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Five Times Percy Jackson Cheated At School

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Percy squints at the paper prompt again, tilting his head, as if the new angle will extract some hidden information. It doesn’t change. The font is the special dyslexia-friendly one used by most departments at NRU, so he isn’t misreading it, either.

Your final will be an 8-10pp (TNR, 12pt, double-spaced) research paper expanding on one of the topics discussed in our class so far, or an alternate idea of your choosing, to be submitted in writing by May 7 with footnotes and bibliography. By 10am on the Wednesday before the Thursday class you will submit online a 750-word essay (word count does not include footnotes) on the research thread you have pursued that week (no written assignments due Week 6 or Week 12). 

Percy might hate college.

“Your neck bothering you again?” Annabeth asks, coming up behind him, her hands already on his shoulders. She’s sweaty, dressed in workout clothes, having just come back in from a jog. 

“My neck is fine,” he says. “Just preemptively freaking out over my Roman history final.”

He tilts his head back over the top of his chair, staring into the upside down, prettily frowning face of his girlfriend, and it does nothing to improve his mood.

“How bad is it?”

“Eight to ten pages,” Percy says, “not including footnotes.”

“Ouch.”

“And,” he grimaces, “it’s a topic of our choosing.”

Her mouth twists in sympathy. “Sucks.”

“Yep.”

“Anything I can do to help?” She squeezes his shoulders lightly, an open invitation. 

He shakes his head, stretching his arms back to grab her waist. “Promise not to break up with me when you catch me crying at 4AM over it.”

“Promise.” And she seals it with a kiss, bending down to reach him. “Dad wants to know if you’re free on the 16th.” 

“The 16th?” He wracks his brain. He’s pretty sure it doesn’t conflict with sailing, or Greek Club, or the monthly intra-pantheon relations council meeting that Chiron and Clarisse both guilted him into joining. “Pretty sure. Why?”

“Dinner--Charlotte’s out of town that weekend.”

“Sounds good.”

“Great, I’ll let him know. Now,” and she grins, “are you going to stare at that computer all day, or do you want to come and take a shower with me?”

Percy slams the computer shut. 

He doesn’t think about his paper topic for a while after that.

 

***

 

To his great dismay, Percy gets to her dad’s house first on the 16th. Drama in writing group 🙄 she texts him as he gets to the door, be there asap .

Great. Alone in the house with his girlfriend’s dad. Taking a deep breath, he knocks on the door. 

Not a minute later, Dr. Chase opens it. Last time they went to visit, Percy and Annabeth had ended up waiting outside for almost a quarter of an hour. “Oh, Percy,” he says, fumbling his flight helmet off his head. “Goodness, I thought I’d lost track of time again. Come in, come in.”

“Thanks,” Percy says, stepping inside and shedding his jacket. “Annabeth’s running late, but she said she’d be here soon.”

He frowns, looking so much like Annabeth that it throws Percy for several loops. “Well, that’s alright,” he says. “I’m sure we can entertain ourselves well enough until she gets here.”

“Yeah,” Percy chuckles, uneasy.

Several seconds pass. 

“Oh!” starts Dr. Chase. “Right, yes. Come in. Would you like something to drink?”

Spoiler alert: it doesn’t get much better.

A few minutes of staggered conversation later, it becomes eminently clear why they need Annabeth between them. It’s not the awkward small talk that doesn’t go anywhere (“How’s school going for you?” “It’s okay.” “Good, that’s good to hear.”) or the fact that Dr. Chase doesn’t really grasp how to relate to younger kids (“Have you heard of this website called ‘Vine’?”), but more that it’s just painfully obvious that the two of them don’t really know where they stand with each other. 

Now, he knows that Frederick Chase doesn’t hate him. Objectively, he’s aware of the fact that, if it weren’t for him, Annabeth never would have reconnected with her father in the first place, and he kind of owes him for that. Also, Percy knows that he’s a pretty chill guy--a little scatterbrained, but chill. 

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to make a good impression, though. Or that Dr. Chase thinks that Percy is smart enough for his daughter. Because, like, Percy isn’t smart enough for Annabeth--that much is obvious. Dr. Chase was courted by Athena . Percy barely made it out of high school calculus.

“Would you…” Dr. Chase hedges, plucking off his glasses and giving them a quick wipe with his shirtsleeve. “Would you like to see some of my current research?”

“Uh… sure. I’d love to.” 

At the very least, hopefully Dr. Chase will talk enough for the both of them, eating up time until Annabeth gets here.

A new spring in his step, Dr. Chase leads Percy to his study, where he’s got a setup worthy of Cabin Six: on his desk is a massive map of the Mediterranean, littered with miniatures of tanks, planes, and ships. Ringing the room are wall-hangings, depicting different types of planes, half of their structure in x-rays like people in an anatomy textbook, sandwiching the giant viking sword which hangs directly behind his chair. Every inch of floor space is occupied with a pile of books, some serving as additional desk space for mugs, notepads, spare toy soldiers, and, in one case, what looks like the leftovers of a handful of celestial bronze spearheads, melted down into shiny, useless nuggets. 

“You know I primarily study aviation,” Dr. Chase is saying, tidying up as he walks around the room, “but my colleagues and I are collaborating on an interdisciplinary re-evaluation of the entire North African theatre in World War II. It’s fascinating stuff; until very recently, they used to call it the ‘war without hate,’ given the lack of partisan roundups and, ah, ethnic clashes that you see in Europe--absolute garbage, of course. As if there weren’t civilians caught up in the fighting, too!” He chuckles, pleased at his own joke. Percy forces a laugh out of himself. “Anyway, with my prior experience studying the invasion of Sicily, I was brought on to assist in piecing the timeline together, working backwards from 1943.”

“Cool,” says Percy, filling the natural gap of conversation.

“Extremely! Operation Husky was a terrific endeavor of airborne, amphibious, and land-based combat.”

Percy nods. Amphibious? “Uh-huh.”

“Though, I must admit, I am having a little trouble retracing some of the ships.” Peering over his map, he leans down, fiddling with one of the ships. “You see this one here? The Palmer ?”

Stepping up to the desk, Percy crouches down so the little toy ship is at eye level.

“Well, based on official records, the Palmer was supposed to have arrived at the rendezvous point at the same time as all the other ships, but ended up delayed by two days, and I can’t… quite…” He moves the ship again, frowning. “Figure out… why…” 

“Where were they sailing through?” Percy asks. 

Dr. Chase points to the map. “From Alexandria to Malta.” 

“They probably just hit a bad couple of currents,” Percy says, standing up. 

Tilting his head, Dr. Chase peers at him. “How do you mean?”

“If you’re going through the Cretan Passage, you’re going to hit all kinds of West-East currents which will push you backwards.” Snatching up a pencil from a nearby book stack, Percy lightly sketches on top of the map, tracing along the North African coast. “There are tons of overlapping currents in this area that push boats around in circles, especially around Sicily. That’s one of the reasons why so many historians figure that Homer was referring to the Strait of Messina when Odysseus goes through Scylla and Charybdis, here.” And he circles the strait, with a confident flourish.

When he pulls back, Dr. Chase is staring at him.

Percy blinks. “Um… sorry I drew on your map.”

“You--I have been trying to figure that out for weeks.”

He coughs, shrugging his shoulders. “Sorry.”

But Dr. Chase just laughs. “You can make it up to me by helping me with these next.” Clearing crumbs off of southern France, he bends over, pencil in hand. “So, say you were trying to get from Marseilles to Tunis…” 

Forty-five minutes later, still embroiled in battle recreations of the Mediterranean theatre, they don’t hear Annabeth letting herself in with her key, not even registering her presence until Dr. Chase, grasping for a notebook, spots her leaning against the doorway. “Don’t stop on my account.”

“Oh, Annabeth, dear! I’m sorry,” says Dr. Chase, going over to give her a hug. “We didn’t hear you come in.”

“I can see that,” she says. “What are you guys doing?”

“Percy here has been assisting me with naval movements,” he says, proudly.

Lacing her fingers with his, Annabeth steps over to Percy, studying their battle map. “Really?”

“Oh yes, he’s been phenomenally helpful.”

She kisses his cheek, pleased. “Look at you, Mr. ‘Phenomenally Helpful.’”

“It was pretty fun,” he admits, warm all over.

