A God Buys Them Cheeseburgers
Artie looked up from his book. They were still glaring at him. "I said I was sorry."
"You pushed me off the arch." Percy growled.
"What were you thinking!" demanded Annabeth. "Who's side are you on?"
Artie couldn't blame them. If his plan was one iota less effective, he would be debating the matter with Percy in the Underworld because Annabeth would have killed him. He explained his reasons, but that just seemed to upset them more. They eventually agreed to drop the subject, though Artie was sure Percy was still pretty steamed about it.
Honestly, Artie thought Percy had it easier. He had gotten a quick escape to the bottom of the arch while he slid down the arch. The problem was, he hadn't realized how bad of idea it was until the floor he was sliding on arced down at a ninety degree angle, and by then it was too late. His momentum slammed him into the wall so hard he thought there was an Artie shaped dent on the outside of the arch. Then he started falling a second later.
Luckily most demigods have faster reflexes than most mortals and combined with massive amounts of adrenaline, he had the presence of mind to draw his knives and stab the wall. While it didn't stop his fall outright, it did slow it enough for him to avoid breaking his legs when he landed on the elevator that was still a hundred feet from the bottom. He yanked his knives from the wall and laid there to admire the several hundred foot gash he left on a national monument.
He joined Annabeth outside as police, firemen, and news teams stormed in like an invading army. They managed to slip out without much effort and met Percy who was fighting through a crowd. Annabeth looked relieved to see Percy was alive then her expression changed when Percy decked Artie, who could have easily dodged it but he knew he deserved it. Percy would have followed up with more but they all agreed they needed to leave when they heard a reporter mention Percy. On their way to the train station, Percy explained how Artie had pushed him through a hole in the arch into a six-hundred foot free fall.
They were so mad with him they hadn't said a word to him until Percy asked, "What did Echidna call you? Back at the arch?"
"You're talking to me now?" Artie asked.
"Don't make me change my mind." he said. "She called you by a god's name."
Annabeth sat forward, "Which god?"
"Artemis." Artie answered. "She called me Artemis. So did Medusa if i remember."
Annabeth looked confused. "But you're not - - - "
"Of course not." Artie cut in. "I'm no god.
"But then why?" asked Percy.
"Its my name." he explained. "My full name is Artemis Raposo Gallezi."
"So you and your mother share the same." concluded Annabeth.
"Not exactly." Artie struggled to find the right words to explain. "Artemis is usually a girl's name since she is the patron goddess of young girls, maidens, but it can be used for boys too. The thing is for men, it's more of a title than a name."
"Which is why you prefer for everyone to call you Artie." Percy put together.
Artie nodded. It was true enough. He didn't feel like telling them it was his stepmother's pet name for him and the real reason he preferred Artie over Artemis. "I don't think I've earned the right. Not yet anyway."
And you never will if you don't learn to fight your battles, Leonidas had said in his last dream. There's a reason we prayed to her along with Athena and Ares before starting a new military campaign.
Enjoy yourself while you can, he warned him, Because whether I survive this quest or not, I'll be seeing you real soon.
That's more like it, he laughed as he faded away, I'll look forward to it.
What's with this guy?, he thought to himself. One second he's yelling at me and the next he's laughing.
"And the claws?" asked Percy, jerking Artie out of his memory.
"What claws?" said Artie feigning ignorance. He had hoped Percy had forgotten them.
"Before we got on the train, when you flipped me." He reminded.
"I said I was sorry about that. I can't control my reflexes. That's why they're called reflexes."
"No I mean when you pulled your hand back." Percy explained. "I thought you were going to punch me, then I saw your nails grow."
"What?" asked Annabeth.
"Nothing." Artie quickly answered. "Percy must have hit his head or maybe a trick of the light."
"Twice?" Percy asked. "I didn't think it was important when we fought Echidna, but I think I saw your nails shrink when you opened the elevator door."
"The keyword being 'think'. You think you saw me with claws." Artie repeated.
"You're being awfully defensive." Annabeth remarked.
"Defensive? I'm not defensive." he declared rather defensively.
"Yes you are." said Percy.
"NO I'M NOT!" he shouted rather loudly. "For the last time I don't have claws."
Annabeth pointed to Artie's hands, "Then what are those?"
Artie looked down and cursed,"Maldição! Merda! Toda vez que maldita . . . "
Artie would have continued swearing in rapid Portuguese if Percy hadn't stopped him, "Whoa buddy calm down." Artie stopped mid word.
"Good now in English." said Annabeth.
Artie retracted his claws, "Well now you know. Happy?"
"How long have you been able to do that?" Annabeth asked.
Artie looked away."A little over two years now. Ever since the Everglades."
"Everglades?" Percy asked. "Like the Florida Everglades?"
"Yeah." Artie sighed. "Can we just drop it for now?"
Percy was about to ask more questions when Annabeth stopped him. She shook her head and Percy got the message. He'll tell us when he's ready, don't push him. They rode on in silence.
Artie gazed out the window as he remembered the night he met his mother two years ago. The first child of Artemis part, he had gotten over really fast. What he couldn't let go was the rest.
