"Hold! Stand down!" She barked out.
She swallows the bile that she felt got lodged stuck on her throat as she watches Annabeth and Percy interact. Again her eyes flit to where Jason and the girl stood and she felt the pit in her stomach widen and her knees feel weakened.
Last night's joyous atmosphere had dissolved to whispers and anxiety over the arrival of their 'visitors' as well as their ex-praetor's homecoming. With another girl. A Greek girl. A Greek girl who was definitely a Daughter of Venus. A Greek Daughter of Venus and not their praetor, Reyna.
Reyna stepped up, trying to gather the strength and courage that she had just hours ago as she fought the giant's army. She found none and whispered a prayer to her mother.
Bellona was a warrior and would not listen to her if she were more worried about the qualms of her heart. So she focused on the fact that the Legion, the whole New Rome, was waiting for her and depended solely on her. They may have lifted both the Son of Jupiter and Poseidon on their shields, but Jason went missing when they needed him and brought foreigners, foes, in their midst and Percy, he was too new. Plus, seeing the blonde leader from the Greek camp send him to his back wasn't exactly inspiring leadership.
She tried to look away from the blue eyes that she missed for eight months and dredged up the words from her lips before Octavian can push her to speaking up.
She felt the heaviness of her fellow Romans' expectations, Octavian's glare and the Graecus ambassadors' plea for acceptance upon her.
She spared another glance at Jason and told her aching heart to stand down the same way she had told the legionnaires earlier when Annabeth Chase attacked her boyfriend.
She could dwell on the fact that Jason came back and was and will no longer belong to her later on.
For now, there was a war she needed to avoid and a goddess to stop from destroying the world.
Annabeth rose and helped Percy on his feet again and they looked at me.
Jason cleared his throat. "So, yeah... It's good to be back."
Reyna wished she could stop feeling so happy that he was back, finally back to New Rome, because it hurt worse than any injury she had suffered. It stung more than the beatings she had endured from her own father. She felt like she couldn't breathe properly and she shook the tears off her eyes.
She prayed to her mother for her people as Jason introduced her to Piper. The girl looked a bit upset and Reyna hoped her own was a mask of calm terror. They moved on to the goofy looking kid named Leo, who flashed her a peace sign. She gave him a nod.
They turned to Annabeth.
"And this is Annabeth," Jason said. He sheepishly looked around with palms up, a peace offering. "Uh, normally she doesn't judo-flip people."
Reyna's jealousy kept flaring on, her eyes going misty. She looked at the girl instead and tried to smile. "You sure you're not a Roman, Annabeth? Or an Amazon?"
Annabeth looked unsure if she had given her a compliment, but she held out her hand anyway. "I only attack my boyfriend like that," she promised. "Pleased to meet you."
Reyna clasped her hand firmly at the word 'boyfriend' and scolded herself, 'pull yourself together! You're their praetor!'.
"It seems we have a lot to discuss. Centurions!"
A few of the senior officers lurched forward in attention to her words.
She started giving out orders, all the while keeping her fists tightly closed, digging her fingernails to her palms to keep herself grounded on the now when everything ached and pleaded for her to find a corner and give herself a good cry.
She swallowed down the hurt, pushing it down. They need me. Be strong, Reyna. Keep strong.
"...tell the legion to stand down. Dakota, alert the spirits in the kitchen. Tell them to prepare a welcome feast. And, Octavian — "
"You're letting these intruders into the camp!" He all but accused as he elbowed his way forward. "Reyna, the security risks —"
"We're not taking them to the camp, Octavian." Reyna flashed him a stern look. Don't start with me now, you moron. "We'll eat here, in the forum."
"Oh, much better," Octavian grumbled. He was seething internally, she could see, but Reyna held her ground, even if some of the campers looked like they agreed with him. "You want us to relax in the shadow of their warship."
"These are our guests." Reyna clipped off every word. She didn't have the patience for this. The sooner this day was over, the better. "We will welcome them, and we will talk to them. As augur, you should burn an offering to thank the gods for bringing Jason back to us safely."
Percy stepped in to rub it in the augur's face. "Good idea. Go burn your bears, Octavian."
Reyna tried not to smile. Good old Percy. "You have my orders. Go."
The officers left immediately with some lower officers following them. Octavian shot Percy a look of absolute loathing. Then he gave Annabeth a once-over and stalked away.
Reyna watched them leave and her hands trembled with a slight tremor.
She heard Percy say, "don't worry about Octavian. Most of the Romans are good people — like Frank and Hazel here, and Reyna. We'll be fine."
After a moment, she heard Annabeth respond. "We'll be fine."
Reyna felt eyes on her and she drew in a shaky breath and closed her eyes briefly. For Rome, she told herself and whispered to her mother, feeling for her ring with her thumb as she did whenever she needed her mother's guidance. For Rome.
She turned to Jason, Son of Jupiter, former praetor, love of her life and heartbreaker, determined that, if he didn't even remember her and the memories they've created together, she wouldn't let it show. She was a Roman soldier first before a woman. Her heartaches are not important for the glory of Rome. She had people to take care of, a whole culture to oversee. Her own tears would have to wait. Once again, Reyna found herself alone. She stood on full height and smiled as best as she could. For Rome.
"Excellent. Let's talk, and we can have a proper reunion."