Disclaimer: I do not own Percy Jackson.
The ghosts were pushing at her again. Murderer, they hissed. Traitor. Reyna backed away from them, but they pulled at her. Then, one in particular caught her eye. A tall man with Reyna's eyes and Hylla's sharp, angular features. He stepped toward her. Reyna tried to run, but the ghosts behind her blocked her way. He was coming closer. You betrayed me. You are a traitor to your people, he hissed. No, Reyna tried to say. It was an accident. I didn't mean to.
Then, another face materialized. Bryce Lawrence. Well, if it isn't the little praetor turned traitor, he said with a sick smile. If Rome knew who you really were, they'd throw you out to the dogs. I know you're precious secret, praetor. I heard your confession. The ghosts crowded around her, pushing her back. She was trapped. Reyna tried to scream—
"Reyna, wake up!"
Reyna's eyes flew open. She was lying with her head on a table in the Principia, and Nico di Angelo was standing over her, shaking her shoulder.
"You okay?" Nico looked concerned.
Reyna's heart pounded. Her breaths came in gasps. She jerked her head up, nearly knocking over her cup of coffee. She took a deep breath, trying to steady her heartbeat. It was just a dream, she told herself. It wasn't real. Bryce Lawrence was dead.
Reyna looked around, taking in her surroundings. Then she remembered where she was. Octavian had just piled a load of paperwork from the war on her, and Nico had been helping out with Greek-Roman relationships by staying in Camp Jupiter for a few days, and retaking his place as the Ambassador of Pluto in the Senate.
"You fell asleep, and I figured you could use some rest, so I didn't wake you up. Are you alright?" he repeated, slightly more urgently.
"Fine," Reyna said, the word leaving her mouth automatically. "Just a bad dream."
"You were muttering in your sleep," Nico said quietly. "Something about, 'I didn't mean to." his eyes narrowed, as if trying to decipher what she was thinking.
Reyna looked at him sharply. She wondered just how much he had heard. After a while, she relaxed. She could trust Nico. He had heard her secret back in Puerto Rico.
"I was dreaming about that time we landed in Puerto Rico when we were delivering the Athena Parthenos."
"Hey. It was just a dream." Nico put a hand on her shoulder, his frown deepening.
"Bryce Lawrence was there," Reyna said in a low voice. "He threatened to tell everyone about what I did."
"Bryce Lawrence is dead," Nico said. "He can't hurt you anymore. None of them can."
Reyna's heartbeat slowed, but her panic did not leave her. "I see them. Every night. Ever since the time we landed in Puerto Rico. I can't get it out of my head. All I can think of is how my secret almost came out," Reyna's voice shook. "And he's always there. My father. He's yelling at me, and throwing stuff, like he used to, before I—before I killed him."
"You didn't kill him," Nico said firmly. "He was already a ghost. A mania. You dispelled a spirit, and did both you and your sister a favor."
"I killed him. I ran a sword through my father." Reyna had a broken look in her eyes, one Nico had only ever seen once before.
"You didn't mean to kill him," said Nico, sounding unusually gentle.
They were silent for a minute, and then Reyna's eyes landed on the pile of paperwork on the table. Shaking her hair out of her eyes, she straightened. "This is pointless. We're wasting time. We've got work to do, remember?"
Still looking worried, Nico hesitantly took a seat beside her.
For the next twenty minutes, Reyna and Nico sifted through the paperwork, occasionally exchanging a few words. Most of their time was spent in silence. As they worked, Nico observed Reyna. She sat with her back straight and her head lowered, her dark hair in a tight braid. However, she had shadows under her eyes that those would didn't know her would mistake as a result of the lighting. But Nico knew they were dark circles from sleepless nights staying up in the Principia to finish paperwork that no one else would do. Nico liked Reyna and respected her. She had proven herself to be the bravest person he ever knew time and time again. But the main reason he considered her a close friend was because they understood each other. Both of them had dark secrets that they had kept all their lives. Both of them understood wanting to be alone. They shared a mutual fear of letting people in. But most of all, they trusted each other with their secrets.