“I’d bet. Although, I guess this means we should probably order in for dinner…?”

Rubbing at the back of his neck, Dr. Chase smiles. “Yes, I suppose we should. Does pizza sound all right to you two?”

“Let me take care of it,” she says, slipping from Percy’s side. “You guys looked like you were in the middle of something. Extra olives, dad?”

“Don’t forget--”

“And anchovies, Percy, I know.” She rolls her eyes, taking out her phone.

Rather than the three of them move into the kitchen, Annabeth ends up bringing the pizza in with her, because of course she has opinions she’d like to share about the Allies’ naval movements. 

“You know, Percy,” says Dr. Chase, “I must say, you have a real knack for this kind of thing. Have you thought about what you might major in yet?”

Ah, the million drachmae question. “Not yet,” he says, fiddling with a pencil. “I figured I’d get through my gen eds first and then see which one I hated the least.” 

“I think you should consider majoring in history.”

Percy’s head snaps up. “History?”

“Specifically maritime history, I suppose. Your predisposition to sailing and ocean currents would be a huge asset to your research.”

“But--wouldn’t history have, like, a metric ton of required reading? I’m not really sure that’s my area.” He has a daughter with dyslexia and ADHD; surely he’d understand Percy’s hesitation.

But he just shakes his head. “Graduate programs these days are very favorable towards interdisciplinary methodology, I sincerely doubt you’d have to barricade yourself in the library. And recently there’s been a significant push to make the field more accessible to students with disabilities, including things like digitization, screen reading for people with vision impairments, and even restructuring programs all together so that students no longer have to memorize the Encyclopedia Britannica in order to pass their general exams.”

“That’s really nice of you to say, Dr. Chase,” Percy says, “But history class isn’t like talking over naval movements with you.” He thought back to the paper that had lowkey been haunting his dreams. “Like, in my classical history survey, I can’t just… talk about currents and battle plans. I have to come up with a topic on my own, and then write about that.” 

“Surely something involving Roman naval movements would be well within your skill set. You have a second sense about these things,” he chuckles, “clearly.”

Percy glances towards Annabeth, hoping she’ll back him up, but she looks thoughtful. Considering. Like she’s actually thinking about her dad’s proposal. “I can’t just choose something in naval history.”

“Why not?”

“Because… it's too easy?” 

If it was anything like his afternoon with Dr. Chase, it might even be fun. And school isn’t supposed to be fun. 

He repeats that thought to Annabeth as they drive home. “School isn’t supposed to be fun.” 

“No,” Annabeth agrees, “but I don’t know… I like my intro art history class way better than anything we ever did in high school because I actually care about it. Maybe if you write about stuff you’re good at, like my dad suggested, you’ll like it more.” 

The idea follows him all the way to bed, where he’s still mulling it over at 2 in the morning. Before he can chicken out, he grabs his phone, shooting off a quick email to his professor with his potential paper topic, then rolls over, eventually falling asleep.

By morning, he has a response. 

Sounds good! Looking forward to it.

 

***

 

With shaking hands, Percy calls his mom. “ Yes? ” 

“Hey mom.”

Percy? ” He hears her perk up, almost visualizing her sitting up in her chair. “ What’s wrong, sweetie?

Mom instincts. They can always tell when something is different. His heart throbs in his chest. “Nothing’s wrong,” he says, smiling stretching across his face. “It’s just--I got my paper back.” 

Percy had ended up writing his paper about the Roman navy movements in the Battle of the Aegates in 241 BC. It was probably the most fun he’s ever had on a school assignment, or at least the most fun he’d ever had writing a paper. 

And? ” She sounds expectant, hopeful. His mom has always had such faith in him, even with thirteen years of schooling to prove her otherwise. 

He looks back at his email, just to make sure he’s reading it right. “I got an A.”

She gasps. He can hear the scrape of the chair as she stands up. “ Percy, that’s wonderful! ” 

“Thank you.”

An A!

He smiles into his fist, inordinately pleased. “Thank you.”

Oh, sweetheart, I am so happy for you!

“Thanks, mom.”

I’m so proud of you, Percy .” Her voice is soft now, like twilights on the beach with blue marshmallows. “ I know how hard you’ve worked for this. You should be very proud, too.

“I am.” And he is, weirdly enough. “I just can’t believe it.”

I can. ” His mom must be grinning, her eyes sparkling. “ I always knew you could do it.

Sally? ” He hears in the background, muffled. “ Is that Percy?

Paul, Percy got an A on his Roman history paper!

A second voice crowds its way in, equally excited. “ An A? That’s great, kiddo! Congratulations.

Why can’t he stop smiling? “Thanks.”

I bet that feels pretty good, doesn’t it?

“It does.”

Well, it is very well-deserved ,” says Paul. “ That was some great work you did. I could tell how passionate you were about your topic just from your first sentence.

“Thank you.” Maybe he should be worried about all this praise going to his head, but damn, is it nice. “Listen, I have to go get started on dinner, but I just wanted to give you a call.”

Of course ,” says his mom. “ I want to hear from you more, okay? Tell me more good news! Like when are you and Annabeth going to--

“I’m working on it, okay?” says Percy, smiling even more broadly. “I’ll keep you posted, promise.”

She laughs, tinny and happy. “ You’d better. Congratulations again, sweetheart.

“Thanks mom. Love you.”

Love you, too .” 

And he hangs up, puts his phone down on the table, tilts his head back, and sighs, full, happy, a release. 

Maybe college won’t be so bad after all. 

 


 

“You don’t have to do this,” Frank says, hushed. “All you have to do is walk away.”

Five Greek Fire bombs, cloudy yellow, are lined up on the table in front of him, neatly laid out in front of five twenties. From the side, Frank stares him down, surrounded by an army of morbidly curious Romans. Someone turned off the music and turned on the lights a while ago, stopping the party in its tracks, every eye on Percy and his opponent. Figures, his first college party all year and he causes a scene. 

Percy grips the edge of the table. “He insulted the Mets,” he says for the millionth time. “I can’t let that shit stand.”

Frank sighs. “Annabeth?” he asks, hoping to stop this nonsense.

Turning to his side, Percy sees his girlfriend, two drinks in, her cheeks lightly flushed, but solid as she stands beside him, supporting him. Her eyes are hard, fierce, the warrior gaze of Athena all but leaping out of her. “Do it,” she says. 

William, the sour-faced Roman legacy of Juventus, scowls. “A hundred bucks on the table. Sixty seconds. No throwing them back up.”

“Deal.”

“Frank,” Annabeth calls. “Start the clock.”

He sighs. “You guys are idiots.”

“Frank!”

“Okay, okay.” He holds out his phone, thumb primed, hovering over the screen. “On your marks, in three… two… one…” 

He hits zero, and Percy grabs a shot glass. Squeezing his eyes shut, he brings it to his lips, and throws it back.

It’s… not what he expected.

The tequila is awful--no getting around that. Even to Percy’s untrained taste buds, having really only ever had some of Gabe’s sour beer (under duress) and some of the Demeter cabin’s strawberry wine (on his eighteenth birthday, a celebration for actually getting to graduate high school), he can tell it’s cheap, rank, unrefined shit, like he’s drinking straight toilet cleaner. But the garum, the weird Roman condiment that the shot is mixed with, the one that Percy had never heard of before, it’s… it almost tastes like the fish sauce that comes with the pork and rice noodles from the Vietnamese place down the corner of his mom’s apartment, only less… fishy? Yeah. Less fishy.

It’s a weird taste. It’s not bad, by any means, it just--straight up, it just tastes like saltwater. Like the sea. 

And, well. Percy can handle the sea.

He looks at William, and grins. “You are so fucked.”

The assembled Romans cheer, spectators at a gladiator show, as Percy knocks back the rest of the Greek Fire bombs, one after another, clearing them all in under thirty seconds. Annabeth swipes up the cash, shrieking as she throws her arms around Percy. William wanders off, red-faced and glaring, as whoever turned the music off before flips it back on, the night, and the party, saved.

Silly Percy. He should have known what was coming next.

Thirty minutes later, he is well and truly wasted.

“You’re, like, really pretty,” he shouts at Annabeth over the loud music.

She snorts, grinning at him. “Thanks.”

