This was written by MIA GALANTI, aged 11 (20/03/03), with PARENTAL CONSENT from account holder JULIE GALANTI
The best thing, Leo decided, about having the war over and done with was that he could finally eat a meal without getting disturbed halfway through by a nosehair attack. He loved food. Lunch was his favourite time of the day. So to be interrupted just because of some stupid Shrimpzilla monster made him mad. He was missing out on ‘quality time’ with his meals. And that was the worst crime you could ever commit.
Forget accidentally stabbing people with poles, illegally shooting animals and raiding doughnut shops – not spending time with food was high up there on the list with stealing the President’s underpants and robbing banks.
But that wasn’t the only thing. Possessing eidolons, giants with six arms and screaming goddesses who fought themselves and made the demigods wear factor 100 sun cream to stop wing-sunburn weren’t Leo’s favourite things, either. On the other hand, neither were the facts that Connor and Travis Stoll could steal live landmines and that it was possible for one teacher to assign you six pages of homework.
Those didn’t really sit well with Leo.
(But at least he could walk on the ground without worrying that a giant mud fist was going to come out and throttle him).
And he didn’t even want to think about what he had thought Coach Hedge’s and Mellie’s baby was going to look like.
He, Percy and Jason had all gotten migraines from wondering how he/she was going to end up. Jason suggested a wind satyr. Percy said a satyr spirit. Leo said a mini Coach. Although the idea of a miniature Hedge that was small enough to fit into arms, wearing just a diaper and waving a baseball bat squeaking “DIE!” was enough to make Leo disturbed whenever he caught sight of said goat.
It was a relief to find that the baby had been a small little satyr named Chuck.
(Clarisse wasn’t too thrilled to be named godmother).
Surprisingly, the demigods found that Hedge had a soft side. They had always known, of course, especially when Leo had blasted the connection to his TV on the Argo II, but none of them had ever really thought him the ‘daddy’ type. In fact, if they had been given a chart with the headings labelled “Bloodthirsty maniac”, “War-freak”, “Daddy Goat” or “DIIIIIEEEE!”, the majority of the demigods would’ve selected “War-freak”. (Personally, Leo had only mentioned ‘the majority’ because he definitely would have scribbled the satyr’s name under “DIIIIIEEEE!”). But now they could see that his heart wasn’t just on bonking bad people on the noggin, nicknaming every demigod he came across ‘cupcake’ and Chuck Norris martial arts DVDs. The demigods had reckoned that the satyr had spent at least thirty drachmas on Iris-messages to keep them up-to-date on Chuck’s day-to-day life.
Now they all knew how much he weighed when he was born, how long his legs and arms were, how cute his little hooves happened to be and even how long each strand of hair was.
In fact, it was almost annoying.
Leo reckoned he had it worse. Since he was in the infirmary within the first two hours of arriving back at Camp Half-Blood, he had Hazel, Piper, Annabeth, Reyna and Calypso giving him the updates on the baby and explaining how the married couple were doing. Also occasionally arguing over Chuck’s updates: “...and his thumb is one and a half inches and – ” “Pipes, his thumb is only one inch.” “No, it’s one and a half.” “Only one, Mini McLean.” “And a half, Reyna!” “Does it even matter?” “Piper, it is only one.” “It is one and a half!” “I still think it’s two.” “Be quiet, Calypso. Just because you’re some Titan’s daughter doesn’t mean you’re right.” “Piper, it is only one.” “Guys, I distinctly remember Coach saying that it was – ” “I still think it’s two.”
To be honest, Leo definitely would’ve preferred to listen to them squabble over how much Chuck Hedge weighed at five weeks than to be stuck in the Camp infirmary being tended by Will Solace for such a stupid reason.
Of course, any hero would love to be stuck in the infirmary for killing a Minotaur or being stabbed by a dracaena or even getting accidentally trampled on by Frank in rhino mode. Heck, they wouldn’t bat an eyelid at getting a splinter from Thalia’s pinecone tree. They would’ve been congratulated anyway, for daring to walk up to the tree in the first place.
No one had ever been stuck in a hospital bed with broken ribs and battered arms and legs because their friends had viciously attacked them.
