrist and push it to the floor, forcing it down with enough strength to break the spike. She screamed and grabbed me by my shirt but I pushed her off and I went back to hitting her with the lamp.

She backed away from me, cradling her melting face and begging me to stop but I didn’t let up. I knew that I couldn't risk it. With every hit she looked more like a patient in a burn ward, her skin melting off gruesomely, and eventually she began to disintegrate into dust.

I didn’t stop until she, it, was completely gone, with nothing more than a pile of scattered dust to prove that it had been there to begin with.

I sat down on the floor and held the battered lamp. I took a deep breath.

I was shaking, I realized, how ridiculous. I have faced many things worse than this monster, it shouldn’t have made me this scared. I had been so easy to defeat once I got out of its hold. 

Ellis pulsated on my wrist, a heartbeat made of warmth and light. I chose ignore how much my fingers we shaking as I kept up with the rhythm.

It took a little while but when I finally stood up I felt better. I noticed that the dust was glowing as it disappeared, which was strange. Monster dust has never glowed before.

But I had more things to worry about than this. I shouldn't have taken so long to check on Dr. Pedrosa.

She didn’t look so good. Her babbling sounded worse, terrified, and it only took place to affirm that she has a hole near her skull  that was oozing blood. From the angle it was obvious that the spike had been pointed towards her brain and it had probably reached it too. I shuddered, and made a choice.

The 911 medical team arrived within less than 20 minutes. They found me, in my pajama-clad glory, exchanging a few lasts words with the dispatcher.

By then I already had a good explanation for why I was in the infirmary to begin with. I had heard a weird noise coming from outside my room so I took a lamp and went to check it out. I ended up falling down the stairs ( how else would a lamp get so dented?) and hit my head. Worried that I had a concussion or something, I decided to go to the infirmary and found Mrs. Pedrosa the way that she was, and yes, I was the one who put that shabby bandage on her neck. The wound was making me sick.

They seemed to believe my lie. Well, my half-lie. I had bruises to back up my story and I actually had hit my head pretty hard when that monster had tackled me to the ground so to say that I was worried about a concussion wasn’t a lie.

To say that I was Gabriel Nisrine, a kid from the 4th grade, was a bit of a stretch though, if that even is that guy's last name. I could bet that tomorrow he will be quite surprised when people begin ask him left and right about what happened but unfortunately I had to do it. He is the only person at Yancy that looks anything like me, meaning that I could only use him to deflect the attention that something like this would get me (unless one of the paramedics here had photogenic memory but I wouldn't be able to do anything about that anyway). I’m really not looking for more attention.

Good or bad, the more attention that I got the more trouble that I would find and I have had enough of trouble as it is. I do hope that Gabriel doesn't get into trouble for sneaking out while the paramedics were distracted but it couldn't be helped.


Remember what I said about good or bad, the less attention the better?

I would like to take it back.

Seriously, why do I even bother with trying to not get in trouble? It never seems to work.

After everything that had gone down in the infirmary I had been ready to lock myself in the shower until the sun rose and then sleep through the rest of the day but the world happened to have had other plans for me.

I know that I would have gained way too much attention if I had stayed and given out my real name. And I couldn't have that but evidently I am doomed if I do and doomed if I don't. One of the janitors found me as I made my way back to my dorm and I got a full week's worth of detentions.

Now I had to deal with 7 separate hours of Hades hell.

'But Percy' You say, confused. 'Haven’t you already served like a bazillion detentions in the beginning of the semester? Shouldn't you be used to it?' Why yes, I did and I was used to them but they are worse now. 

Ripping that test apart was supposed to discourage Mr. Tuyer from expecting more from me but if anything it just made him more determined. I mean, I did receive a 0 for that test but ever since that day he has been pushing me harder and harder, calling on me to read more passages or to answer the more difficult questions. The worse of all was that he did rally the other teachers into helping him out.

Now, if I so much as look distracted or bored in class, a common event, I get a scolding harsher then it had been before. Sometimes that meant a detention, and now detention meant sitting in a classroom trying to do some busy work while the supervising teacher lectures me about trying harder and reaching my potential. I miss the way that detention used to be. It wasn’t the greatest but I was allowed to doodle or daydream in peace. At one point I had even tried to learn how to meditate, though I never tried it again after that. 

I do realize that I am complaining too much about this. I'm just really tired, okay?

It wouldn't be so bad if the first detention wasn't within few hours after I had received it but it was. I didn't want to know how sadistic a person had to be to think that it was okay to make kids serve detentions at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning but they probably shouldn't be working around children. 

I only had enough time to have a nap before I had to go down to serve that detention. Skipping it wasn't an option. I would end up with more detentions and with having to explain to my mom why I skipped. I already had to come up with an excuse for why I was outside of my dorm earlier. I didn't want to give her another reason to be disappointed in mean top of that. 

With any luck no one would make a connection between what happened in the infirmary with me in spite of the time when I was caught by that janitor. 

Chapter Text

The first thing I did once I left the detention was go to the infirmary. Yeah, it was a stupid idea but I had my reasons and I didn't plan to stick around for long.

It was nearly 10 a.m. when I got there and I found a crowd of people standing behind the police lines as I had expected. Likewise, the authorities were trying to keep their investigation a secret and, naturally, that meant that a good chunk of people already knew everything there was to know. 

Most of the crowd were reporters, marking their territories with cameramen and microphones, but some of them were students or school staff. I stayed behind the crowd, too paranoid of being recognized by one of the medical officers to get too close to the police line or the cameras, but I didn't need closer than I was to get what I wanted: information.

Eavesdropping had never been easier than this.

I heard from one of the reporters that the main suspect was an adult woman who had been hired as a nurse by Yancy a few days before. Her identity had not been released yet, that reporter had said, but videos from the school's security system had shown that she had been in the infirmary at the supposed time of the attack but she was never shown leaving it.

A moment later another reporter said that the nurse had possibly used a false identity. A girl that was slightly older than me, when asked, told me that they had no idea what had happened between Dr. Pedrosa and the suspect. I went around asking a few more questions before I decided that it was time to leave. 

It was disconcerting. No one seemed to know who had found Dr. Pedrosa and called 911 for her. Some people said that another nurse had done so, others said that it had been the suspect herself, to boast about what she had done, and I was even told that it had been Dr. Pedrosa herself who called right before she had passed out, but no one spoke of me.

They must have videos showing that I had been there with the both of them, of when I entered the infirmary and when I left it, but no one meantioned anything about a kid being there. For a moment I believed that the mist had done it but no, the mist didn't work like that.

The mist hid monsters and other supernatural things from being seen by normal humans, but it didn't hide demigods. If it had been the mist then chances are that everyone would think that the monster was a normal nurse and that I was responsible for attacking Dr. Pedrosa, if not for kidnapping the nurse as well. That's how the mist has always worked. Heck, I once had the whole nation thinking that I was a terrorist because of it.

