"Are you sure you have everything?" Appolonia asked.
"More or less." Artie adjusted his cloak.
"Couldn't you just take a plane?"
"How would I get all this pass the metal detectors?" Artie patted on of the leather bag on his motorcycle. "And if by some chance I get detained and end up on the news I might as well tell everyone where I'm going."
"What about food? Appolonia seemed unsure. "Don't you think you should take more than one backpack?"
"I'll be fine." Artie assured. "I'm used to skipping a meal or two. Tobias is coming with me. He can always throw me a fish if if I need a bite."
"And if something tries to take a bite out of you?"
"I'm used to that." Artie laughed. "But I'm thinking I should bring a gas tank and a rifle though."
"I'm serious." She reluctantly smiled. "This won't be like the jungle. You'll be out of your element."
"It'll only be for three days." Artie sighed. "I have to do this. You know that."
"I know, but couldn't you have waited a few more days?" Appolonia pleaded. "Christmas was only last night."
"And it was the best I've had in years." Artie said firmly. "But the list Athena gave me is only readable outside of the western hemisphere. I don't know where it'll take me and things might come up that'll take up time too. The more time I have the better." Artie mounted his bike. "Are you sure your parents won't mind putting Jacob up?"
"Are you kidding?" Appolonia smiled. "If there's one thing I;ve learned about him, its he knows how to charm his way around people. I'd swear on the Styx he was one of Aphrodite's if I didn't know any better."
"Good." Artie nodded. "Between him and Diego, you should be safe." Artie frowned and looked at the fllor. "Wasn't he just here?"
"Mew!" Diego poked his head out of a bag, a piece of jerky in his mouth.
"He wants to come." Appolonia plucked him up and scratched behind his ears. "Can't say I blame him."
"I need you to stay." Artie said gently and bent to look the young cub. "I need you to keep here safe while I'm away." Artie reached a hand scratched under his chin. "Can you do that?"
"Mew!" Diego made a motion that oddly looked like a salute.
Artie looked out to the sea with reluctance. Like Appolonia had said, Christmas had only been last night, a few hours if he was exact. He had given Appolonia's mother, Maria, a set of sandals to match her new purse he had made her. Her father, Bruno, had loved the leather jacket and alligator boots. And Appolonia grandmother, Rosa, had simply adored the genuine mink scarf he had traded for at a market for.
After the party on Mount Olympus, Artie and Appolonia left for Florida. Not wanting Artie's only family to spend the holidays alone, Appolonia invited Jacob along and they welcomed him with open arms. Together, they opened presents, had Christmas dinner, swapped and laughed at funny stories, and watched Christmas specials. For a few hours, Artie put out of his mind of everything he had gone through in the past few days and what lay ahead, as did Jacob.
But when everyone had fallen asleep, with their bellies full of food and their hearts with cheer, Jacob and Artie shared a toast to Maria Gallezi and Zoë Nightshade.
"Tell him I'm sorry." Artie said gently.
"Tell who what?" asked a voice.
Artie and Appolonia turned to see Jacob Gallezi, smiling slyly with small backpack over a shoulder. He was dressed in his long leather duster, buttoned up against the cold, with thick blue jeans and boots. He had tied his hair back into a pony tail and was wearing a pair of sunglasses.
"I figured you'd try to leave without me." Jacob said as he walked up and set his backpack on the only spot left on Artie's bike. "I'm not letting you have all the fun."
"Go back, Jacob." Artie said firmly. "I'm going at this alone."
"Of course you are." said Jacob cheerfully as he mounted the bike behind Artie. "And I'm coming with you."
"Jacob, I — "
"Could give twenty good reasons for why I should stay." Jacob laid a hand on his shoulder. "But there ain't a one that's gonna change my mind. So either throw me off this bike, if you can, or shut up and drive."
Artie looked to Appolonia who nodded.
"Alright." Artie grumbled. "But if this turns into that trip Brasilia mom took us when we were little, you're swimming home with an anchor tied your legs."
"What happened?" Appolonia asked.
"It two was two hours of ' I have to use the bathroom, I'm hungry, I'm bored.' I almost threw him out of the car myself." Artie sighed. "Not to mention 'Are we there yet?' every two minutes."
"Oh come on." Jacob protested. "You should know how it is for us demigods with ADD."
"I should, but I don't." Artie said annoyingly. "Mostly because I don't have ADD."
"Lucky." Jacob said.
"Hardly." Artie countered.
"So this sibling rivalry." Appolonia smiled. "Glad I'm an only child."
"Don't rub it in." Artie hid a smile.
"Yeah," Jacob added. "I might just stay."
"Forget I said anything." Appolonia kissed Jacob on cheek before giving Artie one on the lips. "Artie?"
"Come back with your shield." She ordered. "Or on it."