“Seriously,” he slurs, tipping forward on his feet. “You could be a model.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Remember when we were fourteen,” he yells, bracing himself against the wall, “and you got kidnapped by that monster?” Slightly soberer but still a little flushed, she bites her lip, nodding. “Well, I followed the rescue party--I told you that, that I snuck out of camp to follow the rescue party? Right?” 

“You did.”

He takes a sip of water, running his tongue around the inside of his mouth. Feels goofy as fuck. “We got hijacked by Aphrodite halfway through, and when I saw her, I thought--I thought, ‘Holy shit, she looks a little like Annabeth.’”

Her brows shoot up, smile pulling at her lips. “Really?”

He nods. “Totally! But you’re way, way p--” 

Still smiling, she silences him with a kiss, the lingering taste of hard cider on her tongue. “I appreciate it,” she murmurs, grinning, “but you probably shouldn’t say that out loud.”

“Gross.”

From out of nowhere, like he always does, the weasley little shit, Nico di Angelo is suddenly in their space, looking surly and emo as ever, red solo cup in his left hand. “Nico!” Percy crows, grabbing for him and missing. “How’s my favorite cousin?!”

Ducking his wildly swinging limbs, Nico grimaces in the way that Percy has to come to recognize as his attempt at a smile. “Better’n you,” he says, a little wobbly. “What’s up with him?” he directs towards Annabeth.

“Greek Fire bombs. Five.”

“You’re a psychopath.”

“What!” Percy pouts. “He insulted the Mets.”

“Aren’t you s’posed to be, like…” Nico snaps his fingers, words momentarily escaping him. “A--representation… person? For the Greeks?”

Percy waves his hand, hitting the wall. “Fuck that. The Greeks can handle themselves. The Mets are sacred!”

“Are you with anyone?” Annabeth asks, momentarily taking up Percy’s usual role of concerned parent friend while he is drunk off his ass. Theoi , he loves this girl so much. 

Nico shakes his head. “No, but Will and I are staying with--”

A thought suddenly blooms in Percy’s tequila-soaked brain. “Nico!” He shouts.

“What?” he hisses, glaring.

Percy pushes himself off of the wall, outstretched arms managing to box Nico in, falling on his shoulders and trapping him. He’s still a short, skinny little shit, the fuck, when are his Big Three genes going to kick in? “I need to talk to you about the thing.”

“The what?”

“The thing! The--the,” then he leans in, scream-whispering over the pounding bassline. “The thing.”

“That doesn’t help.”

“You know, it’s…” Percy licks his lips, language escaping him for a hot second. “Round. Metal. Jewelry thing.”

A beat, then Nico’s eyes widen. “Oh, that thing.”

“Yes, that thing!” Pulling back, he pulls Nico towards him, slinging an arm over his shoulders in a half-headlock. Annabeth watches, bemused, lips pursed as she tries not to smile. “I need to borrow Nico for a sec,” he says, words spilling out of him. “Back soon. Later. Soon.”

Her eyes crinkle, grey sparkling. She’s so fucking pretty. “Drink your water.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Then together, like some three-legged beast, the two boys lurch away deeper into the party, Nico leading them towards the kitchen. “Where’re you taking me?” Percy slurs. “‘M I being kidnapped again?”

“If I’m helping you plan out this stupid proposal,” he grumbles, pouring himself more vodka, “then I need to be less sober.”

 

***

 

Some mistakes may have been made.

“Where’s Annabeth?” Percy mumbles, looking back towards the house. The party is still raging, someone’s muffled Spotify playlist making a real racket, the greatest hits of ABBA still bouncing around his skull.

“Simp.” Nico, swaying a little, tries to stand up from his kneeling position, only to fall heavily back down on his knees. “She’s right where you left her.”

Discussing Percy's proposal plan had led to more drinking. More drinking had led to the two of them discussing their shared preference for blondes. (“Malcolm is pretty cute,” Nico admitted, flushing, and Percy almost screamed, “Isn’t he?! Sometimes I think about Annabeth with short hair looking like Malcolm and I almost start crying because she’d be so cute!”) Which then led to even more drinking. Which then led to general bitching about their lives, about Percy's hard-ass classics professor Dr. Bauer who he actually really liked but just pushed him so hard and expected so much of him, and Nico's half-brother Zagreus who was causing some family drama by picking fights with Hades all the time and also hooking up with both Thanatos AND the fury Megaera, which, ew, which then led to Percy inhaling his drink, nearly choking to death on unspecified college punch, Nico laughing at him all the while, as he had the most incredible idea.

"Nico!" He shouted, crushing the red solo cup. "Can you resurrect Homer for me?"

Nico gaped, staring. "What."

"Seriously! I need to ask him something for my paper."

"Percy." Nico gazed at him, all the power of the Ghost King boring into his soul, deep and haunting. Percy stifled a burp. "You're a fucking genius."

Which is how they found themselves around a shallow hole they had dug in the backyard, a large bottle of Pepsi originally intended as a mixer pilfered from the kitchen along with two slices of pepperoni pizza dumped on the grass beside them.

"Maybe we shouldn't do this," he says, uneasy even through his drunken haze.

"It was your idea!"

"I don't have good ideas."

“Fuck you, I’m doing it.” With all the force of a tiny, angry kitten, he snatches up the Pepsi bottle, wrestling with the twist cap for a good ten seconds. “I wanna give that bitch a piece of my mind for making me cry in school.”

Percy looks at him sideways. “Hector killing Patroclus got you, too?”

He snorts. “Fuck no. Achilles didn’t pay his dues to the dead.”

“Seriously?”

The cap pops off, and Nico tips the bottle over, dumping flat, lukewarm soda into the shallow hole. “It’s the ultimate dishonor!”

Freak. Percy would die for the kid.

“Let the dead taste again,” Nico mutters. “Let them rise and take this offering. Let them remember.”

“You’re so weird.”

“Says the guy who’s related to both horses and water.”

“I’m not related to water, I just control it.” 

The dirt turns black, dead soil mixed with sticky sugar water. Nico drops in the pizza, and begins to chant, that same ancient Greek that Percy heard in a dream once, talking of death and memories and returning from the grave or whatever. It’s still creepy as shit. 

Despite the warm California night, the air thickens with chilly fog. Silence, impenetrable, surrounds them, blocking out the noises of the party. From the earth, blueish, vaguely person-shaped figures begin to form, like thunderous clouds before a storm. “Which one is Homer?” he asks, hushed.

“Shh!” Nico hisses. 

Like little wells of gravity, the fog begins to coalesce. On one of them, Percy can almost make out, like, fingers. “Um, Mr. Homer? Sir?”

The figure doesn’t say anything. It lowers its mouth, drinking the soda out of the dirt. When it raises its head, Percy can see it more clearly, curly hair and milky white eyes and a straight nose. It--he?--seems a little more solid than your average run-of-the-mill ghost.

Nico frowns, eyes closed, concentrating. “What’s your name?” he mumbles. 

That mouth opens, soundlessly, jaw working on nothing.

“Speak.”

It--there’s a sound, like hissing, only it’s not coming from the mouth, Percy thinks. It sounds like it’s coming from the earth. “Nico?” he asks. “You good?”

The ghost opens its mouth again, moaning, raising its hands. Weakly, unsteadily, it stumbles forward on feeble legs, tripping over the shallow hole in the dirt.

“Nico?” he asks again, a little more forcefully. “What’s going on, dude?”

Nico blinks, slowly, mouth hanging open a little. “Uh.”

The… thing… raises itself up on its hands? He guesses, and knees, crawling its way over towards them.

Now, Percy may be drunk off his ass, but he has seen enough movies to know exactly what the fuck is up.

Moving with a speed he didn’t quite think was possible right about now, he grabs Nico’s wrist, and pulls him up, dragging him along as he lurches towards the house. “Percy…” Nico moans, stumbling over a rock. “I think I fucked up.”

“You think?” Percy wrenches the door open, tossing Nico inside, before following in after, throwing himself against the door. 

Nico groans, throwing his arms over his face. “ Dio santo , my head.”

“Forget your head,” he says, “did we just raise a Homer zombie?!”

Panting, Nico stares up at him, sprawled on the floor of the house. “Oops.”

Percy thunks his head against the door. He does not have nearly enough mental capacity to deal with this right now.

But, he thinks ruefully, at least it’s just one. Even drunk, he’s pretty sure he can handle one zombie.

Nico’s eyes widen. 

Percy stares. “What.”