Dealing with the mist made the life of most demigods a PR nightmare but it was by far not the worse thing about being a demigod. It was normal, our version of normal.

So why would it hide me but not her? It’s supposed to be the other way around.

'Hmm.' I refleced. 'Maybe there's more to this than I know.' 

Whatever it was, it would have to wait. Right now I had to call my mother.

 


 

Confession time: I didn't call my mother as much as I should.

The first time around that had been okay because I had written her letters instead but this time it I was different. If there was anyone who would notice how much I had changed through my letters, then it would be her. Syntax, word choice, grammar, handwriting - after 4 years I no longer wrote the same way that I did when I was actually 12, nor did I have any hope that I could fake it.

My teachers weren't a issue. They might think that I used a word too advanced for my age here and there but they had no way to compare my current writing to what it used to be. My mom could though. Writing was and had always been her passion, be it her own or that of others. She had almost as many folders full of things that I have written - letters, birthday cards, old essays - as she had full of what she had written. From the way that she treasures them one would think that they were a second set of baby pictures that she forgot to put in a album. 

So instead of writing, I called her but calling had it's own issues. 

She tried to be subtle but it was easy to tell when she was concerned and now-a-days she often was. She has been worrying too much from the moment on my first day back in time when the school had called to inform her that I had had a panic attack, if not before that, and talking to her through the phone made it worse just as many times as it made it better.

She never pushed me to tell her what had happened. Instead, she asked about how was more frequently and hinted that I could talk to her if I wanted to, that she wouldn't get mad at me no matter what it was. When Mr. Tuley had called her and told her that I could be doing better if I tried to, she barely mentioned that I should be trying harder to do well before she changed the subject.

It didn't help that I hated lying to her. Lying itself was easy but lying to her was awful. A few white lies aside, I have always tried to be honest with her and now I couldn't have one conversation with her without having to lie about something. Worse of all, sometimes she caught me and sometimes she didn't believe me even when I wasn't lying.

No, that wasn't actually the worse thing about talking to her through the phone. The worse thing was when we argued. It rarely escalated beyond a disagreement but it was hell when it did.

It was better when she came to visit me, rare as it was. We didn't do much besides getting some lunch or ice cream, and talk but those afternoons that I spent listening to her make up stories were some of my favourites. She worked on weekends and has to trade shifts with a co-worker to come visit because Yancy only allowed parents to visit on weekdays if it was a emergency of some kind.

I missed her and it was selfish and somewhat counterintuitive but nevertheless I hoped that she would visit me more if I didn't call her as often. So far the answer was no, because she coudn't, but hope was hope in despite of reason.

 


 

The lady at the front desk of the office was about as happy to see me as I was to do homework, which is to say that she really, really wasn't.

"Hello Mrs. Roy, how are you doing today?" I sent her a flowery smile as she discretely glowered at me.

"What have you done now Jackson?" She clutched her coffee mug closer. I grinned. It didn't look like this was her first cup of the day.

"Nothing, nothing at all." I stepped closer to her desk. "I just wanted to see how my favorite secretary is doing today."

"Cut the c-" She cut herself off, looking over her shoulder to see if anyone else in the office had overheard her, before continuing more quietly. "What do you want?"

"Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm." I hummed, watching her fingers twitch more and more in irritation the longer I wasted her time. "I need to use the phone."

"That's too bad. The phones are unavailable." She leaned back and glared at me unashamed.

Bullshit.

"I need to talk to my mom. You can't keep me from calling her." I glared right back.

"I'm not sure if you know what is going on but we are currently dealing with a criminal investigation here. We don't have the time to prioritize your whims, Mr. Jackson." 

"There is no way that you don't have a thousand parents demanding that you make their children to call them right now. Let me call my mom or she is going to show up here and force you to arrange a room for us to talk in."

"As I said before, the phones are unavailable. Goodbye Mr. Jackson."

"I'm not leaving here until I talk to her."

"Do you want another week of detention? I can arrange that."

"Quit being petty and let me through."

"Don't tell me wh-!!" the both of us were startled as someone appeared next to her and cleared their throat.

"Is something the matter?" The principal glanced between the two of us warily.

"No!! Nothing!" Mrs. Roy squeaked, spilling some coffee as she straightened up. I waited until he looked at me before I spoke.

"I need to call my mom but she said I can't use the pho-"

"Busy! I said he couldn't use the phones because they are busy right now." Her smile didn't give her away but her eyes were cold and unforgiving when they landed on me. I could imagine that she was secretly plotting my murder inside her head. "I didn't want him to waste his time waiting. It's such a beautiful day outside in spite of everything that has happened."

"I insist," I said, looking straight at the principal. 

"Well, there isn't any reason why you can't wait in line for a little while. Please send your parents my best wishes." He responded. He was still glancing between the two of us unsurely.

"I will. Thanks." I chose to not correct him.

Mrs. Roy didn't need to be prompted to open the door separating the waiting room that I was in from the office area. She led me down the hall, passing by some office rooms and a little lunchroom before leaving me in the phone room.

I ignored Mrs. Roy final glower and I entered the end of the line. I won this round so I basked on it a little.

It's totally okay for her to dislike me for forcing her to get up at 4 in the morning but I reserve my right to dislike her too after she gave me a full week of early morning detentions, including the one I served today. Breaking the curfew for the first time wasn't supposed to be more than 1 detention, and how could it possibly be legal to force kids to serve detention right before they went to class?

 


  

"Hello? Percy?" My mom's voice called out from the other end of the line and I smiled. It had been too long since the last time I heard her voice.

"Hey mom, it's me."

"Percy! How are you doing? Is everything alright?"

"I'm doing fine. How are you doing?" I twirled the phone cord with my fingers. I wished I could pace around the room instead, it kept me from feeling confined when I used the phone, but unfortunately this phone was attached to the wall by its cord.

"I'm doing just fine."

"Mom," I said. "I have to talk to you about a few things."

She voice sobered right away, a sharp contrast from her previously cheerful tone. "Has something happened?

"Err, yes. But that's not what I want to talk about first."

"What happened? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine." I repeated, forcing myself to not get irritated. "I'll tell you what happened in a sec but I need to ask you something first. Can we go to Montauk for Christmas?"

"I- I don't think so. I would have to see if they still have any cabins left, and even if there are I don't think that Gabriel would agree to go."

"Yeah, but we don't have to take him."

"But it's Christmas."

"And he's not family."

"Percy, we've talked about this." Yes, we have. I was like a broken record when it came to this. 

"He's not!" I whined. "He's an asshole." 

"He's your stepfather and you need to accept that."

"No, I don't. He's not good for you. No matter the reason why you chose to marry him to begin with, staying with him is not worth it."

"So you've said, but you don't understand." She pleaded. "Please, let it go."

I stood in silence, making my point clear.

She signed, and I decided to change tactics. 

"You don’t need to worry about him. I'll pay for it.” I did my best to sound mysterious. 