It was so lame it was probably the newest entry in the History of Lame Demigods.
Several weeks ago, Leo had rescued the gorgeous Calypso off Ogygia (and, admittedly, had been slightly annoyed by the fact that the pre-immortal Titan’s daughter hadn’t been mourning his absence – but hey, at least she kissed him) on Festus, which had previously been the Argo II, and their happy fairytale had ended when they flew off into the sunset. Leo had been in such bliss that he had barely thought about how his friends would react. Of course they would be tearing their hair out, grieving, weeping, and swearing on the River Styx to wear black for the rest of their lives (well, maybe Leo’s ego wasn’t that big, but come on – he was expecting a few tears, at least). Unfortunately, Leo had forgotten that ever since they had closed the Doors of Death, it wasn’t natural to see people who were meant to be dead living, especially when they were riding on bronze dragons with hot pre-immortal Titan’s daughters with them who was claimed to be trapped on her phantom island forever.
Plus, Leo had forgotten that the demigods had just survived a war.
He made a mental note: never die and come back without someone’s permission. (It had been added onto his List. It was full of mental notes: don’t destroy a Titan’s daughter’s dining table, don’t blow up a Roman camp, don’t give the Stolls access to shaving cream...).
As soon as he had opened his mouth to announce his arrival and that no, he wasn’t a hallucination or ghost and yes, he was alive and yes, this was the Calypso and no, they shouldn’t shoot him, the half bloods – Piper, Hazel, Annabeth, Frank, Jason and Percy – had pounced like angry panthers.
They had bashed him, sitting on him and thumping his chest and bending his arms and legs the wrong way, but there had also been the weird combination of hugging, too. Piper hadn’t gripped his neck as hard as any normal demigod in a battle would when she put the son of Hephaestus into a headlock, and Frank could have turned into an elephant and squashed him flat, but he just turned into a butterfly. That part Leo didn’t get.
Still, it was difficult to tell whether his friends were embracing him or beating him up; they seemed to crushing his ribs both ways.
Thankfully, Apollo must have really liked Leo (which Leo couldn’t argue with) or maybe Will Solace had gotten better with his healing powers, because, after a lot of ambrosia and nectar and a few days in the infirmary lying on a hospital bed, he could manage to limp around like a peg leg, although he had to use a crutch to stop himself collapsing. Jason and Percy mildly teased him, calling him Old Man Leo, and Calypso had promptly burst into peals of laughter when she saw him staggering along.
She could even make that sound hot.
But it brought back memories of when Leo had first crash-landed onto Ogygia, when the two of them were talking about his dream job, and how she could help him with it. At the time she had smirked and suggested little ideas, with a grin on her face, but Leo couldn’t help wonder if she really meant it. Seriously, he had died and come back and done the impossible and flown back to Calypso’s island twice, so the least she could do was make stew and lemonade and sing for his garage. He could be the dork standing next to her warning all the little children, now, kids, don’t try this at home. Then he could set his nose on fire, like he did when he was nervous. He had also discovered that when agitated, his feet became alight, like the newest pair of Valdezshoes™.
“...so I’m happy,” Percy was saying, gesturing dramatically with his hands and nearly smacking his girlfriend several times. “I’m finally going to a place that’s full of weirdos like me so I can’t get expelled.”
Annabeth laughed – she hadn’t done that much since Tartarus, and the only person who seemed to be able to get one out of her was Percy; Leo was still working on it – and ruffled his jet black hair, making it even more unruly than it had originally been. “Don’t worry, Perce. It’ll be cool. I’m studying architecture.”
Percy’s eyes glazed over. “Cool. I just know that you’re doing architecture, because whenever you go on a rant about buildings, I don’t understand half of it. That means you’re improving.”
Annabeth laughed again and swung their intertwined hands. The campfire cast strange shadows over her face, making her cheekbones more prominent, her hair brighter and her eyes more calculating. Camp Half-Blood had just had one of their nightly sing-alongs, but all the demigods had drifted off with the exception of Percy, Annabeth, Piper, Jason, Leo, Calypso and Nico. Reyna, Frank and Hazel had travelled back to Camp Jupiter, along with some of the naiads who were happily milling around and surveying each male Roman camper, deciding if they were date-worthy or not. Jason had taken up temporary residence in the Zeus Cabin, deciding to stay at the Greek camp for a little while longer, so he, Chiron and Annabeth could discuss the building of shrines for the minor gods and goddesses, like Kymopoleia.
