Disclaimer: I do not own PJO, or the characters in it.
Warning(s):AU. Fem!Percy. Switched Parentage of Luke & Thalia. Evil!Annabeth. Possible OOCness.
The Fleece does it's work too well
The afternoon after I got back from the Sea of Monsters, was one of the happiest that I've ever spent at Camp Half-blood.
After we got back, Grover announced he would be able to spend the rest of summer with us before resuming his search for the god, Pan. He told me how the members of the Council of Cloven Elders had been so impressed that he not only survived Polyphemus but had also cleared the way for future searchers. They granted him a two-month furlough along with a new set of reed pipes to play with. The only downside? Grover insisted on playing the new pipes all afternoon, and sadly his musical skills hadn't improved very much. When he started playing the 'YMCA', the strawberry plants went nuts, wrapping around our feet like they were trying to strangle us. I guess I couldn't really blame them.
Grover was telling me how he could dissolve the empathy link between us, the one where he was able to get the message for help to and from me. I told him not to bother. He looked at me like I'd grown a second head, putting his reed pipes down, "but if I get in danger again, then you might be in trouble too Phai, you could even die from it!"
I shook my head, the thought did scare me a little, but Grover was my friend. One of the few who'd stuck by me, and part of me was still kind of touched that out of everyone he could have gotten in touch with, he believed in me enough to try and come save him. "If you do get in trouble again, then...I wanna know about it." I wished I could sound more confident, "then that way, I can come to help you out again."
He still looked hesitant. "You're my friend. Besides, I'm technically a hero now, so… it's kind of what I do-save people I mean." I added quickly, ducking my head a little to hide the rising blush on my cheeks.
"Are you saying I'm like a damsel?" Grover said, offended. "Sorry, but I've got Juniper-"
"S-shut up!" I said, wishing to change topics already.
He shrugged, returning to playing YMCA on his reed pipes, and I was pretty sure I didn't need an empathy link to tell me how much the strawberry plants hated it.
Later on, during archery class, which I was failing miserably at, Chiron pulled me aside to tell me how he fixed my problems with Meriwether Prep, thankfully. The school no longer held me solely responsible for the destruction of their gymnasium and the police were no longer hunting me down.
"How'd you manage that?" I asked, baffled.
Chiron's eyes twinkled. "I merely suggested to the mortals that they had seen something different that day, in this case, a furnace exploding in-which you had nothing to do with it."
"And they bought it? Just based on you saying that?"
"I manipulated the mist to convince them." My eyes widened, I didn't know people could do that.
"Someday, when you are ready, I will show you how it is done."
"I'm still expelled though, aren't I?"
Chiron offered me a kind yet sympathetic smile. "Most definitely, I'm afraid. Your headmaster, Mr. Bonsai, said you had, how can I put it? Un-groovy karma that disrupted the educational aura of the school and other students. Though you are no longer in any kind of legal trouble, which was a relief to your mother of course. Speaking of which..."
He unclipped the cell phone attached to his quiver and handed it to me. "It's high time you call her, don't you think?"
The worst part of the ordeal was the very beginning, the whole "Phaidra-Jackson-what-were-you-thinking-do-you-have-any-idea- how-worried-I-was-sneaking- off-to-camp-and-going-off-on -some-dangerous-quest-scaring-me-half-to-death" part.
She finally stopped to catch her breath, offering me a small window of reprieve. "Oh, I'm just so glad that you're safe!"
That's one of the great things about my mom. She's no good at staying angry. She tries from time to time, but it's just not in her nature.
Just another thing I'm grateful for with her.
"I'm sorry mom," I said sincerely. "I promise to try and not scare you like that again."
"You shouldn't make promises you can't keep, Phaidra. You and I both know it'll only get worse." She tried to sound casual about the whole thing, but even I was still kind of shaken by everything we had gone through on the quest. My brushes with death were getting worse, and neither of us wanted to admit it.
Even so, I wanted to assure her somehow, to at least attempt to make her feel better. Being a half-blood meant I would always be doing things that were scary, daunting, and to most, seemingly impossible. It was something I couldn't really help all that much with, and I know those dangers would only increase as I get older.
"Hey, who knows? Maybe I'll meet a cute boy on the next one." When I heard her laugh I smiled a little. "If you want I could come home for a little bit."