“I didn’t stop the ritual.”

His stomach goes cold.

Turning around slowly, he pulls aside the little curtain on the window. “What?” Nico asks. “What do you see?”

Percy can’t speak, mouth dry.

Slithering up behind, Nico peers over his shoulder. “That’s… not great.”

“Nico,” Percy says, eyeing the horde which slowly shambles closer, half-decayed bodies in togas bumping into each other, almost identical to the drunk college students inside, as the song changes, once again, to ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight).’ “Please go get Frank and Annabeth.”

The following Monday, an announcement is sent out to the entire campus: Per new department guidelines, students may not utilize the ambassador of Pluto to interview the dead for academic purposes.

 


 

Percy attempts to flatten his hair. He readjusts his shirt. He almost wipes his sweaty palms on his pants, before he realizes what he’s doing, and clenches them instead, nails digging into his palms. He turns to Annabeth. “Do I look okay?”

“Ooh, ‘Mapping Funerary Monuments in the Periphery of Imperial Rome.’”

“Annabeth.”

She looks up from her brochure. “Relax, seaweed brain, you look fine. You look better than most people here.”

“That’s because I bring down the average age of presenters by about thirty years,” he hisses, eyes darting about at the milling mass of attendees, all packed into the hotel ballroom. 

Dr. Bauer had alternately convinced/pressured/guilttripped him into attending this year’s annual conference for the Society of Classical Studies to talk about the research he’d been doing with her. This year, the conference was held in San Francisco, so at the very least Percy didn’t have to spend five hours stressing about his poster presentation while simultaneously up in the air. But now that he’s here, in the ballroom, surrounded by strangers who know way more about this subject than he does, who are actually smart and probably never nearly flunked out of school or got kicked out or--

“Hey.” Annabeth takes his hand. “I know that look. You deserve to be here just as much as any of them.”

“Do I? I feel like any moment someone is going to come over and throw me out for trespassing.” He vaguely recalls something similar happening to him as a kid after he had ducked into the lobby of a semi-nice hotel to dodge what he had thought, at the time, was just a weird stalker, but had later realized had only had one eye. In any case, the hotel security guard had practically picked him up by the scruff of his neck, tossing him back out into the street. 

“That’s just your imposter syndrome talking,” she reassures him. “No one is going to throw you out.”

He sure as shit hopes so. It would be a shame to have done all this work for nothing. 

Glancing back at his poster, Percy can’t help but feel… good. Accomplished. Proud. About a school assignment, of all things. 

His poster traces the development of the prow from the Greek penteconter, to the Roman liburna, and finally to the Byzantine dromon, looking at artistic depictions in history. Percy had picked the topic himself, spending hours in the library reading, writing, and hand-drawing cross-sections of the ships on the poster board when the images he had gotten from the Cambridge University library had been too small. It had been grueling, frustrating work, but fun, too. And not nearly as much reading as he had feared.

Dr. Chase proofread it for him. Dr. Bauer signed off on it. And Annabeth had taken one look at it, smiled, then kissed his cheek.

That was the best compliment he had gotten.

Though now he’s kind of torn between showing it off and hiding it away before one of these attendees figures out that he doesn’t belong.

He rocks back and forth and his feet, pursing his lips, randomly clicking his tongue. Annabeth nudges him. “Your ADHD is showing.”

That’s when, finally, one of the attendees steps up to his poster. He certainly has the look of a professor, in a black cable knit sweater with grey, curly hair and a receding hairline, thin, rimless glasses perched on his nose. He squints at Percy’s poster, rubbing his chin with one hand. “Interesting,” he murmurs, in a thick German accent. “Very interesting. This is yours?”

“Um.” He glances at Annabeth, who is frowning at the brochure, silently sounding out words that she can’t read. “Yep. All mine.”

“Very interesting.” He leans in closer, tilting his head. “So you agree with Pryor and Jeffreys about the skeleton-first construction, then?”

Percy blinks. Pryor and Jeffreys had written The Age of the Dromon , arguing that the ram, which had been a key feature of Roman liburnians, had gone away in ancient ship construction because of developments in how they built the hull. Right. “Yes,” he says. “The skeleton-first construction is a lot stronger than the, um,” shit, what was the name for this, Leo had only told him about a million times--oh! “Mortise-and-tenon!” He nearly shrieks. “The mortise-and-tenon method. It, um, it wears out a lot more quickly than the frame, so… yeah.” He clears his throat.

He nods. “Very interesting.” 

Percy stares. Can this guy say anything else? 

“This is very well done, young man.”

Oh. “Thank you,” he says. 

“Who are you working with?” 

“Um, June Bauer?” He winces at the accidental question. 

He frowns. “I’m not familiar with her work. Where does she teach?” 

What a loaded question. “Uh… New Rome University.”

“I’m sorry?”

“It’s--she used to teach at Northwestern, if that helps. Um, retired,” Percy says.

The frown stays, but at least he doesn’t ask any more questions. “Hmm. Well, this is excellent research, nonetheless. I look forward to reading your dissertation.” Then, distracted by something else, he wanders off, chin still attached to his hand. 

“Who was that?” Annabeth asks. 

Percy shrugs. “Beats me. Also, what’s a dissertation?”

“It’s like a senior thesis, but, like, five hundred pages long.”

Five hundred ?! “Fuck me.” 

“Maybe later,” Annabeth smirks. “It looks like you’ve got company.”

Sure enough, a smallish group of four people are approaching, led by Dr. Chase, making a beeline straight for them. “Here we are,” Dr. Chase says, gesturing. “This is the project I was telling you about. Percy, would you mind going over your poster for us?”

“No problem, Dr. C,” says Percy, smiling his least-grimace-y smile. 

As one, the adults all turn to look at him, faces politely blank, expectant.

Percy swallows. “So,” he begins, “um, this research is about the development of ship construction in the Roman empire…”

He trips up on some of the words, and at one point, he sees Dr. Chase squint in the way that usually means that Percy is speaking too fast, but all in all, he doesn’t totally fall flat on his face. His audience looks engaged, nodding along as Percy moves from point to point, and no one accuses him of being a giant fraud, which is pretty nice. 

At one point, Percy turns to the poster to indicate a specific point on his ship diagrams. When he turns back, his audience has suddenly multiplied, four people turning into a whole goddamn crowd. Each person gives him their undivided attention almost unblinking.

His mouth goes dry. “Um…” 

Dr. Chase, bless him, saves his ass once again. “Would mind starting again from the beginning, Percy?” he asks, a little bemused himself at the amount of people that had suddenly appeared. 

Silence stretches on for a moment, the muffled noise of the rest of the conference like a dull roar in his ear. 

Annabeth, behind him, coughs. 

“S-sure. No problem.” 

Swallowing, he closes his eyes, breathing in through his nose. Why, oh why did he let Dr. Bauer talk him into doing this again?

He pictures the tides of Long Island Sound, gentle and rocking, unhurried and unbothered, tries to match his breathing to them. When he opens his eyes, unfortunately, the crowd hasn’t disappeared. Everyone is still staring at him. 

But Annabeth stands next to her dad, flashing him a big smile and two huge thumbs up.

Percy relaxes. He’s got this.

“Okay,” he says. “So, about the middle of the first millennium CE, ship construction went through a couple of major developments…”

This time goes much, much more smoothly. He’s not sure what it is--though it’s probably Annabeth, her face fixed in a gentle smile as she watches him speak. Gods, what did he do in a past life to deserve someone as amazing as his girlfriend? 

That’s the only reason he can do this. Hell, that’s the only reason he even thought to do this. If he didn’t have Annabeth there, encouraging him, cheering him on, he never would have had the confidence to put himself out there like this. She’s there to pick him up when he doubts himself, there to listen when he can’t explain himself, there to give him feedback when he needs to practice. 

She makes him feel so strong. She makes him feel like he can take on the world--or at the very least, that he can impress a handful of academics.

And they certainly seem impressed with his talk so far. 

“Excuse me,” says a nasally, pinched looking older British guy, face lined as though he lived his life in a state of perpetual squinting. “I find your conclusions to be suspect--wouldn’t the frame method be more susceptible to breaking than the mortise-and-tenon?”

Well, most of them, anyway.