(Leo, however, could not look at Percy without laughing after Jason had told the story. It could be the front page of Half-Blood Headlines: Son Of Poseidon Gets Saved Underwater By Son Of Jupiter.)
“How ‘bout you, Leo?”
Surprised, Leo blinked to see five pairs of bright eyes fixed on him, all of them dimly glowing in the firelight. They had a tendency to do that ever since Gaia had gone back to sleep – Leo guessed maybe a blessing from Hestia or Apollo. After all, the Valdezinator was an instrument that couldn’t be rivaled. “Me what? Where we talking about something?”
Calypso laughed, but elbowed him gently in the ribs, well aware of his wound. Honestly, Will had force-fed him so much ambrosia he knew that his death would be because his insides exploded. “Yes, Valdez,” she said. “We were talking about you.”
“What about me? All good things, right? My awesomeness at cooking tacos? How well I made the Argo II? My supreme hotness?”
“Scrawniness, more like,” Calypso said, but her fingers found his and she held his hand and squeezed it.
Jason shook his head too. “Nah, we weren’t talking about you. Just what’s going to happen afterwards. Annabeth and Percy are staying – ”
“ – in New York for our senior year!” Percy punched the air. Annabeth rolled her eyes, as if to say, what a Seaweed Brain. “Then we’re off to New Rome for college! No monsters! No fighting! No battles! No prophecies! We’re off to an awesome start, baby!”
Annabeth pulled him down. “And after that... eh, who knows? Reyna said we could stay in New Rome as long as we like. We’ve got the next few years of our lives sorted out. So the Fates had better not issue another Great Prophecy. And even if they do, we’ll just throw in some other demigods to do it. Two Great Prophecies are enough for anyone.”
Leo grinned. He could totally imagine Percy and Annabeth as a married couple, living in New Rome, drinking hot chocolate, having kids and trying not to blow up toilets.
“Yeah, that’s cool for you guys,” Jason said. “I think I’d just better survive the next two years of high school, trying not to get killed, and then I think we might be heading the same way.” He glanced at Piper.
Smiling, Piper nodded. “That sounds like fun.”
“I don’t know what’s going to happen to me,” Calypso admitted. “Leo showed me the modern world on Festus, his bronze dragon, and told me about apartments and TV and electronic things, like computers.”
Leo nudged her with his shoulder, and then grimaced at his pain. Annabeth dug some ambrosia out her back pocket and tossed it at him, which the son of fire tried to catch in his mouth, but it bounced off his cheek. Grumbling, Leo picked the godly food off the floor, blowing it and putting it in his mouth, and instantly sighing when a wave of a cooling sensation washed over his stomach.
“I guess I’m going to stay here,” Nico said, ignoring Leo’s heavy breathing. “I’ve decided to stay at Camp Half-Blood.”
Percy’s eyes lit up and he thumped the son of Hades on the back firmly, nearly sending the boy tumbling off his seat head-over-heels. Annabeth smiled, but then her face turned into one of horror as Nico jerked forward and she ran to catch him, mouthing, what the Hades? to her boyfriend.
Percy stuck his tongue out.
Nico didn’t look too happy to have Annabeth’s hands under his armpits to hoist him back on his two feet.
“Well, congratulations,” Piper said. “It’ll be cool to a son of Hades here. So, now we’ve got two Zeus kids, two Hades kids, and we just need Poseidon to fall in love with another mortal so we can have two water babies.”
“I heard that you’re going to start making shrines,” Nico said, swiftly changing the subject and looking the son of Jupiter in the eye. “It’ll take years, Jason, especially if you’re going from camp to camp. There are hundreds of minor gods.”
Jason sighed and kept playing with Piper’s fingers. “Yeah, but even now I kind of realize that they should be noticed more? I mean, being a god or goddess is pretty cool, but living for aeons without having a single demigod know you? That must get tiring.”