"No, no. Stay at camp, train, do whatever it is you need to do. You will come home for the next school year though, right?"
"Yeah, of course! Uh… that is, assuming there's still a school somewhere that'll take me.
"Oh, don't worry dear." My mom sighed. "We'll find somewhere, a place where they don't know us yet."
Chiron may have resolved my crisis with the police, but somehow I still felt like a fugitive.
As for Tyson, all the campers treated him like a hero when he came back with us! I was so proud of my brother and happily thought we were gonna be the best cabin mates forever, but later that evening, I received some startling news from him instead.
"Dream came from Daddy last night," Tyson said, quietly. "Said he wants me to visit."
I tried to ignore the sharp pain that went through my chest at that. A part of me hoping he was just kidding, but then I remembered Tyson didn't really know how to kid. "Poseidon sent you a dream message then?"
When Tyson nodded, my heart sank a bit. "Wants me to go underwater for the rest of the summer. He wants me to work at Cyclopes forges, he called it an inter-intern-"
"Yes." I let that sink in. I'll admit, for a second or two I felt more angry than happy for him. It took about twelve years just for Poseidon to acknowledge I existed, and when he did, it's not like he ever invited me underwater. No. I thought, pushing such negativity away. I can't think like that. I know dad cares, I know he does, he said so even last summer.
But then I blinked looking back at Tyson, he was leaving?
Just like that?
"When would you leave?" I asked, still sounding a little sad.
"Now? Like, as in… right now?" My voice cracked a bit.
"Now." He said, his slight frown and down posture showing a bit of sadness that was rare in his usual happy-going-self.
I turned my head so that I was staring out at the waves instead, not wanting him to see the beginnings of tears in my eyes, while I furiously tried wiping them away. It felt like something from one of those cheesy drama movies, and that thought was enough to make me laugh and smile again.
"Well then, I'm happy for you," I said, finally composing myself. "Honestly, I am."
"Hard to leave my new sister." He confessed softly, a noticeable tremble in his voice too. "But I want to make things. Weapons for the camp. You will need them."
"Weapons to help protect sister and friends." He added, and I just about lost it at that.
"Oh, you-!" I threw my arms around him, having to stand on my tippy-toes a bit since he was kind of bigger than me. One of us sniffling loudly as any mushball siblings would.
And though I didn't voice it, a part of me knew he was right. Getting the Golden Fleece hadn't solved all of our problems. Annabeth was still out there, slowly building her army on the ship, Princess Andromeda. Kronos was still a looming threat, every second, piece by piece, he was reforming again.
I knew a fight was imminent. I just didn't see myself winning.
"You'll make the best weapons ever," I told Tyson wishing that this moment-this small sliver of happiness-could last. I held up the watch he had made and given to me as a gift, a shield to protect me, proudly. "Who knows? Maybe they'll even tell time too." I joked lamely.
Tyson was still sniffling when we finally pulled away from each other again. "Family helps each other."
"Yeah, you're my family," I said, recalling our conversation with him after he was claimed. "No doubt about it."
It was when we were turning in for bed late one night. I was tired and frustrated from going through a day of ridicule and teasing from the other campers, all of whom had nothing better to do than pick on Tyson! Bunch of jerks is what they were acting like, not heroes.
Apparently, my sour mood must have shown more than I would have liked, since Tyson spoke up the next second, "Are you mad?"
My scowl melted away, replaced by the same gentle look my mom would give me after a hard, long day of things not going right. "Nah, at least… not at you." I amended softly.
He lay down quietly in his bunk that his body was just way too large for, his feet sticking out at the bottom when he pulled up the covers a little. "I am a monster."
"Don't you say that!" It was one of the few times ever I raised my voice at someone, especially a family member.
"Don't you ever say that!" I repeated, hot tears threatening to spill over. "You're not a monster."
"It is okay. They're just words. Phaidra sees me as her brother, that is all that matters."
I didn't know what to say to that. All the bitterness I'd been feeling, all the rage directed at both the campers and even my dad was washed away by grief. Grief and a feeling of absolute helplessness.
I stared at the ceiling for what was probably most of the night, feeling like I slowly dying on the inside. Just like Luke's tree.