"Pay?" She was surprised. "How will you pay for it?"

"With money." I teased her light-heartedly.

"What money Percy? Where did you get money?"

I let out a little laugh. "Remember those bags of candy I asked you to send me? I sold them."

"What? But that wouldn't be-"

"Then I bought more and sold them too."

"How long have you been doing that?"

"A little while. The cabin in Montauk is $85 a day right?"

“Yes. How long is ‘a little while’?”

“A little while,” I snickered. “I think I have enough to cover 5 nights easy. How much would we need for food? I think that I can cover that too.”

“I can’t believe you sometimes,” She laughed. “How much do you have?”

“$450-ish. I'll have to check it later.”
“That’s a lot of money Percy. Are you sure you want to spend it on this?”

“Yes.”
“You could spend it on something else, a video game maybe? It’s been a while since you had a new one. ”

“I’m sure, mom. I want to go to Montauk with you. If I hold on to it for too long I’ll lose it on something stupid.” like Ugly Gabe’s gambling, but it was better to leave that last part unsaid. 

“Fine. I’ll look into it but I can’t promise anything yet.” She said.

“Awesome.” I grinned before sobering up. “Mom?”

She sobered up as well and answered me cautiously. “Yes?” 

“Remember how I said that something happened?”

“What is it?”

“Well, therewasthisattackhereatschoolandDr.Pedrosagothurt andnowthepoliceisinvestigatingitbuttheyhaven’tfoundanything.”

“What???” 

I took a deep breath.“There was an attack in school infirmary earlier but everything is fine now. The police are investigating it.”

“What!?!”

“It should be in the news by now. I thought that maybe you would like to know it from me instead.”

“When did it happen??” She demanded. “Where were you?”

“About that…I think it was before dawn?” I wiped away some sweat from my brow. “I kind of left my room around that time, but nothing happened! The janitor caught me before I got too far from the dorms.”

Her breathing stuttered to a halt and I feared I had upset her enough that her would yell at me once she got over being surprised. 

“I’m fine. You don’t have to worry about me.” I interjected quickly. She raised her voice anyway. It wasn't a yell but her voice was notably stern.

“How can I not worry about you?! Percy, you have to be more careful. You can’t just go wandering around by yourself like that. You should know better than this.”

“I was walking around the school, mom, not the streets.” I huffed softly. “I can’t predict when bad things are going to happen.”

“I know but," Her voiced wavered discreetly. "Promise me that you’ll be more careful? No more wandering around in the middle of the night?”

I pondered over my words carefully. “I promise I won’t leave my dorm at night again without a reason. And I’ll try to be more careful.”

She gave a semi-satisfied hum and then continued apologetically. “I’ll try to visit you soon.”

“You have to go?” I asked.

“Yes. A family just walked in and Anna is calling me to go help her.”
“Okay. I’ll see you soon.”

“Bye Percy.” 

I hung up the phone and left the office silently, ignoring Mrs. Roy on the way out. It was time for lunch and my stomach was growling but I walked bypassed the cafeteria altogether. What I really needed was a nap. 

 


 

 Two days later, Monday began as I had anticipated: miserably too rushed and too early. But there was more to it than that.

I sprinted through the door of my first class for the day, having been released from detention minutes before, to find that I had brought the binder for my English class instead of Algebra. Whatever. I pulled out a blank piece of paper and made due.

The next class was fine. I did a pit stop by my dormroom to leave my backpack and get my P.E. uniform, because leaving your bag in the locker rooms is a sure way to get your things stolen, before I ran back down to the gym. 

Although I was rather sweaty from running around, I skipped the showers in the locker room so I could have enough time to get the stuff I needed for my next classes without being late.

My third class made me uneasy. I could have sworn that I had U.S history in that period but it was actually English. I sat down in my usual seat and attempted to listen to the lecture. It bothered me that I had believed that I could be so wrong about my own schedule. How could I make a mistake like that? I had memorized my schedule months ago. It took no time at all for me to stop focusing on what my teacher was saying and start fiddling with Elpis. It wasn't remarkably helpful. I couldn't ask that many questions out loud where my teacher and my classmates could hear me and a person can only whisper to their wrist for so long before they begin to look weird. 

After my third class was over, I had half the mind to go directly down to lunch before remembering that I actually had the second lunch period, where we ate after the class was over instead of before it. 

For the first time that day I had no reason to rush. I effortlessly made it to my forth class before the bell rang, but I froze at the door.

Sitting in a wheelchair at the teacher’s desk was someone very familiar, a middle-aged guy with thinning hair. Chiron, disguised as Mr. Brunner, was turned away from me when I first saw him but I didn’t need to see his face to recognize him. I could recognize him anywhere. 

It felt like hours had passed while I stared at his back, awash with happiness at the sight of someone I had missed, but it must have been seconds before I was pushed aside by one of the other guys in my class. I ignored the rough treatment and sat at the back of the class.

I wanted to approach him, to introduce myself and to talk to him, but it was important for me to be careful around Chiron. Chiron had been not so much a friend to me as he had been a mentor, but the Chiron in front of me hasn't even met me yet. So in lieu of that I pulled out the binder I had been using for my Spanish class and started moving all my old notes the last section of the binder. I didn't have Spanish anymore so I could use the binder for Latin but it would be a waste to throw the notes away. 

There was one thing missing though. If Chiron was at Yancy then Grover must be as well. He was supposed to be in this class with me and in most of my other classes but I hadn't seen him anywhere.

It didn’t take long for Chiron to start the class. It was subdued compared to the classes that I remembered: Chiron bypassed his usual games and stories, and simply wrote a long list of word definitions and conjugation tables from the first two units of our book for us to copy.

I didn’t stick around before going to my General Science class, despite wanting to. I couldn't let him know that I wasn't reacting to the mist like everyone else was, and that meant leaving as soon as I could.

 


 

I grew concerned when I didn’t find Grover at dinner. From what I had gathered, in the first time around Grover had been the one to trace me back to Yancy and he had been the one to call Chiron. Chiron was never supposed to show up before Grover.

I had no way of knowing if the monster I met in the infirmary had been there the first time around. The fact that I hadn't heard about anyone being hurt then didn't mean that it didn't happen. For all I knew it had gone completely unoticed or it had been kept quiet.

But if it hadn’t been there, if I had done something to bring it here, and if I was the reason why Chiron was here without Grover, then I had already changed more things than I had meant to and earlier than I had ever meant to as well. 

‘I wish I knew why Chiron had been here to begin with,’ I thought as I pushed what remained of my dinner around my plate, ‘Because it made sense for him to be here when Alecto was trying to find me, but she’s not here yet. And I never saw him going undercover again - all the other demigods were are brought to camp as fast as possible.’

I finished eating dinner shortly after that and strolled the school grounds for a while until I felt tired enough to sleep.

 


 

Tuesday began more normally. Getting he right binders and the keeping track of my new schedule came as naturally to me as it would have if I had had it from the beginning of the semester. I assumed that I had the mist to thank for that.