The minutes ticked by as Nico sat there, lost in thought. The hands on the old Roman clocker moved by. By the time they were finished, it was noon already, and Reyna and Nico both stood up to leave.
"I should be heading back to Camp Half-Blood by now," Nico said. "See you next time?"
Reyna nodded distractedly. Seeing that her mind was still in the paperwork, Nico left. Just as Reyna was turning to go, she felt a chill down her spine, as if she was being watched, and her old instincts awakened again. She whipped around, hand on her weapon. Long ago, Lupa had taught her vigilance. Upon seeing nothing, Reyna shook the feeling off, dismissing it as paranoia. She headed for her villa.
By the time Reyna had finished most of her paperwork that day, it was afternoon, and she was just heading out of her villa to check up on the barracks.
Reyna turned. Beside her, Ethan from the fourth cohort was panting after catching up to her.
"Octavian called a Senate meeting," Ethan said, still catching his breath.
Reyna raised her eyebrows. "What for?"
"I don't know, but it can't be good. Better hurry, Reyna. It starts now." Ethan set off at a run toward the Principia. Cursing, Reyna ran after him.
When they reached the Principia, Octavian was the first to greet her. "Praetor." The word was clipped. "You're late."
"Octavian. You called?" Reyna raised an eyebrow at him.
"Yes. I believe I have some interesting news to share with the Senate." Octavian stood at the head of the Senate table, a dangerously triumphant smile on his face. Michael Kahale and Leila Rivers stood on either side of him, both of them looking reluctant and refusing to meet Reyna's eyes. The centurions fanned out behind them. Jason, Reyna noticed, sat in the praetor's seat. He had decided to keep his position as praetor, and was now acting as a diplomat between the two camps.
"Officers Kahale and Rivers," Octavian said, a sick smile curling his lips, "Arrest Praetor Reyna."
Reyna's expression was one of shock and anger. "On what grounds?" she demanded.
Reyna felt the word like a punch, knocking the wind out of her at once. She felt her heart freeze. Struggling to keep her expression neutral, she steadied her voice and spoke. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Please." Octavian sneered. "Save the innocent act for someone who cares. For a girl with lie-detecting dogs, you're surprising bad at fooling people yourself."
"Patricide?" Gwen stood up. After the war, she had decided to return to the Legion as centurion of the fifth cohort. "Octavian, you're out of your mind." Murmurs of agreement spread throughout the Principia.
"Really? Is that so? Because I happen to have heard a confession from the praetor herself."
Gwen fell silent, and a hush spread across the entire room. The eyes of the Senators bounced between her and Octavian, as if watching a particularly exciting game of Ping-Pong. Reyna prayed nobody could hear her heart pounding.
Reyna's heart raced. How could Octavian have found out? No one, not even Jason, knew her secret. Except for Nico di Angelo, of course. But he had sworn not to tell anyone, and she trusted him. Bryce Lawrence had been the only one to hear her confession, and he was dead. But how he found out didn't matter anymore. What mattered was what she was going to do about Octavian. She could accuse him of treason and war crimes, but knowing Octavian, he would probably find a way to wriggle out of it. But there was no escaping patricide. She had killed her father, accident or no accident. And she knew the punishment.
Jason stepped in front of her. "Back off, Octavian." Reyna felt a spark of anger that he of all people was defending her. Jason's hand was in his pocket, and Reyna knew him well enough to know that he was already fingering Ivlivs, just itching to pull it out on Octavian.
"Ah, I see the Greek traitor has decided to show his face," Octavian sneered. "Tell me, Praetor Grace, what made you decide to leave your precious Greek camp and return here?"
Murmurs rippled through the Principia.
"Silence!" Reyna said, raising her voice. Immediately, the voices quieted and all eyes were on her. "Octavian, you have no evidence against me."
"Actually, Praetor, multiple witnesses heard the conversation between you and Mr. Di Angelo this morning, myself included," Octavian said, the sadistic smile returning to his face.
