Biding Her Time

Disclaimer: I do not own Percy Jackson.

I'm Anika Wren, Roman legacy to two currently useless gods, and Hunter of Artemis. I will not save the world.

The forest sings tonight. Or at least, the wolves howl and I long for a voice that doesn't sound like tires screeching so I could join in. There's also the percussion of feet on dry leaves, sticks and other noises associated with a large group of teenaged immortal females chasing down the Minotaur. Oh! And the wind—can't forget the wind—so cold it slips easy though my jacket and into my skin. It shrieks tonight, loud and angry. When I have the time, I'll find out if there's a god of wind out there I should pray to—their favour might be useful (or not, probably not. Hunters are not hampered by the weather. Or at least, they're not supposed to be).

A bird swoops over my head and gives a melodic whistle.

It's our signal! Our Autumn Chase Song builds into the upbeat rhythm of battle. At the same time I crouch at the ready, heart bounding, I wonder if the Minotaur ever soils his pants, and if he does, did he just now?

The archers are our strings players—whatever they're called—they lift their bows and pluck single strings (see what I did there?) until a horn-like "MOO!" sounds. My sling is readied, but I am not needed today. I am not even needed as a healer.

And so, Minotaur falls into Greek Hell. Again.

I doubt he'll stay there long enough to change his underwear.

(Does he keep spare pairs on him? How do monsters spawn with clothes—or weapons even—anyways?)

Ahem.

Again the song changes and that's as far as my metaphors will go because I have no idea what part human voices would represent in an orchestra. I should ask Elle. Being an ex-cello player, she would know what goes in a real orchestra and whether or not the meaningless human chatter belongs.

We play the soft notes of victory. Just above whisper level, like a class of students told off by their teacher for being loud but unwilling to whisper, we congratulate each other. There are no wounded. I am not needed. The bow-wielding hunters collect arrows and those with nothing to do-like me-stand watch. Or maybe just stand staring and wish for goat cheese and apple slices.

Or maybe both. Maybe.

I wait for my group, resolute in my opinion our metaphoric orchestra needs a choir with a twenty-part harmony. If there's such a thing. Again, Elle would know.

And if there isn't, I need a better metaphor.

The beginning of the end is a disappearance.

A Greek demigod, seventeen years old. Hero of the Universe, remembered as the boy with the world on his shoulders-only once literally-and the one who's name rests on the tongues of anyone who encounters him; in celebration or hatred. The boy with a thousand enemies. The boy with limitless allies. The boy who lost as much as he gained to achieve his goal. Percy Jackson.

Lieutenant Thalia Grace is pushing for his rescue, and her face constantly shows her worry for him. Sometimes it's in the way her forehead bunches when she thinks, or in the overdeveloped jaw muscles that clench, or sometimes a flicker in her eyes that makes you think of lightning storms and anger. They've been best friends since they met, or so I've gathered. I met him under Zoe's leadership. Despite having sworn off men for eternity, our lieutenant still willingly interacts with Percy and does gladly. They share camaraderie and witty dialogue that I never could think up on time.

And now the demigod hero has disappeared.

His girlfriend, whose name is Annabeth, and is Thalia's other best friend, visits constantly. She's a good fighter and really smart; exactly the kind of demigod we want to recruit. Annabeth checks in for new information thrice every day, usually by Iris Messaging. I don't know them, they don't talk to me, I just watch.

Along with the Percy Jackson situation, we are hunting werewolves. Specifically one, Lycaon, the king of werewolves—or something—himself. Supposedly he was once a king. An arsehole king. I'm not certain what he wanted to pull on Zeus but it was weird! Like feeding the king of gods HUMAN FLESH and then trying to kill said king of gods with assassins weird! Like having fifty sons, all of which Zeus killed, weird!

Ten days in, Elle is still mocking the cliché-ness of our newest hunt and I can't help but agree; it sounds like every supernatural fiction plot ever written, right up there with sparkling vampires and teenaged mediums banishing school spirits. (Not that a secret society of children—usually in their teens—fighting to save the world from monsters nobody believes in is any way less cliché-ed but STILL!)

Hanna on the other hand, is loving every moment, she loves being a part of something bigger, and can't get enough of real hunts. Not just the tri-weekly attempts on our lives via monster we usually get but the hunts where we begin with a unanimous goal and achieve it. She also strongly dislikes (as opposed to hates because Elle told her every fictional character who hates something usually ends up messed up in some way) dogs—which is stupid—and takes sadistic enjoyment in making them poof.