But the mist couldn’t make up for what I didn’t know of Latin. Unlike the day before, Chiron had set up a point system rewarding whoever answered his questions right, and that was all he did: ask questions. In a twist of misfortune, while everyone else in my class knew everything he had gone over the day before, I did not.

I did remember some of the things he asked us about but they barely crossed the basics. Unlike my other classes I hadn’t studied Latin in years and at that point what I did remember wasn't enough.

For the first time since the beginning of the semester I had to do better in class than I could, as opposed to doing worse, which is why I cringed pretty hard when he called on me about how to conjugate ‘dare’ (to give) in the form of ‘he/she/it _____’ and I had to guess.

All he did was correct me and move on to the next student but I wanted to kick myself. So far, I had been the only one in the class to get something wrong.

It took all my willpower to continue acting normal until I walked out of the room with my mind screaming at me that he knew. It took more than willpower for me to go down to dinner later that day, where I knew that I would find him.

I was so focused on eating quickly that I didn’t notice who had sat next to me. I assumed that it was one of the kids I sold candy to who wanted more, because otherwise everyone tended to leave me alone, but when I did look at them I was startled into almost falling off the bench.

Grover.

Grover, with his nubby horns and a meek posture, looked much younger than I remember ever seeing him be. He still looked older than me but for a split second I thought he was younger than I had been when I was 16. I knew he was older than me by a long stretch but he didn’t look like it.

He raised his hand up shyly and mumbled a hello. I did the same automatically. I was so stunned by all the things that were different about him that I barely noticed the words he used to introduce himself but when he stopped talking I shook the hand he offered and took my turn to follow suit. 

Dinner ended with a swirl of small talk, polite and ultimately useless but for once it didn’t annoy me, and we walked back to my dorm to find that it had a new bed. 

I laid awake in bed for hours after bidding him and the others goodnight. At first, I wasn’t sure if I was feeling shaken or if I was 

I never thought that things wouldn’t be different, I was counting on it actually, but after meeting Grover I had begun to realize that goming back in time was a lot less a blessing than it was a curse.

I had been so upset about the people that had died in the war that when I realized that I had gotten a second change I hadn't taken it lightly but until now I never considered in depth what it truly meant to come back in time. I never considered that I might have lost more than I could ever hope to regain. How naive was I that it had taken me so long to think of this?

All my friends are younger now. Everyone I care about are 4 years younger. With the exception of my mom, none of them have ever met me before, much less befriended me and I was left with years of memories that have lost all their meaning because the people I shared them with don't exist anymore and they will never exist again, not really.           

I’m not the same person I was when I was 12, back when I first met Grover and Annabeth. We have changed a lot in the past 4 years, growing up with and because of eachother, but this time around I have already gone through all of it and they haven't. Even if I tried to keep everything the same, to let them live through the same things that had made them the people that I left behind in 2009, I wouldn't be able to. I doubt that even a god would be able too and doing so would be selfish. It would be wrong. 

The whole point of a second chance is to make things better but it can easily turn out to be worse. Everything I do differently, intentional or not, big or small, will change something and while it was Elpis that brought me back in time it never would have been able to happen if I had never gone to talk with Hestia about it. This was what I had wanted then, to make myself feel better, and now everything we have fought for is at risk again and I can't take it back.

It is my responsibility to make sure that things turn out okay in the end. I have to make sure that we fight against Kronos and win the War again. I have to make sure that I get as many demigods to make it through the war alive as possible. I can't risk their lives and especially not the lives of my friends because I was trying to get my friends to become the same people that I have lost, because I wanted to make myself feel less lonely. I can't be selfish like that, not intentionally. 

The Grover sleeping on the bed next to mine isn’t the guy that I was friends with in 2009 and he will never become that Grover. But he is Grover, a version of Grover. Him, Annabeth, Paul, Thalia, Nico, Rachel…and even my dad to some extent, they don’t have to be the same exact people that I spent the last few years with for me to care about them. They are still the people that they were when I first met them and now I have the chance to maybe make their lives a little easier.

It would make me happy if I could spare them from some things. If I could keep Luke from dying, and keep Annabeth, Grover and Thalia from the pain of it. If I could keep Bianca from dying and Nico from losing his sister. There are thousands of things that I could do and I wished that that could make up for the friends I lost but the tears kept coming anyway. I didn't hate crying, not in the way that a lot of guys did -calling it a weakness-, but I did hate how I couldn't get myself to stop once I got started. There was a limit to how long I could cry before I felt like I was being too melodramatic about it and it's not like crying ever made me feel better. It just made me feel tired.  

I tried to keep it quiet so I wouldn't wake up Grover or my other roommates, using my hands to muffle a sob every now and then. Elpis caught on to what I was doing quickly, and I was grateful when it began to silently tap a melody on my wrist using little burts of heat, but it wasn't enough. 

Wednesday began with me holed up inside the bathroom, having given up on being completely silent, and hoping that none of my roommates would wake up needing to use it. There was no way that I could shrug this off if they did, not until I could stop sobbing. 

Chapter Text

The first Friday of December began with a small problem. Ron, a dark-haired 8th grader, sat down next to me at breakfast and asked if I had any mm’s left. I told him I would check and later found out that my whole candy stash was running low. 

At lunch, I stopped by to see Ron and tell him that I should have it by the end of the next day before going to pick up my food from the cafeteria. With a tray in my hands I left the cafeteria building and weaved through the tables outside until I found relatively empty table. The two girls sitting at the other end of the table barely looked at me as I took a seat. 

“Why are you sitting here?” Grover inquired, suddenly showing up and sitting down on the chair beside me. 

I startled, nearly dropping my spoon before I turned to look at him.

"The guys and I found a table inside. You can come sit with us." He offered.  

“Aaah.” I shrugged nonchalantly and scooped some rice and beans with my spork. “I’m already here, but thanks.”

“Please? It's cold out here." He asked.

I shook my head gently. 

He pouted and I had to look away and forcefully keep my lips from curling up. There was something utterly disarming about younger Grover’s puppy eyes, and I refused to be swayed.

"You never hang out with us.” He whined, pouting harder. I tried to stifle a giggle over his melodrama and failed. He grinned, knowing that he had won.

“Maybe tomorrow I will.” I offered as acknowledgement of his minor victory. Grover smiled, happier than I've seen he be in a while.

His smile didn't last long. Within seconds he was frowning at me. I tilted my head curiously.

“Why don't you hang out with us?” He asked and I turned away from him. “I know you don't hate us and none of the guys said anything about not liking you.”

I took a second to think about what I could say to him. I did avoid hanging out with them, and I couldn't deny it, but I also didn’t want him to think that it was personal. I simply felt awkward when I hung out with them.

Grover had clicked right in with the rest of our other roommates, something he hadn’t done the first time around, and has been trying to gather me into their fold ever since. I appreciated his effort to include me, I really did, but I had barely spoken with any of them since the beginning of the semester.