Reyna's shock registered on her face. Octavian had been spying on her? As she recalled all the private things she had mentioned in that conversation, she felt her face grow hot with embarrassment. Then, cold, hard anger replaced it. Octavian certainly acted fast. The conversation had taken place only a few hours ago.
"As you see, Praetor, I have eyes and ears everywhere. And all of these witnesses can be depended on to testify against you, should it come to that. But you could save us a lot of trouble and yourself much embarrassment by simply confessing."
"No." Her reply rang loud and clear across the Principia, and she lifted her chin to meet Octavian's gaze. "It's going to take a lot more than that, Octavian."
A few of the centurions looked visibly relieved. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a small smile on Jason's face.
"I am sure of that, Praetor," said Octavian, taking a step closer to her so that their faces were inches apart. His pale eyes held a promise, and it was all Reyna could do not to step back. Instead, she turned on her heel and marched out of the Principia, all too aware of the eyes on her.
Outside, she leaned against the wall, taking deep breaths. With her back still to the wall, she slid into a sitting position, her heart still racing. Octavian was going to tell everyone. She had known it the moment she looked into his pale, dead eyes. Reyna was scared. What was going to happen to her? She doubted Octavian would really have her executed, and she had enough sense to know that the Senate would never allow that. But still, she felt a chill of fear remembering the look in his eyes. Octavian was the master of sneaking around and underhanded trickery. All it would take was a little digging into her past, and he could expose everything. Everything. Not just about her father's death, but about his insanity, their time on Circe's island, and Blackbeard's pirate ship…
She thought about the looks on her friends' faces when they heard Octavian's accusation. How many of them would stand beside her? She remembered the look of shock on Dakota's face as she walked out of the Principia. And Gwen, sweet-tempered Gwen, who could always make her feel better, staring at Reyna as if she had never met her before.
Sighing, she stood up. Inside, she could still hear Octavian's voice droning on and on, occasionally punctuated by angry interruptions from the other Senators. Sitting here thinking wasn't going to help her. And besides, she had work to do. Stacks of paperwork from the war were still piled up in her praetor's villa. She hadn't even begun looking through most of them. She could afford to think about all this later.
She walked slowly back to the Principia, trying to avoid as many people as possible. The news would undoubtedly spread quickly. As she absent-mindedly traced the silver ring on her hand, Reyna began going over exchange programs for the two camps again. Anything to distract herself from her current predicament.
Reyna turned around. It was Dakota, running after her. Octavian's meeting must have just ended. Reyna quickened her pace. She was in no mood to face Dakota today.
"Reyna, wait!" Coming up beside her, Dakota grabbed her arm, pulling her around to face him. Behind him, Gwen and Bobby could be seen, jogging to catch up with them. Gwen gestured to Dakota, like, just get on with it, Dakota. Dakota pulled her aside, lowering his voice. "Reyna, what's going on? What the Pluto was Octavian talking about?"
"Nothing," Reyna lied. "I've got it handled." By then, Gwen and Bobby had caught up with them.
Dakota snorted. "Clearly."
Gwen and Bobby fell into step with them.
"Where's Jason?" Dakota asked, looking around. "I thought he was right behind you."
"He had some stuff to handle," said Bobby vaguely.
Of course he did, thought Reyna dryly.
"He always has some stuff to handle," Gwen snapped angrily. "Isn't his best friend more important?"
Dakota raised his eyebrows. Gwen usually defended Jason.
Dakota turned his attention back to Reyna. "But back to what we were talking about. Reyna, what the Pluto was Octavian talking about, and why didn't you defend yourself?"
"I told you, it's nothing," Reyna said, turning away from them. "I've got everything under control."
"Under control?" Dakota raised his eyebrows. Gwen elbowed him.
"Reyna, look, I don't need any answers right now," Gwen said gently. "Octavian's a liar and a snake. We'll back you up no matter what."
Reyna shook her head. If Gwen, if any of them, knew the truth behind Octavian's accusation, she doubted they would still back her up. "Get back to training, you guys. I can handle it."