Percy nodded. “Yeah. Personally, I never found I was a demigod until I was twelve, and then BOOM, suddenly my dad was Poseidon, monsters were trying eat me at every turn, I was in a Great Prophecy and my life started to suck. Now I’ve got Golden Boy with his hideous golden mask, Pegasus and Sciron and his pet turtle as brothers and a week or two ago I found that I have an immortal sister called Kymopoleia who likes action figures and has jellyfish hair.”
Annabeth rested her head on his shoulder. “And apparently she has ‘wicked Frisbee skills’.”
Calypso frowned. “I don’t know what a Frisbee is.”
Jason chuckled, causing Piper’s shoulders to vibrate under his arm. “Ah, it doesn’t matter. So, about the shrines. I’ve told Reyna and Frank about my promise, and they said they’d get started on Kym’s, after they’ve fixed Camp Jupiter up.”
“Why?” Leo asked. “They’ve finally realized that being all about rules and regulations is really boring and all the demigods started riots?”
The son of Jupiter ignored him. “Octavian really whipped them up into a frenzy.” At the mention of the augur, Nico shrank into his jacket, the campfire that was facing him darkening considerably. Leo was confused (no one could hate Octavian that much, could they?), but he decided not to press it. “Some demigods died before the Romans even started to move towards Long Island.”
“Besides,” Leo piped up, “the dwarves I met in Bologna really did their best to slow them down. Messing up their stuff, throwing around helmets. I think they stole some dude’s metal tooth, too. That must’ve been worse than getting a normal tooth extracted by a dentist.”
“Ooh.” Jason winced. “That would be Corey Blythe. Son of Mercury, I think.”
“Were those the dwarves I saw in your machine on Ogygia?” Calypso asked, amused, her eyes twinkling.
“Yeah,” Leo said. “They also stole the zipper on my pants.”
Thankfully, the demigods had enough sense to not ask.
Lapsing into a peaceful silence, Leo had time to properly survey his friends and match them up to what they looked like before the War, like a bad yearbook page from the beginning of pre-school to the end of high school. Annabeth’s hair had grown longer and curlier, and her eyes more guarded; they seemed to close in whenever she faced a monster until all that was left were two violent hurricanes in her sockets. The first time Leo had seen them in attack mode (which was when they were taking down giants with the gods after Tartarus) Leo was so spooked that he even thought about asking Jason to poke his own eyes out for the sake of his sanity, but then decided against it. Numerous scars and cuts had joined on her body, but they weren’t too noticeable unless you were armed with a magnifying glass – and besides, everyone had new scars.
Piper’s hair had grown longer too – but it made her look less like a BMW thief who wore big padded snowboarding jackets and more like a female warrior who gutted giants on a daily basis. The daughter of Aphrodite still cut her hair with plastic scissors and still braided the occasional thin strand of hair, but her skin had darkened so much from the constant sun that now you could believe that she was related to a Cherokee.
Jason, on the other hand – Leo could hardly call him blonde anymore. The son of Jupiter’s hair had turned as white as corn silk in the heat and his skin had tanned deeply. Now Leo realized why Aphrodite had left him out when she mugged Leo, Piper and Coach Hedge from their clothes and replaced them with 80s wear. He was just so handsome that no matter how ridiculous the outfit – heck, he could wear a prom dress and massive red feathery boa – he would still be at the top of the list for any modeling agency. He had been so cautious and wary when he had first arrived at Camp Half-Blood, Leo found it surprising that he was the same person as the Jason Grace now, who carried himself with ease and generally bossed people around. But that was his job. He was born a leader.
Percy had changed a lot, too. Being the creepy stalker he was, Leo had flicked through some pictures that Chiron had in a big scrapbook kept in the Big House, and found several featuring the son of Poseidon – from age twelve to seventeen. The middle-schooler had started out small, slightly scrawny and not very impressive-looking: a mop of black hair, bright green eyes and a big grin. When Leo had first seen Percy at Camp Jupiter, he had been equipped with a sarcastic smile, cheerful sea-green eyes and a humorous disposition. But now, the child of the Big Three’s eyes had become wary and guarded, like Annabeth’s, and although he was still cracking jokes and bad puns, Leo could tell that if someone snuck up on him and went “BOO!” they would get Riptide through their gullet on pure instinct.