Percy shakes his head. “You’d think, but no. If you look at the study by Steffy, you’ll see that the three-finned ram from the Athlit wreck was designed specifically to break the mortise-and-tenon hull by causing the planks to flex, so that they’d dislodge the joinerys right next to them. A blow like that can cause the wood to split right down the middle.” A blow like that had sunk Sherman Yang’s ship when they tested it out on the lake at camp last summer, the naiads practically hurling him out of the water so quickly Percy didn’t even have to dive in to save him.

“How were you able to do these strength tests?” asks another listener, an older woman with a thick Hungarian accent.

“Hands-on battle simulations,” Percy replies, easily. “We took our models and tested them in as accurate a simulation as we could make.”

“And how big were these models?” 

Percy holds his hands apart, a vague, entirely inaccurate estimate. “About thirty meters, give or take.”

Her eyes widen. “How on earth did you get your hands on such a large ship?”

Percy freezes. “Uh.”

Oh, shit.

He had forgotten--most people didn’t have dads who could summon shipwrecks from the bottom of the sea, dropping them off at Camp Half-Blood with nothing but a sand dollar and one or two exhausted, pissed off hippocampi who had had to drag them all the way there.

“Um,” he stammers, licking his lips, thinking fast--c’mon, Percy, think! “I…” He swallows, panicking. “I… b… built one.”

In the corner of his eye, Annabeth facepalms.

Simultaneously, every mouth in the crowd drops--in shock, outrage, and even excitement. “You built one?!” the woman yelps. 

Oops. “I had help,” Percy says, quickly. 

Annabeth adds a second hand to her facepalm.

“Where?” The first man asks, his bushy brows flying above the rim of his glasses.

“At my… summer camp…” 

Dr. Chase sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“I mean,” Percy chuckles, shrugging his shoulders, trying not to sweat too obviously, “it was either that or lanyards, am I right?”

Dr. Chase, thank Athena, raises his hand, ready to step in. “What Percy means to say, I believe,” he says, attempting to draw their attention, “is that--”

“That’s amazing!” says another woman, probably a grad student attendee based on the fact that she’s wearing jeans. “Do you have pictures?”

Oh this is not good. “Um, not--not on me, but--”

“I do.” Annabeth takes out her phone, holding it up to the person next to her.

Percy blinks. “You do?” He doesn’t remember her taking any pictures.

She shoots him a look, two parts exasperated and one part “shut up and let me handle this,” with just a dash of fondness in the mix. Pointedly, she looks at him, eyebrows raised, indicating that he should continue.

Oh. She’s using Mist. And he needs to keep their attention on him so that they buy it. “Right,” he says, clearing his throat. “Any more questions?” 

His audience placated for now, passing around Annabeth’s phone, he manages to finish up his presentation. After fielding a few more questions, people start to peel off, distracted by other posters and presenters in the ballroom. When everyone has finally wandered away, Dr. Chase comes up and pats Percy’s shoulder awkwardly. “Nice work,” he says, and he seems like he means it. “A little touch-and-go there for a while, hm?”

“A little.”

He chuckles. “Still, you should be proud. I don’t know how many undergraduates would be able to handle that kind of pressure.”

“I mean,” Percy says, shrugging a shoulder, “it’s about on par with leading an army. Maybe a little less.” Honestly, maybe even a little more stressful. If a monster had decided to attack the convention center and interrupt his presentation, he probably would have been relieved.

He’d been worried for a moment that he’d undone all those years of work in making Annabeth’s dad like him. And that he’d be charged with some sort of academic fraud, for the whole “I have a boat” thing without proof. Thank the gods for Annabeth, as always.

She’s looking at him now through narrowed eyes. She at least can’t be surprised--that was far from the dumbest thing she’s ever seen him do. At least his “I spent most of my time at magic greek mythology summer camp” covers are normally better than hers. As someone who spent his formative years in the real world, he’s usually pretty good at keeping the demigod thing under wraps. 

“Come on,” she says, grabbing his hand. She pulls him off, through the dispersing crowd, lacing their fingers together, sweet and intimate, out of the hall and then down another one, and through a smaller corridor. Bringing them up to a little door, with a shake of her wrist, she pulls out her Estruscan keyring bracelet. About several of the keys have found themselves used in various misadventures, vanishing once their purpose is fulfilled, but her favorite key is still there. And, just like a clever child of Hermes, it can pick just about any lock. 

Inside is just an empty room, a little staging area surrounded by tiered desks going up, no more or less remarkable than any of the other conference rooms they’d visited before. 

“What--?” His question is cut off by Annabeth’s mouth on his. 

Surprising, but definitely not unwelcome.

It's a while before they separate again. “You’re so good at this,” she tells him, unbuttoning his shirt.

He runs his hands along the lines of her flanks. “I’ve had a lot of practice,” he grins. He’d practice kissing her all day long if he could. 

She smiles, shaking her head. “No, not this,” though she does lean in for another kiss, pulling at his lower lip with her teeth. “I know you’re good at this.” They break away, Percy pulling her shirt over her head, Annabeth shucking off his. “But history. Presenting.” She runs a finger over his chest, kissing his cheek, headed towards the sensitive spot on his jaw. “Gods, you’re so smart.” 

Something about the praise vibrates through his chest. She doesn’t sound surprised, or anything, just--turned on.

“You had all those crusty academics eating out of your hand. Just, so impressed by you, knowing you know way more than they do about naval history. When you were explaining the--” Her compliment is cut off with a moan, as he leans down and starts sucking on her throat. Her blouse has a high neck, so he feels no guilt for using his teeth.  

“Watching you today, gods.” Her breath is labored as his fingers play at the waistline of her skirt. “And then thinking of you defending your dissertation.” He bites at her jugular, and she lets out a long, deep moan. 

“I don’t know what that means.” Do academics fight each other? Like, with weapons? He’s pretty sure he can take most of the people he met today. 

“It means you get to show off how smart you are,” Annabeth says, grasping his shoulders, pulling him in for another kiss. “I was born the day my dad defended his. Gods, it's going to be amazing to watch you go.” She yanks his belt out of his pants, tossing it to the floor. 

They miss the panel on recent translation efforts. But Percy can’t say he minds one bit. 

And when Annabeth presents him with a positive pregnancy test two months later, Percy definitely knows he made the right decision. 

 


 

He almost doesn’t realize he’s having a dream-vision at first.

It has been literal years since he’s had a demigod dream. Hell, it’s been a long while since he’s had a dream, period--being a new dad to a one-and-a-half-year-old saps too much of his energy to even think about dreaming. Once Junie is put to bed, when he’s out, he is fucking out, and he does not have the brainpower to spare to manifest any messed up subconscious fears.

Which is why when he blinks open his eyes, taking in the too-bright colors of the Parthenon and the gleaming shine of the bronze statues which are somehow all looking at him--also, you know, how the Parthenon is complete, standing as it did thousands of years ago, and not crumbled into ruins--he knows, immediately, he is being contacted by a god.

And only one god in particular would bring him to Athens.

Without even checking, he heaves himself up off the ground, folding into a kneel. “My lady Athena,” he says, “can I ask for what quest you’ve brought me here?”

“Impertinent as ever, Percy Jackson,” rumbles the goddess, but Percy doesn’t think he can sense any ill will towards him. He hopes, anyway. “Perhaps I have summoned you here for a social visit.”

“Perhaps,” he says, choosing his next words as carefully as possible. “But I assume you have too much to worry about to randomly check up on your daughter’s boyfriend.”

He lifts his head, catching her expression--stoic as always, but maybe with just the barest hint of a smile. “You assume correctly. You have become, contrary to my initial expectations, very wise in the time that I have known you.”

“Thank you.” He knows better than to do anything but accept the compliment for what it is.

“I have observed your work as a scholar in recent years, and I must say that I am surprised, yet pleased, that you have chosen to pursue such a path. I had not thought you to be suited for a world of old men and dusty papers.”

He grits his teeth. Don’t rise to the bait, don’t rise to the bait, don’t rise to the bait--

“I understand, as well, that though you and my daughter have,” and here her careful composition cracks, just the slightest, the tiny lift of her lips falling, “made a child together.”

Percy swallows. He figured, you know, in the abstract, that Athena would know about Junie, but hearing her say it out loud is… well, he’s just glad that Dr. Chase has always liked him. “Yes, my lady.”

“It is customary in your time to marry prior to childbirth, is it not?”