"It's just… I never had any family before my mom. I-I was happy when I found out I had a dad, of course, even if he couldn't visit and stuff." I admitted wiping my runny nose, gods I would have looked pathetic to anyone who saw me. You're my family Tyson, my brother, no matter what anyone says. Even so, I can't seem to help you any, and I can't help the camp either. Then there's the whole thing with my friend Grover."
Tyson said nothing.
"I'm sorry," I told him. "Family is supposed to help each other. I just feel like I can't help anybody as of late and that by sending you here, Poseidon was maybe trying to compare us or something, like how you helped with the Colchis bulls and stuff."
"You ever wonder… maybe sometimes, like what's the point? Like what it is you're even fighting for?" I wondered aloud.
"Tyson?" I asked when there was still no answer. "T-Tyson? Uh..."
Turns out, he fell asleep, and I thought that meant he missed most of my little monologue, but as it turns out… I was mistaken.
He gave me one last hug, squeezing me so hard I almost blacked out from lack of oxygen. Wiping the last of his tears from his face, he turned towards the waves throwing me one last smile. "Use the shield well."
"I will, brother."
"Save your life someday."
The way he said it with such certainty, it made me wonder for a moment or two if he could somehow see into the future with his one gigantic eye.
I watched him waddle closer to the shoreline before he whistled. Rainbow, the hippocampus from our past adventure appeared, bursting out of the waves. I watched the two of them slowly disappear down below the surface of the waves giving one last wave just before my brother was gone from sight.
A storm raged that night, but it parted around Camp Half-blood as storms usually did.
Lightning flashed, blocking out the horizon with waves pounding the shorelines, but not a drop fell in our valley. We were being protected again, thanks to the Golden Fleece, sealed safely away inside our borders.
Sadly the same couldn't be said for my dreams. I could hear Kronos taunting me from the depths of Tartarus, his voice cold and sharp like steel on stone: Polyphemus sits blindly in his cave, young hero, believing he has won a great victory. Tell me, are you any less deluded? The titan's cold laughter chilled me to the bone.
Then out of the darkness, a light shone, drowning out Kronos' malicious laughter with something warmer. When the light faded, I was surprised to find myself standing in the throne room on Olympus; each god symbolized by the different attributes of their throne. Power emanated from each of them, threatening to overwhelm me when a voice spoke up from in front of me, tinged with curiosity.
"Phaidra Jackson I assume?" The voice was a deep baritone. Like Zeus but somehow more soft-sounding, almost...kind.
I floundered. For a split second, I thought I was looking at Apollo, perhaps, given the blonde hair and exceedingly bright glow surrounding him. I nearly fell face-first in my attempt to bow respectfully. As I had learned by now, it was not wise to provoke an immortal.
"L-Lord… Apollo?" I muttered, realizing I probably looked like something that just rolled out of bed. Needless to say, my confidence was quickly waning.
Warm fingers touched under my chin, lifting my face back up, and it took every fiber of self-control not to blush any harder at the stranger's close proximity and assessing gaze. Upon closer inspection, though, I realized this couldn't be Apollo. While I had only just caught a glimpse of him last summer, this person lacked the burst of warmth that accompanied the Sun God himself.
Delicate blonde hairs fell onto his brow, skin so pale it would've rendered him stark against the dreary moon outside. He was angelic, yet his eyes bore a hard expression, a warning of wrath hidden just below the surface that all immortals had. Despite the hard expression he wore, his eyes somehow still sparkled, the light making them look so alive and vibrant. Their light brown color was soft, the exact shade of latte with a ring of gold around the iris, adding another layer of depth to the already impossibly beautiful eyes.
"I am not Apollo."
The way he said it made me realize he was most likely a deity, one which I should immediately know and recognize based on their looks, I guessed, so you can imagine my awkwardness when I didn't. "Uh, h-hello? P-please doesn't blast me." I said, sounding far meeker than I probably should have really.
He arched a brow at my request, releasing my face and casually walking a short distance away-well, it looked more like he was gliding away, really-stopping at the base of what was my father's throne, regarding it with only a vague amount of interest. I took the opportunity to look him over a bit more, trying to grasp at his identity; his robes were a shimmering mix of pure gold and white, shifting like the ever-changing colors that are found in the Northern Lights.