I didn’t know what to say to them, what we could possibly talk about, and being around them made me feel like I was their babysitter instead of their roommate. I didn't enjoy it and I doubt they would enjoy it either, so it was easier to avoid them altogether. 

Grover complicated things. He went out of his way to involve me, often finding me in the library or in the garden, and now during lunchtime too. I didn't know how I could tell him why I didn't want to hangout with them, or what else I could say in its place that wouldn't hurt his feelings. 

I ignored the small part of my mind that told me that I was avoiding him the most. I didn't want to think about it.

Looking him in the eye again, I almost felt ashamed of myself for avoiding him. I hadn't considered how my avoidance would make him feel, thinking that he wouldn't care much because he didn't know me well.

I bowed my head, having no words to tell him.  

“Please come hang out with us?” He asked again, completely sincere this time. I nodded, defeated, and he smiled.

“Does it have to be right now? I like it here.” 

“Nah, we can hang out after class.” He said, still smiling, before he took a bite of his lunch. “I promise it’s not as bad as you think. You just have to give them a chance.”

I nodded, ready to finish my lunch in silence. 

He didn't leave though. I was happier than I should have been to spend the rest of our lunch time with him.

 


 

Grover held me to my promise, showing up by my table at the end of our last class and pulling me along with a steady grasp until we met up with Alfred, Jake, and Francis. You would think that Grover, a scrawny satyr, wouldn’t have a lot of strength to use but that wasn’t the case. Grover wasn’t a physical fighter by any means but, pretending to be crippled or not, he was stronger than he looked.

The three of them choose to play basketball since they finally had two people for two teams. It wasn’t a fan favorite of mine, and I wished that we could have done something that Grover wouldn’t have to sit out on but his encouraging look persuaded me to keep my mouth shut.

I wasn’t too shabby at it and I even had fun for a few rounds, up until the moment Jake smacked into Francis and Francis fell. 

It was increasingly frustrating.

I held my tongue back. I hadn’t seen what happened so I didn’t want to get involved but Alfred jumped at the chance to defend his teammate. 

The argument settled itself quickly once Grover got involved, making himself the official referee, but it spoiled the rest of the game for me. I continued to do my best to take the ball and pass it to Francis, who had a better aim than I did, but Francis' and Alfred's competitive streaks caused every mistake to be called into question.

'They're just having fun.' I thought to myself when they had paused the game for the fourth time, but knowing that changed nothing.

It didn't help that I already felt clumsy while playing basketball. I wasn't entirely used to being smaller yet. I didn't have issues with it on the day to day basis anymore but sometimes when I was doing something more complex, like playing sports or running through obstacle courses, I would take a step too close or reach a bit too far. 

It also didn't help that I wasn't used to playing basketball and kept making the wrong split second decisions. While I no longer had the muscle memory to back it up, I was still trained to react as though I was in a fight.

Their competitive nitpicking got on my nerves, especially when it was over something I did.

I held back significantly, keeping myself consciously aware of what all my limbs were doing at all times and holding back my strength, but messed up sometimes and now each mistake had become a federal crime. 

I wanted to stop their arguments and scold them for taking this game too seriously. I wanted to tell them that ultimately it was irreverent who won and who lost. 

I knew that it wasn't fair for me to be angry at them for finding this fun when it stressed me out. They were just being kids and as long as no one got hurt I had to let them be kids. How else would they grow out of it? Thank the Gods that Grover was there to tone down the worse of it because I did not feel like doing it. 

The game ended close to an hour later when Jake stopped the game to claim that it was getting late.

Grover sent me a apologetic look while we put the ball away and grabbed our stuff. I felt like there was more to it than a simple apology over persuading me to spent a afternoon playing a somewhat lousy game. His eyes were too solemn, too downcast, for it to be mean so little. I waved him off anyway, apology accepted, and soon bid them all goodbye to go take a shower.

 


  

I walked out of the bathroom and shivered. The steam from my shower that clung to my skin had met the colder air of our bedroom and I mourned the fact that I couldn’t skip the suffering and dry myself instantly.

I used my towel to keep drying myself manually but it didn't do much against the how cold I felt. As a solution, I went over to my bed and buried myself under the duvet. I would leave it as soon as I was warmed up again.

 


 

I woke up to the sound of the shower running and laughter. Sitting up I saw Grover, Alfred and Jake were sitting on Jake’s bed talking about something, while Francis was the one showering.

“What time is it?” I asked, slipping a hand through my hair to check if it was dry or not. I was disappointed to find it a little damp. 

“It’s almost 10:20,” Grover said. “Were you sleeping this whole time?”

Ugh, I slept past curfew…And dinner.  “Nah, I showered first. Does anyone have a snack I can eat? I’m starving.”

The three of them said no, as did Francis when he came out of the bathroom. The cafeteria would be closed for sure so I got up and went to ask some the other students if they had anything I could eat and received a series of no’s and sympathetic looks.

Left with no other option I went for my stash of sweets, depleted as it was. The Jellybeans and the gummy bears that I found weren’t enough to squash my hunger, and chewing bubblegum actually made it worse.

By the time we turned the lights off I was decisively uncomfortable. A while later, I had to clutch my stomach to subside the pain from the hunger pangs, and I had had enough.

I always went to buy candy over the weekend, when the teachers wouldn’t miss me and I could spend the whole afternoon away without being noticed, but I made an exception this time. I wasn’t about to spend the rest of the night wide awake because I was hungry, and if I was going out then I might as well kill two birds with one stone.

I got up, emptied my school bag onto my bed, and grabbed the closest jacket I could find.

I was ready.

 


 

Sneaking out of the school was easy.

The hardest part about it was the actual act of going down the stairs and taking a roundabout path through the school's hallways until I reached a small storage room with a window facing the gardens. It was a piece of cake. The school's nighttime security was inefficient in that they rarely patrolled the lesser used hallways my main concern was to avoid being caught by the security cameras which thankfully were well scattered.

Then it was just a matter of walking to the end of the garden, near the pond I like to sit by, and crawling through a small opening in the school’s fence hidden behind some of the foliage.

I didn't like going out on the streets in the middle of the night when I was by myself, but the corner store that I went to was just two blocks away from Yancy, and path was a well-lit.

I was prepared to fight a mugger if I had to, maybe even someone with a gun. I was out of practice and I lost the muscle memory that I used to have but I trained with the likes of Annabeth and Clarisse for years. I knew what I had to do to in a hand-to-hand battle, at least for long enough for me to get away, and I could always count on people underestimating me because I looked like just a kid.

If I saw a Monster I could run away. I knew roads near the school like the back of my hand and it wouldn’t be hard to find another way back. No one ever said that I had to fight every monster that came after me.

It was still a gamble, of course. I wasn’t taking it lightly. I promised my mom I would be careful and I was, but I was confident that I would be okay even if I got attacked.