“It is.” Oh, fuck, is she going to smite him for that? “I--that is to say, we, Annabeth and I, we, um, we definitely want to get married, but, Annabeth kind of…” 

He trails off. He can’t tell Athena, goddess of war, that her daughter pissed off the queen of heaven! And if he does, he definitely can’t imply that it was because she was being too stubborn!

“I know well of my daughter’s history with my father’s wife,” Athena says, smoothly. “I come to you now with an offer of peace.”

Percy straightens his back. Peace?

Raising one graceful arm, Athena turns, indicating the structure behind her. “Look upon my temple,” she intones. The white marble shines even more powerfully against the blue and red paint, intricate scenes and figures ringing the top of the columns. “In the time of Pericles, it was built to commemorate the victory of Hellas over the armies of Xerxes the Great. It was to be the shining beacon of our world, a triumph of our power and influence over the race of men.”

The race of men might have had something to say about that, he thinks to himself.

“But it was not to be,” Athena says, mournfully. “As our influence waned, so too did our temple, until its might was all but forgotten.” 

Before his eyes, the paint fades away, ceilings and columns collapsing, the destruction of the Parthenon playing out in front of him. 

“Some two hundred years ago,” she says, her voice taking on a darker, more dangerous tone, “a grave insult was paid to the ruins of my ancient sanctuary.” Like curtains falling on a stage, darkness swallowed up the structure, swift and impenetrable. “Many treasures were taken from my temple, stolen, by foolish, greedy men, spirited away far to the north, where they have languished in unworthy hands.”

He narrows his eyes. She can’t possibly be talking about--

Athena turns back to him, her eyes blazing, somehow twice as tall. “Retrieve my treasures,” she commands, war personified, “return the prizes of Athens to their rightful place, and I shall give you my support against my father’s wife.”

“You…” Percy leans back on his haunches, staring dumbfounded up at the goddess. “You don’t happen to mean the Parthenon Marbles, do you?”

“Yes.”

“The ones in the British Museum.”

“The same,” she says, imperious as ever.

Fantastic. “Welp,” Percy says, slapping his thighs, scrambling up. “Thanks for the offer, but I’ll have to decline. Nice seeing you, by the way. I’ll tell Annabeth you stopped by.”

Her sharp gazes pierces him, full of fury. “You dare to refuse my support?”

He snorts. “When it means trying to get the UK to give the marbles back, absolutely. Do you know how stubborn they are about this?”

Lightning flashes behind her, nearly blinding him. “You will regret this,” Athena says, dark and foreboding. “You may have your father’s goodwill, but the queen of Olympus is clever and cunning, her displeasure swift and merciless.”

But Percy still shakes his head. “When Annabeth and I get married,” and it’s definitely a ‘when,’ it’s just a matter of when precisely , like after Junie can sleep through the night maybe, “I’d rather take my chances with Hera than try and untangle that particular can of olives.”

A growl, and a snap of her fingers, and Athena disappears.

With a start, Percy wakes up. Junie had gotten her chubby little hands around his nose, and had decided to pull.

“Ow, ow, Junie, hey,” he squawks, attempting to dislodge her grip from his face. “Hey, I’m awake, it’s okay.”

She laughs, illegally adorable, her grey eyes sparkling, squeezing harder. 

“Okay, okay,” he laughs along with her. “You got my nose, you win.”

As if she were waiting for him to admit defeat, she lets go, clapping her pudgy toddler hands together. 

“That’s right,” he picks her up, raising her above his head. “Barely sixteen months old and you already know how to take me down, don’t you? Just like your mommy.”

She smiles, waving her little fists.

Gods he loves this little monster.

Junie really is the best parts of both of them. She’s got her daddy’s hair but her mommy’s brain, quick and sharp and painfully adorable. She’s already learning to read Greek, Annabeth sitting her in her lap and sounding out vowels together, Annabeth taking her finger and tracing it over the letter shapes. This kid absorbs information like a sponge, which Percy can only assume is the natural conclusion of taking a son of Poseidon and a daughter of Athena and mixing their DNA together. 

Thinking about his dream, he frowns. “What do you think, Junie,” he asks his toddler. “Should I take her up on her offer?”

The baby says nothing.

“I mean,” he tilts his head, “Greece has been trying to get the marbles back for two hundred years. UNESCO has top lawyers on this. What does Athena think I can do?”

Junie blinks at him.

“On the other hand, I do really love your mom,” he admits, “and I really want to marry her. You’d like that, right? To have your parents be married?”

There’s no way she can understand what he’s saying, but she moves her head like she’s nodding. Or maybe she does understand. She is Annabeth’s daughter after all. 

Percy sighs. Dammit.

Time for a new project, he guesses.

 

***

 

Several months, a college graduation, and one relocation to Boston later, Percy growls, hurling his pencil at the wall. Mother fucker. Fuck the British Museum, fuck his tiny laptop screen, and fuck the Italian prick who decided to have the least ADHD-friendly handwriting of all time. 

Why the hell is he doing this again? Like, seriously. Why in all of Hades is he, an inexperienced, snot-nosed, first year master’s student deciding to tackle the return of the fucking Parthenon marbles of all things. Like, what is wrong with him? 

Roughly scrubbing his fingers through his hair, Percy stands up. He has to go for a walk, clear his head, or he might actually explode. 

Then he catches a glimpse of the photo pinned to the fridge.

Percy’s mom had taken it, a candid of Percy and Annabeth and Junie on a sunny day in Central Park. There, in perfect 1080p, Junie is laughing, at what he can’t even remember, her pudgy fists yanking on Percy’s hair, while her mother and the love of his life does nothing to extricate Percy from her grip, her face screwed up so hard she had tears in her eyes. 

Percy had talked a lot of shit to the goddess of war’s face, but truth be told… Hera still terrifies him a little. Which, he assumes, was her goal all along, but it would be nice to marry Annabeth without fear of something going terribly wrong--or, gods forbid, something happening to Junie. That simply was not a risk he was willing to take. Percy is content to spend the rest of his days as Annabeth’s life-partner and roommate, if it means that the queen of the heavens won’t have a reason to take out her issues on his children.

Even if the engagement ring in the back of the pantry is gathering dust. 

Sunlight, wan but warm, falls in from the window, landing perfectly on his pile of open books. “I know, I know,” he growls, speaking to the air, rubbing his face so it doesn’t get stuck in a permanent glare. “I just--I just need a few minutes, okay? Let me go down the block and get a coffee or something. Two minutes, Lady Athena.”

The light fades. Percy takes that as an acquiescence, angrily scribbling a note. He’s not sure when Annabeth and Junie will be back, but even angry as he is, he doesn’t want to worry them.

Snatching up his jacket, he slams the door shut, stomping out of his apartment building and down the streets of Boston. He must be accidentally doing his wolf stare, because people are practically flinging themselves out of his path as he hurtles down the sidewalk. Literally--some girl is walking her husky, and the poor dog actually whimpers, cowering as Percy rounds the corner. 

Coming to a stop, Percy slaps his hands over his face, drawing in a deep, shuddering breath. 

He might be in over his head a little.

Sighing, he looks to his right. He’s standing outside of a Starbucks. 

Percy doesn’t drink coffee, Annabeth does. And he knows exactly how much of a coffee snob his girlfriend is. Starbucks? Overpriced, overrated, over-sweetened garbage.

He pushes the door open, sliding up to the counter. “I’ll take a… iced mocha, I guess,” he says. “Large.”

“No problem,” chirps the barista. “I’ll have that out for you in a minute.”

“Thanks,” he mumbles.

One thing Starbucks does have going for it, though, are really good napkins for doodling.

Slumping down in his uncomfortable metal chair, elbows resting on the hard, faux-wood table, Percy takes out his pen, and doodles aimlessly on the brown napkins. No, not that pen. Just because it can write doesn’t mean that Percy wants to risk slicing his face open every time he has a stray idea. Completely out of the blue, Annabeth had gotten him a nice set of pens, and ever since then, Percy always keeps one on him. Now, if he could just remember to use the little notebook she had gotten him, too.

Percy is not an artist by any stretch of the imagination. He doesn’t have an image in mind, just lets his pen move, drawing endless chains of triangles and stars, nebulous shapes which form themselves into Greek letters. After he catches himself writing γλαυκῶπις for the eighth time in a row, he sighs, dropping his pen, and picks up the cup, taking a sip.