"Pardon me for asking, but… wh-who are you?"
I knew there were a few that this guy definitely couldn't be related to. Ares was out of the question the moment he didn't start threatening to bash my face in. Apparently, he wasn't Apollo either, judging from his earlier actions. I pondered over a possible relation to Athena somehow but then dismissed it as quickly as Ares since she and my dad don't really get along.
"I just wanted to meet you. To get a good look at the one shouldering the fate of Olympus." The stranger said, voice sounding so matter-of-fact, just like Tyson when he mentioned the shield. It made me uneasy.
"O-oh, I um, I hope I...measured up then?"
"You did not."
My face fell, and something inside me withered and died a little. Did he really have to be so blunt?
"It was to be expected, however, considering Poseidon has not sired a demigod daughter in quite some time." He went on to say, still not turning to look at me. "Still, you're surprisingly, how shall I put this, lackluster, to say the very least. You lack confidence, that much is certain. You are a tad too emotional, not to mention your lack of knowledge on what is essentially your own heritage and background."
I felt mortification slowly morph into an indignant rage. This guy was slowly turning into more of an annoyance than Ares!
"You can return to your dreams demigod, as I said, I only wished to see you once for myself rather than my family member's disgruntled rumblings about you." He said in a flippant tone of voice, barely turning his head to glance my way. "Then again, I suppose he complains about everyone sooner or later."
"Who's your family? Ares?" I said before I could stop myself.
The look I received reminded me of Chiron during a lecture. "I would wager someone already informed you, but as a reminder names hold power, and my brothers are not ones that any being, immortal or not, should throw around carelessly." I looked down, feeling embarrassed all over again.
"I pulled you from him not that long ago anyway, I would hope, as one in your circumstance should be, you wouldn't be so oblivious to your own surroundings." He added a moment later, making a dismissive motion with his hand. "Regardless, you may return now as I believe you still have more that needs to be seen."
"Huh? Hey wait, I-"
Then he was gone, the same light from earlier returning and blinding me. Transporting me elsewhere again.
I was surprised to see Tyson in front of me. I was following him under the sea, into the court of Poseidon; the palace halls were radiant with blue light filtering inside and floor amass of cobbled, priceless looking pearls, and there in the center, sitting on a throne made of coral, was my father dressed in a pair of khaki shorts and a simple white sun-bleached T-shirt.
Slowly I looked up into his eyes, his deep sea-green eyes looking into my own, surrounded by his tanned and weathered face, and he spoke just two words:
I awoke to the sound of banging on my cabin door seconds before Grover flew in without waiting for permission. I shrieked, yanking the covers up over myself out of reflex with a blush on my face, only Grover didn't seem to notice.
"Phaidra!" He said, clearly out of breath. "Thalia… up on the hill… he-"
The look on his face told me that something had been very wrong. Thalia had taken up guard duty that night, saying she wanted to make sure Luke's tree was okay. If something had happened again-I threw off my covers without waiting for Grover to finish, my blood like ice in my veins. I didn't bother with clothes, fearing the worst, so I rushed out in just a pair of short-shorts and sleeveless tank.
Grover was still stammering behind me, his face so pale and a haunted look in his eyes while he rambled mindlessly, too numb from shock to make any sense. "He's lying there… just lying there..."
A part of me, the one that was too focused on potentially finding Thalia hurt, didn't even notice Grover's gender misconception thing.
I didn't think anything of it.
I raced across the central yard with Grover hot on my heels, the cool breeze tickling my bare skin. Dawn was just starting to break overhead, but the whole camp seemed to already be in a buzz. Word had already circulated. Whatever happened, it was something huge. A few of the campers came rushing out of their cabins, clearly having just been stirred awake and not even bothering with clothes much like myself.
Satyrs, nymphs, and heroes all congregated near the hill where Luke's tree resided, all of them wearing a strange mix of armor and pajamas for the most part.
I was barely able to register the sudden clopping of hooves coming from behind us before seeing Chiron, his face grim, riding up alongside us.
"Is it true?" He asked, directing the question to Grover who could only nod.
I tried to ask what he was referring to when he grabbed me by the arm, effortlessly pulling me onto his back, picking up speed. Together we thundered up the hill where everyone else was still gathering.