I did, however, wish that I had bought a thicker jacket. The one I had with me wasn’t all that great and my hands were freezing.

The teenager at the cash register gawked at me when I entered the store and started shoving packet after packed of candy into a shopping basket. He wasn’t the cashier I usually met when I went there and I could tell that he didn't know what to do about having a pre-teen show up in the middle of the night. I started telling him this story about how I had gotten some birthday money but I couldn’t use it buy candy when my family was around because my little brother cried when he saw me with candy until my parents made me give him a good chunk of it.

Perhaps he was tired and didn't care, or perhaps the amount of candy I bought convinced him that I was serious about my candy, because he didn't call the police or child services to pick me up and take me back home.

I shoved the candy into my backpack and ate the sandwich I had bought with it in one of the little tables inside the store. Then, I got lucky and returned to Yancy without a hitch.

Yeah.

No.

I didn’t.

As I said before, I was being careful. I made sure to check every alley and street carefully before I crossed them, and I kept turning my head back to check if there was anyone following me. I came across no one, and there was nothing following me. I thought I had it in hand when I heard a shriek.

What was there for me to do? I still didn’t have a weapon, and I wasn’t about to count on my ability to defend myself to get me through everything I came across. That was the main reason why my plan was to evade confrontations and, failing that, to run away as fast as I could. If I was the only target involved then that was exactly what I would have done.

Except, I wasn’t.

I looked at Elpis, out of habit if anything, and caught it glowing.

“It’s a Monster then?” I asked as I sprinted towards the screams. There were two different screams now. Elpis warmed up briefly.

“How fun.” I drawled out sarcastically, turning around the corner.

The side street had no light posts. That made me hesitate a second before I ignored my instincts and went in anyway. Thankfully, the moon was providing enough light for me to grasp the basics of what was going on.

There were three people, two guys and a girl, on the end of it. One of the guys, the obviously burlier one, had the other one pinned to the wall by his throat and he was holding on to the girl by her hair. I wasn’t sure what he intended to do with two teenagers but neither of them were going to give up without a fight. The smaller guy had one of his legs raised his chest, pushing him away, and the girl was punching him at wherever she should reach.

Unfortunately for them, he wasn’t affected at all. Some Monsters were eerie like that, where their strength and constitution made them seemly unmovable. However, as someone who had once had a similar ability thanks to the Achilles’ curse, I knew better than to take that resistence for granted.

I ran and jump kicked him on the upper part of his back, right underneath his nape. Between his two victims’ movements, the burly guy had no time to both notice me running at him and to react to it on time. He was thrown forward, hitting face first onto the wall beside the smaller guy before sliding down. The girl was dragged down with him with a scream but the smaller guy fell in the other direction and began crawling away.

I gave the burly guy no time to recover and jumped on top of his back just as he was getting up, making him hit his face on the ground with a loud thud. I saw the girl pull her hair free and instead of running away she continued to smack him.

I jumped out of his back when he tossed sideways, wary of being unbalanced and falling down. The girl flinched back seconds later, narrowly escaping his grasp.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank-“ she mumbled at me as I caught her arm and dragged her farther away.

The burly guy picked himself up and glared at me menacingly. “Who the fuck are you?”

“You need to run,” I ordered her. I didn’t know how I would defeat him without a weapon but it would be better if she weren’t in the way. Could I punch him until he became dust? Was it a good idea to try?

“-Okay, okay. Run.” She sprinted towards the entrance to the alleyway, She also forgot that she was holding on to my arm and I stumbled and fell as she dragged me backwards.

The burly guy snarled like an animal at us, in a way that I had never heard before in my life. I gathered my footing and pushed her hands away from me, furious. Dragging me to the floor like that could have gotten me killed in a fight, and this was a fight. Didn’t she know better?

She froze, and then reached out to grab me again. I stepped away from her on time. Within a blink of an eye, the burly guy was running at us. He wasn’t the fastest monster I had ever met, the one I fought in the infirmary was much faster, and he too far to have the element of surprise. I took a step closer to him, dodged underneath his outstretched arm, and elbowed his flank. He swiped his arm to grab me with another snarl but I stepped back quickly.

“Kevin! Help us!” The girl shouted. A quick glance showed me that the other guy was standing at the corner of the street. I ignored the rest of what she said. If he was smart then he would leave.

The burly guy was blocking my way out. I had room to dodge him still but unless I could pass by him or defeat him things might quickly go south for me.

I dodged a few more swipes, staying out of his reach and moving diagonally in the subtlest way I could until I was next to him instead of in front of him. Yet another step back had me hitting my back against a wall and I had to drop to my knee to avoid him.

“Hey!” The girl shouted as the smaller guy raised his fists from where he stood right behind her. “Leave him alone!”

He turned toward them so I took the chance to punch him in the stomach and make him stumbled back. I lurched to my feet and ran before he even recovered.

“Ugh.” The burly guy grunted, straightening up.

“What are you still doing here?! Run!” I shouted as I reached them.

“We can take him!” She shouted.

“Yeah!” The smaller guy shouted, his voice wavering.

“No!!!” I shouted, desperate to get them to move. “You’re going to get yourselves killed!”

The burly guy smirked. “Don’t think that you can get away so easy, kid. I can find you. I can find all of y- ha!”

He cut himself off with a laugh as the smaller guy went at him. I watched in horror as he was promptly taken down with both of his hands behind his back. The burly guy laughed again, looking at me and the girl with glee. The girl gasped and fumbled for something in her tiny bag.

“Start running,” I told her quietly, stepping closer to the Monster as he lifted the other guy from the floor. Frankly, I was at a loss over what I could do against the Monster when it has a hostage but either way it wouldn’t do for the two of them to get caught.

“I- I have-“ she mumbled, desperately searching her purse. Did she have a weapon? If so, would it be enough?

“Anna, run!” her friend shouted, trying to push the other guy off of him. She shook her head.

“What an exciting night. Three brave little lambs, down for the taking.” He cackled. “I always love it when they struggled.”

He opened his mouth as wide as it could go like he dreamed of trying to swallow the smaller guy’s whole head with one bite, but he never got to do that because I tackled him.

It was a pathetic tackle. I didn’t have the inertia to slam into him with any real force, or the weight to make up for it. I could imagine how appalled Annabeth would be if she was there to see me doing it, but at least it did surprise him into releasing smaller guy, if only for a second.

The burly guy grabbed me by my right arm. I gathered my footing and pulled back. From up close I could see why he was a Monster, capital m, instead of just a horrible human. He had piranha teeth, thick and sharp, and they were so long that they didn’t quite fit into his mouth.

Smaller guy, who had freed one of his hands, punched the Monster in the eye but he stayed firmly unaffected and pulled smaller closer until he could switch the hold he had on smaller guy’s wrist for one on his bicep.

I frantically put more strength into pulling myself and the burly guy in the other direction to no avail. The smaller guy screamed at the top of his lungs as the Monster pulled him closer and bit his neck. I gave up and tried to push him instead.

