Addison was caught by all his friends and dragged back.
"Don’t," warned Jason, in Addison’s ear. The boy held the blade to her neck, and slowly a grin spread across his face. Mae clutched her leg and slowly mended it while the boy was getting cocky. Suddenly, the boy’s chuckle became a hoarse cry as a blinding light blasted him in the eye. It all happened so fast that even Lupa had trouble seeing it. Mae pressed the button to her headband, and it transformed while she kicked his legs out from under him. While he was falling, she kicked herself off of the ground and aimed down at the boy. Two were let loose and pinned him to the ground by his leather bracers. She flipped through the air and drew two arrows from her pouch. Clutching two arrows, Mae landed on top of his chest and crossed the points of the arrows along his throat. She was practically nose to nose with him. Her chest heaved with the exertion of the battle as she panted. Her braids had come loose and hung about her face in a wildfire of blazing red. Gods, thought Addison, she looks so beautiful right now. Lupa’s mouth curled into a grim smile as she watched Mae help up the ripped boy covered in sweat and dirt. Lupa gracefully soared over the railing and landed in the middle of the arena.
"Samuel, showers after you run the gauntlet," ordered Lupa. The boy’s good-looking face hardened. He mimicked Jason’s earlier bow and walked away but not before looking back at Mae and giving her a half smile. Addison watched with horror as she smiled back before turning to Lupa.
"Apparently, your team is strong," said Lupa, drily. Mae gave an uneasy nod and waited.
"Showers, then set up your tent. We eat at nightfall," said Lupa, before turning around and leaving them. Annabeth shot her a look and opened her mouth. Jason clamped a hand over her mouth.
"Shut up. Lupa is testing your patience. She knows that you have something important to ask. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here. Usually, she waits longer, but I think she is too curious to see why the gods have allowed us to find the Roman camp." said Jason. Annabeth shut her mouth and nodded while keeping her eyes trained on Lupa’s disappearing figure.
"Showers are this way," said Jason, leading the way.
Apparently, the kids at the Roman camp had a very strict schedule that everyone kept to. There were three open stalls for each gender as they walked into the showers.
"This is creepy," muttered Annabeth, to Piper and Mae.
"At the Greek camp, there are at least ten girls fighting for the stalls at one time because some idiot took too long in the showers, and now their shower time has been shortened. Here, it’s like everyone has to be on time for everything. Did you see how spotless the grounds looked? We had to have a litter patron, our’s got so bad." said Annabeth, eyeing the Romans as though they were from another planet.
"If I had Lupa as my head director, I’d stay punctual too," said Mae. The other two snickered as they climbed into the shower stalls.
"EEEHHIIAAH!" squealed Mae, shooting out of the shower stall clad in only a towel. Some of the Roman girls looked up from their dressing or finishing touches.
"What’s the matter?" asked one girl, alarmed.
"The-e-e w-w-water i-is s-s-so c-cold-d," said Mae, through chattering teeth. The girls laughed, but Piper, and Annabeth soon got a taste of the freezing water when it hit them.
"Cold showers are the only kind allowed here," explained one girl, tucking away a hair-dryer. It did not take long to set up the tents and get completely cleaned up. Apparently, the boys had gotten the cold shower treatment as well, and all three of them were shivering slightly as they all met up after showers. The kids were friendly enough, but there was an air of frostiness that seemed to block the Romans from the Greeks like a brick wall. In Lupa’s presence, smiling and laughter seem to flee while masks of indifference settled over their faces while they quietly ate. Each Greek had been placed at their respective parent’s table alongside the Romans. Try as they might, no one had seen Percy yet. Reyna had greeted Jason when he came in but that preoccupied look covered his face again. Piper paused only to stare at Reyna. The girl had blond streaked, brown hair that was tired up in a messy bun. She had a quirky, little mouth and light blue eyes. She was really pretty and willowy thin. Piper was average height and was an appropriate height for Jason. Reyna was nearly as tall as he was. Her anxious suggested that she had been more than a friend to Jason. Piper eyed her like a dog eyes a cat. Mae looked in surprise at all the Apollo table. The Greek cabin back home was a great deal bigger than the camp here. Apollo, as well as several others, was a very large cabin. Here, there were maybe five kids sitting at the sun emblazoned table. Jason’s table was empty save for his own seat, and Addison and Leo’s table only seated two others. They were both girls, and they were too busy eating things from a constructed device to notice them. The Ares cabin, Athena’s cabin, and Apollo’s cabin were very small. Of course, Hermes’s and Aphrodite’s cabins were full to bursting, but the other regulars were not. Nike must have had to least a dozen, and Eris had about the nine kids in their cabin. Demeter must have been busy in recent years because all the kids were under thirteen, and there were about eight of them. Piper sat down with her vast family. There was a clink of glass as the best piece of food was dropped into a glass bowl. The green flames licked it up, and extinguished itself. The tradition was very similar to that of Camp Half-Blood, but there was no laughter. The Greek teens quickly finished their food and waited until Lupa gave them the floor.
"Jason, tell us why you have come back with these godlings," demanded Lupa. Everyone’s eyes went to Jason.
"Annabeth can explain it better," said Jason, directing all the attention to the pretty blond at the Athena table.
"My boyfriend Percy Jackson is missing from our camp, and we have reason to believe that Jason and Percy were exchanged. Jason was at our camp, so it stands to reason that Percy has to be here, and that is why we came," said Annabeth, shortly. Her piercing gray eyes swept the room like Percy was going to pop out.