Gwen shook her head. "Come on, Reyna, this concerns us too."
"No, it doesn't," Reyna snapped. She really couldn't deal with this right now. She hardened her voice. "Why are you here? You all have duties."
"You know the answer to that, Reyna," said Bobby. "You're our friend."
"But I am also your praetor, and I order you to return to your duties," Reyna said, staring them down.
Turning to each other, Bobby, Gwen, and Dakota seemed to reach some sort of silent agreement. One by one, three of them turned and left, each trailing after the other. Reyna relaxed visibly after they were out of her sight. Gwen was right. She needed help. Reyna knew she should be able to trust her friends, but trust didn't come naturally to her. Would they still stand by her after they found out her darkest secrets? She didn't want to find out. Right now, she couldn't think of herself. She had plenty of time to build a case against Octavian. Patricide or no patricide, she was still praetor, and praetorship duties piled before her like the stacks of paperwork in the Principia. She decided to head back to her villa.
Jason's mind raced as he walked out of the Principia. Patricide? It was impossible, but he remembered the look of fear on Reyna's face. He had seen it all too often, when she was desperately hiding something. And Reyna hadn't defended herself. She hadn't called out Octavian's lie. Jason reached into his memory, trying to grasp any information about Reyna's father. Reyna had only spoken to him about her father once, and it had been in short, clipped terms, as if describing a portrait or a piece of furniture.
Dakota, Bobby, and Gwen came up to him, clearly intending to follow Reyna. In his heart, he knew he should follow them, but he was probably the last person Reyna wanted to see right now. Besides, he had a bigger concern. If what Octavian said was true, then Reyna was in big trouble. They all knew the punishment for patricide.
Just then, Jason remembered something Octavian had said. Multiple witnesses heard the conversation between you and Mr. Di Angelo. Nico. He knew what Reyna was hiding. Mumbling a quick excuse to Bobby, Jason set off at a run toward the fountain in the Garden of Bacchus.
When he arrived, Jason fumbled in his pockets for drachma. His fingers found the last one, and he tossed it into the fountain. "Iris, goddess of the rainbow, please accept this offering. Show me Nico di Angelo at…" Jason trailed off. He had no idea where Nico was. "…Camp Half-Blood?" It ended in a question. Jason figured it was a pretty safe guess.
An image appeared. Nico was sitting on his bed in the Hades cabin. He jumped up when he saw the Iris-Message. "Jason! What's the matter?"
"Reyna's in trouble." Jason calculated his words carefully.
Nico frowned, instantly alert. "What do you mean?"
"Octavian's accused her of patricide. I know Reyna told you. I need to know what you know, right now."
Nico hesitated. "Jason, I promised Reyna I would never repeat what she told me to anyone else. She trusted me and—"
"Reyna needs help, okay? The punishment in Rome for patricide is execution. Look, I know you care about her, okay? But right now, the best thing you can do is tell us what you know."
Nico shook his head. "I can't. You'll have to ask Reyna."
"I'm the last person she would tell!" Jason was shouting now. "Octavian is building a case against her as we speak. We have to do something!"
"Jason, calm down. We're going to help her. Look, you go find Reyna, and I'll get to Camp Jupiter as fast as I can, okay?"
Jason nodded. "Okay."
"Good. See you soon." Nico swiped his hand through the Iris-message, disconnecting it.
As Jason headed back toward the Principia, he saw Bobby, Gwen, and Dakota standing at the entrance. Cursing, Jason ran up to them.
Gwen saw him first, and her face turned into a frown. "Where have you been?"
Jason sighed. "I was...looking for some answers. Where's Reyna?"
"Probably at her villa." Dakota gestured in the direction of the praetor villas.
"Okay. You guys should report back to your duties before someone notices you're gone."
"What are you going to do?" asked Dakota.
"I'm going to have a little chat with Octavian."
So, did you like it? Should I continue it? I'm already starting on the next chapter. Please review and tell me your thoughts.