He didn't think she care about him, otherwise his stepmother and brother would still be alive. Then there was the four years of a life and death game of cat and mouse. Spending every waking moment looking over his shoulder as he, the way Luke put it, learned to live off the land, to eat things that would make even a satyr puke. What kind of mother, god or otherwise, let a little kid fend for himself as he searched for a safe place to call home without so much as a clue?
She had tried to explain. Gods are forbidden from directly interfering with the lives of their children and all that. He didn't buy it. For one thing, if she was clever enough to have a child without breaking her vow then she could have found a way to help him. She did her best to make him see why she did what she did, it was clear she wasn't used to explaining herself or dealing with children for that matter which he found weird. Then again the Hunters only looked young, they could be hundreds of years old for all he knew.
I sent you Tobias, she told him as if this was a good excuse, he watched over and helped you where I couldn't. Thanks to him you wouldn't have survived long enough to complain. That ordeal is over now.
That sent him over the edge, Nothing is over! Nothing! You just don't turn it off! Thanks to you I don't feel safe anywhere. Not even at camp, the only place in the world where it IS safe for me.
A voice spoke in the back of his head. A voice he really didn't want to hear in his current mood. She wanted to create a great hero, boy.
Leonidas, you have two seconds to get out of head, he warned, before I make the Nemian lion look like a house cat.
The voice fell silent as they pulled into Denver. Artie stayed silent as they walked into a do-it-yourself carwash. Annabeth had said she wanted to tell Chiron about Percy's talk with the river spirit when Artie pushed him off the arch in St. Louis. Annabeth explained about Iris messaging and how they needed to make a rainbow.
"Iris specializes in delivering messages for the gods." she said. "But she'll do the same for demigods, if you know how to ask."
Unfortunately when they asked for Chiron at half blood hill they got Luke. Luke explained how the campers were fighting amongst themselves, each taking sides with either Poseidon or Zeus. Artie wanted to hear the rest when some jerk with powerful sound system in his car, pulled into the space next to them. He gave the spray gun to Percy and went with Annabeth to get the guy to turn down the noise a little, hopefully he could still hear enough to get the message.
After a few minutes of yelling over the music, he agreed to lower the volume. When they returned, they saw Percy had a very serious look on his face and Annabeth asked, "What happened Percy? What did Luke say?"
"Not much." he said, though Artie was sure he was holding something back. "Come one let's find some dinner."
A few minutes later they were sitting in a booth of roadside diner. They all watched families laugh and talk as they ate burgers, fries, and drained their malts and sodas. Artie would never admit it to anyone, but he couldn't help being a little jealous of them. Artie's mind wondered to thoughts of taking his brother and mother when they reached the Underworld. He quickly put an end to that train of thought, it would only depress him more and it wouldn't accomplish anything good. Plus, He had read enough myths and stories to know that kind of thing never ended well for anyone.
A waitress came over to their booth,"Well?"
Percy said, "We, um, like to order dinner."
"You kids have money to pay for it?"
Artie had offered a more traditional way of finding dinner, but Percy and Annabeth squashed it just like that time at Medusa's lair. Annabeth had looked tempted, Artie guess she was a day or two from passing out, while Percy thought of a sob story for the waitress when a motorcycle pulled up, shaking the whole building to it's core. Artie saw it was a large black Harley Davidson chopper motorcycle with a flame pattern paint job. He cringed when he saw the leather seat was made from human skin. And the with shotgun holsters riveted to the motorcycles sides just seemed like overkill to him. Then he saw the biker.
He was huge,but not in the couch potato way. This guy looked as if was made of pure muscle and attitude. He wore black jeans, combat boots, a long black leather duster, and blood red muscle shirt. Like Artie his eyes were hidden behind red tinted wraparound sunglasses. His scarred cheeks and oiled crew cut made him look handsome,but in the prince charming sort of way, more like Conan the barbarian and Artie was sure this guy would have made even Conan run for his mother. He walked in and gust of hot,dry wind blew all over the place just as everyone rose to their feet. The biker waved his hand and they returned to their food.
"You kids of have money to pay for it?" asked the waitress again.
"It's on me." said the biker as he slid into the booth, crowding Annabeth against the window. He looked at the waitress. "You still here?"
The waitress quickly turned and walked to the kitchen as the biker turned his attention to Percy. Suddenly Artie was annoyed at being ignored. He shook his head at the thought. He wasn't an attention hog, something was affecting his mood, making him angry and bitter. Then he noticed the biker's scent. It wasn't as if he smelled bad, just strange. He wondered why it smelt so familiar, then it hit him. It was a mix of blood, metal, and sweat. Just like Clarisse which meant either this biker was a son of Ares or . . .
Oh boy, Artie thought to himself. This can't be good.
"So you're ol' seaweed's kid huh?" asked the biker.
"What's it to you?" Percy countered.
Annabeth flashed Percy a warning. "Percy this is - - -"
The biker raised a hand."S'Okay. I don't mind a little attitude. Long as you remember who's boss. Do you know who I am little cousin?"
"You're Clarisse's dad." Percy realized."Ares, god of war."
Ares took off his glasses, revealing his eyes to be miniature nuclear explosions."That right punk. I heard you broke Clarisse's spear."
"She was asking for it."
"Probably. That's cool. I don't fight my kid's fights, you know? I heard you were in town. I got a proposition for you."