"Percy Jackson left our camp several weeks ago."said Lupa. "He went off to stop Polybotes from rising." Annabeth stood transfixed at Lupa. A look of horror was etched on her face. Piper slowly inched her way across the small mess tent and pulled her away.
"You might as well stay the night," said Lupa, getting up and leaving. As soon as she left, there was a more relaxed aura surrounding the camp. As for the Greeks, they were still trying to process what they were going to do next. Mae headed back to her tent, and the rest soon followed.
Addison lay awake for quite some time until he could not bear it any longer. He quietly exited his tent and somehow found the girls’ tent. (The girls’ tents were separated from the boys’ tents. There were technically two tents of each godly parent.) The lamp glowed warmly and cast an inviting glow inside the plain white tent. Piper was staring mournfully at her reflection in her dagger, and Annabeth was-or at least pretending to be- fast asleep. There was no sign of Mae. Before Addison could ask where Mae was, Piper jerked a finger in the direction of the woods. Addison smiled in thanks and headed towards the thick fringe that encircled the island. Even though nothing could get on the island with the thick, overgrown vegetation in the way, there was still a guard patrol. Addison managed (barely) to slip past the guard and into the woods. Following the sound of murmuring voices, Addison finally found Mae, but she was not alone. The ripped guy from the fight earlier was with her. Except for now, he had a white bandage nearly swallowing his whole right arm. A few cuts and bruises that marred his face were not there from Mae’s fight. Addison vaguely remembered Lupa saying something about running the gauntlet when he had lost. Addison crept forward to hear better. They were talking about football. Go figure. The boy was apparently impressed by her vast knowledge of the sport and kept getting closer and closer to her. At one point, he was a mere inch away from her face. One hand hesitatingly hovered near her face as if to brush away a lock of rogue hair. Addison could not bear it any longer. He stepped out from his hiding place in the trees.
"Mae, I was just looking for you," he said, to alert them of his presence. Mae looked startled as she and the boy jumped apart.
"Umm, what for?" she asked, blushing furiously.
"I-I need to talk to you alone," said Addison, quickly before he lost his nerve. Mae nodded and gave Samuel a shy smile. Addison grimaced inside and led the way back to the girls’ tent. When they reached the tent, Mae turned to Addison and stared at him expectantly. Addison’s mouth opened, but no sound came out. Mae’s eyebrows rose slightly, and a smirk graced her face. She turned around and entered her tent. The air exhaled out of Addison’s lungs, and he realized that he had been holding his breath. Feeling like a coward, Addison turned around towards the boys’ tent inwardly cursing himself for being so weak. The tent flap opened back up, and Mae appeared.
"Addy," said Mae, holding out his football jacket. "Here," she offered. Addison slowly took the jacket but did not say anything. She turned back around to go inside once more, but Addison grabbed her arm.
"Mae," he said, pausing to think of what to say. "I-I’m not good with words. I mean, like, not at all. But I am truly sorry for being such a jerk the other night. Trust me when I say that I’m really sorry for what I said and wish that I’d never said any of that." Mae’s eyes went all blurry and foggy.
"Ad," she began. Addison shook his head. Moving in closer, Addison stared down at her upturned face. Every freckle was highlighted by the faint moonlight.
"It was all my fault," he said, softly. He brushed a lock of hair away from her face.
"And I didn’t mean anything by telling you to stop being such a girl." he added. They were so close. Smiling faintly, Addison resisted the urge to kiss her and walked away. Mae watched his retreating figure slowly descending down the slope. She brushed the tear away and smiled now that she had her best friend in the whole world back. Despite what Addison felt, Mae was still under the vague impression that what they had was a really good friendship and nothing more.
As soon as Addison had left, Piper had sheathed her dagger and headed towards Mercury’s tent. Reyna obviously took great care of herself because when Piper went to look for her, her makeup table was loaded with creams and lotions.
"Reyna went off to talk to someone," said a small, Indian looking girl. Piper smiled in thanks and left the tent. She bet she knew who Reyna was talking to. It was not long before Piper found the tent of Jupiter. Sure enough, she heard voices.
"-Jason, please, remember me!" begged Reyna. There was a pause like Jason was trying to.
"Reyna, I lost my memories and just now got them back," began Jason. "I remember we had something, but there’s still something missing." Reyna was silent. Probably pouting.
"Jason, is it because you like someone else?" asked Reyna, her voice whiny. Piper’s breath froze in her chest. She peeked through the slit in the side of the tent. Reyna was extremely close to Jason.
"N–" began Jason, but stopped. "I mean-" It was strange seeing Jason at a loss for words.
"It’s that girl Piper, isn’t it?" demanded Reyna, crossing her arms across her chest. Piper could not breath. Was it possible? She wondered faintly. Hope fluttered around in her chest.
"Remember, Jason, who you picked first," she said, very determinedly. Jason nodded, and the confusion on his face seemed to disappear. Piper’s hopes plummeted as she saw Reyna make her move. Her lips pressed themselves against Jason’s as she took his less confused facial expression to mean he had picked her. Piper kept back a sob, but something made her pause. When Reyna hugged him after the kiss, Jason looked miserable and slightly sick. As soon as Reyna let go of him to look at his face, Jason mustered a smile to cover his uncomfortable position. Piper sneaked back to her tent where Mae and Annabeth were dead to the world. Crawling under the covers, Piper let a few tears fall but then steely set herself straight. She closed her eyes and miraculously fell asleep quickly. They had a long day ahead of them tomorrow.