I however, am sane and mature and LOVE DOGS TO THE BOTTOM OF MY SOUL. There will be no canine-killing for me, no siree! I'm a healer; a lover, not a fighter. (Well yes, I can sling small magic nuggets at enemies with crazy accuracy like a badass. However, while slinging is cool, it's also incredibly useless against everything but tin cans and the occasional bird. Sometimes, I question my motives for obsessively learning that skill.) So I stay at the back of the pack, awaiting to be called to heal a hunter's wounds so they may go kill dogs/wolves.

Two girls, I mean hunters, were almost killed today. One was Hanna. She lies in our tent now, in the hands of Ambrosia. This were—ly(SOMETHING) pack is dangerous. This can get us killed. Hanna had forgotten that.

Our hunt really isn't going well. At least, there's more injured than I usually notice—which isn't a point at all, I'm not good in the way of noticing things—and we've been at it longer than two weeks—not that that's a record by any standards—and I am stressed. Frankly, I have no idea what the heck is going on, nor what day it is, nor where my good pair of fuzzy mittens went and OH GODS! ARE THE WALLS CLOSING IN?

No. No they are not.

(However, we just found Jason Grace and his band of banged-up misfits in a cave and since Thalia now has a mysterious brother that came from nowhere, that's probably close enough...)

"Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!" I wake to a scream. Beside me Ivana, our crazy-weird tent leader, wakes. The scream isn't her's, and it isn't mine. That leaves Margret, Tara, and—

Elle.

She's thrashing around wildly, her face twisted in her sleep. Tara leans over her in concern and gets socked in the face for her efforts. The rest look on, unsure what to do. I send Margret to get ice for Tara, I lean in and whisper to her, hoping that this might work. In vain of course but I have to try – it's Elle.

Ever since Jason and Company dropped by, there's been fear amongst the Hunters. And no, it isn't really his fault. Nor his hypothermic girlfriend's or silly best friend's faults. Or even their idiotic supervisor satyr person's (and no, I really don't remember what their names are). The monster attacks are getting worse. There are constantly reports from dryads on who is evil and who needs help-–there's no in-between. Hunters are beginning to dream of the future. In their heads they meet with gods and watch as the world burns. We have less than four months before what is prophesized to be the end of the world—to storm or fire, the earth must fall, and such.

Elle's not a prophesy kid and probably never will be; almost none of the gods' many children ever are. Percy Jackson, the boy of far too many prophesies, is the exception, not the rule. Elle's mother is, however, an Earth Goddess. Not THE earth goddess, per se, but a minor goddess of a lot of what Gaea represents. Clearly, Cybele, goddess of caverns, mountains, forests and wild animals has been swayed by the Mother and is trying to convince her children to join her. Clearly, we are not as safe from corruption as we thought.

Hanna's also having problems with Gaea, but since she willingly left the dryads to become a hunter, her's are to a lesser degree. As worst, she dreams of Gaea like Elle does but being older, she's not as vulnerable as Elle is.

Then there's me. Plain old me. I'm just a legacy and a fairly confused one at that. Both my parents are demigods but I've barely inherited any power. My mother's a daughter of Minerva. My father's a son of Mercury. I'm smart, I guess, and fond of arts and crafts, I'm faster than a human should be and enjoy a good joke. I'm just not powerful enough to work with Lupa the wolf goddess. I don't have enough for Gaea to need yet. Nor am I a big enough threat. I'm glad for it, I guess. No world-saving for me! No prophesies or pressure or high expectations. I'm not angry at my friends and allies for being strong, but I'd like to be needed.

As for messages from Gods, technically I'm eligible from two if they're interested in speaking with me. They never have been and never will, as they're now fighting with the Greek versions of themselves. The end will happen before I even see my godly grandparents. It's an oddly depressing thought and I banish it instantly. It leaves to join the other things I refuse to think about; the fact that that world is ending, the fact that nobody seems to notice or react, the fact that we've left the fate of the world-the ENTIRE WORLD-in the hands of seven teenaged demigods who barely know each other and have less battle experience than Elle. Less battle experience than me.