I expected the Golden Fleece to be gone, somehow missing from the lowest branches, but it surprisingly wasn't. It was still there, glittering in the first light of dawn while the sky turned a blood-red, remnants of last night's storm breaking away.
"Curse the Titan Lord!" Chiron said suddenly, making me flinch from the sudden hiss of words.
"He's tricked us again, given himself another chance to control the prophecy."
"W-what do you mean?" I asked, not entirely sure I wanted to know.
We galloped forward, and everyone cleared out of our way, but I was slowly starting to become frozen with fear. What had Kronos done to cause Chiron to become so distraught? I was pulled from my thoughts when I saw someone lying at the base of the tree, another dressed in armor kneeling beside them; the one in armor was Thalia, I realized.
"It healed the tree." Chiron said just before Thalia saw us, "but the poison was not the only thing it purged."
When Thalia saw us, she immediately came rushing over, well to Chiron anyway. "It… he… just suddenly there…"
I swallowed nervously, feeling a bit unhinged. Thalia never fell apart like this before, heck I've never even witnessed her cry! Yet here she was, eyes rimmed red and with noticeable tears running down her face. She seemed to be struggling greatly just to find the words to say something, anything really.
Sliding off of Chiron's back, I slowly made my way over towards the other body that was still lying at the base of the tree, Luke's tree. I hesitated, slowly kneeling down beside them and reaching out a hand, trying to be as gentle as possible so I could get a look at their face to see if it was someone recognizable.
"Phaidra, wait!" Only it was too late.
The boy, whoever he was, was incredibly handsome; His hair a beautiful honey-golden color that glistened in the glittering rays of the morning light with a nice, evenly tanned skin tone. He had a nice build, being on the slimmer side, but the way his clothes hung gave away the taut muscles beneath, definitely the kind of guy to have heads turning in his wake while he walked on by.
Who was he? He looked kind of familiar, but not really. Like something from a dream that I just couldn't seem to remember.
Nobody else came close to the boy.
Steeling my frayed nerves, I reached forward with slightly trembling hands trying to lift him into a sitting up position, blushing a bit when his head fell against my shoulder. My fingertips brushed against his forehead, checking for a fever then trailed absently down his cheek as my mom does for me when I'm not feeling too well when a soft groan passes his lips. His skin felt surprisingly cold, but it still made my fingers tingle as though burned.
"He… he needs nectar and ambrosia," I said, steadying my voice some more. Even though I didn't recognize him from any of the cabins. However, he was clearly a half-blood. What I didn't understand was why everyone was looking so frozen and scared.
"Come on, you guys!" I looked over the group of campers, nymphs, and satyrs, even Chiron, Thalia and Grover did nothing. "What is wrong with you all? Can't you see he needs help!?"
Now I was getting upset. No one moved, not even Chiron. All of them continued to just stare, too shocked for words to escape their lips.
Then the boy took a shaky breath, gasping in air. He coughed a bit while he opened his eyes. His eyes were the most beautiful thing about him. They sparkled like the storm clouds right before a bolt of lightning hit. I could feel the commanding aura they held, so entrancing and powerful.
He stared at me in bewilderment, shaking, and squinting as though trying to find something of remembrance on my face.
"I-I'm Phaidra," I said, maybe a little too quickly given the situation and how close we were to one another. "You're safe now," I added a moment later, seeing the panicked look on his face, his eyes beginning to water slightly accompanied by a hitch of the breath.
"A strange dream…" He muttered looking around.
"It's okay now."
'Dying?' I thought, my brows furrowing together in a show of confusion. 'Just what happened to him?'
"No, really," I said, shaking my head, offering a tentative smile. "You're fine now. You're safe."
"Can you tell me your name?"
Even before he said it, the pieces started clicking together. The memory I was trying to recall resurfaced when those intense eyes locked with my own slowly widening sea-green ones.
Realization washed over me.
The realization that the person I was currently holding was someone who could potentially be my greatest ally or my worst enemy. Chiron's words from earlier finally make sense, the quest for the Golden Fleece, the poisoning of the tree; Kronos planned it all so that he could bring another piece into play, another chance to control the prophecy.
"Luke Castellan." The boy said. "Son of Zeus."