Next there was Nico di’Angelo. Leo wasn’t sure what he felt towards the son of Hades, because although he didn’t hate him, they weren’t ‘best buds’ either. There had definitely been some improvement on his appearance, though he wasn’t as thin and weary as he used to be, his colour had returned and he was eating more than he had been (which, as far as Leo could tell, had been a grape per day). Nico had even started talking and interacting properly with the other campers, although he was slightly miffed about the darkness of the Hades cabin, complaining and muttering to himself that he ‘wasn’t a vampire’.
Finally, there was Leo himself. Leo wasn’t a child of Aphrodite, who always had a mirror in his back pocket, and, as a son of Hephaestus, he wasn’t a fan of looking in the mirror himself. Piper and Hazel’s mother-like-comments had been enough, anyway: “Hey, Leo, you’ve got some grease on your nose,” or, “Look, you have machine oil all down your pants,” or the comment that Leo reckoned he had been told eighteen times: “Uh, Leo...? Haven’t you been wearing that shirt for the last three days?”
Truth was, Leo probably had. Ever since the seven half bloods had started their quest to stop Queen Dirt Face from awakening, Leo hadn’t had much time to shower or even care about personal hygiene. But every now and then he shocked himself when he passed a window or the bay-doors in the stables. And it wasn’t because of the amount of oil he had over his face.
Leo had just... matured so much. On Ogygia, he had looked at a sheet of Celestial bronze and instantly labelled the boy in the reflection as a scrawnier, smaller Tarzan when he wasn’t smiling, and he couldn’t agree with himself more. His hair had grown slightly longer and curlier, like a little lion, and his hands more scarred and calloused from work. Adding onto the fact that his fingers were also topped with oil and dirt-caked fingernails, he looked like a little stray.
The changes between Leo and his friends had been so gradual that Leo could hardly tell they had changed at all. But when he compared them like this, like the Evian water bottle ads... whoa. If Isabel and her little Popular Clique from the Wilderness School saw them, they’d probably be on their knees begging for mercy. Leo nearly laughed at the thought. The very idea of Isabel Owl-Eyes going down on her knees pleading not to be skewered was almost as ridiculous as Jason wearing a massive red feathery boa.
Admittedly, Leo had almost been slightly disappointed at his friends’ reactions to bringing back a girl who was cursed to stay on her island forever. Jason in a red boa would have definitely attracted more attention. Even a little, “Wow, Leo, congrats,” would have been nice. Obviously, he hadn’t expected much from Percy and Annabeth, who apparently had been cursed in Tartarus by the girl, but he had not been prepared for no one to give her a second glance until they had nicely beaten him up and he had been dragged off to the infirmary. Maybe it was the jeans and ponytail.
Leo really didn’t know.
Looking around again, Leo finally noticed how dark it was. He could barely see Percy and Annabeth, who sat opposite him, and Nico was completely out the picture, like an invisible ninja. The tip of Piper’s nose was visible in the firelight, and that was mainly because she had most of her face buried in her boyfriend’s shoulder, fast asleep. Jason had one arm around her shoulder and the other drowsily tapping tunes into the bench he was sitting on. Annabeth and Percy were still sitting next to each other, sleepily talking, and Calypso, who was sitting to Leo’s left, was out of it, using his shoulder as a pillow. Honestly, he didn’t mind. If the Titan’s daughter hadn’t been asleep yet, it would’ve been Leo snoring on hers.
Now that would be embarrassing.
He looked down at the sleeping girl on his shoulder, and wondered for the hundredth time how the Hades a guy like him, someone who was always covered in machine grease, managed to get a girl like Calypso, someone who always managed to look hot no matter what she wore.
Heck, if she were the one wearing the prom dress and red boa she’d look awesome.
Sighing, Leo rested his head on top of Calypso’s, and smiled at the darkness that had now completely concealed Nico, Piper, Jason, Percy and Annabeth from his view.
He could finally cross off a mental note from his List. Because destroying that dining table was one of the best things that had ever happened to him.