Yuck. At least the chocolate outweighs the coffee taste a little.

Gods, and their cups are always, like, drenched from condensation--not that Percy can feel it, but there’s practically a whole other drink on the outside of the plastic, dripping all over Percy’s pile of doodle napkins. That must be why they give out so many.

Grumbling, he mops up the mess, ink smudged into a blue-brown slurry.

He stops. 

He squints at one of his doodles. 

Not that anyone else could tell, but Percy had apparently been trying to recreate the signature of Ottoman sultan Selim III, the guy who had supposedly authorized the Earl of Elgin to take the Parthenon Marbles. Percy had been staring at copies of his signature all damn day, trying to tell if it had been forged or copied, but classical Arabic was just so far beyond anything he could even begin to wrap his head around. It was gorgeous work, but even looking at it made Percy’s eyes swim.

This particular doodle is not his best attempt. It looks nothing like the signature. It’s smudged, blotchy, but in a way that’s… weirdly familiar. 

Snatching the napkin up, Percy bolts from the Starbucks, leaving his mocha behind.

Taking the steps of his apartment building two at a time, he bursts into his kitchen. His set up is exactly how he left it, books spread out all over the table, laptop shut and laid askew, the dry, half-eaten remains of his morning muffin on a plate on top of his encyclopedia of illuminated manuscripts--except for one book, the one on Ottoman history of the nineteenth century. It’s been opened, its pages facing the door, in the exact opposite direction of all the other books. 

“Hello?” he calls into the apartment. “Anyone home?”

No response. 

Percy approaches the table. 

From the pages, Selim III stares at him, his portrait rendered in black and white, sitting just above a figure of his signature, his tughra

Percy picks up the book, squinting. 

The signature is crisp, clean, a work of art all by itself. 

He looks at his napkin drawing. Blurry and smudged.

Opening his laptop, he pulls up the scans of the documents in the British museum, zooms in on the letter’s seal.

Blurry and smudged.

Percy stares. 

It… can’t be that simple, can it?

In a daze, he fires an email off to his new grad advisor. Hopefully he won’t mind Percy sticking his nose in where he doesn’t belong. Hey Dr. T--was looking at the Parthenon marbles docs in the BM (don’t ask) and I noticed this weird smudge on the tughra. Lazy scribe, maybe?

And he closes his computer.

Later that night, while he puts Junie to bed, he gets a response. not sure. sent it to a colleague for a closer look. 

He can’t even be bothered to really think about it though, not with Junie looking up at him with Annabeth’s eyes, and asking for another book. “Alright, kiddo,” he acquiesces, settling in beside her. All her story books are in ancient Greek, and at age two, she’s starting to recognize the letters. “Which one are you thinking?” 

“Daw-fins, daddy,” she says, smiling.

“Dolphins, eh? Getting Mr. D on your side early, I see. As smart as mommy.” He leans down and kisses her forehead before he starts to read her the story of the sailors and their sudden dolphin madness. 

 

***

 

“Huh,” Percy says to himself a few weeks later, as he and Annabeth are chilling on the couch, watching some Netflix.

His advisor has forwarded him an article from the BBC (New evidence suggests Elgin documents to be forgeries)  with an accompanying note: Amazing catch!  

“What is it?” Annabeth asks, nudging him with her elbow--a feat, since she also has an armful of a squirmy Junie to deal with.

“Update in the Parthenon marbles thing.”

That gets her attention. Anything Parthenon-related does. “Really?”

He shows her his phone.

Her eyes go wide as saucers. “Damn.”

“Yep.” He doesn’t realize he’s smiling until he feels his lips pulling at the sides of his mouth. 

“My mom is probably your biggest fan right now.”

He starts. “What did you say?”

Turning back to the TV, she still manages to cast him a weird look. “I said, my mom will probably love you for this.”

A beat, then Percy practically somersaults over the couch, darting into the kitchen. Wrenching open the pantry door, he shoves his hand behind their collection of flours, fingers grasping for--

“If you’re looking for any more sacrificial cookies,” Annabeth calls after him, “we burned them all when Junie got a cold.”

“Remind me to make some more,” says Percy, pulling out his prize. It’s a little dusty, streaks of flour clinging to the blue velvet. “I have a feeling we’ll need them.”

“Oh yeah?” She chuckles. “What, did Olympus put in a special order?” 

Percy slides back down next to her, ring hidden in his closed fist. “Can I have the baby for a sec?”

Eyes fixed to the screen, Annabeth passes her over. Junie’s hands automatically reach for his nose, ready to grab, but Percy places the ring in her grasp instead, kissing her forehead. “Hey, babe?” he asks Annabeth, handing her back. “I think our daughter has something for you.”

Annabeth takes her without a second glance. 

Then she does take a second glance.

Ring closed in her pudgy toddler fist, Junie holds it out to her.

Annabeth gapes. 

“So,” Percy says, wrapping an arm around her shoulder, “quick confession: I wasn’t just working on the marbles for fun.”

Annabeth just stares. Junie babbles.

“Your mom told me that if I helped get the marbles back, she’d back us against Hera if we ever got married. So…” He trails off, waiting for her response. As close as he is, he can see the tears start to well up in her eyes--a good sign. “Shall we?” he prompts.

“Oh thank all the gods.” Annabeth is crying, because she's Annabeth. And because she's Annabeth, she also wastes no time in transferring Junie to her other side, and holding out her hand so Percy can slide the ring on her finger. “I was so worried I'd have to have Chase on my Masters’ diploma, too.”

 


 

Percy is making sauce when his phone lights up. He hits speaker. “Hey.”

Hey man ,” comes the tinny voice of Magnus. “ Sorry I missed your call earlier .”

“Don’t worry about it,” Percy says, “I figured you were dying or something.”

Magnus’ eye roll is almost palpable. “ Very funny. What’s up?

Bringing the spoon to his lips, he blows on it, taking a taste, before reaching for the salt. Needs way more. “Do you happen to have any Varangian guards in Hotel Valhalla?”

Varangian guards? Uh, maybe. Probably. Why?

“I’m doing a thing on the attempted reconquest of Sicily,” he says, lowering the heat a little to a simmer, “and I’m having some trouble piecing together the Battle of Montemaggiore. Know anyone who was in it?” 

Magnus hums. “ I’ll ask around. Anyone in particular you’re looking for?

Rifling through their little spice cabinet, he makes a mental note to get a new thing of hot sauce, tipping the rest of it into the pot. “If you have anyone who fought under Harald Hardrada, that would be great.”

Hardrada? I’m pretty sure he lives on the fifth floor.

Percy nearly drops the bottle. “No shit?”

Big dude, long mustache, writes poetry?

“Yes!” He picks up the phone, grinning from ear to ear. “Do you think I could come up and talk to him sometime?”

Sure, but I thought you were doing something on Homer’s identity?

He groans. “Backburnered for now until she stops driving me crazy.” No matter how many times Percy tells her, he can’t just drop the “Homer was actually an Egyptian woman” bomb without some serious evidence backing that up. And forgery is not one of his strong suits. Hence the need for a different topic for the time being.

Has everyone ever told you your life is weird?

“No, why do you ask?”

His phone suddenly vibrates, shocking him so badly he nearly drops it into the saucepan. Almost home , texts the love of his life, a shot of serotonin directly into his bloodstream. V hungry

“Sorry, Magnus, but I gotta run. Thanks for your help.”

No problem. Say hi to my cousin for me.

“Can do.”

And make sure you pick a date soon! Sam needs to know so she can schedule her flight home .”

“Soon as I can.” You know, when his brain isn’t melting from grading undergrad papers. And making sure Annabeth and Junie are fed. And that Annabeth doesn’t lose herself in graduate school. And finding Junie a new preschool after she destroyed a classroom last month because of a monster. His toddler is a badass. But he’s a little worried she’s gonna follow Mommy and Daddy’s example as far as school goes. 

Sometimes, he thinks that their wedding just won’t ever happen. With Athena on board, he figured it would happen sooner or later, but time just… keeps getting away from them. Which isn’t the end of the world. A lifetime at Annabeth’s side is all he really needs, Mrs. Jackson or no. But he’s seen the silver fabric she weaved for her wedding dress. It would be a shame for all that hard work to go to waste.