“Ha!” I heard and seconds later a hand was shoved near my face and I heard a spurting sound. A sharp smell hit me and I flinched away, closing my eyes.

I moaned in pain as my eyes prickled and teared up. Disoriented, I heard both the Monster and the smaller guy wail in pain. The girl whooped and continued to pepper spray the Monster until he fell to the ground.

“Let’s go!” The smaller guy shouted. The girl laughed triumphantly and suddenly I was being half pulled, half carried along by her.

The three of us ran and I wiped my eyes forcefully to get the residue of the pepper spray out of them.

“That was AWESOME!” The girl panted as we turned around a corner.

Her friend shouted at her, rubbing at his own eyes. “No, it wasn’t!”

I grunted in approval, too busy getting over the pain in my eyes to vocalize my agreement.

“I don’t mean it like that Kevin! I meant that it was different! What was he?? I’ve never seen anything like that before.” I stumbled momentarily when she stopped pulling me along and let go of my arm.

“Whatever. Let’s just go home.” He said before he turned to me but I beat him to the punch.

“You can’t go home yet.”

“What?!”

“Why not?”

“He needs to go to the hospital.” I pointed at the wound on his neck, not sure how they had missed the way it was bleeding heavily.

“Oh my God.” She whimpered. Kevin froze, looking at the blood running down his chest, so I grabbed the hand that he had on my shoulder and placed it on the bite.

“Keep it there. You need to stop the flow until you can get it looked at.”

“Where do we go?” She asked, yet right after she pulled out her phone and presumably dialed 911.

“Did you have that pepper spray the whole time?” His eyebrows furrowed. “You brought pepper spray to our first date?”

She grimaced, waving apologetically.

“This isn’t the time for that!” I interrupted his next sentence with a hiss, scowling at them through the remaining tears in my eyes. “Less talking, more holding.”

He bowed his head, readjusting his grip on his wound. His blood continued to flow out of it alarmingly fast.

Whoever Anna was calling picked up and she asked them for directions to the nearest hospital. We followed her lead at a quick pace.

“I don’t think you can go home anyway.” I realized. “He said he could find you. You need to get as far away from here as you can.”

“But I have to go to Uni tomorrow. And so does he.” She said, turning away from the phone call to look at me.

“He’ll be angry,” Kevin said monotonously. “He said he could smell us, Anna. We need to run away.”

She stopped walking to stare at him gravely, returning to her phone call when I snapped my finger and gave her a pointed look.

“What will you do?” He asked me as we started moving again.

Take a shower, I wanted to say, and then sleep. I was tired, and freezing my butt off, and I was annoyed by how awful that fight had been. I swear that I could have done better than that, even without a sword.

“Don’t worry about me. I have a place I can go to if I need to.” I said instead, shivering. He frowned at me in concern. “But do me a favor and listen the next time someone tells you to run. Not to sound ungrateful or anything but you might not be so lucky the next time.”

I turned to her and saw her gaping at me. “And don’t drag people when you run away. You made me fall. If he had been any faster than he was I wouldn’t be here anymore. The most basic thing about group fighting is to not get is someone else’s way.”

“Should we have left you behind then?” She asked snidely.

“For your own sake, yes.” I signed, realizing that I must have sounded harsher then I had meant to be and continued in a more neutral tone. “I mean it. I’m grateful that you tried to help me, and trying to take him on like that was brave, but it was also very stupid.”

Kevin huffed weakly and we continued walking in silence.

At one point I raised my hands to rub my eyes again and whispered a question. Elpis cooled down my whole wrist, which was frankly uncomfortable when my hands already felt like they were going to fall right off from the cold.

“The world is a lot weirder than I had realized,” I stated to myself. Kevin heard me and hummed in agreement but no one said anything until we could see the hospital.

“You two need to be more careful.” I told them. "There won't always be someone close by to help you."

“I know.” She sounded less irritated than she had been before. 

I took it as a good sign and nodded, then I realized that they couldn't see me when I was walking behind them. 

“Good luck guys. I hope everything turns out well for you.” I spun around on the spot and started walking back. 

“What? Come back!" He said. 

"We don’t even know your name!” She shouted.

“I have to go back before I get in trouble. Don't worry, I'll be fine.” I waved at them without looking back. “I do suggest that you hurry, though. He doesn’t look good.”

Kevin seemed close to passing out and I hoped that he would be alright. I didn't know them but I didn't want them to get hurt. 

There wasn’t much left that I could help them with. They weren’t demi-gods. I could neither bring them back to camp nor devote myself to being their guardian until who knows when. I had to trust that if they understood how serious this was and if they were old enough to be students at a college then together they would be able to keep themselves safe. 

I had nothing I could help them with by sticking around, but I could still help them out in one way.

 


 

Monsters hunted demigods in many different ways. Some relied on setting up traps, others searched whole cities until they god lucky, but the most common was for Monsters to rely on their ability to track them by scent.

Going by what he said, I deduced that he was one of those. I knew how to deal with them, it had been one of the many lessons that they taught us at camp half-blood.

Roll around in the mud or in a lake, I remembered, hide your scent.

I didn’t do that, not yet. It wasn't my goal to hide. 

I presumed that he would follow the strongest scent first so I did my best to give him a long trail to follow, touching something here and there to leave a stronger scent. 

I was glad that I had familiarized myself with the area near Yancy. Three or four excursions ago I would have gotten lost easily. 

The thought that he might be following me, unseen and ready to pounce, terrorized me through every lap I made. I thought I had seen him or heard him once or twice but I ran before I could be sure. 

I was jumping at my own shadow by the time I deemed that I had walked for long enough. 

Grover barreled into me the second I entered the room, nearly throwing me to the floor before he grabbed me into a hug.

“Percy! Are you okay!? Where did you go?? Why did you leave??” He yammered nervously.

I sympathized with him when he recoiled and cringed in disgust. I would do the same if I could.

“I’- I’m fi-ine.” My teeth chattered while I spoke and he didn't look reassured by it. I pushed past the fogginess in my head and focused on shivering less while I repeated myself.

He pulled me back into a hug and belatedly I realized that the way I was folding my arms to keep warm wasn't helping my case. I had to show him that I was fine so I went ahead and patted his back for good measure. That's when I saw that I wasn't the only one shaking. Despite being frozen stiff I could feel him shaking through our hug.

“Oh.” I verbalized. 

“Oh, what?” He asked, leaning back again. I took a proper look at him. Had he been crying too? His eyes were a little swollen. “You are not fine.”

“I am.” I nodded. His pointed look had me amending myself. “My nerves are a little stretched thin right now but I’m fine. I'm going to be fine.”

“What happened to you? You smell like garbage."

“I went out, got a sandwich and fought with some guy in an alleyway.” I continued, nodding still. ”I won, I guess, but he wasn’t happy and I didn’t want him to follow me so I kept walking around to shake him off. Up until right now that is. Right now I’m here." 