Elle has woken by now and is shivering, huddled in an extra blanket. The others have returned to their make-shift beds and are trying to sleep before dawn. I watch Elle with sad eyes; who are we to oppose the gods? Who are we to try?

And when did I become so cynical?

"How do you think it will end?" I ask. We lie in a bush, waiting for Thalia's signal to make ourselves known to the Cyclopes we hope to slay. 'We' as in Elle, Hanna, and I. "The world, I mean"

"Storm or fire, right?" That's Hanna for you—straight to the point.

"Yeah." By this time, there's not really any other ways the end of the world will occur, given the meagre weeks we have before the prophesy, maybe a freak asteroid will get us beforehand? Maybe.

"I say both," answers Elle, a half-smile on what I can see of her face through the leaves. "They'll pull a fire-storm on us at the last second and we'll never know what hit us." A storm of fire; I laugh. Hanna says nothing but glares through the foliage, whether her anger is directed at me or the deities above playing god with our lives, I don't know.

Thalia's awaited signal comes, Elle and Hanna pull weapons; a pair of daggers for the former, a bow for the latter. They burst from our hiding spot. I crouch down lower in the bush and make note of the morning dew clinging to the shrubs underneath. I wonder if I should start counting how many dew-lite mornings I'll see before the world falls.

Because it must.

-Crush- (deleted scene from Gathering Her Cards)

As a rule, I try not to associate with attractive people.

For my teenage girl sanity, maybe. I'm not immune to girlish whims any more than the next pubescent human (or in this case, demigod) female. Given that many of the symptoms of a crush are also insanity symptoms- and I like my sanity very much, please and thank-you -staying away from attractive people is a good choice.

Camp half blood is full of attractive teenaged boys. Yes, the majority of the male population are socially awkward and unable to do much but swing a sword, but they're also people who spend all day swinging swords. That sword-swinging creates a lot of muscle. Also, most of said sword swinging is done outside, which makes the sword-swingers crazy-tanned.

Camp HalfBlood campers are living Greek statues. Literally.

It's everything a girl can do, trying not to get flustered. Take Lee Fletcher, a perfectly normal demigod by my standards, "I'm Lee Fletcher, Apollo's cabin head councillor. What's your name?" He looks as friendly as he sounds; a good sign for a teenager that is in charge of me if I'm ever a hundred feet away from the shooting range. Or if I'm a daughter of Apollo.

"Elle Varley," I blurt. Alright, I'm a little enthusiastic. Also, Lee has eyes as blue as my baby cousin's and I'm taken over by nostalgia. The nostalgia is making warm butterflies in my stomach flutter lazily. At least, I think they're nostalgia. Or first day nerves, that's a great possibility...

Who exactly am I trying to fool here?

"Elvarli? One word?" What? Why would Elle Varley be one word? Does it mean something in a different language? Did I just insult him? As much as I'd like to say it, "I'm confused" isn't the appropriate answer to his inquiry. But what would be?

He's smiling at me teasingly. I feel stupid. The "nostalgia" butterflies are waking up. They brush feather-light whispers in my arms making me shiver slightly and-oh my gods his dimples are soooo cute!

My brain to mouth filter sucks when I'm "nostalgic", apparently. "N-no! Gods no!" Come on, come on, get a damn grip! "I'm Elle. My last name is Varley. Kapeesh?" Not that way, stupid!

At this point, I could probably melt rocks on my face; I'm that red.

Lee looks uncomfortable for a moment, then smiles again. "Okay Elle-my-last-name-is-Varley-kapeesh. Hermes' cabin is climbing right now, come along if you want to join in." And he walked away.

And that's it. Just that. No mortified pauses or running away screaming (though he did leave). The most natural I'm-clearly-developing-a-crush-on-you conversation I'd ever had. Of course, the butterflies have been fuelled by my blush and are now forcing my heart and stomach to do unnatural things, but I'm feeling ridiculously proud of myself.

I should go climb; it will serve as a great distraction.

Additional notes:

- The Deleted Scene was written for Gathering Her Cards but didn't fit. It still doesn't, but my friend suggested I post it anyways. It is my first attempt at anything remotely romantic. It may be my last.

-Next chapter probably will take me more time because school just started and I'm busy as hell.

-I have no idea if Hunters sleep on tents on groups, and if they do, I have no idea if there's a tent leader or not. Much like the hunter rotations from Gathering Her Cards, it's my headcanon