And, yeah, he wants to see his little Junie dancing down the aisle flinging seaweed before her mother. He wants his mom to cry a little and he wants all his friends to be there to celebrate with them. Is that so much to ask? 

Speaking of his two favorite girls--”We’re home!” Annabeth calls from the hallway. “Junie, go say hi to daddy!”

Her bare feet slapping against the floor, his daughter comes toddling in, making a beeline for him. “Hey, kiddo,” Percy says, scooping her up. “How’s my best girl?”

“She’s just fine, thanks,” Annabeth says, setting her work bag down on the table. “Tell me I don’t have to wait for dinner--Margie kept me for the entirety of my lunch break, and I am starving.” 

“Just gotta make a salad and we should be good to go.” But he makes no move to finish chopping vegetables, entirely too enraptured with the way Junie smiles when Percy sticks his tongue out at her. “Let me guess,” he says. “Does my best girl want some olives?”

“Peas,” Junie says. 

“Oh, you want peas instead?”

She giggles, waving her arms. “Elaia, daddy!”

“Fine,” and he kisses her nose. “Extra olives for you.”

“Chip off the old block,” Annabeth says.

Handing her back to her mother, Percy sighs. “When am I going to get a kid who likes anchovies?”

“I’m doing my best here, okay?”

 

***

 

Hardrada is… not what he expected.

Reputation isn’t that bad.” Hardrada is saying. “The production isn’t what it should be, but lots of her lyrics are still on point.” 

“The production ruins it,” Percy insists. “And as a follow up to 1989 ? It's just bad.” 

“And what about Lover ?”

“What about Lover ?”

“You can’t argue with the genius of that one.”

“It is terribly inconsistent,” Percy shoots back. “Yeah, ‘The Archer’ and ‘Daylight’ and ‘Miss Americana’ are sublime, but ‘ME!’? Come on!”

“Are you one of those people who thinks she peaked at Red ?”

Red is a bop from start to finish,” Percy fires back. “But she definitely peaked at folklore .”

“Thinking she peaked at folklore is just pedestrian when ‘tis the damn season’ exists!” Hardrada yells, drawing his axe, which is then promptly flung over Percy’s head. 

As the only mortal in a room full of armed, excitable, undead Taylor Swift stans, Percy beats a hasty exit, Magnus and Jason covering him as he flees, because they’re just so thoughtful like that. Percy’s pretty sure he saw Magnus take an arrow to the knee, going down in a heap, before he shuts the door to the hotel, finding himself in a Forever 21. 

Looking over his notes later as he gets back to his apartment in the North End, he frowns. They had spent… approximately twenty minutes talking about Sicily before getting solidly off track. Who knew an eleventh century viking would have such intense feelings about pop music? 

And now he’s singing “seven” to himself as he unlocks the apartment door, because it's a good song, and because it made him think of Annabeth. And he always wants to think of Annabeth. 

“Hey, babe,” he calls into the apartment, toeing off his shoes. “I’m back!”

He gets no response.

Percy looks up, confused. “Annabeth?”

“In the bathroom,” he hears, faintly. 

“Everything okay?”

“Yep! Totally fine!” she says, unconvincingly. 

“Alright,” he calls back. “Let me know if you need something.”

Moving Junie’s toys out of the way, he drops down onto the couch, grabbing his laptop. Hopefully he can make some sort of sense of the… notes… that he got from Hardrada. Though he’s probably going to have to trek out to Beacon Hill again, which, while not really out of his way, does mean he has to hike a bit from the Park Street station through the Commons, which makes him super sweaty and out of breath. It’s just embarrassing, walking into a hotel full of the greatest warriors of Valhalla, and Percy can barely handle a hill. 

However, he’s not so out of practice that he can’t sense Annabeth coming up behind him. “You good?”

“What do you think about getting married by the end of the month?”

“Sure,” he says, pecking at his computer. Damn autocorrect ruining all the Norse names. He keeps forgetting to download the right language package he needs. “But I thought you wanted to wait until after you turned in your portfolio?”

“Well… I might not be able to fit in my dress if we wait much longer.”

That gets his attention.

Percy turns around, slowly. Annabeth is grinning, holding a thin little piece of plastic with a circle on the end. She wiggles it. 

“Is that…?”

“Yep.”

“Oh.”

Her smile falls. “Are you mad?”

“What? No!” Percy slides his computer off his lap, twisting around to face her, up on his knees. “No, no, not at all. I’m not mad.” She slings her arms around his neck, pregnancy test warm against his skin. “I just…” 

Eyes warm, she looks into his, unafraid. “What is it?”

“It’s…” It’s silly, is what it is. But this is Annabeth. If he can’t tell her, who can he tell? “I just feel bad that I’ve gotten you pregnant twice before getting married.”

“Well, at least I’m not nineteen this time,” she says, raising an eyebrow. “But maybe we wouldn’t have this problem if you weren’t such a horndog.”

Percy snorts. “Me? What about you, Annabeth ‘3 AM anal before my first lecture’ Chase.”

“Jackson,” she corrects.

“Huh?”

“It’s Annabeth ‘3 AM anal before your first lecture’ Jackson.”

Grinning, he presses his mouth to hers. After all this time, she still smells like lemons, her lips soft and warm. “Not yet it’s not.”

“Then let’s make it happen.”

And, well, Percy can’t think of a better plan.

 


 

Jamie hisses. “Fuuuuuck,” she whispers, the sound dropping like a stone in the dead lecture hall. “Goddamn shit fuck ass .”

And the worst part is, she’d actually spent a lot of time preparing for her Latin midterm. She’d made flashcards, she’d drilled noun endings, she’d even slept with the textbook under her pillow for fuck’s sake. 

Typical--the moment she sits down to take the test, it all goes out the window. 

Legistne carmen longum de Troiano ,” she reads under her breath, as though saying it out loud will unlock some hidden secrets of the cosmos. 

Nope. Nothing. The multiple choices remain as inscrutable as ever.

“Psst.” 

Jamie looks up. 

There’s a four year old staring at her. 

“Hi,” Jamie says. 

“Hi,” says the four year old. Junie, her name is, she thinks. 

Mr. Jackson, Jamie’s Latin TA, will bring his kids to class with him sometimes--his wife works full time, and Jamie guesses that they can’t afford a babysitter. She’s a cute kid, quiet, usually sitting in the corner of the lecture hall, drawing or even knitting, sometimes with her little sister playing with toy ships next to her. 

Now, she’s still staring at her. “What’s up?” Jamie asks.

“Bello,” says Junie.

Jamie blinks. “Sorry?”

Legistne carmen longum de bello Troiano .” 

She squints down at her test sheet, attempting to visualize her flash cards. That’s… “Bello” is the right answer.

The fuck? The fucking four year old can speak Latin? “Thanks,” she whispers. 

Junie beams at her.

Darting her eyes to the front of the lecture hall, Jamie spies her professor, Buck, completely conked out at his desk, his chest rising and falling with his snores. Percy is nowhere to be seen, his laptop open at his chair. “What’s the next one?” Jamie turns her paper so that Junie can see better.

Pluto Proserpinam infelicem cepit ,” she announces, perfectly accented.

Jamie points to the one after that.

Rex qui pontem fecit erat Ancus Martius.

“Awesome.” 

The door to the lecture hall opens. Jamie whips around in her seat, startled, and sees her TA, walking down the steps. From the corner of her eye, Junie disappears, booking it to her dad, who scoops her up without missing a beat. “Hey kiddo,” he murmurs, smiling crookedly. “Were you bothering my students?” Then he glances at Jamie. “Sorry about that--hope she wasn’t too annoying.”

But Jamie shakes her head. “It’s fine.” Dammit

Still smiling, Percy makes his way back down to his seat. Junie grins at her over his shoulder, her arms wrapped tightly around her dad’s neck.

At the beginning of the semester, Professor Buck had droned on and on about Mr. Jackson, about how he was one of the best up-and-coming classics scholars in the world, how he could have had his pick of PhD programs, and how NYU was lucky to have him. He got first pick of assistantships this semester, apparently, but had volunteered to teach Latin 1001, and they should all be grateful, because he had done some beautiful new translation of Virgil for his Master’s thesis, and they were all going to learn a lot from him. 

Turning back to her exam, Jamie snorts. Of course a guy like that would have a kid who could speak perfect Latin. 

She really should have just stuck with German instead.