He stared at me skeptically. That expression looked odd on his face.

“You should go to sleep.” He finally stated as he moved away from me. I frowned, missing his warmth, but then I understood what he said and smiled again. Yes. Sleep sounded really good.

“And shower,” I added as I hugged myself again for warmth. Showers are important. 

“And shower. Come on.” He gently held my arm and walked me to the bathroom. For a second, it seemed like he was going to baby me through it all so I huffed at him indignantly. To drive my point home I took of my jacket, threw it on the floor near my bed, and walked into the bathroom. I could shower by myself, thank you very much. 

It was divine, the sensation of water running through my hair and back and taking away the aches and bruises and the awful smell I had gotten. I wasn’t supposed to heal myself with water but I was really tired and Elpis didn’t stop me.

I stayed there until I heard a new noise. It was low and muffled by the sound of the water but I could hear Chiron’s voice as he spoke with Grover.

I felt no shame in stepping out of the shower and walking to the door, even if it felt awkward to walk across the bathroom naked.

“-and him! Why w-ld he leave the —cool?? H- wouldn't go out for ju— a stupid sandwi-!” It was patchy at best but I could make out that Grover was nearly hysterical.

“Why -ould he — out for - sandwich?” Chiron asked, confused. 

“He mis-ed dinner but that's not important Chiron! He came in smellin-  -ike trash and -ood and he to- me that he got in a fight with someone!” Grover said.

“He's -ot the type to —- -ights with —angers. wha- — the chan-es that he -et a Mo—er” 

“- don't -ow but he’s really not.” Grover intoned thoughtfully. "He —oids jus- about everyone, unless he'-. No, he wouldn't!" 

There was a moment when I couldn't hear anything past the sound of the shower behind me so I pressed myself closer to the door. 

"-an't believe him! I can't believe he would do this!" Grover groaned angrily.

"Tha—s a lot o- candy bags." Chiron was aghast. 

I cringed. There goes my whole candy empire. And my free time.

"-e sells them. I-'s the only time I -ave seen him approach someone else wit-out being forced to."

Chiron hummed. "Has he told you anything about the guy he fought?"

"No…but I think we should tell him that he's a demigod."

“What? Why?”

“I think he already knows about monsters. I think he knows we're not human."

I felt the blood drain from my face. He knows.

“How would you know that?” Chiron inquired. "Did he tell you anything?"

“No, but- I don’t know how to explain it. He treats us differently.”

"You said he avoids everyone."

"Yeah, but it's different. He avoids them because they annoy him, but he's a nervous when he's around you and I don't know what he thinks of me. I used to think that he was scared of me too but now he keeps switching between being happy and being miserable."

"Miserable??"

"Miserable." Grover confirmed. 

Chiron hummed. “I don’t believe this is the right time to tell him. He's in enough danger as it is and don't want to make it worse in case he doesn't know he's a demigod. I fear that he won’t be able to ever leave camp half-blood once he finds out."

There was a moment of silence before he spoke again.

"Ah, he's finished his shower. I must get going."

What!?

The shower was off! I gaped at the shower head. I had left it on, I knew I had. How did it turn off by itself?

"Good—————-." 

Had I forced the water to stay inside the tubes? I used my senses to check. No. There was no pressure building up inside the shower head. 

"———-care——-long."

The faucet was closed.

I heard the clip-clop sound of Chiron’s hoofs fade away. Wait, I had missed the last thing he said. I was so focused on the faucet that I had missed it. 

I didn't know what to think. 

Grover was lying down on his own bed when I exited the bathroom. I had been right about him crying. Grover looked wrecked, more so now than before. His eyes were wet and puffy and he his shaking betrayed him.

I wouldn't be surprised if he had burst into tears the second Chiron had left. Grover never dealt well with being upset. Like myself, once Grover started crying he couldn't stop. I had gotten used to Grover being better at not letting things get to him, like I was, but that's something that he gained only once he became more confident in himself.

We gazed at each other for a brief moment where he made it clear that he was also a little mad at me. 

The right thing to do would be to ask him about it, to pretend that I was clueless about why he was upset with me, but I couldn't. Instead I focused on removing the binders and pencils that I had dumped onto bed earlier and then I buried myself under my duvet.

“I’m sorry I made you worry Grover.” I apologized quietly, hoping that I could actually make him understand how guilty I felt over it. “I didn’t mean to.”

He didn't respond. 

I knew from the way that he hadn't slipped under his own duvet that he wouldn't sleeping anytime soon, so I tried to stay awake with him out of solidarity. I stared at the celling, now illuminated by the light of dawn, and counted the little grooves on it to keep myself up but eventually I did fall asleep. 

 


 

Bonus: 

Chiron was too old to deal with this kind of stuff.

He loved children, he really did, and he couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend eternity than by protecting and teaching demigods but sometimes that forced him into situations that were simply too stressful.

A missing child in the middle of the night was enough cause for him to panic. Chiron had spent hours trying to find young Percy among the seemingly endless streets of New York. His ability to track demigods by their aura was usually reliable but today it failed him. Percy had a uncommonly strong aura for a child yet he had only managed to find the boy's general direction instead of his precise location.

He had basically spent the past 4 hours or so walking in circles. On two separate occasions he had caught a glimpse of Percy, only for him to disappear almost immediately.

Chiron had been relieved when Grover had called him saying that Percy had returned to the school. It was a familiar type of relief, one that always accompanied the knowledge that he hadn’t lost a child too early, that they were safe if only for another night.

He arrived at their dorm to find Grover is a state of panic whilst Percy showered. What Grover had told him was worrying. If he already knew that he was a demigod then it was only a matter of time before the attacks on his life became worse and Percy Jackson was already unfortunate as it was.

He had never seen a child with such a strong aura that they would attract the attention of Monsters outside of a Divine Pantheon. The Monsters from the other Pantheons rarely interacted with the Greek's Demigods but it wasn't unheard of. Non-divine Monsters, on the other hand, was unheard of. 

‘How?’ Chiron asked himself right after he spotted a vampire following a similar trail to the one that he had walked through half an hour before. ‘How can this one child attract Monsters that couldn't distinguishing demigods from mortals? Monsters who couldn't 'scent' aura and that by all rights and means hunted after mortals and mortals alone?’

Chiron didn’t know the answer to these questions, or to many others like it, but he did know archery.

Putting an arrow through that Vampire’s head filled Chiron with a dark sense of satisfaction. He didn't linger near the corpse though. He had left Grover and Percy at Yancy. He was usually confident in his ability to set up protective wards but if his earlier experience with tracking the boy proved anything then it was that Percy's aura was an odd one, wavering from impossible to hide to nearly untraceable. He didn't know if his wards would be able to adapt to those chances so he wasn't about to risk their safety by staying away for too long.

He continued his trek keeping his eyes open for other Monsters. 

If he had stayed he would have seen how the corpse had dissolved a golden dust and faded away.